Key Questions to Ask Your SaaS ITSM vendor

The ITSMguy was recently asked; “What are some of the key things I should ask a solution vendor when evaluating their offering?”(paraphrased).


Well since most ITSM solutions handle the basic things like incident, asset, change; you have to scratch a little deeper to investigate the depth to which it handles these areas.QandA.jpg

For example, most service desk solutions can create a ticket or incident, however, can they look for patterns, similar or same tickets around this incident to see trends to spot the root cause (now moving to problem management), can you have the user create a recording of what is happening and submit for viewing, if high priority can you launch a chat session to quickly communicate with the person(and then capture and store this information into the ticket).  I hope you see the point.  Just saying or being broad is not good enough. You must have the depth. There is a reason it is referred to as a “practice”.  This is not something to just gloss over and say “we can check the box”. The devil is in the details but it is the details that truly unlock the value of the solution.  Having all of this on an integrated platform to enable seamless communication, routing and reporting while appearing to be “table stakes” is what separates the players in the pro room from the online wannabees.


1)       Describe your implementation services which should include best practices?


Subscribing to a “service” is the easy part. Now what?  How do I really get this thing up and running and more importantly how do I spend 1 day signing up and 12 months figuring out how to use it. Having the experience not only with the solution but also with how to properly implement a strategy and a more detailed “practice approach” to the solution area you are attacking is what drives time to value.  A first year TCO can look great on paper but it is the value realization that comes from actually putting the service into play.  Remember, as we have seen, the software is the smallest percentage in terms of costs to the organization.  It is the cost of people and your opportunity cost of getting the solution working which is where your largest exposure exists.  Getting the people and process aligned, working and maximized is the true key to unlocking the value and the savings.


2)       What types of internal consulting practices and experience do you offer for someone in my industry?


Without harping on the point above, experience makes all the difference. The ITSMguy driving an F1 car for your team will not have the same desired results as Michael Schumacher. 


Understanding how to utilize the solution, how to organize the people, to change the culture, all of this comes with years of experience (and should come with a quantifiable deliverable).  The total man years of experience at BMC are mind boggling. Some people here have forgotten more than this author will ever learn and the number of customers and examples they have work on with customers in government ( we have a whole group here by the way), to education, finance, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, the list goes on. We have courses, training, consultants and more. Yes sometimes size does matter.



3)       What standards do you support such as DMTF, CMDBf, ITIL, COBIT, etc?


While being the new kid on the block and touting all the wonders of modern ITSM and how all the established solutions are bad, one thing that comes with age is experience. And with experience come requirements and solutions for particular internal and external regulations and compliance.  Without a broad base of experience, how can you know and understand these requirements, to have the experts in house that understand these requirements and then translate these requirements into software solutions.  This is not something you do over night. The ITSMguy still has trouble spelling COBIT let alone to understand the myriad of regulations and issues. And we have people who have and can write volumes and advise you how to navigate and address these issues and to top it off, they have put this into the solution.



4)       Can users edit key areas such as change status, override priority or change dates affecting an escalation flag? And if so what changes must be made to ensure this situation does not occur and can that be accessed and overwritten by a non management employee?


The ITSM guys says; This is a mission critical area. How can you maintain any sense of process let alone have accountability and integrity of the data if it is editable like a wiki. Wikis are for creating a database of information, not for adjusting SLA numbers.


5)       Will I be required to do a lot of scripting and what skill sets and tools will be required?


Scripting? For a SaaS product?  Isn’t one of the main tenets of SaaS to be managing the service not the software?  So why would you now want to get into the code writing business?  What skill set to I need for this?  Who is checking the quality of the script?  While some would say it is only scripting, adding new code into the solution really requires you to go through a proper Q&A and release control process.  What if I write a script that then freezes up some other part of the application? Will you have the proper software design document and process in place to be able to troubleshoot what happened, to be able to back out the code to an control state……. Huh, folks, it’s SaaS. Don’t touch the software.



6)       Describe how your solution enforces common-sense business rules to ensures data integrity and support my ability to make decisions?


Ah, you can’t make edits to it. Enough said.  The process and workflows are there for a reason.



