Review: Marval Request Fulfilment

This independent review is part of our 2012 Request Fulfilment Group Test. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch Marval bring their “ITIL: Common sense written down” approach to their tool, which takes you to the root of the task to get the job done.
Strengths Simplicity and Flexibility
Weaknesses It would have been good to see what the supplied services and examples were Out of the Box
Primary Market Focus Mid-size across diverse sectors

Commercial Summary

Vendor Marval
Product MSM
Version reviewed V12.5
Date of version release January 2010 for V12
Year founded 1989
Customers 400+
Pricing Full Administration training (for administrators, all process support, 3 days) = £3,6001 day Quick-start Admin training (e.g. for Service Request only) = £ 1,200
1 day consultancy for Service Request Set-up £1,250
For the Expert system used in the review (which covers all 15 processes) base system price starts at £16,156. That includes a system user, 10,000 customer self-service, 10,000 Configuration Items (CIs), hook up with LDAP, and a year’s maintenance fee. Extra system users are available and prices are discounted on a banding basis.
NB Marval cover more than the 15 processes validated by Pink
Marval do have a basic system called “Essential” which will cover Service Requests.
As standard Marval offer very high discounts to NHS, Emergency Services, and Charities.SaaS Options are available both Hosted and On-Premises
Min. 1 year contract.
(On-premise SaaS/rental options are available and are specially quoted based on SaaS above, but with no hosting/admin fee).
Competitive Differentiators
  • Certification against respected schemes and criteria including ISO/IEC20000, Pink Verify (3.1) 15 processes, ITIL Swirl Gold Standard
  • Consultants & customer facing staff qualified from Foundation to Expert level. Support to industry organisations – Sponsors, contributors and supporters of itSMF and SDI events and forums.
  • 100% Web Application – for configuration, administration and use of the product.

Independent Review

Bright and vibrant are the first things that spring to mind when you are faced with the MSM Self Service Portal.

But more than that, behind the colourful icons lies an integrated ITSM solution whose simplicity of approach is the most attractive factor, in my opinion.

Marval have been at the forefront of Service Management, and are proud to use their most current certifications as a differentiator.

There is an interesting debate to be had, in light of the 2011 ITIL updates, as to the value of the latest certification hoops to jump through, but there is no doubt that certification gives prospective customers an early yardstick by which to measure a number of competitors.

But they will not really get a feel for a product, any product, unless they have a chance to see it in action.

The structure of the Marval service catalogue and the Service Request process is supported by a layering of pages that can be set up and tested in advanced before being enabled when required.

If detailed relationships have been set up in Marval’s CMDB, even more granularity can be added to the request, pulling the relationship details.

Marval recognise that end users do not necessarily need to know how the request will be sorted, and will find they are taken to a simple page that triggers off the request without having to click through the service catalogue.

Request Models

There are a number of services and basic workflow functionality that is provided out of the box, but they recognise that clients will want to customise the system to it their own processes.

Marval will typically work with clients as part of a consultative workshop and administrators are invited to attend a three-day course where they are shown how to build up the system.

Marval have found that their clients have a good understanding of the services they want to incorporate in their portfolio, and the system encourages clients to define their new services within the supplied set.

That being said, it is equally easy to define a new service, and any subsequent offerings within it.

Menu-Selection

IT users have an option to work through a more traditional page with all the options you would expect to see, but also have a self-service portal.
Out of the box, Marval provide a preconfigured standard page that can then be extended for specific requirements.

Pages are layered and can be configured and held until they are ready to be enabled, giving the administrators the flexibility of adding services to the portfolio, adding components to services, even adding new activities “on the fly”.

Once everything is layered and set up, a simple enable checkbox will make the service available to entitled users.

The steps to create a new service, the screen layout, the options, mandatory fields can all be added by dragging and dropping components.

Request Fulfilment Lifecycle

Again the drag and drop graphical workflow-design capability allows administrators to route requests to the right groups, and assignees as well as linking the lifecycle to their notification system.

As a nice touch, when a ticket is initially opened, there is a graphic of a muddled-up Rubik cube.

Once the ticket is resolved, the graphic changes to a solved cube!

Conclusion

The ease of set up, and configuration is a very compelling differentiator.

All too often, it is easy to really over-complicate the Request Fulfilment process, and the ability to group numbers of line items into typical services is not new, but it is set up in such a way that (with guidance) this minefield of set up is made much easier to negotiate.

Marval provide a structure that should encourage clients to step back and simplify their requirements.

The ability to just have a page bypassing the Service Catalogue really promotes that simplicity of approach.

Marval try and demystify the process, translating IT speech into User speech, simplying the User Interface for common requests, while recognising that the Service Catalogue (underpinning the process) can be accessed at anytime if required.

It saves an end user valuable time, and takes away the need for them to dig about the options to find the exact same option, although obviously you can get to the same place going through the Service Catalogue if you so wish.

But really, why would you, if the option was there to simplify the experience?

I understand why they use the differentiators they do:

  • Certification
  • 100% Web-based application
  • Long-standing support of the industry

I would go so far as to suggest their true power lies in stripping back the complexity that can sometimes surround this discipline.

Marval Customers

  • European Central Bank
  • BAE Systems, South Africa
  • QBranch
  • Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council
  • Axstores

Further information on Marval case studies here.

Screenshots

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

From the Marval Brochure

  • Integrated process management support (including: Incident and Request Fulfilment, Problem, Change, Release, Task, Service Asset and Configuration and Service Level Management)
  • User-definable access controls and views
  • Fast, flexible, easy to configure and deploy
  • Minimal administration required
  • Encourages positive workplace behaviours and investment

Further Information

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2012 Request Fulfilment Group Test. See all participants and terms of the review here.

2012 Request Fulfilment Group Test – The Results

In a previous article I looked at what ITIL 2011 had added to the Request Fulfilment process and some of the pitfalls we may have seen with implementation in the past.

This technology review looks at what this means, in practical terms, when approaching Request Fulfilment – what should we be looking for?

Our goal is to highlight the key strengths, competitive differentiators and innovation in the industry. The assessment criteria we used to steer the review process can be found here: REQUEST FULFILMENT ASSESSMENT CRITERIA.

Tools Reviewed:


INTRODUCTION

There is a particular challenge when it comes to assessing ITSM tools in some depth.

You want to see more than just a glossy demo – you want to understand how it can help you tackle some of the key processes at its core.

I decided the best way to showcase how ITSM tools and suites could help potential customers meet their process AND tool needs was to split up the processes and throw the doors open to vendors one by one.

The best place to start was the End User – how they come into contact with the ITSM beast in as seamless a way as possible to their experience.

Although the guts of the process involves pushing records from group to group before closure, the ways in which our participating vendors get you to the finish line was at times quite varied.

