Review: Outside IT 2014

OutsideITTo download the full report as a PDF please visit : Outside IT 5th August 2014

This is a competitive review of software vendors who offer Outside IT capabilities as part of their IT service management (ITSM) solution.
Products reviewed:

 

Outside IT 2014 – Best in Class

ServiceNow(R)_logo_STANDARD_RGB_226px_122012(1)[1]

In The ITSM Review’s opinion, ServiceNow is an excellent option for large-and-very large sized businesses looking to achieve synergy and efficiency of cross-departmental operations, as well as flexibility in their IT and wider non-IT shared service operations. Furthermore, we believe it is an excellent option for large and very large organisations implementing service management and work automation across and beyond IT.

We feel that ESM is a strong and forward-thinking message and an excellent opportunity for real success through ITSM and wider service management and automation. In our opinion, this is a stronger and more sustainable message than ServiceNow’s earlier focus on Cloud/commercial models, community and flexibility (although useful and helpful) as the ESM message transcends IT and straddles business areas and can finally take ITSM to a C-Level audience for sales and delivered value.

In our view, continued expansion via the ESM message and product capability for Global Enterprises should be the ServiceNow goal, possibly with some options on how to take this message to the mid-market market in future.

Overview

This report has been unusual in terms of a normal industry product/vendor review – for two reasons:

  1. The initial review criteria were quite generic (by necessity) and to some extent vague (i.e. “what have you done with your product outside of IT?”) and
  2. The results and outcomes are not particularly (or only) related to functionality or product capability – and this relates strongly to marketing, positioning and implementation approach.

As a review of what vendors can or are doing with their (ITSM) products outside of the IT and ITSM operational area, this review had to be somewhat open-ended, giving the participating vendors specific requirements to follow, but also opening up the options for them to show us what else they can do and are doing outside of IT. This includes not just options on software functionality but also how the vendors are positioning themselves in the market.

Each vendor in this report provides ITSM tools that can be used to build forms and workflow based automation for administration of ‘back-office’ work, this includes: managing workloads; requests; automating approvals and escalations; automating spreadsheets and other databases centrally to remove risk; provide customer service and call centre tools; manage work schedules; provide knowledge repositories, calendars, reports dashboards and customer portals etc. In addition, they each provide this functionality in a modern, social, mobile and intuitive ‘connected’ environment that can be quickly implemented and maintained with minimum technical resources.

So 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.

Industry Context

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.

Most manufacturers of ITSM tools report that their sales engagement process usually now involve the inclusion of non-IT people as the norm which has happened historically although not consistently with many vendors also reporting the fact that, once their ITSM tool has been successfully implemented, their clients in IT then help to ‘sell on’ the wider use of the toolsets within and across their own organisations.

Much of this has been driven by the opportunities offered via Cloud solutions and also via assorted sourcing options. However, the barriers between IT and its internal customers/departments are now also breaking down such that, finally, there is the appreciation that the overall needs of the organisation they support can be met via a ‘supply chain’ approach rather than a siloed one. Commoditisation of IT has led to greater awareness of, and demand for, proper end-to-end solutions and collaborative working. Toolsets are the final piece in this jigsaw, as they offer simple and effective solutions for this.

Opportunities for IT organisations

This is therefore a time of huge opportunity for IT organisations to re-invent themselves and to show their true value to the organisations that they serve. This moves away from just being inward-looking and self preserving around their own (IT) processes but to also being the facilitator, catalyst and ‘solution superheroes’ for the whole organisation. This can help to develop efficiency and remove risk by automating manual and single point of failure processes and systems, e.g. spreadsheets that still provide key business functions.

IT can show leadership in their own businesses if they grasp the nettle and use the skills they have developed via ITSM and the associated toolsets, relationship management, value-demonstration, service monitoring, and cost management. It’s the time and opportunity to take ITSM to the next level and IT organisations and their people are best placed to deliver this.

Client maturity

Whilst this sounds exciting, there is also the question of maturity and awareness, and this brave new world cannot apply across all organisations evenly. There are those IT organisations that have the maturity and drive to take their knowledge and skills forward to capitalise on these opportunities. These organisations will respond well to vendor positioning and messaging around business-led IT and the value of service management beyond IT.

However, there are also many (probably most) IT organisations that don’t yet have the vision, awareness, bandwidth and ITSM maturity to do this.

