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Winners and Losers in the ITSM Premier League

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Six leading ITSM vendors went head to head this week at the itSMF UK Tools forum. The free event was held at the Etihad stadium in Manchester, home of the 2012 premier league winners Manchester City.

This was openly promoted as a tool focused event. A perfect opportunity for some of the leading lights of the industry to showcase their technology and highlight their competitive differentiators.

An opportunity to shine?

It’s a tough, competitive market out there. Differentiate or die.

I was eager to find out which vendors could articulate their unique qualities, who could position themselves in the market? Could they inspire confidence in buyers? Would buyers be safe in their hands?

The result? In my opinion – Delegates experienced the full spectrum from cutting edge to dull as dishwater:


Roy IllsleyOvum (6/10)

Roy gave us an interesting, thought provoking presentation. The content seemed to be a bit out of place for the theme of the day but otherwise it was great talk and I look forward to delving into the slide deck when it becomes available (Applying Lean principles to IT Strategy).

Patrick BolgerHornbill (9/10)

You can tell why Patrick has ‘Evangelist’ in his job title. Patrick gave us an inspirational pitch for not only his company but also the industry as a whole. If all Hornbill customers have the same software installed and the same ITIL training – how is it that they experience vastly different results? Patrick argued that it is because of the people. Hornbill believes in putting their successful customers on a pedestal when positioning their solution. Nice job Patrick.

Tony Bambury, FrontRange (1/10)

Tony provided us a live demo of their SaaS solution and ran through a user ordering an iPhone. I struggled to see how FrontRange differed from the rest of the pack. An opportunity missed.

Kevin Parker, Tom Burnell and James Warriner from Serena (8/10)

Serena have some closet amateur dramatics buffs in their midst. Serena declared an end to dull PowerPoint pitches and provided a refreshingly different demonstration of their technology. We were entertained by means of a reenactment of one of their ‘Doug Serena’ episodes.  For me, it would have been the presentation of the day – but unfortunately it was difficult to hear their presentation and the ‘actors’ were not always visible, so we lost the thread at times. Otherwise – an excellent slot by Serena and they should be congratulated for their effort, preparation and originality (the product looked good too!).

Dave D’Agostino from ServiceNow (5/10)

Dave gave a safe and steady presentation on ‘SaaS driving forces’ and positioned ServiceNow as a cloud platform rather than pure ITSM focused tool. I’m personally not convinced that the market needs telling the advantages of cloud anymore and I would welcome some more pragmatic advice about shifting services to the cloud. E.g. if you are in this particular industry facing abc market forces and xyz legislation this is what similar customers achieved. Perhaps it’s time to move the conversation on from ‘You don’t need to buy servers!’.

I also thought Dave’s ROI model of on premise versus cloud looked a bit shaky, given the likely implementation / customization costs of ServiceNow over a 3 year period – I would welcome some independent industry statistics on this.

Don Page, Marval (4/10)

I tuned out for Don’s session. It was entertaining but a bit of a rant. If I were a prospect for a new ITSM tool provider I would be left with the impression that Don is a great guy and unique personality, but I would be a bit lost if you asked me to remember the redeeming features of his solution, apart from ‘Buy British’.

Tony Probert, Cherwell (7/10)

Tony set out the stall for Cherwell in his no-nonsense forthright style. Tony urged us to think about business services over support and that if we were doing break-fix for a living we were ripe for outsourcing.

He openly stated that most of Cherwell’s features were ‘just like everyone else’ but then managed to clearly articulate their competitive differentiators:

  1. Code-less configuration
  2. Autonomy from Cherwell (not dependent on consultancy and feature lock down)
  3. and seamless upgrades despite customization.

Three bullets to separate Cherwell from the competition and an attractive proposition for those migrating from on-premise tools. That one slide was a refreshing change to the others of the day who struggled to articulate their competitive differentiators.


Same again next year?

Like the SDI tools day, this is a great format by the itSMF and I hope they repeat it again soon. As with regionals – perhaps some real life user feedback could be shoehorned into the day. Further upcoming itSMF events can be found here.

Great seminar location: The view from the 'Legends' lounge at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester.

