Reasons to be cheerful: ITSM in the ascendancy at #SITS13

I have just returned from the Service Desk and IT Support show held at Earls Court in London over the last couple of days. It has been great to catch up with industry friends: old, new and digital.

A snapshot of ITSM Industry sentiment from the last two days would be: Buoyant

  • If 2012 was about thinking/planning, 2013 is about doing
  • Many more organizations are looking to proceed with projects and have a green light on implementation
  • Visitors come armed with very specific requirements and needs rather than ‘we might be in the market for a new helpdesk’
  • Frameworks are a given, it’s much more than Service Desks – visitors have much broader, longer term ITSM objectives

But don’t take my word for it – Some pillars of the ITSM industry have kindly shared their views:

Peter Durrant, LANDesk
Peter Durrant, LANDesk

Peter Durrant, Enterprise Sales Director for LANDesk Software, who recently hit 150% of their European Sales target, reports new clients are increasingly approaching LANDesk with end-to-end ITSM requirements rather than replacing ticketing systems. In difficult times, customers see LANDesk as a low risk and reliable option with a strong reputation.

Colin Rudd, itSMF
Colin Rudd, itSMF

Colin Rudd, Chairman itSMF UK reports good interest in membership at the show. Echoing Peter’s comments above Colin stated the industry is maturing beyond ITIL and Service Desks into much broader ITSM requirements. Exciting times for the industry and to be part of the itSMF community.

Tony Probert, Cherwell
Tony Probert, Cherwell

Tony Probert, Managing Director UK and EMEA at Cherwell Software stated that SITS is a barometer on where the industry is going and his judgement from the last few days was a lot more positive. Projects are becoming unstuck, purse strings are being released and the industry is looking very positive. Clients are becoming very specific about their requirements and have moved beyond Incident, Problem and Change to Portals, Systems Integration and Advanced Reporting. Cherwell have put effort into building their partner community and have recently signed up new business partners in Spain, Russia, Hungary and Norway.

Emma Spear, SDI
Emma Spear, SDI

Emma Spear, Head of Marketing and Events at The Service Desk Institute broke with the norm with a relaxed and sociable ‘tea party’ presence at SITS. Emma reported the SDI Service Desk Certification was very popular and the team were preparing for the SDI Conference on June 18th – 19th in Edgbaston.

Tom West-Robinson, Marval
Tom West-Robinson, Marval

Tom West-Robinson, Account Manager at Marval Group also noted that show visitors have a much clearer understanding of what they want and that projects are beginning to make progress. Tom stated that many organizations face high value maintenance renewals on their existing helpdesk software and are actively investigating better value alternatives.

Andrew Smith, BMC
Andrew Smith, BMC

Finally, Andrew Smith, Solutions Marketing Manager at BMC Software, expressed his surprise at the vibrancy of the show. He stated that although 2012 was good in terms of visitor numbers, this year has been particularly good for the level of engagement. Lots of companies were talking about projects in 2012; in 2013 they are starting to implement them. Andrew noted it was great to see new exhibitors and alternative technologies appearing as well as the industry regulars.

SITS visits Berlin in late September before returning to Earls Court in April 2014.

Review: Axios assyst

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch A tidy interface, driven by product hierarchies, and backed up with a potentially powerful CMDB.Work put in to configure the Info Zone, Guidance and FAQs can make the job of the Service Desk, Analysts, and even the end user interaction easier.
Strengths
  • Crisp and clean interface with not much clutter
  • From a self-service point of view, a nice touch in walking end users through investigation before logging a ticket
  • For those logging directly with the service desk pulls in pre-populated forms and guidance to make that role easier/more efficient.
Weaknesses
  • Very much rooted in the technical – with the product hierarchy very comprehensive.  Would be nice to see perhaps an incorporation of more business language – which can be achieved with further configuration.
  • The ability to record an analysts time against a charge code also seems to drive a specific cost as well – whilst this could just be a notional cost, some form of correlation between the two, removing the need for the analysts to know financials as well as resolving an incident, might be more beneficial – this can be achieved with further configuration,
  • There are some elements of earlier ITIL iterations in the tool, as nothing is taken out which could be cumbersome to customise out. – This can be achieved with further configuration.
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Axios typically market to large/very large customers with a minimum of 1000 business users.They are classified for this review as:Specialised Service Management Suite – Offering ITIL processes and proprietary discovery tooling.They provide Event and Monitoring bridges as integration points.

Commercial Summary

Vendor Axios Systems
Product Axios assyst
Version reviewed V10.2
Date of version release December 2012
Year founded 1998
Customers 1000+
Pricing Structure The assyst solution supports both dedicated (named) and concurrent models to allow flexibility with all core functions covered under a single licence.
Competitive Differentiators
  • Our market leading Service catalogue – ranked number one in ITSM by Gartner in their recent Service catalogue Critical Capabilities report – ensures business deliver an outstanding customer experience
  • We focus on the business user with service catalogue, self-service, web and mobile
  • Highly Configurable Solution – flexible interfacing with third party tools, fully supported integrations
Additional Features assyst represents a functionally complete, fully integrated solution, that offers considerably lower lifetime TCO and therefore considerably faster ROI than the complex, technically challenging and costly solutions offered by other vendors.assyst comes truly out-of-the-box, with all service support processes delivered pre-integrated. This includes its own CMDB (also pre-integrated), which can federate from multiple external systems (Discovery tools, ADM tools, Asset and Inventory systems, Directory Systems, etc.)The assyst CMDB comes pre-integrated and sits at the heart of assyst, providing a single-source-of-truth for all configuration, relationship and asset management data required to support the Service Desk and ITIL processes.

As data is captured and shared between all the ITIL processes this allows assyst to streamline IT Service Management without the efforts usually associated with the integration of disparate modules for Incident Management, Problem, Change, etc.assyst offers powerful data and Process interaction, supported by a fully  integrated CMDB. All of the ITIL processes are fully Integrated within assyst.

Independent Review

This tool comes with everything you would expect from a well-established player in the ITSM industry, and has moved on a lot from its earlier versions to bring it bang up to date.

The interface is not cluttered, and focuses very much on driving efficiencies through the lifecycle of Incidents and Problems by providing mechanisms to automate as much as possible.

Pre-populating forms, scripted guidance for the service desk, and as much automation around the assignment to support groups for both incidents and problems is driven by a CMDB with is at the core of the product.

At a time, when customer experience is fast becoming the trend-de-jour, assyst can at least offer nice touches, for example FAQs that walk an end user through investigating their own issue before resorting to raising a ticket.

Interestingly, though, assyst’s foray into more social interaction with a Chat feature seems to be more popular among support staff, but not as attractive a feature for end users, based on their customer feedback.

It is not surprising why they market primarily to large/very large customer bases, but they might want to keep an eye out on the need to talk the business language too, as its next stage of evolution.

Logging & Categorisation

As well as the ability to directly log calls via a service desk and the end user self-service portal, assyst can offer automated logging from event management integration.

