Major Survival Incident Kit – What’s In Yours?

Following a sparkly pressie from the guys at TOPdesk, we got to thinking here at Enterprise Opinions towers about what should go in our emergency kit for dealing with Major Incidents.

Coffee!

To be fair, my Starbucks habit is slightly worrying but staying caffeinated helps me stay on the ball. When dealing with a crisis, sometimes you just need a second to figure out the next step. Taking a sip of your drink, be it coffee, green tea or water, takes you out of the situation momentarily and gives you a chance to clear your head and come up with a plan. That said, this is effectively me on a bad day:

Key Phone Numbers

Picture the scene, my second day at a Problem Management gig and a contracter accidentally hits the EPO button in the data centre. For the uninitiated, an EPO or Emergency Power Off button is something that instantly takes out the power to a room and is there as a safety measure in the event of a fire or someone suffering an electrical shock. They’re usually bright red and labeled EPO. Unfortunately in this case, it’s proximity to the door meant the chap in question mistook it for the door release button and pressed it taking out all services to the building and 8 major customers. As this wasn’t a DR test, there was no way to fail over cue an epic Major Incident and the Service Desk sat in shock because they had no working phones and no corporate address book to look up phone numbers. Not our finest hour. No one was saying anything so I did the only thing I could think of at the time; told everyone to use their mobiles to call everyone they had numbers for, starting from the top down until we were able to restore power, promising that I would personally pay their mobile bills if the finance department rejected the resulting phone bill. It was the only option we had at the time and luckily we were back up with the basics in about 30 minutes but my overriding memory of that day was feeling really out of control. Let’s face it, that level of faffery in a Major Incident is never good.

Phone Charger

I love my iPhone. It’s pink (obvs) has every app I can think of and goes everywhere with me. It has unfortunately naff all battery life so I carry a charger with me at all times.

Inner Calm

Feedback that I’ve had time and time again when I’ve done Incident Management type roles is how calm I seem when things are kicking off. I have no idea why people think I’m calm, I can promise you that it’s all a huge act. Inside my head, I’m having kittens or reciting every swear word I can think of or wishing I could hide under my desk but when I have a Service Desk full of analysts relying on me, I’m not going to let everyone down by panicking and then making mistakes. I guess you could say it’s a bit like parenting, as a mum of three I can tell you that kids can sense uncertainty, fear and in the case of my little darlings, chocolate buttons at twenty paces so the trick is to have a total air of “I’ve got this”. Fake it til you make it; act as though everything’s grand, you’ll calm down which will in turn calm down everyone around you and you can focus on getting everything fixed.

What would you have in your “break glass in case of emergency kit”? Let us know in the comments!

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Smart Watches, Kangaroos & Demand Management; Knowledge 16 – Day 1

It’s Vegas baby! Knowledge is an annual event hosted by ServiceNow to share, collaborate and promote their platform. To give you an idea of the scale of this years Knowledge16 event, it has over 11,000 people registered, 160+ sponsors & partners and there are presentations on everything from Agile to password resets.

This year’s event celebrates 10 years of Knowledge so here’s our recap of Day 1.

Opening Keynote: Frank Slootman, CEO ServiceNow

To say the auditorium was packed /out in anticipation of Frank’s opening keynote is a bit of an under statement:

Frank opened with this thought: “Speed is not an issue until someone comes along who is faster than you. Software enables speed and helps you get where you need to be”.

The next part of the keynote focused on ServiceNow as an enabler. Frank shared the stage with representatives from KPMG, Fiser and AGFA Healthcare who shared real life experiences of how ServiceNow helps them to drive their organisations. Frank talked about how the world of ITSM is constantly evolving and talked about how important SIAM and the Internet of Things were in terms of advancement and improvement.

The final part of the session was on innovation. As Frank put it; “our ultimate ambition is to change how people work” and offered up these three things to help organisations make that transformation:

  1. Subscribe & notify; reversing the flow of data so that people can be more purposeful.
  2. Connect & collaborate; applying context so the right people can collaborate in the right way with the right event.
  3. Predict; removing the temporal problem so that organisations can move to real time, using predictive analytics to prevent problems before they occur.

Frank then introduced the rest of his team to promote the ServiceNow take on wearable tech. The team were able to demo a smartwatch where an Incident can be logged with a single gesture.

The team role played a scenario whereby an Incident could be logged and escalated via the smart watch and progressed through the resolution workflow within seconds. Wearable tech which means I could keep an eye on things whilst making my kids dinner? Deal me in!!

Now on Now: How ServiceNow uses ITOM technologies to deliver the most reliable cloud platform – Sridhar Chandrashekar VP & GM of the ServiceNow ITOM Division

Sridhar rocked his session with this opening: “ we use ServiceNow for pretty much everything. We drink our own champagne.” He talked about the complexity of the ServiceNow infrastructure which includes:

  • 4 large datacentres
  • 12 smaller data centres
  • 3.5 million CMDB CIs
  • Over 7,500 servers
  • Over 2,000 network devices

In short, no small task.

Sridhar talked about the importance of maintaining SLAs and customer uptime and how ServiceNow use ITIL and other best practice frameworks to maintain services. ServiceNow process over 7,000 Changes and 6,000 Incidents a month, following a structured model.

The next part of the presentation focused on automation and the cloud. All 16 data centres run off a single instance of ServiceNow and complex automations are used to support service integration. As Sridhar put it “our aim is to automate pretty much everything” and to this end ServiceNow have lodged 25 automation patents. Sridhar explained why having automated cloning and failover processes were so important to ensure customers experience a seamless service and even demonstrated to the audience how easily it is to fail over an instance of ServiceNow to an alternative instance.

