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Which ITIL Software Features Work Best?

The answer depends on where you are at in your service management efforts.
Nov 6, 2009

Pam Baker

The recession and ITIL v3 have renewed enterprise IT’s focus on ITIL. While that makes perfect sense considering ITIL is all making IT run better, the question of which ITIL software products and features are "best" remains ill-defined. Perhaps that’s because buying a software product based solely on its features is a backwards exercise. Particularly if many of the features address processes you’ve yet to put in play.

“Automating a process you don't have is rarely successful,” said Ivor Macfarlane, a fellow of the Institute of Service Management at IBM Global Technology Services.

Defining best is better determined by each organization’s actual need for automation within its existing ITIL processes. Still, there are ways to identify what features are best for the job at hand.

Process Popularity and Software Matches - “The most common top benefit to an average enterprise that adopted ITIL process enabling tools is change management,” said Refael Keren, research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group. Change and Incident management are the two most commonly adopted ITIL processes. However, Incident management processes reached critical mass prior to the current ITIL tools arms race, at least in terms of adoption of ticket management tools, he said. “That leaves change as the most commonly adopted ITIL practice.”

Change management tools are popular because they facilitate strong process, which reduces outages and errors associated with poor change control as well as “speed up the red tape that's often associated with formal process," said Keren.

Integration is Key - While the functionality and reliability of ITIL software are clearly important, Macfarlane said the biggest single factor in whether service management delivers real value is in the extent it is matched to relevant processes. To support service management, a software tool must address and integrate across the range of key processes. Doing great Change or great Configuration management independently will not deliver the same results as doing them in an integrated way. But don’t try to integrate a non-existing process.

“In service management, as with most support tools, having something there for it to support is always more effective than buying support for something you can't do yet,” said Macfarlane.

Business Impact vs. Process - Too much focus on process is a problem in of itself. "For service management to be effective it is important that companies start by focusing on the impact on the customer experience,” said Judith Hurwitz, president and chief executive officer of Hurwitz & Associates and co-author of the upcoming book: Service Management for Dummies. “Too many practitioners spend too much time on process and not enough time focusing on what will have the most impact on the business."

Dissenters argue that practitioners are sensitive to the need for a business case, but providing one can be exceedingly difficult. “IT executives are eager to see returns on the amount of time and expense put into ITIL implementation, yet few organizations are yet at a point where the outcomes are measurable.” said Adam Kerrison, CTO of Tideway.

Illuminating the Dark Places - There are ways to identify which ITIL features best fit your needs, however. Fred Broussard, research director of Enterprise System Infrastructure Software at IDC recommends you look for solutions that:

Identifies incidents occurring within the IT environment as well as service requests from internal company customers. Has or builds a database of hardware and software IT assets. Has applications that run on those assets. Has an automated way to discover and populate the database with relevant asset information.

“The automation capability should also include real-time discovery of changes being made to key hardware and software assets to ensure the assets maintain their required configuration,” said Broussard.

In essence, best software features for your organization are the ones that fit your situation.

“It comes down to this: the tool sets that are most effective are the one's that mesh up with process the enterprise has already adopted and mapped out,” explained Info-Tech’s Keren.

Starting simply and learning as you go is usually the best way to get useful results. “Expecting total success from day-one is like believing in fairies: full of beauty and optimism but not there in the real world when you need it,” said Macfarlane.

A prolific and versatile writer, Pam Baker's published credits include numerous cover stories for international, national and regional media from women's and general interest to finance, business and technology magazines, online content and newspapers; analytical studies on technology; and, six books. She is a member National Press Club and Avant Guild/Mediabistro.com. She was 2004 nominee for the Templeton Cambridge Journalism Fellowship in Science and Relgion (UK) and wrote and produced an award-winning documentary on paper-making.

IDC, ITIL, Baker, service management, ITSM software

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