Must-have ITSM tool features

When looking for an ITSM tool, audit the capabilities of the tool sets you have in place, and follow this check list of must-have features.

IT Service Management (ITSM) is a philosophy around managing computers, devices and systems that take the end user into account. How do end users -- the IT department’s ultimate customers -- see the effect of IT in a business? ITSM moves away from seeing IT as a top-down sort of department, where systems and services exist in their own silos, and toward an environment where IT plays a positive role in the business.

Jonathan Hassell

But what ITSM tools are available to help implement this mind-set and framework in your IT department? The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is of no help to you here in recommending tools, since there isn’t a universal designation of a “compliant” tool. Further, since businesses are so diverse, so, too, are the technology assets that support them. So, it’s hard to give accolades to one tool over the other when the application in any given environment would be so different.

When you’re evaluating an ITSM tool for your business, first take a look at what is already in your stable, and then put together a list of packages that meet your needs.

Consider the ITSM tool that you already have

If you’re looking at your ITSM tool setup, first inventory the types of management tools you have in place, and make sure that the dollars you’ve already spent are being put to the best use. When considering the software you have now, ask yourself:

  • How easy is it to integrate this software with applications from multiple vendors?
  • Is this software built using a standards-based approach compliant with ITIL and other industry guidelines?
  • Do I spend an inordinate amount of time fussing with this tool?
  • How scalable is this tool if my business expands and my IT department grows?

Build an ITSM tool spec for the future

Most modern ITSM tools are available in suite form, packaging many modules together that address areas like end-user assistance, deployment, configuration management and so on. The advantage of a suite-based approach is that typically there are management consoles, or applications that integrate the various modules and allow administrators and the CIO to view systems and service management holistically. Here’s where the “from a single pane of glass” phrase comes in -- representing what IT in your organization looks like.

When you’re evaluating an ITSM tool, look for components and tools or subsets that include, at a realistic minimum, the following fundamentals:

  • Service portfolio.
  • Asset discovery and license management.
  • Deployment management.
  • Workflow engines to help manage processes.
  • Configuration management.
  • End-user self-help/self-service.
  • Remote control.
  • Reporting tools, dashboards, scorecards and other quick-hit monitoring features.

When evaluating these tool sets, your vendor should allow you to purchase a core set of two or three of these modules to get you started, and add more components to your license at an incremental cost as you grow. Vendors requiring all-out “whole hog” purchases should be at the bottom of your list, all other points being equal.

Jonathan Hassell is president of The Sun Valley Group Inc. He's an author, consultant and speaker in Charlotte, N.C. Hassell's books include RADIUS, Learning Windows Server 2003, Hardening Windows and, most recently, Windows Vista: Beyond the Manual. Contact him at [email protected].

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