What ITSM Professionals Can Learn from CRM Tool Selection

In an October 2014 blog titled Right Size Your CRM To Your Needs, Kate Leggett – a VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research – offered some smart advice on selecting a customer relationship management (CRM) solution. And to my amazement (so now I’m both amazing and amazed) you could have swapped out CRM for IT service management (ITSM) for smart advice on selecting an ITSM solution.

Kate had me at “hello”

The similarity between CRM and ITSM solution selection was evident from Kate’s scene-setting introduction, that:

“CRM solutions have been on the market for a long time. The first products were introduced over two decades ago, and many features are commoditized. New vendors are continually pushing the envelope on CRM capabilities and exploring the “white space” of capabilities that are not necessarily core to CRM. Old stalwarts are working on capabilities that differentiate them from others – like verticalized offerings, offerings tuned to mobile users, offerings tuned to a certain size or complexity of organization.”

So do you see what I mean? Kate could so easily have been writing about ITSM tool selection.

More is not necessarily better, more is simply more

 Kate’s first piece of smart advice touched upon a very common issue with ITSM tool selection. That procuring organizations will create very long, functionality-based RFP documents centered on what’s available (in ITIL* best practice and ITSM solutions) rather than what they actually need:

“CRM buyers need to remember that more capabilities these days is not better; more is simply more. In fact, when you don’t need — or perhaps can’t use — extra functionality, more is sometimes worse.”

And sadly, if you ask the wrong question you will most likely get the wrong answer, i.e. an ITSM solution that doesn’t really meet your needs.

Categories and criteria to evaluate

So how different is CRM to ITSM? Looking at Kate’s key evaluation areas there’s a lot of overlap:

  • Ease of use
  • Process management
  • Cloud deployments
  • Functionality needs created by scale
  • Integration
  • Capabilities to support global operations
  • Pricing and pricing models
  • Vendor history

If you wish to read Kate’s specifics around each of these areas, then please click here. I’m just going to pick on a few of them to reinforce their importance to ITSM solution selection.

Ease of use

“Small customer-facing teams don’t have the luxury of deeply configuring or customizing CRM user experiences. Make sure the user experiences that come out-of-the-box from your CRM vendor are highly intuitive; that they work on the devices and platforms that your team use; and that they don’t impede your productivity in any way.” 

It’s a great point – ITSM solution vendors can be so focused on how easy it is to configure and customize their product(s) that they miss the opportunity to demonstrate and sell the “vanilla” use cases.

Likewise, procuring organizations can be overly focused on the ability to change the solution – because their needs are so unique (oh the irony) – and can even confuse flexibility with ease of use. Flexibility doesn’t always equate to an easy-to-use solution – it can just make it simpler to make it more difficult to use.

Cloud deployments

Kate states that:

“Our research finds that the majority of CRM implementations are now done in the cloud. Cloud deployments allow you to roll out innovation faster to your customers and employees, and require less IT overhead – an important criteria for small organizations. However, cloud CRM solutions tend to be lighter-weight, and don’t always support deep industry processes that are available in on-premise CRM solutions.”

There’s no doubt that my SysAid colleagues, and the competition, are seeing more and more interest in, and uptake of, their cloud offerings but procuring organizations need to ensure that they look beyond the SaaS delivery model. As with the “more” and “flexibility” points, there’s no point going for a cloud solution if it will ultimately fail to deliver against your requirements.

Vendor history

Many CRM vendors have been acquired or have done the acquiring in the last 5 years. Understand the history of the product you are evaluating, and how many company resources are dedicated to product innovation.” 

I agree with Kate that vendor history is important – does the vendor have a love for all things ITSM or is the acquired ITSM solution merely something to complete an IT management software portfolio (or to grow the bottom line)? Understanding the level of product innovation might help with this, but it might not.

I would go further and look to the future – where is the vendor and their ITSM solution going? Is it:

  • Merely an ITSM cash cow (based on future support and maintenance revenues);
  • Something to be sold to another vendor, or investment company, when the price is right;
  • Experiencing rapid growth and customer acquisition, potentially at the expense of existing customers; or
  • Focused on customer satisfaction and retention, and organic growth based on customer success?

So my point – yes, I will finally make one – is that procuring organizations will need to look up from the ITSM solution they are considering to understand how the vendor will treat them post-purchase. Existing customers and independent analyst firms should be able to help here.

Finally, I’ve touched on less than half of Kate’s points, so I recommend that you read her blog in full. And, while you’re there, you might also enjoy reading the following blogs through an ITSM lens:

*ITIL is the ITSM best practice framework.

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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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