Live from LEADit, Conference Review

Meeting April Allen (@knowledgebird) at LEADit - the itSMFA conference
Meeting April Allen (@knowledgebird) at LEADit – the itSMFA conference

DAY ONE

I’m at the itSMF Australia LEADit conference in Melbourne. It started with a buzz of excitement with a healthy turnout of 674 expected during the 3 days.

The opening ceremony from itSMFA Chair Kathryn Heaton and Australian politician Gordon Rich-Phillips were very positive about the state of ITSM in Australia and the future plans for even better cooperation between IT and the Government. Gordon Rich-Phillips stated, “IT is an enabler of productivity and employment” and emphasized and the importance of holding events like these in Melbourne where it is commonly accepted as the hub of IT particularly in the State of Victoria.

The keynote from Peter Nikoletatos on Accelerated Connectedness was an entertaining and insightful look at how to maintain the basics (Hygiene IT) whilst introducing an agile approach.  The second keynote from Nigel Dalton was a well constructed debate and case study on whether adopting The Cloud is ‘all about money’ or is it actually the opportunity to succeed (albeit with a different approach to organizational structure) with his role as CIO at The REA group proved as a case study.

The main focus of the day from the perspective of the keynote and breakout sessions was the high level discussion on the ability to take Service Management beyond IT into other areas of business so they are integrated and not separate entities.

Some feedback from delegates suggested that more was needed in terms of how to implement ITSM outside IT. Some of the tool vendors I expressed concerns that the event had to develop this offering or miss the huge opportunity of being part of the larger business operation.

Peter Hepworth from Axelos provided an update on the 60 strong team now running the ITIL and Prince2 best practice frameworks including Prince2 for Agile.

Overall the first day of the LEADit conference has been incredibly productive and I have been very impressed by the amount of social interaction and discussions between end users, speakers and vendors alike in very relevant topics that many in Service Management face. This event is highly regarded by many of the attendees as one of the top five of itSMF events globally and at this stage I can only agree.

DAY TWO

Another really good day at the LEADit conference for ITSMF Australia in Melbourne. The keynotes in the morning were two of the best I have seen at any event and will live long in the memory.

The first keynote was from Jason McCartney, an AFL hero who was badly injured in the Bali bombings in 2002 and his story of how he overcame injuries to marry his wife ( less than 2 months later) and return to his passion of playing football at the highest level when doctors said he wouldn’t ever play again. It was a great uplifting speech and one of the best I have ever had the pleasure to watch. Jason held our attention from start to finish which most presentations rarely do.

“It’s not what you are dealt in life – it is how you deal with it” ~ Jason McCartney

The second keynote was also very good from ITSM Ambassador Malcolm Fry. His keynote was very original and was based around looking at various famous types of artwork like Banksy, Salvador Dali and Monet and how they relate to ITSM in that sometimes Service Management isn’t about the little details its about the bigger picture and that you can look at things in a different way especially how the Service Desk works.

The Breakout sessions were well attended again today and lots of positive and informative contributions from the speakers. A lot of focus of the event has been the whole ITIL vs Cobit and ITIL versus Agile debates with justified arguments on both sides. A lot of the end users I spoke to today were focused on delivering customer satisfaction and getting the basics right and were attending the courses relevant to these topics.

The final keynote of the day showcased the key findings of a collaboration between itSMFA and ISACA into problems faced when developing strategic IT plans (the ebook is available from the itSMFA or ISACA website).

Caption
Left to right: Peter Hepworth (CEO, Axelos), Kathryn Heaton (itSMFA Chair), Bruce Harvey (itSMFA) at the LEADit Gala dinner.

Evening entertainment was the Telstra Gala Dinner and ITSMF industry awards. A well attended evening (they could have filled the hall twice) to celebrate the successes of the year and show gratitude to long standing members to the itSMFA. Congratulations to Karen Ferris of Macanta Consulting for here lifetime achievement award.

Live from LEADit: REA smashing IT department stereotypes

I’m at ‘LeadIT‘, itSMF Australia’s annual conference. In this article I share how REA have transformed the image of their IT department. Nigel Dalton keynoted at LeadIT and Damian Fasciani led a breakout session.

How REA transformed IT

There’s a certain stereotype that comes to mind when we talk about enterprise IT support teams; it’s a bunch of dudes, (usually), sitting in a small, dimly lit room next to a rack of servers, and maybe playing Xbox until the next maintenance reboot. There’s a new breed of IT leaders at work striving to change that image. The REA Group, headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, have turned that stereotype on its head to create an approachable corporate IT team that colleagues are eager to work with.

Damian Fasciani leads the Technology Services team for Real Estate Australia. With the guidance of CIO, Nigel Dalton, Damian has restructured his team and rebuilt the corporate technology strategy to align with the digital business that REA has become.

REA is Australia’s biggest property website providing residential and commercial property listings. The grand plan is to turn property hunting into an experience, where people can spend time on the REA sites to research neighbourhoods, utilities, streets, schools, and so on. Damian’s team of 15, (one based remotely in the Sydney office), supports more than 1000 employees, globally.

The practices introduced to the Technology Services team, and the decision to adopt a cloud-based software strategy, have all been driven by the intention to put the focus back on employee relationships. Damian says, “we made a decision that our engineers shouldn’t be spending time in the data centre behind the servers. They should be sitting down with people in the organisation and talking about how the software resonates, and how to get the most out of technology.” And with a cloud-first strategy, he hasn’t shied away from integrating a number of solutions like Box, Zendesk, Leankit and Okta, to achieve the required outcomes.