DISHin’ up a robust Service Catalogue – DISH Network Corp & Service Now

The next session was run by both DISH and ServiceNow as a team effort. DISH Network Corp are a Fortune 250 company with over 19,000 employees and are America’s third largest paid TV provider. They quite like kangaroos.

Their presentation was about the journey DISH went on to replace their legacy system with a cloud based Service Catalog. So far, so straightford right? Not quite.

DISH had a legacy system combined with a homemade web tool containing over 13,000 Service Catalog items. That’s right, 13,000 separate items. There was no self service option for Incident Management and Request Fulfillment and the CMDB was manually maintained. The asset tool was also a legacy in house app, and daily Change meetings were required to mitigate the risk of Change related failure. It also appeared that the IT department lived in a cupboard:

Enter ServiceNow. Their strategy was as follows:

  • Redefine item & categorisation
  • New tables for approvals & request fulfillment
  • Data driven forms
  • Data driven workflow

The biggest challenge was wrangling over 13,000 Service Catalogue items into a sensible format. Tables were used to great effect along with authorisation models. Check out the sample approval matrix:

Let’s face it, if I had to chose two people to resolve my Incident I’d pick Bruce Willis and Sandra Bullock as well 🙂

Data driven forms were used to support automation and the final product looked something like this:

Mission well and truly accomplished guys, well done.

IT work intake – using idea & demand applications; Debbie Balmos, IT Support Director, HMS

After a quick ice cream break it was time for Debbie’s presentation on Demand Management. Debbie’s session was about using Demand Management to increase transparency and collaboration with business partners with the help of business focused applications.

Debbie started by outlining some of the challenges her IT organisation faced. These included:

  • Unclear work intake
  • Inability to prioritise
  • Disconnect and silos
  • No collaboration with the business
  • No idea of cost per service

The plan? Project Unity to automate the end to end IT service.

Debbie talked about engaging with ServiceNow and how she was able to use it to combine and replace three separate legacy systems. This gave her organisation a holistic view of critical services and enabled her to balance supply with demand.

The second half of Debbie’s presentation focused on demonstrating her new environment and talking through how it worked in real life. The new process routes all Incidents and Service Requests through a single HMS branded self service portal and a defined workflow supports the process. The result? Happy customers!

 

That’s all for now, come back soon to read our recap of Day 2!

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How predictive analytics have turned Incident Management on its head

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Predictive analytics is set to turn the world of IT service management, and in particular Incident Management, on its head. After all, it has already done this for IT Capacity Planning, where it is now possible to predict and avoid future incidents at a workload level.

Within IT capacity planning, forecasting (predicting, if you like) has always been a key feature of the discipline. It was used to ensure that large chunks of demand, either through growth or change, could be met while focusing on the strategic horizon rather than the day to day operation. If there are capacity issues, the Service Operation process of Incident Management informs the Service Design process of Capacity Management to allow it to be dealt with as part of future Service Design activity.

Incident Management should inform IT Capacity Planning about incidents logged due to capacity or performance issues, whereby this intelligence would then be used to assist in the diagnosis and resolution of incidents. The idea that Capacity Management informs Incident Management of future and avoidable incidents, or indeed how to deal with them, is a relatively new concept.

Playing the tactical game

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Technological advances have opened many new areas of innovation and opportunity in this space. Virtualization, automation, big data and predictive analytics have empowered IT capacity planning to extend into day to day management at a more granular and forensic level, rather than focusing solely on strategic activity. The following are the four major drivers which have spurned on this evolution:

  • Virtualization – or more importantly – the hypervisor

Whilst allowing multiple virtual workloads to operate on a single physical machine should make life more difficult, it actually simplifies things by reducing the number of information sources that need to be interrogated.

  • Data Automation

When dealing with different system management tools, vendors and formats consider the amount of data points generated. Let’s take a 10,000 server estate over a single 24 hour period, capturing data at 5 minute intervals – this would generate almost 3 million data points. For the information to be used for predictive analysis, we would recommend at least 30 days’ worth of monitoring data in order to gain worthwhile insight. Without automation it would take an army to schedule the retrieval, aggregation, cleansing, loading and transforming of the data from a number of bespoke sources in a meaningful timeframe.

  • Big Data

Big Data delivers the ability to store the massive amounts of data in a way that makes sense and allows for further manipulation. With associated hardware advances, the cost of storage, scalability and more powerful compute have made Big Data a reality.

  • Predictive Analytics

And finally, analytics provides the ability to churn data in a multitude of ways, using pattern matching and algorithms to analyse and provide insight into an organisation’s IT operation that would otherwise go unnoticed. Whether that be an over utilisation of, or an impending shortfall of resources. The analytics available today are essential if IT managers want to keep on top of the complexity and scale of their IT estate. In the IT environment of today, IT managers need to be confident in their knowledge of their IT infrastructure, and the various changing demands placed on it, in order to see what’s around the corner and avoid potential incidents.

Zooming in

For IT capacity planning, the unit of currency has reduced from physical machine to individual workload. Reducing the timeframe to provide short term tactical information while improving our ability to understand and model long term strategic actions. Changing the relationship between incident management and IT Capacity Planning allows you to identify shortfalls in advance, sidestep the avoidable and turn your Incident Management process on its head.

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This article was contributed by Stuart Higgins, Technical Evangelist at Sumerian.

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Tactics Image Credit

 

Service Desk Rockstars – Retail Assist wins SDI Best Managed Service Desk Award

Nottingham based company Retail Assist, has won the globally recognised ‘Best Managed Service Desk’ Award at the Service Desk Institute’s (SDI) Annual IT Service and Support Awards. If you’ve not heard of Retail Assist before, they provide managed services for the retail sector and some of the brands they support are Pizza Hut, Vue Cinemas, Cath Kidston, Karen Millen, White Stuff and Oasis.

