ITSM Evolution – Practical Steps to Stay Current

Using ITSM Tools can be like rummaging through a garage full of old tools that you rarely use in order to find one or two tools that you do
Using ITSM solutions can be like rummaging through a garage full of old tools that you rarely use in order to find one or two tools that you do

ITSM Evolution – Practical Steps to Stay Current is a guest post contributed by Dirk Anderson, Head of Product at RedPixie

 

With the growth in BYOD and the consumerisation of devices, more and more enterprises are adapting the way that they use technology to service the business effectively.   However, many ITSM tools have been designed to give traditional IT teams a way to manage traditional services and processes at a component level only, whether that’s processing tickets or responding to an individual end-user request.  The challenge, however, is whether or not ITSM evolution is possible and demands of the business can be met using the current tools at our disposal.

Today, firms need to ask themselves if this type of service level approach, using legacy methods, can flourish, or even survive in the future. This article will look at the practical steps that we’d recommend IT Service Managers consider, to deliver services that address the needs of the internal ‘business customers’ in a dynamic business environment, where user expectations are more demanding than ever.

 

Step 1: Know your customers

As a matter of course, you should already be undergoing customer satisfaction surveys or have appropriate forums for regular dialogue with your internal business customers. Use these forums to gain an appreciation of how your customers do business today, what IT services they use and what may change in the future. It is likely that:

  • Your business will be using more personal devices and business customers will expect to access corporate applications and data securely from those devices
  • Your business customers will be embarrassed if their business partners and guests cannot easily use your enterprise guest wireless whilst they’re visiting
  • Your business customers will expect to work effectively from wherever they are
  • They will expect to walk to another desk or meeting room and instantly access the IT services, applications and data at those locations

Expectations are changing. It’s important to explore these areas, and never shy away from hearing frustrations. Canvas their views on new service capabilities that would improve their experience and help them be more productive.

 

Step 2: Pay attention to your IT service portfolio

Look at the IT consumer services that you provide, and break them into categories. There is high chance that you will have one category (and call it what you prefer), has a large percentage helpdesk tickets that are similar. This means that “your consumers” repeatedly need to consume these same critical services. These include: resetting passwords or removing software on end user devices. It is important that you automate these services and allow the business to self-serve. This will free your team up to focus on the emerging services that need to become part of your service portfolio. As you add those new services, some may fall into this same category. Consider how automation and self-service capability is applied to those emerging services.

 

Step 3: Evolve ITSM Toolkit to Meet IT Service Goals

As you evolve your service portfolio, how well does your current ITSM toolset fit your strategic needs? It is important to evolve your ITSM toolkit to meet your longer term IT service objectives. Can you easily add common cloud services and can you automate and allow your consumers to self-serve?

In larger enterprises, you should think like a public cloud provider. You provide the capacity and the technologies and your customers help themselves to the most common services, without the IT team’s involvement. You should focus on managing areas such as, overall service capacity, the software license position and the development of your service portfolio. Commonly used or repeatable IT services should be available to your customers to help themselves, in the way customers consume Microsoft cloud services, for example, without the need to involve Microsoft’s Cloud IT support team. If your ITSM toolkit does not support that strategy, then you need to consider replacing or adding to those tools, to support a more strategic focus. That may mean looking at new ITSM capabilities that augment existing processes and tools to deliver “new world” capability within your service portfolio.

 

Step 4: Review and measure

As your service evolves, make sure that you have a continuous review cycle in place with an internal business customer group.  It’s important to measure not only how the service portfolio fits the changing needs of the business but also whether your ITSM “toolkit” allows you to shape your service around your changing business. The following are critical:

  • Know your service portfolio – To measure the services that you provide as an enterprise IT team, be clear on the portfolio of services provided. It starts with a list of those services, typically on a web portal explaining clearly what the services are (and are not). The portfolio needs an overall owner, typically a senior IT head, and the individual services require service owners, such as IT line managers. This list of the services requires ongoing maintenance.
  • Manage the service portfolio – Work with business representatives and senior IT stakeholder to ensure that the portfolio remains manageable. As new services are used, you need to be able to remove other services, unless the business is willing to fund you to support an ever-growing and unsustainable portfolio.
  • Measure the service portfolio – Develop a way to measure your portfolio. This needs to include which services are used by whom, and the level of consumption. Undertake a Service Review, and work with the business to get feedback on the quality of those services. Understand the cost of providing those services, relative to their business value.
  • Build a Governance Function – Be open and discuss the importance of not creating a technical debt because of a “bloated” portfolio. You only have so much capacity as an IT function. Consider building a senior governance function to support the integration of new technology capabilities whilst removing non-strategic services and technologies.

In summary do everything you can to know your customers, understand your changing service portfolio, be aware of current limitations in your ITSM toolkit and evolve it for emerging demands, and lastly, proactively review and measure.

 

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Outside IT Group Test – The Results

Cherwell, Samanage, ServiceNow and TOPdesk reviewed for their capabilities and approach to delivering services outside the IT department
Cherwell, Samanage, ServiceNow and TOPdesk reviewed for their capabilities and approach to delivering services outside the IT department

I am pleased to share my latest analysis for The ITSM Review: Outside IT.

This is a review of how IT service management (ITSM) tools might be used beyond the IT department.

It explores how traditional ITSM tools, typically used for IT service and support, can be used for broader operation throughout the business such as underpinning internal business processes and handling non-IT business requests.

Technology vendors participating in this analysis include:

  • Cherwell
  • Samanage
  • ServiceNow
  • TOPdesk

There has been a move in recent times to develop more applications and tools that can cross the boundaries of internal service departments. The ITSM toolsets available have helped to drive practice in this area, in particular service catalogues, service portals, automated fulfilment processing, approvals etc. and for many organisations this is a huge opportunity for IT to be the department of solutions and success rather than simply the folks who say ‘no’ all the time.

Which vendor is ‘Best in Class’?

What are the differences between the vendors in this report? How can we distinguish and identify differentiators, pros and cons between them? If all products can be used to develop work automation, logging and escalation/ownership and tracking of tasks etc., does this mean that the differences between vendors go beyond simple software functionality? This review looks at how to differentiate the vendors’ approach for beyond IT across the ITSM market.

