Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Keep your vendor inside the tent

ITSM tools are expensive. Even if your purchase a "budget" option, or pay monthly for an SaaS deployment of your tool, you have to invest heavily in training, configuration (even when that is done in house it costs), and there is likely to be a short period of service degradation while the team gets used to the new technology.

Now, I think this post probably relates equally to any application in your service catalogue, so regardless of the service you are providing, hopefully there will be some food for thought here.

© N-Media-Images -
Most ITSM tools on the market will basically do the same job, they will help you to manage incidents, service requests, problems, changes, knowledge, and  the other ITSM practices you want to implement in your organisation. They will have different user interfaces, perhaps slightly different process flows, but in the end you should get pretty well the same result.

So why is it that so many businesses go back to market to replace their toolsets every five years or thereabouts? I have seen a couple of excuses for this, I won't call them reasons!
  1. You believe that your current tool does not meet the business requirements
  2. You have a new CIO/Service Desk Manager, or similar who prefers the tool they used at their previous engagement
  3. The grass on the other side of the fence looks way tastier than what you have on your side
  4. My account manager (and sadly this is a real comment from a Service Desk Manager) has bad breath and terrible body odour and I just don't want to deal with him any more!
The real reason is more likely to be that you have not maintained a healthy relationship with your tool vendor and are possibly unaware of the abilities that tool has to meet your requirements. That is not a good reason for investing a large sum of your employers money to replace a tool that may be perfectly suitable for the job.

Its a bit like getting out of a marriage and going back into the dating game...each potential new partner looks to have exciting new features that the old one was lacking, but once the honeymoon period is over you may start to realise that perhaps partner #1 was not really all that bad, pretty well impossible to go back though!

The first step, when you are looking at changing your tool, is to go to the vendor of your current software, sit down with them and find out just what the real gaps between what you have and what you want are, you may be surprised to find that they don't actually just may not be utilising the tool to its full potential. Get involved in some "relationship counselling", do you really need to get out, or can this marriage be saved? Let the vendor know that you are ready to walk, and see if they care enough to put an effort into the relationship.

The best option is actually to avoid this situation in the first place. Both customer and vendor have a responsibility to keep the relationship alive and keep communication channels open. For the customer, this ensures that you get the best use out of the tool and are able to communicate any new feature or change requests to the vendor. For the vendor this communication is critical...the most profitable part of a business is being able to keep the customers you already have...gaining new business is much more expensive. Talking with your customers also gives you opportunities to learn what enhancements may improve your offering.

© zimmytws -
Obviously there are some situations where a reconciliation is just not a viable option...sometimes the vendor has literally walked out of the room. Mergers and acquisitions have seen a number of tools consumed by bigger fish. Perhaps your tool decided to concentrate on a cloud SaaS offering while you require an on-premise solution. Some relationships just cannot be saved.

If your current relationship with your toolset vendor really cannot be salvaged, you need to make certain that the next "marriage" is made to last. Ensure that you select a vendor who wants a relationship beyond the contract signing and is prepared to enter into a dialogue with you on a regular basis. Talk to their other customers and find out about more than the tool they listen, do they work at maintaining a relationship and making it work?

Divorce is costly, so do your best to keep the spark in your vendor relationship! Oh, another suggestion, don't burn bridges with your current vendor, or never know, the next acquisition of an ITSM tool may see you unexpectedly back in that old relationship again!

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