ITSM Tools Universe Preview: How aligned are ITSM tool vendors to their customers?

Rebecca Beach has been locked away in ITSM Review labs reviewing technology and crunching numbers for the last few months in preparation for our ITSM Tools Universe research.

I am very pleased to say that we’ll be lifting the lid on the research in the next few weeks.

In this article I’ll provide a quick preview.

How customizable is your ITSM tool?

ITSM Review readers have told us the ability to customize ITSM tools is a key requirement in selecting new technology. For our ITSM Tools Universe research we asked the customers of participating vendors:

Q. On a scale of 1 to 10 (whereby 1 is entirely customizable in-house and 10 is entirely dependent on consulting / training) please provide an estimate of the level of customization you are able to achieve with your ITSM tool?

The radar chart below compares the responses from customers (in red) versus the vendor opinion (in blue) of ability to customize. 1 means I can tweak everything myself, 10 means I’m not autonomous and need to get consultants in to help.


Most customizable in the ITSM Industry?

The table below shows customer opinion of ability to customize in descending order.

Customers consider Cherwell and EasyVista to be the highest rated in terms of ability to customize in house.

Customers consider ServiceNow and Good Sign the least configurable in-house and dependent on consulting and training to make changes.


Note: We only asked three customers per supplier so this is not an exhaustive study but I believe provides a good indicator of overall sentiment.

Disparity in Opinion?

For me, the most compelling metric for this data is not whether a tool is customizable or not (although this is clearly a key differentiator) – but the vendors ALIGNMENT with customer opinion.

How in touch are vendors with customer sentiment?

As a whole across all vendors there is a significant difference in opinion – by a factor of 39 to 69.83. i.e. Vendors think their technology is more customizable than customers believe. That might be a technology issue, a maturity issue, an education issue – whatever – it’s a big mismatch. 

The table below shows the disparity in opinion between customers and vendors in descending order. ITRP and customer sentiment is perfectly aligned. Cherwell believe their technology is mostly customizable in-house and their customers agree. To the other extreme, Axios customers believe their technology is quite customizable, Axios don’t agree. ServiceNow think their technology is customizable in-house – their customers have a completely different view.


The ITSM Tools Universe by Rebecca Beach will be published soon (free). Subscribe to the ITSM Review newsletter to receive a notification when it is published.

15th September: UPDATE – the results are being published here:

27 thoughts on “ITSM Tools Universe Preview: How aligned are ITSM tool vendors to their customers?”

  1. There might be a terminology issue here: we talk about ‘configure’ rather than ‘customise’ – our system is very configurable but not customisable by us – and that’s exactly what we want.

    1. Hi Sharon, yes I agree there is a bit of confusion in the market about configuration and customization – but overall our question was aimed at establishing how autonomous the customer feels in order to make changes to their ITSM technology to suit their business.

      The bottom line is that if the customer has autonomy (and doesn’t have to schedule and pay for huge consulting projects) then they can be a lot more flexible and agile when responding to business demands.

      1. Definitely agree with the confusion in language. ‘Customise’ means that customers can change source code and this is disastrous when needing to upgrade. High cost and high risk associated. Many customers get into version lock due to customisation. ‘Configure’ means they can configure the tool for their environment e.g. sla targets, Ci fields, priorities etc. etc.

        1. Customisation could also include applications you hook into the ITSM tool – depending on how the hook up is done – you might be tying your ITSM solution down to costly upgrades…

  2. Thank you for this interesting comparison! I especially like the disparity in opinion – vendors may oversell sometimes or miss out on potential, when the software is better rated than they thought. Pity we (Matrix42) aren’t in there, we would have fit in very well (although I agree with Sharon to prefer a term like ‘self-customizing’ which doesn’t have to do anything with coding (e.g. classical customizing)).

    1. Hi Thorsten, Matrix42 did participate and we would have loved to include you but you were unable to complete the process due to customer references.

  3. Three customers out of thousands is not a good statistical representation of customer sentiment which invalidates the credibility of these charts.

    I encourage folks to ask for as many references as you can get both in your industry and those doing similar projects.

    A tool with limited configuration options may not require as much training as a flexible tool capable of meeting any business requirement. However, limited configuration options also limit the ability of IT to adapt and mature processes, which often leads to a tool rip and replacement after 3 to 5 years. People and process are critical to process maturity, but a tool must support them.