The Service Desk Institute Awards

Winner-Best-Managed-Service-Desk

The SDI annual Awards identify the excellence of outstanding service desk teams and individuals, and celebrates their success.

After reaching the Final 3 last year, Retail Assist was keen to re-enter with a host of fresh innovations to its service desk provision. ‘Best Managed Service Desk’ was a tough category – in the Final 3 were SCC based in Romania, and  Maersk Group headquartered in Denmark. However, Retail Assist impressed the judges with the level of investment demonstrated in their Help Desk, and focus on the customer; providing a proactive, quality service to enable them to reach their goals.

Dan Smith, CEO of Retail Assist, commented on the achievement:

“We are extremely proud to have won the award, and to claim the title as the World’s ‘Best Managed Service Desk’.  We have progressed significantly over the last 17 years to support many of the leading retail and hospitality brands, but this really gives the team the recognition they deserve for all their hard work and dedication to providing the best possible service to over 8000 global locations around the clock.”

The Retail Assist Help Desk team enjoyed an impressive gala dinner event, receiving the award along with winners in each of the awards categories, at a prestigious awards ceremony at the Birmingham Hilton Metropole last night. The £1000 prize for winning the award will be donated to Emmanuel House, Retail Assist’s chosen charity for the financial year.

Worthy Winners

The SDI IT Service Awards 2016
The SDI IT Service Awards 2016

 


 

I caught up with Dan this week to find out more about Retail Assist and how much the win meant to his team.  The Retail Assist Service Desk provides IT support services to 8,000 locations across the globe 24 x 7 x 365 in 8 different languages – that’s a lot of tech support! The Service Desk is made up of 50 – 55 analysts with over 3,000 procedures to ensure that all the essentials are covered and that the team always have something to refer to.

From speaking to Dan it was clear that a fantastic customer experience was the objective of every single person in the team. As Dan explained it; the Service Desk had two main objectives:

  1. Fix the issue quickly and effectively (no nightmare automated menu systems for RA customers; it takes just 40 seconds from calling their number to connect with a Service Desk analyst)
  2. Look after the customer so that even if the Incident can’t be resolved at first line; the customer has a workaround, information or an escalation to second line support and is in a much happier position.

So often in the Service Desk world we get so hung up on measurements, metrics and statistics that we forget about what’s important – the customer – so it’s brilliant to see Retail Assist putting the customer at the heart of everything they do. The attention to detail is fantastic, RA will work with their customers to provide proactive support as well as world class Incident Management.

One of the examples Dan shared with me was that when the latest Star Wars film came out (seriously – how awesome was The Force Awakens? All three of my children sat through it, completely entranced from beginning to end – even my 3 year old which is nothing short of a miracle I can tell you) not only did the RA desk ensure that extra team members were on shift, they also made provided extra wrap around support for early in the morning and late at night, as well as working with Vue to ensure all tills were tested and fully operational prior to the premier date.

Another example Dan talked about was for a retail customer in central London. A fire at a local BT exchange effectively took out their card systems during the weekend. The RA analysts were able to remotely dial in and set a £50 floor limit to enable the customer to be able to take debit and credit card payments of up to £50 so they could continue to trade. As someone who worked in retail all the way through college (Hi Tesco & Easons!) being unable to take card payments at the weekend is the stuff of nightmares so all power to the Retail Assist guys for being able to come up with a workaround.

One of the things that really impressed me about the Retail Assist Service Desk was its commitment to it’s people. There are two permanent trainers on the team, there is an Application Academy for further reading and all team leaders go on the ITIL foundation training. The Service Desk supports career progression, some examples of next roles include second line support, project management and analyst programmers. The procedures and work instructions are there to support rather than limit the analysts who are encouraged to use their judgement and skill to look after each caller.

A big well done to the Retail Assist team for their win and fair play for donating their winnings to charity – you rock!

To find out more about Retail Assist you can check out their website here. For more about the Service Desk Institute you can get to their website by clicking this link.

Has the Retail Assist win inspired you to enter your Service Desk into next year’s SDI awards? Let us know in the comments!

 

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

Coming Soon: Incident Management Group Test

Next on the chopping block for our independent reviews: The workhorse of ITSM; Incident Management
Next on the chopping block for our independent reviews: The workhorse of ITSM; Incident Management

Our next Group Test will explore the core deliverable of Service Management:

Incident Management.

Our Group Tests review and compare the features and strengths of technology for a particular use case.

The aim of the review is to support prospective buyers with their selection process by providing features to consider when selecting service desk tooling and highlighting key competitive differentiators between products.

Previous Group Tests:

The ITSM Workhorse – INCIDENT MANAGEMENT

Review Topic areas:

  • Incident logging, categorization & automation options
  • System access options (web, fat client, mobile, etc)
  • Incident tracking and lifecycle
  • Prioritizing and escalating incidents
  • Major incidents
  • Applying industry models and frameworks
  • Incident closure
  • Reporting and analytics
  • Interaction/workflow with Problem Management
  • Logging non-IT related incidents, incident management beyond the service desk

The research will highlight competitive differentiators; feature key strengths and showcase innovation within each product. Once reviewed, we will crown one Vendor “Best in Class” and the “leader” in Incident Management.

For more information on the assessment please contact us.

Subscribe to the ITSM Review newsletter or follow us on Twitter to receive a notification when the research is published.

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Technology Review: EasyVista

Easy VistaThis is a review of the EasyVista ITSM solution. The product (set) reviewed was:

  • EasyVista ServiceManager
  • EasyVista Service-Apps
  • EasyVista Click2Get

These collectively make up ‘EasyVista.com’ – the product set reviewed will be released on July 1st 2014.

At a glance

EasyVista is an established and growing player in the ITSM industry – from an initial start in 1988 through to a floated business in 2005 with a native Cloud platform, to its current position challenging the enterprise market.