Because their CMDB is at the heart of the product, it can auto-populate many user information fields to speed up the process, of course dependent on the depth of information collated.

Also, as an up-front feature assyst provides the service desk with Model Incident templates to use for repetitive incidents (for example Password Resets).

The record displays a number of actions for the service desk to just log, or to log and assign the ticket, depending on the level of first-time-fix information that can be made available to them as part of an InfoZone and Guidance section on their home page.

Out of the box, the categorisation is firmly rooted in product and infrastructure related types and values.

Tracking and Escalations

assyst’s Event Monitor function, and an “InfoZone” area of the home page can dynamically display a number of on-going records related to the data being entered.

The Event Monitor can display time values relating to the record through its lifecycle, and can also relate that information to any SLAs associated with it, so that there is an on-going view of potential breach conditions.

As well as maintaining a complete audit trail of any updates carried out on the record, the number of assignments (or hops) can also be recorded.  Usefully, a value can be set after which point a senior person can be alerted to give the record more focussed attention.

Prioritisation

Tied in to the categorisation hierarchy, records are driven by business rules set up using their Event Builder capability, building the rules into their CMDB.

This can reduce logging times, whereby rules can link a configuration item to an SLA, the impact and urgency, its class, specific products, sites, buildings, business units or even a specific user.

Actions can then be displayed to the service desk by means of scripted procedures – all in the aim of making their job easier and more efficient.

Tying these down closely to the product hierarchy and the CMDB means that more can be automated up front.

Closure

When an incident or a problem has been resolved, it can be set to closed or pending concurrence (based on the permissions).

If set to pending, then typically the ownership transfers back to the service desk to gain that concurrence and close or, if required, re-open the record and continue with the assignment process as before.

Major Incident/Problems

All incoming incidents relating to the major incident can then be linked and (once resolved) closed in one action.

A problem record, and automated notifications to the relevant support groups can also be kicked off through the appropriate workflow, to ensure the right teams are working on identifying the root cause.

With respect to major problem records, assyst use updates to these more time-crucial events to help drive continual improvement, updating the quality of information they can provide the front line when logging similar events in the future.

As part of the record, there is a capability to record time and cost incurred in its resolution.

This is useful for charge back, but if an organisation chooses to use it, the specialist will need to know what the related cost is (although this could just be a notional value).

Conclusion

As you would expect from an established vendor, the capability of moving through Incident and Problem management has everything it needs to tick the process boxes.

But there are some interesting things around the periphery:

The use of the InfoZone with links to any knowledge base articles or even external links, or Guidance scripts to help drive first-time-fixes all look to improve efficiency.

The real potential lies behind the incorporation of their CMDB, and it is flexible enough to start slowly and build more and more, to be able to pull in the most pertinent information into a record.

assyst is very firmly rooted in driving the records through the technical route, with the hierarchical product structure at its heart.

Perhaps to get the best out of the product, a lot of strategic thought has to go around harnessing the power of that CMDB to help drive the other functions.

AssystService Management Customers

Screenshots

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

From the Axios Brochure

  • 12 PinkVERIFY™ ITIl V3 processes
  • Robust enterprise-class ITSM technology with the simplicity of SaaS to deliver rapid business value
  • Designed for easy deployment and flexibility to support changing business needs
  • Helps customers manage services, assets and customer support in a fast-paced business environment.

Further Information

In Their Own Words:

Axios’s enterprise ITSM software, assyst, is purpose-built, designed to transform IT departments from technology-focused cost centres into profitable business-focused customer service teams

assyst enables better, faster, less costly delivery and support of IT services, and was developed to support current ITIL® best practices.

assyst is one of the most functionally mature ITSM software solutions on the market, with a proven track record spanning over 25 years for delivering measurable results in large organizations across the globe.

Available for SaaS and on-premise, assyst brings to market the latest in real-time dashboard technology, social IT management, mobility, reporting, resourcing and forecasting – offering a series of solutions and templates that enable an immediate return in the form of customer satisfaction and cost reduction.

assyst also provides integrated functionality to support IT Asset Management (ITAM), governance and standardisation within a single, rapidly deployable, application.

As an out-of-the-box solution, assyst delivers value faster than any other enterprise-class ITSM software available today.

In addition to recognition from leading organizations, including Gartner, Ovum and Forrester Research, who noted Axios has “robust, scalable offerings that could meet the majority of service management needs for the largest and most complex organizations,”[1] we have, likewise, been honored by the Service Desk Institute, PINK and HDI.

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Review: BMC Footprints

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch An improved interface and comprehensive coverage of Incident and Problem Management, with some added innovation to make scheduling work a little easier for Service Desks and support staff alike.
Strengths
  • Logging by Type, Category and Symptom adds a meaningful level of granularity.
  • Incorporates an availability of resources view by integrating to Outlook Exchange
  • Subscription function for end users for major incidents, as well as pop ups for potential SLA breaches.
Weaknesses
  • Design elements behind the scenes are still largely text based.
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, BMC FootPrints typically market to customers with between 500 to 10,000 users (Medium to Large)They are classified for this review as:Specialised Service Management Suite – Offering ITIL processes and proprietary discovery tooling.They provide IT Operations Management integration with their own tooling.

Commercial Summary

Vendor BMC
Product BMC FootPrints ServiceCore
Version reviewed V11.5
Date of version release Autumn 2012 was the release date for this version of FootPrints. The previous version had been certified under the PinkVerify scheme to 10 ITIL 3.1 processes. This version has been re-verified to the same level.
Year founded BMC Software was founded in 1980 and today has revenues of $2.2bn
Customers BMC FootPrints has approximately 1000 customers across Europe and 5000 worldwide.
Pricing Structure BMC FootPrints can be provided as a Starter Pack and this includes 5 named or 1 named + 2 concurrent user licenses, LDAP, unlimited Self-service and unlimited project workspaces. All additional ServiceCore modules are licensed in the same way. AssetCore modules such inventory management, patch are licensed in blocks of 100 nodes. For SaaS and Managed Services subscription licensing is also available.
Competitive Differentiators
  • BMC FootPrints is widely regarded as an affordable and flexible solution which can address 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 a highly adaptive workflow environment (Workspaces) which quickly allows organisation to replicate own best practice support processes or design and launch other non-IT service desks. One view, one console, multiple service desks.
  • In its converged state BMC FootPrints provides seamless integration to ITOM capabilities with open process transparency and data integration. BMC FootPrints supports physical, virtual and mobile devices
Additional Features Additional integration is available with other BMC products such as End-User Experience Management and Network Automation.

Independent Review

BMC Footprints provide a comprehensive end-to-end flow for Incident and Problem Management, and is beginning to benefit from being part of a larger group of products, as functionality from products like RemedyForce add the ability to view process flows (Alignability Process Model)

The tidy-up of the workspace architecture makes the overall interface a cleaner and less confused dashboard view.

They have also incorporated a view of support staff resources by integrating directly with Outlook Exchange to show support staff availability.