MISSION-PRINT-A1

REA’s human-centred approach to corporate IT is clear, even to the outside observer. While I stood waiting at the Tech Services walk-up desk for the rest of my group to turn up for a tour and presentation Damian was soon to host, team members came to offer assistance, I could see posters promoting recent technology changes within the organisation, and there was a toy truck in sight with a digital display counting down to the opening of a brand new, purpose-built corporate headquarters down the road from where they are now.

The walk-up desk was a service REA started offering to staff a couple of years ago. In the first half of this year, the team have serviced 900 walk-ups, already. The service is popular and employees present a wide range of issues, from break-fix to forgotten laptops to questions about working more efficiently with technology choices. Nigel Dalton, describes the walk-up technology services desk as “vitally important” to their relationship with the business as a whole. So much so, that when the team relocates to the new building, the walk-up desk will gain extra resources with more space and staff, and the availability of tech-toys like 3D printers, Google Glass, and Oculus Rift goggles for colleagues to tinker with. Technology Services aims to become a kind of store-front for day to day tech needs as well as an R&D lab for finding innovative ways to improve the services REA provides to their customers—real estate agents.

As a digital business, technology and agility are fundamental to the way REA works. Damian could see the original structure of the IT support services wasn’t going to fit, so the team have combined a light ITIL framework with practices from Agile and Lean methodologies. One of the significant differences between REA’s IT team and what we’d normally expect from corporate IT, is that members are assigned to take gemba walks out on the floor amongst their colleagues. Gemba walks are a Lean management philosophy developed at Toyota, and they involve proactively walking the floor and talking to people. “Those conversations might just turn into Zendesk tickets, they may turn into an idea which inspires a $50000 IT project. It depends”, Damian says. “You’ll only find the truth when you talk to humans. Not inside tickets and not on the phone.”

tech-it-easy

While the Technology Services team have transformed their support services with an outside-in approach, they’ve taken to changing the culture from the inside out. The people we’d normally refer to as Desktop Support, REA call Technology Consultants. It’s amazing how a simple name change and a bit of rebranding and internal marketing conjures a whole new idea of what to expect from a relationship with IT. Instead of just fixing something when it’s broken, it’s about advice and training. It becomes a consultative relationship that enables all employees to get on with the job at hand.

Real Estate Australia is going through rapid growth and the changes to their IT systems, processes and behaviours have allowed them to scale with that expansion and fuel new projects. With a number of clear wins under the belt, REA’s human-centred approach to employee services and IT staff development is set to continue, and I hope it catches on across the industry.

Technology Review: DAMEWARE REMOTE SUPPORT V11.0.0

This is an independent review of Dameware Remote Support.

AT A GLANCE

DameWareLogo-FamilyA global leader in the market of service automation software and remote management, SolarWinds mission is to provide purpose-built products designed to make IT professional’s jobs easier.

This review takes a look at the core capabilities, the route to market, competitive strengths and weaknesses, product development roadmap and market reach of DameWare Remote Support, which was released in June 2014.

Available as an on-premise solution, DameWare Remote Support (DRS) is a set of systems administration tools that allow for advanced management and secure remote connections to computers outside of the firewall allowing IT professionals to access a number of operations via remote systems.

SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS

Strengths

Weaknesses

Yes Easy installation and deployment No  Remote Support Console looks dated
Yes Good value for money No  Limited support options
Yes Solid out-of-the box-functionality

PRIMARY MARKET FOCUS

Added to the company portfolio in late 2011 and encompassing a broad range of industries and sizes of organization, DameWare Remote Support has been sold to approximately 65,000 organisations since its inception.

50% of DameWare Remote Support customers are currently based in North America with 40% based in EMEA and a further 10% based in APAC and LATAM.

With several products that fit into the system management space, namely SolarWinds Web Helpdesk, Server and Application Manager, and Patch Manager, SolarWinds appears to be well on its way to providing a solution for every IT service.

ANALYSIS

Remote administration is an area that most of us are familiar with having at one time or another been on the receiving end of the “weird floating mouse” that makes your PC look like it has been inhabited by ghosts, when in actual fact a very clever person in some place far, far away (i.e. in a remote location) is investigating or fixing whatever issue your technology is experiencing.

With the increasing complexity of working environments, and with many users not only working from different locations but also on many different types of device (both inside and outside of the company firewall), IT organisations are challenged to find a remote support tool to help support the needs of an ever-evolving IT and business environment.

Enter DameWare Remote Support from SolarWinds.

As a self-hosted solution, DRS permits organisations to control data passed between computers during remote control sessions without the need for a third party gateway, giving organisations the security they need to support regardless of location.

In The ITSM Review’s opinion, DRS is a comprehensive tool that includes not just remote assistance but also: DameWare Server Admin Console, Exporter Tool and Dameware Mobile Gateway.

Mini Remote Control (MRC) is the remote assistance part of the solution that provides the ability to view and control users desktops, assisting the troubleshooting process.
troubleshooting-process
Advantages to using MRC rather than Remote Assistance or Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) are:

  • Provides the ability to hold multiple active sessions allows multiple users to connect to the same remote session
  • Provides additional troubleshooting tools such as Ping, traceroute etc.
  • Provides the ability to save frequently used connections together with login credentials
  • Offers the ability to drop files on remote machines with only a few clicks
  • Allows you to send “wake-up packets” making it easier to manage machines that are power management-enabled
  • Contains built-in Chat features
  • Provides the ability to capture screenshots making it easier to document troubleshooting or record settings

Additional features available within DRS include:

  • DameWare Central Server and Administration Console, which allows organisations to manage DameWare users and permissions including control and activation of DRS and Mini Remote Control licences. Also allowing users to create and share a global host list and view current internet and mobile sessions
  • DameWare Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android smartphones and tablets, which allows organisations to remotely control and troubleshoot Windows computers
  • Ability to perform Windows administration tasks remotely without having to initiate a full remote control session.  These tasks include: restarting services and processes; viewing and clearing event logs, discs, share and peripheral management; registry editing and system performance monitoring
  • Management of multiple Active Directory (AD) domains including: user account unlocking and password resets; adding users to distribution and security groups; OU management; Group Policy editing and updating AD extended attributes
  • Remote support of computers on any operating system via Intel vPro AMT, allowing organisations to control them remotely with the AMT KVM Viewer – wake sleeping or hibernating computers, restart crashed computers and change BIOS settings of remote computers
  • Exporting of AD objects and Windows Configurations in bulk to CSV or XML formats

With advanced and well integrated software suites within almost every aspect of IT Management, we believe that SolarWinds are clearly going for some kind of world domination in this area and will soon have a solution to cover every imaginable scenario in your IT environment.