Download a copy of my report here (registration required):

http://download.itassetmanagement.net/outside-it/

Assessment Criteria: Outside IT Product Review

In March of this year, we will be kicking off our product review dedicated to “Outside IT”, which will take a look at the use of ITSM technology outside the IT department.

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Overview

The aim of this review is to showcase best of breed ITSM software in use outside the IT department, highlight key competitive differentiators and provide readers of The ITSM Review with impartial market intelligence to enable informed purchasing decisions.

Previously published product reviews include:

Also coming soon: Proactive Problem Management.

Assessment Criteria 

The aim of the review is to support prospective buyers with their selection process by providing features to consider when selecting ITSM systems and highlighting key competitive differentiators between suppliers.

Outside IT – How can service management software, traditionally used to underpin the IT service desk, be applied to other area of the business to streamline operations and deliver more efficient services?

Main topics areas

  • How can new systems be built outside IT?
  • What expertise is required, what templates or processes are required?
  • How do end users / customers interact with the system?
  • How can engagement / interaction with customers be customized?
  • How are systems maintained – especially for non-IT users?

Solutions that do not include all of the criteria above will not necessarily score badly – the criteria simply define the scope of areas will be covered. The goal is to highlight strengths and identify differences, whilst placing every vendor in the best light possible. 

Please note: The assessment criteria are just a starting point; they tend to flux and evolve as we delve into solutions and discover unique features and leading edge innovation. Identifying key competitive differentiators is a higher priority than the assessment criteria.

Confirmed participants

Vendors who wish to participate in this Outside IT product review should contact us directly. We also welcome feedback from readers on their experience with their use of ITSM tools outside IT (although this feedback will not directly impact this review).

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A vision for ITIL

examSince the UK Government transferred ITIL (and the rest of their best management practice portfolio) to AXELOS there have been lots of suggestions about what they should change. I’ve been involved in discussions about the future of ITIL with many people, face-to-face and in social media, and there is clearly a lot of passion as well as many creative ideas. This article is my contribution to the ongoing debate.

Three is the magic number

When I think about ITIL, I think of three distinct things, and it is really important to distinguish these, and to make sure we plan what is needed for each of them.

  1. A body of knowledge that can be used by IT organizations to help them create value for their customers. This body of knowledge is available in the form of five core publications, plus a number of complementary publications, but I think of knowledge as something that lives in people, that they can use to do something useful. In this sense, ITIL really is owned by the huge community of service management practitioners who use it to inform decisions about how they will plan, build and run IT services.
  2. A collection of training courses that people attend to develop their knowledge, understanding and competence. These courses are based on the ITIL publications, and often lead to certification, but they are distinct from both of those. The purpose of the training should be to help people develop knowledge, understanding and competence that they can use to help them improve how they manage IT services to create value for their organizations or customers.
  3. A set of exams that are used to certify that people satisfy the requirements of specific syllabuses. These exams are used to demonstrate that people have knowledge of ITIL when applying for jobs or tendering for contracting opportunities.

One mistake I have seen in many discussions is to confuse two of these things. If we don’t look at the requirements for each of them separately then we will never plan well, but if we plan them each independently that won’t work either!

Here is what I would like to see in each area.

Body of Knowledge

The body of knowledge has a number of problems which should be addressed in a future release.

  • It needs to adapt to a rapidly changing world. It doesn’t offer sufficient guidance in areas such as Supplier Integration and Management (SIAM), integration across the service lifecycle (ITIL service design has virtually nothing about application development for example), management of complex virtual and cloud environments, and many other areas. It would be great if ITIL could adopt ideas such as Rob England’s Standard+Case for example.
  • Even though the 2011 edition fixed many inconsistencies, there are still some contradictions between how terms are used in the different publications and how inputs, outputs and interfaces are defined.
  • The books are very long, and somewhat repetitive. It is a huge challenge for most people to actually read them!

The ITIL body of knowledge also has a number of great features which I would hate to lose. Probably the best feature of ITIL is that it is NOT a standard, it is a narrative. It tells stories and provides examples of how other organizations have done things that can be copied. Any future development of ITIL must retain this narrative approach.

I think we could resolve the issues with the ITIL body of knowledge by defining a service management architecture. This could be done at a fairly high level and would allow us to simultaneously define a lifecycle, and processes, and many other views and ways of thinking about service management.

The architecture could show how the bits fit together without providing excessive detail of how each part works. We could then charter authors to write narrative that fits within the architecture. This would retain the narrative approach that ITIL does so well but put it within a more formal structure which would improve consistency.

It would also allow for different narratives that could even contradict each other, that fit within the same architecture. For example there might be different descriptions of incident management for use in a complex multi-supplier environment and an in-house IT department.

I don’t think we should be in too much of a hurry to create a new version of ITIL, it’s more important to get this stuff right than to get it fast, but I would love to see AXELOS working towards this vision of a properly architected approach to IT service management, especially if they can adopt the ideas I have previously suggested in ITSM Knowledge Repository – proposal for ITIL owners to ensure that we get input from the widest possible community of ITSM practitioners.

Training Courses

I see many different problems with ITIL training courses:

  • In my opinion they are too focused on the exams rather than on helping people to develop knowledge, understanding and competence. There are some very good training providers, but price pressure in the market drives many of them towards lower cost, shorter, exam-focussed courses.
  • People often leave the courses with a complete misunderstanding of what ITIL is, and how it could be used to help create value for their customers.
  • Due to the above issues, many people think that ITIL is a rigid framework of bureaucratic processes, this leads to some very poor practices that don’t provide value to anyone.
  • Very large numbers of people attend ITIL Foundation, which is often simply an exercise in cramming facts. There is a lot of material to learn in a fairly short time, and only a very talented trainer can motivate people to really care about creating value for customers while communicating this amount of information in the time available.
  • Almost all of the courses focus on ITIL exam syllabuses. These may not be appropriate for everybody in the organization, and many people would be better off with more focused training that teaches them how the things they do contribute value and how they could improve their practices.

There are a number of things that could be done to improve ITIL training. I would like to see more training organizations provide courses that focus on how ITIL can be used to create value, rather than on fact-cramming. I love the ITSM simulations created by G2G3 (and other organizations), and I am very encouraged that Capita (the majority owner of AXELOS) now also own G2G3.