Martin Thompson

Martin is an independent software industry analyst, SAM consultant and founder of The ITAM Review and The ITSM Review. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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  • GE

    errr. what was your assessment criteria?? Just another opinion? I was hoping to find something credible to reference out of this article….

    • http://twitter.com/itsmreview The ITSM Review

      What part of the article do you not find credible? 

  • Kimberly

    @GE — totally agree, something more specific would have been better than what seems like an opinionated piece… i’m not saying this is not credible… I just wanted more details, like the assessment criteria — For example, Martin wrote “Tony provided us a live demo of their SaaS solution and ran through a user ordering an iPhone. I struggled to see how FrontRange differed from the rest of the pack. An opportunity missed.” why was there no differing factor? Those are the kinds of questions that readers like us are looking for… Overall though – it is still an engaging and fun piece to read – just lacks substance.

  • Stephen Alexander

    Why is it that a discussion about ITSM “tools” is really only a discussion about Service Desk tools?

    What about Event Management? HP OM? BMC Patrol? CA NSM?

    What about how to do Event correlation? Alert escalation? Using Event data to drive Problem Management? If anyone is using SNMP as a basis for Event Management – they are not serious.

    Where is a discussion on Portfolio Management or Capacity Management tools?

    If you are not covering these things (and all the others) you are not covering ITSM tools – you are covering some subset of ITSM tools – most likely just those used by the Service (Help) Desk. That isn’t ITSM. It is part of ITSM…and the question should be asked – is the part that most CFO’s and CIO’s care the most about? Is the part that most Data Center Managers care about? (I’m guessing not).

    • itsmreview

      Agreed. We were covering the tools present at the event.

    • hwangeruk

      It depends on who you are. If you are a user, Self Service. A helpdesk jockey or manager then its Helpdesk. But ITSM varies wildly. But in my experience small companies only care about helpdesk, and when you move to large corporates its all about helpdesk and change management. I’ve yet to see an CMDB either be decent/complete or give back much value.
      If your too small it doesn’t matter, and too big the CMDB upkeep is too hard/complex. And event driven? Yeah in dreamland. I’m amazed at how poor some of the Gartner purveyed software is for ITSM. Axios Assyst? Pah. Remedy? Yuk.

      • http://itsmmd.wordpress.com/ Stephen Alexander

        My point was that calling this a review of “ITSM” tools is not really ture – it is a review of a very narrow tool type. What about any number of Release Management products? Or any number of Portfolio Management products?

        What frustrates me is the overwhelming focus on “Operations” with a little toe in the water for “Transition” but the otherwise contempt, ignorance, or ambivalence toward anything to do with “Strategy” or “Design.”

        The utopia of the CMDB has been replaced by the utopia of the Service Catalogue (which as Rob England points out is a confused jumble where people are really trying to talk about Request Menus…so, back in Operations!).

        • hwangeruk

          Not sure its arrogance, certainly not on Stephen’s part.

          Most ITSM software tools refer to Service management which is primarily an operational discipline. (hence the S in ITSM :/)

          Even from the Wikipedia:

          ” ITSM is generally concerned with the “back office” or operational concerns”
          If you wanna get all Six Sigma that’s not ITSM.
          I don’t personally view ITSM tools as tools for transition. In most use cases, its helpdesk, change control and a cr*p IMDB, but your mileage may vary :) As could your view.

          • http://itsmmd.wordpress.com/ Stephen Alexander

            “I don’t personally view ITSM tools as tools for transition” – But why not? This is rather my point – ITSM *is not* limited to operations, neither should the toolset.

            “In most use cases, its helpdesk, change control, and cr*p…” – Agreed. Again, this is my point. That isn’t the totality of ITSM and it if you are doing something about “ITSM tools” you shouldn’t limit yourself just to the ones about/around operations. Unless, you want to do something about ITSM Operations tools or ITSM Help Desk tools.

            The danger is that ITSM is going to be a replacement phrase for “Help Desk with a few add on features” – and I don’t believe that is what “ITSM” is really (or just) about.

            That same Wiki article says ITSM is about the “implementation and management of quality information technology services” – the implementation….that would be release (and change), that would be working with projects (perhaps programs)…quality would indicate some type of design…hopefully working with EA…you get the point.