The introduction of ITIL into any organization more often than not requires the support of a toolset to assist with the adoption of the various processes, together with facilitating the interfaces between the processes.
When selecting the toolset for your organization it is important to remember that the toolset needs to fit to your organization's requirements, otherwise you may find yourself having to change your organizations practices to fit the tool, something that can be costly and time consuming. Fundamentally adopting the tool suppliers interpretation of ITIL.
Another factor to consider is the amount of customization that may be required of the tool once it has been purchased. Can the customization be undertaken by your current staff or will external resources be required to provide the skills, and if they are required how long will they be required for?. In addition, are there training courses available for existing staff and what are the associated costs?.
Some toolset providers charge an annual fee to provide support. Identify how this fee is calculated and what conditions may alter the calculation. Some providers charge an annual licence fee based on the number of users or types of users of the software, for example the charge for a Service Desk Operator may be different to the business user who uses the tool infrequently, possibly over the internet. Remember the ongoing charges need to be budgeted for.
On the subject of support it is also very important to understand how the suppliers support model operates. The Service Management toolset should be considered as a production service and any downtime could have a detrimental impact to the revenue generation and reputation of the organization. Consider asking the following questions:
- Is support provided twenty-four by seven three hundred and sixty-five days a year?
- Is the support provided centrally or does it follow the sun?
- Will my account details and setup be available to your support staff each time contact is made?
- If support is contacted at two o'clock in the morning and requires the services of a tool expert can you expect to speak to such a resource?
- If an expert/specialist needs to visit the site how quickly can they attend?
For multi-national organizations it is important to understand where in the world the tool provider operates and supports the product.
Some toolsets require additional software to be purchased, for example database or management reporting software. Clarify if there are any other hidden costs that need to be taken into account. Again all these costs including licences need to be identified and budgeted for.
Some toolset suppliers offer a modular approach enabling each module to be purchased individually and then 'bolted-on' to your existing module(s). The Configuration Management Database (CMDB) based upon ITIL is a critical area and plays an integral role in the success of any ITIL implementation, therefore understanding how it is integrated into the modules needs to be clearly understood. You may find the CMDB requirements could influence the sequence in which your organization implements the ITIL processes. Check to ensure that the modules that your organization require actually exist and are not in development. In addition it is also worthwhile obtaining some form of guarantee around the service availability of the existing toolset, whilst the integration of a new module with the exiting module(s) and the database take place. It should be noted as to where the responsibility resides around the structure and setup of the database as this may invalidate any guarantee.
It is strongly recommended that a visit or series of visits are undertaken to various reference sites. Consider taking along an experienced representative from your Service Desk and also existing or proposed ITIL Process Owners, with a view to these individuals speaking with their counterparts at the reference site organization, as you often find that the intensive users of the software are able to express the benefits and short-comings of the toolset. In addition, if the vendor operates a 'User Group' ask to sit in on one or two of the meetings, perhaps review minutes from previous meetings or even ask for access to an area of a website holding the information if applicable.
Also seek out experiences from organizations who have purchased the software in relation to the response and support provided to bugs and day to day issues, what service levels do they operate to and so forth. When the toolset supplier says 'it will be fixed in the next release', is it fixed in the next release? Does the supplier offer support whereby a fix or patch specifically for one organization is developed to resolve an Incident and if yes, under what circumstances? The area of day to day support from the tool supplier is critical; therefore it is imperative that once you have purchased the product the supplier demonstrates their commitment to support your organization going forward.
The investment in a Service Management Tool is going to be considerable and the relationship between your organization and supplier has the potential to last some time, so taking time to understand and document your organizations own specific requirements is essential, short-listing those products that come close to meeting your requirements and then have them demonstrated is essential. Don't simply accept the 'sales pitch', investigate what is being claimed, visit other organizations and learn the 'true' picture of what the toolset and the supplier offers. Finally, don't be afraid to say 'no' to the tool if it does not deliver what it claims to do or simply is not right for your organization.
This article provides some advice when considering purchasing a Service Management Tool. It is by no means exhaustive and we would welcome your experiences to share with others, anonymously if necessary.