On a recent recording of the IT Service Management Weekly Podcast Rest of the World Edition (#ITSMWPROW on Twitter), one of my co-hosts – James Finister, an ITSM consultant at TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) – proposed an interesting new selection criteria for ITSM tool selection; this being the vendor's level of ITSM community support. To me it made a lot of sense: the US likes to buy American, France likes to buy French, and the UK likes to buy British (if the wind is blowing in the right direction in the latter’s case). So why shouldn't ITSM tool vendors be rewarded for the role they play in supporting the ITSM community? After all, ITIL adoption is allegedly a journey rather than a time-boxed technology implementation project. IMHO, selling technology and one-time professional services just isn’t enough when it comes to ITSM.

To put this in context, I’ve visited a fair few UK-located ITSM events in the last couple of years and I will always gauge who is and isn't there from the ITSM tool vendor-world perspective. To me, the non-attendance of high-profile ITSM tool vendors (both Big 4 and pure-play) at events such as the itSMFUK annual conference or the Service Desk and IT Support Show shows a disregard to their existing and potential customer base (in this instance in the UK and Europe), as well as a lack of understanding of the existing and growing sense of community within the ITSM ecosystem. In many respects, customers of ITSM tools are starting to bite back, so why should the ITSM tool selection process be any different?

I think most of us will admit that selecting an ITSM tool isn't easy, and that it has become even harder given the level of functional parity in the ITSM software market (which is not surprising given the way that ITIL has been used as a blueprint for most ITSM tools). Of course, beyond the obvious non-functional selection criteria of price, scalability, and security, there are other softer aspects to be considered such as user interface, intuitiveness, professional services capability, and previous customer feedback. In my opinion “ITSM community support” sits nicely with these criteria (one could also throw in how the vendor will foster and support a 1-to-1 relationship going forward given the “ITIL is a journey” mantra).

This community support can take many forms. There is the obvious paying for vendor booths at events, which subsidizes or even fully covers ITSM practitioner attendance (at the events). There is the sharing of ITSM best practices and case studies via presentations at the events or via industry webinars. White (or thought-leadership) papers that offer real world advice, rather than purely advocating the brilliance of a particular ITSM tool, also contribute. Simple “caring” activities, such as sharing links to good ITSM content via Twitter, also count. Ultimately, there are so many ways that vendors and their marketing budgets can help ITSM practitioners in their day jobs and, I'd like to think, help the vendors themselves in what is becoming a far more social ITSM community and competitive ITSM tool market.

So next time you're selecting a new ITSM tool, be cheeky and ask the vendor how they support the ITSM community. Go on, I dare you.

Finally, I'd love to hear your opinions on this concept (thanks again to James) and, of course, feedback on vendor responses if you dare to try it.


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