Incident Management Group Test 2016 – The Results

This group test is a review of software products and vendors in the ‘Incident Management’ market area. Our remit was to explore how toolsets can support and optimise the Incident Management process.

Incident Management Overview

Incident Management is a key part of the ITSM Software Market – think about it – what organisation doesn’t do Incident Management? Incident Management is one of the most visible processes in the ITIL lifecycle. The aim of Incident Management is to restore usual service to customers as quickly as possible and with as little adverse impact whilst making sure nothing is lost, ignored or forgotten about. Can you imagine what would happen if end users couldn’t raise Incidents or contact the Service Desk in the event of a crisis? I reckon it would be 5 minutes max before total chaos.

When I’m explaining the Service Desk and Incident Management in ITIL training; I refer to them as the superheroes of the ITSM world. Let’s face it; they’re constantly firefighting, at the sharp end of the user community if something’s gone wrong as well as being under targets that would make lesser beings hide under their desk whilst mainlining vodka.

Frontline service desk and incident management, heroes of the ITSM world
Frontline service desk and incident management, heroes of the ITSM world!

Incident Management is a rockstar process and deserves a rockstar tool to support it so without further ado, let’s get started!

Customer Numbers

  • Alemba (UK) – 300+
  • Atlassian (Australia) –  15,000+
  • Cherwell Software (USA) – 1,000+
  • HPE – Hewlett Packard Enterprise (USA) – 1,500+
  • InvGate (Argentina) – 3,000+
  • ManageEngine (India) – 100,000+
  • Marval Software (UK) – 500+
  • Matrix42 (Germany) – 3,000+
  • Nexthink (Switzerland) – 600+
  • Summit Software (India) – 100+

Incident Management Group Test – The Players

Alemba Ltd.

Strong Incident Management offering which puts the end user experience at the heart of the tool.

Funky user interface using bubbles to highlight workflow and orbitor tool that aids the user by highlighting available actions.

Facebook style notifications alert users and technicians if the ticket has been updated with a handy “add me” option for Major Incidents.

Special module for displaying analytics to Service Desk screens – great idea that does away with the need for manual processes and faffing around with USB keys.

Atlassian

Solid Incident Management functionality. Atlassian are Incident Management ninjas; they aim to get customers up and running within one – two weeks of buying the tool.

Integration with Hipchat for easy chat and video calls.

Seamless integration with other JIRA products so that the customer has a consistent user experience.

Cherwell Software

User friendly user interface with Outlook integration to make it easier of users to log tickets.

Xmatters compatibility gives it advanced SMS gateway, telephony stats, monitoring and fault tolerance functionality.

Thriving customer community; FAQ’s, “how to” guides and oodles of free apps.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)

Awesome landing page that empowers everyone from end users to senior management to customise and view reports.

Revamped reporting module that completely removes the need for any Crystal Reports faffery. Relationships clear and specific; instead of vague linked records, tool delivers meaningful linkages such as “fixed by Change” or “caused Incident”.

Big data is used to power the Knowledge Base; fixes and workarounds are automatically suggested and hot topics can identify Incident trends and proactively raise Problem records.

InvGate

Brilliant customer focused ethos: “Service Desks are like snowflakes, no two are alike”.

User interface modelled on common social media platforms making it easy for end users to navigate.

Service Catalogue actively encourages end user to use the self-help route and gives a virtual high five message for every Incident logged.

Market leading gamification; kudos points for adding Knowledge Base article, merit badges for resolving Incidents within SLA and mini quests to encourage healthy competition between Service Desk Analysts.

ManageEngine

ManageEngine user their superpowers for good; free PinkVerified Incident & Knowledge Management tools available via the ManageEngine website.

Thriving user community; customers have access to over 90 products and free tools.

User friendly interface; users can chose from raising an Incident or a Service Request and FAQs are on the right hand side of the screen meaning that help and further information is easily accessible.

Impressive use of predefined categories and email integration – tickets can be auto logged and updated without duplication of effort.

Marval Software

Outstanding Incident Management functionality.

Just like Starfleet, Marval have a prime directive, theirs is to enable people to be as productive as possible as quickly as possible.

