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Gartner’s Take on Enterprise Service Management Is Right, But for the Wrong Reasons

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In a research note titled “Be Wary of Buying an ITSSM Tool to Use Beyond ITSM 2.0,” Gartner cautions IT organizations against using IT service management (ITSM) solutions as a platforms for business activities, claiming ITSM tools are not fully capable of supporting a “mini ERP” vision. The note also suggests leaders who purchase ITSM tools with the intention of using these tools beyond IT service management will struggle to see tangible ROI. Gartner’s biggest prediction? “In 2019, more than two-thirds of organizations that purchased an ITSM tool in 2015 or 2016 for purposes beyond IT will be using [the tool] for the IT service desk only.” The note goes on to call the concept of Enterprise Service Management (ESM) “vendor hype,” a marketing strategy in which the goal is to gain revenue from markets outside of IT by positioning ITSM tools as general purpose workflow solutions.

Tweet This: @Gartner ‘s take on Enterprise Service Management is spot on, but for the wrong reasons

How ITSM Tools Relate to Enterprise Service Management

Let’s start with the fundamental question Gartner is trying to answer: do IT service management tools built to support business areas beyond IT provide long term value? This research does an amazing job in evaluating the out-of-the-box “beyond IT” capabilities ITSM vendors provide compared to those of best-of-breed products. Gartner asserts ITSM vendor-developed solutions used in the following areas are not capable of meeting the needs of departments outside of IT—in other words, enabling Enterprise Service Management—beyond limited requirements and limited instances:

  • Human Resources
  • Project and Portfolio Management
  • Application Development Life Cycle Management
  • Business Process Management
  • Procurement and Sourcing
  • Governance Compliance and Risk

Full disclosure: I lead Product Marketing at Cherwell Software, the developer of Cherwell Service Management IT service management software. That said, I wholeheartedly agree with Gartner in that ITSM vendor-developed solutions in areas outside of IT cannot easily meet the needs of business areas when compared to fit-for-purpose solutions. At the same time, I strongly disagree with the notion that enterprise service management is marketing hype. More than 70 percent of our customers use Cherwell Service Management to support processes outside of IT, and they create real value for their businesses by delivering services and managing assets in areas that previously lacked the ability to work more effectively and efficiently.

Did I just contradict myself? No, and here’s why:

Service management vendors, including the one I work for, lack the domain expertise to build full, rich best-of-breed solutions, as well as the sales capacity and expertise to prioritize those areas. It’s difficult for any vendor to do everything well at once and, typically, the larger the solutions portfolio becomes, the more difficult it is to develop expertise in any given area. I would call it bad business to license a packaged application outside of IT without domain expertise, specifically if it only is capable of meeting an organization’s minimum requirements (which is what many of our competitors do).

Tweet This: While the term #ESM may be new, organizations have been using #ITSM tools in business areas for almost two decades.

In their research, however, Gartner neglects to address the historical context of enterprise service management, which is required to conduct this analysis properly. IT organizations have been using ITSM solutions beyond IT for almost two decades. Yes, the terms “enterprise service management” and “digital service management” might be new, but the practice itself is not. The marketing terms have been successful in capturing the attention of I&O leaders, but IT organizations can and will tell you they have been doing this long before those terms came to market.

The Enterprise Service Management “Customization Trap”

For those with access to Gartner research services, look back at the 2006 IT Service Desk Magic Quadrant. BMC was positioned in the Leader Quadrant, and was recognized in the analysis for their vision in providing customers the ability to customize and add functionality with some additional development. The Action Request System (ARS) offered workflow functionality that IT organizations extended into the business and with which they saw a measure of success—that is, until customization proved to present “a quagmire of upgrade issues.”

Now look back at a 2014 report, titled “SWOT: ServiceNow, IT Operations Management Software, Worldwide.” In the year this note was published, ServiceNow grew revenue 70 percent. In its research, Gartner cited ServiceNow’s ability to upsell their existing customer base to their platform to embrace enterprise service management by automating processes beyond core IT department functions. They continued to state this approach offered to customers the benefit of having all applications on a common underlying architecture and predicted it could give ServiceNow a “significant advantage” over traditional competitors. However, that same report called out the same issues customers had with upgrades due to customization, as did the 2006 IT Service Desk Magic Quadrant.