The company focuses on EMEA and US markets with Head Offices based in both New York and Paris. Recent growth has been impressive and the company is expanding and developing into new markets and market areas. This review looks at EasyVista’s core capabilities, strengths and weaknesses, plus go-to-market strategy and vendor reach.

Summary of Key Findings

Strengths Weaknesses
Simple yet powerful customer presentation layer Limitations on vendor implementation capacity
Comprehensive ITSM functionality – good Service Catalog capability May need to develop more/new capabilities and project services for larger enterprise clients
Cradle to grave Asset Management – extensive financial capability Recent core focus on US has slightly hindered UK presence to date behind, however we understand that this is being addressed
Intuitive user-friendly workflow – NEO capability for tech-free design and admin Reporting capabilities and templates could be improved
Strong multi-language offerings
Impressive recent financial growth

Analysis

Overall EasyVista has a very strong product-set in the ITSM market.With a long pedigree, since 1988, as a mid-market vendor, with focus in some key geographical markets, EasyVista is now broadening its appeal and reach across wider global markets and is also becoming more tuned to enterprise organizations needs.

This is having some success with a number of recent wins over ServiceNow and Cherwell Software, who they view as main competitors. As is the case with these companies, EasyVista is also winning new business from legacy CA/HP/BMC sites with its modern, agile, user-friendly, and user-configurable approach and (web-based) product set; as well as competitive costing and minimized cost of upgrade path.

The product-set aims to provide a comprehensive, yet simple and intuitive interface for build and maintenance, reducing the time to implement and also the cost and skill level required for ongoing tailoring and configuration. A key concept is the simplified ‘presentation layer’, which effectively provides a simple and business-focused interface to allow user organisations to focus on business objectives and not be side-tracked by infrastructure and technical details and data. This also supports the approach that allows the underlying infrastructure and services details to change without impacting the presentation layer – i.e. the User Interface and outputs. EasyVista’s pitch aims to support the idea that the tool helps to reduce complexity around IT and ITSM delivery – by linking ‘Service Management with Content Management’ – so that all sources are presented/rendered consistently.

As an ITSM tool it has a full set of Service Management capabilities available, delivered in ‘standard’ tabular formats (i.e. process functions as expected for ITSM/ITIL processes and lifecycle) with the ability to make changes easily and without technical skills/support.The core Incident, Problem and Change processes are presented in a clean and simple format with the ability to use multiple layers of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and Operating Level Agreements (OLAs) as required – e.g. for tracking, OLAs can be easily nested and tracked within a wider SLA. The Service Catalog functionality is extensive and compares well with other product offerings, featuring some straightforward and effective features like graphical displays of linked services, parent/child service ‘bundles’, and simple logical links to all other ITSM functions.

The asset and configuration elements of the toolset are also key features with function-rich capabilities around asset tracking and financial management (e.g. insurance values, residual value, depreciation etc). This includes an end-to-end approach with the ability to create orders and pick from stock as part of the asset lifecycle. Whilst this functionality has been around for many years in large enterprise products, it is encouraging to see this level of detail and control being made available from a mid-size vendor and product – with a modern, simplified and connected (social) interface.

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Discussion threads offer social capabilities that can be used effectively for approvals – e.g. for Change Advisory Boards (CABs) – and are a useful and social way to communicate (like a Facebook wall) and contribute to incidents and other events – i.e. beyond those simply on the escalation path. This can also be used for knowledge sharing and also to present real-time knowledge content within incidents. The ‘NEO’ function provides advanced capabilities without the need for technical skills, and is based on a graphical interface for workflow, forms design, tables, and field and screen creation that is simple to administer – i.e. using drag and drop. Development of the presentation layer for IT or departmental customers is supported by the NEO capability. EasyVista has built a range of widgets, such as charts, navigation, dashboard components, and HTML widgets, as well as provided access to a range of other web widgets from the likes of Google, Twitter etc. These widgets can be used to easily build Service Apps like CIO dashboards or Service Catalogs, enhancing functionality and integration of processes.

Reporting and monitoring are available with user-defined dashboards – i.e. that can include standard widgets as already mentioned. This could be further developed to provide more pre-canned templates and standards offerings to clients. EasyVista has strong language capabilities with 12 core languages available across a single meta-data structure – therefore global implementation can be effective across a single platform. EasyVista also provides a robust network of data centers across EMEA, the US and Singapore to provide continuous business continuity. There is also an extensive and effective global knowledge community sharing product information and guidance.

Languages available:

  • Bosnian
  • Brasilian
  • Catalan
  • Chinese (Traditional)
  • Chinese (Simplified)
  • Dutch
  • English (UK)
  • English (US)
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Polish
  • Portugeze
  • Spanish

The vendor is expanding and recruiting to support its current growth and sales success. This is part of a continuing development plan to consolidate and build on an improving market position, and challenging enterprise vendors on price and flexibility, whilst still offering a full set of functionality plus innovation in the product that has been built as a native cloud-based system.

Revenues have grown from $11.5M (2010) to over $20M in 2013, with recurring revenue accounting for over 70% due to its SaaS customer base. The stock price has accordingly quadrupled (from $10.00 to $40.00) over the last year.

The vendor has been operating in the mid-market for several years and is now successfully engaging more with the enterprise market, where there may be more requirements from customers to deliver project and consultancy-based services. At present EasyVista have a global network of (40) implementation partners – with a majority of sales being made direct (95% direct in US, 50% direct in EMEA). Corporate resources are therefore focused on development, and sales and marketing, and less on implementation – this may need to be revised with more demanding enterprise-sized customers.

