Few people would disagree with the statement that it’s hard to provide effective IT service management (ITSM) and IT support capabilities without a fit-for-purpose ITSM tool. However, it’s critical to understand the importance of the term “fit-for-purpose” in “fit-for-purpose ITSM tool.” After all, what’s the point of looking at an ITSM tool that states it has “the best change management (or change enablement) capabilities in the industry,” say, when your organization needs the ITSM tool that’s best suited to its change management needs? It’s no different from buying a new car. A model might claim to have the best fuel economy (or electricity-powered range) of the vehicles in its price bracket, but what use is this achievement if you can’t get the whole family in it comfortably?
So, what does your organization need in an ITSM tool? If you’re already listing out the ITIL-espoused ITSM processes you need to enable, please keep reading this blog.
Hopefully, it will help you in any future ITSM tool assessment initiative.
The scope of ITSM tool capabilities is an important consideration
When looking at the suitability of an existing or prospective ITSM tool, the traditional approach has been to use a long list of functions and features and a suitable scoring mechanism. Yes, it shows whether an ITSM tool has a particular capability, but it doesn’t necessarily highlight how well the capability meets IT and business needs. It’s a “fit-for-purpose ITSM tool” in that it offers what’s expected of an ITSM tool but is not necessarily a “fit-for-purpose” ITSM tool in the context of your organization’s needs.
Knowing that the capability is available is only the start. And perhaps the beginning of an investigative journey that’s unnecessarily lengthed by asking generic rather than specific questions about the available ITSM capabilities. But this is only part of the potential issue with the traditional focus on a long list of functions and features, especially when the list contains elements your organization doesn’t and will likely never use. Not only do the additional capabilities potentially take the focus away from what’s most important, but there’s also no guarantee that the capabilities, while meeting the typical requirements of ITSM tools, actually meet your organization’s needs. For example, your organization might need the change calendar capabilities to integrate with Microsoft Teams to work effectively, but this isn’t included in standard change management (or enablement) feature lists.
Understanding the common ITSM tool capabilities
While your organization needs to be wary of generic capability availability, it’s still important to understand what’s commonly available in ITSM tools. If only to avoid the limitations of the current ITSM tool in the future (because the current ITSM tool is seen as the blueprint for what ITSM tools can and cannot do). For example, the absence of workflow automation in the existing ITSM tool shouldn’t prevent the desire to have it in a future ITSM tool. So what do the most popular ITSM tools offer?
ITSM tool capabilities can be viewed as multidimensional and include:
- Common ITSM processes or ITIL practices that are enabled through technology capabilities
- ITSM processes (or practices) that enable other ITSM capabilities (that are again enabled through technology capabilities)
- Technology capabilities that can relate to some or all ITSM processes
- Support for use cases that go beyond ITSM
Examples of these dimensions are:
- Incident management, change management (or change enablement as ITIL 4 now calls it), and problem management.
- Knowledge management and service configuration management
- Workflow automation, automation and service orchestration (including artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled capabilities), service catalogs and self-service, knowledge bases, reporting and analytics, and integrations with other systems
- Use of the corporate ITSM tool to help enable work in customer services, human resources (HR), facilities, and finance.
Your organization will have needs across these dimensions. However, returning to the earlier meaning of “fit-for-purpose,” these dimensions alone are insufficient for understanding whether an ITSM tool is right for your organization. For example, the fact that an ITSM tool offers self-service capabilities or can be used by HR doesn’t mean that it meets your organization’s self-service needs or its ambition for workflow enablement in HR (perhaps due to information security concerns).
Defining the “fit-for-purpose” in “fit-for-purpose ITSM tool”
Returning to the question of what your organization needs in an ITSM tool, the meaning of “fit-for-purpose” needs to rise above the inclusion of the common capabilities (across the various dimensions). These capabilities are, after all, what the ITSM can do, not what your organization can or needs to achieve through the use of the ITSM tool. The latter is what makes an ITSM tool “fit for purpose” for your organization.
A way to think of this is that the ITSM tool isn’t the finished dish; it simply provides many of the ingredients required to create the outcomes your organization needs. These outcomes should inform what your organization needs in an ITSM tool – they are the key ITSM tool use cases that rise above the functions and features.
Some people might not see the difference between focusing on these outcome-based use cases and the traditional long list of functions and features, but there are two key differences in both the approach and the results each brings. First, the outcome-based approach lets your organization focus on what matters most, i.e. the capabilities that will drive success or harm business operations and outcomes if missing. Second, as already mentioned, just because an ITSM tool has functions and features related to what your organization needs to do, it doesn’t mean the tool can actually do what’s required.
What this means for ITSM tool assessment
Whether this is assessing the suitability of an existing ITSM tool or the consideration of new options, the same approach is applicable. It requires that business requirements are described in outcome rather than multiple feature-point terms, with the assessment exercise ascertaining whether and how the ITSM tool can achieve the desired outcomes (rather than merely offering a requested set of features). This approach provides a far better view of ITSM tool capabilities in the context of your organization’s needs, especially because many of the ITIL-aligned capabilities are present in all popular ITSM tools.
However, the functions and features data can still be considered (even if just as a “safety net”), with this insight already available via the PinkVERIFY scheme. Although it’s important to appreciate that while the verification of specific processes (or practices) in an ITSM tool confirms they align with ITIL ITSM best practices, the lack of verification doesn’t mean that they don’t. It’s an ITSM tool vendor’s decision on which capabilities they submit for verification based on commercial needs.
How well does your ITSM tool meet business needs?