10 Things You Must Consider When Choosing IT Service Desk Software

Posted by on July 19, 2016


Replacing your IT service desk software is not something the average IT organization does often. When you get the chance to replace your existing solution, you must take the opportunity to evaluate the best option based on your specific business requirements. You aren’t looking for a ‘one size fits all’ solution; every business is different, and yours has its own specific needs.

Tweet this: When choosing an IT Service Desk Software vendor, consider these 10 things before making a final decision 

How Can I Select the Right Service Desk Tool?

Let’s focus on the selection process. Before you shop for a new service desk solution, stop and consider a few key points that will help you with this process. Here are my top 10 points for consideration:

  1. Decide whether to upgrade or replace
  2. Involve your team
  3. Understand the licensing model
  4. Analyze your requirements
  5. Define your service pipeline
  6. Determine the effort required to implement
  7. Prioritize flexibility
  8. Ensure availability of support
  9. Research industry help and advice
  10. Investigate references

1. Decide whether to upgrade or replace

Before you even think about replacing your service desk software, you need to ask yourself this very important question: Should you keep the current tool and upgrade it? Or, should you replace the solution completely?

In order to answer that question, here are some key considerations:

  • Is your current service desk tool fit for purpose? Was it identified, evaluated, scoped, and selected to meet your service desk requirements? Or, are you using another type of tool (CRM or other collaboration software) to try and meet your service desk needs?
  • Can your existing service desk solution meet or easily adapt to future requirements?
  • Does your current vendor charge for upgrades? Also, what are the soft costs associated with the upgrade? Beware: with many vendors, the cost of an upgrade can be more expensive the cost of replacing the product outright.
  • How often are upgrades issued?
  • Are your customizations kept intact with upgrades?
  • Can you perform an upgrade in-house or do you need help from the vendor or from consultants?

Budget, of course, will come into play, but the question to upgrade or replace is about much more than just budget. Ultimately, you need service desk software that best meets your organization’s needs both now and in the future.

2. Involve your team

It may seem obvious, but all too often IT support staff are not fully involved in selecting new service desk software. Not involving staff can create an atmosphere that’s not conducive to success. The new service desk tool can easily become YOUR tool, rather than OUR tool, and a sense of negativity towards the chosen tool can emerge. It is also dangerous to go too far the other way and suffer delays caused by too much involvement. Would you let someone else buy your next car for you without talking to you first about your requirements?

Getting the right balance is important, but equally important is involving the people on the front line who will use the tool every day.

Tweet this: Find out why it is important that your IT team has some say so when considering choosing an IT service desk software

3. Understand the licensing model

Many vendors have different ways of licensing their technology. As you select a new tool, it is vital you understand these different license models, policies, and enforcement methods to avoid increased, unexpected costs and ensure the ITSM solution you choose meets the needs—not just from a capabilities perspective, but also from a fiscal standpoint—of your organization from day one.

There are two common licensing models you might encounter: named licensing and concurrent licensing. Named licensing enables a specific named individual to access the functionality of the software. These licenses are typically nontransferable from user to user, other than on a one-time permanent basis. Concurrent licensing enables any authorized person to access the functionality of the software, provided the maximum number of simultaneous users do not exceed the total number of licenses purchased. The ratio of users per concurrent license typically ranges anywhere from 1:2 – 1:5 (named to concurrent).

To learn more about the differences between named and concurrent licensing, as well as how to choose the best model for your organization, check out this article.

4. Analyze your requirements

There is nothing worse than discovering you have missed an important requirement after you have implemented your new IT service desk software. No one knows better than the folks using the current tool what’s needed in a new tool. Needs analysis is about identifying all of the functions, features, and actions that are required and requested.

This can easily be done by asking all staff who use the current tool to make a list of all the capabilities the new tool should possess. Add these into a spreadsheet, and sort them into essential, optional or shelved. This is also a great way to involve your team (see #2 above!).

