Implementing an ITSM Tool: Understand Your Needs

This is the second blog in a three-part series that covers understanding what you need from an IT service management (ITSM) tool, through tool selection, and then implementation. The first blog – “Implementing an ITSM Tool: Start With the Why” – was about why you need it. This blog covers how best to translate that need into tool requirements.

Not all ITSM tools are the same, and if you’re going to choose one, then the obvious place to start your tool selection is by knowing what you need, capabilities-wise, based on the “whys” you have already. Only then will you have a realistic chance of finding an ITSM tool that can deliver against it.

There are two key factors to think through here: scale and scope.

Understanding Scale

What kind of throughput do you have now and what will you expect to have over the life of your new ITSM tool? Some of the aspects here might include:

  • Daily calls – how many do you get, when are the peaks, and is there a seasonal peak you need to cope with?
  • Number of service desk and support staff that need access to the software – this will affect your licensing needs and the costs. Not all software companies charge the same way, so some what-if calculations are needed here.
  • What will be the impact on your technology platform, for example will your network cope?

Understanding Scope

Which ITSM processes are you realistically going to be supporting (with the new ITSM tool)?

If you’re currently just doing reactive IT help desk activities, then you’ll probably be looking to expand into a more proactive IT service desk and building up your change management and your configuration management capabilities. The new ITSM tool won’t “do” these for you alone but will be central to supporting these activities when you get there.

This needs you to get a feel for how your ITSM future looks. While you don’t want restrictions on your path to ITSM maturity, you also don’t want the additional complexity of, and to spend years paying for support for, ITSM processes that you aren’t going to develop and use.

A new ITSM tool can of course be a valuable catalyst for introducing new ITSM processes.

Ask: “What Do We Really Need?”

The current pain points, felt by your organization, and the expected benefits that new process can bring to the organization should drive which ITSM processes you pursue.

For example, change management would be a sensible focus if the IT organization is not able to adapt to changing business needs, or is being set back by failed or inappropriate changes.

Also, many repeat incidents that impact business effectiveness would suggest problem management as a good candidate for expansion.

Good input for this kind of choice can come from seeing how ITSM tools have helped other organizations. For example, you might see:

  • How knowledge articles have saved money through faster times to restore service and improved effectiveness of support staff.
  • An increase in the number of calls handled per service desk staff member.
  • Reduced handling costs per ticket.
  • Increases in the percentage of issues dealt with via self-service, FAQ, and automation rather than requiring ITSM staff intervention.

Then, whatever you want to buy, you need to understand how people sell it.

Understand and Engage with ITSM Tool Suppliers

We know how differently we go about buying houses, or cars, compared to groceries, and it’s different again for buying clothes. So, there’s a need to understand the way ITSM tools are marketed and sold – and especially how they are priced.

Most suppliers will be happy to talk to you, suggest good ways to implement their product, and to put you in contact with existing customers. This can all be good and useful, but should not be your only means of researching them.

You must also make sure that you’ve done the steps referenced in my previous blog and that you truly know what you want from a new ITSM tool, so as to not be unduly influenced by what other companies have achieved with it.

Also understand how the ITSM tool is priced. Just about all suppliers will charge an initial fee and an annual maintenance charge or, alternatively, a bundled up annual SaaS subscription. Charges might depend on the number of users and which processes are supported. That’s why you need to have established your own scale and scope earlier so that you can accurately compare offerings now.

There are a number of third-party information sources for ITSM tools and vendor information too. These include social media, IT industry analysts, and face-to-face peer networking at industry events. You could also join a vendor customer community and ask questions to existing customers there.

Exploit Demos and Proofs of Concepts

Two other factors should influence your assessment of ITSM tool usability and functionality:

  1. Make sure that representative user groups of your staff “play” with the product in as near an environment as possible to your own. Most suppliers will offer a “sandbox” environment for this kind of play – this might be offered as a free trial. Remember that a wide range of staff and end users will be affected and so you’ll need feedback from across that range.
  2. Talk to existing tool customers who have not been specifically suggested by the supplier. You can find these people via the many forums you can find online – such as Back2ITSM on Facebook. Ask and you will be advised.

Most of all though, get involved with your potential ITSM tool supplier and expect them to get involved with you. This is a marriage, where each party must get actively involved and understand enough about each other before the impending wedlock.

Look out for the supplier who understands your company enough to offer suggestions that make sense to you and to question and improve upon your ideas. Also, for the one that listens to your concerns and respects your outlook and preferences.

Right-Size Your RFP

Your RFP (request for proposal, i.e. the spreadsheet full of your functional and non-functional requirements) should reflect your organization’s specific needs. It can help greatly to have done some research on what’s possible beforehand. Plus, there is no point in asking for the impossible.

If your organization has general rules relating to RFPs and other aspects of procurement, then you’ll need to follow them here. Don’t waste time arguing with the CFO about them, you won’t win. But do ensure the factors that matter most to you are in there without overloading it with non-essential aspects. Ultimately, if you ask the wrong questions via your RFP, then you will get the wrong answer, i.e. the wrong ITSM tool product. Here’s a webinar that might help: “Your 7-point Checklist for Selecting the Right ITSM Tool.”

Supplier demos should reflect what you have asked for, but allow scope for them to suggest things that you may not have thought of. After all, this is an area that suppliers have spent years working in and this might be the first time that you’ve looked at an ITSM tool in detail. They’re likely to come with good ideas and suggestions, so be prepared to listen. In fact, you can usually let suppliers know that you are looking for their suggestions and experience. You aren’t obliged, though, to accept it all.

That’s the second blog in my ITSM tool implementation series done. Please look out for part 3, which will be with you soon. If you missed part 1, that can be read here.

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Posted by Joe the IT Guy

Joe the IT Guy
Joe the IT Guy

Native New Yorker. Loves everything IT-related (and hugs). Passionate blogger and Twitter addict. Oh...and resident IT Guy at SysAid Technologies (almost forgot the day job!).


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