Are You Happy With Your IT Service Management Tool?

IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) people have long bemoaned their service desk or IT service management (ITSM) tools. It’s a fact of life, well ITSM-life anyway, and analysts will often pepper conversations with clients (and anyone else that will listen to them) with comments such as “that on average an organization will change ITSM tool every five years.” Some analysts quote longer, others quote less. In many ways, whether it is three, five, or seven years is unimportant. It is the fact that organizations are changing tools that is.

In a soon to be published joint Forrester and itSMF USA survey and report my colleague, Glenn O’Donnell, offers up an interesting service desk tool statistic: that, with the exception of SaaS tools, approximately 30% of responders are unhappy with their service desk tool.


Of course, one could argue that this is a little “glass half empty” (that I’m an analyst trying to line the pockets of ITSM-tool vendors) and that the “full glass” view is one where 70% of responders are happy with their service desk tools.

Yes, I could take this view, but I would be doing the ITSM Community a disservice. The big question for me is “why is SaaS only at 4% dissatisfaction?”

I’m sure many would say things like:

  • “Organizations haven’t had their SaaS tool long enough to fall out of love with it.”
  • “They just like shiny new toys, the buzz will wear off.”
  • “People are just trying to justify their decision to go SaaS.”
  • “They have been drinking the SaaS Kool-Aid.”

I could go on but I’d rather try to consider why I&O organizations appear happier with their SaaS ITSM tools.

I’m sure that some of the explanation relates to vendor and tool-specific parameters such as subscription cost, usability, breadth of capabilities, and customer service. However, looking beyond these somewhat obvious areas, what if the satisfaction (or lack of dissatisfaction) is caused purely by the fact that they are SaaS tools? That:

  • The customer is less likely to “tinker” with the tool to within “an inch of usability,” as they have previously done with on-premise tools.
  • New functionality comes on line more frequently, say three times a year rather than once every 18 months.
  • Upgrades are sold as quick and painless.
  • The customer does not have to host and support the tool. 

So they are still technology reasons, but with a “people” twist. In many ways it is replicating what I&O is seeing from the business: A desire for simplicity and agility. And the removal of barriers to change and the headache that is IT-centric IT delivery.

As a final thought, as an analyst you would expect me to be speaking with Forrester clients either considering or in the midst of changing ITSM tool. What you probably don’t expect though is for me to be speaking with clients that are unhappy with their recently implemented ITSM tool. I know I didn’t and I am still shocked when it comes up either directly or indirectly. In a software and professional services market as mature as this I think we all expect better.

How happy are you with your ITSM tool?


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Actual Numbers ?

All very good points. Another consideration perhaps is that one category's percentage can become statistically less meaningful when its sample size is very small compared to the others.

I am not saying that is definitely the case here - I'm an advocate of OnPremise, SaaS or Hybrid delivery - but without an understanding of the sample response size for each category there is a hidden unknown dimension.

Also it would be interesting to understand the profile of the organisations sampled. Geography, ITIL maturity and number of IT staff etc.

Totally agree ...

... the lengths of the bars show that SaaS was a far smaller percentage of the responder tools than the others.

More breakdown on the responders will come with Glenn's report but it is worth me saying that this wasn't meant to be a "SaaS is the answer" piece, moreover what can we learn from the adoption of SaaS tools? And what makes us use the technology better?

I think the explanation is

I think the explanation is simple. The SaaS tools out there do not have the capabilities of the more complex and mature on premise solutions. Those companies adopting SaaS therefore have much simpler requirements, which are much easier to meet in a satisfactory way. Right now, ITSM SaaS adopters are picking low-hanging fruit, while on premise implementations still have 100% market share on the nasty, ugly, and hairy.

Interesting line of thinking ...

... and in some instances I am sure that it is true - that SaaS is seen as simple option. However, there is a lot of FUD related to the capabilities (and non-functional aspects) of SaaS ITSM tools that is untrue.

Many traditional ITSM tool vendors now have SaaS offerings that mirror the capabilities of their on-premise versions.

As for SaaS only, ServiceNow's capabilities, for instance, are even higher than many of these traditional vendor offerings. A quick look at their growing enterprise-level customer list would prove the point.

Data collected

What would be really interesting to see is which solutions have the highest rate of dissatisfaction? What versions they are on ( old or new)? How long they have owned the solution? I agree that the SaaS numbers stand out for many reasons and think you are bang on with the 1st one "Organizations haven’t had their SaaS tool long enough to fall out of love with it". We have already started to see some early adopters of SaaS moving back to on-premise or another SaaS solution...Thoughts?

The SaaS vendor perspective

I guess the SaaS vendor should chime here are a couple of thoughts to keep this conversation in perspective. 1. No two SaaSes are alike. 2. The SaaS referred to in the survey is ServiceNow.

First, point number one. Using a broad brush, there are three types of vendors claiming to offer SaaS for ITSM today:
1. SaaS only - Built from scratch. The entire company is dedicated to SaaS with no other distractions or burdens such as on-premise software or perpetual licensing.
2. Hosted legacy - An on-premise application that was not originally created to be SaaS but is now hosted. These vendors almost always claim a hybrid approach to hedge their bets. They know on-premise is legacy but they still have a lot of maintenance revenue coming in from the old model and they can't quite give it up. Meanwhile, they'll dip their toe in the "SaaS" water just in case.
3. SaaS from another mother - There are reasons why a software vendor is compelled to build on another vendor's PaaS. These are usually start ups who see a market opportunity (can't blame them) or legacy vendors who are running out of rope and are now taking product development direction from their marketing team.

I delineate between flavors of SaaS because it is generally not possible to make generalizations about SaaS without some context. For example, a general misconception about SaaS is "untinkerability." While generally true, ServiceNow, for one, is extremely configurable and was built from the beginning to preserve user-required configurations through automated upgrades.

Regarding point number two, this survey was taken about a year ago. There were very few SaaS vendors in ITSM then, even fewer with an actual customer base. ServiceNow had then, and has now, approximately 90% of the SaaS for ITSM market share. ServiceNow today is the third-largest ITSM vendor on the planet. It is safe to assume the survey responses were ServiceNow customers.

But here's the thing the industry generally misses but Stephen alludes to in his post and comments. SaaS isn't only about a delivery model and a subscription license. It is about an entirely new user experience that is impossible to replicate without full commitment from an agile, modern vendor.

ServiceNow isn't perfect by a long shot. No technology is. But we changed the industry for good once, and we'll do it again. This is what our customers love about us. To the vendors who are trying to replicate this through SaaS, I say, "Good luck, but you're missing the point."