This content is part of the Essential Guide: ITIL and ITSM best practices for process improvement

4 best practices to maximize the value of your ITSM vendor

If your ITSM vendor isn't living up to expectations, chances are you're ignoring these four ITSM best practices. ISG's Lois Coatney takes you through them, step by step.

Lois Coatney, partner and global leader for managed services at advisory firm Information Services Group in Stamford, Conn., worked with a client who wanted to analyze application performance data to determine how well systems were running and to devise a strategy for becoming more competitive.

But the client, an IT executive who had outsourced a particular IT function to a vendor, did not have access to the data. The vendor had the data, and it wasn't sharing the information.

That's one of several mistakes Coatney said she sees enterprise IT leaders make when working with the vendors they hire to help deliver IT service management (ITSM) services.

For CIOs who use an ITSM vendor to handle some or all of their service management needs, Coatney offered tips for making the most of the relationship.

Editor's note: The following ITSM best practices tip for CIOs has been edited for clarity and length.

1. Control ownership of and access to service performance data

Lois Coatney, partner and global leader for managed services at ISGLois Coatney

Lois Coatney: Service management, to me, is about performance: Are [the vendors] meeting their obligations? Are the apps and infrastructure performing to the level they should be? How is the spend? Is the cost we're spending appropriate to what we're asking?

To answer these questions, CIOs need service delivery data. And if they're not careful, they can lose visibility into their  performance data.

If you've given too much to your [ITSM vendor] to manage, or if you don't have a service management tool, then you have to ask for the data. I see clients who have not set up the demarcation, who did not [state upfront] that they own that service data and that they need [to] get it [on demand].

So, there's a level of information you need to retain and be in control of, [which means] you need to set what you want the ITSM vendor to control and have access to.

It's making sure you have a good service management tool that you own so you can collect that information. And CIOs need to have people in-house with the skills to look at that data and to understand how that information equates to performance, to do rationalization across spend categories, to map it to what the ITSM vendor said it would perform and to determine where there are gaps in service.

2. Tie business needs to ITSM vendor performance

Coatney: CIOs also need to consider relationship management to the business. The [procurement office] doesn't always know how the IT services work within the business, and they don't know how to evaluate the value of the IT services provided to the business and whether those services are falling down.

So, ITSM vendor management is also about having a good relationship with the business. That helps [ITSM vendor managers] know what the business needs, is getting and where to go next, which helps them evaluate the vendor.

3. Pick the right person to manage ITSM vendor performance

Coatney: You need someone on the team who can play that role [of ITSM vendor manager]. You have to have someone who will hold the supplier accountable, to address issues as they come up.

That takes some experience, so someone who had worked in a service delivery role previously is a good candidate.

This person should be a direct report to the CIO. They could come from finance, because the role does have a fiduciary responsibility [component]. But they also need to understand the business and IT, so when they're talking with the supplier, they can have a conversation that makes sense. Some IT delivery and management experience is important. They also need to be able to reach out to procurement, legal, business and IT.

You really need to invest in someone who has those attributes. It's a key role I wouldn't put to the wayside.

4. Encourage a partnership with the ITSM vendor

Coatney: In choosing an ITSM vendor manager, CIOs must keep in mind the need for someone with the ability to ask the supplier for innovation. When I work with clients, one of their biggest complaints is that they expected so much more from their vendors, and they never got it.

So, you have to ask your vendor manager what insight and guidelines he or she has provided to help your ITSM vendor do more and achieve more.

This person is really the one who will gain the most from the supplier and needs to glean as much from that relationship as possible. That's why it's important not to shortchange this role. It really functions as an advocate for your business.

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