Special instructions field part of every customer entry.

Each Knowledge entry has a set of work instructions, useful links, tools and diagnostic scripts.

Integrated ITSM process driven solution which is service and customer centric underpinned by a service portfolio.

Brilliant use of Near Field Communications, you can log an Incident simply by zapping a smart tag.

Slick Major Incident process that closely links into Problem, Change and IT Service Continuity Management.

Use their powers for good out in industry, regular contributors to the itSMF and Service Desk Institute.

Matrix42

Initial landing screen is very similar to your standard Microsoft offerings so most users will find the familiarity of the dashboard makes it easier to navigate.

Analyst screen easy to customise.

The tool can be configured to integrate with CTI systems so you can start a phone call and have it added to the audit diary.

Fab use of automation so you can use workflows to schedule routine tasks like server reboots.

Concurrence management is in place so if more than one person is updating the Incident at the same time, the data is merged and nothing is lost.

Nexthink

A vendor that loves talking to customers and end users!

Impressive IT analytics tool to drive proactive Incident Management.

Initial dashboard gives you an immediate, real time view of business critical services.

Automation drives out white noise and focuses on anomalies; enabling Service Desk Analysts to focus on the most important issues to the business.

The end user analytics support asset tracking and licensing monitoring.

As part of the product training, Nexthink advises Service Desk analysts to spend the time saved by automation to go out and talk to users; maximising value and improving the relationship between IT and the rest of the business. Love it when a vendor recognises that the end user is everything!

SUMMIT Software

Easy to navigate user interface – when an end user logs on to raise an Incident they can see their five most recently logged Incidents along with status information.

Analyst view flexible and easy to customise.

Service Request module is directly accessible from the Incident screen and is clear and fully configurable. Up to ten levels of approval can be used which to me covers every possible scenario.


Deep Dives


The Group Test Process

It was really important to me that the group test was fair. Each vendor was asked to fill in a questionnaire and then I had an individual session with each supplier to demo the tool and to ask lots of geeky questions. All the vendor presentations were slick and professional; it really helped me when vendors went out of their way to tailor the session to differentiators and functionality that was value driven.

Key Benefits of Incident Management

ITIL defines Incident Management as “the process responsible for managing the lifecycle of all Incidents. Incident management ensures that normal service operation is restored as quickly as possible and the business impact is minimized.” An effective Incident Management tool is a fundamental part of delivering Incident Management to the rest of the organisation.

In general, Incident Management is made up of the following steps with monitoring, communication, ownership and tracking carried out by the Service Desk:

  • Incident detection – something falls over, has performance issues or isn’t as it should be
  • Logging and recording; capturing all the details in an Incident record
  • Categorisation and prioritisation – ensuring that the Incident is categorised against the correct service and has the appropriate priority set by impact and urgency
  • Initial diagnosis -first go at resolving the Incident. If the Incident is resolved by the Service Desk at this point it is known as a first time fix.
  • Escalation -there are two types; Functional, where it goes to the next level of support eg from first line to second line support and Hierarchical, where something gets escalated to a team leader or manager.
  • Investigation and further diagnosis – where we figure out what’s gone wrong and how to fix it.
  • Resolution & Recovery -we’ve fixed the issue – happy days – normal service has been restored!
  • Closure -ensuring the end user is happy and closing off the Incident record with resolution details.

The following are some of the benefits of using a dedicated Incident Management toolset:

  • Models and templates to ensure all Incidents and Service Requests are handled consistently
  • Central point of capture so that nothing is lost, ignored or forgotten about.
  • Better adherence to SLAs, OLAs and UCs due to toolset monitoring.
  • Major Incidents workflow; especially with automated communication workflows.
  • Better results for Availability and Capacity Management; if Incidents are logged and managed effectively; they will also be resolved more effectively meaning that downtime and performance issues are minimised.
  • Increased Configuration Management accuracy; the Service Desk can check and confirm CI data when logging Incidents.
  • Enhanced management information regarding service quality due to reporting dashboards
  • Increased customer satisfaction.