Logging & Categorisation

Stand out features for FootPrints when logging a call is the Incident Type, Category and Symptom, which can bring up key problem determination questions.

Their consultancy approach to get that level of granularity focuses on working through what organisations look for in their reports, and working backwards from there.

Tracking and Escalations

As the record progresses through its lifecycle, there is an option to just provide Quick Edits (for example for the Service Desk) as opposed to pulling up the entire record.

FootPrints allows for skill-based routing of the record.

There was no means to look at incidents that seem to bounce around groups, but the audit logs are very comprehensive, and everything is contained within the record.

Any SLAs likely to breach will send a pop up to the agent’s screen and could be configurable in a variety of ways (pop-up, colour change etc.)

Prioritisation

The impact and urgency definitions can be defined in more business-focussed language, and the priority can be solely linked to those values.

Closure

On resolution, FootPrints triggers an email with two links to signify if the end user is happy or not that the issue has been resolved.

Records can be auto-closed.

FootPrints offers the option of re-opening previously resolved records or, if organisations prefer, to link a new incident to the previously closed one.

Major Incident/Problems

Major Incidents (and indeed Problems) can be logged from scratch or flagged from a number of incoming records.

As with a lot of US based vendors, the terminology can veer towards the reference “Global” but this is easily customisable.

The record is easily identifiable in a list with either a globe for the master ticket, or a globe with a chain link to show it is one of a series of records as part of the major incident.

A broadcast message goes out to everyone using FootPrints to notify them of a major incident.

But on the self-service side, an end user can see and subscribe to a major incident.

Incident and Problem Templates

Although none are provided out of the box, FootPrints comes with a Quick Template feature for both incidents and problems, where the record can be pre-populated.

Conclusion

The features to help speed up the process of logging records, and providing initial questions around investigation continue to be an attractive feature in FootPrints.

Adding the integrated Outlook resource view adds to their philosophy of making the Service Desk’s life a little easier.

With each successive release, FootPrints is becoming a crisper, more comprehensive tool, supplementing its functionality with additional elements such as Remote Control, Discovery and Software Deployment modules.

BMC FootPrints Service Management Customers

Screenshots

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From the BMC FootPrints Brochure

  • Increase first-call resolutions by quickly associating the incident to a known problem and the appropriate resolution
  • Improve organisational knowledge by providing the status of known issues and knowledge base solutions to ease troubleshooting
  • Track performance against service level agreements with configurable dashboards

In Their Own Words:

BMC FootPrints follows ITIL best practices and supports key processes like incident and problem, change, and configuration management. So what sets it apart? BMC FootPrints is designed for the evolving business with a just-right balance of usability, security and functionality. It’s flexible enough to configure, affordable enough to invest in, and powerful enough to grow with you. The BMC FootPrints family of IT Management products and solutions streamline, automate and improve IT operations. They have been designed to leverage your legacy IT management solutions and enable IT to optimize the management of PC’s, mobile devices, software and IT infrastructure by simplifying and automating the entire ownership experience. Our solutions uniquely integrate the processes that manage IT, not just the data generated by those processes. BMC FootPrints has been optimized for use over the web but equally satisfies organizations looking for a solid and secure on-premise solution. Certified to ITIL 3.1 it 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), the easy-to-design workflow environment makes one-to-many service desks a reality from a single instance of BMC FootPrints. BMC FootPrints is one solution in the ‘One Size Does Not Fit All’ ITSM portfolio and has been specifically designed for mid-sized organizations seeking to deliver excellent services internally and externally.

Further Information

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Review: Cherwell

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch Cherwell use intelligent interfaces and well constructed forms to automate the basics of the processes in a comprehensive and informative way.
Strengths
  • Core stages of process management as part of the user interface
  • In-context configuration mapping that makes handling concurrent incident and problem mapping management very easy
  • Potential depth of customisation in terms of use of forms (Specifics) lends itself to improving/enhancing investigation and first-time-fix.
Weaknesses
  • While promotion to a Major Incident, automatic raising of a Problem, linkage to the Global Alerts feature and the ability for users to indicate they are affected too from Self Service is great, that indication is linked to the automatically opened problem record, not the Major Incident.
  • Customers seem to have indicated interest in linkage to the Major Incident as an out-of-the-box capability and it would make sense to provide it.
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Cherwell actively market to customers of all sizes(Small <100 to Very Large >10,000)They are classified for this review as:Specialised Service Management Suite – Offering ITIL v3 processes and proprietary discovery tooling.

They use a best of breed approach to Monitoring and also Third Party discovery tools.

Commercial Summary

Vendor Cherwell Software
Product Cherwell Service Management
Version reviewed V4.3
Date of version release December 2012
Year founded 2003
Customers 400+
Pricing Structure Fully inclusive concurrent user usage for both perpetual and SaaS licensing models.
Competitive Differentiators
  • Completely integrated management processes and totally configurable against an organisation’s 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, easy, seamless system upgrades and low cost of ownership for ongoing system management overheads.
Additional Features 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

There was an interesting debate to be had about the incorporation of the core elements of recording an incident, as part of the record – Record, Classify, Investigate, Resolve, Close.

This “Breadcrumb Trail” is an effective way to have the system reinforce best practices.

One of the best features is the ability to create as much automation around the investigation phase of incident recording.

Cherwell make use of a form structure (“Specifics”) that are presented crisply and succinctly within the record to help the service desk to work through some very simple initial investigation queries.

Several are supplied out of the box but can be easily built.

Using business language in the impact and urgency matrices (again primarily for Incident) shows that Cherwell recognise that ITSM tools need to work across organisations.

There is a lot to like out of the box for Cherwell, and their 80/20 philosophy pays off again, in trying to expedite the processes.

Logging & Categorisation

From the moment an incident record is opened, the interface can bring up all kinds of neat interfaces for example:

The level of integration demonstrated within the tool allows for callers to be identified by just first name and department (if they so chose) and also bring up a wealth of information about the caller if required for example assets related to them, information about any surveys they have responded to, and other record they have opened.

The Categories and Sub-Categories are dependent on the type of service selected (the Sub-Category determines if that record is indeed an Incident, or a Service Request).

But behind that the “Specifics” form structure that Cherwell provide (both out of the box and customisable) provide the Service Desk Analyst with a number of queries to try and drive a first-time-fix resolution.

Tracking and Escalations

From the start point of a Service Desk Analyst to transferring to support teams, the depth of information is primarily controlled by macros (called “One-Steps”).

These macros are used to automate as much of the process as possible.

As tools evolve, the more of the mundane that can be automated, the better the focus can be on the user experience, and One-Steps are a great mechanism for taking care of those repetitive actions.

The key, as with any tool, will be to ensure that the process (i.e. the point at which a record is transferred) is clear and concise and that the tool can provide that transition as seamlessly as possible.

When it comes to creating a Problem from an existing Incident, Cherwell offer a visual configuration map, which allows in-context updates to the related Incident and/or Problem without the need to navigate away from the map itself.