I think the main thing that is needed to improve ITIL training is to somehow separate it from the exam system. We could do with some really good marketing of non-examined training courses that help practitioners develop the knowledge, understanding and competence that they need to create value for their customers.

Exams

I don’t think the ITIL exams  should be changed in the short term. It will take a long time to create a new version of ITIL, especially if AXELOS follow the suggestions I have made above, and I think that making significant changes to the exam system before there is a new version of ITIL would create significant problems for the market. It would take more than a year to create a new exam system, and training organizations would then have to create new courses.

There would be confusion over the value of the retired exams; training organizations would incur a huge expense to create new courses for the same expected revenue; and if there is an expectation of a new version of ITIL in 3 to 5 years then the ITIL exam market may stall completely. These issues are amplified by the need to release exams and training courses in many languages to support the worldwide community.

In parallel with work to create a new version of ITIL, I think that AXELOS should work with all the stakeholders in the exam system to understand what is working well and what could be improved. The first step of this should be to identify the correct stakeholders. We talk to exam institutes and training organizations, but spend far too little time trying to understand the needs of the organizations that use ITIL. AXELOS should talk to a wide range of IT organizations, IT recruiters, outsourcers and other users of IT service management about what they want from an exam system.

In summary

I think we should be working towards releasing a new version of ITIL, based on a formal architecture, in 3 to 4 years, and I think we should create a new exam system at the same time. Meanwhile we should help create more value in the short term by creating more innovative training courses that are not solely focused on the exams.

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Service Catalogue 2013 Group Test – The Results

This is a review of software products and vendors in the ‘Service Catalogue’ market area.

This is a complex and varied market place and consideration should be given to the Market Overview section.


Download Review

(Free PDF, No Registration Required – 405kb, 8 Pages)


Service Catalogue 2013 Best in Class: Axios Systems
Service Catalogue 2013 Best in Class: Axios Systems

Service Catalogue 2013 Best in Class

  • Axios – scalable to big customized projects as well as nice UI for OOTB implementations. Strategic ITSM focus.

Of the other products reviewed, these areas were of particular note:

Best for MSPs and Small/Medium Organizations: 

Best for Enterprise Organizations:

  • ServiceNow – particularly for large implementations where customization is expected. Good product and corporate fit

Service Catalogue Market Overview

By Barclay Rae

Service Catalogue Approach

large ‘Service Catalogue’ market is a niche sub-set of the IT Service Management (ITSM) Software market, which has seen considerable interest and growth in recent years.

Whilst ‘Service Catalogue” can be given a clear definition, the term can be and often is used to cover a number of functional and strategic approaches that stretch from fairly low-level request fulfilment to strategic Service Design and Strategy.

This approach varies because there are several different components that can be described as ‘Service Catalogue” – from ‘front-end’ portal to ‘back-end’ workflow and high-level business views of services. There are also potentially a number of different inputs and outputs – and types of document – that can be described as part of the ‘Service Catalogue’.

This reflects the developing nature of how the industry has defined and understood what a ‘Service Catalogue’ is, which has led to some fundamental differences and interpretations of how to make this work and what the expectations are from implementation.

In a nutshell the 2 main different approaches are:

Strategic/Top Down

This is where the organisation takes a strategic view of all IT services – including the business services (applications/departmental services, external customer services). Usually this will lead to a definition of an overall service structure of Core IT Services (PCs, Phones, email etc.) and Business Services (departments, business processes, applications).

This can then drive service reporting and service differentiation and is a long-term strategic approach to ‘service’ management and value demonstration. Request fulfilment follows out of this process, once the overall structure has been defined.

Technical/Bottom Up

This tends to be started by technical teams to ‘discover’ services, solve specific configuration management and integration problems and provide a practical user interface for consumption of core services and request fulfilment.

Both approaches are viable and necessary at some point to lead to a successful implementation:

Top Down is useful to ensure that the whole IT organisation is on board and that the wider goals and expectations are defined as part of a customer engagement process. Visualisation is useful for all parties to have a tangible view of the overall goals for IT.

Bottom Up can be a good tactical approach to get moving quickly. Request Management automation usually provides efficiency benefits and can significantly improve service quality to customers. The strategic view will need to be defined at some point so should be considered whenever (and as soon as) possible.

For the purposes of this review both of the above approaches have been considered and the overall key elements for tools defined as follows:

  • General – user friendly and with proven integrations to other tools
  • Service Design – the ability to create a database of service records, containing a number of business and technical attributes, processes and workflows
  • Service Structure – the ability to organise and structure these services into a hierarchy of services and service offerings – ideally in a graphical format
  • User Request Portal – a user friendly portal with an intuitive interface to request and track services
  • Request Fulfilment – request management workflow and functionality that can be easily used and configured by system users
  • SLA and Event Management – the ability to define SLAs that can be linked via Event Management to other ITSM processes
  • Demand Management – the ability to provide real-time allocation and monitoring of service consumption, with e.g. financial calculations
  • Dashboard – real-time user-friendly graphical monitoring and analysis of usage, trends and metrics across services and to various stakeholders
  • Service Reporting – the ability to present output that summarises individual and ‘bundled’ service performance, consumption, SLA and event performance – in user-friendly, portable and graphical format

See the full list of criteria here

Approach to Implementation

Organisations and their practitioners who are considering buying and implementing Service Catalogue technology should consider the following:

  • As there are a number of potential applications and objectives for Service Catalogue, these must be clearly defined and agreed in advance. This shouldn’t be embarked upon because it is the ‘flavour of the month’ or it ‘looks like a good thing to do’.