Market Observations

From carrying out this group test, it quickly became clear that the Incident Management toolset game has been well and truly upped. Recent developments have seen a number of technical innovations that have allowed increased automation, faster delivery and quicker benefit realisation. The areas of differentiation in the market are therefore defined in the following terms:

  • End to end approach- the days of silos or everyone working in their own little bubbles are well and truly over. The most effective tools are aligned with other ITSM modules such as Configuration, Change, Problem, Service Level and IT Service Continuity Management.
  • User-friendly navigation -the most effective tools had the user journey modelled on common social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. By making it easier to log Incidents and Service Requests not only are we encouraging our customers to buy in to Incident Management, we’re getting them back up and running quicker via self-help and Knowledge Management.
  • Flexible workflow -there is no one size fits all. A start up IT organisation with less than twenty employees will have different requirements than a global financial institution with thousands of employees so flexibility is key.
  • Automation – models, templates and workflows all take the pain out of logging and managing Incidents and anything that makes the Major Incident process less of a nightmare or avoids someone having to get out of bed to reboot a server (automated task management) has got to be a winner!
  • Gamification – we work in IT – we are techies, geeks and engineers saving the world one Windows update at a time so work should absolutely be fun! Not only does gamification drive engagement from both end customers and support personnel; by rewarding people with fun badges and bragging rights in the office, we drive up productivity as well.
  • Big Data – a recent US study estimates that poor data quality costs US organizations over $600 billion a year. Missing, incorrect or out of date information is completely unacceptable in a service driven environment. Enter big data analytics which streamlines the Incident Management process, promotes self-service / self-help via Knowledge Management and allows users to log Incidents via smart tags without a single inbound call to the Service Desk.
  • Value driven approach – ever since the launch of ITIL V3; value has been the name of the game. By doing Incident Management we are committing to our customers. This commitment isn’t applying lip service, talking a good talk or even asking “have you tried switching it off and then on again?” on loop. This is about delivering our customers the service that they deserve. By committing to Incident Management via a solid process and toolset; we’re saying to the business – we care.

Strengths & Weaknesses

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Best Overall: Marval Software LimitedIM Best Overall Winner 2016_Marvel

Awesome tool. Everything about it was lovely to use both from an end user and a techie experience. It’s apparent from working with Marval that they’ve spent years sat beside Service Desk analysts and support techies watching them work, seeing the pressures they’re under and figuring out ways in which the tool can make life easier. It’s slick, user friendly and enterprise focused and a fantastic option if you want to take your Service Desk, support teams and Incident Management to the next level.  Some of my favourite things about Marval are the following:

  • The user information: everything from service information and CI data from the CMS to locational info (with Google Maps) and a special instructions section (FYI; my special instructions would be please send coffee and chocolate)
  • Automation: keyword lookups for suggested models and templates
  • The Knowledge Base: each Knowledge entry has a set of work instructions, useful links, tools and diagnostic scripts. The idea behind this according to Marval is that this information can be pre-populated by second and third line techies.
  • Near Field Communication or NFC: if you happen to walk by a jammed printer, you can let the Service Desk know simply by zapping the label – how cool is that?
  • Slick, effective Major Incident process with solid links to Change, Problem and IT Service Continuity Management.

Marval is fantastic option if you need your Incident Management process to be customer and service centric, bulletproof and mature so we’ve given them the Batman award for best overall Incident Management tool for this group test.

Best Innovation: InvGate Inc.

Gamification is used to fantastic effect to make Incident Management easy, scalable and fun whilst the user interface makes for an efficient, positive customer journey. Some of my favourite things about InvGate are the following:

  • IM Best Innovation 2016_InvGateThe login screen can be configured for single sign on, linking into Active Directory / Windows authentication and also works with Mac machines.
  • All the major navigation buttons are placed at the top of the screen and a social interaction log (similar to the Facebook alerts function) can be expanded to view recent interactions between the Service Desk and the end user.
  • If a user goes down the self-service route – they get a really cool “Kudos” message for successfully logging the Incident. It’s a lovely touch that gives a virtual high five to the user for rocking self-help.
  • Market leading gamification: kudos points for adding Knowledge Base article, merit badges for resolving Incidents within SLA and mini quests to encourage healthy competition between Service Desk Analysts.