Do end users care about all the steps along the way regarding their requests? Or do they just want to see an end date by when they can expect a shiny new smartphone to land at their desk.

All of these elements can be tracked and configured to within an inch of their lives, if required.

One thing that was refreshing in this round of reviews was gaining an understanding of more than just the tool/module.

Quite often, the lifecycle of a record for any of the processes is going to be similar, creation, assignment, some decision trees and then done (in a perfect world!).

But it is the journey, and more importantly the interpretation by our featured vendors, that made this review as interesting as it was.


MARKET POSITIONING

Unlike many single-function tools out there, ITSM tools tend to have their fingers in many pies, and will offer integration to all kinds of other tools. All the vendors who participated were classified as Specialists – i.e. Vendors whose sole focus is ITSM.

Vendor

Mid-Market

Enterprise

BMC FootPrints

Cherwell

Marval

PMG

ServiceNow


COMPETITIVE OVERVIEW

The next table provides a high level overview of competitive differences between the tools.

  • In a nutshell – A brief description of each technology
  • Primary Purpose – Each technology may be used in different ways but this is the main purpose of the technology.
  • Strengths – key positive points highlighted during the review
  • Weaknesses – key negative points highlighted during the review

Vendor

Elevator Pitch Strengths

Weaknesses

BMC FootPrints Entry-level, flexible ITSM solution, offering customisable services Nice tough in incorporating screen-prompts to start to mould end-user behaviour Text driven workflow is comprehensive but lacks the visual effect of graphical workflows
Cherwell Cherwell offer an holistic approach by providing customers with a comprehensive out-of-the-box offering for fast deployment, and ease of use Predefined forms based on their years of experience of what details are required, for a number of standard requests Although not programming outright, some of the depth of customisation lends itself to administrators with string process knowledge, business logic and data structures.
Marval Marval bring their “ITIL: Common sense written down” approach to their tool, which takes you to the root of the task to get the job done. Simplicity and flexibility which does the job smartly. It would have been good to see what the supplied services and examples were Out of the Box.
PMG A “rescue remedy” for replacing inadequate Service Catalogue/Request Fulfilment modules of ITSM Suites A dedicated approach to providing enterprise delivery specifically around Service Catalogue & Request Fulfilment Although they have a few standalone ITSM customers, their Ticketing system for other ITSM processes is very basic when standing up against other
ServiceNow A solid integrated platform, with the focus on improving the user’s experience of Request Fulfilment, and also focussing on the equally important business view. They boast a unique approach of focussing on an end-user’s experience in engaging with IT through the Request Fulfilment process Although there are administration courses, all too often the responses relied on finding answers to configuration questions “in the wiki”.As comprehensive as it is, when others promote that element of “handover” to the system’s custodians, ServiceNow seem to want to default to detachment.

CUSTOMERS

Approximate number of customers for each vendor:

  • BMC Footprints – Europe: 1000+ ; Worldwide: 5000+
  • Cherwell – 400+
  • Marval – 400+
  • PMG – Not disclosed
  • ServiceNow – 1200+

BEST IN CLASS

Of the five vendors reviewed I was particularly impressed with the following vendors:

  • Best in Class Mid-Market: Marval – Their ethos of keeping it simple just made it stand out.
  • Best in Class Enterprise: ServiceNow – I had a managed service view of this product and thought I knew what I would see.  I was pleasantly surprised, and although I can completely appreciate PMG’s position and can absolutely understand why they are called in to replace some ITSM suites.
  • Best in Class All Tools: Cherwell – I was an IT Architect, specialising in ITSM, and the Pareto 80/20 rule was my mantra in my former life. Cherwell’s approach to (re)use their expertise and develop a depth of standard requests covering pretty much most details that are required makes them the most comprehensive offering in this review.

Deep Dive

Further details for each vendor can be found by using the links below:


DISCLAIMER, SCOPE & LIMITATIONS

The information contained in this review is based on sources and information believed to be accurate as of the time it was created. Therefore, the completeness and current accuracy of the information provided cannot be guaranteed. Readers should therefore use the contents of this review as a general guideline and not as the ultimate source of truth.

Similarly, this review is not based on rigorous and exhaustive technical study. The ITSM Review recommends that readers complete a thorough live evaluation before investing in technology.

This is a paid review. That is, the vendors included in this review paid to participate in exchange for all results and analysis being published free of charge without registration. For further information please read the ‘Group Tests’ section on our Disclosure page.

Review: BMC Footprints Request Fulfilment

This independent review is part of our 2012 Request Fulfilment Group Test. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch Flexible entry-level ITSM solution, offering customisable services.
Strengths Nice touch in incorporating screen-prompts to start to mould end user behaviour
Weaknesses Text driven workflow is comprehensive but lacks the visual effect of graphical workflows.
Primary Market Focus Mid-size customers

Commercial Summary

Vendor BMC
Product BMC Footprints
Version reviewed v11.1
Date of version release Autumn 2011
Year founded 1980
Customers Europe: 1,000+; Worldwide 5,000+
Pricing Structure A typical base installation for BMC FootPrints inclusive of ServiceCore and at least one AssetCore module with maintenance agreement and consulting services will start at £16,000.
Competitive Differentiators
  • BMC FootPrints is widely regarded as an affordable and flexible solution which can addresses both IT service management and IT Operations Management from a single pane of glass. One view, one console, one solution.
  • BMC FootPrints is optimised for ITIL but provides an easy-to-use adaptive workflow environment (known as Workspaces) which quickly allows organisation to replicate own best practice IT support processes or begin designing and launching other non-IT service desks. One view, one console, multiple service desks.
  • In its converged state BMC FootPrints provides seamless integration to facilitate other IT operations management capabilities with open process transparency as well data integration. BMC FootPrints supports physical, virtual and mobile devices.
Additional Features BMC FootPrints’ solid convergence allows integration, through process and data, into other IT Management disciplines such as Asset Management, Lifecycle Management, Desktop Management and Security & Compliance.

Independent Review

With Numara Software joining the BMC stable, it is easy to get lost in the plethora of brands that now exist under the BMC Banner.

BMC FootPrints was chosen for the review because it provides, at its core, an integrated solution, with configurable and flexible Service Request Management options.

There is no doubt that the product can go toe to toe with other mid-size competitors in the market, but has the promise of better things to come in subsequent planned releases.

Their philosophy is to start moulding users’ behaviour, with some interesting elements, such as introducing prompting questions in the Self Service presentation.

Request Models

BMC FootPrints deals in Workspaces which provides users with a specific business function view, and business flows.

While it is good to see a solution try and tie itself back to the business drivers, it could be confusing to see Requests treated throughout a lifecycle as an Incident – as a consequence to how the workspace had been configured.

