ITSM Tools Census – Creating an Independent Guide to Tools

One of the primary reasons for starting The ITAM Review back in 2008 was to simply provide an unbiased list of the key players in the market. The vendor directory was one of the first pages to be published on The ITAM Review and continues to be one of the most frequently visited pages.

I commonly speak to organizations about to embark on their final technology selection with tools that are inappropriate for the job, they simply don’t know what is out there and what is most appropriate for their needs. They are choosing from solid software publishers who have great technology – but the technology may be wholly inappropriate for their current needs.

This is akin to planning a trip from London to the South of France with a family of four and choosing between a Scooter, and Family Saloon and a Juggernaut. All of them are good vehicles in their own right, with their own satisfied customers and accreditations – but only one is really suitable for the job in hand.

Another challenge we face in the enterprise software market is that sales reps make a persuasive case for buying a scooter or a juggernaut when we need a saloon and it is often difficult to assess their advice from an independent perspective.

I believe the same can be said of the ITSM tools market. Oranges are not always being compared with Oranges.

I plan to start conducting independent reviews of ITSM tools in 2012. My goal is to review, compare, rank and classify all of the various tools in the market, from the smallest of nimble start-ups with a handful of customers, to the industry stalwarts with hundreds of customers. My aim is that prospective buyers can discover clusters of tools that might be suitable for their particular need, maturity, size and budget rather than trying to assess the entire market.

In order to prepare for my reviews, I first intend to build a near-exhaustive list of tool providers which will include a high level overview of their value proposition, key competitive differentiators and sample customers and use cases.

CALLING ALL ITSM TOOL VENDORS

I am inviting vendors to complete an ITSM Tools Census to help generate the list – please encourage everyone you know from the vendor community to participate.

PLEASE NOTE: All results will be published free of charge without registration in a permanent public archive for future reference.

For ITSM Tool Vendors – Click here to complete the ITSM TOOL CENSUS

Thanks in advance for your time and cooperation.

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Never Mind BYOD – What about BYOA?

Bring Your Own Device, Build Your Own App?

Lots of chatter happening around ‘Bring Your Own Device’ and the ‘Consumerization’ of IT.

These issues seem to represent the convergence of a number of growing trends:

  • Consumers being increasingly IT savvy
  • Consumers being used to instant internet gratification and on-demand ‘Apps’
  • Smart efficient toys
  • Productivity and GTD in a world of infinite choice
  • Cloud based apps eating the lunch of enterprise software dinosaurs

The result? Support departments are either having to support a plethora of new platforms or are facing increasing pressure to loosen up corporate standards and traditional ways of thinking.

Some interesting figures published this week, firstly from LANDesk:

“(the) influx of mobile devices in the workplace, viewed by 96 per cent as vital to productivity, is resulting in huge pressure on service desks. Service desk managers are finding themselves swamped with calls to support mobile devices yet underequipped to deal with them.

The survey found that a massive 76 per cent of service desks claim that the extra support required has had a negative impact. This is due to the fact that the uptake of new devices has necessitated a rapid accumulation of knowledge and expertise to support them.”

This raises an interesting point; who says the service desk has to know everything? Shouldn’t the service desk be about support rather than encyclopedic knowledge of every device? If the service desk is to avoid collapsing under the burden of these devices organizations need to learn to work in partnership or participate in communities.

“Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information on it.” Samuel Johnson.

The second piece of research came from systems management appliance vendor Dell KACE:

Key findings from the research are:

– 87 per cent of companies have users with personal devices that are being used for work purposes

– 62 per cent thought that they don’t have the tools to manage personal IT devices coming onto the network

– 64 per cent don’t think they know about all the devices that are coming onto the network

“New Research Reveals Growing ‘Consumerisation of IT’ Trend Fuelling Security Fears and Highlights Lack of Strategy to Manage Personal Devices.

According to the research, security needs top the list for IT managers when it comes to managing external mobile devices with 82 percent citing their concerns about the use of personal devices for business use, and another 62 percent specifically concerned about network security breaches.”

In terms of security, vendors such as Good Technology are providing some interesting technology in this space. It’s about securing the data on the device rather securing the device. So the choice of device becomes less of a security headache.

BYOA?

