Cherwell IT Service Management Blog
Resources, Best Practices, and Solutions for ITSM Pros

Stable ITSM Needs Courage

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Cherwell Software welcomes guest blogger Barclay Rae. He is an independent management consultant specializing in IT Service Management.

What level of project involvement should you expect from a good ITSM vendor?

I still see many projects where there are misunderstandings and missed expectations between vendors and their customers. Sometimes this doesn’t amount to much; however, in many cases, problems lead to disputes, schisms, and more importantly, inadequate implementations.

I’ve asked and debated this issue for years, not least when I ran a global team of consultants implementing an ITSM tool. I’ve witnessed a number of different problems from all sides — customer, vendor, consultant — including several projects in the last year that had a variety of (avoidable) difficulties.

All too often there is a mismatch of expectations from both sides and around all sorts of issues:

  • what the customer needs to provide and the vendor will actually deliver
  • who is responsible for planning
  • who does testing and to what extent
  • how much project management is needed on either side to ensure success
  • what resources are needed for  — and will be provided — by both sides
  • what dates and timescales will be met
  • what costs might or might not be incurred and who is responsible for extra costs when expectations are not met

The list goes on, and yes, it’s about good project management — or the lack of it. Who is ultimately responsible for delivery? Does or should the customer own the delivery and project management? Absolutely; it’s their system and service.

However, the vendor knows their system best and how best to implement it. If the customer doesn’t have project management resource or skills in-house, the vendor should help and advise the customer to bring it in. All of this is in the vendor’s interest as it helps to achieve an effective long-term implementation.

The issue for me is that often, this is either not bid for or included by the vendor when it should be. I appreciate that vendors are often not seen as reliable advisors even when they may actually know best and be acting in the customer’s best interest. However, it really does come down to who the vendor is selling to (i.e. the more senior the better) and how brave the vendor is to propose the full extent of work needed.

So whilst it’s great that we innovate and develop new ideas and techniques, we need to get the basics right, and often this is hampered by poor implementations of perfectly good systems. Vendors need to consider the best way for their long-term success to be promulgated — i.e. excellent implementations — and act accordingly — with more C-level selling, more emphasis on project and change management, implementation time and technical capabilities.

So whilst it is the customer’s responsibility to project manage an implementation, it’s the vendor’s responsibility to assess the associated risk and propose work accordingly — account for people and organisational factors not just software and technical issues.

Otherwise, we will continue the “rip and replace” culture we’ve seen the last 20 years. If vendors and buyers work together more on a long-term relationship basis (built on trust), we might have more stable ITSM operations.