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The Perils of Customizing ITSM Software

scaredThe apprehension over choosing to customize IT service management (ITSM) software reminds me of how the old Sega Genesis video game console was marketed. The Genesis was a strong competitor of the Super Nintendo back in the 1990s, and in an effort to provide new and better experiences than Nintendo, Sega decided to introduce add-on hardware that physically connected to and upgraded the Genesis. One result of that decision was the 32X, a piece of hardware that could play video games with visual and audio quality not possible on the Genesis alone. The problem was that Sega had already announced the release of Sega Saturn, a brand new stand-alone console that dwarfed the power of the 32X and would be incompatible with the 32X. Customers posed the question—what’s the use in spending the money to customize your Genesis with a 32X when the Saturn will just throw all that out the window? Spandas Lui writes in an article that enterprises are coming to a similar realization when it comes to customizing ITSM software. When upgrades in software do not support existing customizations, are the associated costs worth it?

Lui cites the stories of NSW Businesslink and Suncorp respectively. NSW Businesslink decided to shift from Quantum ITSM software as a service to BMC’s Remedy on Demand ITSM software. They then wanted to upgrade from Remedy on Demand 7.6 to 8.1, but the organization’s roughly 30 customizations would not be immediately supported in the transition. Performing the upgrade and keeping the customizations intact would cost around AU$100,000. The irony is that these customizations had been developed in the first place as a way to better address user needs, and now the most cost-effective method has become to design business processes around accommodating the software.

By comparison, Suncorp implemented BMC Remedy version 7.1 in 2007 because of its customizable nature. By 2011, they were drowning in their own ITSM:

“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.

In the end, Suncorp decided to upgrade to BMC Remedy 7.6 and subsequently forbade customization of the software at all. NSW Businesslink has also banned customization of its ITSM platform. What began as well-meaning decisions to increase usability became an unwieldy and costly beast in the long run. Fortunately, these particular enterprises seem to have what it takes to keep moving forward. Meanwhile, Sega got out of the hardware business altogether back in 2001, shifting focus exclusively toward software development. 32X was by no means the missile that sunk Sega, but it sure signaled the beginning of many poor decisions. See to it that the good intentions of your ITSM customization do not end up leaving a long shadow over your organization.

About John Friscia

John Friscia is the Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He began working for Computer Aid, Inc. in 2013 and continues to provide graphic design support for AITS. He graduated summa cum laude from Shippensburg University with a B.A. in English.

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