There’s a new breed of IT service management vendor in town

Ovum has observed what might be the start of an interesting trend in IT management (ITM) software. Traditionally, there have been IT service management (ITSM) and infrastructure management vendors, plus mega-vendors with operations in both camps. ITSM vendors have already moved into the infrastructure management space with discovery, event monitoring, software distribution, and automation capabilities, but now the reverse is happening – infrastructure management vendors are entering the crowded ITSM space. It’s an interesting move and one that we believe offers a valuable opportunity for organizations.

Why are infrastructure management vendors making this move?

The ITSM software marketplace’s obsession with, and reliance on, ITIL-alignment has made it easy for new vendors to enter the market. It’s simply a case of delivering the capabilities to support the most often adopted ITIL processes within an envelope of professional services. Newer “pure-play” ITSM vendors (both SaaS and on-premise) have already adequately demonstrated this.

For the infrastructure management software vendors, it’s a lucrative opportunity to cross-sell to existing clients, retain clients by offering greater value and capabilities, or gain customers looking for a more complete ITM solution. It will be interesting to see how many more infrastructure management software vendors explore a move into the ITSM space.

How will IT organizations benefit?

Increased competition can be both a good and bad thing for IT organizations. There is greater product choice and potentially more competitive pricing on offer in order to win deals, but the ITSM market is saturated and already difficult to pick a “winner” from. The entry of infrastructure management vendors also increases the possibility of the long-predicted shake up in the ITSM marketplace, with the unavoidable casualties being vendors and their customers. However, the blurring of the lines between infrastructure management and ITSM is good for IT organizations, not only from a cost perspective but also in terms of ease of use.

A good example is Dell KACE’s K1000 systems management offering. It initially introduced its service desk as an optional, separately priced add-on to the K1000, but it is now rolled into the main product in terms of pricing. From an ease of use perspective, being able to seamlessly start diagnosis or resolution from within the incident ticket (called “one-click to resolution” by Dell KACE) is an obvious advantage. While not a new concept (it is a common feature within mega-vendor ITSM offerings), there is a lack of complexity and potential cost when provided from a single, purpose-built solution, rather than from an amalgam of home-grown and acquired point solutions.

In addition, as IT organizations evolve to reflect the changing IT landscape, particularly the introduction of cloud-delivered services, IT will most likely need to become more dependent on IT generalists rather than specialists. These generalists will be heavily reliant on both infrastructure management and ITSM tools, so the use of a single user interface and a common way of working can only benefit them as they endeavor to “deliver more with less”.

Will this increase or slow down ITSM software churn?

There has long been a level of churn in the ITSM software market, with IT organizations changing their tool of choice every five to six years, and this is even more evident now with newer ITSM vendors stating that they offer better ROI and a smoother upgrade path.

The infrastructure management/ITSM hybrid offering will add to this, but it will also provide customers with the opportunity to increase ITSM activity in line with the vendors adding tool functionality. Unlike pure-play ITSM tool vendors, infrastructure management/ITSM hybrid vendors have no pressure to deliver and to compete with 14 ITIL-compliant processes from day one. Alternatively, they can offer a mandatory core of incident, change, and configuration management, and then add to the processes at a speed that encourages customers to grow with them.

Some organizations would benefit from the adoption of an ITSM tool that “grows” with them, rather than opting for one that exceeds their level of ITSM maturity. Such a tool might even turn out to be one that they can grow old with.

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Business-IT Dialog?

ITIL has long espoused the need for IT-to-business alignment. However, the levels of IT organization success in achieving this are somewhat patchy. Portfolio management techniques can be used to demonstrate the level of IT congruence with business strategy, but in Ovum’s opinion there is also real value to be gained from an ongoing dialog with key stakeholders within the business – a formalized dialog which is part of the overall IT service management ecosystem.

Within ITIL v2 this was subsumed within monthly or quarterly service level management meetings. ITIL v3 however takes the need for such dialog a step further with the introduction of a business relationship manager role, with the business relationship manager (or managers) tasked with acting as a liaison between IT and the business. A business relationship manager should have significant knowledge in subject matters pertaining to both IT and the business. They should be specifically responsible for understanding the business and its needs, assisting in the prioritization of IT-related projects, and directing IT strategy in support of business strategy. Importantly, the role differs from that of a customer relationship manager in that it should act as an advocate for the business within IT, acting in a way that is not driven by the need to sell more IT product and services.

Business relationship managers should also work closely with the product and service managers responsible for developing and managing services across the service lifecycle, ideally working via service and customer portfolios. At a more granular level, they should work with all levels within the business, from day-to-day operations to strategic planning, to ensure the right services are delivered at the right price to meet business needs. Their primary goal is to build a true partnership between IT and the business (most likely at a business-unit level) providing the business with the opportunity to help shape the IT services delivered.

In Ovum’s experience, the business relationship manager position is still an emerging role within IT organizations. However, whether the role exists or not, an ongoing two-way business dialog (with business unit or functional champions) is a recommended starting point for both ITIL v3 adoption and the ability to demonstrate delivered business value. An IT organization should, in particular, assess and educate key stakeholders in their understanding of what IT does and what IT governance and IT service management means to them, and should establish what is important in terms of demonstrating IT performance, the stewardship of IT resources, and the value that IT delivers to the business.

Originally published on