Prioritisation

Another great feature is the wording on the Impact and Urgency matrix.

The Matrix applies to a specific service and when customised, can display terminology that the business understands.

Instead of values of High, Medium and Low, having terminology like: Individual, Department, Building to describe the impact makes it a lot less like describing an IT problem, and a lot more like describing a business issue.

Closure

Coming back to those “breadcrumbs” – if a customer wishes to re-open a resolved incident, the core stages turn an angry red, with a warning triangle and escalation mark to make it very obvious this is a record that needs continued action.

Of course, those incidents that are resolved without further issues are seen as a soft-closure until the service desk receives concurrence from the user that the record can be closed.

Major Incident/Problems

There is not a separate workflow for Major Incidents (or Problems for that matter), and out of the box, there is a button to promote an incident to be Major.

This in turn triggers off the creation of a problem, and can update a Global Alert section on the Self Service Portal so that end users can see that there is something happening on a wider scale.

They can even indicate that they are affected too, but currently this will create a link to the Problem that was created when the Incident was promoted.

It can be easily resolved by the creation of a new business object for a Major Incident, and indeed customers have fed this back, so it is a little bit of an oversight that it works this way.

Conclusion

The value is how that experience can be enhanced to enable the Service Desk to achieve higher First-Time-Fix, and how terminology can be modified to appeal to the wider business, and not just those who read ITIL books at night.

The star of the Incident and Problem show were the Specifics forms – Business Objects that Cherwell have developed that sit within a record (across a number of processes) with meaningful prompts and questions.

Obviously this does not happen by magic – there is a case for a knowledgeable administrator who understands more than just playing with technical toys.

To really get the most out of this system, an administrator would need to understand the business processes in play, a level of system design knowledge, and the ability to not get carried away adding forms and macros.

Of course, the extremely customisable nature means that this is by no means guaranteed, but the level of knowledge given in demonstrations should ensure that organisations receive good advice.

The only glitch for me was the Global Alert link for affected users not lining up with the incident – this is easily fixable though and really is a minor pick, rather than a fundamental faux-pas.

Cherwell Service Management Customers

Screenshots

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

From the Cherwell 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

In Their Own Words:

Cherwell Software

The Complete IT Service Management Solution

Cherwell Software is the developer of Cherwell Service Management™ – a fully integrated solution for IT and support professionals.  The Cherwell solution offers complete choice of software deployment and licensing models: on premise or hosted; perpetual purchase or subscription; you choose!

Designed using Microsoft’s .NET platform and Web 2.0 technology, Cherwell delivers 11 fully integrated ITIL v3 PinkVERIFY accredited management processes straight ‘out-of-the-box’, including Incident, Problem, Change, CMBD, Request, SLA, Service Catalogue and Knowledge.

Web portal technology and social media integration is key to the future success of the Service Desk. With increasing business demand for enhanced services and improved access to information, Service Desks need agile, innovative and flexible web based technologies to meet the high expectations of  users.

Cherwell’s latest Web Browser Portal experience uses leading edge and cross-platform technologies (HTML5/CSS3, Ajax and jQuery) built from the ground up to provide a very responsive application-like experience with no browser plug-ins needed.

Cherwell Service Management is 100% configurable and customisable by its end users and delivers a highly scalable and extensible development platform.  Its CBAT platform enables customers to develop integrated business applications such as: CRM, HR, Project Management, Student Records and Facilities Management systems.

Offering a truly holistic approach to service management, Cherwell empowers IT and support departments to fully align themselves with the organisation they support.  Quick to deploy and easy to use, Cherwell delivers true enterprise functionality at lower costs and without the need for any programming resources.

Further Information

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Review: TOPdesk

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch TOPdesk adds Kanban-type resource scheduling to add a new dimension onto Incident and Problem Management.
Strengths
  • The Plan Board incorporates a Kanban style approach to scheduling tasks to help drive efficient resourcing
  • Keywords trigger standard solutions, linking into a two-tier Knowledge base (for Analysts and End Users)
  • Task Board for individual support staff can be sliced and diced by most time critical events
Weaknesses
  • Sometimes “over-customisability” can rear its head in reviews – just because it is possible to have 7 different priorities does not mean it is a good practice to do so.
  • Some terminology (which can be changed with a little more detailed knowledge) can be a little cumbersome – for example Objects for Assets.
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, TOPdesk’s typical market is to customers of between 500-2000 employees (Small – Medium/Large)They are classified for this review as:Specialised Service Management Suite – Offering ITIL v3 processes and proprietary discovery tooling.The offer integration to Monitoring tools.

Commercial Summary

Vendor TOPdesk
Product TOPdesk Enterprise
Version reviewed V5.1
Date of version release December 2012
Year founded Founded in 1993.£22,000,000.00 Turnover in 2012
Customers 3150 approximate TOPdesk Enterprise customers, > 5,000+ unique customers in total.
Pricing Structure TOPdesk offer a SaaS and an on-premise solution.The license bracket is based on the number of end users supported and an unlimited amount of users of the system.With regards to on-premise pricing, annual maintenance is 15% of the one-off value per annum.Within the SaaS subscription all fees for support, technical maintenance and hosting are included.
Competitive Differentiators
  • Truly flexible commercial model with an end user license bracket that allows for an unlimited amount of operators to be registered for free.
  • Genuine ability to deliver a Shared Service Centre where multiple departments may combine budgets and expertise to support end users at no additional cost.
  • Human Resource Plan Board functionality.
Additional Features TOPdesk strongly believes in Shared Services in which multiple teams work together to deliver services to end users.

For this reason TOPdesk offers out-of-the-box solutions to support processes like, but not limited to, Building Management, Visitor Registration, Planned Preventative maintenance, HR services or Room booking management.

TOPdesk’s framework is delivered with full advanced reporting wizard, dash board, task board and plan board which will provide our customers with the tools they need to manage their processes.

topdesklogoIndependent Review

The jewel in the crown of the TOPdesk solution is the incorporation of Kanban style resourcing, and some intelligent linkage of solutions and workarounds to categories and key word matching.

A while back, I wrote an article reviewing Kanban capability, but concluded that if it was standalone, it would be a level of additional work that was not practical.

To bring that functionality into the tool makes it a very powerful addition to a suite.

The basics of Incident and Problem Management are all there, and they use Wizards to try and speed up the process for the service desk.

Their deployment model is very much set-up and train-the-trainer rather than on-going consultancy, and as such the product is highly configurable.

As a result initial best practice-based implementation lies with the consultants – and unlike other vendors, it was not immediately clear the level of their experience and knowledge – so it could be easy to make the tool quite unwieldy, quite quickly.

Other little niggles lie around some of the terminology – referring to assets as Objects, and requiring a back-end change to alter that.

But all-in-all the tool was an appealing offering, with a unique selling point in the Plan Board.

Logging & Categorisation

There are some nice features here for calls being logged – where a service desk analyst can take a number of details and pull up any information on the caller, including any assets associated with them, and all calls logged by them.