These are configurable to separate the disciplines, dependant on a customer’s requirements, and established as part of their professional services.

Form Designers and Workflow are all configurable, and driven by selection from existing fields (and any custom fields that may have been created).

Administrators could typically be skilled within a couple of days of training, although the general approach is for professional services to train and develop to a customer’s requirements.

Menu Selection

The Self-Service Portal for and end-user is perhaps quite basic, but contains everything they need within the screen.

There is an option to actually make the Service Catalogue a user’s home page, which presents them with a less text-heavy, more “traditional” catalogue view.

One of the nice options is to help drive user behaviour through scripted questions, which in turn will drive additional fields depending on your responses.

For example, opening a ticket based on reporting an issue with a monitor brought up one or two queries regarding power issues to the monitor.

When this is integrated with the future dynamic searches with the knowledge base, it will also bring up potential solutions prior to a user continuing with a request.

Request Fulfilment Lifecycle

The solution can be made as open, or as restricted as you like – and the workflow options do boast a very comprehensive field status set up, depending on the status of the request.

All can be done with the click of a mouse button.

Forms can be designed graphically and can be published immediately.

The Workflow, however, remains text based with a step driven approach that works on a trigger-action basis that is intuitive enough, but lacks the visual punch of graphical workflow design.

This is acknowledged and a graphical workflow is in Beta and scheduled for release in 2013.

Conclusion

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this assessment was the choice of platform, when compared against the other vendors who formed part of this review.

BMC FootPrints offers a compact ITSM solution, with flexibility and it was interesting to hear their approach to defining customer requirements.

There are some oddities with terminology that has evolved over the product’s history.
For example, the concept of “voting” when approvals are required.

These can be changed and customised to suit a customer’s requirements, but may require additional levels of skill or professional services to do so.

Their future plans for the product make it an intriguing watch for the future, but for now customers are provided with a functional, customisable and simple base for their ITSM solution.

BMC Footprints Customers

Screenshots

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

From The BMC Footprints Brochure

  • The BMC FootPrints family of IT Management products and solutions streamline, automate and improve IT operations.
  • Flexible enough to configure and affordable enough to invest in
  • Optimised for use over the web but equally satisfies organisations looking for a solid and secure on-premise solution.
  • Can be deployed quickly ‘out-of-the-box’ with minimal configuration and for those organizations seeking to facilitate non-IT service desks (such as Facilities Management or HR/Payroll)
  • PinkVERIFY 10 Processes and aligned to ITIL v3

Further Information

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2012 Request Fulfilment Group Test. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Review: Cherwell Software Request Fulfilment

This independent review is part of our 2012 Request Fulfilment Group Test. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch Cherwell offer a holistic approach by providing customers with a comprehensive out of the box offering, for fast deployment, and ease of use.
Strengths Predefined forms based on their years of experience of what details are required, for a number of standard requests.
Weaknesses Although not programming outright, some of the depth of customisation lends itself to administrators with strong process knowledge, business logic and data structures. For example when it comes to defining tasks for requests (New Hire).
Primary Market Focus Mid-size across diverse sectors

Commercial Summary

Vendor Cherwell Software
Product Cherwell Service Management
Version reviewed V4.01
Date of version release August 2012
Year founded 2003
Customers 400+
Pricing Structure Fully inclusive (i.e. all ITIL management processes, modules, integration tools, etc.) concurrent user usage for both perpetual and SaaS licensing models.
Perpetual licensing from £1995/$2995 per concurrent seat. Hosted SaaS subscription licensing from £76/$114 per concurrent seat, per month (minimum 12 month contract).
Competitive Differentiators
  • Completely integrated management processes and totally configurable against an organisations current and future service request models, without the need to write a single line of code via programming or scripting services
  • Integrated Platform as a Service (PaaS) technology to empower users to easy develop and deliver integrated business services offerings
  • Quick and easy system upgrades and low cost of ownership for going system management overheads
Additional Feature Integrated application development platform. Integrated Project Portfolio Management module. Full social media integration and features for BYOD management. Multi portal, multi user, fully configurable web portal technology.

Independent Review

Cherwell are big believers in the 80/20 rule – something I believed in very strongly in my former roles.

Provide 80% of the functionality and more often than not, the other 20% will either be indulgent frosting, or something that can be customised at a later date.

Cherwell provide a large number of templates out of the box, and also (from their experiences) realise that the finer workflow is where the real focus needs to be.

This gives customers a lot of flexibility to use as much (or as little) of Cherwell’s professional services to help configure the system.

Everything in the Cherwell universe is driven by dashboards – which are easily customisable by the user.

Cherwell will offer customers consultancy to help get them started, as well as administrator’s training.

Request Models

A request record’s life starts out surprisingly as an Incident, and the business object logic depends heavily on the Categorisation and Sub Categorisation of the record.

As soon as the sub-category is for a request, the ticket changes (both in a Service Desk call and a self-service scenario) to a Request.

Up until the first save of the ticket, changing the categories will flip it from one to the other.

Once you haves settled on a request, the real magic comes in the use of the “specifics” forms, which provide the detail and granularity required.

The best example of this comes in their New Hire form. Once categorised as such, a very detailed form appears with one of the most comprehensive set of options I have seen.

Furthermore, responses to details generate the spin-off tasks for that request.

These are part of their 80/20 templates, based on their experiences, and the depth of information provided is very impressive, straight out of the box, and from a customer perspective means less of a reliance on professional services to complete the job.

Menu Selection

Cherwell provide different ways for users to view the service catalogue, and also very configurable styles for the self-service portals.

All of these can be configured without specific coding skills, and they offer a one day administrator self-service portal training course as well.

The ability to customise for a variety of client views is pretty extensive, again offering customers a great degree of flexibility.

Request Fulfilment Lifecycle

The key is to understand the business logic to drive the lifecycle of a request ticket.

Cherwell’s approach is to try and focus on automating as much as possible the tasks you need to have happen consistently, and removing the more mundane tasks from the user.

They achieve this with a “Onestep” configuration to create multiple steps – for example the tasks required for a new starter.

Onestep allows you to group together a number of tasks in one consolidated, automated action.

Editing onesteps are covered in depth in the course, so that administrators fully understand how system automation is constructed.

Creating new workflows is via dragging and dropping options, but administrators will need a very good understanding of the business logic behind their processes.

Although Cherwell are not the only vendors to provide such capability, it does make you aware that administrators need a range of skills – process implementation, business logic, data structures.

Whilst not “programming” outright, the depth of possible customisation options for workflow lends itself to those with a strong analytical and logical mind to get the best from configuring workflow.

Conclusion

For customers that require a lot provided out of the box, and the ability to develop additional services and workflows, they have that with Cherwell’s 80/20 philosophy.

