ITSM Implementation – Vendors, Be Brave!

Group of Business People Meeting About TeamworkA few years ago a colleague of mine took a job heading up the professional services team of an ITSM vendor. During the recruitment process, he was quizzed on his ability to develop a consulting practice around the toolset and to achieve quality implementations of the solution. The goal was service improvement for clients.

On the morning of his first day in the job he received a shock. The CEO told him that the company were not interested in process implementation or organisational change. ‘We are a software company’ he said, and went on to define professional services as an interference, a nuisance.

My colleague was gob smacked and angry. How could anyone be so short sighted? So blind to the opportunities and responsibilities given to vendors around implementing ITSM solutions? He wanted to bring a consulting approach to product implementation. To improve the success and sustainability of clients. This, it seemed, was not the function of a software company…

Process Implementation – Whose Job is it Anyway?

I can relate closely to this experience. I don’t want to single out individual vendors. The point of this blog is to highlight that unfortunately, this is not an uncommon experience. I interact with numerous ITSM vendors on a regular basis and many still exhibit a version of this approach to a greater or lesser extent. There are exceptions of course, but they are still the minority.

It’s true of course that process and organisational change is not the responsibility of every software company. Certainly in the case of standard applications such as Microsoft.

It is however, in niche operational and functional areas (like ITSM). This is a huge opportunity for vendors to develop their client relationships. To pass on their skills and knowledge and translate this into successful product implementation. As well as creating a useful and sustainable revenue stream.

I also believe that vendors have a responsibility to help their clients to get the best out of their tools. That’s got to be a win/win.

Underselling on ITSM Implementation Support?

The reality is that the competitive nature of the market has left many vendors fearful of losing sales on cost by proposing too much ITSM implementation support.

Many successful tenders are undersold on implementation support. This results in focus on the utilisation of consultancy/training days way too early. Often before anyone has had a chance to think about approach and strategy. Once the buyer starts to think of intelligent questions on how to achieve value from the product, it’s too late. The vendor has left.

Here’s what I believe.

  • Buyers should consider bids that include realistic (and higher) capital costs for ITSM implementation.
  • Vendors should be braver. They should include larger bids that include sufficient levels of consultancy.
  • Or be truly courageous. One or two innovative companies forgo the ‘time and materials’ approach in favour of a fixed fee. The aim to get the job done regardless (within some boundaries of course).

It might seem easy to take the moral high ground here. I have not forgotten that vendors are businesses employing people. We are talking about people’s jobs and mortgages after all. Still, why are there so many failed ITSM implementations and under-utilised tools? Worse still why do many organisations ‘rip and replace’ their toolset many times? – it’s not unusual for some organisations to be on their 4th or 5th ITSM product – I know plenty with many more.

To me it seems that there is a chronic degree of short-term gain/long term pain in the market. Oddly it seems to suit everyone and never gets challenged. Many sales pitches and procurement exercises focus on the negative elements of the market. How refreshing would it be if the focused on how to achieve customer value?

Isn’t it obvious that vendors should take more interest? More care and active involvement in ensuring that their products are implemented properly? Not only is this for the clients benefit but it’s also in their interest too.

So what challenges and issues could surface if projects don’t have appropriate levels of vendor support? What would be a positive and more productive approach?

How Can Vendors Help Customers Deliver Successful Projects?

ITSM vendors need to use some basic consultancy approaches for customer engagement and stakeholder management. To a large extent this would help improve the chances of delivering successful projects.

I often find projects where vendors have dived in too quickly. Often with technical people and a technical approach to implementation. Business objectives are rarely considered.

Above all the approach to engagement and stakeholder management can be very limited. It’s not uncommon for vendors to send out data workbooks and technical spec documents for completion and approval, without actually engaging with the customer who is paying the bill.

Technical implementation consultants can also be too keen to please. They are onsite with clients, building scripts and configurations of their product, often without the clarity and ‘bigger picture’ objectives of the customer and business goals.

I am not suggesting vendors set up separate consultancy practices to deliver ‘process’ consulting. The key point is that there are tried and tested consultancy and engagement approaches. These will far improve quality and also reduce the risk for both parties.

