Choosing an ITSM Tool for the Future

ITSM tool selection is a difficult undertaking, given the wide variety in platform design and features. Success in selecting the right one often boils down to having a good understanding of what the organization wants to achieve in support delivery, ensuring that cost and function can be properly balanced.  

Balance is key in selecting an ITSM tool. Many small organizations will find themselves priced out of the market when considering the larger tools. They need to consider the style of support they will provide and whether some of the more extensive features will enable them to scale support more cost-effectively, making them worth the added investment.

For larger organizations, there’s a similar analysis: licensing costs go up with size and the more robust SaaS tools may be more expensive due to that size. At the same time, they may benefit more from these extended features by being able to stabilize staff even when volume increases through the automation that these tools provide.

Regardless of size and cost, there’s one commonality: every support organization is working to do more with less and every support organization needs to provide the level of service their customers provide. With this in mind, there are three basic steps to selecting the right ITSM tool for the organization.

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 Step 1: Understand Your Vision

Vision plays a key role in the design of a support organization. Depending on the size of the organization, this vision can vary widely. In large organizations, the vision of providing a modern service delivery experience will drive a high degree of automation, the convenience offered through walk-up support options and a distributed support model for desk-side support, with a centralized service desk experience. Consistency across teams and locations is critical to maintaining satisfaction and self-service will be highly integrated into the overarching support design.

A smaller organization may value relationship and white-glove service over automation. This will require a different set of features, designed to help level 1 support personnel know the role of their customer and that customer’s expectations.

Therefore, step 1 is to understand that vision so a proper support organization can be designed to achieve it. To accomplish this, it’s important to gather the right stakeholders and determine their needs. This can be done through digital design strategies like persona mapping and interviews or via focus groups:

  • Digital design: Personas represent key roles in the organization, their technology profiles, needs and services they consume.  Once each role is defined, personnel are selected for interviews. These interviews are then conducted to dive into the specifics of these areas, including asking detailed questions about the support expectations of the customer. These are then applied to the final design.
  • Focus groups: With focus groups, personas may still be identified, but group interviews are utilized rather than individual sessions. Additionally, it’s possible to mix personas within a focus group, bringing a variety of opinions into a single discussion.

Once customer expectations are understood, key support personnel can be gathered to review the feedback and establish the vision for support: the design of the service desk organization, services available to end-users, and how they will be provided/fulfilled.

Step 2: Determine Your Services and How They Will be Provided

Once the support provider understands the needs and service expectations of their customers, there is a wide variety of considerations to address:

  • Methods/channels for engagement
  • Use of Self-Service
  • Service Level Agreements

Customer satisfaction should be considered every step of the way. One of the key customer service metrics is “ease of engagement.” Matching the channels available for support engagement to the customer’s recommended or requested channels is a good way to ensure success in attaining target levels for this metric, but only if each one can be delivered well. Engagement methods to consider:

  • Self-service/service catalog
  • Chat: achieved via chat-bot or live technician chat
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Swarming/social
  • Walk-up

Many support organizations are growing out of the phone and e-mail world to embrace these newer engagement methods but adding them requires ITSM tool features that support them. While there are many products available, the most effective solution is to have them embedded in the service management platform, rather than trying to integrate other solutions into the platform. Consider Microsoft Teams: while it provides solutions for swarming/social media style questions/answers, and Instant Messaging, what happens when a ticket needs to be opened? Either integration is needed, or the ticket is created manually, with an agent copying and pasting data from Teams into the service management platform. Now imagine trying to integrate a chat-bot to teams and pass the interaction to an agent using the IM feature seamlessly. The level of complexity may not be worth trying to cobble together a solution vs. purchasing a service management tool that provides all of this in a fully integrated design.

Thus, the channels required in the future state organization become a feature set to be considered in the ITSM tool selection process.

Walk-up centers and vending machines offer similar decision-points. It’s possible to manage a walk-up center using a ticketing system and a calendar. This will work in many organizations, but if the effort includes setting up multiple walk-up centers, then queue management features, ability to log a ticket as part of the reservation and follow it to completion as well as managing parts inventories across locations all become features needed to operate successfully. Adding accessory vending machines adds to the complexity, and many offer integrations to service catalog and asset management features in service management tools to make it easy to manage the logistics of operating these support options. 

The self-service channel needs will also drive decisions around features and functionality, considering the ability to leverage a robust service portal that offers organizational information, knowledge, and alerts about known system outages and issues, along with the ability to log incidents and requests for goods and services. 

Finally, while most ITSM tools offer the ability to manage SLAs, it’s worth looking at the tool’s ability to manage SLAs across multiple providers and time-zones, as well as the ability to pause an SLA when a customer is out of the office or needs to provide something in order to move their service request to the next step.

Step 3: Determine ITSM Tool Features and Select the Right Tool

Once the support services and how they will be delivered has been established, these should be documented as product features needed or business requirements. Most vendors are happy to respond to a request for information (RFI), so a listing of these features/business requirements can be developed into a formal request for information. This should include not only the product features and licensing needs but also implementation services as a separate line item. While many organizations will simply go to a request for proposal (RFP), the RFI step is a good way to find out the right questions, sections to include in the RFP and questions to add that might help distinguish ITSM tools from one another, all with no commitment to a vendor.

Knowing that vendors will come back with a variety of solutions, the organization needs a way to compare “apples to apples” so to speak. The MoSCoW (Must have, Should have, Could have, Won’t have) principle. Identifying features needed according to these categories and assigning values that can be used to score each ITSM tool and compare them. During the final selection, the “must have” category should bear the most weight.

Once the RFI responses are in, ITSM tools and vendors can be scored and the organization can begin to weigh the cost vs. functionality questions, limiting the field to 3-5 vendors to invite back for the RFP. Final selection will ultimately depend on finding the tool that provides a tolerable balance between cost and feature and identifying the best vendor to work with for implementation.

This is not an easy task but having a solid list of requirements before starting the process will make it easier. Basing these requirements on a future state vision also makes it easier to select an ITSM tool that will grow with the organization over time.

Blog cover by Kalaimaran Jeyagandhi