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Objective expertise injects resilience and sustainability into IT service management

ITSM
(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Tashatuvango)

At a time when so many enterprises are rightly focused on the bottom line and all the challenges generated by the pandemic, there is an urgent imperative to do more with less – especially in IT.

A key area of focus must be IT service management, where all too frequently, large businesses have expensive software that remains unused or at least, under-utilized. These solutions were bought many months ago in happier times but languish out of sight. They were acquired on the basis of very flimsy business cases, have proved to be inappropriate or are too challenging to implement for the in-house IT personnel.

Prior to the pandemic, some organizations employed the same tools for years, while others regularly bought new software out of a determination to transform performance or reduce expenditure. Now everyone is looking to maximize efficiency, whatever the age of the solution. Yet when senior management reviews their investments in ITSM software, IT managers suddenly find themselves struggling to deliver the promised benefits and savings.

Lack of experience in procurement and integration, or delays and a reluctance to get to grips with a new solution have often left organizations with software that has not been upgraded to the latest version. With 20 versions of a piece of ITSM software available, it is difficult for IT managers to know which is the most suitable or easily integrated.

The long-tail effect of poor ITSM implementation

Although the cloud has made rolling out software so much easier and in theory, more cost-effective, when an IT department has under-performing ITSM solutions, it becomes difficult to do anything more than meet the daily challenges. Fulfilling the more strategic requirements of the business and its senior leadership team is very difficult. Cost-reduction and the completion of projects on time and to budget become far less likely, as does the ability to excel at hitting new KPIs.

In many cases the solution was never really suitable – and there no one area is more prone to this than any other. Modules that fail to make it to full implementation cover everything from service catalogue, knowledge, change and problem management, to self-service.

IT teams may struggle to optimize what they already have

Sometimes, the problem is related to lack of time to learn what is needed to implement or optimize new software, or to inertia. IT management may have been unwilling to take on the challenge of reorganizing their people and processes ready for an implementation that could take many months.

Many enterprise IT teams consider customization as the route out of their impasse. Yet although customization is built into many ITSM products, is essentially re-programming and therefore a costly undertaking. It can also trigger a domino effect. To interface perfectly with the new software, other applications have to be customized or reconfigured.

Customization often proves to be far from straightforward, especially in a large organization made up of different departments or territories that are heavily siloed, and already have a high degree of autonomy. Instead of the system accommodating the exact requirements of the business, the business ends up adapting its operations to the system.

Sustainable IT platforms are the future

These problems are why the concept of sustainability has become an important aspect of ITSM, allowing companies to gain full value from new features in the software they have through upgrades, rather than expensive new purchases or customization.

A sustainable ITSM platform can be upgraded without any fear of the impact on the business, adapting an enterprise’s existing tooling to their processes in a flexible manner to maximize the return on their initial and continued investment.

Achieving sustainability in ITSM requires a high degree of objectivity and vendor-independence. An enterprise needs the skills of an implementer or consultancy that has worked with a hundred other systems but is not tied to any of them or their vendors. Open, honest and transparent relationships need to underpin the implementation and optimization of ITSM software, even when it has lain unused.

Vendor-independence improves the quality of training

Training is another area where independence counts. All too frequently training in new software is conducted cursorily and very ineffectively and is restricted by the implementer’s links to a specific vendor. In any implementation it is important to ensure everyone from the service desk upwards gains not just the necessary detail and understanding of specific solutions, but a broader appreciation of how to optimize different systems and ensure they integrate effectively. This is also where experience counts, predicting where common snags occur and how they can be prevented, regardless of which vendor is supplying the software. An organization reduces its chances of obtaining the results it wants from new ITSM solutions if IT employees have not been fully trained in the right tools and disciplines.

The pressures of remote working and the value of independent ITSM expertise

In the current climate, the major shift to remote working, requiring more systems and more management, gives huge urgency to maximizing the benefits of ITSM investments. IT departments are preoccupied with ensuring hundreds or thousands of employees can fully utilize their devices and gain access to critical systems remotely. But if they want to implement unused software they already have, it may be time to acknowledge that independent implementers with the right track record are more likely to achieve results than an in-house team preoccupied with daily challenges.

A deeper knowledge of the ITSM market and broader experience pays dividends. It brings a specialist understanding of which version of a solution is most suitable and how it can be integrated to maximize its impact. Independent consultancies, being free of vendor ties, are bound to have a better understanding of which solutions are most compatible and where the pitfalls lie.

Vendor-independence should start during the procurement process

More fundamentally, if organizations engage external expertise at the outset of procurement processes, they are less likely to end up with ITSM software that is either unsuitable, difficult to integrate or frankly, not needed. Many problems arise through excessive reliance on a vendor’s partners, whose expertise may chiefly lie in selling licenses and charging for implementation services. These are often the business cases that turn out to be built out of fresh air, which only adds to the sense of frustration when an IT department is under pressure, as is likely now.

Vendor-independent implementers, by contrast, are not usually in the business of selling licenses and have no incentive to maximize sales. Their objectivity and expertise means they are the most certain route to obtaining software that actually fits the organization’s requirements – and to getting it implemented. With no targets to hit set by any particular vendor, and not seeking to recoup margin through heavy implementation fees, independent implementers offer the right level of knowledge, experience and transparency.

With so much emphasis now on doing more for less, enterprises should be looking very hard at the solutions they have already invested in but which are under-utilized or unimplemented. Then they need to engage independent implementers to future-proof their entire IT service management without expensive and drawn-out customization or buying yet more software. This is the most direct and safest route to ITSM sustainability and maximum ROI.

Murray Sherwood, Executive Chairman, Xcession

Murray Sherwood, Executive Chairman, Xcession.