The Perils of a ‘Lift and Shift’ Approach to an ITSM Tool Implementation

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ITSM Change Management

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different resultsAlbert Einstein

While not a medical definition, and I mean no disrespect to anyone suffering from mental illness, Albert Einstein was making a very important point with his definition of insanity.  I interpret it as not making the same mistake twice.

What’s “Service Management” if not a discipline to help prevent IT organizations from making the same mistake twice through the implementation of repeatable processes?

Why is it that so many IT organizations figure they can solve all the issues with their current ITSM tool simply by taking a “Lift and Shift” approach and replacing it with a brand new tool?

So, first off, what do I mean by “Lift and Shift”?

I define “Lift and Shift” as installing a new Service Management tool using the same configuration, workflow and processes used by the previous tool.  The intent is to minimize the amount of time and effort it takes to install the new tool in order to get it up and running as quickly as possible.  Some people also call this an “Out of the Box” approach.

Does “Lift and Shift” ever work?

Sure it can, providing your existing system is meeting your current requirements and you are replacing your ITSM tool to access new technology, to reduce the cost or to shift ITSM tool implementation to the cloud.  The key point is that your current system is working pretty well, the processes are solid, and everything is well documented.

The problem arises when the driving factors for replacing your ITSM tool are that your processes are poorly automated, adoption is low, and everyone is clamoring for a change.  These are signs of a bad implementation and doing a “Lift and Shift” is like “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

The very last thing you want to do is put your users through the aggravation of switching to a new ITSM tool and ending up with something just as bad as you started with.

Believe me, I’ve seen it happen before.  Many of the current generation of ITSM tools are extremely flexible and easy to configure and customize.  When you have poor processes, and non-existent requirements, you can end up implementing bad stuff really fast.

People argue implementing one of the new ITSM tools, combined with agile development, is the Holy Grail of getting things done quickly.  I respond with, “Agile is not a replacement for good requirements or tight project management.  In fact, it requires even more discipline to manage scope creep or misuse of the tool”.

I’ve seen smart people, with the guidance of their vendor and consultants, do crazy things like implement Change Management in the Incident Module or create custom fields when a system field already existed.  Why? Because it was easy to do and got the software installed quickly.  What they ended up with was more problems down the road because they didn’t have good processes or requirements to guide them down the right path.

I may be cynical, but I believe the “Lift and Shift” approach primarily benefits the Software Vendor who doesn’t want to risk losing a software deal by talking about what it really takes to do it right.

“Lift and Shift” or “out of the box” sure sounds fast and easy, but let me ask you one question.  Is your company out of the box?  My experience in IT Service Management tells me that no company is.

If ‘Lift and Shift’ is so perilous then why are so many people taking that approach?

My view is that it’s an over-reaction to the many failed Service Management implementations and ITIL projects throughout the world.  In essence, I’m talking about projects that resulted in extremely poor ITSM tool implementations.

I have seen examples of amazing implementations of all the major ITSM tools – even tools that were around in the 1980’s.  I have also seen my share of failures.  It has less to do with the tool and much more to do with the implementation project.

Let me put it another way – F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, and arguably one of America’s greatest authors, used an Underwood typewriter.  Would his genius have been diminished if he used Word Perfect, Microsoft Word or any other word processor as his tool?  It’s not the tool people!

It’s a fact that most ITSM tools share a very similar feature set.  What distinguishes a great implementation is the thought and preparation that goes behind it.

Are you looking for a fast implementation or a great implementation that meets your users requirements?

I argue that you can have both.  Invest the time to understand if your processes are working and if your clients are happy with what they got.  Use this information to develop a set of requirements that you can implement in an agile fashion, using one of next generation ITSM tools.  Take a disciplined approach to implementation, manage scope creep and ensure the users are trained on the new solution.

I’ve seen processes, such as Change Management, designed and implemented in an ITSM tool, including the development, testing and user training, rolled out in 15 weeks.  Considering the importance of this process to your organization, does a “Lift and Shift” really make sense?

Click to learn the 7 steps to successful tool implementation

One last thought to consider.

When considering a “Lift and Shift” approach, ask yourself who this is benefiting?  If it’s not benefiting the people who work in the tool on a daily basis then you may want to consider a more thoughtful approach.

ITSM processes and tools are the foundation of every great IT organization – please take the time to make sure your foundation is solid.

David Mainville

David Mainville, CEO and co-founder of Navvia, is a passionate advocate of Service Management and a frequent presenter, blogger and well known member of the ITSM community. With over 35 years of experience, David has held progressively senior technical and management roles allowing him to "connect the dots" between the Business and IT. At Navvia, David leads the charge to bring innovative ITSM solutions to market focusing on Product Development, Marketing and Operations.

• Posted by David Mainville on Jul 16, 2013
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