Assessment Criteria – Change, Config and Release

Today we begin our competitive analysis of Change, Config and Release.  As with previous reviews our goal will be to highlight the key strengths, competitive differentiators and innovation in the industry.

Widely recognised as key to the successful preservation of production systems, the ITSM processes of Change, Config and Release are perceived as pivotal to maintaining the integrity and stability of the IT environment.

Flow diagram showing the five areas of Change, Config and Release.  These will not always be used in order and Auditing and Reporting should be ongoing.
Flow diagram showing the five areas of Change, Config and Release. These will not always be used in order and Auditing and Reporting should be ongoing.

In a nutshell:

Change Management is the process used to track and communicate any changes in service that may impact the customer such as when systems are taken offline for updates.

Configuration Management is the process used to track individual CI’s (Configuration Items) and the way in which they interact with one another.

Release Management is the process of managing software releases from development right through to release.

Each process can be used individually but more often than not you will find these processes intertwined.  When considering either a Change or Release you will need to know the CI’s that will be affected before you begin.

E.g: Your organisation needs to upgrade your in-house software package to all of its desktop pc’s, tablet devices and kiosks.

Release Management is used to track the in-house development of the software in question, Config management is used to scope the number of devices, number of people and types of people affected while Change Management is used to ensure the changes take place on a date that will cause the least disruption and that the why, how and when the changes will take place are communicated to the relevant people.

The criteria we will be using for our assessment is published below.


Identification

  • Ability to maintain a detailed record of each system’s configuration
  • Ability to interface with all internal Management Data Repositories (MDR) allowing the tool to compare reported configuration with actual configuration stored in the MDR
  • Ability to define dependency relationships between CIs
  • Ability to assign maintenance windows to CIs
  • Ability to auto discover CIs
  • Ability to interface with Inventory Control tools (to automate gathering of asset and inventory information) and barcode scanners
  • Ability to create automated alerts when a CI is found to be in an unauthorised state
  • Ability to link Release records to Change records
  • Ability to provide a Change/Release calendar with scheduled change viewing by group, and to customize the sorting and filtering of calendar views and link to existing calendar products

 Assessment/Approval

  • Calculate an objective risk assessment considering business impact and affected services
  • Show logical links between components included in a service in order to carry out business impact analysis
  • Ability to automatically create a Change Request when unauthorised changes are made to CI’s
  • Ability to schedule recurring events and maintenance
  • Ability to create and select pre-approved Change/Release from a pre-defined list
  • Pre-determined fields to auto-populate when Standard Change/Release from list used
  • Ability to capture the Change/Release date and time and who will be responsible for implementation
  • Ability to automatically send approval requests to the appropriate approvers
  • Ability to notify the assignee of the task and due date
  • Ability to link resources/approvers to Changes/Releases
  • Ability to assign tasks to individuals to be accomplished within specific time frames
  • Ability to alert Change/Release managers when approvals are past due
  • Ability to change status of Change/Release approvals
  • Ability to easily identify scheduling conflicts and reschedule appropriately

 Implementation

  • Ability to attach and store documentation with a Change/Release record
  • Ability to authorize and schedule Release deployments in conjunction with Change Management processes
  • Ability to change status of Release and linked Changes
  • Automatic notification for scheduled start/end and when the status of a Change associated with a Release changes
  • Ability to build, bundle and schedule different types of release packages for deployment
  • Ability to change status of Change/Release documentation
  • Ability to create sub activities or tasks for separate assignment to an individual, group or vendor
  • Ability to version release components and packages
  • Ability to assign tasks to teams/resolver groups

Accountability

  • Ability to track the physical location of contracts and agreements, and identify the individuals responsible for them
  • Ability to define Change and Release Windows (including freeze windows)
  • Ability to document back-out procedures
  • Ability to ensure that Release deployments are subject to scheduling and approval requirements managed by the Change management process
  • Ability to provide proactive notification to stakeholders and Change Advisory Board (CAB) members for Changes with critical business impact and provide fully configurable filtered views of scheduled changes to multiple stakeholders
  • Ability to designate back up approvers
  • Ability to set thresholds for automated approval process
  • History of approval requests logged

Auditing/Reporting

  • Ability to easily identify affected CIs whenever a change is made
  • Ability to maintain an audit trail of changes made to a CI
  • Ability to track Asset status and lifecycle management
  • Support of multiple software audit options
  • Ability to perform software license management including automated notification of license expiration and non-compliance
  • Ability to create and publish a Master Release Schedule
  • Ability to associate the Master Release Schedule with Service Level Agreement information
  • Ability to store approver comments with the approval, and store approval history for a Release
  • Ability to track and trace post deployment activities
  • Ability to trace implementation to the authorized version in the Document Management Library (DML)
  • Bulk import of licensing data
  • Ability to track costs of CI’s

General/Other Criteria

  • Alignment with industry frameworks
  • Ability to support a “virtual” CAB (i.e. approvals/issues stored electronically)
  • User-configurable forms, tables, workflows, dashboards
  • Role-based access for approvals, retracting or rescheduling RFC’s/Release
  • Open system for real-time integration with financial management and other monitoring tools
  • Provision of templates and pre-filled forms and structure to act as basic starting point
  • Vendors should provide expertise and guidance in the implementation of the tool and relevant processes

If you would like to comment on the above criteria or if you are a vendor and would like to be included in this review please comment below or contact me via email.

