Article

ITSM tooling in a multi-supplier environment

butterfly

Organisations outsourcing their entire IT function to a single supplier is a thing of the past. Gone with it are the days of simple tooling solutions.

With strategic moves between insourcing, outsourcing and shake-it-all-about-sourcing, many organisations’ IT services are split between multiple suppliers. Furthermore, that supplier landscape can change regularly as contracts are repeatedly retendered. And each supplier comes with their own ideas about service management tooling. Everyone wants their processes, their tooling, to be core.

The challenges are enough to give anyone a headache:

  • Deciding which tools to use
  • Managing a central Service Catalogue and CMDB
  • Establishing who – which supplier – owns each ticket
  • Seamlessly transferring tickets between multi teams
  • Diagnosing core issues and assigning responsibility (is it a network, device or application issue?)
  • Avoiding the inter-supplier blame game
  • Achieving an end-to-end SLA across all services
  • Managing SLAs between suppliers – when they don’t have service contracts with each other, only with the client organisation
  • Obtaining comprehensive reporting and managing ecosystem-wide performance

The ideal client-centric solution would be for all suppliers to use a single suite of tools, a single instance, as dictated by the client. But that’s not always possible.

Leveraged supplier teams – those delivering service to multiple customers – will have their own solutions, deeply embedded in their processes and services. They need to be able to use their own tools, not switch between clients’.

Integrating the client and suppliers’ tooling is the first step to a solution, but by no means the end. As with anything, not all integrations are created equal. Passing information about tickets is not enough; the underlying issues of synchronisation – to a single source of truth – and ownership must be addressed.

While modern tooling has advanced APIs that make integration possible, it is no easy task. Even two instances of the same tool, when configured differently, may require complex integrations to communicate efficiently.

There is no single solution to this problem, no simple answer. There are only guidelines to help make the process easier to manage:

  • Define an organisation’s central source of truth, one core IT Service Management tool
  • Mandate – as part of the procurement and onboarding processes – that suppliers either directly use, or integrate with, the core tool. Suppliers should be responsible for integrating any alternate tooling they use
  • Where integration is required, ensure suppliers use the core tool’s APIs for effective communication
  • Establish a standardised data model to be used across all suppliers
  • Include inter-supplier processes and communications protocols as part of supplier contracts

In this new, more complex, world, efficiency requires planning, good design and effective communication – between both systems and people.