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Implementing ITSM tools White Paper

White Paper

Implementing ITSM tools White Paper

White Paper

  • White Paper
  • IT Services
  • Service management
  • ITIL

Author  Sally Bogg

February 27, 2019 |

 10 min read

  • White Paper
  • IT Services
  • Service management
  • ITIL

A well-implemented IT service management tool can deliver significant benefits to any IT organization. It can automate business processes, provide management information for data driven decision-making, improve customer experience, and reduce the burden on your teams. And yet, despite these potential benefits, many businesses are unhappy with their ITSM solution.

This white paper outlines how a different approach to the development and implementation of ITSM solutions can help organizations achieve their desired business outcomes.

Implementing ITSM tools templates

The following templates are related to this paper and will assist you with the implementation of ITSM tools for your organization and ITSM projects.

Change Champions test crib sheet

ITSM Tool Implementation Comms plan

ITSM Tool Implementation briefing

ITSM Tool Implementation Test Plan

Operational Support Model template

Implementing ITSM Tools templates

Download the complete set of templates (zip, 161KB)

The issue

During my 12 years in ITSM, I have experienced a range of IT service management (ITSM) products and been through a replacement cycle twice. I am fortunate to have a wide network of colleagues and friends within the ITSM and service desk community through my work with UCISA and the SDI. From the many conversations I have had, I came to the realization that most of us are unhappy with our IT service management tools. Why might this be?

My initial thought was that many of these products come with a high price tag, leading to unrealistic expectations of what they might deliver. I then thought maybe it was because we often find them difficult to configure and customize, meaning we struggle to make them work for us. On the other hand, maybe we are unable to get the vendors and suppliers to provide us with what we actually want. These are all valid reasons but, as customers, we are too quick to lay the blame on the product and the supplier. Is your ITSM tool performing poorly because it is lacking in the usability and features you require, or is it because it has been poorly implemented? Perhaps it is time for some internal reflection, asking direct questions that require direct and honest answers.

The benefits of an effectively implemented ITSM tool should not be underestimated. An ITSM tool can save time and money by automating business processes, providing management and performance information to support effective decision-making, and delivering improved customer communications. Moreover, self- help and self-service can improve the user experience and reduce the burden on the service desk. By using an ITSM tool to integrate your ITSM processes, you can deliver a consistent service which provides a single entry point to IT for your customers. An ITSM tool can make or break an IT service. If you are not happy with your ITSM solution, then maybe it is time to do something about it. We need to take ownership of its implementation and development. We are failing to fully leverage the significant investment made in these products and this cannot be laid solely on our vendors.

Unrealistic expectations and a different approach

A tool is merely that: a tool. It is not a silver bullet that will cure all ills. A tool alone cannot change embedded behaviour or culture, cannot fix broken support processes, nor solve knowledge and data issues, despite what some vendors may tell you. Although it can address some of these issues, there is not a single solution for cultural change. An ITSM tool is an enabler of a service, not the deliverable.

However, it is much easier to implement a tool than it is to get people moving in the same direction. Team or organizational alignment cannot be achieved by accident. It is an intentional act which requires attention over time; it can be difficult, which is why it is often ignored. An initiative that attempts to enforce a change in culture using nothing but an ITSM tool project is doomed to failure. Focus must be given to the people element in order to create a service-orientated culture, challenging and time consuming though that may be.

According to an article by Stephen Mann1, organizations switch ITSM suppliers every three to six years. They buy a new tool, go through the pain of implementation, then invest little in development. A year or two down the line, they are frustrated that the new tool has failed to meet their needs. What do they do next? They buy a new tool. This expensive, unproductive cycle needs to be broken.

It is not the tool that is wrong, it is the implementation! The ITSM tool is an enabler, which can be used to deliver business outcomes. Nevertheless, an ITSM tool implementation is more than just buying and implementing software; it needs to be about business change.

My recommendation is to rip up the ITSM tool implementation project and focus on benefits and outcomes, instead. What do you want from a new ITSM tool? What are you hoping to achieve? By focusing on the business drivers and managing the implementation as a business change project, you can articulate your requirements and define the scope for the project. Honest conversations are required and, although one of the potential outcomes might be that your organization really does need a different ITSM solution, it is almost certain that you will uncover requirements that incorporate all of the four dimensions of Service Management. You will need to change more than just the tool!