With experience of using at least five different remote support tools we believe we have a good grasp on what works and what doesn’t work for customers in this area.  Asking a customer for their IP address is always a bit hit-and-miss due to technical abilities (as well as the ability to listen and follow instruction) and asking them to type a long address into a browser followed by a hexadecimal key code should probably be in a “What not to do on a Service Desk” 101 guide.

What we particularly like about DRS is that even though it has every tool imaginable for you to use as part of the product, such as chat and remote command, it still seems remarkably straightforward to use, especially for those with a limited knowledge of these types of technologies who want to be able to do the minimum amount possible to enable a connection to their PC.

Furthermore, when you’re the one providing the support you likely want to be able do it with as fewer amount of steps as possible in a single service transaction, which is why we think tools within the DRS solution like Ping are particularly handy.  Allowing you to Ping a potential host before attempting a full connection and discovering it is not connected to the network ensures that you’re not wasting your time

DameWare Remote Support is full of little tools such as Ping, creating what is in effect a remote support swiss army knife.

ping-tool

One of our key issues with DRS is its User Interface (UI). Whilst we understand the concept behind the saying “if it aint broke, don’t fix it”, in our opinion the solution looks like something out of the 1990’s and positively pre-historic in comparison to other remote support tools in the market. Whilst we strongly believe that the solution provides all the functionality you could possibly need from a remote support tool, we wouldn’t be surprised if prospective customers were turned off by the look of the solution.

In stark contrast, the DameWare Server Admin Console looks modern and is much more in keeping with the look and feel of other SolarWinds tools. Our suggestion for improvement would be to overhaul the UI, but to ensure that this doesn’t impact the functionality or intuitiveness of the solution.

A further potential area for improvement is in support, which is an area that we found to be slightly puzzling. There appears to be no telephone support for DameWare Remote Support, just email, which is only manned Monday to Friday 9-5 CST. Help is however available from within the tool with alternative access to Thwack for crowd-sourced knowledge. That said, we do believe that the solution works very effectively and feel it would be unlikely that a customer would ever require a high level of support.

For companies that only require the above capabilities listed, it is worth noting that MRC is also available as a separate, standalone product.

mrc

KEY CAPABILITIES

The table below shows the key capabilities of SolarWinds DRS

General
  • Initiate MRC, RDP or Virtual Network Computing (VNC) sessions
  • Share screens
  • Initiate secure remote troubleshooting sessions
  • Transfer files during remote sessions
  • Manage group policy objects
  • Access functions such as command prompt, system performance etc. without the need to remotely connect
  • Bulk export of Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI)
  • Chat with user
  • Remotely control Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux computers
  • Remote access for outside-of-firewall Windows machines
  • Mobile remote desktop from iOS and Android devices
  • Flexible deployment options
  • Remote Windows administration tools
  • Export AD objects and Windows configs
  • Support for Intel vPro – remote troubleshooting for out-of-band computers
  • Mobile app for troubleshooting anywhere
Active Directory
  • Unlock user accounts
  • Reset passwords
  • Update names and addresses
  • Create, amend and disable accounts
  • Setup Exchange mailboxes
  • Ability to manage multiple domains
  • Export AD information
Windows Server
  • Reboot after update
  • Troubleshoot slow running servers using Performance Monitor
  • Manage data file storage
  • Review eventlogs for suspicious activity

GO-TO-MARKET STRATEGY

Founded in 1999 SolarWinds has grown year on year and provides over 50 IT management tools in its portfolio.

SolarWinds sells its products through an inside sales model and through channel partners all over the world.  Rather than involve consultants, potential DRS customers are encouraged to self evaluate for a period of 14 days and visit the user community, Thwack, to witness the sharing and support that takes place.

With a good solid grounding in the network, systems and application management arena, we believe that DRS is yet another very comprehensive offerring from SolarWinds. It is now estimated that that the average user deploys 2.5 of the main products from SolarWinds.

DameWare Remote Support is licensed per user/technician in a perpetual licensing model, which is scaled down as users are added.Prices start at $349 per licence and scale down to $270 per licence for larger deployments.

Business Partner Summary

Key Business Partners
  • RamgeSoft

Market Penetration

Number of customers on maintenance 21,000+
Typical Customer
  • Large businesses
  • Based in North America

IMPLEMENTATION

Typical Installation

Installation of DRS appears to be fast and straightforward, with stand-alone mode taking up to 10 minutes install, with time to set up for centralized mode dependant upon the number of users. DRS can be implemented/deployed using only internal staff. SolarWinds does not offer deployment services.