The challenges for EasyVista are in maintaining its focus on innovation, quality installations and client success, whilst also growing its market share and delivering successful implementations in new vertical and horizontal markets. This is recognized by the company with a recruitment programme and a renewed growth plan in the UK, which was consciously left alone some years ago when the focus was on building market share in the US and continental Europe. At that time the UK ITSM market was seen as stagnant, but there is now renewed interest in this market for replacement solutions following new innovations and the impact of disruptive (Cloud/SAAS) commercial models. EasyVista were left exposed in the UK and are now working to recoup some position in this market – however in future there may be issues in other areas if resources are stretched across multiple geographical markets and levels of the IT/ITSM market.

Delivery of sales message (which is seen to be good) and the ability to deliver to a new market area (enterprise) are also seen as major challenges – along with the ability to consolidate and maintain growth. The product set is comprehensive and possibly complex at first sight, therefore the ITSM Review recommends that EasyVista aligns its message (simplicity and business focus) with its overall presentation of the modules and areas of the product. The three product areas – Service Manager, Service Apps and Click2Get – plus the Neo function, sit over the ITSM modules with different pricing structures and this can initially look at odds with the company’s ‘simplify IT’ message, although we understand the pricing is very competitive. Whilst there are some corporate and delivery challenges, the product provides a comprehensive solution, is well positioned, and the pitch plays well to a market hungry for savings, simplicity and new ways of working.

On a comparative level with the upper mid-market and also at an enterprise level, the product-set has good functionality and offers innovation and a user-friendly operation. Development has been applied to the use and usability of the product and this should reduce the need for extensive consulting and implementation services. However there is always a need for implementation guidance and support for less-mature organisations. This is a gap and opportunity for EasyVista to provide more value-added services to support these clients’ implementations.

Overall, EasyVista is an excellent offering for customers/buyers who are mature, know what they want from ITSM (particularly in some key areas like Service Catalog and Asset Management), and are able to implement this mostly themselves.

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Key Capabilities

EasyVista is an integrated solution that covers IT Service and Asset Management. The modules provided are:

  • Service Operation: Incident, Problem, Service Request and Event Management. This module addresses core service desk functionality.
  • Service Transition: Change, Knowledge and Release Management. This addresses the ability to manage the entire lifecycle of Change records and how they relate to Releases in the CMDB. Additionally the knowledgebase is managed in this module allowing the management and subsequent publication of knowledge articles to technical and non-technical users.
  • Service Strategy: Financial areas such as Budget Planning/Control, Procurement, Charge Back, IT Costing etc. are provided by this module allowing customers to have fiscal control over all aspects of IT delivery.
  • Service Design: The management of SLAs/OLAs, Continuity Plans, Availability Targets, Catalog content etc. is managed in this module, providing the ability to create and manage all of these aspects ‘codelessly’ and quickly.
  • Asset Management: provides full financial lifecycle Asset Management for all assets as part of the core solution. This includes all aspects of Asset Management including request, order, delivery, contract, budget, loan, repair, depreciation etc.
  • Extended CMDB: The extended CMDB module provides a fully graphical interface for viewing and analyzing the relationships between CIs and ultimately assessing impact.
  • Business Relationship Management: This covers the areas of Self-Service Portal, Social IT, and Mobility, allowing customers to interact with all product areas in a variety of different ways.
  • Continual Service Improvement: A built-in, proprietary reporting engine providing Analytics, Dashboards, and Standard Reporting.
  • Business Process Management: Automated Workflow Engine, Business Rules Engine, and pre-defined Business Wizard Accelerators. These areas allow customers to build their own processes, automate workflow, and streamline their day-to-day tasks with no coding required.

These functions are presented in tabular form and generally follow the ITIL v3 lifecycle structure. The building of forms and functions (events, escalations, SLAs, validation approvals etc.) into processes can be done simply using a consistent graphical workflow tool – this can incorporate (e.g. Google) ‘widgets’ as required and can also simply be amended using ‘drag and drop’ functionality. As such, creation of ‘standard’ ITSM processes is simple, intuitive and extensive, based on a turnkey set of processes in the product-set – i.e. capable of delivering to a high level of complexity and detailed functionality for SME and enterprise requirements.

Key functions observed:

Incident Management – extensive, flexible form creation, escalations, tracking and filters, user-defined workflow, and knowledge integration.

Problem Management – as above, plus integrated reporting.

Change Management – includes the ability to use ‘discussion threads’ to manage approvals via social-lie interfaces.

Service Catalog – comprehensive functionality, well-presented multi-view and graphical representation of services and CMDB links. Good use of service ‘bundle’ approach – i.e. grouping of components together to build supply chain of IT services.

Service Level Management – extensive and capable of managing multiple levels of SLA, availability of services etc., plus ability to manage and track nested OLA timeframes within SLAs.

Asset Management – high level of specification and capability, particularly around financial management, depreciation, residual value etc.

Knowledge Management – using ‘widget’ plug-ins can bring a variety of options for presenting and managing associated knowledge articles.

Reporting – dashboards shown with the potential for extended functionality and flexibility. Vendor could develop more ‘templated’ report and dashboard content to enhance presentation.

Go-to-market Strategy

EasyVista’s sweet spot target clients:

Staff 2,000 – 20,000
IT Staff 25 – 600
Nodes 10,000 – 200,000
IT Maturity Medium – High
Market level Mid/upper mid-market and Enterprise, some F500Vertical and horizontal – no sector focus
Challenges Cost, Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), global multi-language, need for flexibilty and ease of use

Regional focus:

  • Significant investment in the USA – Past 2 years has seen 100%+ growth per year
  • Continued expansion in EMEA – Past 2 years has seen 20% growth in a tough market
  • Tactical investment in APAC
  • Planned expansion and increased investment in the UK planned for late FY14

Channel Focus:

  • USA – 95% direct sales. 70% direct services and 30% through strategic partners.
  • EMEA – 50% direct and 50% indirect.
  • 40 fully accredited partners with 280 certified engineers worldwide.

