Fall / Autumn, whatever you like to call it, is upon us. Leaves are turning burnt orange and ochre, the night time darkness is arriving earlier and earlier and there is a morning mist in the air as kids go back to school for the start of the new school year. Ahh yes, those ritual back to school activities; the excitement of seeing friends they’ve missed over summer and buying new pencil cases or lunchboxes plastered with their favourite characters, well that’s how kids see it. For parents, back to school means another nightmare scramble to buy school uniforms and gym kit because little David, Karen or “Apple” has outgrown their uniform, moved schools or spent the last year skidding across floors and put a hole in the knees of every pair of school trousers. That’s one fabric performance test manufacturers don’t do! Now whether you are a parent or not, we all know how expensive school uniforms can be over a long period because they just don’t last. Why – well kids grow and mature, seasons change requiring different performance out of fabrics and, in some schools, as a child progresses to the next year the colour of the uniform changes. But savvy parents are on to this and buy accordingly. They don’t buy the size the child currently is, they buy a uniform just that little bit bigger so their child can grow into it, not so big that they are tripping over hemlines but enough to suit the growth rate of their own child. And here I reiterate their “own” child. They don’t buy the size that fits the tallest child in class and assume their child will grow by the end of the year. Similarly, child A and child B may be the same age and in the same year, but their daily school environment, needs and expenses will be very different depending on the subjects that they take. You can’t assume they will pick the same courses and require the same gym kit, lab coat or cooking apron– parents buy what suits their child’s size and the school environment they will experience.

Why the little sojourn down school uniform purchasing habits? Well I wanted to illustrate that outside of work we adults are careful to know and understand ours and our families’ requirements and spend our salaries wisely. We don’t have the time, the money or the energy to go through some of these spending processes more frequently than we need.
Why then do we seem to leave that sensible head at home when we enter the work environment? All too often, speaking to those looking for new ITSM tools, the request is to replace an existing tool to do the tasks and activities it currently performs. Let me get this straight. You’re looking for a new tool because it didn’t give you the anticipated value, but you want to purchase another tool that’s exactly the same as the one that you are ripping out? The service management outcomes your organization wanted to achieve three years ago, when you bought the tool, are the same that they want in the next three years? Your organization hasn’t moved on in their activities, size of personnel, breadth or organization structure, abilities of personnel, types of hardware, software and services they need to use. And you’re telling me the industry that your organization competes in hasn’t changed in three years; no new environment to compete in, no new legislation, no new competitors, or no new buying habits?

Let’s try again. What value did you not achieve with your current service desk tool and why did you not achieve it? More importantly, thinking back to our school uniform purchasing scenario, how do you want to grow and mature your service management environment? What service management outcomes do you want to achieve in the future, and what value do you want to provide to your business?

The good analysts at Gartner recently wrote a helpful research note that espoused that common sense “school uniform approach” suggesting that service management tool acquisition be based on both current and desired maturity1. Gartner followed up with advice to “select vendors on their ability to offer solutions that meet short-term and long-term requirements that align with the IT organization's I&O maturity roadmap.” According to Gartner, “Seventy-six percent of organizations are unaware of their current placement on the maturity scale; therefore, they are unable to develop roadmaps in order to improve.” In the same way that many of you ask vendors about their product roadmaps to ensure they will be investing in their solutions in the future, before you even speak to a vendor, you need to understand your current and future service management maturity path and develop your own roadmap. Understand what activities your team undertake now: incident, request, etc. and what they will do and need to support in the future.

There are two other reports from Gartner that are worth reading in conjunction with the one mentioned previously, the 2015 Gartner Critical Capabilities report for ITSSM and the 2015 Gartner MQ for ITSSM. In these, Gartner helpfully categorize vendor maturity by their tool capability to help you align ITSSM tools against your roadmap and ensure you aren’t buying a tool that is too advanced or too basic for your needs. Both of which can cause long term issues from overspend and underutilization or tools that don’t have all the functionality required for a more mature environment. Worth a read to help you save some money and understand what you need to ask vendors about when you do finally engage with them.

Well that’s about all I have to say about autumn, school uniforms and tools for now. Time to go rake up those dratted fallen ochre and burnt orange leaves from the garden – didn’t think that one through when I planted the seeds!

1. Gartner: IT Service Support Management Tool Acquisitions Must Be Based on I&O Maturity(G00276415), Katherine Lord (@lordkatherine) and Chris Matchett (@ITSMChris)