Why are so few Service Desk Agents Involved in the ITSM Technology Selection Process?

If you were buying a new, or used, car would you not want the person driving it to be involved in its purchase? Hopefully, you said “yes.” Well, what about the purchase of, or investment in, a new IT service desk or IT service management (ITSM) tool? And not just involved in the early thinking, with questions such as:

  • Do we need a new ITSM tool?
  • What are we trying to accomplish in terms of process or service improvement?
  • What are the key “must-haves” versus the “nice-to-haves”?

But what about the involvement of service desk agents in the consideration of alternatives during tool selection and maybe even in the purchasing decision?

Common sense doesn’t mean things are commonly done

Jumping back to the car-buying analogy, common sense says that the person driving the car is one of the most important involved parties (in addition to the person paying for it). They will be the one using it on a daily basis for whatever their needs dictate and thus they will hopefully know best as to what they need in terms of capabilities and non-functional things such as ease of driving.

The same is true for service desk or ITSM tool selection – surely service desk agents and other users, such as Level 2 support or change managers, need to be involved from the outset until at least the point of selection? How else can the organization ensure that the chosen technology solution meets day-to-day operational needs in addition to those of the budget holder, management information recipients, and the ITSM fashionistas who merely want what the industry hype machine is currently glorifying.

sysadman-statute-of-libertySource: The Sysadman Diaries

Well, you would have thought so but HDI – a professional association for the technical support industry – survey data says otherwise.

And the survey says…

The 2015 HDI Support Center Practices & Salary Report analyzed the positions involved in selecting new technology for the support center. The results show some interesting things (see the table below), including that:

  • 19% of respondents stated that support staff are not involved at all in new tool selection, not even in an advisory or influencing capacity
  • Just over half (55%) of respondents stated that support staff are involved in an advisory or influencing capacity
  • Only one in three respondents (33%) stated that support staff are involved in the selection process
  • Only 7% of respondents stated that support staff are involved in the purchasing decision

Service desk agent involvement in ITSM tool selection process

Source: HDI, 2015 Support Center Practices & Salary Report (Q4, 2015)

So much for the applicability of my car-buying analogy to the real-world service desk and ITSM tool selection then.

So why is this the case?

One can only speculate as to why support staff have so little involvement in selecting the tools they use. For instance, possible excuses – sorry, reasons – could include:

  • “Whichever ITSM tool we buy, our service desk agents will be able to adjust to it.”
  • “The ITSM tools market is commoditized so we just wanted the most ‘bells and whistles’ for the least amount of money. User involvement is therefore not necessary.”
  • “The ITSM technology was chosen as a business-wide platform for enterprise service management, so we needed a proven enterprise product not what groups of service desk agents or HR advisors need.”
  • “What do service desk agents know about selecting ITSM tools?”
  • “Service desk agents are happy for the decision to be made on their behalf … as long as we end up with a better tool than we currently have.”

Some of these might be a little tongue-in-cheek but how else do we explain the HDI stats?

Is the proof in the proverbial pudding?

How good are service desk and ITSM technology purchasing decisions without user involvement?

Well, if you look at the ITSM tool churn rates bandied about the industry, companies still seem to be replacing their tool every 3-5 years; with this timeframe shortening due to the ease of moving to (or between) software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions.

Another angle to take is to look at the satisfaction levels with service desk and ITSM tools. According to the SITS Industry Survey 2016, 31% of IT departments aren’t really happy with their service desk provisions.  Which is also in line with the Forrester March 2014 report “The State and Direction Of Service Management: Progression, Deceleration, Or Stagnation?” The dissatisfaction with major vendor ITSM tools was 34% and 37% with smaller vendor tools. With this circa one-third of survey respondents level maintained across the previous two years.

So support staff have little involvement in ITSM tool selection and people are dissatisfied with the tools selected. Now there might not be a connection between these two statements but surely it’s worth attempting to see if greater support staff involvement will increase the odds of ITSM tool selection success?