7)       How many customers do you have for my particular industry and size?


The ITSMguy recommends asking for multiple references in your own industry. What does the vendor know about the unique challenges of a company your size, in your industry and facing the challenges you have?  Have they worked with one or two companies in your industry or hundreds?  Have they deployed a global service desk?  Have they done a global service desk consolidation?  Remember, SaaS is just another form of how you will consume and utilize the solution. To your end user who logs into a Service Request portal or for the operator responding to these requests, the screen will look the same whether the solution is on premise or SaaS.  What that solution can do for them and how it helps you to manage the needs of the business is the crucial question.  Do you want as your heart surgeon the fresh faced kid straight out of med school or the guy with more than a bit of grey in his hair?  Experience, not hype is what really matters.



8)       How does your solution maintain customizations and supporting those customizations through “automatic upgrades”?


Customizing. SaaS. These two words do not go together (sounds like the old Sesame Street jingle).  Why would you go from having customizations and the issues there to doing it again?  And The ITSMguy can speak candidly and from experience here. One of the great and powerful things about Remedy is that you can customize it.  One of the downsides to Remedy is that you can customize it.  And while we have worked out the details to bring those customizations forward, if you look at what comes with the latest version of Remedy OnDemand, why would you want to customize it?  Why would you move to a SaaS model only to get back into the customization business?  And how will you now manage your customizations to a solution that is upgrading 2-3 times per year?



9)       Describe your solutions embedded best practices methodology?  Does your solution utilize “Plugins” to accomplish this and other critical tasks?


Plug ins? Scripting?  This is what you call “pure SaaS” or modern ITSM?  Both of these technologies are so 1990 I feel like I am in a John Hughes movie.


I can understand enabling a widget, a google mashup or at least an iApp into the solution. But a plugin?  Who is developing the plugin? How is this being tested? How is this tested on my service and how will this plugin interact with the scripts I have written?


Best practices are just that.  They have been developed over years of experience, trial, error, pain, wisdom and designed into the product from the outset.  How you can you claim modern ITSM without knowing and having a best practice approach and tools built in. Adding a plugin sounds like this was an afterthought 


The Amendments to the constitution were a good idea. Adding plugins to address something wrong with the foundation is not.


And since we are talking SaaS, why would this just not have been in the latest release?


The ITSMguy will refer back to the previous question on experience. This is what separates the dinosaurs from the marsupials, the dinosaurs ( since this is what these start ups refer to us as) have been around for a long, long time      (and yes I know the analogy, dinosaurs eventually died out, but hey, we’re a realist and nothing lasts forever but we will take a Mesozoic area any day or a few million years of leadership, whatever comes first)


Don’t buy a dream only to live a nightmare……..thought for the day.



10)   How do you develop and maintain “plug-ins”?


Well we touched on this above in terms of best practices, but now do I need to also learn how to build my own plugins?  I thought the main idea of SaaS was to consume it as a service, not create my own internal development group.  I keep hearing all these cheap shots about everything that is wrong with Remedy, but the hard truth is (and yes it has been hard) that when you have been in the business as long as we have, there is an evolution.  What customers used and experienced with Remedy6 is so night and day to what is now available in Remedy OnDemand.  The same core tenets are there as far as best practices, workflows, integrated platform, that sets it apart from the competition, but how and what you can manage has been streamlined and simplified. 


If you look at what you had to customize 3-5 years ago now comes out of the box.  So why would you buy SaaS to get out of that business and to allocate those resources to building new applications and services to now say, well you no longer need to develop on our old system, I now need you to learn scripting and plugin development for my new system.


Repeat after me; “I will not repeat the past”. Say it three times before you sign something and give us a call first.




11)   What type of Educational services and training are available for my team to reach maximum efficiency?


Finally an easy answer. We offer everything from training on the solution itself to achieve maximum productivity, concept classes such as Airport SIM and Cloud SIM  to showcase the value areas around things like BSM and cloud, workshops on organizational transformation, creating an ITSM strategy.  When you have an entire practice within your company around educational services you can rest assured we probably have more offerings that you can consume but still probably have what you need to increase your knowledge and experience and more importantly, put it into practice.

These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

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