Gartner Magic Quadrant for IT Service Support Management Tools (ITSSM) 2012

The extra 's' - a genuine new market definition or marketing fluff?

Gartner have recently published their Magic Quadrant for IT Service Support Management (ITSSM).

The research includes Axios Systems, BMC, CA Technologies, Cherwell Software, EasyVista, FrontRange Solutions, Hornbill, HP, IBM, LANDesk and ServiceNow.

In a nutshell:

  • BMC came out on top, closely followed by ServiceNow
  • Everybody else is sat uncomfortably close together in the ‘must try harder’ niche players quadrant
  • Nobody made it into the ‘leaders quadrant’ (The RFP-shortlist-holy-grail)

What is ‘ITSSM’ anyway?

My first question when beginning to read this new Gartner Magic Quadrant was – what is ITSSM? Where did that extra ‘S’ come from and what does it mean?

The introductory text reads:

“IT service support management (ITSSM) tools offer a tighter integration of functions that correlates with the activities of the broader IT support organization. ITSSM tools leverage a business view of IT services, enabling the IT support organization to quickly resolve or escalate issues and problems, improve root cause isolation, and provide higher levels of business user satisfaction.”

I’m still none the wiser. Still looks like good old ITSM to me.

Marketing Fluff?

In the book ‘The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing’ by Al Ries and Jack Trout we are introduced to the ‘Law of Focus’. The authors argue ‘the most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in a prospects mind’. The most powerful evidence of this is when a product is so totally engrained in our vernacular that it becomes a verb. We ask for a Coke, we Skype, we Hoover the stairs etc (i.e. one product name dominates the entire sector). This begins to explain why technology companies dream up new and exciting ways to explain markets and cook up new acronyms, to try to own the whole concept for themselves.

Perhaps ‘ITSSM’ is a misguided attempt at this new sector definition.  I think it is marketing fluff and does little to help the market. Would it really be that dreadful to admit dropping the previous ITSM Quadrant was a mistake? If it is a genuine new market sector they’ve done an awful job of defining it and educating the market.

Only Behemoths May Apply

My other criticism of this report, and Gartner Magic Quadrants in general, is over emphasis on global reach.

Some of the global players have an international network of offices that span the globe, but how many of the people in these hundreds of offices know about your product? I would ague that is probably about the same amount of people as the total team of a smaller niche competitor. i.e. BigMegaCorp operates in 50 countries with 20,000 staff and 35 of these people worldwide know about ITSM, compared to the small niche competitor with 35 staff – all of whom know about ITSM.

Similarly, vendors in this report had to have revenues in excess of $10M. Isn’t this threshold cutting out the most exciting and innovative vendors in the sector? The target audience for this report is typically large enterprises – but are they really that risk adverse?

In Richard Stiennon’s recent article he stated that:

“Gartner’s 11,000 clients are the largest organizations in the world and Gartner acknowledges that 80 percent of them are late-adaptors. They are much more likely to buy from HP, IBM, or Oracle than from a start-up with the most cutting-edge solution.”

Is that really the case these days? The old adage of ‘You won’t get fired for buying IBM’ is being replaced by users who can search what they are looking for on Google, buy it using a credit card and get the job done in the Cloud without a second thought.

Rudderless Industry?

Finally, I believe the fact that there are no vendors in the Leaders quadrant is a good reflection of the industry. Once upon a time ITIL aligned processes were the key market differentiator, and then came the ability to deliver in the Cloud – the market is now looking for new leadership and new differentiators.

The report is available here free from BMC.

Winners and Losers in the ITSM Premier League

Six leading ITSM vendors went head to head this week at the itSMF UK Tools forum. The free event was held at the Etihad stadium in Manchester, home of the 2012 premier league winners Manchester City.

This was openly promoted as a tool focused event. A perfect opportunity for some of the leading lights of the industry to showcase their technology and highlight their competitive differentiators.

An opportunity to shine?

It’s a tough, competitive market out there. Differentiate or die.

I was eager to find out which vendors could articulate their unique qualities, who could position themselves in the market? Could they inspire confidence in buyers? Would buyers be safe in their hands?

The result? In my opinion – Delegates experienced the full spectrum from cutting edge to dull as dishwater:


Roy IllsleyOvum (6/10)

Roy gave us an interesting, thought provoking presentation. The content seemed to be a bit out of place for the theme of the day but otherwise it was great talk and I look forward to delving into the slide deck when it becomes available (Applying Lean principles to IT Strategy).

Patrick BolgerHornbill (9/10)

You can tell why Patrick has ‘Evangelist’ in his job title. Patrick gave us an inspirational pitch for not only his company but also the industry as a whole. If all Hornbill customers have the same software installed and the same ITIL training – how is it that they experience vastly different results? Patrick argued that it is because of the people. Hornbill believes in putting their successful customers on a pedestal when positioning their solution. Nice job Patrick.

Tony Bambury, FrontRange (1/10)

Tony provided us a live demo of their SaaS solution and ran through a user ordering an iPhone. I struggled to see how FrontRange differed from the rest of the pack. An opportunity missed.

Kevin Parker, Tom Burnell and James Warriner from Serena (8/10)

Serena have some closet amateur dramatics buffs in their midst. Serena declared an end to dull PowerPoint pitches and provided a refreshingly different demonstration of their technology. We were entertained by means of a reenactment of one of their ‘Doug Serena’ episodes.  For me, it would have been the presentation of the day – but unfortunately it was difficult to hear their presentation and the ‘actors’ were not always visible, so we lost the thread at times. Otherwise – an excellent slot by Serena and they should be congratulated for their effort, preparation and originality (the product looked good too!).

Dave D’Agostino from ServiceNow (5/10)

Dave gave a safe and steady presentation on ‘SaaS driving forces’ and positioned ServiceNow as a cloud platform rather than pure ITSM focused tool. I’m personally not convinced that the market needs telling the advantages of cloud anymore and I would welcome some more pragmatic advice about shifting services to the cloud. E.g. if you are in this particular industry facing abc market forces and xyz legislation this is what similar customers achieved. Perhaps it’s time to move the conversation on from ‘You don’t need to buy servers!’.

I also thought Dave’s ROI model of on premise versus cloud looked a bit shaky, given the likely implementation / customization costs of ServiceNow over a 3 year period – I would welcome some independent industry statistics on this.

Don Page, Marval (4/10)

I tuned out for Don’s session. It was entertaining but a bit of a rant. If I were a prospect for a new ITSM tool provider I would be left with the impression that Don is a great guy and unique personality, but I would be a bit lost if you asked me to remember the redeeming features of his solution, apart from ‘Buy British’.

Tony Probert, Cherwell (7/10)

Tony set out the stall for Cherwell in his no-nonsense forthright style. Tony urged us to think about business services over support and that if we were doing break-fix for a living we were ripe for outsourcing.

He openly stated that most of Cherwell’s features were ‘just like everyone else’ but then managed to clearly articulate their competitive differentiators:

  1. Code-less configuration
  2. Autonomy from Cherwell (not dependent on consultancy and feature lock down)
  3. and seamless upgrades despite customization.

Three bullets to separate Cherwell from the competition and an attractive proposition for those migrating from on-premise tools. That one slide was a refreshing change to the others of the day who struggled to articulate their competitive differentiators.


Same again next year?

Like the SDI tools day, this is a great format by the itSMF and I hope they repeat it again soon. As with regionals – perhaps some real life user feedback could be shoehorned into the day. Further upcoming itSMF events can be found here.

Great seminar location: The view from the 'Legends' lounge at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester.