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Cloud Computing, procurement, Service Management, strategic sourcing

How to choose a perfect Service Desk/ITSM tool in 5 days?

Yes, you read the title correctly. The selection window is only 5 days, not 5 months.

Before I begin let me clarify. This article is targeted at the person – YOU – who have been called by your boss on a Monday morning at 8:30 Am. Boss tells you that a Service Desk/ITSM tool has to be selected within a week. In that scenario, I want you to look into her/his eyes and confidently tell “No problem! I have read an insightful, thought provoking, awesome article by Murali. If the selection goes well he has to be given the credit. For any reason, I mess it up, the mistake is entirely mine”.

With that assurance, you walk away confidently.

Monday: Preparation

You go straight to the kitchen and prepare a green tea, brimming with anti-oxidants. Go to a quite room and reflect on the high level needs of your organisation. Some of the questions you will consider are:

  • who will be using the tool?
  • do you want a ticketing tool or ITIL service desk capability
  • are you open for a SaaS solution?
  • are you willing to take the business risk subscribing to the new players in the market?

    (Though this statement sounds threatening, this risk needs to be assessed formally. The emerging players can offer features, flexibility and cost advantage).

  • are you willing to consider free/ open source solutions?
  • what are the initial features you will be interested?
  • do you want the provider / support located within your city or country?
  • can it be standalone or you want to be integrated with your organisational email and discovery tools?
  • what is your budget?

Once you are clear, arrange for a stakeholder meeting to validate your ideas.

Spend the rest of the day going through the tools list.

You may find overlap between the lists, which is expected. The first two lists should give a pretty good idea of the market space. The second list includes free tools – some of them have very impressive features and have good community support.

Look for tools that grossly match your requirements. Shortlist around 10 to 15 tools. Do not worry too much about the vendor “ranking” in public forums. I have my own suspicions that the vendors stage-manage them. I may be wrong. Any day, I prefer you to come up with your own “top-10” than relying on another source.

Tuesday: Contact vendors

In the morning you meet your boss and assure her/him that everything is fine. Remind about the extra resources you have asked for and the corner cubicle. The rest of Tuesday is reserved for contacting the 10-15 vendors over phone and/or email. Ask them to send customer references and product manuals immediately. Request them to send a quote.

If you are not able to contact them over the phone within Tuesday, do not short list them. If the sales person returns the call the next day, add them back to the list.

Wednesday: Create selection criteria

It is time to prepare “selection criteria”. I suggest focusing on specific needs of your organisation, than generic functionality. For example, if you have chosen any ITIL compatible vendor, they will have incident logging covered. You need not mention it as a “selection criteria”. One approach is to choose top-3 requirements for each life cycle phase. For example, in Service Strategy you may have criteria for “financial reporting”, “service catalogue” “portfolio management”. Take a step back and ask yourself whether you want the ITSM tool to handle this functionality or you have other dedicated solutions for financial management.

If you follow the top-3 approach, there will be 15 selection criteria. (there are 5 phases in ITIL: strategy, design, transition, operations and continual service improvement).

For each selection criteria, identify keywords that you will look for in the product manuals. For example, under “service catalogue” you may have the keywords: “self-service portal”, “customer self service”, “actionable catalogue” etc.

You may use the following table format:

Phase Criteria What to look for in response?
Service Strategy Criteria 1 Keywords
Criteria 2
Criteria 3
Service Design
Service Transition
Service Operation
Continual Service Improvement

Start going through the client references sent by the vendors. If you find a similar organisation, call them and ask about their experiences. Unless you are extremely impressed with a particular product feature, you may shortlist vendors who provide credible client references related to your industry.

Thursday: Evaluate

Come early and avoid meeting the boss. Keep a pot of green tea to avoid going to kitchen often. Today is the big day. You have to start assembling the information and prepare an initial recommendation report. Have the criteria organised in 4 categories:

  • vendor credibility and client references
  • support
  • product features
  • cost

Sometimes, these categories can have different priorities. In that case we have to assign “weights” to them. For our exercise, let us assume equal importance to these categories. Each category can have multiple criteria. As we discussed, “product features” will have 15 criteria.