ITSM Implementation Needs to be Risk-Assessed and Project Managed

This might sound obvious but the level of risk assessment delivered by many vendors is poor if done at all. If they are going to be able to deliver a great project and meet their clients’ expectations, they need to have a clear view of the following in relation to their clients:

  • The size, nature and culture of the organisation. From large process driven to entrepreneurial,  personality-led
  • ITSM maturity – level or experience and awareness of ITSM methods and implementation
  • Skilled (business and technical) resources available. Will the client be able to meet their expected commitments?
  • Level of executive support. Who are the key players and sponsors, how will they be involved?
  • Potential issues and blockers for the project – politics, challenging personalities
  • Organisational and operational constraints – other projects, business priorities

Without some early view of these issues, the expectation of success can be pot luck or unlikely to be achieved. If these issues are understood by the vendor, then they can take appropriate action to mitigate them, e.g. by assigning more experienced consultants, more resources or engaging more at a C-Level. Just by watching the project if it is deemed to be high risk you can be ready to react if there are issues.

Similarly, project management generally means ‘project accounting’. There is little attention paid to governance and issue/risk management, proactive people management and practical logistics. There can be too much focus on the commercial delivery of consultancy days, compared to actually dealing with issues and business needs.

Of course buying organisations need to prepare and give time and thought to their own project management and data preparation. There is a responsibility for these organisations to manage their projects and vendors accordingly.

Vendors, Be Brave!

Overall there is still a need for vendors to do more. Offer more, analyse more, collaborate more and project-manage more. To really take responsibility and provide more value to their clients.

This might involve taking some risks from their perspective – although the results and benefits for those that really take the initiative here will be potentially considerable and lucrative.

So, be brave! Offer more, propose more, win more and deliver more successful long term projects…!

If you would like to know more about how Barclay Rae Consulting can help you to make the most of your ITSM implementation or if you need help redefining your existing solution then get in touch!

4 replies
  1. Rod Weir
    Rod Weir says:

    Great post Barclay – very well thought-out and expressed. I think you’re spot-on here. I think about these issues every day!…sadly…;-)

    It makes good business sense for any vendor to assist their clients in getting the most out of their software. Not only does it result in better software utilization, but should also increase satisfaction, awareness of further potential (which leads to more training, consulting), but also creates a channel for product feedback which drives product development and evolution, and that’s good for ANY software company. Not to mention the positive flow-on effect when employees leave one job and are re-employed in another company and recommend the software (based on a successful implementation / vendor relationship). This is the best type of new sale!

    Being a vendor myself I am often dismayed by the approach of some businesses that invest significant sums of money in initially purchasing our software, but don’t open their wallet for training, consulting, or professional services in order to get the most out of the software, despite our best efforts via different means to help them. Even worse is when a company continues to use the software, but does renew support or product updates. Time and again I am assisting companies via tech support, and it’s disappointing to see an implementation that is idling along in 1st or 2nd gear, while the business decision makers (often disconnected with the 1st/2nd line staff at the coalface) do nothing to assist in terms of training and services. As you point out, this situation, if left to develop can lead to product churn.

    With such a diverse market and implementation, it’s a challenge to match an implementation proposal with the client, AND to be able to sell it, but as you point out, the results and the benefit are there for the brave.

    I’m taking up your challenge Barclay! PRD Software shall be brave and prosper!

    Reply
  2. Brian Scott
    Brian Scott says:

    Comes back to the good ole 4 P’s – Product, Process, People and Partner and it may be a tad simplistic but perhaps accepting an even 25% cost to each would set all parties with an understanding around an implementation. The process is not just a set of docs and nice flow diagrams – it is the complete design. The people are not just a couple of service desk agents logging tickets, you are implementing business processes…the people are all in your business. The product is not just software licenses or a freemium app, it’s a living asset within your value chain, there to deliver, to be sweated and a good ITSM tool is a platform for innovation.
    And finally Partner, the vendor must be looked at and engaged as part of the delivery, but this is not just the vendor….its across and for and glueing all the rest together….oh if only there was a P for transformation that would be a phenomenal ITSM journey

    Reply
  3. Robert Freeborn
    Robert Freeborn says:

    Barclay –

    I’d *highly* recommend reading the book B4B (http://goo.gl/zNkQRQ) as it talks about these very concepts and how/what SW vendors can do to accomplish this and deliver more value for their customers.

    Reply

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