InvGate is fantastic option to get up and running quickly; not just for ITSM but for other functions such as HR and Facilities. Gamification and a user centric interface makes this effective and fun to use so we’ve given them the Star Wars award for best innovation for this group test.

Best Use of Analytics: HPE

IM Best Use of Analytics 2016_HPIndustry leading use of Big Data analytics makes HPE the standout in this area. Some of my favourite things about HPE are the following:

  • Fully configurable landing page and introduction screen
  • The revamped reporting capability: point and click, oodles of config options and no complicated third party reporting software needed
  • The chat functionality: the system will even suggest people that could help resolve the related Incident!
  • The big data powered Knowledge Base with smart task management and keyword lookups
  • Heat mapping to view trends and anomalies

HPE is a fantastic product for large organisations. The tool has a comprehensive engine behind it that can manage any enterprise level ITSM task it encounters. Big Data analytics drive efficiency savings and support a move to more proactive service model without compromising on functionality or management information so we’ve given them the Spiderman award for best use of analytics for this group test.

IM Best For Proactivity 2016_Nexthink (3)Best for Proactivity: Nexthink

A powerhouse of proactivity. Here are some of my favourite things about the tool:

  • A new approach and a proactive way to do Incident Management – can notify users of a fault and work on a fix without a single inbound call to the Service Desk
  • Landing page gives a clear view of the operational status of all business critical services
  • Designed to remove white noise so Service Desk Analysts can focus on “the serious stuff”
  • Part of their training is to encourage analysts to spend the time saved by automation to go out and talk to users; which can only be good right?

Nexthink empowers the Service Desk and makes Incident Management proactive so we’ve given them the Superman award for proactivity for this group test.

Using their powers for good award: ManageEngine

IM Best Using Powers for Good 2016_ManageEngineManageEngine are definitely on the light side of the force with their free PinkVerified Incident & Knowledge Management tool available for free from their website. Here are some of some of my favourite things about the tool:

  • Thriving user community
  • User friendly self Service Portal – users can raise an Incident or Service Request and browse through the FAQs
  • Multifunctional – the tool can also be used for desktop support, the deployment of software upgrades, patch management and the management of mobile devices

ManageEngine pride themselves on having a significant percentage of the functionality of the four biggest ITSM vendors, so by offering their Incident & Knowledge Management tool for free they deserve the Black Widow award for using their powers for good for this group test.


Deep Dives


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.

Image Credit

How to Get Bigger Budgets

Didier_Moretti_Headshot_5

This article has been contributed by Didier Moretti, VP/GM Service Desk Business at Atlassian Software


 

At the start of every year or quarter, senior managers across the organization get pulled into the tug-of-war of budgeting and headcount planning. And few feel the pain as much as IT. If your team is viewed as a cost center, as IT more often than not is, asking for a bigger budget or head count increase can be a daunting task. But not doing so is not an option either. If you don’t properly plan and make a compelling argument to senior management for those extra resources you need, teams that are stretched get even more stretched resulting in a decrease in quality of work and employee burnout; neither of which helps the employee, the IT team, or the company.

They say if you can’t measure it you can’t fix it. Equally true is, if you can’t measure it, you can’t justify it to management. It’s time for IT teams to learn a lesson from customer support.

 

Why Customer Support?

I don’t mean wearing a headset and wishing every one a nice day. Though your co-workers would probably like that. I am referring to the practice of building a strong competence in measuring how much work the IT team is taking on, how quickly they’re responding, and how satisfied are the people who depend on them. Sounds simple? It should be, but astonishingly many IT organizations are so mired in the day to day blocking and tackling that they don’t remember to remind everyone how much they’re getting done.

Customer support organizations for years have become masters of analytics. They live and die on measuring key performance metrics like average response time, number of requests solved per person per day, and customer satisfaction.

The benefit? Support organizations can tell you exactly what their team utilization is and how good of a job they’re doing. More importantly, they have the numbers and analysis to credibly ask for a budget and headcount increase when they need it.