Features delivered as part of the standard offering:

Service Manager, Asset Management, Service Apps and Click2Get are licensed independently. SaaS customers can obtain a product called myEasyVista, which is SaaS performance and administration portal – this is included in the SaaS subscription.

Service manager is sold with full functionality (all processes / and capabilities)

  • Incident Management
  • Problem Management
  • Availability Management
  • Service Asset and Configuration Management
  • IT Service Continuity Management
  • Service Catalog Management
  • Service Level Management
  • Service Portfolio Management
  • Request Fulfillment
  • Knowledge Management
  • Change Management
  • Asset Management

Licensing and Payments:

  • On premise = Concurrent
  • SaaS = Named or Concurrent

Range of project values for a typical installation:

  • SaaS: $75K/year – $300K/year
  • On Premise:  $100K – $500K

Annual maintenance and support cost:

  • 20% of On Premise software sale price.
  • 6 – 10 weeks average implementation time.

Key Reference Customers

OTD

Innovation, quality performance, integrity and teamwork – One Touch Direct is a premier call center service company and leader in developing customized direct marketing strategies. They specialize in developing integrated direct response marketing programs supported by state of the art call center services. OTD is based in North America, employs over 2000 team members and offers call center support in English, French and Spanish.

Domtar

Domtar-Centralizing IT Worldwide – Domtar was founded in 1848 and has grown from a widely diversified organization to an industry leader focused on paper manufacturing. The 1990s and the early 2000s were years of significant expansion, including the acquisition of Ris Paper Company Inc. and Georgia Pacific paper mills.

Expro

Expro delivers a true global SaaS ITSM solution in weeks with EasyVista – Expro is a world leader in well flow management technologies with core and more specialized services assisting customers to measure, improve, control and process flow from their wells. Expro’s expertise extends across the lifecycle of a well, reinforcing their ability to help customers achieve their goals – from Exploration & Appraisal through to Abandonment. Expro operates in all the major hydrocarbon producing areas of the world, employing more than 5,000 people in 50 countries.

Case studies available from these customers.

Geographical Coverage

Direct Presence Geographical area:

  • USA
  • Canada
  • UK
  • France
  • Germany
  • Spain
  • Portugal
  • Italy

Vendor Profile – In their own words

“We recognize the IT landscape we live in and therefore the ITSM requirement to our customers has radically changed. ITSM is no longer just about looking after the employees IT equipment and services, but also about how IT can build non-IT centric services and applications that improve your employee and business unit’s function, efficiency and service to the ultimate end customer.

Today’s ITSM challenge comes from these two ‘customer needs’ but also, the fundamental shift in the way we build IT. The number of systems we use directly or indirectly to transact business with our customers is x50 higher than it was just 3 years ago. All of this data and all of the new communication channels needs to be harnessed and coordinated to provide Service and SupportYet the current platforms that provide the service and support were built for a different age. They may support social, cloud and business analytics – but the hard way. Hard wired, ridged and very costly to administer, change and integrate.

IT is now at a pivotal moment in its corporate career. One that could transform the organization and make rock-stars out of IT leadership. The days of big, highly integrated, proprietary and complex platforms are dead. We live in the age of the web. The next generation of service and support will harness web architectures and services into a harmonious and dynamic service.

We would like to introduce you to a New Way. The Easy Way.

  • An Agile Web Service and Support Customer User Interface Engine.
  • An Agile Web Service and Support Workflow Engine.
  • An Agile Web Service and Support Asset Management Engine.
  • An Agile Web Service and Support Integration Engine.
  • With ‘Dynamic Orchestration’ – Not manual hard wired integration.

All codeless, and all joined up.”

Screenshots

Further resources

Contact details

www.easyvista.com

Phone: +1 (888) EZV ITSM

 

EASYVISTA

Summary

Strengths Weaknesses
Simple yet powerful customer presentation layer Limitations on vendor implementation capacity
Comprehensive ITSM functionality – good Service Catalog capability May need to develop more/new capabilities and project services for larger enterprise clients
Cradle to grave Asset Management – extensive financial capability Recent core focus on US has slightly hindered UK presence to date behind, however we understand that this is being addressed
Intuitive user-friendly workflow – NEO capability for tech-free design and admin Reporting capabilities and templates could be improved
Strong multi-language offerings
Impressive recent financial growth

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.

Availability, Incident and Problem Management – The New Holy Trinity? (part 2)

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Following on from part one, here are my next seven tips on on how to use availability, incident and problem management to maximise service effectiveness.

Tip 4: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it

Ensure that your metrics map all the way back to your process goals via KPIs and CSFs so that when you measure service performance you get clear tangible results rather than a confused set of metrics that no one ever reads let alone takes into account when reviewing operational performance. In simple terms, your service measurements should have a defined flow like the following:

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Start with a mission statement so that you have a very clearly defined goal. An example could be something like “to monitor, manage and restore our production environment effectively, efficiently & safely”.

Next come your critical success factors or CSFs. CSFs are the next level down in your reporting hierarchy. They take the information held in the goal statement and break them down into manageable chunks. Example CSFs could be:

  • “To monitor our production environment effectively, efficiently & safely”
  • “To manage our production environment effectively, efficiently & safely”
  • “To restore our production environment effectively, efficiently & safely”

KPIs or key performance indicators are the next step. KPIs provide the level of granularity needed so that you know you are hitting your CSFs. Some example KPIs could be:

  • Over 97% of our production environment is monitored
  • 98% of all alerts are responded to within 5 minutes
  • Over 95% of Calls to the Service Desk are answered within 10 seconds
  • Service A achieves an availability of 99.5% during 9 – 5, Monday – Friday

Ensure that your metrics, KPIs & CSFs map all the way back to your mission statement & process goals so that when you measure service performance you get clear tangible results. If your metrics are linked in a logical fashion, if your performance goes to amber during the month (eg threat of service level breach) you can look at your KPIs and come up with an improvement plan. This will also help you move towards a balanced scorecard model as your process matures.