Full installation requirements (please note this is not the case for evaluation installations):

Software Requirements
Operating System
  • Microsoft Windows Vista, 7 or 8
  • Windows NT 4.0 w/Service Pack 1 or greater (including Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, 2008, Windows 7, or Windows 8) and Windows Server 2012
Exchange
  • Exchange 2000/2003 support is provided in version 4.x and above within DRS AD Object Views (AD Users & Computers, AD Users container, etc.), and does not require Microsoft’s Exchange Admin Tools.
Active Directory
  • DameWare Remote Support Active Directory functionality is only supported on machines running Windows 2000 and above. However, even though it is not directly supported, many of the DRS AD features will still work on machines running Windows NT4 SP-6a, provided you also install Microsoft’s AD Client Extensions (DSClient.exe) for Windows NT4.
  • For more information about Microsoft’s AD Client Extensions, please refer to Microsoft’s website.
  • AD Client Extensions for Windows 95/98 and Windows NT 4.0:

http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/server/evaluation/news/bulletins/adextension.asp

CDM Control
  • “This version of DRS requires a newer version of COMCTL32.DLL (Version 4.71 or later) than what is installed on this machine (Version x.xx). A newer version of this DLL can be obtained from Microsoft and is shipped with NT SP4 and IE 4.x or higher.”

When this message is encountered, DRS will still function however, it is recommended that the COMCTL32.DLL file be revised to a later version. This file is not re-distributable by third party software developers but you can download and install it directly from Microsoft.

An installation wizard takes the user through installation step by step in a very straightforward manner. Full instructions for installation can be found here.

Time to Value

In our opinion, the short time required to install DRS together with its ease of use, scalability and minimal manpower costs for deployment suggests a rapid Return On Investment (ROI).

Resources Required

DRS requires minimal resources due to install with upgrades requiring little to no action.

Scalability

DRS is infinitely scalable with licences sold per analyst with an unlimited number of supported PC’s.

 

scalability

PRODUCT ROADMAP

Based on the information provided, the next major functional enhancement from SolarWinds will be unattended remote access to outside-of-firewall computers.  No date has yet been provided for the release of this enhancement.

PRODUCT PORTFOLIO

Network Management

  • Network Performance Monitor
  • Network Bandwidth Analyzer Pack
  • NetFlow Traffic Analyzer
  • Network Configuration Manager
  • IP Address Manager
  • User Device Tracker
  • VoIP & Network Quality Manager
  • Engineer’s Toolset
  • Network Topology Manager
  • Kiwi CatTools

System Management

  • Server & Application Monitor
  • Virtualization Manager
  • Storage Manager
  • Web Performance Monitor
  • Web Help Desk
  • Patch Manager
  • DameWare Remote Support
  • DameWare Mini Remote Control
  • Kiwi Syslog Server
  • Kiwi Log Viewer
  • Mobile Admin

Security, Information and Event Management

  • Log & Event Manager
  • Firewall Security Manager
  • Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server

Database Management

  • Database Performance Analyzer for SQL Server
  • Database Performance Analyzer for Oracle
  • Database Performance Analyzer for DB2
  • Database Performance Analyzer for Sybase

COVERAGE

Head Office Austin, Texas
Regional Offices Czech Republic, Ireland, Singapore, Utah, Australia, Philippines, Colorado,Canada
Partner Representation RamgeSoft – Germany

FURTHER RESOURCES

Company Information

Named as Forbes Best Small Company in America in 2012, SolarWinds provides a wealth of network and system management tools including over 30 free offerings.

SolarWinds products are grouped into the following categories:

  • Network Management
  • System Management
  • Security, Information and Event Management
  • Database Management

The company has headquarters in Austin, Texas and operates out of a growing number of worldwide regional offices (eight at the time of writing).

SolarWinds community, Thwack, has over 125,000 users worldwide who collaborate and share knowledge specific to SolarWinds products.  As a result with little searching you can find a Knowledge Base article or forum post with the answer to almost any question you may have.

CONTACT DETAILS

SolarWinds Contact Details

Head Office Austin, Texas
Regional Offices
  • Brno, Czech Republic
  • Cork, Ireland
  • Singapore
  • Lehi, Utah
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Manilla, Philippines
  • Boulder, Colorado,
  • Ottawa, Canada

SUMMARY

In our opinion, DRS is a good fit for all size IT organisations across any industry.

Strengths

Weaknesses

Yes Easy installation and deployment No  Remote Support Console looks dated
Yes Good value for money No  Limited support options
Yes Solid out-of-the box functionality

Disclaimer, Scope and 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 our Disclosure page.

Social IT in the enterprise: Getting past the hype

Caption goes here
Can social IT crack open information stuck in departmental silos and improve IT department to business communications?

Social IT has generated a lot of hype over the last few years but many organizations have been left wondering how to turn the grand theory into practice – in a way that delivers tangible results for the business. People know what social media is; they just don’t know how to transfer the principles of social media into the world of IT operations to improve efficiency, reduce costs and increase IT customer satisfaction.

Start at the top

The trick with social IT (as with any new technology) is to start with what you want to achieve. That means taking a top-down view of the challenges you are facing and examining how social IT principles and tools can help you face those challenges. You have to have a good understanding of the issues to begin with, as well as understanding the “toolbox” of social mechanisms that are available. If you start by looking at social IT technology, you won’t get the results you need. You’ll simply be implementing technology for technology’s sake. Focus effort by thinking about where social principles can help you to improve services, reduce costs and improve business satisfaction with IT.

Make it part of your strategic ITSM roadmap

Social IT isn’t something that you can do in isolation. Social IT should be implemented as part of your strategic ITSM roadmap, not as a separate IT initiative. It’s not something you can implement with a big-bang approach and then say “We do social IT.” Social IT isn’t something you can buy in a box (although you will need technology to make it work). Nor is it the answer to all of your problems. What social IT provides is some new ways to improve communication, problem-solving and decision-making across geographical and departmental boundaries. Better communication is something that most IT departments will benefit from. Social IT is already happening in your organization, in a limited way and at a local level. People frequently collaborate and share knowledge offline to solve problems. The challenge for IT is to “digitalize” this social behaviour and facilitate it on a global scale.