Processes and value stream

It is important to understand your current processes and/or develop new processes before you select an ITSM tool. Think beyond standard ITSM practices such as incident, problem and change, and consider what your business processes and value streams are and how an ITSM tool could support them.

I appreciate that starting with processes rather than technology is not very IT. However, although you may want to get your hands on the system as soon as possible, it is important to understand the business processes the ITSM tool needs to work with. We want to avoid a scenario where the tool dictates the process and, as a consequence, behaviour, rather than the other way around.

Start by mapping your processes and value streams. Where possible, identify the activities and tasks that can be automated, for example password resets. I would advise bringing together the people who are involved in service delivery to ensure every area of the service value chain is represented. These are the people who understand how the organization works and where the bottlenecks might be.

It is a good idea to map the user journey, as this will help you locate the user touchpoints and see the service from the user’s viewpoint. Keeping the user in mind will result in a better experience, which will make it more likely that the tool will be adopted and engaged with, and this will ensure a better return on investment.

There is a wide range of tools and techniques that can be used to aid the development and improvement of processes and value streams. I have successfully used the following: process mapping and flowcharts; stakeholder analysis; user journey mapping; and SWOT analysis. These techniques provide a visual aid which represent the complete journey, enabling you to identify areas that are suitable for streamlining and automation. You do not need to be an expert to use them and a couple of hours of research will allow you to utilize them effectively.

Many ITSM tools fail because of poor processes or lack of process development. As dull as it might be, starting with the process first is the best way; preparation saves times and money and ensures a better value implementation.

Information and technology

Before focusing on technical solutions, take time to understand your data and knowledge requirements, and think about what reporting you would like. I recommend a three-tier approach:

  • Speak to your senior/executive management team. What management information do they need?
  • Speak to your middle and operational managers. What are their requirements for ITSM reporting?
  • Speak to your doers, the ones directly involved in the delivery of the service. What data and information might they need?

ITSM reporting needs to provide management information on operational and strategic results to support effective decision-making. The provision of high quality ITSM reports is crucial to the success of the ITSM strategy and is one of the primary benefits of investing in these products. However, this takes time and effort at the start of the initiative. Trying to retrofit reporting after implementation can be a costly, time- consuming mistake that may require a complete redesign.

Only when you understand your requirements for process automation and information management, will you be ready to assess the solutions available.

Before purchasing an ITSM tool, it is important to understand what it can and cannot do, and to understand the difference between customization and configuration. Configuration is usually done through a GUI, whereas customization will typically require code development. Although many ITSM tools provide functionality out of the box, the out of the box configuration is unlikely to meet your requirements. It invariably needs to be customized and configured to ensure the product meets the specific needs of the organization. It is important to understand what can be configured and what needs to be customized, and how much time and effort will be required for each. For example, there is no point selecting a tool that requires heavy customization if you do not have dedicated development resource.

I firmly believe that dissatisfaction with an ITSM tool can be directly linked to a lack of development. Some organizations have dedicated development resources, however many do not. In 2017, the SDI, UCISA and Freshdesk undertook a survey to look at the trends and challenges for ITSM tools in the HE sector.

Shockingly, the survey found over a quarter of organizations have no in-house development for their ITSM support tool, with 34% dedicating between 0.1 and 0.9 full time employees to development. It was also interesting to note that nearly half the respondents stated that they were spending under 20 days each year developing their tool, with 16% spending less than one day a year.

Lack of budget and resources will limit your ability to invest in your ITSM tool to ensure it meets business expectations. This will often lead to dissatisfaction and a lack of engagement. When estimating the cost of your ITSM tool, it is important to factor in time, budget and resources for future development, either in-house or via a supplier or a consultancy. It will be difficult to persuade the business to allocate funding for development after the initial implementation, which will limit your ability to continually improve the service to meet changing business needs.