It is an interesting approach to lead with, but the depth of information they have put into the specifics really makes it comprehensive, even before you start to develop workflow.

More and more of their clients want their “Quick-start” approach of taking what is provided out of the box and developing the detail for themselves.

As simple as their workflow building is (using drag and drop), it is clear that administrators taking this approach have a very good understanding of end to end process to get the best from all the available options.

Although they are not doing out and out programming, it would be very advantageous to have a decent analytical mind to get the best out of the system.

I believe that their understanding of their clients’ “get up and DIY” aspect of their software is refreshingly unique approach.

Cherwell Software Customers

Screenshots

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

From The Cherwell Software Brochure

  • 11 PinkVERIFY™ ITSM processes
  • Intuitive wizards and simple drag-and-drop functionality
  • With Cherwell’s Codeless Business Application Technology (CBAT), you never need to write a line of code or script. Upgrades are effortless.
  • Rapid easy implementation and easily adaptable over time
  • Out-of-the-box processes to assist customers with critical Business Alignment

Further Information

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2012 Request Fulfilment Group Test. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Review: PMG Request Fulfilment

This independent review is part of our 2012 Request Fulfilment Group Test. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch A “rescue remedy” for replacing inadequate Service Catalogue/Request Fulfilment modules of ITSM Suites.
Strengths A dedicated approach to providing enterprise delivery specifically around Service Catalogue & Request Fulfilment.
Weaknesses Although they have a few standalone ITSM customers, their Ticketing system for other ITSM processes is very basic, when standing up against fully integrated solutions.
Primary Market Focus Mid-size to enterprise level customers.

Commercial Summary

Vendor PMG
Product PMG Service Catalog Suite – Enterprise Edition
Version reviewed V6.5
Date of version release 12th June 2012
Year founded 1996
Customers Not disclosed
Pricing Structure Traditional Purchase (1-time license fee)=Base Engine (CPU) + Concurrent Users + Connectors. SaaS Option: Per CU Per Month. Actual pricing not disclosed.
Competitive Differentiators
  • PMG is the only solution that combines BPM, e-commerce, Enterprise Content Management, and Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) in a single suite
  • PMG is the only independent enterprise service catalogue that integrates with virtually every common enterprise application out of the box…not tied to a specific ITSM tool (or to IT for that matter)
  • PMG provides hundreds of out of box features to support near-zero coding and simple configuration for dramatic ease of use and deployment
Additional Feature PMG has >50 OOB integration connectors to virtually all well known ITSM, ERP, CRM, HRMS, Cloud, and RBA tools

Independent Review

It is easy to see how PMG would be the enterprise Service Catalogue of choice where the more “traditional” enterprise ITSM suites have shortcomings in that area.

The range of integration connectors and ability to raise tickets in and out of most ITSM suites is an impressive feature, and not one you would even to expect to find in the more integrated suites.

Having personally battled with early iterations of Service Catalogues in the larger, sometimes monolithic suites, I can see why some large customers retain their original investment and connect PMG to the back.

Their ability to link directly to a range of LDAPs provides a unique degree of role based access, without the need to have that information duplicated in their tool.

Request Models

PMG provide a large number of out-of-the-box workflows and templates, also including a vast library of clip art to help customers set up their e-commerce content rapidly.

All of the UI and workflow is configured with selections and drag and drop, and no requirements for coding.

Bundling workflows (for example bringing together a number of components for New Hires) is easy to configure.

Administrators are offered a number of options of training days, and can be up to advanced level in a matter of weeks.

Menu Selection

PMG offer extensive content management, allowing for rich text form and presentation, allowing documentation, and links to be added to screens presented to users.

Their philosophy is to provide a comprehensive set of templates to facilitate a customer’s setup.

This makes sense when you look at their model, and the kinds of customers and environments they deploy in.

If a customer has invested in an enterprise ITSM suite, and need to replace the Request Fulfilment component, they can well do without having to pay again for detailed consultancy.

The self-service element can be configured to suit customers.

Request Fulfilment Lifecycle

The delivery engine behind PMG takes the drag and drop approach to a different level.

As well as linking to a viewable status for the end user, the status of actions also changes within the workflow as a request progresses through its lifecycle, with workflow elements turning green, once completed.

Everything is configurable through selection.

PMG do also support additional coding but with their approach of provided a vast number of templates and workflow out of the box, they believe it is not needed for the large majority of deployments.

Actions on other groups can be done either through their interaction with the PMG system, or by embedding instructions within standard emails (for example Accept, Reject buttons).

Conclusion

It is easy to understand why PMG have succeeded in being deployments that complement existing enterprise ITSM solutions.

They have evolved as a strong integration Service Catalogue suite, capitalising where the more traditionally monolithic suites had laboured in terms of Service Catalogue flexibility.

Even though they do provide a very basic ITSM ticketing function, they do not pretend to be what they are not.

PMG clearly pitch themselves in a niche, which is a refreshing approach, and I like the inclusion of a vast number of templates to Quick-start a deployment.

For example – it is a neat thing to see the status of actions change as the workflow progresses, but that is something that just appeals to me as a techie.

But just because other vendors have incorporated graphical workflow in a slightly a more simplistic way, does not mean they are not able to provide the same outcome (eventually).

And for me, the key is achieving the outcome without overdoing the complexity.

This is something that can be easily achieved in PMG, and perhaps sometimes demonstrating less is more is just as powerful as showing the full depth of configuration.

PMG Customers

Screenshots

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

From The PMG Brochure

  • Independent enterprise service catalogue and business process automation solution
  • Out-of-the-box, easily customised online catalogue
  • Approximately 50 Connectors (out-of-the-box) for integrating to external ITSM systems
  • One-click service editing, real time order status and history
  • Enterprise-class Business Process Management (BPM)

Further Information

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2012 Request Fulfilment Group Test. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Review: ServiceNow Request Fulfilment

This independent review is part of our 2012 Request Fulfilment Group Test. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch A solid integrated platform, with the focus on improving the user’s experience of Request Fulfilment, and also focussing on the equally important business view.
Strengths They boast a unique approach of focussing on improving an end-user’s experience in engaging with IT through the Request Fulfilment process.
Weaknesses Although there are administration courses, all too often the responses relied on finding answers to configuration questions “in the wiki”.It is comprehensive, but when others promote that element of “handover” to the system’s custodians, ServiceNow seem to want to default to detachment.
Primary Market Focus Mid-size to Large Enterprise level customers

Commercial Summary

Vendor ServiceNow
Product ServiceNow
Version reviewed Berlin Release
Date of version release September 2012
Year founded 2004
Customers 1,200+
Pricing Structure ServiceNow offers a subscription license based on the number of IT process users, starting at $100 / IT process user / month with volume discounts available. There is no charge for end user access.
Competitive Differentiators
  • A single, organically developed ITSM platform built in the cloud with nothing acquired or OEMed that leverages knowledge management, collaboration, graphical workflow engine, ITSM stack, service catalog and request, runbook automation, CMDB, ITAM, software asset management, etc. all included in the subscription license.
  • An approachable, social and modern Web UI built to improve the end user experience with IT through an emphasis on usability and self service.
  • A configurable platform includes a content management system that allows IT to provide a user experience that is identical to existing customer Web properties and that matches existing user experience and IT workflow.
Additional Feature Service catalogue, service portfolio, and dozens of other enterprise service automation applications all provided through a single cloud-based platform.

