What to Consider When You’re Evaluating New ITSM Solutions
Posted by on July 16, 2020
Kari Nelson's background and expertise has focused on numerous digital transformation technologies, including servers, storage, networking, professional services, software, virtualization, and ITaaS. Prior to joining Cherwell Software, Kari spent over 15 years with Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
It can feel overwhelming to consider adopting a new IT Service Management (ITSM) solution at your organization. But the fact is, remaining with an old-school, outdated ITSM solution will hold your business back, preventing it from gaining strategic advantages.
Once you’ve realized the benefits that accompany modern ITSM software—such as real-time metrics, the ability to automate workflows, and more—you’ll feel more motivated to start the process of evaluating solutions.
But where should you get started? It’s a good news-bad news situation when it comes to the marketplace: The best word to describe the market of ITSM solutions is crowded—there are many, many options out there. That means you can find one that’s a Goldilocks-fit for your organization, but it might take some research.
Read on for insight into what you need to keep in mind as you evaluate solutions.
9 Consideration Tips Before You License a New ITSM Solution
For IT leaders responsible for selecting a solution, the licensing process can be overwhelming. Of course, the first step is to select an ITSM product that meets your feature and functionality requirements. You may, for instance, be eager for a service management tool with out-of-the-box ITIL processes (such as problem management, incident management, change management) or to have IT asset management capabilities.
Beyond achieving your requirements, you should also consider whether or not the solution will support—and further—business goals.
And, of course, costs are an important consideration. Think of finding the right ITSM solution as being like a matchmaker: You'll need to find the perfect match between your organization's requirements and the tool's capabilities.
Getting clear feedback from vendors on the following factors will help you control the total cost of ownership (TCO) and ensure that you find a solution that suits your needs.
Tip #1: Flexible Licensing Models
License management is a key concern. Think through who in your organization will use the ITSM platform. Will the vendor require every member of your IT team to have a license, regardless of how frequently (or infrequently) they use the ITSM solution? If so, that can add up to substantial costs.
Named licensing models are notoriously inflexible. And, their costs can add up quickly if usage increases or your organization grows.
A better option may be concurrent licensing—under this model, any authorized user can access the software, so long as the total number of simultaneous users doesn’t exceed the total number of licenses your organization purchased.
Tip #2: End-User Licensing
Here’s another question to ask vendors: Will business users need a license to access the self-service portal and knowledge base? On average, end users contact the IT help desk once a per month, according to Gartner.
You’ll want to know if there is a cost associated with your end-users:
Browsing the knowledge base
Requesting a service
Resetting their password
Submitting a timecard
If there are costs associated with these everyday IT support tasks, your organization may not gain the cost efficiencies that are typically derived by establishing a self-service program.
RELATED READING: The Future of IT Self-Service: Everything You Need to Know
Tip #3: License Compliance
It’s important to know what happens when the number of logins surpasses your license count. Look for a vendor who will provide you with a heads-up.
This may not seem at first like a software-as-a-service (SaaS) issue. But many SaaS-based solutions regularly run customer usage reports. Then, rather than providing your IT organization with a notification, some vendors will simply present an order form to add these additional licenses. As more users access the tool, these usage reports and additional true-up order forms present unbudgeted costs.
Tip #4: Beyond IT Fees
You’ll get the most out of a solution if you extend its usage throughout the organization—to facilities, human resources, security operations, for project management, and to any other departments that can benefit.
But if you are planning to embrace enterprise service management (ESM), you’ll need to know if named licenses are required for capabilities beyond IT. Furthermore, it’s important to know if the solution requires additional developmental licensing to build custom applications on the platform.
Finally, check with vendors if additional capabilities related to orchestration or cloud provisioning require additional licensing.
Tip #5: Choice Deployment Models
The deployment model can be hugely important for some industries. While companies may initially opt for one deployment option, over time they often find that another deployment option will be a better fit.
Look for a vendor that allows you to choose the deployment model. Consider cost, too: You’ll want to know if it’ll be easy or inexpensive to host an ITSM solution on-premises. And, you’ll want to know that if you start with a hosted model, you’d be able to switch over the course of your relationship with the vendor.
Tip #6: Time to Value
A steep learning curve for a solution can stand in the way of people using it and taking advantage of its functionality.
Additionally, you’ll want to know from vendors if the changes that process owners and business analysts request will be prioritized appropriately or need to wait for long periods of time.
RELATED READING: The Return of No-Code Development
Tip #7: Version Upgrades
Here’s a critical question: Is the vendor known for facilitating easy version upgrades?
One of the virtues of having developers on hand to configure and customize the platform is that they can provide the flexibility to meet your organization’s unique requirements. But this approach can present challenges when it’s time to upgrade versions, specifically with regard to time spent on regression testing.
Tip #8: Industry Reputation
Look to third-party analyst firms—such as Gartner—for feedback on the solution.