The “toolbox” of social mechanisms

  • Collaboration sessions/discussion boards – open forums that enable collaboration between groups around whatever issues, problems and projects they’re working on.
  • Follows – By letting staff follow the people, services, projects and devices that are relevant to them, they can stay informed without being overwhelmed with information.
  • Status updates – “Short-form” announcements that help people stay connected.
  • Wikis – User-generated knowledge bases that are maintained by the whole community to keep them in alignment with your live environment.
  • Likes – User-ratings for content, knowledge or services that indicate quality and usefulness
  • Hashtags – Tagging improves searchability by grouping different types of content with similar topics.
  • Social profiles – A who’s-who for your organization, helping people to pick suitable collaborators.

Scope of social IT

The scope of social IT isn’t restricted to within the IT department. There are two other angles you need to consider. There is a lot of value to be gained by harnessing social mechanisms to encourage and improve interaction between IT people and end users. Social IT can also be applied to the broader end user community by facilitating knowledge sharing and peer support (and empowering end users to take some of the day-to-day strain off the service desk). With all these new interactions going on, you will need to define policies to maintain a sensible level of control and set out which social mechanisms are appropriate in which situations. For example, a peer support forum is not the right place to report a critical application issue that is affecting an entire business unit. Sometimes it is still best to pick up the phone and call the service desk.

Mapping challenges to social solutions

Organizations can help ensure they gain business value from social IT by mapping business challenges to social solutions. Every organization is different, but there are many different ways in which social IT can help to improve efficiency, reduce costs and minimize risk. The way you map challenges to solutions will depend on your business structure and priorities, but here are some examples of how you can derive social IT tactics from strategic business drivers:

Challenge

Barrier

Social Solution

Resolve IT issues faster. Support knowledge is locked up in departmental silos. Facilitate collaborative discussions and the crowd-sourcing of solutions to issues.
Expose a searchable record of historic collaboration sessions to boost the knowledge base and helps support staff (and end users) to find more solutions more quickly.
Reduce negative impact of change. Lack of transparency between IT and the business prevents proper understanding of business risk and impact. Let end users follow the services and devices they use so that they are aware of planned changes and disruptions. Use microblog status updates to announce changes and linked blog posts or wiki articles to describe detail.
Use open collaboration sessions to consult with business stakeholders/end users to crowd-source a full impact analysis.
Drive continual improvement of services. IT doesn’t understand current business needs, or how business needs are changing over time. Social engagement between IT people and business people promotes better understanding of business demands and the issues that affect productivity. With collaboration tools, IT people and business people can discuss where and how improvement is needed to meet changing demand.
Drive business innovation with new technology. The IT department is bogged down with firefighting common issues relating to current technology. Facilitate peer support by enabling the sharing of fixes and best practices within the end user community. Collaboration sessions, wikis and a searchable knowledge base empower end users to find information and solve problems without intervention from IT.
Improve IT process efficiency. Geographical and departmental barriers restrict the flow of information. Integrating social collaboration into ITSM processes means IT staff can tap into an enterprise-wide knowledge/resource pool.

Conclusions

  • Social IT helps you get the most out of your people by creating collaborative communities and transforming the way people communicate and share knowledge. Collaborative problem solving is both more efficient and effective – and translates into higher productivity, lower costs and lower risk for IT and the business.
  • Social IT doesn’t start with buying new technology, it starts with examining the challenges that IT faces and working out how social mechanisms can help improve productivity and efficiency. However, tools play a vital part in facilitating open collaboration on a global scale.
  • Social IT helps you bring offline collaboration and problem solving activities online – to create a system of engagement that will help you optimize the activities that make up your IT processes.
  • Social IT is a “fuzzy” way of working that IT isn’t very familiar with. The open nature of social media requires IT to embrace new ways of thinking and let go of the need for such strict control of data and interactions. However, some governance policies are required.
  • Social IT doesn’t require a big-bang approach. You can apply social mechanics to small corners of IT to test the water and demonstrate value before a larger roll-out.

Image Credit

Enterprise Release Management Tools Group Test

The ITSM Review will be performing a deep dive review of Enterprise Release Management tools.

This article provides an introduction to Enterprise Release Management (ERM) and a high level summary of typical functionality.

Notes

  • This group test will be conducted by Rebecca Beach, our ITSM Analyst, and Rob Spencer, Change and Release specialist and vice-chair of the UK itSMF Transition SIG.
  • We’ve also included a few examples of providers who offer ERM capabilities – please let me know of any other suggestions.
  • If any suppliers wish to participate in our Group Test please contact us before 30th September 2014.
  • Learn more about our Group Tests.
  • Read our back catalogue of completed Group Tests.

Thanks, Martin


Introduction to Enterprise Release Management

By Rob Spencer

How do organisations plan tens or hundreds of releases a year across project delivery, vendor patching, infrastructure changes and more? How do they manage competition for access to test environments, ensure they spot colliding production releases in good time and avoid overbooking their test teams?

How do they articulate this enterprise-wide release roadmap to senior stakeholders, customers and IT staff?

Traditional answers to these questions usually take the form of project plans and spreadsheets. They rely on regular meetings between project office, operations & technical staff to keep them in sync, and are rarely, if ever, accurate in real time.

Today, a new breed of release management planning tools is emerging. Enterprise Release Management tools are agnostic of functional requirements or constituent change requests, and they don’t manage the actual deployment of code. They simply allow the entire IT organisation to track and manage the entire portfolio of releases across all environments. They have the scope breadth of a Change Schedule, but go into more detail.

At their simplest, they are a single source of the truth for the multitude of spreadsheets they replace, but most can pivot this data to provide people with the information they care about in customised and intuitive views – from CIO roadmaps to a test manager’s forward work plan.

