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Replacing a PPM tool - Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

By mike2.2 posted Apr 04, 2016 12:10 PM


For the majority of may professional career I have been involved in Application Performance Monitoring and PPM tools, with small stints with other technology. Even in the military (my second tour) I was involved in the acquisition, delivery, and maintenance of IT systems and networks. So over the past 3 decades one thing has remained constant......When things go wrong, blame the technology. To this I say "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot"!


When an organization acquires technology they normally do their proper research, analysis, and solution design and deploy a product(s) that meet their current and anticipated needs. But when the end users are introduced to the solution, this is where things get interesting. Wrestling a user away from a decade old MS Excel spreadsheet, or a home grown tool is problematic. They then start to complain that the new tool (solution) is too hard to use. When you start to update your solution with governance rules and start requiring your teams to follow methodology, the solution takes the blame. once again there is a chorus of "This tool is too hard to use". While there may be legitimate reasons for a company to replace a tool, this article mainly looks at dis-satisfied users.


Over the course of a few years the chorus can become very loud. Hopefully, it can be silenced with the appropriate job aids and training. From my experience, the loudest in the chorus tends to be those that managed to skip the training, or are predisposed to not accepting any new changes to how they work. This has been common in all tools that I have consulted in. But unfortunately, there are some senior managers and executives that like the song that is being sung by the dissatisfied users and they read the trade reviews so unless the tool is in the upper right quadrant, it must be a legitimate complaint. So naturally the tool is the source of all the issues and must be replaced.


So lets take a step back. The initial RFI cost money, the requirements definition cost money, the RFP cost money, the consultants cost money, the install cost money, support, initial and ongoing training, hosting/hardware, etc. So other has been a considerable investment to date. So because of a few singers in the chorus, you want to do it all over again? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!  Do they ever expect to see any return on investment?


While there may be legitimate reasons for replacing a tool, how about starting the process by looking internally and not externally? Why are some of the users unhappy? and better yet, why are some of them happy with the existing tool? You need to understand this or you will get caught in a viscous cycles and bleed cash. I once saw a client go through the 4 major APM tools in the span of 6 years. The end result was that all the tools did what they advertised, it was the users that did not want to use them. At one point they actually sabotaged one of the tools.


If you make the unhappy users happy by replacing the tool, what happens to the existing satisfied users? interesting question, huh? Often the satisfied users are not thought of and you are back to the same chorus with a whole new set of singers.


So before spending cash on looking at a replacement, try this:

     - Document the satisfied users and the reason they are satisfied, and also ask for potential improvements.

     - Document the dis-satisfied users and why and also find out what they like about the tool. Lets face it they cannot hate everything (hopefully)

     - Review the findings and see what is actually a tool limitation, process issues, governance issues, etc

     - Are any of the issues training related? If so, then update your training materials and have those that are having difficulties attend the training (try to gear the training to these attendees to get better buy in)

     - Are any of the issues process or governance related? then work with both those teams to possibly update (if necessary) or explain to the users the reason why they need to follow process of governance. After all this is tool agnostic and if they are not happy now, they will not be happy with a new tool.

     - Are there any limitations to the tool? If so, is there an easy workaround? Upgrade? 3rd party add-on?


Lets face it, pretty much all APM tools do the same thing. Just as PPM tools pretty much do the same thing. So before undertaking a very costly replacement, really find out why you want to replace the tool first. Is there a real issue, or a perceived issue? understanding this can save your organization a lot of time, frustration, and dollars.


On a personal note, I loved these sorts of projects as I was able to learn about a lot of tools, and keep my billable hours up. Few vendors will turn away easy money, and a replacement is easy money.