There are not many IT organizations out there that are not using process support software, I am thinking about their delivery processes, such as the support and transition of IS/IT services. In some cases, it might be pure ticketing software to support the management of support and requests (ITIL, Incident management and request fulfillment) and in other organizations also managing changes, releases, configuration and user self-help. There are a huge number of different tools and many different aspects to consider when you are upgrading your tool.
The most important thing is to consider BOTH what you need tomorrow and what you actually need already today, we tend to forget the bread and butter.
This subject is enormous and there are many things to consider and equally a large number of aspect that depends on the unique set of conditions and the context for your organization. However, there are a number of key considerations that I believe will help you navigate in the software toolset jungle. Being a very pragmatic person, I always try to narrow down the quantity of information and work I really have to do, calibrating my efforts, and the purpose with these five points of attention is exactly that, to help you calibrate your efforts when getting a new software toolset.
- Tool flexibility & cost: Migrating to a better tool enables you to mature and grow with your ITIL-based processes. Most tools out there are modularized which means that you can start with the support module, configure the tool for that but also for the future and pay-as-you-go for the other modules. Most tools are very capable but might be more or less heavy to implement due to the “future proofing” part that requires more configuration and preparation even though you start with the base module. Some of the bigger toolsets even have defined entry points to really slice the elephant for the customers, to minimize the effort without losing the option to scale up. Of course, the big, cool, super capable solutions comes with a corresponding price, you get what you pay for of course but it always depends on how much you are willing to pay. Said that, the cheap solutions always have low CAPEX (once-off invest) but high OPEX (op cost) and usually brings other costs. I never recommend the cheapest solution unless it also scores great on the other evaluation criteria I use (which so far never happened… hehe). You really need to have a set of evaluation criteria and make sure to involve your purchasing early to avoid being forced to buy the cheapest solution anyway (this dynamic is the subject for a very long discussion… hehe, but not this time).
- Your organizational and technical preconditions: Factors such as where and how the IT organization is localized, for example concentrated to a central location or distributed, perhaps even with people working from the comfort of their homes. It is also very relevant to be certain about the quality of your Internet connection; it of course needs to be good and stable. These things will help you evaluate what kind of technical solution will work for your organization, for example if its viable with a SAAS solution, these are growing in popularity and are great to maintain the IS/IT tech footprint limited. How you are organized and the robustness of your connectivity are two important factors to consider. You do not want to add the dynamics of having an unpredictable process support toolset, our world is enough complicated already.
- Process integration: The tool should allow you to link an Incident record to a problem record, or perhaps to a knowledge article or RFC. I just love how tools can help you see chains/sequences, and be able to track everything back to a single event, for example incident. It really empowers your CSI-work and boosts your performance. For example linking Incidents to Known errors, workarounds and making incidents searchable, even linked to knowledge articles, will greatly reduce your FCR, also the MTTR, and other KPIs for the service desk.
- Customer Interface: It is very valuable to downsize the SPOC phone line and automate Incident- and Request recording to a portal. This includes enabling the user to track progress, will support the request approval flow in request models. I particularly like the tools that let you create the external service catalogue in a customer portal, including the actual creation of incidents and requests with the categorization based on the service catalogue. In general, it is always worth the extra work (and cost) to make an effort in the actual customer/client interface, not only related to the actual recording (save staff costs in 1st line) but mostly in terms of automation and client satisfaction levels.
- System integration: Most IT organizations I´ve worked with have many suppliers and even own staff in different networks/physical locations. This demands a toolset that sends/receives records in general formats in order to work with other systems (you can be sure only about 15-20% of your suppliers will ever be as close or as good as to work in your system, we all have our own systems right). Not a big thing many people think, just consider your supplier situation, how many different systems are we talking about and how often does one Incident become 2, 3 or even 4 actual tickets due to lack of integration. This creates manual routines of reminders/calls/arguments etc for tickets “leaving” your system.
Besides these five aspects, there is of course plenty of other considerations such as scalability, performance, license model, company RD budget, reference implementation, updates/year and a lot more. Creating evaluation criteria for the things that really matters are time well-spent and, again, to be blinded by all the new, shiny and cool things you can do, these are indeed important but your first priority should always be to have a toolset that supports your current needs, without limiting your options for the future. Most tools out there are great, filled with smart things that increases productivity, makes you more proactive and make things more predictable.
My last five cents; those of you that didn’t read my “A fool with a tool…” post, you always have to bear in mind that a toolset is an extension of what you already know, it will not magically make you run like the wind if you are still crawling on the floor. However, there is no option to use or not use a toolset; it is just a question of timing and always putting the process first. Good luck and good speed!