Tweet This: What happens when the non-IT departments using #ITSM tools fall into the #customizationtrap?  

The real issue isn’t an ITSM vendor’s lack of domain expertise. The real issue is the platform on which the tools are built. ARS was revolutionary, widely considered to be the Holy Grail for IT, allowing IT to build solutions for the business themselves. The challenge came when customizations broke during the upgrade process. ServiceNow did well to pick this concept up and was quick to message that SaaS, in part, would help solve some of these challenges. However, Gartner analysis over the past two years suggests otherwise, continuing to cite customer challenges with upgrades and not having deep initial price discounts honored upon renewal. In that context, the ability to configure and customize their IT service management solutions scares the living daylights out of IT organizations. With the aforementioned legacy solutions, the more the IT organization customizes, the more difficult the solution becomes to manage and maintain.

And therein lies the Cherwell difference.

Cherwell’s Approach to Enterprise Service Management

The meta-data driven approach Cherwell uses enables customers to make changes without touching code, store those changes as configurations, and ensure seamless upgrades. Programming, scripting or development resources are not required to design and deliver solutions to meet the needs of the IT organization and the business. Cherwell customers minimize total cost of ownership and maximize ROI. They are confident that what they configure and customize will remain completely intact through upgrades. Cherwell customers require fewer administrative resources when compared to their previous solutions, and can empower employees develop their own solutions. With a tool so powerful and flexible, using it to only meet the needs and IT would be illogical, even wasteful. These are things you can only do with Cherwell. Gartner must be talking about those other guys.

To reiterate my point—I support Gartner’s warning to I&O leaders to be cautious when purchasing ITSM solutions with the intention of utilizing them for broader enterprise service management initaitives, but not because this goal can’t be achieved. Indeed it can. The caution needs to be exercised when selecting the tool they use to accomplish their goals beyond IT— because most vendors can’t truly deliver on this promise without the upgrade pain and added expense described above.

Tweet This: Limiting the use of a powerful and flexible #ITSM solution to IT is like using a rocket ship to pick up groceries.

But, when IT professionals are empowered with flexible and powerful technology, designing applications, enhancements, and integrations can happen without friction. When customers and partners share those solutions with each other, independent of versioning and existing configurations, the possibilities grow exponentially. With this type of technology available through Cherwell, it is difficult to believe 2019 will see 66 percent of IT organizations only using ITSM tools for service desk ticketing. It would be like owning a rocket ship and only using it to pick up groceries.

Looking for a new ITSM solution? Check out Gartner’s recently released Magic Quadrant for IT Service and Support Management (ITSSM) tools for a review of the top 10 vendors, along with their relative strengths and weaknesses.


  1. Jesper Zachrisson

    I Totally agree. Using ITSM tools Beyond IT is not new. I’ve seen the demand for Beyond IT in ITSM tools since at least 2008 and have also been implementing such functionality myself several times at various customers, ranging from Municipality facilities and community services, to Industry production deviation processes, Hospital medical equipment services, finance etc.

    However, working with a legacy system there were always limitations to what could be accomplished in terms of configuration. Sometimes special vendor development was needed, which made the vendor code very complex to maintain in upgrades.

    What Cherwell brings to the table is really it’s high level of flexibility and deep level of content configuration without touching the code of the actual platform. That ensures the secure and hassle free upgrade.

    Example: Yesterday, I upgraded a demo environment from CSM 5.11 to 8.0 in less than 10 minutes without a single issue regarding my configurations or external integrations.

  2. Ray Perkins

    Stating that organizations using ITSM tools beyond IT will struggle to see tangible ROI sounds like someone who lives in the land of theory and has little experience in the pragmatic. We chose and implemented Cherwell precisely because of its ability to mold to our business processes. We rarely use it for IT purposes. No other tool can accomplish what we do. So pardon me if I chuckle a bit at the stated assumptions.

  3. Jarod

    Thanks for the feedback Jesper. We truly believe we provide the right solution that allows IT organizations to design and build what they need, without the traditional manageability related challenges. When our customers get that tool in their hands they do some truly amazing things!

  4. Jarod


    We are so pleased to hear that you’ve achieved tangible ROI with Cherwell! As you know, you certainly aren’t alone in rarely using CSM for IT!!

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