Key benefits that can be derived:

    • Improved professionalism and quality of service experience to customers
    • Value demonstration of IT through business and service based reporting
    • Clarity around service differentiation and value – e.g. commodity versus quality, value-add, time to market
    • Improved cost efficiency of request management and administration
    • Improved quality and speed of service for request management and administration
    • Greater visibility of IT costs and service level performance
    • Improvement in Service Desk performance via better central access to information
  • It is vital that all participants not only understand the expected benefits and objectives, but are also clear on the taxonomy of Service Level Management. This saves considerable time during projects, due to the fact that there are often many misconceptions and variances in understanding around basic concepts like SLAs, Service Catalogue etc. Time spent on some explanations and clarification of definitions is time well spent.
  • The big mistake that orgnaisations still make is to try to do Service Level Management (Portfolio Management, Request Management, SLAs and Service Catalogue…) all without engaging with their customers and supported businesses. The process requires engagement (service definition, performance discussion, objective setting, feedback on the customer experience etc.) as a major input to this process. This provides business validation as well as improving the relationship and demonstration of understanding between parties. It also vitally provides clear goals in terms of service provision and performance reporting. Without this the process can completely miss out on customer requirements and expectation, and so is wasteful, arrogant and bad PR.
  • Organisations should define their services in a simple structure – ideally that can be visualised and shown on 1 page or 1 slide for clarity. This can be done in a workshop, where key people are brought together to work through the concepts and definitions (this can begin with some education) and then use this to define the service structure for that organisation. There are always ‘learning curves’ to be overcome (e.g. the distinction between ‘systems’ and ’services’) – however if this is done in a workshop then this build momentum and consensus.
  • The Service Structure is a vital element as it provides the visual key to this process and also then the framework for a repository of information on each service. From this the project can start to create other outputs, documentation and service views as required from the project goals.
  •  Getting started and moving is a vital element to avoid long term prevarication and too much theorising. A lot can be achieved relatively quickly with some workshops and brief customer meetings. It’s essential to produce a simple representation of the service structure that helps to visualise the process for all involved and give them a consistent view of what is being delivered and defined. All this can be done within a few days and weeks based around workshops and a clear set of objectives.
  • Ultimately this is a business-focussed process so it’s important to have people with business and communications skills to work on the project. Technical details and understanding will be needed but should not be the starting point, which tends to be what happens if this is given to technically-focussed people.

Market Products

Products in this area fall into 2 main categories:

  • Existing ITSM Toolsets with Service Catalogue functionality
  • Specific Tools with Service Catalogue and Request Management functionality

Existing ITSM Toolsets

These often will have either modular or intrinsic functionality based around the ‘ITIL’ framework – Incident, Request, Problem and Change Management, plus Asset and Configuration Management and Service Level Management.

The Service Catalogue should be a valuable addition to this with a ‘service layer’ that can be added to the existing task and event management functions, as well as providing customer/user-friendly portals and ‘front-ends’ for requesting and tracking services.

Generally these products will be used by organisations to develop and to implement a ‘service strategy’ – as well as implementing request management – so these will generally follow a more ‘top down’ approach.

Ideally these will be able to leverage work already down defining existing ITSM processes and the Service Catalogue can then easily integrate with these. This is not always the case, as previous configuration structures may need to be revised to meet new Service Structure requirements.

Specific Service Catalogue Tools

These are newer, standalone systems that have come into the market in the last few years – initially as there was little functionality in this area in the existing ITSM tool market.

They will generally follow a more technical ‘bottom up’ approach that provides faster and more agile implementations. So they can deliver high quality user interfaces, discovery and request management workflow in short timeframes and deliver fast Return on Investment (ROI)/Time to Value (TTV) around the automation of a number of manual processes that speed up the customer experience.

Challenges can include how to reverse-engineer these systems for a strategic service structure once in operation, plus the need to integrate with a variety of other tools, including the existing ITSM solution.

These tools all have some level of basic Help-desk/Incident Management and support processes – the level to which these can either be used or integrated depends on the requirements and maturity of the existing systems (and organisations)

Market Observations

  • ‘Service Catalogue’ is a term that can encompass a number of areas – request management, user portal, service strategy and design, SLAs, portfolio management, service reporting, customer, business and technical views. There is no single product or view that is definitive and products that focus on one area only will require some technical and process integration.
  • In key areas of request management, portals and workflow, reporting and SLAs, most products offer very similar functionality. Variations exist in the development of Demand Management, strategic Service Design and Service Visualisation.
  • In particular vendors can be differentiated by their approach – strategic and technical, but also the level to which they can offer support and value added services to help with implementation. This is still a relatively new area and few practitioners and/or organisations have broad experience or even clear requirements for how to make this work – vendor support and guidance is a key asset and differentiator.
  • Implementation support should also be in the form of template and standard configurable data – i.e. to provide sample service ‘bundles’, workflows, reports, dashboards and in general as much practical guidance as possible.
  • Whilst implementation approach and product focus are the key differentiators – i.e. strategic vs technical Bottom Up / Top Down – a key strength is also the ability to show a clear path that encompasses both approaches.
  • Integration experience and proven capability is a key capability (more than just a differentiator) – this will always be required to some extent:
  • For ‘Service Catalogue Specific’ vendors this is essential to get their product working with a variety of monitoring, asset and event management tools, as well as interfacing with other ITSM systems. Usually they will offer a number of existing APIs and proven links as part of their approach. These tools are useful for standalone Service Catalogue implementation at mid-market level and can also be found sold into enterprise organisations at the technical and integration level.
  • For ‘Existing ITSM Vendors’ they will lead on the seamless integration with their own tools. This is a good pitch for their existing customers but a dilemma for the wider market, i.e. whether to buy a standalone Service Catalogue product (from one ITSM Vendor) separately from a new or existing ITSM product from another ITSM vendor. Many of these vendors will have already created links to other systems via their multi-source and managed services clients.
  • In all aspects of this area, consideration should be given to the customer experience in using these systems and the interaction with IT organisations, particularly in terms of how SLAs and service delivery expectations are set.
  • These toolsets can help to improve service quality and experience, as well as improving the value demonstration of IT. However this will not simply be delivered by tool implementation alone and care is required where systems and vendors promise this without some significant process and organisational change.
  • Overall the market has developed significantly in the last 2/3 years although most vendors are still developing their approach to financial and demand management. Some of this functionality is available across the market but generally only as reports and with some development rather than as an integral feature for dynamic business use.  

Market Positioning and Approach

Vendor

Mid-Market

Enterprise

 

Top Down

 

Bottom Up

Axios

question

Matrix42

question

Biomni

question

ServiceNow

question

    – Definitely

question    – Possibly

Top Down / Bottom up?

