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Stephen Mann | July 13, 2017

4 Important Considerations When Selecting a ITSM SaaS Vendor

Buying, or investing in, a new IT service management (ITSM) tool has never been easy. From the early days of IT help desk tools, when there was a need to justify the extra expense of a fit-for-purpose tool over using something internally created. Through to modern day ITSM, and enterprise service management, where there are just so many ITSM tools to choose from.

In the last decade, the ITSM tool selection process has become even more complicated, with an extra variable added to the mix – the software-as-a-service (SaaS) delivery model. This has offered up an extra level of decision making – either choosing between the SaaS and on-premises offerings of traditional, proven ITSM SaaS vendors who have added a newer SaaS solution to their portfolio or selecting a relatively new, SaaS-only ITSM tool vendor, where the solution has been designed specifically for the SaaS delivery model.

As I initially said, or wrote, it’s complicated. And thus, there are now a number of important considerations – in addition to achieving the required business outcomes (through the features and functionality required to deliver them) and standard non-functional requirements – when selecting a new SaaS ITSM tool. Please read on to find out more about what four of these key considerations are.

1. The vendor’s ability to help YOU decide if SaaS is right for your needs

It has become fashionable to take the SaaS-delivery-model route for ITSM. This isn’t a bad thing, because this favoritism of SaaS has been based on the benefits customers have received by “going SaaS.” For instance:

  • Quicker implementation times
  • More frequent upgrades/updates (such that newer capabilities are received more quickly)
  • Easier integrations with other systems
  • The ability to flex use up and down as needed over time
  • Simpler cost models with no Capex outlay
  • No need to host and manage the solution
  • A potentially more modern look and feel

However, it’s important not to buy a SaaS ITSM solution just because it’s SaaS (and you think you need a SaaS solution). Instead, let the vendor do the hard work in explaining why you should be buying SaaS. Let them verify your decision making thus far. Let them demonstrate the promised benefits through existing customer success stories.

They might conclude that on-premises is actually a better fit for your organization than a SaaS ITSM solution, and this is okay. That is, unless they would prefer you and other customers not to go SaaS – and this is covered in consideration number 2.

2. The ITSM SaaS vendor’s original and current “motivation”

This might seem an odd consideration to put forward, and it’s in no way an exact science by way of a vendor assessment criterion. However, it’s still worth trying to understand:

1) Why the ITSM tool vendor decided to offer the SaaS delivery model for its ITSM product. Was it the power of SaaS to the customer or just the creation of a SaaS “me too” offering to stay competitive? The time it took to introduce the SaaS offering might be indicative of this.

2) How motivated the vendor currently is in selling its SaaS offering. Look to see the split between on-premises and SaaS sales – both in terms of total customers and new customers. A well-backed, and fit-for-purpose, SaaS ITSM offering should be outselling on-premises in 2017 (apart from in some geographies that shy away from SaaS/cloud for legislative reasons).

The reason, as you have hopefully worked out, is to understand the vendor’s commitment to SaaS, its SaaS product(s), and its SaaS customers. After all, who would want to buy into a vendor’s second-string ITSM offering?

3. The vendor’s focus on consumerization, simplicity, and ease of use

Just because it’s a SaaS product doesn’t mean to say that it’s going to be as simple and as easy to use as consumer-world applications. This applies across the board – from initial set up (implementation, including integrations), through use by both IT and end users, to the ease of upgrades/updates.

It might sound old fashioned to even state this, but the SaaS solution needs to be more than just the on-premises offering hosted on someone else’s infrastructure. It needs to benefit from newer app development and infrastructure advancements – better technology, delivered more quickly.

And for those ITSM vendors that offer both on-premises and SaaS offerings, check the similarities and differences. For instance, does the on-premises release cycle hold back the SaaS product? Or, at the other end of the spectrum, are the offerings so in-sync that more questions need to be asked about the SaaS version?

4. The vendor’s level of understanding of both ITSM and SaaS/cloud

From an ITSM perspective, test the ITSM SaaS vendor’s knowledge of:

  • The history and evolution of ITSM – Make the vendor show that they didn’t decide on the ITSM market on a whim. Understand the difference they wanted, and still want, to make to the market through their SaaS product. Otherwise it’s potentially just an arbitrary use case for their investment in new technology.
  • ITSM best practice – One of the best ways to understand this is to read the vendor’s marketing collateral, from web pages to customer case studies. Understand whether they are convincing in their use of ITSM language and use cases. It might just be the sign of a weak marketing team, but it could be a sign of an inability to truly understand, and deliver against, customer needs.
  • The competitive landscape – If the vendor struggles with articulating this, then they possibly haven’t invested enough in understanding both the market they serve and how their product can be both competitive and differentiated within it.

From a SaaS/cloud perspective, assess the ITSM SaaS vendor’s investments in meeting customer needs for security, availability, and meeting geographical data legislation among other things. For example:

  • Data centers – The volumes and locations are key to both availability and complying with legislative needs. So where does the vendor have them and what plans are there for future growth? Also, what are the business continuity and disaster recovery mechanism from both a supplier and customer perspective?
  • Security accreditations – which certifications do the vendor’s data centers hold and how do they invest in both security and its regular testing?

There are, of course, many other considerations for your future ITSM SaaS vendor, but hopefully these four have helped you to start  thinking about the key things to assess, in addition to what your company needs the SaaS solution to help it do.

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Stephen Mann

Principal Analyst and Content Director at the ITSM-focused industry analyst firm ITSM.tools. Also an independent IT and IT service management marketing content creator, and a frequent blogger, writer, and presenter on the challenges and opportunities for IT service management professionals. Previously held positions in IT research and analysis (at IT industry analyst firms Ovum and Forrester and the UK Post Office), IT service management consultancy, enterprise IT service desk and IT service management, IT asset management, innovation and creativity facilitation, project management, finance consultancy, internal audit, and product marketing for a SaaS IT service management technology vendor.