How Do You Choose the Right ITSM Tool?

Choosing the Right ITSM Tool
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Choosing a new IT service management (ITSM) tool is a time-consuming and costly activity. You need to get it right first time, as selecting the wrong tool will inevitably cause our organization significant issues. To help, in this article I examine the ten key characteristics of a good tool selection process and highlight some of the pitfalls you’re likely to encounter along the way.

This article by @SteveBMorgan shares ten key characteristics of a good #ITSM tool selection process and highlight some of the pitfalls you’re likely to encounter along the way. Click To Tweet

1. Define the scope

First things first. Define the scope of the required ITSM tool.

Do you want the ability to just log tickets? Or do you want to supplement this with a self-service capability for end users, the ability to create automated workflows, supporting a knowledge base, performing password resets, etc.?

The list goes on and on but do some research and ensure you have a consensus on what you need and what you’re looking to buy.

2. Set expectations (of the new ITSM tool)

It’s also important to set expectations on the capabilities of the new ITSM tool. There’s a tendency to see anything new as a panacea for all of the issues being faced in IT. If the tool fails to address these, its reputation (and yours!) will suffer. So, be clear on what it’s going to help with, and what it won’t.

3. Define requirements based on what’s needed

Once you’ve got a clear idea on the scope, and reached a consensus on this, be sure to define some functional and non-functional requirements. Requirements will essentially form your buying criteria, and will be in the form of functional requirements, (i.e. what it can do) and non-functional requirements (i.e. how it will operate).

You may wish to rank your requirements in terms of importance, making some mandatory and others optional.

I’d recommend scoring each prospective tool provider using a common set of requirements and scoring. That way, you can ensure that you’re treating each provider equally and comparing each ITSM tool based on its merits.

Selecting a new #ITSM tool? Use a scoring system against a common set of requirements to ensure you're treating each potential provider equally, says @SteveBMorgan. Click To Tweet

4. Leverage demos and trials

I’d strongly suggest that you form a long-list and do some research of each provider, their tools, and the online reviews from existing customers.  Typically, between 5-7 providers on the longlist is appropriate. Then apply some simple selection criteria to reduce this down to a maximum of 4.

This short-list of ITSM tool providers should then be asked to demonstrate their tools. Some may even offer a free trial. Be sure to ensure that any demonstration or trial is used to score against the requirements, rather than run to a standard demo script dictated by the tool provider.

5. Make your scoring and evaluation count

Using your scoring and evaluation criteria, you should be able to rank each tool provider based upon their ability to meet your agreed requirements. This will make it easier to justify your ITSM tool selection, and again, to control expectations of what will be delivered and what won’t.

I typically use a spreadsheet for this purpose, because it facilitates easy comparison of the various ITSM tools against each of the functional and non-functional requirements.

6. Negotiate for the longer term

Each ITSM tool provider will employ different commercial frameworks, and this can make negotiating a favorable cost for your organization very difficult. Be sure to consider your business growth plans, your usage profile, the various permissions, the roles which will be required for users of the tool, and the total cost of ownership over the next 3-5 years.

Be sure to have this documented, as you’ll need to refer to it when negotiating the most appropriate commercial framework for the toolset and also for any business case presentation you may need to give before proceeding with the procurement.

When selecting an #ITSM tool it's not just about the NOW. You need to consider your business growth plans, your usage profile, and the total cost of ownership over the next 3-5 years, says @SteveBMorgan Click To Tweet

7. There are important configuration factors to consider

Before you commence the configuration of the tool, there are a few vitally important factors to consider.

First, you may wish to engage with a specialist system integration partner to implement the toolset, and they will, therefore, need to be selected in good time. Consider looking for recommendations from other customer organizations here, as well as the tool provider themselves, who’ll likely have a system integration partner network from which you can choose the most appropriate provider.

Second, try to avoid the temptation to configure an exact replica of the current ITSM tool. So, consider your reasons for wanting to change tools in the first place and ensure that the configuration is planned to overcome the challenges you’re experiencing today, not replicate them!

Finally, consider your processes and ways of working. Are these sufficiently robust to configure within the toolset, or are there opportunities to improve your current processes? If this is the case, define the processes before configuring the toolset. After all, the tool facilitates the process, not vice-versa! Additionally, neatly documented processes make configuration of the toolset easier, as the systems integrator is more easily able to understand what’s required.

Please also take a look at this ITSM Tool Implementation Considerations blog for more guidance on preparing for the implementation of a new ITSM tool.

8. Implementation strategies

Before the implementation of the new ITSM tool, you’ll need to define an appropriate testing strategy. Ensure that you have test scripts defined to prove that the toolset is functional and operable before go-live. Many organizations develop go/no-go criteria at this point to ensure that the ITSM tool is ready for go-live before implementation.

When implementing the toolset, consider your implementation approach. Will you plan for a clean-break, big-bang approach, or will you phase in the implementation over time? Also, consider your strategy with regards to migrating existing data to the new toolset. How is the data quality and integrity today, and are there opportunities to cleanse it, or replace it, before implementation?

Also ensure that users of the tool know that it’s coming, through a program of communication, supplemented by hands-on training in the lead up to the implementation. Plus, don’t forget your customers, particularly if a self-service portal or knowledge base is being introduced. Failure to drive adoption of the new ITSM tool from the outset could seriously damage its reputation and usage over time, so consider which adoption strategies you might employ.

Implementing a new #ITSM tool? Don't forget your customers! Failure to drive adoption from the outset could seriously damage its reputation – @SteveBMorgan Click To Tweet

9. Early-life support considerations

Before implementation, you’ll need to ensure that you have plans in place for the first few weeks of go-live:

  • Will you have super-users who’re fully trained and able to help others?
  • Will you have staff from the systems integration partner on handto assist you?
  • How will you handle bugs/snagsin those early weeks of go-live and how will you address them?

It’s advisable to define acceptance criteria prior to implementation, which will help you to determine whether the implementation has been a success and whether the toolset can be signed off into live support.

Here @SteveBMorgan outlines some of the common pitfalls made with #ITSM tool adoption. Click To Tweet

10. Measuring success

Before go-live, you may wish to define some project success criteria, against which you can measure the success of the implementation. Consider here such factors as user satisfaction, reliability, performance, and the ability of the tool to fulfill the functional and non-functional requirements you defined at the outset.

The bottom line here is that the implementation of a new ITSM tool is not trivial. There’s just so much complexity, it can seem overwhelming at first. Over the years, we – at Syniad IT – have developed a proven approach to working through this process, reducing complexity, and reducing the risk of failure. Please take a look at this free download which contains our 10 Tool Selection Tips, as well as specific advice for organizations wishing to maximize their ITSM tool investment.

Director at

Steve is the Director of Syniad IT, an independent IT consulting organisation, specializing in the design, build, implementation and optimisation of service integration and management (SIAM), IT service management (ITSM), and IT transformational change programmes.

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