Do they report on common customer experiences? In particular, be mindful of customer reports about the solution requiring more time and resources than expected. Look to see if analysts report that customers faced challenges to achieve favorable deals and renewals.
Tip #9: Customer Feedback
Reviews from peers can also be helpful for getting insight into the ease of the vendor relationship, as well as the performance of the solution. Reach out to other customers for insights into the solution. Look for feedback on:
The licensing model
Contract negotiation experience
Quality of implementation
Quality of technical support
Bottom line: It’s hard to understate the importance of customer satisfaction when you’re evaluating a service management solution.
RELATED READING: Take a Look at Cherwell Customer Success Stories
Planning on Going “Codeless” with Your ITSM Solution? 4 Questions You Should Ask Your Vendor
Codeless ITSM solutions offer paradigm-changing benefits. Virtually every organization that deploys an ITSM tool will need to customize it to suit that organization’s unique needs. And there’s no getting around the fact that without a codeless or low code platform, customizations are an expensive, time-consuming, and painful process.
Codeless design eliminates all the problems that have made "customization" somewhat of a dirty word. As such, the advent of codeless ITSM really has been a revolutionary game-changer.
Virtually all vendors claim that their solution is codeless. It’s a great selling point.
But there’s a problem: not all "codeless" solutions are truly codeless.
How can you tell the difference between truly codeless and counterfeit codeless? Just ask the ITSM vendor the following four simple questions:
Question #1: What Skill Sets Will My Team Need?
Your team shouldn’t need any coding skills or specialized knowledge of programming languages.
To verify if the vendor’s response is accurate, take a look at the training that the vendor offers. If they differentiate among training courses for developers and administrators, buyer beware. In a true codeless solution, there’s no need for separate training tracks for developers and administrators; it’s all one skill set.
In general, though direct coding-language knowledge is not needed, people with experience customizing a true codeless solution will have good programming problem-solving and design skills. These are typically administrators or solution designers. People with experience customizing non-codeless solutions are developers—and they’re generally expensive developers.
Question #2: What Does Your Visual Editor Generate on the Back End?
Most tools provide a visual editor, or wizard, for performing configurations and customizations. It’s typically a WYSIWYG that’s supposed to make customization easy.
The editor front end is likely to look nifty and easy to use. But you need to ask what it does on the back end. If the answer you get is: “It generates code,” that’s the wrong answer. Because the next time there are any complex changes or product upgrades that need to incorporate the changes you made, the customization code that was generated will most likely have to be changed.
And the tool won’t do that for you. Your development team will have to go to work to do some coding on your "codeless" ITSM tool. (And that guy you hired months ago to make the first round of changes—is he still around? Does he remember what he did? If the answer to either question is no, that’s more trouble.)
The best solution is a tool that generates configuration metadata, separate from the core code of the tool. The metadata enables your customizations, but is also quick and easy to incorporate into any future changes or upgrades. Since the metadata is uniquely separate from the code base, upgrades to the core software leave your custom changes unaffected and unbroken.
Question #3: How Robust Is the Editor?
The editors or wizards through which you make customizations will be quite limited in capability with non-codeless ITSM solutions.
Ask how many truly different add-on tasks the editor can perform. All editors offer basic capabilities. For example, virtually all editors offer the ability to create charts. But if you can create a chart, but can’t do anything extra with that chart—like click on the chart to drill down into the data—then the editor is very limited. And you’ll end up turning to your development team to code the extra capability you need.
How many enhanced capabilities should the solution’s editor offer to qualify as a codeless solution? If you don’t need more than one hand (thumb included!) to count those enhanced capabilities, then you’re looking at a solution that’s not truly codeless.
Question #4: How Easy Are Upgrades?
You buy an ITSM solution. You install it; you use it; you customize it. Then the vendor releases a new version, and it’s time to upgrade.
Will the upgrade be: a) done in days, or b) require months—or longer?
If you’ve purchased a truly codeless solution, the upgrade will be truly easy—no speed bumps to speak of. If not, the upgrade will likely be the worst kind of nightmare.
Here’s why: for every customization you make to a non-codeless solution, changes were made to the core application code. So now that it’s time to upgrade, this is what has to happen: your development team (or the vendor’s) will need to manually find each and every customization in the upgrade’s code and duplicate it within the newer version.
This can be horrifically expensive and time-consuming.
On the other hand, if you purchased a true codeless solution, here’s what your upgrade will entail: a simple import of the stored data that represents your customizations. That’s it.
Ask the vendor—or better yet, ask actual customers—how long it takes, on average, to migrate customizations from one version to the next. If the answer is framed in days, weeks, or months(!), the solution is not codeless. If the answer is minutes, you’ve got yourself a codeless tool.
Ensure Your Existing or Next ITSM Solution Is Right for Your Business
Many people that think they are buying codeless ITSM solutions don’t know the whole story—or don’t know what to ask to verify the “codeless” claim. But by asking these questions above, and digging deep into the key factors that were identified, you can tell the difference between those who claim to be codeless and the real deal.
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