ServiceNow

Independent Review

ServiceNow has been one of the fastest growing software companies in the world, since forming in 2004.

One significant difference I saw in looking more at the single-tenant commercial deployment scenario (opposed to Managed Service Provision) was how to leverage a business view of the service catalogue.

More importantly, that view can be combined with elements of the Employee Self Service portal to give users a lot more information about the services they use, even before they go down the Request Fulfilment route.

That is not to say that other vendors do not offer the same, but ServiceNow’s focus sees the tool as an enabler for information up and down the chain, about the affordability of the services IT provide, and the usability for end-users.

Request Models

End-users can come in to the Request Fulfilment screens through a self-service portal URL which provides them a simplified view of the options available.

This can be configured to provide a customer’s look and feel, and limits the choices in the sections so that the end-user is not overwhelmed with a mass of service catalogue options.

ServiceNow recommend the three main sections (Order Things, Knowledge, Get Help) and no more than four elements beneath that.

Requests can be bundled together (for example for new hires) and most vendors now adopt the look and feel of a shopping cart experience to good effect.

But they want to make the interface as intuitive as possible.

All this is laudable, but as always that freedom of intuition requires detailed thought and configuration behind the scenes.

Menu Selection

The back end allows administrators to configure routing options, approvals, even the addition of fields mostly through drop-down and selectable variable values.

There is the capability of doing further, more complex development and administrators would need to either have an understanding of Java Script programming, or (in their words) at least have a desire to learn.

But in fairness, ServiceNow also recognise that resources or skill levels in organisations may not stretch to that – and certainly enough can be done with the options available to build on the existing  templates, utilising a graphical workflow editor, pick lists and right-click UI controls .

Request Fulfilment Lifecycle

The first step in the ServiceNow world is to build up the items in a way that makes it an appealing experience for the end user.

Once the aesthetics are taken care of, then start tackling the more repetitive elements of the process first, and then worry about tackling your exceptions.

The graphical workflow is extensive, and tasks, actions, options attached to those actions are taken care of with drag-and-drop.

It is designed so that Business Analysts or Process Managers can translate those steps graphically to configure the back-end workflow.

In addition, a business service catalogue can be developed, and this has a two-fold purpose.

Often customers have difficulty in transitioning to a service model, and understanding what that really means to them.

Here, IT can define to the business what services it offers, the reasonable levels of availability and response that can be expected, and can obviously build from there, for example Email Services.

This view is also linked to an end-user’s view of their world, so they can proactively see (even before entering the whole ticket rigmarole), service alerts or issues.

Conclusion

ServiceNow are not alone in the market place at focussing on how customers want to set things up behind the scenes.

Administrators of the system should have a strong end-to-end process knowledge to get the best from configuring the workflows.

Their approach, though, differs between good practical advice in terms of configuration versus a wiki-focussed depth of support information.

For example, during the demo, I was impressed at the steps outlined for an approach to tackling the workflow configuration:

  1. Build the items you want the end user to see first
  2. Worry about process later (repetitive tasks first, then exceptions)

But I am also pointed to a range of links of everything in the wiki.

There is no doubt that the information is comprehensive and, given how much is in there, fairly well organised but it can be very time consuming to wade through the options to find things, and I speak from experience!

ServiceNow offer a foundations e-learning course that can be completed within an hour.

They also provide a three-day ServiceNow system administration class, a two-day advanced system administration class, and a three-day scripting in ServiceNow course. System administrators can be up to speed within a day and be extremely proficient within a week.

However, at its core, ServiceNow does offer a well-integrated Request Fulfilment module, and reminds us that business benefit should be a driver, and provide a well thought out visual capability in that area.

ServiceNow Customers

Screenshots

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

From The ServiceNow Brochure

  • Leading provider of cloud-based services that automate enterprise IT operations.
  • Suite of applications built on our proprietary platform that automates workflow and provides integration between related businesses.
  • We help transform IT organizations from reactive, manual and task-oriented, to pro-active, automated and service-oriented organizations.
  • Assessed to PinkVERIFY 3.0
  • Provides an open, no-registration-required live instance of ServiceNow: http://demo.servicenow.com

Further Information

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2012 Request Fulfilment Group Test. See all participants and terms of the review here.

A structured approach to problem solving

Those who have worked in IT Operations have a strong affinity with the skills of problem solving and troubleshooting. Although a huge amount of effort is taken to improve resiliency and redundancy of IT systems the ability to quickly diagnose the root cause of problems has never been more important and relevant.

IT Service Management has gone a long way towards making practices standardised and repeatable. For example you don’t want individual creative input when executing standard changes or fulfilling requests. Standard Operating Procedures and process manuals means that we expect our engineers and practioners to behave in predictable ways. Those reluctant to participate in these newly implemented processes might even complain all the fun has gone out of IT support.

A Home for Creative and Inquiring Minds?

However there is still a place for creative and inquiring minds in ITSM driven organisations. Complex systems are adept at finding new and interesting ways to break and stop functioning. Problem analysis still needs some creative input.

When I recruited infrastructure engineers into my team I was always keen to find good problem solvers. I’d find that some people were more naturally inclined to troubleshooting than others.

Some people would absolutely relish the pursuit of the cause of a difficult network or storage issue… thinking of possible causes, testing theories, hitting dead ends and starting again. They tackled problems with the mindset of a stereotypical criminal detective… finding clues, getting closer to the murder weapon, pulling network cables, tailing through the system log.

These kinds of engineers would rather puzzle over the debug output from their core switch than get stuck into the daily crossword. I’m sure if my HR manager let me medically examine these engineers I’d find that the underlying psychological brain activity and feeling of satisfaction would be very similar to crossword puzzlers and sudoku players. I was paying these guys to do the equivalent of the Guardian crossword 5 days a week.

Others would shy away from troubleshooting sticky problems. They didn’t like the uncertainty of being responsible for fixing a situation they knew little about. Or making decisions based on the loosest of facts.

They felt comfortable in executing routine tasks but lacked the capability to logically think through sets of symptoms and errors and work towards the root cause.

