Functional Parity In The IT Service Management Support Tool Market

Over the last six weeks, as an input to an (Ovum) Butler Group Technology Evaluation and Comparison Report, we have spoken to ten major IT Service Management (ITSM) tool vendors regarding the functionality and capabilities offered by their solutions.

Something that became obvious early in the process, even though somewhat expected, was the extent to which ITSM tools have achieved a level of functional parity on the back of the continued worldwide adoption of the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) ITSM best-practice framework. In Ovum’s opinion, this levelling of ITIL-supporting functionality and capabilities raises many additional questions for organisations seeking to procure an ITSM solution.

While not a bad thing, functional parity does make one think about the commoditisation of ITSM tools on the back of, or indeed in the support of, the commoditisation of IT (or IT services) and wonder where true innovation can be found within the ITSM tool arena today. Traditionally, choosing an ITSM tool has been a difficult task complicated by many factors including the fact that different ITSM solutions support different ITSM processes to different degrees. This issue is disappearing but is being replaced by some new ones.

Thankfully, an IT organisation looking to procure a new or replacement ITSM tool can leverage external commentary from IT analysts or seek evidence of a solution’s level of ITIL-alignment from third parties such as Pink Elephant (the PinkVERIFY assessment scheme) or the more recent Office of Government Commerce (OGC) ITIL Software Endorsement Scheme. Interestingly, Ovum is observing far greater communication of achieved PinkVERIFY certification, in particular by the ITSM vendor community, and considers it a sign that this parity of functionality across core ITIL processes is changing the way in which ITSM solutions are presented to potential client organisations, with the support of core ITIL processes no longer enough.

The third-party certification of some or all of the 14 core ITIL processes should give IT organisations a head start in determining whether a particular vendor solution is capable of delivering the functionality required to support its required set of ITSM processes. There are of course product differences at a functional level, be it ease-of-use or a clever way of achieving a particular ITIL process requirement, but the certification does provide an assurance that the vendor solution is ‘fit for purpose’ when considered against a generic ITIL-based process. However, the certification cannot be viewed in the context of an organisation’s particular (although probably not unique) way of working, and given that ITIL adoption should be driven by people and processes, it is the technology that needs to adapt, not the other way around. Therefore, the certification, while extremely useful, is not enough to confirm applicability.

Beyond the delivery of core ITIL-based capabilities, however, many vendors have their own unique selling point or points to differentiate them from the pack. This is usually their own particular slant on, or flavour of, ITSM innovation. For instance, IBM takes a business view extending asset management to all business assets and supporting business service management, Service-now.com offers value for money and convenience through what it terms ‘modern Software-as-a-Service’, FrontRange offers additional ITSM efficiencies through telephony integration, and both CA and HP offer the benefits of true service portfolio management capabilities through their Project and Portfolio Management solutions.

In Ovum’s opinion, the fact that many ITSM products have achieved this functional parity around the support of the core ITIL processes means the product selection bar has been raised, or at least skewed. Whereas before, a request for information or request for tender might have easily separated out potential winners, it is now far more difficult to differentiate between the leading ITSM vendor products based on functionality alone. Client organisations will also assess standard criteria such as inter-process integration, interoperability with existing IT and management software, technical requirements (including performance, security, and resilience), total cost of ownership, supplier background (including product assurance, and financial stability and reliability), implementation parameters, and support and maintenance arrangements.

Beyond this is where an ITSM vendor will try to differentiate itself in the context of delivering innovation in its products and services. Therefore, a procuring organisation must ensure that the promised innovation will actually deliver against a corporate need, rather than being a ‘nice to have’ and, importantly, is not favoured above the primary reason for tool selection: seamlessly supporting ITSM processes.

Originally published on www.ovumkc.com in October 2009

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2 thoughts on “Functional Parity In The IT Service Management Support Tool Market

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