It is also possible to create a custom field indicating the level of IT Competency (for example) helping the service desk to build a profile of the person they are dealing with.

Once the analyst identifies the call as an incident to be logged, all the initial notes are pulled into the new record.

From a self-service point of view, TOPdesk try and limit the amount of information initially asked for, and on an initial save more fields are activated – showing target date for resolution, priority (linked back to categorisation) and displaying any actions that have been taken to resolve the issue.

Tracking and Escalations

TOPdesk provide a capability to link key words (for example specific error codes) to categories and based on the category, can have the records automatically assigned to a specialist.

Records can be sent to a general queue to await assignment.

TOPdesk have incorporated a Kanban style scheduling structure within the tool – the Plan Board.

Using this board, all support analysts can be listed, and tasks assigned to them displayed.

In a single view, it is easy to see who is currently over-loaded with work, and who has capacity to take on more work.

It accommodates office absences, and shift availability.

In addition, Task Boards exist for the individual analysts, and can be listed in terms of SLAs and target resolution times.

As SLAs are being breached, TOPdesk use Elapsed Time Triggers to send automated emails.

Prioritisation

The Impact and Urgency matrices shown used business language to help drive the priority for an incident but in the demo, there was an abundance of potential priorities.

There are none provided out of the box, and consultants who assist with the deployment come with standard practices to help customers in their implementations.

Closure

The terminology works on an incident being completed, and can be closed once concurrence has been given.

Major Incident/Problems

Within any incident record, TOPdesk offer a Major Incident tab where the incident can either be marked as the first incident in the chain or other incidents can be linked to a master.

Once multiple incidents are linked, there is a Closure Wizard which will close multiple records on resolution of the major incident.

In terms of Problem Management, in a similar way, multiple records can be linked to a new or major problem in a cart-based selection process.

It should be noted that here, the Impact and Urgency reflects more IT terminology (although this can be configured).

TOPdesk use a concept of Partial Problems where different groups can play a part in substantiating a problem, as part of determining the root cause.

This concept also exists for Incidents.

Known errors can be created after that point, and links back to their Standard Solutions to show that there is a workaround, which can be triggered by keywords during the logging phase.

Conclusion

TOPdesk offers some innovative ways to manage Incidents and Problems, namely using the Plan Board, but also go some way to make the service desk role a little easier with the linkage of the standard solutions to key word matching and tying those to the categories.

The product is extensively customisable, but perhaps some care should be taken to maybe show that off in combination with simpler best practices.

TOPdesk Customers

Screenshots

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

From the TOPdesk Brochure

  • Wide  range of ITIL®-based modules for all your business processes
  • TOPdesk’s Plan Board gives you all the information you need. Stay on top of your employees’ availability and workload, and assign tasks with ease.
  • The Task Board displays all your tasks in one overview, enabling you to see your calls, change activities, operational activities and services at a glance.

In Their Own Words:

TOPdesk makes ITIL aligned service management software for IT, Facilities Management, and eHRM help desks. Our award-winning solution helps you process questions, complaints and malfunctions. Optimize your services with a user-friendly application, experienced consultants and expert support. Raising your service levels and reducing your workload has never been easier. TOPdesk is an international leader in cutting-edge Service Management solutions and standardized ITIL software.

Our unrivalled integration, implementations and support is tried and trusted across the Service Management industry.

  • 5,000+ organizations use TOPdesk
  • We are located in the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Brazil and Hungary
  • We are one of the top 5 Service Management software providers worldwide
  • We employ over 450+ FTE professionals worldwide

Further Information

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Review: Nexthink

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch If systems management monitoring takes care of servers, Nexthink presents you all you need to know about the end-user side of the coin.

Nexthink sits apart from the nuts and bolts of Service Management tooling, but offer guidance to analysts to help expedite resolution with real-time End-user IT Analytics, integrated into major ITSM tools to significantly reduce problem diagnosis times.

Strengths
  • Lightweight, non-invasive kernel-driven footprint on end-user targets helps define trouble spots in real time
  • Complements and integrates with existing IT Service Management deployments
Weaknesses
  • With so much technical capability, it needs a very strong balancing hand of strategy to get the best of a combination of this product, a service management suite, and server monitoring collaboration.
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Nexthink’s customer base ranges from Small (100 end users) to Very Large (250,000+)They are classified for this review as:Specialised tooling, requiring integration to ITSM.

Commercial Summary

Vendor Nexthink
Product Nexthink V4
Version reviewed V4.3
Date of version release February 19 2013
Year founded Founded in 2004.Turnover is not disclosed but 100% yearly growth. Today 2 million users’ licenses sold
Customers 400
Pricing Structure # IT users with perpetual or subscription license. On premise Enterprise product and Cloud/SaaS offering (Q2 2013)
Competitive Differentiators Nexthink provides unique real-time end-user IT analytics across the complete infrastructure.This perfectly complements existing performance monitoring systems to drive better ITSM initiatives; end-user IT analytics are used to:

  • 1) Diagnose and isolate problems in real-time for service desk to become more effective and responsive for higher customer satisfaction
  • 2) Continuously compute metrics and KPIs for proactive actions so IT operations can improve service quality for higher business agility and productivity
  • 3) Configuration and change management is fully under compliance control.
Additional Features Nexthink’s product does real-time discovery, dependency and relationship mapping, real-time activity monitoring, alerting and reporting on all object and data analytics available.

It doesn’t rely on any external product or data to function. However integration methods exist to enrich Nexthink data with external data sources (E.g. Active Directory, Event database, CMDB), to export Nexthink data/analytics to other tools to create end-to-end correlated views/results (CMDB, ITSM, Security Events Management).See an example here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSstzl_KMdc

Independent Review

Credit should be given to Nexthink for putting themselves up against “traditional” ITSM Vendors, as their product does not do traditional Incident Management and Problem Management.

What it can do, however, is significantly shorten the amount of time it takes to resolve an incident and/or problem, by showing end user data in real time.

Nexthink have established major partners and product integrators with companies like BMC, HP and ServiceNow and provide a button on their ITSM consoles to allow analysts to view the data when required.

It almost presents itself as the super-hero of incident and problem diagnosis.

But following that super-hero position for just a moment, it is easy to get carried away with the technical potential of a shiny mapping, real-time toy.

It is much more than that, and it needs a sharp strategic mind to position it – remembering the key drivers of any ITSM related deployment.

The potential to drive down incident resolution time, and more importantly problem root cause analysis time makes it a compelling accompanying tool alongside an ITSM tool, to achieve tangible business efficiency benefits.

Widening the scope to look at the effects of IT Transition projects, and again the potential business benefits of understanding what specifications end user machines need to be to ensure speedier access to services, for example, could reap significant rewards.

Systems Monitoring vs. Real Time End User Monitoring

Nexthink acknowledge that infrastructure monitoring is an established discipline.

There are all manner of event and systems management tools that can also integrate into service management tools to present an organisation with enterprise level management.