Ultimately, they give Service Operations a reliable, realtime view of all upcoming releases with at-a-glance assurance that the right governance has been completed for each. And since they span both development and operations, many are starting to be called DevOps Release tools.

ERM

What does an Enterprise Release Management tool do?

  • Plans (and scopes) a release – Allows the construction of an end to end release plan following a user-customisable structure which could map to eg. an organisations’ project governance gateways. Should be able to record both governance activities/milestones as well as physical activities in multiple environments (deployments, test runs etc). Ideally should be templatable and re-usable.
  • Plans ALL releases – Takes the individual releases and plots them against a common timeline to spot resource over/under utilisation, go-live collisions and tells operations when to brace for action.
  • Manages environment & resource usage – Pivots the data from all releases and show an environment – or resource -centric view of the same data. Helps answer questions such as “what’s happening in our Pre-Prod environment next week?” or “can I deliver everything I promised?”
  • Presents data in various views depending on audience – The steering committee has different needs to those of a test manager, and the project needs to be able to see anything relevant with a few clicks. Does the tool allow varying levels of detail to be presented over user-defined timescales in a clean and coherent way no matter the format?
  • And not forgetting… – Role based access to stop people from seeing the wrong things (or changing them), the ability to dynamically import and update change requests from other tools (data exchange mechanisms such as XML and RESTful APIs are becoming the norm in service tools).

Methodology

To test these, we’re constructing an entire fictitious company with a busy year of releases including new system deliveries, infrastructure refreshes, monthly & quarterly patching to cloud and on-premise services. We’re covering both agile and waterfall development & delivery methodologies, and even introducing some DevOps practice. We’re sharing this case study with the participating vendors, and we’re also going to make our own spreadsheet versions of the plans (which we won’t share with the vendors in advance). Our case study also includes some fairly thorny problems which a typical organisation could encounter eg. scheduling conflicts, people not following process and people whose idea of planning is far removed from the reality of their customers’ needs.


Here are some tools we are aware of in this area.

If anyone knows of any others please leave a comment below or drop us a line. I will update the list as we find new suggestions. Thanks, Martin

New CEO of itSMF UK says, “ITSM needs to broaden its outlook”

ITSM needs to broaden its outlook
“…ITSM does need to broaden its outlook. ITSM needs to adapt to manage today’s more complex environment and wider developments – for instance, issues like cloud computing, social media, BYOD, big data and the huge growth of mobile. If it doesn’t, ITSM may possibly run the risk of withering into an outdated set of processes. “

I recently chatted to the new CEO of itSMF UK, Mike Owen, about his perspective of ITSM and challenges the industry faces.

In this interview Mike shares a great vision of where to take the forum and changes being discussed to the itSMF’s founding chapter. 

Q. ITSM Review: Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Mike Owen: My background is primarily in marketing and then general management.  The first 15 years of my career were spent working in various companies including Time Warner, BT, Lloyds Bank, Barclays Bank and Grant Thornton – mostly in sales and marketing roles.  After I did my MBA, I then worked for a national NHS authority as head of strategic planning.  For the last 10 years I’ve worked across the commercial, non-for-profit and public sectors in various operational director, interim CEO and consultancy roles, specializing particularly in business-to-business sectors and membership organizations.  I’ve worked with professional membership bodies such as The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, trade associations, and general business groups like Birmingham Chamber of Commerce.

What interested me about the role at ITSMF UK was the opportunity to join an established membership body operating in a vibrant, exciting sector that IT clearly is – but where there was a fresh management challenge and an opportunity to further develop the organization, build its profile and help shape a new wave of growth.  I’ve previously been MD/CEO of three small member-based enterprises – including one in the field of facilities IT – and I have always liked the shared ethos of membership bodies, but where there is still a commercial imperative to make things happen and develop for the future.

What are you making of the world of IT service management (ITSM) so far?

I’m finding it very interesting so far!   I’m learning quickly and meeting lots of new people.   Although I’m new to ITSM, I actually see that as quite a good thing as it means I’m inclined to ask questions that perhaps some more technical people might not. It also makes me more interested in looking for the context of how ITSM fits in with the rest of IT and wider business management.

A few things that have particularly struck me so far are:

  1. ITSM is quite process and operations focused.  Certainly, it is very valuable for people working in ITSM to have good models and frameworks to indicate effective practice and how to carry out tasks, but I wonder if there is a need to increase focus on wider and more strategic areas affecting IT and service delivery – like business strategy, IT architecture planning, operational process design, business structure and culture, staff skills/job design, relationship management with partners/suppliers, client satisfaction measurement, risk management, service quality management and so on.
  2. ITSM currently appears to revolve substantially around ITIL.  Although this is, of course, a well established and proven approach, I don’t think one framework can fully suit every organization out there; in my opinion the field needs to be seen more as an overall suite of different tools and methods to suit different contexts and a constantly changing IT environment.  Other models already exist, of course, for example ISO 20000, COBIT, SIAM, Lean IT, and DevOps, but I think more needs to be done to present – and develop – ITSM as a discipline with a larger, richer, more flexible set of concepts, tools and methods.
  3. There is a lot of potential to take ITSM beyond the IT department and relate it to wider business functions.   I definitely get the sense that more and more people working in ITSM consider that the field needs to be seen in a broader and more holistic light than has been the case historically.  As IT is nowadays such a key driver and enabler of business strategy, operational processes and customer-facing products/services, I think perhaps ITSM needs to relate to that wider frame of relevance more, not just serve as a template for running and delivering internally-focused IT operations more effectively.

Do you think ITSM is in danger of becoming irrelevant?