The problem I never solved

Working in a previous organisation I remember a particularly tricky problem. Apple computers running Microsoft PowerPoint would find that on a regular basis their open presentation would lock and stop them saving. Users would have to save a new version and rename the file back to its original name.

It was a typical niggling problem that rumbled on for ages. We investigated different symptoms, spent a huge amount of time running tests and debugging network traces. We rebuilt computers, tried moving data to different storage devices and found the root cause elusive. We even moved affected users between floors to rule out network switch problems.

We dedicated very talented people to resolving the problem and made endless promises of progress to our customers. All of which proved false as we remained unable to find the root cause of the problem.

Our credibility ran thin with that customer and we were alarmed to discover that our previous good record of creatively solving problems in our infrastructure was under threat.

What’s wrong with creative troubleshooting?

The best troubleshooters in your organisation share some common traits.

  • They troubleshoot based on their own experiences
  • They (probably) aren’t able to always rationalise the root cause before attempting to fix it

Making assumptions based on your experiences is a natural thing to do – of course as you learn skills and go through cycles of problem solving you are able to apply your learnings to new situations. This isn’t a negative trait at all.

However it does mean that engineers approach new problems with a potentially limited set of skills and experiences. To network engineers all problems look like a potentially loose cable.

Not being able to rationalise the root cause is a balance between intuition, backed up by evidence and research. Your troubleshooter will work towards the root cause and sometimes have hard evidence to confirm the cause.

“I can see this in the log… this is definitely the cause!”

But in some cases the cause might be suspected, but you aren’t able to prove anything until the fix is deployed.

Wrong decisions can be costly

Attempting the wrong fix is expensive in many ways, not least financially. It’s expensive in terms of time, user patience and most critically the credibility of IT to fix problems quickly.

Expert troubleshooters are able to provide rational evidence that confirm their root cause before a fix is attempted.

A framework is needed

As with a lot of other activities in IT a process or framework can aid troubleshooters to identify the root cause of problems quickly. In addition to providing quick isolation of the root cause, the framework I’m going to discuss can provide evidence as to why we are suggesting this as the root cause.

Using a common framework has other benefits. For example:

  1. To allow collaboration between teams – Complex infrastructure problems can span multiple functional areas. You would expect to find subject matter experts from across the IT organisation working together to resolve problems. Using a common framework in your organisation allows teams to collaborate on problems in a repeatable way. Should the network team have a different methodology for troubleshooting than the application support team?
  2. To bring additional resources into a situation – Often ownership of Problems will be handed between teams in functional or hierarchical escalation. External resources may be brought in to assist with the problem. Having a common framework allows individuals to quickly get an appraisal of the situation and understand the progress that has already been made.
  3. To provide a common language for problem solvers – Structured problem analysis techniques have their own terminology. Having shared understanding of “Problem Area”, “Root cause” and “Probable cause” will prevent mis-understandings and confusion during critical moments

The Kepner Tregoe Problem Analysis process

Kepner-Tregoe is a global management consultancy firm specialising in improving the efficiency of their clients.

The founders, Chuck Kepner and Ben Tregoe, were social scientists living in California in the 1950’s. Chuck and Ben studied the methods of problem solvers and managers and consolidated their research into process definitions.

Their history is an interesting one and a biography of the organisation is outside the scope of this blog post – but definitely worth researching.

One of the processes developed, curated and owned by Kepner-Tregoe, is Structured Problem Analysis, known as KT-PA.

KT-PA is used by hundreds of organisations to isolate problems and discover the root cause. It’s a framework used by problem solvers and troubleshooters to resolve issues and provide rational evidence that the investigation has discovered the correct cause.

Quick overview of the process

1. State the Problem

KT-PA begins with a clear definition of the Problem. A common mistake in problem analysis is a poor description of the problem, often leading to resources dedicated to researching symptoms of the problem rather than the issue itself.

Having a clear and accurate Problem Statement is critical to finding the root cause quickly. KT-PA provides guidance on identifying the correct object and it’s deviation.

A typical Problem Statement might be

Users of MyAccountingApplication are experiencing up to 2 second delays entering ledger information

This problem statement is explicit about the object (“Users of MyAccountingApplication”) and the deviation from normal service (“2 second delays entering ledger information”)

2. Specify the Problem

The process then defines how to specify the problem into Problem Areas. A Problem is specified in 4 dimensions and all should be considered. What, Where, When, Extent:

  1. What object has the deviation
  2. What is the deviation
  3. Where is the deviation on the object
  4. When did the deviation occur
  5. Extent of the deviation (How many deviations are occurring, What is the size of one deviation, Are the number of deviations increasing or decreasing)

The problem owner inspects the issue from these dimensions and documents his results. Results are recorded in the format of IS and IS NOT. Using the IS/IS NOT logical comparison starts to build a profile of the problem. Even at this early stage certain causes might become more apparent or less likely.

Already troubleshooters will be getting benefit from the process. The fact that the 2 second delay in the problem dimension of Where “IS Users in London” but “IS NOT Users in New York” is hugely relevant.

The fact that the delay occurs in entering ledger information but not reading ledger information is also going to help subject matter experts think about possible causes.

3. Distinctions and Changes

Having specified the problem and made logical comparisons as to where the problem IS and IS NOT each problem area the next step is to examine Distinctions and Changes.

Each answer to a specifying question is examined for Distinctions and Changes.

  • What is distinct about users in London when compared to users in New York. What is different about their network, connectivity, workstation build?
  • What has changed for users in London?
  • What is distinct about August 2012 when compared to July?
  • What changed around the 30th July?

As these questions are asked and discussed possible root causes should become apparent. These are logged for testing in the next step.

4. Testing the cause

The stage of testing the cause before confirmation is, for me, the most valuable step in the KT-PA process. It isn’t particularly hard to think of possible root causes to a problem. Thinking back to the “problem I never solved” we had many opinions on what the cause might be from different technical experts.

If we had used KT-PA with that problem we could have tested the cause against the problem specification to see how probable it is.

As an example lets imagine that during the Distinctions and Changes stage with our problem above 3 possible root causes were suggested

  • LAN connection issue with the switch the application server is connected to
  • The new anti-virus installation installed across the company in August is causing issues
  • Internet bandwidth in the London office is saturated

When each possible root cause is evaluated against the problem specification you are able to test it using the following question

“If LAN connection issue with the switch the application server is connected to is the true cause of the problem then how does it explain why Users in London experience the issue. Users in New York do not”

This possible root cause doesn’t sound like a winner. If there were network connectivity issues with the server wouldn’t all users be affected?