5. Define your service pipeline

One mistake that can cause lots of problems is to look only at the IT services delivered at the moment. It’s possible that some of the services coming down the pipeline may require specialized functionality within the service desk tool in order to support. For example, consider your adoption of new cloud-based services or a bring your own device (BYOD) policy. It is very important at the start of the selection process to talk with your IT and development teams to discuss upcoming services to ensure that you have covered all the bases.

You can then combine this with the needs analysis work you conducted with your service desk and IT support teams.

6. Determine the effort required to implement

This is really where the hard work begins, as well as where things can start to fall apart. How quickly can you get up and running with your new service desk tool and start to see a positive return on the investment? Ask the vendors you’re evaluating about possible roadblocks that could delay a ‘go live’ date, and ask what they would do to avoid this. Ask the vendor to estimate how much time and how many staff will be needed to implement, and at what point during the process these resources will be required.

If you want a smooth implementation, you need to work in true partnership with your vendor; in fact, selecting the right vendor is equally important as selecting the right tool.

7. Prioritize flexibility

Some service desk tools are very rigid, and customizations beyond simple additions of fields and tables can be very challenging – if not downright impossible. Other tools may be completely flexible, and with some, you can customize without writing code, meaning you can don’t need expensive programming resources to build workflows or customizations the way you want them.

Develop a solid understanding about how easy the product is for YOU to administer, add to, and change. Service desk solutions generally have a lifetime from six to ten years, so the time you invest up front is well spent.

When it comes to flexibility, you should also consider flexible licensing and hosting models. Do you need a cloud-based or an on-premises solution? Which vendors offer both? How easy it is to switch between the two? Due to evolving markets and business requirements, does your preferred vendor allow you to easily change your license model? Think longer-term and review your needs analysis.

Tweet this: Flexibility is an important aspect to consider when choosing which ITSM solution will fit best for your organization

8. Ensure availability of support

For many organizations, poor product and customer support is the primary reason for switching to a new service desk vendor. Find out about the vendor’s resources, both direct and via certified partners, and from where and how the support is delivered. What kind of service level agreements do they provide, and at what cost? What level of support can you expect without paying additional fees and/or requiring the involvement of a professional services organization? Does the company have an active community of users and/or user groups where you can go for help, share ideas, and learn how other customers are utilizing and configuring the solution?

The key question to ask is whether you can receive the type of support from your vendor that your own internal users expect from your own team?

9.Research industry help and advice

The world of service desk tools is very competitive, so it is important to make sure that any product on your short list is keeping pace with the demands of the modern business and its end users. To do this, utilize all resources available to you, including industry analyst reports, professional membership organizations, industry-specific websites, and events where you can compare possible tools and meet vendors on ‘neutral ground’. You’ll never receive a full product demo at an event, but you will get a glimpse of the product and the people you will be working with you if select their product.

Some excellent third party resources you can use to perform research include:

Analyst Reports: Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for ITSSM Tools

Third Party Software Review Sites: The ITSM Review | Gartner Peer Insights | TechValidate | G2 Crowd

Industry Organizations: Help Desk Institute (HDI) | Pink Elephant | itSMF

10. Investigate references

This is a critical aspect of every service desk tool selection process. Visit as many reference sites as possible, but remember to visit both new customers (you’ll see first-hand how their implementation is going) and long standing customers who can talk to you about their ‘journey’ with the provider. You should quickly be able to get a feel for the vendor’s priorities when it comes to customers.

Also, I don’t need to tell you, asks lots and lots of questions. This is your chance to understand what it’s like working with this vendor and its technology.

Having the right service desk tool in place can pay dividends to your IT organization, demonstrating your team’s value to the business, and establishing IT as a key player in the overall health and functionality of the business. When you put in the effort up front to do your homework and ask the right questions, you can ensure you’re choosing the best technology for your business requirements and end users.

Are you ready for a new ITSM solution? Be sure to consult Gartner’s 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.

Download Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for ITSSM Tools