The perils of customising IT service management software

NSW Businesslink and Suncorp detail the headaches customising their ITSM software platform has caused at the BMC Remedy User Group event in Sydney.
Written by Spandas Lui, Contributor

IT service management (ITSM) software is meant to reduce complexities associated with implementing IT services to meet business needs. There is a temptation for enterprises to customise ITSM software to fit their organisations like a glove, but if Suncorp and NSW Businesslink's stories are anything to go by, that may not be such a good idea.

NSW Businesslink, which is charged with providing outsourced business services at the lowest cost to government and associated external organisations, initially decided to upgrade its IT service ticketing system in 2010, but ended up craving an offering that supported the business' ability to provision services.

It began to use BMC's Remedy On Demand ITSM software as a service (SaaS) to replace its on-premises Quantum ITSM software. NSW Businesslink is currently looking to upgrade from Remedy on Demand 7.6 to version 8.1, but has found that customising its old ITSM platform in the past has made the upgrade a costly affair, according to the organisation's program manager Simon Allsopp.

NSW Businesslink asked BMC how much it would cost to upgrade to the new software with all of its old system's 30-odd customisations intact. Those modifications were a result of the organisation's fragmented and siloed nature, and could be as simple as making an input field in the ITSM a different colour for various departments.

"The ballpark figure came back as around AU$100,000 just to upgrade, because of our customisations," Allsopp said at the BMC Remedy User Group event in Sydney. "We see that as being an avoidable cost."

Part of the problem was NSW Businesslink being used to customising its ITSM system to bend to the needs of the business. It now has to learn to modify its own business processes to accommodate the system.

Suncorp faced the same issue. The financial services corporation had implemented BMC Remedy version 7.1 software in 2007. One of the advantages of the ITSM at that time was that it was easily customised.

By 2011, the enterprise was being driven insane by its own ITSM, and staff within Suncorp were constantly complaining about issues with the Remedy software.

"Our Remedy 7.1 system in the company was chocked full of customisations — they had all been shoved into the system," Suncorp executive manager for enterprise applications Dawn Stephenson said at the Remedy User Group event. "They weren't managed in any way, and while the system was running well functionally, underneath the covers it wasn't very pretty."

There was no governance around the process of implementing and maintaining the customisations that were being piled onto the ITSM system by different Suncorp departments. The seven IT staff members who supported Remedy could not keep up with the changes.

At that point, Stephenson decided the issue wasn't just about the software, and proposed an organisational transformation.

Ultimately, the company decided to upgrade to BMC Remedy 7.6 and forbid customising the software altogether.

"We decided to go with a whole new platform, made it clear to everybody that it was out of the box and not doing customisation," Stephenson said. "We were all suffering from too much of that in our organisation."

NSW Businesslink also settled on a similar path, banning customisation of its ITSM platform.

"We are actually going to undo some of the customisation we did in the early stages of the project," Allsopp said. "There will be some occasions where we want a particular integration because it is key to our business, but we now have a benchmark for benefits and costs that we have to think about."

Correction (11/04/2013 1.30pm AEST): NSW Businesslink had used Quantum ITSM software on-premise before adopting BMC's Remedy On Demand. This has been amended.
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