“If The new anti-virus installation installed across the company in August is causing issues is the true cause of the problem then how does it explain why Users in London experience the issue. Users in New York do not”

We came to this root cause because of a distinction and change in the WHEN problem dimension. In August a new version of anti-virus was deployed across the company? But this isn’t a probable root cause for the same reason that New York users aren’t affected

If Internet bandwidth in the London office is saturated is the true cause of the problem then how does it explain why Users in London experience the issue. Users in New York do not”

So far this possible root cause sounds most probable. The cause can explain the dimension of WHERE. Does it also prove other dimensions of the problem.

“If Internet bandwidth in the London office is saturated is the true cause of the problem then how does it explain why First noticed in August 2012, not reported before 30th July”

Perhaps now we’d be researching Internet monitoring charts to see if the possible root cause can be confirmed.

The New Rational Manager

You might find my recommendation of a book published in 1965 as one of the most relevant Problem Management books I’ve read to be incredulous.

But I’m recommending it anyway.

The New Rational Manager

The New Rational Manager, written by Charles H Kepner and Benjamin B Tregoe is a must read for anyone that needs to solve problems, be they manufacturing, industrial, business or Information Technology.

It explains the process above in a readable way with great examples. I think the word “Computer” is mentioned once – this is not a book about modern technology – but it teaches the reader a process that can be applied to complex IT problems

In Summary

Problem Management and troubleshooting is a critical skill in ITSM and Infrastructure and Operations roles. Many talented troubleshooters make their reputation by applying creative, technical knowledge to a problem and finding the root cause.

Your challenge is harnessing that creativity into a process to make their success repeatable in your organisation and to reduce the risk of fixing the wrong root cause.

Sudoku Image Credit

Assessment Criteria for Incident Management

Our Request Fulfilment assessments have concluded. The full analysis will be published very shortly. Digging into Request Fulfilment have revealed some interesting elements!

The original aim was to look at how the tools supported the process. Rather refreshingly, the vendors who participated also shared their experiences and some insight into their consulting approaches.

We now turn our attention to the bread-and-butter elements of Incident Management. Our challenge is to identify the true differentiators in a rigid discipline.

Suggested Criteria

Overall Alignment

  • Have our target vendors aligned to ITIL and if so, to which version?
  • How do the set up roles and users to perform functions?
  • What demo capabilities can they offer potential customers?

Incident Logging & Categorisation

These can either be made simple, and to great effect, or made so complex, that they become irrelevant as the Service Desk totally ignore them and pick the first thing on the list!

  • What information is made mandatory on the Incident record?
  • What categories and/or sub-categories are provided out-of-the-box?
  • How easy is it to customise these fields and values?
  • Show us how Incident Matching and linkage to known errors are presented to users and/or service staff to expedite the process
  • How much administration is needed to do bespoke changes?

Incident Tracking

“Oh come on now,” I hear you cry, “What tool cannot track incidents?”

But there can be a lot more to tracking the humble incident than meets the eye:

  • What statuses are included out-of-the-box and how easy is it to add/modify status definitions to suit customer requirements
  • Can your tool show how many “hops” an incident may face if wrongly assigned?

Incident Lifecycle Tracking

Perhaps the best way of allowing vendors to show off their tool’s capabilities is for them to really go to town in terms of playing out scenarios.

The aim of this assessment is to look at how tools can help keep communication going during the lifecycle of an incident.

  • First time Fix from the Service Desk
  • Resolved via support group(s)
  • Demonstrating visibility of the incident through its lifecycle, from  end-user, Service Desk and support group(s) points of view

Prioritising Incidents

  • How are priorities determined and managed (out-of-the-box)
  • What happens when the priority is adjusted during the lifecycle of the Incident
  • We would like to also give vendors an opportunity to show us how they link SLAs to Incidents

Escalating Incidents

  • Demonstrate routing to multiple groups
  • Show the tool’s capability for handling SLA breaches – in terms of notifications and the effect on the Incident record during that time
  • Show us what happens when an Incident has NOT been resolved satisfactorily
  • Demonstrate integration between Incident and other processes (the most obvious being Problem and Change Management)

Major Incident

Much like categorisation, this can be very simple, or can be made so complex, more time can be spent negotiating the process than fixing the major incident!

  • Provide and end-to-end scenario to demonstrate how the tool handles the management and co-ordination across multiple groups for a Major Incident.

Incident Models

All of the above criteria are what I consider the basics of an ITSM tool.

But I am keen to delve deeper into what vendors understand by the concept of Incident Models.

In turn, how can their tools add significant value in this area?

There are several ways of looking at this concept (there will be no points for throwing it over the fence to Problem Management and focussing on Known Errors).

There are assessment criteria around the handling of Incident Models, and we want to see how tools help in this aspect.

  • Demonstrate how your tool facilitates the use of Incident Models (include if/where links to other relevant processes/support groups as part of the demonstration).

Incident Closure

It makes sense to end our list of assessment criteria examining how tools resolve and/or close incidents by default.

  • Show how an incident is routed for closure.

This assessment will be quite scenario heavy, and we want to give participating vendors the freedom to develop their scenarios without limiting them to defined parameters (for example, specifying which service has failed, or which groups to use).

A key part of the assessment will also include how flexible the tool is with regards to customisation.

Incident Management can sometimes be taken for granted, so we would like participating vendors to really take a look at how Incident Management can made “everyone’s” business.

What is your view, what have we missed?

Please leave a comment below or contact us. Similarly if you are a vendor and would like to be included in our review please contact us. Thanks, Ros.

Guerilla ITSM: When management doesn't care

What should you do if management does not care? resign or stay and fight?

What if no one cares?

No matter where you turn for enlightenment or support when starting an ITSM journey, one of the first things you learn is that management support is essential, if not fundamental, to succeed.

You only need to scan some LinkedIn groups or other forums scouting for questions like the ones I ask all the time:

  • “Where do I begin?”
  • “What to do first?”
  • “We want to establish problem management/a service catalogue/ an event manager and wonder how?”

The first bunch of answers are all versions of “Make sure you have management support”.

The ITIL books

If you happen to own some ITIL books and turn to them for guidance they also say that you need management support and some more or less extraordinary situation to be able to succeed with an IT Service Management initiative.

The ITIL Service Strategy book has a chapter about creating a strategy for implementing service management with some types of implementations listed. The one that describes the current situation at my organization best is called “even keel mode”. (The other modes are trouble mode, growth mode and radical change mode)

“Decision makers feel that their organizations are well managed and on track to meet their organizational objectives. Although there may be some minor difficulties within IT, these are not significant enough to initiate any projects aimed at changing the way IT is managed.”

Spot on! So what to do?

The literature suggests

“Resigning and joining an organization more suited to their enthusiasm and skills, especially if they are passionate about IT Service Management.”

How uplifting.

What if you still believe change can be valuable to your organization and you feel deep within that you can do better? You can of course argue that you should remain silent and do what you´re told by management and that is perhaps the only way at some companies.

