Delivering IT services without

It’s never easy choosing the best tools to support your organization’s IT service management (ITSM) strategy. The same aches and pains are met by most IT departments during the decision-making process, not the least of which is making the mistake of sticking with an existing tool simply because it’s comfy.

ITIL V3 chief architect Sharon Taylor calls this common error “grandma’s quilt” when organizations make the fateful decision to continue using a product because they’ve got so used to the functionality.

“We tend to find comfort in things that are familiar to us and often tools that we’ve used for a very long time give us a sense of comfort,” said Taylor during a recent Webcast about how not to choose tools for your ISTM strategy.

Organizations later “realize these older tools are often full of holes,” added Taylor.

Another reason for wanting to stick to familiar tools is a reluctance to throw away the investment made in legacy systems over the years. Taylor calls this “innovation past its time” when the tools are no longer serving their purpose yet they don’t get replaced.Nominate someone you work with for a ComputerWorld Canada IT Leadership Award

And neither is it a good idea to salvage legacy systems by customizing them to force them to fit current business needs because that just costs more over time, said Taylor.

Here are some tips organizations can follow to acquiring tools for their ITSM strategies, according to Taylor:

1.Identify successful processes in the business and create “outcome statements” that will help define the delivery model for acquiring ITSM tools. For instance, an outcome statement would be: We need to trend incident patterns by using a common classification system.

2.Ask the business for their desired quality of IT service because often they have a much better view of quality of service than IT people do. “There are strategic implications in the tools we select and the functionality that they have,” said Taylor.

3.Differentiate between mandatory and desirable functionality by walking through established processes and identifying a list of tool functions that can support different steps. Also, identify points of integration that additional tool functionality can help.

4.Build a requirements list of functions and classify by priority. Also, classify them by processes to ensure that all areas are covered by the tools. But don’t forget about performance of the tools, said Taylor, because a tool bursting with functionality is useless if it doesn’t perform to your standards. “You have to consider both,” she said.

5.Take your time buying a tool. While the push for a tool is often driven by some catastrophic event, Taylor said acquiring a new tool with little regard for how it fits in the broader environment is a waste of time and money. “Those are fairly painful experiences that often put pressure on organizations to jump into the market,” she said.

6.Allow yourself the flexibility to fit the tool into your processes, not the other way around. It can be tempting to grab one of many available out-of-the-box products and forcing your processes to fit around them, said Taylor. “There’s a bit of a dance and a balance involved in that, but try not to go far off to the other side … (by) changing your way of working dramatically,” she said.

Taking the right approach to ensuring the best tools support an ITSM strategy will pay off as IT departments will be able to demonstrate the success of delivering IT services. Evelyn Hubbert, a senior analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based  Forrester Research Inc., said that with the popularity of cloud and software-as-a-service, IT departments are competing against external providers.

IT organizations “are being asked to do the impossible, be more efficient and effective with less money and add additional technologies to reduce cost even more,” said Hubbert.

The IT departments’ “need to establish order” is being addressed today by ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library), which provides direction and proven processes “in such a way to take the guess work out and to become a functioning group,” said Hubbert.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau
–with files from Patrick Thibodeau of ComputerWorld U.S.

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