Vendor

 

Top Down

 

Bottom Up

Axios

  • Approach geared to Business and Tech services
  • Good UI with visualisation of services and structure

question

  • Vendor and product can start from discovery approach
  • Unlikely to be sold as SC only bottom up product

Matrix42

  • Little product or vendor focus Business or Top Down approach
  • May not be relevant for some clients – e.g. MSPs

  • Product and vendor geared to discovery approach
  • Excellent tool for fast implementation of Request and self service for IT products

Biomni

  • Little product or vendor focus on Business or Top Down approach
  • Commercial approach helps for quick start and visualisation

  • Product and vendor geared to discovery approach
  • Excellent tool for fast implementation of Request and self service for IT products

ServiceNow

  • Approach geared to Business and Tech services
  • Good strategic focus in dashboards and Demand Management functions

  • Can start from discovery approach
  • Sales focus on enterprise with Business and Tech capability

    – Definitely

question   – Possibly

Competitive Overview

Vendor

Overview

Strengths

Weaknesses

Axios

  • High-end option for Medium – Enterprise
  • Simple intuitive UI/OOTB
  • Seamless integration with assyst ITSM processes
  • UI
  • Strategic approach
  • Vendor capability
  • Not geared up for standalone SC implementation
  • May be overkill for technical or small implementations

Matrix42

  • Strong request and Catalogue functionality – technical focus
  • Good option for Tech-only implementations (e.g. MSPs)
  • Good Request and Catalogue functionality
  • Speed of implementation – doesn’t need other ITSM processes
  • Service Now integration
  • Lack of US/UK coverage
  • Approach – little strategic implementation focus
  • Functionality gaps

Biomni

  • Good functionality
  • Nice commercial approach
  • Good option for Tech-only implementations (e.g. MSPs)
  • Good intuitive functionality, commercial approach
  • Speed of implementation – doesn’t need other ITSM processes
  • Little Strategic implementation focus
  • Functionality gaps

Service Now

  • High end functionality, enterprise focus
  • Strong corporate backing and growth
  • Extensive functionality
  • Best Demand dashboard functions
  • Flexibility of product
  • UI busy and complicated
  • Flexibility of product
  • Organisation geared towards enterprise clients
  • Needs usability configuration/customisation

Product Deep Dive

Follow the links for a deep dive review of Service Catalogue features:

Further Reading


DISCLAIMER, SCOPE & LIMITATIONS

The information contained in this review is based on sources and information believed to be accurate as of the time it was created. Therefore, the completeness and current accuracy of the information provided cannot be guaranteed. Readers should therefore use the contents of this review as a general guideline and not as the ultimate source of truth.

Similarly, this review is not based on rigorous and exhaustive technical study. The ITSM Review recommends that readers complete a thorough live evaluation before investing in technology.

This is a paid review. That is, the vendors included in this review paid to participate in exchange for all results and analysis being published free of charge without registration. For further information please read the ‘Group Tests’ section on our Disclosure page.

How to conduct an ITSM assessment that actually means something

ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library), a standard framework for managing the lifecycle of IT Services, is sweeping the U.S.   Based on a 2011 analysis of 23 ITIL studies, Rob England concluded that the compound annual growth in ITIL adoption was 20%± and that ITIL training attendance increased at a compound annual rate of 30% for the past ten years.  Despite this apparent surge of adoption, enterprises continue to struggle with ITIL’s daunting framework.

Recognizing the confusion inherent in ITIL alignment, numerous vendors have created “ITSM assessments” with varying degrees of complexity and debatable value.  These assessments draw upon frameworks such as ITIL, CMMI-SVC, Cobit and, occasionally, BiSL or more specific constructs such as KCS and IAITAM.  Where does one begin?  What is most important?  Where will improvement deliver the best payback?  How can one ensure that all phases of implementation share a common and scalable foundation?

Fundamental Assessment Approach
Figure 1: Fundamental Assessment Approach

All assessments follow a pretty basic formula:

  1. Determine and document the current state of ITSM in the organization.
  2. Determine and document the desired state of ITSM in the organization.
  3. Establish a practical path from current to desired state (roadmap).

Simply stated, the objective is to successfully execute the ITSM roadmap, thereby achieving a heightened level of service that meets the needs of the business.  But don’t let those vendors through the door just yet because this is where ITSM initiatives go sideways.

Current state, desired state and roadmap mean nothing without first establishing scope and methodology.  How comprehensive should the assessment be?  Does it need to be repeatable?  Which processes and functions should be targeted?  Should it be survey-based?  Who should participate?

Rather than seeking input from the ever so eager and friendly salespeople, one can follow a simple three-step exercise to determine scope and methodology.  These steps, described in the following sections, may save you millions of dollars.  I have seen dozens of large enterprises fail to take these steps with an estimated average loss of $1.25M.  For smaller enterprises ($500M – $1B in revenue), the waste is closer to about $450,000.  The bulk of this amount is the cost of failed projects.  In some instances those losses exceeded $10M (usually involving CMDB implementations).

Three Steps to a Meaningful ITSM Assessment

Though these steps are simple, they are by no means easy.  For best results, one should solicit the participation of both IT and business stakeholders.  If the answer comes easily, keep asking the question because easy answers are almost always wrong.  Consider using a professional facilitator, preferably someone with deep, practical knowledge of ITIL and a solid foundation in COBIT and CMMI-SVC.

So, the three steps are really three questions:

  1. Why do you need an ITSM Assessment?
  2. What do you need to know?
  3. How do you gain that knowledge?

Step 1:  WHY Do You Need an ITSM Assessment?

IT Service Management aligns the delivery of IT services with the needs of the enterprise.  Thus, any examination of ITSM is in the context of the business.  If one needs an ITSM assessment, the business must be experiencing pain related to service delivery.

  1. Identify service delivery pain points.
  2. Map each pain point to one or more business services.
  3. Assign a broad business value to the resolution of each pain point (e.g. High, Medium, Low).  Divide these values into hard savings (dollars, staff optimization), soft savings (efficiency, effectiveness), and compliance (regulatory, audit, etc.).
  4. Map each pain point to a process or process area.

There should now be a list of processes with associated pain points.  How well can the business bear the pain over the next few years?  With this preliminary analysis, one should be able to create a prioritized list of processes that require attention.

For now, there is no need to worry about process dependencies.  For instance, someone may suggest that a CMDB is required for further improvements to Event Management.  Leave those types of issues for the assessment itself.

Step 2: WHAT Do You Need to Know?

 

Four Assessment Needs
Figure 2: Four Assessment Needs

Now that the organization understands why an assessment is required (of if an assessment is required), it can identify, at least in broad terms, the information required for such an assessment.