Not totally, but it seems to me that ITSM does need to broaden its outlook.  ITSM needs to adapt to manage today’s more complex environment and wider developments – for instance, issues like cloud computing, social media, BYOD, big data and the huge growth of mobile.  If it doesn’t, ITSM may possibly run the risk of withering into an outdated set of processes.  IT often places too much emphasis on technical or operational processes.  How many people in IT currently stop to think “how does this process link to our customers?”  It’s pivotal that IT understands that it needs to have an outward, not just inward looking view of how to define the services that they are managing.

So in your opinion the future of ITSM lies outside of IT?

ITSM’s heritage is in the IT department, but I would say, yes, its future lies more outside of IT than in it.  I believe that the future of ITSM is more to help organizations manage and deliver their overall customer/market-facing services and operations where they have a high dependency on sound and effective IT. Today, ITSM is more often than not about running internally focused IT operational services.  Tomorrow has the potential for ITSM to evolve to be more about running IT-enabled, externally centred business/customer services.   As such, ITSM professionals will need to work more closely with marketing and service operations colleagues and complement their deep technical/IT knowledge with wider business knowledge.  In time, perhaps the sector will lose the “IT” from “ITSM”, but we need to careful we don’t stretch ourselves into being too generic!

So with regards to ITSMF UK, what do you see as the biggest challenge you have to face in the next 12 months?

Well, we need to continue operating a good day-to-day service for our members, of course, but there’s also a need to refresh the organization and put it in a strong position for the longer-term.  This year, priorities for us include improving the efficiency and effectiveness of how we do things; improving our engagement with members; starting to develop and enhance our services and benefits to members; and building our marketing, profile and connections within the ITSM sector.   ITSMF UK has a very valuable role to play in the sector – as the leading membership body for organizations, managers and staff involved in ITSM.  Like any organization, we just need to keep moving and adapting to suit the world around us.

How do you intend to provide better value to your members?

Overall, itSMF is about providing value in several ways:  particularly:  boosting professional knowledge and learning to help organizations and their staff get better results from ITSM; networking and sharing between ITSM professionals; providing news, information and objective guidance about ITSM matters; helping to develop and promote ITSM as an overall discipline; and bringing together and representing the different parts of the ITSM sector.   We’ll be looking to steadily build value on all these fronts and we’ll be seeking to do this in some cases by working in partnership with other professional bodies and groups in the sector.

Furthermore, we’re moving away from a “one size fits all” membership approach to presenting a more tailored offer and service approach to the different parts of the community.  For example, we’ll be doing more to provide value to and support senior ITSM managers and leaders in our member organizations.   We’ll also be doing a lot more online.

What can we expect to see from ITSMF UK over the next 6 months?

We’ll be moving forward on all the development areas I referred to earlier, but the areas of marketing and member communications will see some of the earliest changes.  For instance, we have already introduced a much better Forum website whose functionality we will be developing steadily over the coming months – including expansion of our online reference resources. We’re refreshing the look and feel of our communication materials and tools and we’re revamping the editorial approach to our main publication, ServiceTalk to integrate it better with online media and cover ITSM issues, news and topics in greater depth.

Mike-Owen
Mike Owen, CEO itSMF UK

The other major thing happening in the next six months, of course, is our 2014 Annual Conference and Exhibition.  We’re also continuing to run our wide range of regional meetings, specialist topic seminars, and advanced masterclass events.

We’ve also started successfully to expand our membership base – that’s both our number of member organizations and the number of individuals registered to use our Forum’s facilities.

In the past resource has been an issue for ITSMF UK, how do you intend to achieve all these planned changes and updates?

By running a tight ship and moving forward in a careful but steady manner.  We’ll prioritize what we do, always staying close to what members want, and we’ll work with our members and external partners as effectively as possible.      I should stress that you don’t need to have lots of people to do more things. It’s about better utilizing the talent you have and involving members and appropriate external partners where necessary.

We also want to do more to facilitate and encourage more ‘peer-to-peer’ member activity and more support between members themselves.  A membership body like ITSMF UK shouldn’t just be about a central office doing things for members ‘out there’:  a Forum is equally about members networking and sharing with each other directly.  That’s the beauty of a body like ours and something we want to expand further, making more use of our website and social media.

What’s happening with the Big4 agenda? Will you be planning a Big4 for 2015?

The Big4 agenda has been about trying to stimulate discussion, support and information around a particular set of ITSM topics that members told us last year they were particularly concerned about: back to basics, skills, managing complexity, and ITSM and agile.  The initiative has been very useful, with activity ranging from dedicated seminars, online discussions, and articles in ServiceTalk and, of course, shaping many of the sessions at our upcoming 2014 Conference.

Of course, though, there are always many, more topics and issues on the minds of ITSM professionals at any one time and the Forum always needs to relate to those wider topics too.

In terms of thoughts about 2015, it’s a bit early to tell how we’ll approach the initiative next year, but certainly we’ll be minded to keep it as a useful way to help engage with members and assist in focusing our activities.

You mentioned the ITSMF UK Annual Conference and Exhibition, what can we expect from the event this year?

Well, we’re very confident it’s going to be another great event – the premier exhibition, conference and awards event for the UK ITSM sector!   Still three months ahead of the event, we’re already delighted with the level of bookings – from delegates, sponsors and exhibitors.  We’ve got a wide range of major and leading organizations who will providing speakers this year, including:  Aviva, EE, Barclays Bank, BSkyB, Telefonica, Axelos, Capgemini, Deloitte, Tata Consultancy, and the NIHR Clincial Research Network.  The conference will have over 30 separate presentations and workshops and the ITSM Exhibition will have over 40 exhibitors from major product and service providers across the ITSM sector.  I’m really looking forward to the event. 

What can we expect from ITSMF UK in the future, above and beyond just the next 12 months?

