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Choosing a new IT Service Management (ITSM) toolset is a time-consuming and costly activity.  You need to get it right the first time, as selecting the wrong tool will cause significant issues.

Here we examine the characteristics of a good tool selection process and highlight some of the pitfalls you’re likely to encounter on the way.

Define Scope

First things first.  Define the scope of the toolset.

Do you want the ability to just log tickets?  Or do you want to supplement this with self-service capability for end users, the ability to create automated workflows, support a knowledge base, perform password resets….?  The list goes on and on, but do some research and ensure you have consensus on what you’re buying.

Set Expectations

It’s also important to set expectations on the capabilities of the new toolset.  There is a tendency to see anything new as a panacea for all of the issues being faced in IT.  If the tool fails to address these, its reputation (and yours!), will suffer.  So, be clear on what it’s going to help with, and what it won’t.

Define requirements

Once you’ve got a clear idea on the scope, and reached consensus on this, be sure to define some functional and non-functional requirements.  Requirements will essentially form your buying criteria, and will be in the form of functional requirements, (i.e. what it can do) and non-functional requirements (i.e. how it will operate).

You may wish to rank your requirements in terms of importance, making some mandatory and others optional.

We’d recommend scoring each prospective toolset provider using a common set of requirements and scoring.  That way, you can ensure you’re treating each provider equally and comparing each tool based on its merits.

Demos and Trials

We’d strongly suggest you form a long list and do some research of each provider, their tools, and the reviews online from existing users.   Typically, between 5-7 providers on the long list is appropriate.  Apply some simple selection criteria to reduce this down to a maximum of 4.  This short list of service providers should then be asked to demonstrate their toolsets.  Some may even offer a free trial.  Be sure to ensure that any demonstration or trial is used to score against the requirements, rather than run to a standard demo script dictated by the service provider.

Scoring and evaluation

Using your scoring and evaluation criteria, you should be able to rank each provider based upon their ability to meet your requirements.  This will make it easier to justify your selection, and again, to control expectations of what will be delivered and what won’t.

We typically use a spreadsheet for this purpose, which facilitates easy comparison of the various tools against each of the functional and non-functional requirements.


Each ITSM toolset provider will employ different commercial frameworks, and this can make negotiating a favourable cost very difficult.  Be sure to consider your business growth plans, your usage profile, the various permissions, the roles which will be required for users of the tool and the total cost of ownership over the next 3-5 years.  Be sure to have this documented, as you’ll need to refer to it when negotiating the most appropriate commercial framework for the toolset and also for any business case presentation you may need to give prior to proceeding with the procurement.


Before you commence configuration of the toolset, there are a few vitally important factors to consider.

Firstly, you may wish to engage with a specialist system integration partner to implement the toolset, and they will therefore need to be selected in good time.  Consider looking for recommendations from other organisations here, as well as the toolset provider themselves, who will likely have a system integration partner network from which you can choose the most appropriate provider.

Secondly, try and avoid the temptation to configure an exact replica of the current toolset.  Consider your reasons for wanting to change tools in the first place and ensure that the configuration is planned to overcome the challenges you’re experiencing today, not replicate them!

Finally, consider your processes and ways of working.  Are these sufficiently robust to configure within the toolset, or are there opportunities to improve your current processes?  If this is the case, define the processes before configuring the toolset.  After all, the tool facilitates the process, not vice-versa!  In addition, neatly documented processes make configuration of the toolset easier, as the systems integrator is more easily able to understand what’s required.

Also, take a look at our ITSM Tool Implementation Considerations for more guidance on preparing for implementation of the tool.


Prior to implementation of the toolset, you’ll need to define an appropriate testing strategy.  Ensure that you have test scripts defined to prove that the toolset is functional and operable prior to go-live.  Many organisations develop go / no-go criteria at this point to ensure that the toolset is ready for go-live prior to implementation.

When implementing the toolset, consider your implementation approach.  Will you plan for a clean-break, big-bang approach, or will you phase in the implementation over time?

Consider your strategy with regards migrating existing data to the new toolset.  How is the data quality and integrity today, and are there opportunities to cleanse it, or replace it, prior to implementation?

Also ensure that users of the toolset know it’s coming, through a program of communication, supplemented by hands-on training in the lead-up to the implementation.

Don’t forget your customers, particularly if there is a self-service portal or knowledge base being introduced.  Failure to drive adoption of the new tool could seriously damage its reputation and usage over time, so consider which adoption strategies you might employ.

Early Life Support

Prior to implementation, you’ll need to ensure you have plans in place for the first few weeks of go-live.  Will you have super-users who are fully trained and able to help others?  Will you have staff from the systems integration partner on hand to assist you?  How will you handle bugs / snags in those early weeks of go-live and how will you address them?

It’s advisable to define acceptance criteria prior to implementation, which will help you to determine whether the implementation has been a success and whether the toolset can be signed off into live support.

Measuring Success

Prior to go-live you may wish to define some project success criteria, against which you can measure the success of the implementation.

Consider here such factors as user satisfaction, reliability, performance and the ability of the tool to fulfil the functional and non-functional requirements you defined at the outset.


The implementation of a new ITSM toolset is not trivial.  There’s just so much complexity, it can seem overwhelming at first.  Over the years, we have developed a proven approach to working through this process, reducing complexity and reducing the risk of failure.

Useful Links

Take a look at our white paper 10 ITSM Tool Selection Tips, as well as specific advice for ServiceNow users wishing to maximise their investment.

You can read more about our tool selection services in our ultimate guide