Tip 5: Attend CAB!

Availability, incident and problem managers should be key and vocal members of the CAB. 70%-80% of incidents can be traced to poorly implemented changes.

Problem management should have a regular agenda item to report on problems encountered and especially where these are caused by changes. Incident management should also attend so that if a plan change does go wrong, they are aware and can respond quickly & effectively. In a very real sense being forewarned is forearmed so if a high risk change has been authorised, having that information can help the service desk manager to forward plan for example having extra analysts on shift the morning of a major release.

Start to show the effects of poorly planned and designed change with downtime information to alter mind-sets of implementation teams. If people see the consequences of poor planning or not following the agreed plan, there is a greater incentive to learn from them and by prompting teams to think about quality, change execution will improve, there will be a reduction in related incidents and problems and availability will improve.

Tip 6: Link your information

You must be able to link your information. Working in your own little bubble no longer works, you need to engage with other teams to add value. The best example of this is linking Incidents to problem records to identify trends but it doesn’t stop there. The next step is to look at the trends and look at how they can be fixed. This could be reactive e.g raising a change record to replace a piece of server hardware which has resulted in down time. It could also be proactive for example “ we launched service A and experienced X, Y and Z faults which caused a hit to our availability, we’re now launching service B, what can we do to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes? Different hardware? More resilience? Using the cloud?”

You need to have control over the quality of the information that can be entered. Out of date information is harmful so make sure that validation checks are built in to your process. One way to do this is to do a “deep dive” into your Incident information. Look at the details to ensure a common theme exists and that it is linked to the correct Problem record.

Your information needs to be accessible and easy to read. Your audience sees Google and their expectation is that all search engines work in the same way.

Talk to people! Ask relationship and service delivery managers what keeps them awake at night and if there is know problem record or SIP then raise one.  Ask technical teams what are their top ten tech concerns. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Forewarned it forearmed. If you know there’s an issue or potential for risk you can do something about it, or escalate to the manager or team that can. Ask the customer if there is anything they are worried about. Is there a critical product launch due? Are the auditors coming? This is where you can be proactive and limit risk for example working with change management to implement a change freeze.

Tip 7: Getting the right balance of proactive and reactive activities

It’s important to look at both the proactive and reactive sides of the coin and get a balance between the two. If you focus on reactive activities only, you never fix the root cause or make it better; you’ll just keep putting out the same fires. If you focus on proactive activities only, you will lose focus on the BAU and your service quality could spiral out of control.

Proactive actions could include building new services with availability in mind, working with problem management to identify trends and ensuring that high availability systems have the appropriate maintenance (e.g regular patches, reboots, agreed release schedules) Other activities could include identifying VBFs (more on that later) and SPOFs (single points of failure).

Reactive activities could include working with incident management to analyse service uptime / downtime in more granularity with the expanded incident cycle and acting on lessons learned from previous failures.

Tip 8: Know your VBFs

No, not your very best friends, your vital business functions! Talk to your customers and ask them what they consider to be critical. Don’t assume. That sparkling new CRM system may be sat in the corner gathering dust. That spreadsheet on the other hand, built on an ancient version of excel with tens of nested tables and lots of macros could be a critical business tool for capturing customer information. Go out and talk to people. Use your service catalogue. Once you have a list of things you must protect at all costs you can work through the list and mitigate risk.

Tip 9: Know how to handle downtime

No more hiding under your desk or running screaming from the building! With the best will in the world, things will go wrong so plan accordingly. The ITIL service design book states that “recognising that when services fail, it is still possible to achieve business, customer & user satisfaction and recognition: the way a service provider acts in failure situation has a major influence on customer & user perception & expectation.”

Have a plan for when downtime strikes. Page 1 should have “Don’t Panic” written in bright, bold text – sounds obvious but it’s amazing how many people panic and freeze in the event of a crisis. Work with incident and problem management to come up with the criteria for a major incident that works for your organisation. Build the process and document everything even the blindingly obvious (because you can’t teach common sense). Agree in advance who will coordinate the fix effort (probably Incident management) and who will investigate the root cause (problem management). Link in to your IT service continuity management process. When does an incident become so bad that we need to invoke DR? Have we got the criteria documented? Who makes the call? Who is their back up in case they’re on holiday or off sick? Speak to capacity management – they look at performance – at what point could a performance issue become so bad that the system becomes unusable. Does that count as down time? Who investigates further?

Tip 10: Keep calms and carry on

Your availability, incident and problem management processes will improve and mature over time.  Use any initial “quick wins” to demonstrate the value add and get more buy in. As service levels improve, your processes will gather momentum as its human nature to want to jump on the bandwagon if something is a storming success.

As your process matures, you can look to other standards and framework. Agile and lean can be used to make efficiency savings. COBIT can be used to help you gauge process maturity as well as practical guidance on getting to the next level. PRINCE2 can help with project planning and timescales. You can also review your metrics to reflect greater process maturity for example you could add critical to quality (CTQ) and operational performance indicators (OPIs) to your existing deck of goals, CSFs and KPIs.

Keep talking to others in the service management industry. The itSMF, ISACA and Back2ITSM groups all have some fantastic ideas for implementing and improving ITIL processes so have a look!

Final thoughts

I’d like to conclude by saying that availability, incident and problem management processes are critical to service quality. They add value on their own, but aligning them and running them together will not only drive improvement but will also reduce repeat (boring) incidents, move knowledge closer to the front line and increases service uptime.

