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ITSM Processes

3 pitfalls for selecting a Service Management System

By Ramon van Leeuwen on January, 24 2017

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Ramon van Leeuwen

Commercial Director at TOPdesk.

Choosing a new service management tool can be a difficult task. There are many (internal) stakeholders, lots of requirements from all of them - and often there are as many different wishes as there are people involved. So how can you create structure in a very complex process that makes it easy to understand again?

1. Using the right selection process

Different organizations make different choices, but it’s always important to think about the strategies you employ when you choose your enterprise service management software vendor. After all, you’re going to work with the vendor you choose for at least the next three to five years, if not more!

Of course there will be a formal or informal RFI (request for information) process, but before starting the process there are some basic strategic choices you need to make, which will make the "end-game" a lot easier!

In my 20+ years of experience with the selection process of enterprise software, I’ve found that there are basically two types of solution vendors. If you keep this in mind, you’re better able to understand the nature of your potential new supplier, making the selection process much more comprehensive

2. Correctly identifying the two types of vendors

I believe there are two types of vendors: LEGO vendors and PLAYMOBIL vendors. Let me explain what this means and how this relates to your selection process.

The analogy with the toy brands is to make it easy to understand how these vendors are different. And by explaining the differences you can see how this applies to your selection process when it comes to ITSM software, or any software in general. So let me explain some basic characteristics of the two:

In essence the main difference between the two brands is that with Playmobil the fun is about playing with the toys and with Lego the fun is in the building process. If you plot this against your business, most business problems are already being solved thousands of times and you just want to implement a best industry practice and start “playing”.  It happens very rarely that an organization really needs to “build” something to support their business. If you have a problem, someone else somewhere has also had it and there is already a solution for it. Why reinvent the wheel?

To be fair here, most of the time this is also related to the specific maturity level of the organization. Low to medium maturity organizations favor solutions and systems which are easy to use and quick to set up for playing. Highly mature organizations tend to pick tailored systems.

Choosing the right Service Management Provider

Most vendors pitch themselves as a kind of out of the box “Playmobil” solution. But this isn’t always true. A problem often encountered by customers is how to recognize which vendor falls in what category. Is it really a Playmobil vendor or a wolf in sheep’s clothing? So how do you recognize Lego and Playmobil vendors?

3. Making the right choice

To see the fundamental differences, you have to look at all stages of the product/solution life-cycle and basically the vendor’s business model and the ecosystems (or abundance of it) around it.  

Lifecycle Stages in Service Management Software

To help you see the signs in the different stages of the product life cycle I put together this table. Here, you can compare the approach of my concept of a Playmobil vendor to the behavior of a Lego-style vendor.

Essentially, though, when you’re choosing a new software product, the fundamental strategic choice you have to make is this: do you want to play or build? Making this choice first will simplify your process by eliminating the "waste" out of the process.

Nobody wants to spend time evaluating vendors that don’t fit with their organization’s strategy, or vendors that have you build too much, instead of play. And you can easily spot which vendors will let you play: watch their behavior in the buying process.

For more tips and tricks and help in the jungle that is ITSM, see our guide to take your IT department from expense to a partner or Try our software online

Ramon also blogs about sales and service management on his personal Linked in-page. Follow him there for more!


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