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How to Know When a “Codeless” ITSM Solution Is Truly Codeless

Posted by on March 21, 2017

How to Know When a “Codeless” ITSM Solution Is Truly Codeless

If you’re in the market for an ITSM solution, it’s quite likely that you’re looking for one that's codeless. And why wouldn’t you? After all, 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 platform, customizations are expensive, time-consuming, painful processes.

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.

Tweet this: Is your new ITSM solution truly "codeless"? Ask your vendor these four questions before purchasing a new tool

In fact, I would estimate that around 85 percent of customers that think they are installing a codeless solution really aren’t. How can you tell the difference between truly codeless and counterfeit codeless? Just ask the ITSM vendor four simple questions:

#1) What Skill Sets Will My Team Need?

What skill sets will your team need to begin working in the solution’s application environment? If the vendor tells you that you don’t need ANY coding skills, that’s a good sign. If they say: “Well, you just need some basic Java or JavaScript skills,” or skills in some other programming language, that’s a bad sign.

Your team shouldn’t need ANY coding skills, and they shouldn’t require ANY specialized knowledge of programming languages.

And here’s a way to verify that the answer the vendor gives you is accurate:

Post a job listing for a developer to customize the software you’re considering purchasing. Sort through some relevant resumes, and look for two things:

  1. If lots of developers apply, citing customization experience with that solution as a specific skill set, that’s a red flag.
  2. If developers are demanding exorbitant compensation for their skills in customizing that application, that’s another red flag.

You can also 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.

#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.

Tweet this: Does your ITSM tool use editors or wizards? This might limit the capability when you make customizations

#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.

#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 EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE CUSTOMIZATIONS in the upgrade’s code and duplicate it within the newer version.

Yes, 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.

Tweet this: Your ITSM vendor may say you're buying a "codeless" solution, but what happens when it comes time for upgrades?

Don’t Get Duped

As noted above, 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 with these four questions, you can tell the difference between those who claim to be codeless and the real deal.