Monday, April 25, 2011

Beware of the IKEA Effect

When you go to IKEA for a bookcase, you have already made a mental trade-off; you know it will be reasonably priced, but you will have to assemble it yourself. Fair enough. When you are in the market for a new enterprise-class IT service management application, you will notice that they all require assembly as well. These so-called toolbox applications need to be configured before they can be used. Unfortunately, rather than getting a reasonable price to offset the struggle of configuring your software, you get the pleasure of securing approval for a major capital investment.

Being able to configure your ITSM application sounded great during the RFP phase, but now that you have acquired the licenses you find that, unlike IKEA's bookcase, it does not come with instructions. Sure, it comes with plenty of manuals, but nowhere will you find instructions telling you how to configure it. This may initially seem a little strange, but when you call the vendor they tell you that "every organization is different" and "it depends on your processes". Sounds perfectly reasonable, right?

Not really. Most organizations expect some guidance from their service desk software vendor. They know their core expertise is not IT service management, nor do they hope to gain a competitive advantage by having their IT department follow unique processes. They simply want an application that streamlines their core IT processes, such as incident management, change management and configuration management. They prefer processes based on standards such as ITIL and are willing to adjust their way of working if this improves efficiency and quality.

This do-it-yourself mentality required for ITSM toolbox implementations has caused many organizations to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars unnecessarily on the configuration of their ITSM application without having much more to show for it than a clunky and slow help desk application. You would think people would be upset about this. Yet this is not always the case. Even though management typically realizes that they did not get much value for money, the people responsible for the application will often jump to its defense.

Could it be that these people are suffering from the "IKEA effect"? Apparently, when you construct a bookcase yourself, you end up overvaluing your creation. It seems perfectly OK to feel good about your handiwork when it concerns a bookcase that you got at a discounted price. You managed to get to the end of the instructions and now you're done - end of story.

Unfortunately, it is a different matter altogether when you paid top dollar for what essentially turned out to be an ITSM DIY kit. The inflated sense of value that people attribute to the features they added normally leads to many, many more 'valuable' customizations. And there are no instructions that tell you when to stop. Ultimately, this results in a dramatically higher total cost of ownership than initially anticipated and an unnecessarily complex user interface. What starts as an effort to increase efficiency often ends up distracting the entire IT support organization from the needs of their customers.

The ITRP service is a non-toolbox alternative that helps organizations avoid this common pitfall. Once you have populated your ITRP account with your data, it is ready for use. And as soon as you start using it, ITRP starts tracking your service levels. No customization required.