Discussions to date have been device centric. The bigger issue, which dwarfs BYOD, is Bring Your Own App (BYOA?)– When users become bored and frustrated with the glacial pace of enterprise software and use their own Apps to get the job done. One browser, one credit card, bye-bye dinosaur.

What do you think? How should organizations address BYOD and BYOA?

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How to Segment and Prioritize Vendors and Suppliers

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Vendors and suppliers need to be managed. Some will require more management than others. How do you go about differentiating between them and managing their delivery to you?

Vendor Segmentation

Vendors can and should be segmented within a supplier relationship framework, as it is important to recognise that the method of engagement and measurement of performance is different dependant upon their relative importance to your business processes.

For example a disposal program may be considered a commodity service, but actually the value to your reputation, environmental and legal liabilities is considerable and should require considered management of their service.

To segment your vendors the first aspect is to consider two variables; how aligned is the vendor to your business model and how difficult / costly would it be to extract exit the relationship that you have with that vendor? The framework is represented in the image.

There are four potential areas where your supplier can sit; tactical, emerging, strategic and legacy.  It is perfectly feasible that your supplier will flow through each of these in turn, indeed some parts of their delivery to you as an organisation will exist within the separate sectors.  The important aspect overall though is to recognise that the model should be applied to the relationship rather than the delivery of aspects of the service.

Tactical Vendors

A tactical vendor has low alignment to your business, they provide transactional commodity to you and it should be easy to switch to an alternative supplier.  Similarly they probably represent a low spend relationship or provide in a market that is saturated with competitors.

The effort expended in managing these relationships should focus on the efficiencies of the particular supplier both in the speed / processes utilised in servicing your business requirements and also how competitive are they in their market place.  If they were delivering a poor service or uncompetitive pricing it would be very simple to lift and shift to an alternative supplier.

The aim of the tactical relationship should be to understand how to drive towards an emerging supplier relationship, or even if this is appropriate.

Emerging Vendors

An emerging vendor is one who aims to service a need in a market where competition is low.  They should be looking to drive innovative solutions into your business, giving your organisation competitive advantage through early adoption in an unsaturated market environment.  Their aim should be to become more strategically involved with you.
Management of these relationships should be through collaboration to identify innovation that they can bring to you.  There should be a commitment to a long-term relationship and naturally within this framework competitive pricing / benchmarking of the vendor’s offerings is one of the key methods of defining who is truly remaining in the emerging space.  It is possible for an emerging vendor to lapse into a tactical position if there is not a continued focus on how to leverage the relationship knowledge to drive continued growth.  Indeed as their competitors catch up, their product may well become a commodity.

A tactical supplier who wishes to become emerging should be attempting to understand how their external partnerships can be brought to enhance the capability and positioning of your organisation.

Strategic Vendors

A strategic vendor is one with whom there is excellent alignment to your business requirements and with whom you have a deeply embedded set of services (e.g. asset lifecycle, enterprise software) and often they are identified by the size of your company’s spend with them.

They will have a deep understanding of your business requirements, so it is incredibly important that they are managed effectively and that you understand all their touch points.  Perception is important in measuring these vendors, but metrics on performance should also be reported upon, as should their staff turnover on your account.  The lower the staff turnover, the likelihood is there is a greater commitment to your organisation’s needs.

An emerging vendor should be looking to become more valuable and enhance their delivery to you such that it is a difficult choice to terminate the relationship.  Conversely a strategic vendor who begins to lose touch with your requirements and begins to lose commitment to your service delivery will begin to fall towards a legacy vendor.

Legacy Vendors

A legacy vendor is, as described above, one where the services provided support potentially critical aspects of the business (maybe a critical, legacy software system), but the drive and commitment to continue developing the relationship and business model is waning (their attentions may lie elsewhere).  With such a vendor it is costly to move away from them, but if the opportunity were to present itself then it is likely the exit strategy would be implemented.  As such it is important to ensure that the vendor is still focussed on servicing your needs as a customer.

Summary

Each vendor should be considered and segmented according to the values of each of the four segments and then managed in accordance with that segment’s consideration.  For those readers who manage supplier relationships, it is best to focus on one or two of the strategic vendors and expand from there.