Referring the chart in Figure 2, IT management need only ask four questions to determine the needs of an assessment.

Is ISO/IEC 20000 Certification Required?

If the organization requires ISO/IEC 20000 certification, a Registered Certification Body (four listed in the U.S.) must provide a standardized audit, process improvement recommendations, and certification.  For most enterprises, this is a major investment spanning considerable time.

Does Repeated Benchmarking Provide Value?

Does the organization really need a score for each ITIL process?  Will the assessment be repeated on a frequent and regular basis?  Will these scores affect performance awards?  Will the results be prescriptive or actionable and will those prescribed actions significantly benefit the business?

The sales pitch for an ITSM assessment usually includes an ITIL axiom like, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure” (a meme often incorrectly attributed to Deming or Drucker).  One must ask if scores are the best measure of a process?  To what extent do process maturity scores drive improvements?  Not much.  Each process has its own set of Critical Success Factors, Key Performance Indicators and metrics.  These are far more detailed and effective data points than an assessment score.  Ah, but what about the big picture?  Again, ITIL and COBIT provide far more effective metrics for governance and improvement on a macro level.

That said, there are some pretty impressive assessments available, some with administrative functions and audience differentiation baked into the interface.  However, one should build a business case and measure, through CSFs and KPIs, the value of such assessments to the business.

Do you need an ITSM Strategy and Framework?

Does the organization already have an intelligent strategy for its ITSM framework?  Is there a frequently refreshed roadmap for ITSM improvement?  For most enterprises, the honest answer to this is no.  Numerous Fortune 500 enterprises have implemented and “optimized” processes without strategy, roadmap, or framework.  The good news is that they keep consultants like me busy.

To build an ITSM strategy, an organization needs enough information on each process to prioritize those processes as pieces of the overall service workflow.

To gauge the priority of each process, we focus on three factors:

  • Business value of the process – the extent to which the process enables the business to generate revenue.
  • Maturity gap between current and desired state – small, medium or large gap (scores not really required).
  • Order of precedence – is the process a prerequisite for improvement of another process?

To complete the strategic roadmap, one will also need high-level information on ITSM-related tools, integration architecture, service catalog, project schedule, service desk, asset management, discovery, organizational model, business objectives, and perceived pain points.

Are You Targeting Specific Processes?

To some extent, everything up to this point is preparation and planning.  When we improve a process, we do that in the context of the lifecycle.  This task requires deep and detailed data on process flows, forms, stakeholders, taxonomy, inputs, outputs, KPIs, governance, tools, and pain points.

As this assessment will be the most prescriptive, it will require the most input from stakeholders.

Step 3:  HOW Do You Gain that Knowledge?

Finally, the organization identifies the assessment parameters based on the data required.  Similar to the previous step, we divide assessments into four types.

ISO/IEC 20000 Certification

The only standardized ITSM assessment is the audit associated with the ISO/IEC 20000 certification (created by itSMF and currently owned and operated by APM Group Ltd.).  The journey to ISO 20k is non-trivial.  As of this writing, 586 organizations have acquired this certification.  The process is basically measure, improve, measure, improve, ………. , measure, certify.  Because the purpose of improvement is certification, this is not the best approach to prescriptive process optimization.

Vendor-Supplied ITSM Assessment

The administration, content, and output of ITSM assessments vary wildly between vendors.  In most cases, the ITSM assessment generates revenue not from the cost of the assessment but from the services required to deliver the recommended improvements.

Rule #1:  “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else” (Lawrence J. Peter).   Without a strategy and roadmap, assessments will lead you to a place you would rather not be.

Rule #2:  The assessment matters far less than the assessor.  When seeking guidance on ITSM optimization, one needs wisdom more than data.  A skilled assessor understands this workflow in the context of a broader lifecycle and can expand the analysis to identify bottlenecks that are not obvious from an assessment score.  An example is Release Management.  The Service Desk may complain that release packages are poorly documented and buggy.  Is that the fault of the Release Manager or is it a flaw with the upstream processes that generate the Service Design Package?

Rule #3:  Scores are only useful as benchmarks and benchmarks are only useful when contextually accurate (e.g. relative performance within a market segment).  Despite the appeal of a spider diagram, avoid scored assessments unless compelled for business reasons.  Resources are better spent analyzing and implementing.

Rule #4:  An assessment without implementation is a knick-knack.  Validate the partner’s implementation experience and capability before signing up for any assessments and be prepared to act.

Rule #5:  A free assessment is a sales pitch.

Rule #6:  A survey-based assessment using a continuous sliding scale of respondent perception is a measure of process, attitude, and mood.   So is a two year old child.

Rule #7:  In ITSM assessments, simpler is better.  Once a vendor decides that the assessment needs to produce a repeatable score, the usefulness of that tool will decline rapidly.  If you doubt this, just look under the covers of any assessment tool for the scoring methodology or examine the questions and response choices for adherence to survey best practices.

Strategy and Roadmap Workshops

Enterprise Service Management strategies save money because not having them wastes money.  Without guiding principles, clear ownership, executive sponsorship, and a modular, prioritized roadmap, the ITSM journey falters almost immediately. Service Catalogs and CMDBs make a strategy mandatory.  For those who lack an actionable Service Strategy and Roadmap, this is the first assessment to consider.

An enterprise needs an experienced ITSM facilitator for strategy workshops.  Typically, the assessment team will perform a high-level process assessment, relevant tool analysis, framework architecture integration study, and a handful of half-day workshops where the gathered information is molded into a plan for staged implementation.

Targeted Process Assessments

Organizations know where the pain points are and have a pretty good sense of the underlying factors.  The assessor finds this knowledge scattered across SMEs, Service Desk personnel, business line managers, development teams, project office, and many other areas.  The assessor’s value is in putting these puzzle pieces together to form a picture of the broader flows and critical bottlenecks.  Through the inherited authority of the project sponsor, the assessor dissolves the organizational boundaries that stymy process optimization and, with an understanding of the broader flow, assists in correctly identifying areas where investment would yield the highest return.

For these assessments, look for a consultant who has insightful experience with the targeted process.  An assessment of IT Asset Management, a process poorly covered in ITIL (a footnote in the SACM process), requires a different skill set than an assessment of Release and Deployment Management or Event Management.

