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Resources, Best Practices, and Solutions for ITSM Pros

Peter Hubbard from Pink Elephant on how to pick an ITSM toolset

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Selecting a new Service Desk Tool

Businessman standing in front of the choise

Choosing an IT service management (ITSM) toolset is one of the most important and, undoubtedly, most involved decisions you will make as a service desk, helpdesk or IT manager. You might be in the midst of choosing one right now—or you might be a few years off from looking for a new one. Yet, whatever your situation, the importance of choosing an ITSM toolset can’t be underestimated.

In his recent and informative Cherwell-sponsored webinar, How to pick an ITSM: What you really need to know, Peter Hubbard, an ITSM consultant with Pink Elephant, described the process as a bit like buying a new car: “The ITSM toolset is what I refer to as the engine of your IT department—it’s how your whole IT department is going to talk to each other, assign work, and find out what is going on.” The difference between buying a “good engine” and a “bad engine” could mean the difference between running smoothly and having your operations stalled altogether.

Before tackling the lengthy process of how to pick an ITSM vendor, Peter took the time to discredit some common myths about ITSM toolsets. Let’s review:

  • Myth #1: “The service management tool will solve all our process problems and give us best practices.”
  • Myth #2: “If I buy a properly configured service management tool, it means less work for everybody!”
  • Myth #3: “Systems management tool integration will highly reduce or even eliminate the need for human intervention and data entry.”

The problem with all these myths, as Peter wisely pointed out, is that they put stock in a false notion of what an ITSM toolset is capable of—as if to say an ITSM tool will solve all your problems and make human input irrelevant.

Moving past this kind of naiveté is essential when you’re considering a new service desk / helpdesk tool. That means, as Peter explained, you first have to understand your own business processes. You have to know precisely what your want out of your new tool. “All a toolset will do is allow your IT department to talk to itself and even run the business in a smoother fashion,” Peter explained. “If you haven’t worked out what you want to say to each other, it’s going to go really wrong, really fast.”

Having understood the efficacy that a good ITSM tool can bring to your organization with the right human input, what’s next?

After you’ve taken an initial look at market reports (like Forrester®’s The Forrester Wave™:  ITSM SaaS Delivery Capabilities, Q3 2014), it’s time to build a questionnaire and custom, weighted criteria specific to your organization’s needs. What exactly do you want from your ITSM tool—which processes and functionalities? These are the sorts of questions you have to begin asking yourself. “Start by defining your problem. Get the relevant people together—don’t forget your service desk.” Peter’s recommendation is to involve your entire team—anyone who’s going to be using the tool—in the process of choosing the new service desk / helpdesk tool.

Once you’ve identified at least a couple of prospective vendors that you’re in conversation with, it’s essential—Peter explained—that you “do not just get sucked into the technical aspect of it.” Here’s a sobering statistic: the failure rate is around 60% for businesses that are engaging in transformational change. That’s why, even as you’re trying to make sense of an array of technical details, you can’t lose sight of the bigger transformations at play when you’re adopting a new ITSM tool, which will undoubtedly affect the way your entire team conducts its work.

One of the most significant milestones in picking your new tool is the demo day—the day you get to audition a vendor’s product. Peter’s recommendation is to send a couple of test cases to the vendor a few weeks beforehand.

When trying out a specific ITSM tool, “It needs to be easy-to-use, and allow everybody to make their own ad hoc reports. Any toolset where I say, ‘Could you make a report?’ and they crack open SQL coding language, I start to wince. I want nice, simple, potentially drag-and-drop, make a report on this, go.

Equally important, Peter added that you should always “go on the reference site visit—go out of your way to be nice and reasonable, and make a contact. You’ve now got someone in your neck- of-the-woods who you can start swapping emails with and ask questions to.”

Selecting a new service desk / helpdesk tool is an arduous and lengthy process, but the result of going through these steps could very well have a lasting and positive impact on the effectiveness of your business operations.

Once you have eventually and confidently settled on a specific ITSM tool, Peter recommends that you “build yourself some test cases for the acceptance. Don’t just have the vendor turn up, install it, and say, ‘It’s done,’ and then leave.”

Even after it’s been successfully installed, staying in contact with the vendor is absolutely key: “All too many organizations that I’ve seen buy a toolset and then keep the vendor at arm’s length.  Don’t—they can help you. You’ve already bought from them. You are now a customer.”

In thinking about how to effectively use your new tool, Peter considers the following four areas as the fundamental aspects always in play: process, people, management, and technology. “What I like to say about IT service management is that it’s a delicate ecosystem. If you change any one of these four areas, it ripples through all of them.”

Recognizing the fragility of IT service management should influence, in some way, every aspect of your decision when it comes to selecting a new ITSM tool.

At the end of the day, though, it’s always important to acknowledge that ITSM is really a tool meant to serve your needs. “Never forget that the toolset is there to support people,” Peter explained. “People are not there to support the toolset.”