What I can say at this stage is that we will continue the journey I outlined earlier of steadily building the Forum and adding more and more value to both members and the wider ITSM sector.  We need to be realistic, it’s going to take 18 months to two years to do everything we want to best fulfill the role of being the leading membership body for organisations, managers and staff involved in ITSM.   Everything will come in steady steps, but the overall goal is to better support our members, to help people adapt and succeed in this new age of ITSM, to represent the ITSM community, and help promote the overall value of ITSM.

It’s an exciting mission for ITSMF UK.  Everyone at the Forum is motivated by it and we view the future, with all our members, with a great deal of confidence.

The ITSM Review team welcomes Mike to his new role and looks forward to collaborating with itSMF in the future.  

 

LEADIT Preview: Suresh GP and an introduction to Governance

Suresh GP (bottom row 3rd from right) opening the Chennai chapter of itSMF India on 1st August 2014
Suresh GP (bottom row 3rd from right) opening the Chennai chapter of itSMF India on 1st August 2014. Suresh will present at the LEADIT conference in Melbourne Australia on the 13th to 15th August.

In the run up this year’s itSMF Australia LEADIT14 conference I chatted with Suresh GP about his session entitled “Governance – custodian to changing business trends and IT landscape”.

Q. ITSM Review: Hi Suresh, can you give a quick intro to your session at LEADIT?

Suresh GP: Today we are in an era of rapid technological changes, complex operating environments and demanding consumerization of IT.  Enterprises are forced to change gears to make the paradigm shift imminently not only to be competitive but also to secure their place in business. While organizations are spending time, effort and resources to scale up to new frontiers, there is no blue print to guarantee success in their endeavors.  Over and above, changing regulatory and legal compliance requirements make it a difficult proposition to sail through seamlessly.

Hence it is the need of the hour for enterprises to fall back to a robust Governance and control structure to handhold and guide them during this unpredictable journey.

Companies with effective IT Governance have profits that are 20 % higher than other companies pursuing similar strategies – Weill P& Ross

Q. Where should organizations start on their governance journey?

The fundamental problem of IT is the lack of clarity around IT Management and IT Governance, which is the first thing you need to understand before starting your journey with Governance.

IT governance is primarily concerned with two things: IT’s delivery of value to the business and mitigation of IT risks. On the other hand, Management plans, builds, runs and monitors activities in alignment with the direction set by the governance to achieve the enterprise objectives. Governance involves executive committees and boards that are independent of organizations whereas the Management involves senior management staff within the same organization.

Suresh GP
Suresh GP

simple words, Governance is doing the right things while Management is about doing things right.

Q. So what is Corporate Governance?

Corporate Governance is based on rules laid out by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD]. They can be classified as follows

  • a) Ensure Strategic guidance of the company
  • b) Timely and accurate disclosure of Financial situation
  • c) Annual audit by independent, competent and qualified auditors

During my session at LEADIT we look at Corporate Governance requirement and lessons learned using scenarios around Lehman Brothers, Common Wealth Games at London 2012 and the Uttarkhand Disaster of 2013.

Q. What impact does Governance have on the Consumerization of IT?

At the end of 2013, there were more mobile devices than people on earth. IT Service Desk is grappled with a tough task of managing end user devices beyond the standard set.  Shadow IT has become order of the day and is expected to grow in next three years. Heartbleed, cyber threats and much more surprises come every day to add fuel to fire. So what could come to the rescue of the Service Desk?

  • BYOD policies, processes – Refer to Karen Ferris earlier post
  • Becoming aware of different Tools pros and cons and support
  • Governance that could filter quality of inflow for Service Requests and Incidents
  • Manage & Control saving jobs & improving agility

During my session, we will then walk through other IT frontier case studies and see how Governance helps to address risks and provide value delivery.  You can also read about my earlier blog IT Governance : 5 Ingredients to kick start your value delivery.

Finally we talk about key success principles that can be leveraged to make Governance a trusted custodian to changing business and IT Landscapes.

So this is just a teaser of how Governance can become your trusted custodian to changing business and IT Landscape.  If you want to hear how about how Governance plays a pivotal role for Cloud, Mobility, BYOD, Big Data and Social Media, come and listen to my presentation at LEADIT14.  In addition, I also moderate a Panel discussion about Challenges and Pitfalls of Mobility and BYOD. You can find out everything you need to know about the conference here.

Follow Suresh on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Image Source Facebook

Outside IT Group Test – The Results

Cherwell, Samanage, ServiceNow and TOPdesk reviewed for their capabilities and approach to delivering services outside the IT department
Cherwell, Samanage, ServiceNow and TOPdesk reviewed for their capabilities and approach to delivering services outside the IT department

I am pleased to share my latest analysis for The ITSM Review: Outside IT.

This is a review of how IT service management (ITSM) tools might be used beyond the IT department.

It explores how traditional ITSM tools, typically used for IT service and support, can be used for broader operation throughout the business such as underpinning internal business processes and handling non-IT business requests.

Technology vendors participating in this analysis include:

  • Cherwell
  • Samanage
  • ServiceNow
  • TOPdesk

There has been a move in recent times to develop more applications and tools that can cross the boundaries of internal service departments. The ITSM toolsets available have helped to drive practice in this area, in particular service catalogues, service portals, automated fulfilment processing, approvals etc. and for many organisations this is a huge opportunity for IT to be the department of solutions and success rather than simply the folks who say ‘no’ all the time.

Which vendor is ‘Best in Class’?

What are the differences between the vendors in this report? How can we distinguish and identify differentiators, pros and cons between them? If all products can be used to develop work automation, logging and escalation/ownership and tracking of tasks etc., does this mean that the differences between vendors go beyond simple software functionality? This review looks at how to differentiate the vendors’ approach for beyond IT across the ITSM market.

Download a copy of my report here (registration required):

http://download.itassetmanagement.net/outside-it/