Your IT Service Management system is the engine that powers your IT operations, and is a powerful platform to transform your company into a digital enterprise. From help-desk processes to infrastructure provisioning to risk management, your ITSM system has versatile capabilities to support almost every facet of your IT function. Be aware, however, because that same system is also a monster, easily capable of growing beyond your control and crushing your IT organization in administrative overhead with feature bloat.
Perhaps that last statement was a bit overly dramatic, but feature bloat in ITSM systems is an actual problem that many IT organizations face. If you aren’t careful, then you may learn the costs of sustaining the platform and installed features outweigh the benefit your ITSM system provides you. Unfortunately, once the mess has been made, it is often difficult to clean. The best way to avoid feature bloat is to exercise discipline during your implementation of ITSM features. Here are a series of tips that can help guide your ITSM implementation to a very satisfactory conclusion.
- Leverage from-the-box capabilities wherever possible: Most ITSM platforms come pre-configured to support industry best-practices (such as ITIL), with processes, user roles and management reporting pre-defined. If possible, then try to use these features from the box and avoid making configuration and customization changes that must be maintained during the future and perpetuated to future versions of the system. Most organizations don’t actually need customized ITSM processes and are happy working within the standards.
- Wait to implement features until you need them: it’s easy to be tempted by what an ITSM system can (potentially) do and become over-zealous during your implementation. Remember, once you implement a feature, there is an administrative cost to maintain it and an operational cost to use it. Most companies license and implement more features than their organizations are ready to use. By waiting to implement a feature until your organization has the skills and processes to consume it, you not only avoid overhead and waste, but also, in many cases, you are able to leverage newer, more refined system capabilities when you do implement.
- Integrate with other systems conservatively: The CMDB is the core of your ITSM system and contains an inventory of the components in your IT environment, and is the connective tissue of dependencies amongst them. It’s likely many of the configuration items and attributes contained in your CMDB are copied from other systems. It may be tempting to try to integrate with every IT system that your company uses – but this causes trouble for many companies. Every integration includes a cost to maintain it as your environment evolves. The more sophisticated your environment and the more frequently it changes – the more it costs you to keep your configuration data current, or else risk presenting poor insights that lead to costly consequences, such as wrong license counts and unprotected devices with no anti-virus. When choosing which systems to integrate with your CMDB, consider the operations processes that will use the data and whether there is a significant benefit to having all the data in the ITSM system versus accessing data from source systems directly.
- Be wary of shiny new features: To entice customers (like you) to implement the latest versions of their software, ITSM vendors will often heavily promote (and hype) new features that may seem great in the marketing materials, but are not fully developed (half-baked) or require a level of maturity and skill that your company doesn’t yet have. Consider user readiness and change management challenges before adopting the “latest and greatest” new features. Remember, your ITSM processes must be rock-solid and dependable to support the rest of your IT organization. It is better to wait a few months for the next release and be ready to use the feature than to struggle by adopting it too early.
- Determine what decisions you must make before you capture more data: The quest to capture data is one of the biggest causes of ITSM feature bloat. Companies have a bad habit of creating many processes (and implementing system features) to capture data that they will never actually use in operations or to make decisions. Before adding new data fields (and processes to manage them), pause and consider what decisions you must make and if the data is necessary to support those decisions. As a general rule, if you can’t draw a direct connection to data consumption, then don’t capture it.
If you are diligent and deliberate in how you implement features in your ITSM system, then it can be a powerful and effective platform to enable your company’s IT operations. To avoid feature bloat and its impact, leverage the capabilities that the system provides from the box, implement features only when you are ready to use them, focus on the processes before building integrations, avoid the temptation of newly released features and focus on the decisions that must be made before collecting more data. By adopting these guidelines, your ITSM system can continue to create value for many years.