The ITSM Tool Pricing Ouch-O-Meter

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One thing that has surprised me during my initial exploration of ITSM tools is the simplicity of some SaaS based pricing models.

Software licensing options offer vendors the ability to flex their competitive muscles, adapt their solutions to different customers and maximize revenue.

Microsoft is particularly good at this, if you are a left-handed student living in Outer Mongolia – Microsoft has a SKU code with your name on it! To the other extreme, Salesforce.com licensing is remarkably straight forward, if you have fifty users and you want Enterprise Edition – everyone must be on Enterprise Edition.

The counter to this simplicity is that customers might end up paying for development of software that they don’t use, but I think this is easily outweighed by simplicity and predictability. No hidden surprises and endless fiddling about with licensing scenarios.

Moreover, for a SaaS based subscription model it is in the interests of the vendor to ensure you are a happy customer, rather than the vendor constantly trying to sell the next upgrade or option. Vendors are more interested in longevity and retention over winning the big deal, in theory at least.

The KISS Principle

I was pleasantly surprised to see some SaaS based ITSM vendors offering one simple price per user per year. For everything. I’m not the sharpest tool in the box so I’m all for keeping things simple when the opportunity presents itself. KISS.

Being this crystal clear over licensing represents a significant paradigm shift for some traditional ITSM tool vendors. It is difficult to wean yourself from high margin professional services revenue when you have grown used to it – how will that revenue be replaced if we simplify everything for our customers? Similarly some vendors position relatively low cost ITSM tools specifically to generate new business for their consulting business.

Eyes Wide Open

I believe pricing simplicity should be a serious consideration when choosing a tool vendor. I have compiled a quick pricing ‘Ouch-O-Meter’ to help during the tool selection process. Click on the image above to enlarge it.

I’m not saying that SaaS is the only way to go, nor am I anti-consultant (being one myself) – I just like the simplicity of the licensing model. I believe how things are priced moving forward should be a serious consideration when exploring a new vendor relationship, there is nothing worse when securing a great deal than to find the hidden extras.

Am I entering into an ‘all you can eat’ license or a ‘We’re going to nickel-and-dime you every time you breath’ relationship?

Have I missed anything here? What else should be considered when it comes to vendor pricing?

5 Steps to Building a Tool Selection Scorecard

At the SDI event I attended last week, Ken Goff gave a compelling talk on tool selection.

This is not a new concept and I’m sure many readers would have used similar methodologies, nonetheless the credit for this article goes to Ken and SDI.

In this article I aim to provide an overview of Ken’s logic. The goal is to build a decision matrix for tool selection that is closely aligned to your requirements. The focus is on making an objective decision based on facts and stripping away any emotion or subjective bias.

5 STEPS

  • Step 1: Define your criteria, wish-list and desires of a new tool (This is a whole topic by itself and won’t be covered here).
  • Step 2: From this list define which of your criteria are Must Haves or Show Stoppers, there is no point investing in a tool if these features are not included. The remainder will be ‘wants’ or ‘nice to haves’.
  • Step 3: Assign a weighting score against each criteria
  • Step 4: Score each tool according to the criteria, then multiply the score by the weighting score to generate an overall score. Eliminate any candidates that do not meet the ‘Must’ criteria.
  • Step 5: Total all scores to provide an overall objective rating.
To demonstrate this in action I’ll use this methodology to choose a new house to purchase.

EXAMPLE

  • Step 1: Criteria: I’m looking for a house to buy in Poole, UK. I would like 3 bedrooms, a Sea View and for the property to be in Poole.
  • Step 2: Must or Want: It must have a least 3 bedrooms (Must), The Sea View and Location are nice to have.
  • Step 3: Criteria Score: I will assign a score to the criteria as follows: 3 bedrooms (10), Sea View (8) and Poole location (5).
  • Step 4: Scoring: See table below. As an example Property 1 has no Sea View (Score 0), it has four bedrooms (score 9) and is within Poole (score 8). Total aggregate score of scores versus weightings equals 130.
  • Step 5: Property 3 has the highest score, Property 2 is eliminated because it only has 2 bedrooms (A must) and Property 1 is last.

This method might seem overkill for 3 criteria, but becomes very useful when dealing with 50+ requirements.

