Support IT Service Management Tool Vendors That Support The ITSM Community

On a recent recording of the IT Service Management Weekly Podcast Rest of the World Edition (#ITSMWPROW on Twitter), one of my co-hosts - James Finister, an ITSM consultant at TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) - proposed an interesting new selection criteria for ITSM tool selection; this being the vendor's level of ITSM community support. To me it made a lot of sense: the US likes to buy American, France likes to buy French, and the UK likes to buy British (if the wind is blowing in the right direction in the latter’s case). So why shouldn't ITSM tool vendors be rewarded for the role they play in supporting the ITSM community? After all, ITIL adoption is allegedly a journey rather than a time-boxed technology implementation project. IMHO, selling technology and one-time professional services just isn’t enough when it comes to ITSM.

To put this in context, I’ve visited a fair few UK-located ITSM events in the last couple of years and I will always gauge who is and isn't there from the ITSM tool vendor-world perspective. To me, the non-attendance of high-profile ITSM tool vendors (both Big 4 and pure-play) at events such as the itSMFUK annual conference or the Service Desk and IT Support Show shows a disregard to their existing and potential customer base (in this instance in the UK and Europe), as well as a lack of understanding of the existing and growing sense of community within the ITSM ecosystem. In many respects, customers of ITSM tools are starting to bite back, so why should the ITSM tool selection process be any different?

I think most of us will admit that selecting an ITSM tool isn't easy, and that it has become even harder given the level of functional parity in the ITSM software market (which is not surprising given the way that ITIL has been used as a blueprint for most ITSM tools). Of course, beyond the obvious non-functional selection criteria of price, scalability, and security, there are other softer aspects to be considered such as user interface, intuitiveness, professional services capability, and previous customer feedback. In my opinion “ITSM community support” sits nicely with these criteria (one could also throw in how the vendor will foster and support a 1-to-1 relationship going forward given the “ITIL is a journey” mantra).

This community support can take many forms. There is the obvious paying for vendor booths at events, which subsidizes or even fully covers ITSM practitioner attendance (at the events). There is the sharing of ITSM best practices and case studies via presentations at the events or via industry webinars. White (or thought-leadership) papers that offer real world advice, rather than purely advocating the brilliance of a particular ITSM tool, also contribute. Simple “caring” activities, such as sharing links to good ITSM content via Twitter, also count. Ultimately, there are so many ways that vendors and their marketing budgets can help ITSM practitioners in their day jobs and, I'd like to think, help the vendors themselves in what is becoming a far more social ITSM community and competitive ITSM tool market.

So next time you're selecting a new ITSM tool, be cheeky and ask the vendor how they support the ITSM community. Go on, I dare you.

Finally, I'd love to hear your opinions on this concept (thanks again to James) and, of course, feedback on vendor responses if you dare to try it.

 

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Comments

ITSM Vendors Care

In the ITSM market there does seem to be a split between those vendors who are part of the ITSM community, contribute and care about their customers success on their ITSM journey, and those for whom ITSM is another product on their price list. Personally I am an advocate of the 'Vendors are Real People Too' movement that promotes the understanding that good ITSM vendors are – mostly - not sharks in stripy suits, but have built careers in ITSM, are experienced in ITSM implementations, in ITSM best practice and have a very high rate of contact with a wide range of ITSM needs, successes and failures. And they ultimately care about organisations achieving ITSM success.

For me it's a simple concept : our customers’ success leads to more customers, and more customers leads to our success.

So we do positively contribute to the ITSM community. And I heartily welcome the recognition that those Vendors that contribute are just as much a part of that community as the local shops are a part of a village or town community.

Excellent response and not one mention of LANDesk

I did wonder about naming vendors in the original blog but thought it better to make the observation/criticism first and see how individual vendors respond by their actions. Being slow to embrace the ITSM community will happen.

Personally, I can only see the ITSM community blossoming with the support of social media and people (whether ITSM professionals or employees of firms that sell ITSM products and services) caring about their profession (some may say calling). In many ways the ITSM community is like the lottery ... "you have to be in it to win it".

Proven approach

Stephen,

Thank you for the call out. Just to clarify one point though - the idea of evaluating vendor contribution to the ITSM community is one I've actually used on every ITSM tool selection I've carried out over the last 19 years, and not just a proposal. I could go on about length about the benefits of including it in the evaluation criteria but I would single out that it is usually a very good indicator of the health of your long term relationship with the vendor.

James

Any chance ...

... of sharing common vendor responses? Either here or on your own blog? Thanks.

Examples

Stephen,

A typical response would focus on both the development of best practice, such as ITIL and involvement with support networks such as itSMF. If doing an evaluation now I would also be tempted to look at their use of social media. I don't think being involved in social media is a pre-requisite, but if you are going to use it, then use it well and not just for self promotion.

In the case of larger companies I would be looking for some assurance that the community contribution would bring benefit to my specific customer. In some case there are vendors who rely on the activity of one or two key individuals who their coalface staff have no interaction with. It isn't good when you mention a company's "global ITIL evangelist" to a vendor's service manager and they say they've never heard of them.

This are is one where a trusted third party advisor can make a real difference. You need some verification that vendor claims are valid. I'm afraid I've heard some pretty outlandish claims in the past.

Tall stories and reasonable doubt

I guess that if the vendor offers exaggerated or over-egged stories of ITSM community support one starts to doubt its responses on other aspects of the RFI/RFP. For such a short word, "Yes" can have so many different meanings.