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ITSM tools no silver bullet for data center service delivery

ITSM tools can simplify and streamline the service delivery process, but don't forget the critical steps that also must be taken to help IT meet businesses' goals.

For years, IT pros have relied on Microsoft Office tools, such as Excel and Word, to keep track of their services, but there wasn't a quick and easy way to match those services with what was available in the data center.

Today, IT service management (ITSM) software helps IT pros track their offerings -- aligning them to exactly what's available in the data center. But software alone isn't the answer.

In some cases, organizations expect ITSM to solve all their problems before taking the necessary steps, according to Doug Tedder, an ITSM consultant and principal of Tedder Consulting LLC in Fishers, Ind.

You have to have a tool -- no doubt about it. Often, though, organizations put the cart before the horse.
Doug Tedderprincipal, Tedder Consulting LLC

"You have to have a tool -- no doubt about it," Tedder said. "Often, though, organizations put the cart before the horse."

Service management tools help IT oversee their work and route it to the right people; measure, quantify and assign value to IT assets and add transparency to IT. Too often, organizations buy a tool to deploy a service catalog without taking the time to identify and define the services they provide, Tedder said.

"As a result, their service catalog implementations fall dramatically short of their potential, and become simply listings of IT products and activities, and not descriptions of the value and outcomes delivered or enabled by IT," he said.

ITSM tools help piece it all together

What's expected from one user is likely something that's been asked for many times before -- and ITSM tools, such as FNT Software's ServicePlanet, help keep track of that.

"Whatever the customer wants from you, you need to be able to deliver it first," said Patrick Buech, head of business line service management at Germany-based FNT.

The latest version, 3.0, was released this summer and helps match the services offered to the infrastructure that is available. It includes the ability to create a predefined product catalog, with configuration interfaces automatically generated after an order is placed.

"We industrialize services in the end," Buech said, by modeling and delivering standardized products and services.

The challenge of offering services to data centers can be piecing together everything that is available into usable parts for customers.

"The methodology is equivalent to a building block system," Buech said.

Modern tools allow IT providers to adapt to a changing market and manage the delivery chain effectively, Buech said.

"It gives you better control over buying capacities," he said.

In addition to FNT, vendors that offer similar products include BMC Software Inc. and CA Technologies.

Controlware GmbH in Dietzenbach, Germany, uses ServicePlanet to manage its IT service offerings, which range from consulting and planning to installation and maintenance of customer networks.

Goetz Sander, the company's manager of IT management, said the company has all of its services in ServicePlanet and the accounting department uses it to calculate customer costs.

In the future, Controlware may be able to monitor and report their service-level agreements (SLA) automatically. Right now, it is a lot of work for the company's SLA manager to design monthly reports for customers. By integrating ServicePlanet with other data center tools, they will be able to generate reports automatically using a reporting tool by Q-Board One, a Germany-based business management software provider.

Controlware will use Q-Board's dashboard functionality to design a dashboard for any customer and provide it on its Web portal, where customers can look up their SLAs.

"You don't need 10 people to work with it and handle it," he said. "We've waited for 10 years for something like this."

Service management doesn't happen on its own, and ITSM tools are often integrated with enterprise resource planning and configuration management databases.

"We need to be highly integrated with other tools, otherwise, it makes no sense," Buech said.

ServicePlanet pricing starts in the $50,000 to $100,000 range for a package tailored to an organization's need and can go up to $400,000 for a large enterprise. The total cost is based on the services managed by the tool.

Tedder, the ITSM consultant, warns that without having the proper processes in place, an ITSM tool may not yield the outcome you expect.

"If you go at it as just an IT solution, it is going to be a significant goal to overcome," he said.

Robert Gates covers data centers, data center strategies, server technologies, converged and hyper-converged infrastructure and open source operating systems for SearchDataCenter. Follow him on Twitter @RBGatesTT or Email him at [email protected].

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