I have used Poole in Dorset, UK specifically as an example (The fourth highest land value, by area in the world) since it doesn’t matter how suitable your tool is if you can’t afford it. Indeed, the price range of the tool might be factored into the criteria.

Please let me know if you have anything to add to this process or if you have any experiences to share. 

Review: SDI Software Solutions Day

Image from @SDIrob

I attended the SDI Software Solutions Day at the British Library last week.

In a nutshell, it was vendor beauty parade for interested buyers.

Six ITSM vendors presented an overview of their company to a room full of SDI members. SDI members had the opportunity to engage with the vendors directly and network with their peers.

I think this is a great format. It was crystal clear that if you were attending the event you wanted to hear from the vendors and what they had to say. Vendors support many events but it is rare for the spotlight to be purely focussed on what they bring to the table.

The compere and guide for the day was Ken Goff, who was very keen to stress the importance of building a list of requirements before even thinking about looking for new technology and provided some brilliant insights into the vendor selection process (more to follow over the coming weeks).

“Every product is perfect at what it is designed to do, and rubbish at what is not designed to do” Ken Goff

When the audience were asked what they wanted most from vendors – two answers stood out for me;

  • Be honest about your shortcomings and scope.
  • Deliver on your promises

The first point is particularly interesting. As a former software sales rep I am all too familiar with the pressure to say ‘Yes’ to every question asked. It takes courage and wisdom for a vendor to say ‘You know what, that’s not really our area of expertise’.

Talking of sales reps… it seemed a little unfair for ICCM to send two sales reps along to network with the audience. Strictly speaking I guess anyone who is an SDI member can attend, but it seems a little unsporting when the other vendors had taken the time to build booths and prepare presentations.

My only criticism of an otherwise very useful and informative day is that it would have been nice to hear more from a customer perspective, some vendors mentioned what their customers were doing but there was scope for a lot more. i.e. “Here is someone that was in the position as you are now, this is what they did, these are the hurdles they faced and this is how we helped them”.

Vendors Participating:

Which ITSM Vendors Engage Online?

I was inspired to compile this list of ITSM Vendors in order of online influence after listening to an edition of the ITSM Weekly Podcast in which James West of ServiceDesk360 discussed his list of ‘influencers’ on PeerIndex.

Of all the segments of the IT market that might benefit from social networking and enterprise collaboration – nowhere is it more relevant that ITSM.

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Vendors have been ordered by their ‘Klout’, a measure of online influence. Those vendors with a higher score are more likely to be:

  • Listening to the market
  • Engaging with their audience online
  • Responding accordingly and
  • Producing good content and thought leadership that people want to share online.

I believe these principles run right to the heart of service management.

I believe it is also worthwhile to identify those vendors that are producing good stuff and listening to the market.

‘Klout’ is not 100% watertight, I’m sure there are ways to corrupt and circumnavigate the system. For example some companies might hire a top notch PR and a marketing company to provide a ‘ghost’ presence but ignore the principles at work within the vendor itself. Looking at the list I believe it provides a fairly accurate view of genuine influence – you could have a gazillion friends and followers and pump out updates every minute but still not have ‘Klout’.  It is important to note that this list also ignores some of the great work by the service management community offline.

This list is by no means exhaustive, I will add to it and expand it over time.

If you have any recommendations for changes please contact me. The table is compiled from this list. See also – Punditry

Punditry and Getting Started in ITSM

I have found Twitter to be a great source of information and updates on the ITSM industry.

As a newcomer I have found it useful to listen in on the pundits as they share expertise and opinion. There is the usual bellyaching about the finer points of ITIL, but generally it is a good source of news, humour and insight.

You don’t necessarily need to join the conversation. It is quite easy to set yourself up with a twitter account, follow the people that interest you and put yourself in ‘listen only mode’ from the comfort of your mobile device.

To help fellow newcomers looking to explore the industry I’ve compiled a list of ITSM pundits and ranked them by Klout.

The ITSM Review – Top 10 Pundits by Klout

Klout is a measure of online influence. It is by no means exhaustive but it indicates that, generally speaking, ‘the crowd’ appreciates the updates from those individuals with a higher score.

If you would like to make any recommendations for alternative pundits or changes please contact me.