But that’s not for me so when I found myself in this situation I decided to do something anyway.

The grass root movement

I was hired to become a configuration manager about 20 months ago. My boss and the other managers didn’t really know what configuration management was but they kind of had this feeling it was important. They really didn’t have much of a clue to what IT Service Management was but had appointed some process managers to “implemented some ITIL-processes”.

The first time I met the management team I was given the chance to present how I was going to develop configuration management. I was asked only two questions, revealing quite a lot;

  • “When can we see the CMDB-tool?”
  • and “What makes you think you can actually make this happen?”

I teamed up with some of my fellow process managers to start discussing how we could develop ITSM together and deliver progress in the value creation we saw possible, if we just got to make some changes to how we do things around here.

With the help of a consultant that we managed to steal from another project we analyzed the current situation from an ITSM perspective showing the level of maturity of our organization bearing on process development.

The analysis with the accompanying recommendations was distributed to middle management through my boss and we got his boss to give us some money for a consultant of our own that could help us better understand what to do and how to do it.

We are now six months into a long and intricate journey of change and at least middle management have begun to show some interest in what we do. It would be unfair to say that they are supportive yet but they have moved from being unconcerned to showing interest.

The point

Don’t quit just because there’s a lack of management support. If you’re passionate about developing ITSM in your organization you can. It takes a long time and the pace is sometimes deadly slow, but my god you get to sharpen many skills in the meantime.

Photo Credit

Will it ever be possible to innovate in outsourcing deployments?

Will it ever be possible to innovate in outsourcing deployments?

Will it ever be possible to innovate in outsourcing deployments?

I only ask, because you would think, in fact, that outsourcing deployments would be the perfect way in which to deliver small but effective areas of innovation.

Yet the very nature of outsourcing, both for organisations and service providers, is proving to be its own worst enemy.

The ITSM piece tends to be part of a much larger bid, often consolidating data centres, teams, resources and now typically with the sensitive matter of off-shoring work too.

Can it work?

Of course.

If an organisation is completely happy for all their services to be run in a shared instance with many other customers and a standard delivery model for your processes and resources, they are laughing.

There is no bespoke configuration to do, minimal to no requirements for knowledge transfer –merely hand over the details required, maybe have some training and perhaps some process focus and away they go, literally!

No debates about 99.999% up time of the service desk, or arguments about how to connect active directory servers to the hosted systems to abide with security requirements.

It just all works, and everyone is a winner.

And the flip side?

Complex projects involving multiple countries, heightened security implications in certain sectors, and dare I say it, almost a reluctance to “let go”.

There is nothing more sensitive (and in a small way a little soul destroying) knowing that you are working in an implementation where some, but not all of the people you need to interact with to do that transformation work will be losing their jobs.

Why the struggle?

Very simply, I think it comes to difference of expectations.

Often implementation teams are not involved in the bid process or if they are, it is often at the very end when it may well be far too late to point out potential issues.

Expectations are set by the sales and solution teams before the whole thing is thrown over the fence to be implemented by multiple groups, as part of a large project team.

Then the silo-mentality kicks in and suddenly you go from all-in-together to “Your bit of the solution needs to do this, why doesn’t it?”

Trying to innovate

How can you try and stop the inevitable from happening?

Because ITSM touches a lot of IT User groups, it is worth the ITSM Solution Architect having a broad view of everything that has been promised in the Service Management piece, but also make sure you cast an eye over Service/Help Desk and Asset Management schedules.

They may have their own teams, their own process writers and so on, but determining what YOUR tool (as it will often be called!) can actually do to achieve THEIR goals is vital.

For example:

ITSM Tool Expectation

Shared Platform Reality

Thou shalt enable retained staff and outsourced support staff to have access to, create, update, delete asset records in accordance to processes Well…. We’re writing the processes, so I agree with that but the way the platform is set up, you can’t have people updating assets if they are not working for us!
The service desk is all seeing, all knowing and shall have control of every ticket in the whole wide world, for ever That’s fine, but in our set up we have given them the LEAST amount of rights in the system of all the IT users, so really they will log and flog.

OK perhaps I have painted an extreme, but how would you begin to introduce more skill in Level 1 resolution if the way the service provided platforms are built lends itself to that kind of segregation.

All too often the best intentions to ensure that solutions are well documented, that the design process is followed with no short cuts, and that everything is re-usable for subsequent implementations.

In reality, time squeezes in, corners get cut, and rather than being able to standardise documentation for re-use, and that all important knowledge sharing aspect gets pushed to one side.

Who is willing to stand up and be counted?

Perhaps this is the hardest thing of all, when the pressure is on to get something implemented, and hopefully working better than what was there before.

I wrote some time ago about the Fantasy ITSM team and stressed the need for a strong, knowledgeable, but pragmatic project manager who could act as the glue between the silos.

But let me just throw someone else into the mix (rather than under the bus).

Sometimes the project team need a good business manager to bat for them, especially against the slow death crawl of scope creep.

The kiss of death for any troubling project is someone in the business line who is not prepared to say “NO”.

And it is sadly a rare thing to find someone who actually has the balls to look for ways to circumvent the more destructive forces one can find on projects and actually say: “NO, this is the wrong way.”

Why is no-one willing to do that?

The cold hard facts of the IT industry are that organisations are constantly striving for more, with far less.

The whole raison-d’être  for outsourcing is to benefit from the economies of scale.

And it takes brave people to then stand up and say – we need longer to do this better.

But the reasons WHY are because expectations have been set and there is largely a lack of control around HOW an almost “hybrid” solution can work.

Those people who are likely to be retained in the organisation will be looking for leverage to make sure things stay that way.

Knowledge is power, so why would they try and make things more efficient?

And all the while, the name of the game is to implement a solution, adhering to standards, but acquiescing to customer requirements, trying to add value but without rocking any other boats.

Who wins?

A sad by-product of restructuring within service providers themselves means that in-house skill are taken out of the equation, and often contractors brought in.

They have developed those niche skills that make it comparatively easier for them to be dropped in, for a shorter period of time, and at a lovely high rate.

While it is maybe more prevalent in the area of Project Management, I have come across ITIL Masters/Experts  who maybe spend more time telling you how much more they know than you, rather than looking to apply those skills to what an organisation needs.

For service providers to start adding that value always boasted about in bids, and drawing on the expertise they claim to have, they need to stop shedding skin, and looking to improve the skills within.

Regardless of whether the Service Desk and Platform/Application Support Staff are in Bangalore or Bognor – have they really got the skills for the job?  Are they engaged and committed to improving and developing a career?  Are they motivated?

Stop weakening your teams and look to play to their strengths.

Encourage, don’t stifle.

Innovate, don’t restrict.

It IS a challenge in this economic climate.  Is any service provider willing to take it on?

Image Credit