Not just IT, but every internal business team could think of themselves as a customer service organization across HR, Finance, Legal and others. Though no one is closer to customer support than IT. IT is the internal customer service organization, troubleshooting software and hardware problems for employees. If IT is similar in many ways to the external support organization, then they also need to mimic support’s best practices on gathering the right data and using that information to show their value to the business.

 

Here are 3 steps internal teams can take to report the kind of performance metrics that executives understand and respond to.

Establish and Document Processes for How Work Gets Done

The biggest barrier to measuring anything is a lack of a consistent method of execution or in other words, a process. If all requests for work, be it in IT or outside such as reviewing a contract or updating an employee benefit plan are executed in an inconsistent manner with varying levels of efficiency, it’s hard to get a read on how long a task takes and at what rate it can be executed. Further, if all requests for tasks are received and responded to over email, it’s easy for teams and managers to lose sight of the total volume of work being serviced by the entire team over any one quarter and how that volume is either increasing or fluctuating in that timeframe. In the support world, processes are well documented and automated so customers get quality and consistent service. Requests for help from customers come through applications and systems that document not just when the request came in but the time it took for each step in the support process from inception to resolution. While many IT teams do use ticketing systems they rarely have the same sophistication as those used by external support. And if they are not user friendly and zero-effort to use, employees bypass them with email or fly-bys to the IT agent’s desk.

The common mantra for many teams is that no day is typical. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a process that accommodates flexibility. Often there will be an 80-20 rule; 80% of requests will follow a certain pattern while 20% might be outside the norm. By shying away from documenting and following a process at least for the 80%, IT departments are missing out on a crucial ability to not only better track their work but also service their stakeholders better by bringing increased consistency and quality control into their daily tasks.

 

Measure Everyday Activities

This might seem overkill at first but it’s the only way to truly understand how long it takes for you or your team to fulfill common requests. Even rough measurements will go a long way to give you an idea of how to plan your day or week. As teams grow and become geographically distributed, understanding how long tasks take is critical to planning capacity. Software developers often use a method called agile development where each task gets a number score that indicates how long the developer thinks that task will take. This allows a product manager to ensure a product release is adequately planned, staffed, and on track. Lawyers and consultants regularly clock their hours since they need to bill clients per hour. There are many examples of different functions bringing an increased measurement rigor in order to not only track progress more efficiently, but also help managers better plan and staff every quarter.

Best of all, there are many work management or task management systems that make it easy for employees to track time spent on a task, similar to the many apps for your smart phone that will help you count calories and track exercise routines.

 

Use Processes and Measurement to Build Your Personal Analytics Dashboard

Once you have documented the process and put in place steps to either manually measure time taken or in an automated manner through a tool, you’re ready to start building your own personal analytics.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could answer questions like:

  • Last quarter with 3 people we supported 342 IT related requests for help from employees and on average were able to provide a response within 2 hours.
  • The number of requests were up 12% from last quarter
  • For the next quarter we expect a 8% increase based on company wide headcount growth

Imagine the possibilities you have armed with those kinds of numbers?

Now you no longer have to say – “I think we need more headcount, because we’re swamped and working late most nights.”

Instead, you have real numbers, tied to measurable results, that executives love and respect. To further spice things up, you could add employee satisfaction surveys to demonstrate your successes.

So now your analytics read:

  • Last quarter with 3 people we supported 342 requests with an average employee satisfaction score of 77%.
  • The #1 issue many employees cited was the length of time it takes to get help
  • For the next quarter, we’re looking at a potential 8% increase in # of requests.
  • With an extra headcount we are confident we can scale to meet demand while boosting our overall customer satisfaction to our stated goal of 90%

 

While you may not get what you ask for, if you ask for it enough times in the right way, often good things will happen.

It’s time for IT teams to embrace the best practices that have led to customer service organizations becoming the lean mean fighting machines that they are. There is no substitute for good analytics, but that comes at a price; the need to follow a process for how work gets done and measure the time taken to perform the steps along the way. But the upside is huge. Not only are you able to build the type of reports and analytics needed to succeed, but the people who depend on you get fast, consistent service they can trust. There are many tools and systems in the market to help you on your journey.

So in 2015, think like a customer support organization. Your company will thank you for it.