What Nexthink do is focus on the end user perspective.

A kernel driver that is deployed out to end user machines, and loads into memory on boot-up.

Real-time data is then loaded up to a central server which can then be interrogated as and when required.

Incident & Problems Scope

Forrester research has shown that 80% of the time during the lifecycle of an incident is spent trying to isolate the problem itself.

Source: Forrester (http://apmdigest.com/5-it-operations-challenges-%E2%80%93-and-1-main-cause)

Nexthink offer a way of shortening that timeframe, mapping out relationships between failing components to see where the problem has occurred.

For example, a user may ring with a general issue of a slow response time.

Ordinarily, a support analyst would then have to drill down through applications, servers, configuration mapping to see what may be affected and how.

Nexthink can demonstrate where the issue lies and could isolate the failing link in the chain a lot more rapidly.

Nexthink’s own interface can even be used to directly query the user’s asset to assist with the diagnosis.

The information gathered can also be used to supplement the CMDB in the ITSM tool.

All this could then be used to drive more accurate logging and categorisation, and linking to any subsequent processes to resolve the situation.

The knock-on benefit is improved resolution times, potential workarounds and knowledge-base material, not to mention improved reporting.

When Nexthink is integrated with an ITSM tool, the support analysts will work off the ITSM console, but they will have a Nexthink button to be able to access the real-time analytics data.

Looking in the context of incidents and problems, whether major or otherwise, the ability to have multiple teams looking at the related end user data in terms of applications and services is invaluable.

Conclusion

There is a lot to appeal to the technical heart, looking at the depth of analytical data possible.

Key points to remember though – it takes everything from the end user point of view, and is not geared to sit on servers themselves to do that level of monitoring.

Taking just Incident and Problem Management, it is easy to see how the investigation can be shortened as an incident call comes in.

But looking at Problem, it can take proactive root cause analysis to another level.

If that is then combined with ITSM tools and their own abilities to manage multiple records (in the case of Major Incidents or Problems) then it is a powerfully complementary part of a company’s overall ITSM strategy.

Nexthink Customers

Screenshots

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

In Their Own Words:

Nexthink provides unique real-time end-user IT analytics across the complete infrastructure. This perfectly complements existing application performance monitoring systems to drive better ITSM initiatives.

End-user IT analytics are the path to better IT quality, security and great efficiency and cost savings.

Nexthink provides IT organizations with a real-time view of the IT activity and interaction across the complete enterprise, from the end-user perspective. This unique visibility and analytics give IT the capability to truly evaluate and understand how organizations are performing and rapidly diagnose problems or identify security risks. Nexthink uniquely collects in real time millions of events and their respective dependencies and relationship to IT services from all users, all their applications, all their devices, all workloads, and all network connections patterns (server accessed, ports, response time, duration, failure, timeouts, etc.).

Nexthink helps IT connect, communicate and collaborate to achieve their major initiatives and improve their business end-user’s IT experience. Nexthink is complimentary hence integrates well with traditional application performance management (network and server), help desk, operations management, and security tools and eases ITIL change and release management processes.

Further Information

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

2013 Incident and Problem Tools Review

Tools Reviewed:


Download Review

(Free PDF, No Registration Required – 601kb, 7 Pages)


INTRODUCTION

Incident and Problem Management are such mainstays of an ITSM tool, it is quite hard to find a way to dig through the differentiators.

The process and the related workflows themselves are so seemingly straight forward, are there really any ways to improve?

Not only that, but it has to be looked at in the context of the trends in the industry to focus on the end-user’s experience. That’s all fine when we take a look at the options available to an end-user logging an incident from a self-service portal.

But in reality, people still call service desks.

The answer is – there are ways to improve, and in many ways they are subtle features that make tools stand out.

This review bought out nuances and features to help make a couple of mature processes look exciting again.

  • Stylish use of forms, questions and linkage to knowledge bases
  • Resourcing and task planning
  • Real-time end-user analytics

These tools do more than just provide a mechanism to move an incident or a problem from A to B.

It looks to improve the lifecycle, and practice the points of the Process Certification that vendors put themselves through.

A word should be said, though, about the knowledge levels of the people who market these products day in, day out.

I would like to share an insightful tweet from Forrester’s Stephen Mann

 

In both the reviews I have done, it is always good to work from qualified consultants who have a very good understanding of balancing what the tool can do, functionally, against what the real world sometimes requires.

The devil for all these tools is in the detail of the customisation – any tool, with dedicated customisation, and knowledge, pragmatic consultancy can get the best out of any record-pushing mechanism.

Having replaced many a tool in large-scale ITSM deployments, I often recognised shortcomings in both the outgoing and the incoming tool-set.

But the key remains – can the vendor impart a sense of comfort that they not only understand their tool, the processes that need to be translated to workflow, but can they identify ways to improve?

Having people who not only understand the tool, but also recognise the need to encompass evolving best practices goes a long way to make a tool stand out from its peers in the crowd.


MARKET POSITIONING

For the purposes of this review, vendors were classified based on their primary market focus, and product capabilities.

Vendor

Target Market Size Specialist ITSM Functions Discovery Own Tool/Third Party Integration Event Management & Monitoring Own Tool/Third Party Integration

Real-Time End-User Analytics

Axios assyst Large Very Large Own Third Party Integration
BMC FootPrints Medium Large Own Own (via Integration)
Cherwell Service Management Small Medium Large Very Large Own Third Party Integration
Nexthink Small Medium Large Very Large Own Third Party Integration

TOPdesk Small Medium Large Own Third Party Integration

COMPETITIVE OVERVIEW

The table below shows a high level overview of the competitive differences between the tools