It is important to remember that the initial ITSM tool implementation is the beginning of the journey and not the end. Plan for continual service improvement. Give the day-to-day users of the tool the opportunity to contribute to its future direction by encouraging them to put forward suggestions for improvement and enabling them to prioritize development activities. This will help build commitment and buy-in; ITSM tools are often seen as the sole preserve of the service desk or ITSM, so there is an opportunity to give users a sense of ownership and empowerment by encouraging them to contribute to its development. They are much less likely to complain about a tool if they have been involved in its development.

It is essential that you look ahead and maintain momentum. If you allow your ITSM tool to stand still for too long, people will assume that they are stuck with what they have. Implementing a continual service improvement roadmap for your ITSM tool means development activities can be recorded, developed, prioritized and implemented. This will help ensure effective adoption and engagement.

At the same time, remember that significant customization of a complex tool is likely to limit your ability to use updates and new releases provided by the vendor. Many organizations have found themselves stuck with a heavily customized older versions of ITSM tools, unable to use the benefits of newer versions. You may have seen this with complex business systems, or even with your own ITSM tool. It is important to find a balance between customization and configuration. ITSM tools vendors nowadays adopt fast development techniques, trying to deliver improvements demanded by their clients in acceptable times, so the need for customization may decrease if your tool vendor is responsive and willing to adapt their solutions to your needs. This flexibility is typical for cloud-based tools, compensating for their restricted availability for customization.

Suppliers and partners

There are many surveys that show we are frustrated with the support we receive from the suppliers of our ITSM tools, but can this be laid solely at the suppliers’ door? I believe that many of us fail to take the time to create strong relationships with our vendors and, as a consequence, fail to leverage the value and investment in these products.

It is time for a new approach. In order to get the most from our ITSM solution, we need to work with our vendors and suppliers to build strategic relationships. Good supplier relationships, with open and effective communication channels, will reduce the impact of issues and ensure problems are resolved swiftly. These relationships do not just happen. We need to think beyond the transactional element of purchasing agreements, contract management and service level agreements. The relationship needs to be two way, requiring both parties to recognize and understand each other’s business drivers.

Do you attend user group meetings and conferences? Do you hold regular service reviews with your ITSM tool supplier? Are you talking to them about your experiences, frustrations and challenges when using the product? Are you asking them for new developments? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then is it any wonder that you are not getting the most from your ITSM Tool? It is in the best interest of the supplier that you are successful and, in my experience, the vendor will be willing to work with you to help you make the most of your solution. This can range from putting you in touch with other customers who have overcome similar challenges, to sharing their experiences of what has and has not worked in other organizations. However, to put it bluntly, if you do not ask, you do not get.

If you are looking for a new product, do your research. Look beyond the Gartner magic quadrant, which focuses on functionality, and find out what other vendors have to offer in terms of relationship management. Ask for reference sites, as these can be useful for insight into a supplier’s approach to relationship management.

A word of caution here, though: it is highly likely that your vendor will put forward their happiest and most successful customer, so their testimony will not give you the full story. It is worth looking at product reviews online to see what end users are saying. Again, a reminder that not everything you read will be 100% accurate but it can be useful to gain an understanding of the perception users have of an ITSM tool. This relates to the need to ensure that you fully understand your requirements for ITSM tool delivery methods. It is no use selecting a vendor that has a roadmap for SaaS/public cloud delivery models if that is not going to align to your organization’s IT strategy. Make sure the roadmap of potential vendors align to your future goals.

Many ITSM tools differ in look and feel, but are similar in functionality and features, yet visual appearance is typically where we focus our attention when selecting a new tool. My advice is to look beyond appearances. Focus on finding a vendor that engages you, a vendor you want to work with to build and develop a long- term strategic partnership.

Organization and people

Success is usually about people, not things, and yet many ITSM tool implementations fail to deliver return on investment because they fail to get the right people on-board. The majority of ITSM strategies and implementations are about driving cultural change. They are likely to require change to working practices and procedures; where there is change there is resistance.

An ITSM initiative requires more than just kick-off and project meetings. It is easier to gain feedback, both negative and positive, when the right people are involved at the right time. The negative feedback can be used to address areas of resistance, and the positive feedback can be used to drive forward momentum, which will help embed the change. A good communication plan will help you get the right message to the right people, by using the most effective delivery model. This will ensure that all stakeholders understand the timeline, the benefits and the deliverables, and more importantly, they will understand what the change means to them. It helps to run drop-in or open-door sessions throughout the initial phases of the implementation to allow people the opportunity to raise questions or concerns in an informal way. Focusing on communication in this way will help increase user adoption and engagement.

