ITSM Tools Have Changed But Have You?

by Stephen Brunsdon, on 26-Oct-2018 16:00:00

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Believe it or not, IT service management (ITSM) tools have now been commercially available for three decades. And much has changed – technology-wise – in this time, from the technologies that are being managed (using the tools and ITSM best practices), through the capabilities (and suitability) of the available ITSM tools, to – most importantly – the importance of technology to business operations and success. Plus, the expectations that organizations – and their employees – have of their corporate IT services and support have risen rapidly.

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This article looks at how ITSM tools and, in some ways, ITSM have changed before questioning whether the average IT organization has truly kept up.

The ITSM Tool Use and Replacement Landscape

The history of ITSM tool use is varied. On the one hand, some organizations have used the same ITSM tool for years (even if they haven’t kept up with new product releases during this time). Then other organizations have been on a constant “merry-go-round” of ITSM tool churn – changing their tool every few years because each one doesn’t deliver on its promises.

And finally, there are still organizations that use “homegrown” ITSM tools, either because they’ve never seen the need to invest in a commercially-available tool or they have trialed, and maybe even used, one without success. This figure has dropped rapidly in recent years but the latest HDI research shows it still to be at 16% of organizations (down from 32% in 2014).

However, wherever your organization sits on this spectrum of ITSM-tool adoption, it’s still worth taking the time to understand whether what you currently employ to support your ITSM activities is doing the job you want – and ultimately need – it to do.

One place to start this journey – into the art of the ITSM possible – is to consider how ITSM tools have changed, especially in the last ten years.

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The 5 Key Changes in the ITSM-Tool Marketplace

Over the years, ITSM tools, their capabilities, and their use cases have evolved on multiple levels:

  1. The level of ITSM-based capabilities. These are usually built around ITIL best practice, with some tools increasing the breadth and depth of what’s offered. In some ways, this can be considered as extending beyond traditional IT help desk/service desk capabilities to support additional ITSM needs plus offering other IT management functionalities such as IT Operations Management (ITOM) and IT Asset Management (ITAM).


  2. The evolution of ITSM tool delivery and consumption models. With the last ten years seeing the growing demand for the software-as-a-service (SaaS) delivery model and the concept of anytime, anywhere, any device access to tool capabilities and data. The former change brings with it two key market impacts; SaaS makes it easier for organizations to change their ITSM tool plus the SaaS delivery model usually offers a higher release cadence than the traditional on-premises model. More recently, there has also been the need for ITSM tools to be more consumer-like in their look-and-feel and operation. With this applying to both IT users and end-users in terms of self-service/help.
  3. The importance of high-value, non-ITSM-process-based capabilities. While these are really part of one or more existing ITSM capabilities, they stand alone in their importance. Two good examples are knowledge management and self-service where, while these might be offered by a particular ITSM tool, there’s no guarantee that they will be successfully implemented and adopted by organizations.
  4. Wider ITSM tool use cases. Many ITSM tools now go above and beyond the needs of traditional ITSM. The two most-popular examples are:

    Enterprise service management – the use of ITSM principles, best practices, and technology in other lines of business. For instance, human resources (HR), facilities, security, customer support, and legal – i.e. any business function where there’s a service provider and consumer relationship.

    Service integration and management (SIAM) – this is an approach that uses a combination of ITSM and other business management disciplines, such as supplier and contract management, to manage the delivery of services from multiple third-party providers. SIAM is also known as multi-sourcing integration (MSI)

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  5. The expected influx of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies into ITSM operations. Initial AI use cases are already entering the ITSM tool marketplace. From the automated categorization, prioritization, and routing of tickets to the use of machine-learning-based chatbots for Level 0 support.

When these and other changes to the evolving ITSM tool marketplace are considered, there’s inevitably going to be a wide spectrum of functionalities available across the offered tools. And an obvious question that arises from this is whether your ITSM capabilities and current ITSM tool have kept up with your business needs. Or, viewed differently, if your current ITSM tool has held your IT organization’s ITSM maturity back and diminished the level of ITSM and business success.

What Does This All Mean for Your Organization?

Ideally your organization needs an ITSM tool that meets its needs; and thus, you should start with those needs. However, does your organization truly know what it needs if it’s “imagination” – for want of a better word – is limited by what it currently knows (and does), i.e. it’s limited by the capabilities it currently uses within the existing ITSM tool.

This opens up a real can of worms.

I’m a believer that an organization should only buy and use what it needs in terms of ITSM tool capabilities, rather than chasing after technology-based “bells and whistles.” But there’s a need to question those needs in the context of what else – in terms of ITSM activities – could be done and achieved. (And I’m in no way suggesting that organizations spend/do more just because they can.)

For example, problem management. Is there currently no problem management capability (or choose something else) within your organization because:

  1. You don’t know this ITSM capability exists (and/or how it helps)
  2. You simply don’t need to do it
  3. You can’t afford to do it (even though many would say that you can’t afford not to do it)
  4. Your tool doesn’t support it
  5. Your tool supports it but its too hard to use the offered capabilities
  6. Your tool supports it, and well, but decisions around its adoption/use caused it to fail?

In all of these instances, bar #2, is your organization limited by – at least in part – the capabilities of your current ITSM tool? Maybe, maybe not.

The important point is taking the time to more-widely consider if your organization is currently limited by its current ITSM tool and in ways that you had previously not stopped to consider.

More from Stephen Mann

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Topics:ITSMESMAnalystReplacement

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