This is where intelligent use of new sourcing models can help to ensure that IT is moving with the times and delivering in response to needs and not just “treading water” and “sweating assets”.

These organisations will also be at risk of being by-passed in the sales process of forward thinking vendors who can then sell direct to other service areas (not IT) with their products and solutions. Vendors with mature implementations and good client relationships can also develop these accounts to “sell inwardly” as mentioned, and get the message across about collaborative working – with variable success depending on their ability to reach and get the right messages to the C-Levels working in their clients.

The new world of corporate collaboration

The message here for the vendor market – and in the context of this review – is therefore that ITSM vendors wishing to retain and increase their market share into new areas need to consider the positioning of their products in a wider context than just IT.

Products and vendors that only focus on internal IT – sold to internally focussed IT departments who don’t see the opportunities for collaboration – will be at risk, or at least will risk falling behind in the long run. There may be continuing opportunities for relatively straightforward ITSM-only sales in the short-term, but ultimately this will not be a sustainable strategy.

Vendors also need to be clear on how to reach non-IT people where necessary, as well as having clear strategies for up-selling their products beyond IT in existing and new accounts. Overall they will need to be clear as to the extent to which they take and promote these messages – from presenting either a business-focussed/business-enabled solution, to an IT-internally-focused only approach.

So whilst there is still a lively traditional ITSM ‘core market’ that vendors can focus on – where the prospects may not be interested in Outside IT (i.e. applications and their focus is solely on ITSM) – there is also a longer-term and potentially larger opportunity around selling to the wider organisation.

Clearly for vendors this requires some strategic decision making around positioning and marketing, with some implications around sales approach and targeting. This in turn may have significant cost and structural implications for vendors, and some may not have the resources to meet these requirements.

So the traditional sale to mid-management IT Operations may be simpler and easier in the short-term, but longer-term vendors may need to rethink their sales and marketing approach, collateral, and even the language used in the sales process.

So how do we evaluate the current Market?

The four vendors who participated in this review all have the capabilities to provide additional functionality outside of the ITSM/IT area and they also all have varying levels of customer adoption of this. These vendors cover a broad spectrum in terms of size, capability, and corporate coverage and their focus reflects this. All vendors also have different sales and marketing approaches to the concept of Outside IT. Details and examples of their individual offerings are shown below.

All four vendors can deliver non-IT applications with varying levels of toolkits, engagement approaches, and turnkey offerings.

 

To download the full report as a PDF please visit : http://download.itassetmanagement.net/outside-it/

Disclaimer, Scope and 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.


The ITSM Review are holding a series of seminars this year headed by ITSM superstar Barclay Rae. We will be starting in March with Transforming User Experience – Enterprise Service Management & Self Service. For more information click here

Simple steps towards Agility and Service Management improvement

Dead as a...

There have been many hundreds of words recently written on the subject of Agile Development and IT Operations practices. For the average ITSM practitioner, however, a life where both are interwoven into the organisations day-to-day work seems as unattainable as ever.

Sure, you might work for one of the few organisations that practices DevOps. If so congratulations… you’re one of the cool kids. Maybe you picked up a copy of “The Phoenix Project“** and the authors words resonated with you.

“I should start introducing Agile and Lean concepts into my IT organisation”

It’s not as if these words have fallen on deaf ears as such – it’s just that most ITSM practitioners are struggling to join the dots in their head, not even able to mentally apply Agile/Lean/DevOps to their own environments.

It’s hard to see how you get from your current position today to a position of continuous delivery and business agility, along with the bragging rights on Twitter about how great your aligned development and IT Operations organisations are.

You now want to improve… So what can you do to get started?

I have two quick tips for those IT Operations folk that want to start taking steps towards Agility and Service Management improvement. These tips won’t transform your IT department overnight but they are both cheap and easy to implement (in fact you could do it this week).

Tip number 1: Hold retrospectives

The most valuable skill of a good Agile team is the ability to self-learn. Self-learners have a habit of looking at their performance as a team and can identify positive and negative characteristics from their recent behaviour. By learning from past experiences they pledge to improve in the future.

The mechanism for Agile teams to drive improvements is to hold regular retrospectives.

A retrospective is a time boxed activity (a meeting) that is held at the end of a period of work, or in Agile-speak an “iteration”.

Development teams often work in regular short bursts of work called “sprints”, which in my company are always two weeks long, therefore we hold retrospectives on the last day of each sprint.