Other Useful Resources

itSMF – The Glue That Unites the Service Management Industry

Not-A-Pink-Shirt
Ben Clacy, UK CEO, itSMF

As I begin my journey into the world of ITSM what better place to start than with The IT Service Management Forum (itSMF)?

I recently met with Ben Clacy, CEO of itSMF UK to discuss the recent changes to ITIL and the announcement of a new professional credentialing scheme for service management professionals.

ITSM Review Q. For those not familiar with itSMF –what do you do?

We are community of over 12,000 UK based service management professionals. We were born out of ITIL and are essentially an ITIL user group. There are 53 chapters of itSMF around the globe, all of which are not for profit groups run by volunteers. It’s all about giving back to our members and helping them deliver better IT services.

Q. If I’m a new recruit in a support department or have just started a service management related role – how can the itSMF help me?

As a member of itSMF there is a variety of resources you can gain access to. We have a knowledgebase so that members can learn about all aspects of service management, a quarterly journal where members can learn about all the latest hot topics and events – from our annual conference through to smaller regionals events.

The ‘forum’ part is the most important aspect of the itSMF. It’s all about learning from your peers. Professionals who specialize in particular areas lead our events, allowing others to benefit from their real life experiences.

Ask itSMF members what the biggest benefit of membership is – and they’ll tell you it’s the ability to reach out to other members and understand how they can do something better.

Q. What is prISM?

The industry already has a good qualification scheme based on ITIL, but a lot of people question it because it is only a qualification. You can read the books and take the exam but it does not take into account your experience and your others skills as a service management professional.

prISM is a credentialing scheme for the service management industry.

Credential – “a qualification, achievement, quality, or aspect of a person’s background, especially when used to indicate their suitability for something” Source

The idea behind prISM is to provide, as many industries do, a recognized level of accomplishment that takes a broader view of the individual and their qualifications.

Q. So miles on the clock and hours at the rock face are taken into account?

Yes, to a certain extent, experience is certainly part of it. prISM looks at the job they do, what that involves, the knowledge they have and other training courses that might be relevant to service management. The goal is to provide a bigger picture of that individual’s professional experience.

Q. Could you provide a high level overview of the prISM credentialing levels?

The levels are:

  1. Student in Service Management (SSM) – for students with an interest in ITSM
  2. Associate (ASM) – for entry-level professionals
  3. Professional (PSM) – for mid-level, experienced professionals
  4. Distinguished Professional (DPSM) – for senior, experienced professionals and leaders.
  5. Fellow (FSM) – recognized for making significant contributions to the profession and its body of knowledge.

Q. Could you share your opinion on ITIL 2011? I’m a from an enterprise software background so from what I understand it is a minor release in order to resolve a few bugs and not a major version – is that a suitable analogy?

ITIL are trying to move away from version numbers. The UK government owns ITIL and things take a little longer than many people would like.

Some would prefer it to be a more of an iterative update. It has been out since the late eighties and version three was released in 2007. It has only had two significant updates.

ITIL 2011 is an update not a new version. The structure has remained the same. The first book on service strategy has had a significant overhaul but the other four books have only had minor adjustments. Service strategy was a new concept for a lot of people back in 2007 and this update makes it more accessible.

Q. So going back to my new recruit who has just landed on the helpdesk and has never heard of ITIL – what would you recommend? What is the best path for learning about all of this?

The best way to begin the journey with regards to ITIL is to attend a one-day training session that some training companies offer which is effectively a game or a simulation.

This experiential form of training puts you in a real life scenario (the Apollo 13 mission, a shop, a trading floor etc.) with the group running an IT department.

It soon becomes apparent the mistakes being made, the damage being done to the business and the money being lost. Gradually the ITIL processes are put in place so that the people taking the course can witness real life improvements being made. There is commonly a light bulb moment when people realize what effect these changes can have on their own business.

 Q. How is the itSMF linked to ITIL?

ITIL is owned by OGC and we have no real formal link to the 2011 update – but 90% of our members use ITIL as a framework for their business and all of the authors of ITIL are itSMF members. ITIL is the theory and the itSMF provides the real life context, allowing members to learn from others who have implemented service management in line with ITIL principles.

Further Information