The rating can be in a scale of 0 to 5.

Here is an example:

Category Criteria Rating guideline
Vendor credibility and client references How long the vendor is in the market? More than 5 years – 5

Around 3 years – 3

Less than 3 years – 1

Have the vendors provided credible client references? 3 or more references – 5

1 good reference – 3

No references – 0

If you are MS-Excel fan, you may use it to construct a spreadsheet. Here is an example of a template: itsm_comparison_template.

You may tailor the above  template to suit your organizational needs.

If you want a better/elegant/innovative/automated/state of the art/smart/patent pending technology solution contact us (www.kloudax.net.au/contactus) . Our KCA tool (www.kloudax.net.au/software) will generate an output matrix as shown below. KCA will search the product manuals/web sites and provide a “seed rating” based on keywords. You and your team can review the “seed rating” and change as needed. It can dramatically reduce your time search documents and analyse them.

Friday – discuss, finalise, present

Reserve Friday for presenting your finding to the stakeholders. Before the formal presentation meet the key players individually and get their feedback. Do not get overly attached any one product. This will bias your ability to listen to other views. At the end of the day, you have to make a call.

If you are choosing a SaaS solution, many vendors offer you a free trial for 15 days to 1 month. If possible, use this opportunity. Try the tool before you buy. Do not commit more than 1 year, maximum.

More importantly, save your selection criteria for future use, remind the boss about the extra resources and corner cubicle. Good luck!


About Murali Ramakrishnan

Murali is the Managing Director of the boutique consulting firm "Process-Symphony". Process-Symphony specializes in IT enabled business process orchestration. http://www.process-symphony.com.au http://www.kloudax.net.au


3 thoughts on “How to choose a perfect Service Desk/ITSM tool in 5 days?

  1. Good article.

    It reminded me of a question from the ITIL v2 Service Desk & Incident Management Practioner exam I took many moons ago now.

    Looking forward to the follow up article, “Five Days Later – How to Implement the perfect ITSM tool in five days” 🙂

    Posted by Brendan | June 18, 2013, 2:59 pm
  2. wow. the only way you could possibly choose a tool in 5 days is to follow my simple rules:

    1 — assume and accept that ALL tools are pretty much the same when it comes to Inc, Req, Prob, Change, and that those processes are about all that you and most organisations will ever get around to poking a stick at – so don’t go further with selection (or implementation when you get around to it)

    2 — Question: so what are the points of difference if all tools are the same process-wise? A: configuration and integration…. get online and read some blogs about what tools are considered most configurable and have the best APIs… you will research and find 2 options (1) ServiceNow, (2) Beetil. All other considerations and selection criteria must be pushed to one side and not even considered due to time constraints — and the reality is that you don’t need to worry about security, vendor support etc all you must assume and accept that ALL tools are secure other wise no one would buy them, and ALL vendors will help you out otherwise the company would have gone out of business

    3 — Make a choice between ServiceNow and Beetil. Choose Beetil if you are 15 due to the maximum process maturity you will achieve and ongoing focus you will give the tool

    4 — phone the vendors and ask for a quote for licenses and implementation. Then tell your boss you have made a choice and tell him how much the tool will cost, and that you will do the implementation yourself (Beetil, you will implement in 20 minutes, ServiceNow you will take an OOB config and just start using it).


    Posted by Grant | June 21, 2013, 7:51 pm
  3. …this blog site cut-off my Point 3…. which read “3 — Make a choice between ServiceNow and Beetil. Choose Beetil if you are a 15 man IT shop or less (due to the maximum process maturity you will achieve and ongoing focus you will give the tool), and choose ServiceNow if you are greater than a 15 man IT shop (due to the maximum process maturity you will achieve and ongoing focus you will give the tool)

    Posted by Grant | June 21, 2013, 7:53 pm

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