Review: Nexthink for Integrations

This independent review is part of our Integrations 2013 Group Test.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch In the emerging IT management category ITOA (IT Operations Analytics) Nexthink provides a very different view and, when integrated into ITSM, can provide a real-time analytical interface into processes for proactive, rather than reactive management.
Strengths
  •  Offers a completely different view of information within an enterprise
  • Everything is displayed in real-time and with the integration options to key ITSM tools, the combination really lends itself to larger organisations and those running complex migration/transformation projects
Weaknesses
  • As ITOA is a new category, it requires financial commitment from other departments to cover this level of end-to-end management and analytical capability – Probably not for the very small organisations.
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Nexthink’s customer base is more focussed on larger companies.They are classified for this review as:Specialised tooling, requiring integration to ITSM.

Commercial Summary

Vendor Nexthink
Product Nexthink V4
Version reviewed V4.4
Date of version release May 2nd, 2013
Year founded 2004
Customers 450+
Pricing Structure # of Physical and Virtual Endpoints/Desktops# of Citrix UsersPerpetual and SubscriptionDiscount for volumeMSP/SaaS pricing is available to partners that want to deliver End-user IT Analytics as a service
Competitive Differentiators
  1. Nexthink provide End-User IT Analytics – the tool analyses data from all the endpoints and extrapolates information from that perspective to identify trouble spots.
  2. The analysis is in real-time – patterns and any anomalies detected are constantly being evaluated.
  3. They turn the end-user and endpoint data into a level of intelligence and insight to sit alongside IT Service Management and offer a level of integration with known vendors to complement them in a number of areas.

Independent Review

thumbnailThere is something always beguiling when products talk of heat-maps and show dynamic visions of where network paths are failing, and to see it in real-time brings out the magpie in technical reviewers.

Starting at the top, they provide a customisable dashboard that would catch the eye of CIOs and the review got to examine a little more breadth to the product.

In essence a driver agent is sent to all target endpoints and it sends the real-time data back to their own engine where the information can be shown in a dashboard display of high level information about the number of issues. The collector can even send back information when the endpoint’s CPU is overwhelmed.

Applications for end-points can be profiled before a rollout – for example testing out builds on particular hardware to see how effective the build is for machines.

Once you come away from the high level dashboard, there are detailed “heat-maps” that begin to show you where issues are building up, and specific trouble area can be drilled into. These lower level graphics are typically what operations centre staff and advanced technical support will get the real value from.

The level of intelligence to extrapolate information, purely from the end-point perspective is what makes the product stand out.

Whilst the product can stand on its own merits, its real value is when it is integrated with ITSM and their partnership framework opens up the right doors for the company. Nexthink have integrated with leading ITSSM tools including BMC/Remedy, LANDesk and ServiceNow.

Their value is to help organisations to see the big picture and enlightened organisations are realising that they need this more holistic view.

Integration and specific recognised criteria

Nexthink have worked to develop an ITSM Solution Pack that maps their capabilities with 17 of the 28 ITIL 2011 processes.

They are not an ITSM tool, but they recognise that the real value of their product comes with integration into key ITIL processes.

Security Controls

They have also developed a Nexthink Security Solution Pack and have mapped the product with leading security standards.

Asset and Configuration Information

Their integration partners include: Microsoft SCCM, Symantec/Altiris, LANDesk, Matrix42

They bring in the information to help build up their picture of the end-point interactions.

Additional Areas of Integration

  • Event Correlation

Nexthink have integrated with Event Correlation Engines with companies such as BMC, CA/Nimsoft, HP and IBM).

Because they report the global end-user events, they can correlate those to show in real time which server is affected (the Nexthink collector is only placed on endpoints).

  • Security

Nexthink can also add an extra measure of vulnerability assessment and can assist with compliance testing.

  • Transformation

An ideal area for consideration is the use of Nexthink for large, complex Transformation projects – combined with standard ITSM tooling the combination can provide much better guidance on what is going to be involved with a large transformation project.

Nexthink Service Management Customers

From the Nexthink Brochure

  • Innovator of End-user IT Analytics for security, ITSM and workplace transformation.
  • Self-learning and artificial intelligence constructs meaningful patterns and IT analytics – patterns are analysed in real time (every minute), enterprise wide.
  • What makes Nexthink unique is the real-time analytics of all executions and all network connections and the corresponding visualisation that provides new visibility and insight at that moment in time.

In Their Own Words:

Nexthink is the innovator of End-user IT Analytics for security, ITSM and transformation.  Nexthink turns end-user and endpoint data into intelligence and insights. Our software uniquely provides enterprise-wide, real-time analytics covering all endpoints, all users, all applications and all network connections with visibility into your IT infrastructure and service delivery.  Nexthink helps IT Departments connect, communicate and collaborate to achieve their major goals and to optimize endpoint security, operations, support, and workplace transformation projects.  Nexthink real-time analytics and visualization extend help desk, server monitoring, APM (application performance management) and PCLM (PC lifecycle management) tools and provides essential visibility for IT Governance.

Nexthink serves mid-size and enterprise companies utilizing a leveraged partner model.  Nexthink is a registered trademark of Nexthink SA. To learn more, visit http://www.nexthink.com

 Screenshots

Further Information

This independent review is part of our Integrations 2013 Group Test.