When it comes to IT management tools, organizations rarely upgrade them, and the tendency is to deploy them on the slowest server in the enterprise. The reason for this is that it's often hard for internal IT organizations to scrounge up the budget for IT management upgrades.
Companies may be fond of upgrading applications that materially benefit the business, but anything that makes the life of the IT staff easier usually isn't as high a priority.
For that reason, there's a shift underway towards SaaS applications for IT management. Rather than having to find dedicated infrastructure to run these applications, organizations such as the University of San Francisco are now making use of SaaS applications to better manage IT.
Besides gaining access to the latest IT management applications, the shift to IT management delivered via a SaaS platform has the additional benefit of quickly bringing the IT organization into compliance with any number of compliance requirements; not the least of which is the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework that is widely considered the gold standard for best IT management practices.
According to Jim Uomini, service level manager for information technology services at USF, the university opted to deploy the IT management platform delivered by ServiceNow as a service because first, it was easy to deploy, and second, it was simpler to customize.
As a SaaS application, ServiceNow also provides the ability for customers to extend the platform to build additional applications for areas that go beyond traditional IT applications. In effect, the ServiceNow platform is both a SaaS application and a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment for building custom applications.
Uomini says that PaaS capability was a critical factor in the decision to go with ServiceNow.
"I'm a generalist that gets asked to do a lot of things. That makes me the administrator and developer." says Uomini. "With ServiceNow it's relatively easy for us to build additional applications for the human resources or facilities departments, or some other project management application for another department."
IT organizations have a long history of extending the platform they use to manage IT into other areas. The ServiceNow platform is designed to allow organizations to continue to do that without having to invest in an application that requires dedicated hardware. In the case of USF, the ServiceNow application is replacing a Remedy Service Desk application developed by BMC Software.
"Like any application there's a learning curve," says Uomini. "But it's not all that steep. To automate processes, it used to be a pretty intimidating, complicated kind of thing."
Uomini says ServiceNow also provides greater visibility into how various IT projects are progressing, which is a key part of being ITIL-compliant. The ITIL framework defines best-practices for delivering IT services, the most important of which is being able to document and define the workflow through which IT services are being delivered.
"We now have a lot more visibility into what the technicians are doing," says Uomini.
That visibility, adds Uomini, will only increase once USF begins to make use of the Apple iPad support that ServiceNow has included in the SaaS applications that effectively allows technicians to troubleshoot many problems faster from wherever they happen to be located.
Of course, the irony in all this is that many IT organizations resist moving to cloud for fear of loss of control over their IT operations. And yet, given the lack of funding available to invest in IT management systems, it often turns out that one of the best ways to attain control over the IT environment is to invest in an application in the cloud that is regularly updated.
Not only does that approach make it easier to stay current with the latest technologies, it can be scaled up and down based on the number of IT administrators that actually need to use the system. For most organizations it's going to be hard to imagine having any better IT command and control than that.