  • Elevator Pitch – An independent assessment of what this module has to offer
  • Strengths – key positive points, highlighted during the review
  • Weaknesses – areas perceived to be lacking, during the review
Vendor Elevator Pitch Strengths Weaknesses
Axios assyst A tidy interface, driven by product hierarchies, and backed up with a potentially powerful CMDB.Work put in to customise the Info Zone, Guidance and FAQs can make the job of the Service Desk, Analysts, and even the end user interaction easier
  • Crisp and clean interface, with not much clutter
  • From a self-service point of view, a nice touch in walking end users through investigation before logging a ticket
  • For those logging directly with the service desk, pulls in pre-populated forms and guidance to make that role easier/more efficient
  • Very much rooted in the technical – with the product hierarchy very comprehensive.  Would be nice to see perhaps an incorporation of more business language
  • The ability to record an analysts time against a charge code also seems to drive a specific cost as well – whilst this could just be a notional cost, some form of correlation between the two, removing the need for the analysts to know financials as well as resolving an incident, might be more beneficial
  • There are some elements of earlier ITIL iterations in the tool, as nothing is taken out which could be cumbersome to customise out
BMC FootPrints An improved interface and comprehensive coverage of Incident and Problem Management, with some added innovation to make scheduling work a little easier for Service Desks and support staff alike.
  • Logging by Type, Category and Symptom adds a meaningful level of granularity
  • Incorporates an availability of resource’s view by integrating to Outlook Exchange
  • Subscription function for end users for major incidents, as well as pop ups for potential SLA breaches
  • Design elements behind the scenes are still largely text based
Cherwell Service Management Cherwell use intelligent interfaces and well constructed forms to automate the basics of the processes in a comprehensive and informative way
  • Core stages of process management as part of the user interface
  • In-context configuration mapping that makes handling concurrent incident and problem mapping very easy
  • Potential depth of customisation in terms of use of forms (Specifics) lends itself to improving/ enhancing investigation and first-time fix
  • While promotion to a Major Incident, automatic raising of a Problem, linkage to the Global Alerts feature and the ability for users to indicate they are affected too from Self Service is great, that indication is linked to the automatically linked problem record, not the Major Incident
  • Customers seem to have indicated interest in linkage to the Major Incident as an out-of-the-box capability and it would make sense to provide it.
Nexthink If systems management monitoring takes care of servers, Nexthink presents you all you need to know about the end-user side of the coin.Nexthink sits apart from the nuts and bolts of Service Management tooling, but offers guidance to analysts to help expedite resolution with real-time End-user IT Analytics, integrated into major ITSM tools to significantly reduce problem diagnosis times
  • Lightweight kernel-driven footprint on end-user targets helps define trouble spots in real time
  • Complements existing IT Service Management deployments
  • With so much technical capability, it needs a very strong balancing hand of strategy to get the best of a combination of this product, a service management suite, and server monitoring collaboration
TOPdesk TOPdesk adds Kanban-type resource scheduling to add a new dimension onto Incident and Problem Management
  • The Plan Board incorporates a Kanban style approach to scheduling tasks to help drive efficient resourcing
  • Keywords trigger standard solutions, linking into a two-tire Knowledge base (for Analysts and End Users)
  • Task Board for individual support staff can be sliced and diced by the most time critical events
  • Sometimes “over-customisability” can rear its head in reviews – just because it is possible to have 7 different priorities, it does not mean it is a good practice to do so.
  • Some terminology (which can be changed with a little more detailed knowledge) can be a little cumbersome – For Objects for Assets

CUSTOMERS

Approximate number of customers for each vendor:

  • Axios assyst – 1000+
  • BMC FootPrints – Approximately 1000 customers across Europe and 5000 worldwide
  • Cherwell Service Management – 400+
  • Nexthink – 400
  • TOPdesk – 3150 approximate TOPdesk Enterprise customers, >5000+ unique customers in total

Analysis

Vendor Functionality Innovation Analysis
Axios assyst A tidy interface with a lot of focus on driving the product hierarchies for categorisation. Pre-populated forms and scripted guidance for the service desk.Chat function for support staff to collaborate. Axios focus on ways to automate as much as possible.Backed up with a very comprehensive CMDB structure at its core, work put into the configuration of a system up front will reap rewards in efficiency down the line.
BMC FootPrints Great to see a vendor improve from customer (and analyst) feedback and the result is a modern looking tool that handles the “bread and butter” tasks of Incident and Problem efficiently FootPrints links to Microsoft Exchange to display a view of the support staff resources and allocation of repetitive tasks.Logging by Type, Category and potentially Symptom adds an appealing level of granularity. BMC FootPrints is not alone in exploring and incorporating a view of the support staff resources, and it is evolving to be a very smart looking, mid-market offering that can punch above its weight.
Cherwell Service Management Cherwell add a number of features that make the process speedier – and their Specifics forms provide a great touch in terms of initial investigation. Cherwell get the balance right, with customisable features (forms and macros) and include a breadcrumb trail throughout the lifecycle of the record. Cherwell recognise that it is not just IT functions that need to use the tool – the Impact and Urgency in business language (Incident) and their other features all make it a roundly comprehensive tool to appeal to organisations of all sizes.
Nexthink Nexthink is not a traditional ITSM tool.  Instead it offers a chance for support analysts to proactively resolve issues faster by means of End-User real-time analytics It’s power comes from being able to assess elements from an end-user perspective, and integrates with existing ITSM tools to provide a comprehensive view of an end-user’s machine. There are a number of ways that Nexthink and ITSM tools can co-exist – Nexthink is a powerful enabler for much more proactive incident and problem resolution.
TOPdesk TOPdesk use wizards and key word matching to help drive efficient Incident and Problem logging and resolution TOPdesk takes resource planning to another level, planning shift patterns, and operating a Kanban style method of dragging and dropping tasks to less loaded support staff. The whole combination of the resource board, the way their task board can focus on the most pressing first, and their links to Knowledge Management made this a very attractive tool to review,There were some configuration niggles which can all be customised (some more easily than others) but it is certainly heading in the right direction.

BEST IN CLASS

Vendor End-User Base Product Characteristics
S M L VL
Axios assyst
L VL
  • Specialised Service Management Suite
  • Integration for Event Monitoring
BMC Footprints
M L
  • Specialised Service Management Suite
  • Integration for Event Monitoring
Cherwell Service Management
S M L VL
  • Specialised Service Management Suite
  • Integration for Event Monitoring
Nexthink
S M L VL
  • Specialised tooling, requiring integration to ITSM
TOPdesk
S M L
  • Specialised Service Management Suite
  • Integration for Event Monitoring

Best in Class (Small-Med-Large) – BMC FootPrints

BMC FootPrints have taken on board customer feedback, and even observations from previous reviews to make subtle but very noticeable adjustments to their interface.

The result is a tool that offers more intuitive investigation diagnostics as calls are being logged, and is continually looking to improve.

FootPrints is getting a real benefit from being part of the larger BMC brand, but is fast establishing itself as a tool to appeal across the entire market-place.

Best in Class (Small-Med-Large-V Large) – Cherwell

As with FootPrints, the inclusion of diagnostic forms, within records, linked to the categories makes Cherwell stand out when logging Incidents, in particular.

Best in Class (All Tools):TOPdesk

The inclusion of the Kanban-style resourcing board, but also the way in which tasks can be placed and moved about really made this stand out, in terms of the way that innovation within a tool can really make processes less cumbersome.

Honourable Mention: Nexthink

This tool deserves to stand apart from its Service Management cousins.

It adds a unique element, which can truly help drive efficiencies, especially where Problem Management is concerned.

With the right business drivers and strategic vision, not to mention strong partnership with some of the ITSM industry big-hitters, Nexthink’s real-time end-user analysis can help in so many more service management disciplines.  I feel we have only scratched the surface of its potential.


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.

How good Change Management can still sink ships

RMS Titanic departing Southampton on 10 April 1912

The sinking of the Titanic has become synonymous with epic failure, brought on by ego and arrogance.

But if you look at the immediate actions of the crew, you’ll find a fairly rapid and well orchestrated response to a (Emergency) Request for Change.

