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Opt for independent partners to optimise ITSM implementation

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/TechnoVectors)

In nearly every sector, enterprises find the very substantial IT efficiency gains expected from their new IT service management software (ITSM) fail to materialize because of costly or ineffectual implementation.

This is regrettable because properly implemented ITSM solutions are critical to the future of almost all large organizations. This is why, despite the pandemic, research and advisory company Technavio says growth in the ITSM market will be nearly eight percent this year (2020), increasing to nine percent overall up to 2024.

The deployment of ITSM should transform IT every minute of the day, reducing the huge amount of time spent on routine processes, eliminating a layer of costs and providing a faster, more resilient, productive environment. Unfortunately, many enterprises find themselves hit from two sides once they have selected their software and signed off a carefully constructed business case. On the one hand they pay for unnecessary licenses and on the other, they have to foot the bill for excessively costly implementation services, which do not address their precise requirements and fail to deliver the gains promised.

The drawbacks of vendor-specific official partners

The reasons for this, frequently lie in the choice of implementer, which in many cases will either be the software vendor itself, or far more likely, one of its implementation partners. Unfortunately, this is a set-up that tends to undermine the interests of the customer.

The software vendor may well make a persuasive case for customers to use one of its authorized partners, extolling their expertise. Yet heavy pressure on margins from the vendor incentivizes the partner to sell as many licenses as possible or to maximize fees by other means, often by prolonging implementation. The result is a relationship in which the implementer seeks to exploit its partner status in order to maximize its own advantage, rather than provide the best outcome for its customer.

This is not to underplay the importance of expertise in a vendor’s products. Expertise is always necessary for any implementation to be successful and organizations with the requisite specialist skills should be remunerated accordingly. Being a Gold or Platinum partner of a vendor, however, is more often than not a badge of sales-excellence rather than product or industry expertise.

We cannot overlook that ITSM software, though highly beneficial, is potentially very costly, with long commitments of at least four or five years and implementation periods of 12 months in some cases. For sales people the rewards can be substantial, with licenses based on users, servers, or the number of automations. Getting the balance right between the various types of license can have a major impact on cost. It is not unknown for post-implementation “true-ups” to reveal an organization has been using far more licenses than originally scoped, a situation to the financial benefit of the implementer.

Engage an independent implementation partner focused on outcomes, not license sales

Any organization facing this set of challenges needs to work out how it can get the value out of its ITSM investment faster. It needs a partner that is customer-focused rather than vendor-focused, and preferably not trying to sell licenses.

Independence in ITSM implementation has long been underestimated. Having access to truly objective but expert recommendations provides a far better outcome, drawing on the best solutions for each task, irrespective of vendor or number of licenses sold.

If you are a customer relying on a vendor’s official partner for implementation is unlikely you will be presented with the full range of solutions on the market. While, for example, the vendor may have a very good ITSM platform, if there is a reporting tool from another vendor that fits the specific requirements of the project perfectly, you are unlikely to hear about it.

This is important for complex enterprises, as multi-vendor ITSM solutions are frequently required as part of a best-of-breed approach. Multiple orchestration or automation tools may be required, plugging into supplier systems, which requires deep market knowledge and complete objectivity to be effective. In any case, many existing infrastructures already have multiple management systems, with the main ITSM software from one vendor, but the most suitable reporting or analysis tool from another. 

Achieving the best outcome when multiple solutions are required is difficult when implementation is undertaken by a partner tied to a specific vendor. Vendors or implementers are ready with answers that tick boxes in RFQs but which are not necessarily the right solution. Enterprises may at best end up with a workable solution, not the optimum solution. When value-realization begins, the process proves to be far more difficult than customers ever imagined. In fact, the pressure to sell software often results in organizations having solutions that are either never fully implemented or remain under-used or incompatible.

Indeed, relationships between vendors and partners, being strictly commercial, are sometimes more combative than appears – to the disadvantage of the customer. There is often friction not just over sales, but about the scope of a project too. There is frequently no roadmap detailing how to extract best value from the new software over time. As organizations’ needs change, software and its licenses should be tailored to what they require, rather than continuing as before to optimize partners’ fees.

Independent implementers, by contrast, will understand an enterprise’s existing or newly-acquired software tools and be ready to use them in a more integrated manner, delivering the outcome required without having to spend money on more licenses.

And as they go about their work, a form of knowledge-transfer takes place. Customers understand more about what they need and have greater insight into what the market offers, ensuring they have not just the best solution for their needs, but also the most suitable version.

Breadth of solution knowledge and experience is a great advantage

Enterprises can avoid most of these costly and damaging ITSM pitfalls if they are prepared to step outside the vendor-official partner relationship and opt for an independent implementer. An implementer not tied to any vendor but with the necessary breadth of software knowledge and implementation experience to focus on the customer’s own requirements and business aims. An independent implementation partner that is not selling licenses to claw back lost margin.

Breadth of software knowledge and genuine agnosticism bring real benefits for enterprises in ITSM implementation. If they want to avoid being stung by a double or triple-whammy of high implementation costs, unnecessary licenses and misconceived or poorly-functioning ITSM solutions, they should think hard before opting for an official vendor-partner. Opting instead for independence has become the most certain way for enterprises to benefit from ITSM projects, delivering expertise that focuses on their needs and provides them with the optimum set of solutions.

Mark Twomey, CEO, Xcession