In conclusion, having availability, incident and problem management working together as a trio is one of the most important steps in moving an IT department from system management to service management as mind-sets start to change, quality improves and customer satisfaction increases.

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Assessment Criteria: Outside IT Product Review

In March of this year, we will be kicking off our product review dedicated to “Outside IT”, which will take a look at the use of ITSM technology outside the IT department.

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Overview

The aim of this review is to showcase best of breed ITSM software in use outside the IT department, highlight key competitive differentiators and provide readers of The ITSM Review with impartial market intelligence to enable informed purchasing decisions.

Previously published product reviews include:

Also coming soon: Proactive Problem Management.

Assessment Criteria 

The aim of the review is to support prospective buyers with their selection process by providing features to consider when selecting ITSM systems and highlighting key competitive differentiators between suppliers.

Outside IT – How can service management software, traditionally used to underpin the IT service desk, be applied to other area of the business to streamline operations and deliver more efficient services?

Main topics areas

  • How can new systems be built outside IT?
  • What expertise is required, what templates or processes are required?
  • How do end users / customers interact with the system?
  • How can engagement / interaction with customers be customized?
  • How are systems maintained – especially for non-IT users?

Solutions that do not include all of the criteria above will not necessarily score badly – the criteria simply define the scope of areas will be covered. The goal is to highlight strengths and identify differences, whilst placing every vendor in the best light possible. 

Please note: The assessment criteria are just a starting point; they tend to flux and evolve as we delve into solutions and discover unique features and leading edge innovation. Identifying key competitive differentiators is a higher priority than the assessment criteria.

Confirmed participants

Vendors who wish to participate in this Outside IT product review should contact us directly. We also welcome feedback from readers on their experience with their use of ITSM tools outside IT (although this feedback will not directly impact this review).

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Availability, Incident and Problem Management – The New Holy Trinity? (part 1)

So here’s the thing. We all know that incident and problem management, if working well, can reduce interruptions to the end user and improve service quality for the business. From an end user’s perspective though, availability is the name of the game. While most organisations have the basics covered with incident management, how many use problem & availability management to look at the underlying cause of Incidents at a service as well as a component level?

Working together effectively, availability, incident & problem management can improve both quality of service and the business perception of IT. Getting back to basics, incident management is a purely reactive process. We sort things out so that the business can carry on as usual. Problem management is both reactive and proactive. We look at what went wrong but also how to stop it from happening again. Availability management looks at all availability issues at both a component & service level, ensures that we consider availability at the point of service design as well as monitoring up time during normal operations.

When describing the three processes, I call incident management the superheroes of ITIL. They save the world several times a day, fighting fires and making people smile. Problem management are detectives. They get to the root cause and sort it out to stop the same issues from recurring. Availability management are the scientists of the ITIL world. Like the guys from The Big Bang Theory, they design the service to keep it up & running as much as possible based on user requirements.

Today, IT service issues are constantly in the news. With the advent of social media, news of service downtime can be spread globally in minutes – kind of embarrassing especially if you are a highly visible entity such as a bank or government department. Putting aside the embarrassment factor for a minute, what about financial implications such as fines, service credits? Or regulatory impact such as failing to comply with any standards mandated by your management. Lets not forget the angry mob waiting outside to make their dissatisfaction known if downtime is an own goal such as a poorly managed change. With this in mind, I’ve put together some tips on how to use availability, incident and problem management to maximise service effectiveness, with this article covering the first three of ten.

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Tip 1: Getting your facts straight

Have separate records for availability, incident & Problem Management. Incident Management records “fix it quick” should focus on getting the user details and a full description of the issue. Some of the information captured by Incident records could include:

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When managing an Incident, different support teams may need different views e.g.

  • Networks team – by location
  • Service desk – by customer satisfaction
  • Desktop support – by hardware
  • Development – by software application
  • Capacity management – by resource usage
  • Service delivery managers – by business impact
  • Change management – by date / time to compare with the change schedule

Problem management records focus on establishing the root cause and actions to prevent recurrence. Problem records can contain the following information:

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Availability records should look at planning for the appropriate level of availability and ensuring that availability & recovery criteria are considered when designing new services. Your availability plan should contain the following information:

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Tip 2: Identify roles & responsibilities

Be organised so there’s no duplication or wasted effort. In short the incident manager is concerned with speed, the problem manager is concerned with investigation and diagnosis and the availability manager is concerned with the end to end service.

Key priorities for the incident manager will include co-ordinating the incident, managing communications with both technical support teams and business customers, and ensuring that the issue is fixed ASAP.

The problem manager will focus on root cause investigation, trending (has this issue popped up before?), finding a fix (interim workarounds and permanent resolution) and ensuring that any lessons learned are documented & acted on.

The availability manager will look at ensuring the service is designed with the appropriate levels of availability, working with service operations to tackle issues at both a service and component level and using the extended incident cycle to look at trends and how the service can be improved.

Tip 3: Keeping up to date

It’s really important to keep an eye on the BAU as seeming small incidents can spiral out of control and have a negative effect on availability levels and customer satisfaction. Simple things can make a big difference for example, placing a white board near the service desk with a list of the top ten problems so that it’s easy for service desk analysts to link incidents to problems so that trends can be identified later on. If the service desk have a team meeting ask to attend and update them on any new problems as well as updates and workarounds on existing problems. Don’t forget to close the loop and let the service desk know when a problem record has been fixed and closed off, there’s nothing worse for a service desk to have to call a list of customers about an issue that was sorted out months ago!

Get proactive! Work as a team to view service availability through out the month. Have a process to automatically raise a new proactive problem record if availability targets are threatened so that things can be done to prevent further issues. Don’t just sit there waiting to fail the SLA!

 

In part two, I will continue with a further seven tips on how to use availability, incident and problem management to maximise service effectiveness.