5 things to beware of when selecting an ITSM tool

ITIL or ISO 20000 implementation, as such, brings many changes inside the company – organizational and cultural, as well as process based. You can also consider it as a kind of test – for the maturity of your organization, your own capabilities, and your colleagues. But, there is one thing that could help you during the implementation and, particularly, once ITIL/ISO 20000 implementation finishes: an IT Service Management (ITSM) tool.

Let’s be clear – it’s not easy to buy any tool. An ITSM tool is no exception – quite the contrary. To have an idea is a great start, but once the implementation of the ITSM tool begins – it’s headache time. Let’s see a few pitfalls that may be ahead of you.

By the way, if you want to learn more about the ITIL implementation, read the article Ready, steady… go – Starting ITIL implementation, and if you need more information about the ITSM tools, read the article Free tools for ITSM – supporting IT Service Management for zero tool cost.

Careful. It’s not that simple.

Correct, choosing the right ITSM tool is not simple. There are many things you have to consider, and that could go wrong. Here are some of the most common issues:

A clear vision is missing – ask yourself a few questions before you start the implementation initiative (in this phase – it’s still not an ITSM tool implementation project):

  • Why do we want to implement a tool? (And, don’t forget the saying: “A fool with a tool is still a fool.”)
  • What for – i.e., what do we want to achieve with the implementation?
  • Who – i.e., who should be included (and why)?
  • What do we include? Here we talk about the scope of the implementation.

Actually, a clear vision should make the distinction between the “How” (the technical details we like to focus on) and the “Why” (why do you want to do that, which is more important in the beginning). In order to define the scope correctly you have to know how your organization really works, have an overview of all needed inputs, and define the activities and outcomes you want to achieve.

Commitment, dedication of resources – it’s very important to evaluate the resources you need internally, but availability of resources on the vendor’s side is also crucial for the success of the implementation.  Also, when we talk about the vendor’s personnel – are they available long after the implementation is finished? And, one more, very important thing: You have to get your management’s commitment. Tool implementation is a big change inside the organization, and you need a strong sponsor (read the article How to translate ITIL/ISO 20000 language into business language understandable by your management to see how to communicate with your management).

The tool is the primary aim of the implementation – what I often see is that organizations start the tool implementation and then try to change everything (processes) and everyone (people). How about doing it the other way – consider existing processes and organizational setup, followed by tool adaptation, i.e., the tool has to fit in. Because, a tool is not an out-of-the-box solution (OK, I agree – this statement is true except for free-of-charge solutions where you have no choice regarding the tool’s functionality). On the other side, if you don’t have set processes and defined roles, i.e., responsibilities – the tool implementation is a great opportunity to do it.

Features vs. outcomes – be aware of rapid tool employment and a predefined set of features/functionalities (it’s about your needs and not what someone else, a vendor, wants). Skip tech-talk and focus on adding value to your ITSM organization and daily activities. A few years ago, the buzzword was “codeless” or “no development/programming.” Be careful with that one. Writing database scripts is also (a kind) of programming, and almost any tool implementation will get to this point. An additional issue is complexity. If, for example, your tool requires too much information from the end-user, they will hesitate to use it. The same is true for your own staff.

Total cost of ownership (TCO) – what you will get from the vendor is how much the licenses cost and implementation of requirements. Licenses are (pretty much) straightforward, but requirements… well, that could be challenging. To include everything (but, everything) right from the beginning (particularly if you don’t have much experience and start developing opportunities as the implementation progresses), or do it step-wise? That influences the costs of the implementation. Further on, it’s usually the case (while implementing a tool) that not all ongoing costs are considered. This results in surprises – once it’s too late. Training, changes, changing business requirements, and many other resources that carry some costs – when planning for the implementation, try to consider all of them (which is the experience factor).


Figure: Several elements should be considered before deciding which tool to choose

Is that all?

ITSM tools are one of those things that always get attention. There are many different opinions, but many possibilities as well.  One of the most important issues is that the choice of a tool vendor should not be the starting point. As you can see in the figure, there are several parameters that you need to consider before thinking about which tool to choose. Then, add technology (on premise or SaaS – Software as a Service), finances (open source or not) and people. Sounds complex, doesn’t it?

ITIL or ISO 20000 know-how (experience) is not enough. Tool implementation is a change in mindset and requires a lot of leadership/managerial capabilities, organizational change, and communication. One thing is pretty interesting: failure in tool implementation is rarely a tool issue. So, there is your chance to be noticed – either positively or negatively – as a lot depends on you.

Use this free  ISO 20000 Gap Analysis Tool to check your compliance with ISO 20000 requirements.

Advisera Branimir Valentic
Branimir Valentic
Branimir is an expert in IT service management (consultancy, training and tools), IT governance (training and consulting), project management and consultancy in IT and telecommunication. He holds the following certificates: ITIL Expert, ISO 20000, ISMS Lead Auditor and PRINCE2.