    Investing in some training to get the most value from a tool delivers a high ROI and customer satisfaction from admins and end-users.

    1. Good points Brian. As I suggested in the article – it’s a limited survey. But all things are equal – all vendors had the same shot.

      1. It should also be noted that vendors chose which customers to put forward as references. They were not selected at random from the population at large.

      2. Training for any powerful technology is recommended to get familiar with its capabilities to get the most value.

        The ServiceNow SysAdmin course is only 3 days so I would not say that’s lots of training.

        Consultants are optional. Many organizations choose consultants for implementations for the sake of time and expertise. Others use consultants to augment staff for short-term projects. Many ServiceNow customers like Informa and The New York Stock Exchange have created amazing applications and automated processes and services entirely with in-house resources. Each year, organizations such as these enter their business problem solving creations into the Innovation of the Year contest and showcase their skills at the CreateNow Hackathon.

        1. I think the problem is how you have to rely on those consultants in the long term. If you feel you can’t do anything without them, it add long term cost and reduce the value of your investment. Knowledge transfer is certainly key here and the easier the tool is the better.

          I also find the disparity between vendor and customer very telling specially considering these customer were selected and not random.

          1. I think it shows exactly how Vendors perceive their products compared to reality. Also, those vendors who chose not to reply knew the perception of their customers already (I.e. BMC)

  4. In reply to a couple of queries. Vendors did not pay to participate in this research. Nor is it sponsored. We are not charging for publication. We just wanted to put together an honest, broad view of the overall market.

    1. It would be nice if it was that simple and you could leave an ITSM tool as is out of the box. But the reality is that every organization is different in size, policies, people, process maturity, knowledge and technology used. So at some point in your ITIL journey there will be a need to fit the tool to the organization through customization, configuration or moving on to a different tool.

      1. Yes ITIL is not a perfect “how to” guide, where if you confirm to these exact processes your enterprise will be efficient and successfull roadmap. That magic bullet thinking is naive. There is no such thing as a company of any complexity using an ITIL out of the box solution. In some cases you may do basic configuration changing status, SLA, categories, to match your products, but you should also constantnly be looking at pain points and bottle necks in your process and workflow that will create new business requirements that require changing the system to be more effective and efficient and gain roi. Maybe adding many new fields and forms, and workflows, and logic. Any writer of the ITIL books will tell you straight out, this is not a how to book, it’s a book of suggeting ways that in general work well in most organizatins but no organization will find that every process in the book works for them. The fact that what in legacy tools took months to develop now can be done in minutes with codeless toolkits is an amazing development and allows orgs to focus more on stratgey and less on managing a development roadmap.

  5. In the list provide, I noticed that BMC/Remedy is not listed. Why is it not in the list?

    1. I also noticed that HP / Service Manager, Service Anywhere are missing too. It seems a very odd omission since both BMC and HP are in the top 5 for market share.

    2. Agreed. BMC and HP (as mentioned below) are major players, so excluding them would be as useless as a comparison between mobile device platforms that exclude iOS and Android. I’d like to see similar data to this, but only if they at least include at least the top 5 or so players on the market.

  6. In my opinion the key question is what part of the application should be customizable and what not. If you want the application to work in a multi-national environment with different regions, competence centers, data centers etc you do not want them to all change the statuses they use or the SLA calculations or the logic behind Change workflows, etc. If you do you kill the possibility to smoothly cooperate together and you create a tool that might work for single entities in the organisation but not for the organisation as a whole. Unfortunately this is the situation today at most multinational companies.

    Now when it comes to the options you want to provide your customers (end users) to request support or services like new devices, access to applications, etc you do want full flexibility in what you can offer. The fields available, the branding, the options, etc, etc should all be a perfect fit for your customers and thus be fully customizable.

    I have seen a few implementations of the #1 product in your alignment list at multi-national organisations and have seen that ITRP does exactly what I described above. To me it was impressive to see how these organisations have improved massively in how they cooperate within their organisation globally and also with external suppliers.

  7. While I understand why customer would rate a product based on how easy it is to customise, I believe they will be missing the point, if that is the main criteria of selecting the tool. I would be very interested to know if there is a study that looks into how vendors are performing in turning enhancement requests into product releases!!.

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