The output from a Targeted Process Assessment should be specific, actionable, and detailed.  Expect more than a list of recommendations.  Each recommendation should tie to a gap and have an associated value to the business.  Essentially, IT management should be able to construct an initial business case for each recommended improvement without a lot of extra effort.

Summary

Liam McGlynn
Liam McGlynn

Organizations are investing tens of millions in ITSM assessments.  I have seen stacks of them sitting on the shelves of executives or tucked away in some dark and dusty corner of a cubicle.  Whether these assessments were incompetent or comprehensive, as dust collectors, they have zero value.

How prevalent is the lunacy of useless ITSM assessments?  From my own experience and from conversations with others in the field, vendors are selling a lot of dust collectors.  Nobody wants to be the person who sponsored or managed a high-profile boondoggle.

So the advice is this.

  • Don’t waste time on scores because there are better ways to sell ITSM to the board than a spider diagram.
  • Develop and maintain an ITSM Strategy and Roadmap.  As Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wind up somewhere else”.
  • Assessing and implementing need to be in close proximity to each other.
  • Get an assessor with wisdom who can facilitate a room full of people.
  • Finally, follow the three steps before you let the vendors into your office.

The journey may have many waypoints but let’s just make it once.

Liam McGlynn is a Managing Consultant at Fruition Partners, a leading cloud systems integrator for service management and a Preferred Partner of ServiceNow.  

Review: TOPdesk

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch TOPdesk adds Kanban-type resource scheduling to add a new dimension onto Incident and Problem Management.
Strengths
  • The Plan Board incorporates a Kanban style approach to scheduling tasks to help drive efficient resourcing
  • Keywords trigger standard solutions, linking into a two-tier Knowledge base (for Analysts and End Users)
  • Task Board for individual support staff can be sliced and diced by most time critical events
Weaknesses
  • Sometimes “over-customisability” can rear its head in reviews – just because it is possible to have 7 different priorities does not mean it is a good practice to do so.
  • Some terminology (which can be changed with a little more detailed knowledge) can be a little cumbersome – for example Objects for Assets.
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, TOPdesk’s typical market is to customers of between 500-2000 employees (Small – Medium/Large)They are classified for this review as:Specialised Service Management Suite – Offering ITIL v3 processes and proprietary discovery tooling.The offer integration to Monitoring tools.

Commercial Summary

Vendor TOPdesk
Product TOPdesk Enterprise
Version reviewed V5.1
Date of version release December 2012
Year founded Founded in 1993.£22,000,000.00 Turnover in 2012
Customers 3150 approximate TOPdesk Enterprise customers, > 5,000+ unique customers in total.
Pricing Structure TOPdesk offer a SaaS and an on-premise solution.The license bracket is based on the number of end users supported and an unlimited amount of users of the system.With regards to on-premise pricing, annual maintenance is 15% of the one-off value per annum.Within the SaaS subscription all fees for support, technical maintenance and hosting are included.
Competitive Differentiators
  • Truly flexible commercial model with an end user license bracket that allows for an unlimited amount of operators to be registered for free.
  • Genuine ability to deliver a Shared Service Centre where multiple departments may combine budgets and expertise to support end users at no additional cost.
  • Human Resource Plan Board functionality.
Additional Features TOPdesk strongly believes in Shared Services in which multiple teams work together to deliver services to end users.

For this reason TOPdesk offers out-of-the-box solutions to support processes like, but not limited to, Building Management, Visitor Registration, Planned Preventative maintenance, HR services or Room booking management.

TOPdesk’s framework is delivered with full advanced reporting wizard, dash board, task board and plan board which will provide our customers with the tools they need to manage their processes.

topdesklogoIndependent Review

The jewel in the crown of the TOPdesk solution is the incorporation of Kanban style resourcing, and some intelligent linkage of solutions and workarounds to categories and key word matching.

A while back, I wrote an article reviewing Kanban capability, but concluded that if it was standalone, it would be a level of additional work that was not practical.

To bring that functionality into the tool makes it a very powerful addition to a suite.

The basics of Incident and Problem Management are all there, and they use Wizards to try and speed up the process for the service desk.

Their deployment model is very much set-up and train-the-trainer rather than on-going consultancy, and as such the product is highly configurable.

As a result initial best practice-based implementation lies with the consultants – and unlike other vendors, it was not immediately clear the level of their experience and knowledge – so it could be easy to make the tool quite unwieldy, quite quickly.

Other little niggles lie around some of the terminology – referring to assets as Objects, and requiring a back-end change to alter that.

But all-in-all the tool was an appealing offering, with a unique selling point in the Plan Board.

Logging & Categorisation

There are some nice features here for calls being logged – where a service desk analyst can take a number of details and pull up any information on the caller, including any assets associated with them, and all calls logged by them.

It is also possible to create a custom field indicating the level of IT Competency (for example) helping the service desk to build a profile of the person they are dealing with.

Once the analyst identifies the call as an incident to be logged, all the initial notes are pulled into the new record.

From a self-service point of view, TOPdesk try and limit the amount of information initially asked for, and on an initial save more fields are activated – showing target date for resolution, priority (linked back to categorisation) and displaying any actions that have been taken to resolve the issue.

Tracking and Escalations

TOPdesk provide a capability to link key words (for example specific error codes) to categories and based on the category, can have the records automatically assigned to a specialist.

Records can be sent to a general queue to await assignment.

TOPdesk have incorporated a Kanban style scheduling structure within the tool – the Plan Board.

Using this board, all support analysts can be listed, and tasks assigned to them displayed.

In a single view, it is easy to see who is currently over-loaded with work, and who has capacity to take on more work.

It accommodates office absences, and shift availability.

In addition, Task Boards exist for the individual analysts, and can be listed in terms of SLAs and target resolution times.

As SLAs are being breached, TOPdesk use Elapsed Time Triggers to send automated emails.

Prioritisation

The Impact and Urgency matrices shown used business language to help drive the priority for an incident but in the demo, there was an abundance of potential priorities.

There are none provided out of the box, and consultants who assist with the deployment come with standard practices to help customers in their implementations.

Closure

The terminology works on an incident being completed, and can be closed once concurrence has been given.

Major Incident/Problems

Within any incident record, TOPdesk offer a Major Incident tab where the incident can either be marked as the first incident in the chain or other incidents can be linked to a master.