IT Operations work is not normally neatly defined in two week iterations – you tend to deal with KTLO work (Keep the lights on – Incidents and Problems) and perhaps projects. However, you should avoid the habit of only holding retrospectives to find improvements at the end of projects or when things are going wrong.

If you want to take a few Agile steps in your IT Organisation my advice is that you open your calendar application right now and setup a recurring meeting for your team that lasts for an hour every two weeks. Take this time to review work from that two week period and identify improvements.

Build self-learning and improvement sessions into your schedule. Don’t leave opportunities for improvements to project post-mortems or to when things have already gone wrong.

So what happens in a retrospective session?

Firstly, it should be a facilitated session so you’ll need someone to lead the team, but this isn’t a daunting task (OK – it is the first time you do it but it gets easier after that). Secondly, it’s a structured session rather than an hour to ‘bitch and moan’ about the Incidents that came in during the last two weeks.

Retrospectives are structured meetings with a clear objective – not a general conversation about performance

The objective of a retrospective is to get a documented commitment from the team to change one or two aspects of their behaviour. Documenting these commitments is covered below in tip number two.

Changing the behaviour of a team is absolutely not as challenging as it first seems, people only need a few things to happen to change their behaviour: to have their opinion heard; to be able to commit to the change; and to be held accountable. The format of a retrospective allows for all of this.

Also with retrospectives we don’t focus purely on examples where things went wrong. I’ve been in many retrospective sessions where teams have focused on unexpected success, have researched the factors that contributed to that and committed to spreading whatever practice caused the success to a wider organisation.

Identifying what worked well for a team in the previous two weeks and pledging to repeat that behaviour is just as powerful as pledging not to repeat negative behaviours.

I mentioned that retrospective sessions are structured. This really helps, especially when a team starts out on a path of self-learning and improvements. The structure holds the meeting together and guides the team to its objective for the meeting – validation of existing working agreements and proposals for new working agreements.

Esther Derby and Diana Larsen, who both inspired me to focus on retrospectives with their book, “Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great“ describes the structure for retrospectives very well in the SlideShare presentation below. Take time to study and implement their meeting structures.

What should the meeting structure look like?

The recommended meeting structure is as follows:

  • Set the stage

  • Gather data

  • Generate insights

  • Decide what to do

  • Close the retrospective

Each element in the meeting agenda is an opportunity for the facilitator to engage the team and run exercises to uncover what worked well (to be repeated) and what did not work well (to be avoided).

By structuring the meeting and facilitating people through the process you avoid the temptation for people to use the time simply complaining and placing blame for things that didn’t go well.

The meeting structure drives the retrospective towards its objective – an actionable set of Working Agreements for the team to use.

Tip number 2: Use Working Agreements

In a previous role in IT Operations and support I often felt the sensation of “spinning plates”. As soon as we could put one fire out another would flare up. Our problems as a team were that different people worked in different ways which is a real problem in Infrastructure teams.

My solution at the time was to try and write an all-encompassing “rule book” which described how we as a team react to any given circumstance. We’d build this “rule book” up over time and end up with a comprehensive document to remove confusion on how to perform work.

I’m sure you can imagine the outcome – we started.. we didn’t get that far.. as soon as the rule book was of any decent size it became out of date and unwieldy.

What my team then really needed, and the way that my Agile development team now works, is to have a lightweight document explaining the rules of the road. We call this document our “Working Agreements”.

What should Working Agreements look like?

  • They should be small enough to fit on a single side of A3 paper

  • Agreed upon by the team

  • The output of retrospective sessions, worded to enforce good behaviour or to prevent negative behaviour

  • Should be reviewed during each retrospective – do we need this Working Agreement now or is it part of our standard behaviour.

  • Should be very visible in the area

Having a lightweight set of agreements that the team commit to and that are reviewed regularly are a great way to drive cultural and technical changes that actually stick! Rather than review meetings that mean nothing once the team leave the room.

In summary

Driving improvements to a team means you are trying to change peoples behaviour which is never an easy task. Teams will change if some basic needs are met. They need to be listened to, they need to commit to the change and they need to be held accountable for future behaviour.

This is possible in your IT Operations teams today – hold regular retrospectives to identify what works and what does not. Get the team to commit to working agreements which are agreed by the team, meaningful and visible.

Let the improvements commence!

** If you didn’t nod when I mentioned The Phoenix Project then you aren’t one of the cool kids and you better find out what it is… pronto!

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