I would also recommend identifying suitable people across the IT department who can act as early adopters and change champions. On a practical level, the change champions can be used to support and facilitate evaluation and testing, and disseminate project information, as well as supporting and advocating for the benefits of the new tool. They can feed back the concerns of the team and act as a temperature gauge for positive and negative feeling about the new tool, which will ensure you are one step ahead. You can also draw on their previous experience, which can help the implementation run as smoothly as possible.

Investing in training will lead to the ITSM tool being used cohesively and consistently and is a frequently overlooked element. I recommend providing process training, as well as system training. It is better for users to understand why a particular field is required, or why there are notifications, rather than merely directing them to press particular buttons at particular times. Training should not be treated as a one-off activity, either. It is important to provide regular refresher sessions, as well as delivering additional training in support of major changes and developments. I have never heard anyone complain about too much training for ITSM tools.

An effective self-service portal will empower your users, providing them with information and control 24 hours a day, 365 days a week and reducing the burden on the IT service desk. If you are using a self- service portal, it is essential that you seek feedback from the end users. Most people are familiar with using technology in their personal lives and will expect the same seamless experience, functionality and capabilities when using a self-service portal. Find out what they want from a self-service portal, what information they want to access, what notifications they wish to receive and, ultimately, let them know how the product can increase their productivity. Use the feedback to tailor the solution to their needs. Far too often, we give the users what we think they want, and not what they actually need.


A well implemented IT service management tool can delivery significant benefits to any IT organization. It can automate business processes, provide management information for data driven decision-making, improve customer experience, and reduce the burden on your teams. And yet, despite these potential benefits, many of us are unhappy with our ITSM solution. We believe they are expensive, hard to support and difficult to customize and configure, and therefore we struggle to justify the return on investment.

It is my belief that, as customers, we are too quick to lay the blame on the product and the supplier. What is actually needed is a different approach to the implementation and development of ITSM solutions. We need to rip up the standard ITSM project and rethink our approach. Focusing on all four dimensions of service management and following the ITIL guiding principles should help us gain a better understanding of the business change we are trying to affect and should ensure that we understand all aspects that need to be addressed to ensure we achieve our desired business outcome. For example, by replacing ‘implement a new ITSM tool’ with ‘increase the efficiency and effectiveness of IT support’ as the project goal will keep the focus on the business outcome.

Here is a summary of the areas to focus on:

  • Processes and value streams. ITSM tool adoptions often fail because of bad processes. Spending time early on mapping the project and documenting the ITSM processes and value streams will save time and energy later on. Starting with process first will enable you to better understand your requirements, and will prevent you from having to retrofit after go-live.
  • Information and technology. Understand the features and functionality on offer and define how much time and effort is required to get the ITSM solution to work for your organization. IT does not stand still, your organization does not stand still, and neither should your ITSM tool. Ensure you plan and budget for future investment and development, and take the time to develop a continual service improvement roadmap.
  • Partners and suppliers. If you are in the market for a new tool, then do your research. It is important to understand the functionality and features on offer, but it is equally, if not more, important to find a vendor that aligns with your organizational goals. Find a vendor that will offer you the relationship management that you need, someone you can create a strategic partnership with.
  • Organization and people. Many ITSM and digital transformation programmes are about driving cultural change and, where there is change, there is resistance. Focusing on effective communication, investing in training, and gathering and incorporating feedback and input from key stakeholders will help you address the challenges associated with implementing change, and ensure there is better adoption and engagement.

About the author

A motivated and adaptable ITSM professional, Sally Bogg has worked in Higher Education IT for over 12 years, has experience of developing and delivering high quality sector leading support services, and creating respected, motivated and award-winning teams. Winner of Women in IT Business Role Model of the Year 2018 and Inspirational Leader of the Year 2017, Sally is a passionate supporter of the enhancement and empowerment of women in tech and is well known across the ITSM and Service Desk Industry.

Implementing ITSM tools