The Titanic Story (in short)

The lookouts were perched high in the crow’s nest scanning for danger. History has it they were without binoculars, doing their best to fulfil their duty as early warning. Captain Edward Smith was a well seasoned and decorated captain with the right experience and background to captain such a mighty ship. Though other ships had reported icebergs in the area, and it’s irrefutable that he was aware of the dangers, his orders were full steam ahead.

When the lookouts first spotted the infamous iceberg, they immediately sounded the bell and notified the bridge. First Officer Murdoch order “hard astarboard!”, signaled full stop, and then full reverse. All executed with speed and practiced precision.

And then they waited anxiously to see if the helm responds in time – if the changes will turn this mighty ship in time to avert disaster. Less than a minute later; impact, and the rest, of course, is history.

The parallels to IT Service Management are helpful in understanding the difference between Change Management and Change Enablement.

Change Management

Traditionally, Change Management focused on quickly and effectively implementing business-required changes without producing negative business impact. (“screw it in, not up”)

Much of the focus of Change Management is on risk analysis and management to avoid adverse impact – “protecting the business”. Change Management typically views success as implementing the requested technical feature or service (application updates, new IT services) without problems.

ITIL defines Change management:

The goal of the change management process is to ensure that standardized methods and procedures are used for efficient and prompt handling of all changes, in order to minimize the impact of change-related incidents upon service quality, and consequently improve the day-to-day operations of the organization.

Let’s take an example we’re all familiar with. I’d hazard a guess that most IT organizations have upgraded their mail servers recently. In the process, most of us defined the desired result of the change to be successfully upgrading to Exchange xx with minimal user impact. It was most likely justified by increased security, supportability, and new features.

How many upgrade efforts were driven and measured by the enhanced capability and improved productivity of business users? Would we even know how to measure that, and if we did, would we see that as our responsibility, as a Critical Success Factor for Change Management. Or are we more likely to view that as “their concern”. Ours being the successful implementation of the technical requirements, leaving the business with some-assembly-required to produce value.

In the case of the Titanic, there was an immediate need to change course. Using established systems and processes, they quickly implemented the needed change. It was implemented with precision, and the change was, by traditional measure, successful.

But the outcome was far from successful, by any reasonable measure. And yet, IT organizations the world over defend their contribution by declaring they have successfully implemented the technical part of the change, as requested, with no negative impact. Success.

Change Enablement

But we all know the end of the Titanic story. Disaster. Failure. Even though the ship’s Change Management processes quickly and effectively implemented the desired change, the result was catastrophic. It didn’t achieve the desired outcome.

Change Enablement, by contrast, seeks to ensure the business actually realizes the desired outcomes – the results the business envisioned when changes are requested of IT. It evaluates and identifies additional success parameters, and establishes transition plans to ensure the desired outcomes are achieved.

Change Enablement includes organizational Management of Change required to achieve the desired business result.

Senior leadership (including IT) is charged with ensuring the resources under their care are aligned with the business objectives of the organization. If they are not, leadership is not fulfilling it’s obligation to the stakeholders, for which they will be held accountable. (Governance)

Implementation of needed changes is but a minor component. Change Enablement focuses on the entire organization’s capability to achieve outcomes. It includes people (the right skills, knowledge and experience), processes (working together as a system to maximize effectiveness, and directly aligned with the business), technology, relationships and organizational structures required for success. Everything from viability of the business’s long range planning strategy, the formation of effective tactical plans to achieve, and the organizational capability to deliver.

Change Enablement needs traditional Change Management, but is laser focused on the larger whole. And in the end, it’s the business results that count. Like the Titanic, the IT crew is on the same ship, and if the ship sinks, it’s bad for us all. It’s not like we’re safely on another (IT) ship. We are, quite literally, all in the same boat together.

For Titanic, Change Enablement would include investments in better early warning systems – night vision, radar, GPS, etc. Improvements in real time analysis and controls for determining appropriate speed for given conditions. Analyzing the ship’s design and engineer improvements to the ship’s ability to more quickly change course.

The road ahead for IT organizations is an even greater role in enabling the business to meet the ever increasing demands on their organization. ‘Change Enablement’ is no longer the high minded double speak of elite management consultants. IT can no longer faithfully implement changes in isolation and declare success.

If you think about it, Change management, as described, is essentially playing to not-fail. Whereas Change Enablement is playing to win. Business requires an IT who can help them win the larger battle – Change Enablers who help deliver meaningful business results.

What a great time for IT Service Management!

Image credit

Race against the machine

I listened to a fascinating podcast today on the role of technology in the US economy.

This will be of particular interest to younger readers of the ITSM Review who might be thinking about what career path to plot or those with a general interest in the exponential growth of IT.

“Peter Day talks with the authors of the book Race Against the Machine and finds out what the rise of the robots is going to mean to all of our lives.”

The podcast features Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee from the MIT Center for Digital Business

If you place one grain of rice on the first square of a chess board, two on the second square, four on the third space and keep doubling the amount of rice each time - how much rice will be on the 64th square?

In a nutshell:

Productivity increases whilst job growth is stagnant

The MIT professors claim that job creation, which used to peg equally with productivity, has ‘decoupled’. New job creation grew on a par with productivity since the second world war until around the year 2000.

Since then productivity has grown whilst new job creation and income growth has stalled. The professors argue one of the main drivers of this ‘decoupling’ is technology.

Moore’s Law – The best is yet to come

Moore’s law states that computing power doubles every 18 to 24 months. Computing power doubling over a couple of years is quite easy to grasp, but that computing power doubling every couple of years for several generations is a different kettle of fish…

The MIT professors used a good parable to describe the magnitude of this exponential growth in technology performance

“So the story goes that the king asks what a wise man wants in reward for his services. The wise man asks the king to look at his chessboard. On the first space, he wants 1 grain of rice. On the second space, he wants 2 grains of rice, double that of the previous space. He then wants 4, 8, 16, 32, and so on, doubling the previous space for the 64 spaces of the chessboard” ^Source

i.e. It’s a heck of a lot of rice on the last square of the chess board and most of the gains are made in the second half of the board.

“In technology strategy, the second half of the chessboard is a phrase, coined by Ray Kurzweil, in reference to the point where an exponentially growing factor begins to have a significant economic impact on an organization’s overall business strategy.”

The MIT professors suggest that Moore’s law is entering the ‘second half of the board’ and we should expect unparalleled increases in productivity and capabilities from computing.

I also found this TED talk which explains things further:

TED TALK: Andrew McAfee: Are droids taking our jobs?


Image credit

INFOGRAPHIC: Service Desk 2013 – A view from the frontline

Interesting infographic from Cherwell Software below.

“The SDI / Cherwell Software Service Desk 2013 survey [conducted December 2012] asked Service Desk professionals for their hopes, dreams, fears, frustrations and priorities for 2013. Here are the results…. the view from the frontline.”

‘Increasing our value to the business’ is still the number 1 priority.

(Am I alone in thinking the best way to quantify and prioritize service delivery is via ITAM?).

Positively, 39% report that life on the service desk has improved in the last year.

Click on the image to enlarge.