Once multiple incidents are linked, there is a Closure Wizard which will close multiple records on resolution of the major incident.

In terms of Problem Management, in a similar way, multiple records can be linked to a new or major problem in a cart-based selection process.

It should be noted that here, the Impact and Urgency reflects more IT terminology (although this can be configured).

TOPdesk use a concept of Partial Problems where different groups can play a part in substantiating a problem, as part of determining the root cause.

This concept also exists for Incidents.

Known errors can be created after that point, and links back to their Standard Solutions to show that there is a workaround, which can be triggered by keywords during the logging phase.

Conclusion

TOPdesk offers some innovative ways to manage Incidents and Problems, namely using the Plan Board, but also go some way to make the service desk role a little easier with the linkage of the standard solutions to key word matching and tying those to the categories.

The product is extensively customisable, but perhaps some care should be taken to maybe show that off in combination with simpler best practices.

TOPdesk Customers

Screenshots

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

From the TOPdesk Brochure

  • Wide  range of ITIL®-based modules for all your business processes
  • TOPdesk’s Plan Board gives you all the information you need. Stay on top of your employees’ availability and workload, and assign tasks with ease.
  • The Task Board displays all your tasks in one overview, enabling you to see your calls, change activities, operational activities and services at a glance.

In Their Own Words:

TOPdesk makes ITIL aligned service management software for IT, Facilities Management, and eHRM help desks. Our award-winning solution helps you process questions, complaints and malfunctions. Optimize your services with a user-friendly application, experienced consultants and expert support. Raising your service levels and reducing your workload has never been easier. TOPdesk is an international leader in cutting-edge Service Management solutions and standardized ITIL software.

Our unrivalled integration, implementations and support is tried and trusted across the Service Management industry.

  • 5,000+ organizations use TOPdesk
  • We are located in the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Brazil and Hungary
  • We are one of the top 5 Service Management software providers worldwide
  • We employ over 450+ FTE professionals worldwide

Further Information

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

ITSM and multi-sourcing – taking a joined-up approach

"Multisourcing is the disciplined provisioning and blending of business and IT services from the optimal set of internal and external providers in the pursuit of business goals." ~ Wikipedia

Behind the intricacies of ITIL and the various strategies that can support ITSM, the overall aim is to improve service delivery and make the whole organisation more productive. By making sure that processes and teams are aware of what they have to deliver, ITSM can offer better service to end-users and greater efficiency overall.

Well, this is the theory. However, IT within organisations may not be organised in a way that makes this a simple proposition. The growth in outsourcing and cloud services has led to IT often becoming a fractured estate, with different areas of infrastructure, applications and support being handled by teams both inside and outside the organisation. While this doesn’t stop ITSM programmes from being successful, it does make them more challenging.

This trend – often referred to as multi-sourcing – occurs because CIOs are being asked to reduce costs within IT. Cutting out internal resources and using outside services can be an effective route to achieving this, but it can come at the expense of a joined-up IT approach. ITIL gives guidelines on how to manage this kind of environment, but reflecting theory in practice can be difficult to achieve.

Taking a Joined-Up Approach

To combat this, going back to first principles and establishing where services and responsibilities link together is essential. Knowing where suppliers are responsible for providing service, meeting Service Level Agreements and delivering what is asked of them should be at the bedrock of ITSM projects of this kind, but the reality is that many organisations are not as effective at tracking this as they should be.

This can be due to simple human error – from individual tickets being created in the wrong way and therefore not going to the right team in the first place – through to more systemic issues around holding suppliers accountable and making sure that they are delivering on their promises. Whatever problem is being faced, clearing the lines of communication and establishing that processes are being followed is the first step to take.

This is also critical to getting accurate numbers on support and service requests and how they are being handled. This may also require a back-to-basics approach, so that suppliers and internal teams can be compared properly in an “apples to apples” way. Getting this information from suppliers is essential, as otherwise there is no way to prove that the ITSM programme itself is successful.

Following on from this is looking at processes again – are there ways that these can be more automated from the start? This provides an opportunity to speed up service delivery and support requests, while also potentially reducing costs on both the customer and the supplier side. For the customer, greater productivity and lower bills should be the aim, while suppliers should see benefit from reduced cost to serve each transaction and less opportunity for tickets to be lost or mis-allocated.

In order to achieve this level of automation, there are two things to consider:

1. ACCURATE REQUEST ALLOCATION

The first is how users can log requests for support and these tickets are handled through to the right support team, whether this is internal or external to the organisation. This involves more diagnosis at the beginning so that the problem is tracked properly. Users don’t care if their problem is caused by the application itself, the infrastructure supporting that app or the new upgrade that was not released out to production properly; however, the responsibility for assessing the issue and routing it through to the right support team does have a big impact on service speed and quality.

Implementing self-service portals for requests can help here by removing some of the day-to-day issues and automating their fulfilment. For example, a request for a new app to be installed can be automated if the sign-off level of the manager at a certain budget is approved automatically. This does not make the job of diagnosing problems easier for cross-team issues, but it does free up time so that more resource can be dedicated to those more difficult issues in the first place.

2. HOW TO AUTOMATE?

The second challenge is how to automate: most organisations will have a mix of systems themselves, while their service providers may have their own service desks and support tools as well. Passing tickets between systems automatically as well as managing approvals is therefore a big potential hurdle. For companies that are yet to make their choice on suppliers, establishing which systems are in place to check compatibility and integration levels is an option. For those with existing relationships in place, this is not an option to consider, so a different approach will be necessary.

Orchestration

Instead of thinking about tools, the emphasis has to be on workflows instead. Orchestrating processes between different platforms so that information is handled in the right way is the ultimate aim here, so that customers and suppliers can carry on using their tools of choice rather than being restricted or having to rely on manual labour to achieve results.

In a multi-sourcing world where cloud services, infrastructure and support can be managed in so many different ways, there is no one strategy that will achieve success. Each company or public body will have its own situation to consider, as well as that of its external suppliers. However, this makes orchestration and analysis of workflows more important – without this, the job of managing and delivering services is more difficult to achieve.

As multi-sourcing gets taken up by more enterprises and public sector organisations in their efforts to reduce costs, so taking a more joined- up and orchestrated approach to managing workflows will be critical to meeting their user needs as well.