Proactive Problem Management Review [2014] – The Results

This is a competitive review of software vendors who offer proactive problem management capabilities as part of their IT service management (ITSM) tool.

Products reviewed:

 Proactive Problem Management 2014 

ppmThere seems to be a imbalance within proactive problem management and alerting generally that means that either you aren’t able to pull in enough useful data or you end up with way too much and end up drowning in a sea of notifications.

Best in Class – ALEMBA vFIRE

Alemba vFire seems takes all of this in its stride and gives the ability to set outages and rules to stop alerts being received when they are not required leaving analysts free of the need to wade through the detritus that many other solutions produce. This together with the ability to simulate outages to show what kind of impact to the business could be expected in the event of a outage and the one-click ‘Find Causes’ facility which shows all items and services that could be the cause of a failure provide powerful automation and give control, intelligence and awareness back to the IT organisation.

We believe that vFire has the functionality the vast majority of organisations require to assist in operating an efficient and successful proactive problem management process.

Honourable Mention

Nexthink V5 is a highly sophisticated analytical solution which operates by monitoring the end-user experience and reporting back on real-time events recording dependencies and relationships without the need to install additional monitoring tools.

Offered as a stand-alone solution with no ticketing functionality, Nexthink state that the solution contains the necessary API and connectors to integrate with ticketing tools to create proactive alerts and track actions taken upon its analytics. We feel the solution proactively delivers timely and relevant real-time information whenever needed.  The solution greatly reduces the burden on staff and ensures risk can be quickly and accurately assessed.

We feel that Nexthink is a remarkable analytical tool but would perhaps be overkill for those less mature or organisations looking purely for proactive problem management capabilities.

Introduction

Most of us are familiar with the concept of problem management whether we are practicing it within our organisation or not. The objective is to minimise both the number and severity of incidents and potential problems to the business by investigating the root cause of issues rather than concentrating on finding the cure.

Problem management is split into two different, but equally important aspects:

  • Reactive deals with problem solving after one or more incidents occur
  • Proactive involves Identifying and solving problems and known errors before incidents occur

If reactive problem management is concerned with addressing the root cause of incidents, then proactive problem management is the systems and techniques to address these incidents before they occur and cause service disruption, or reduce or eliminate recurring incidents.

This review looked at four ITSM solutions, targeting all market sizes, that assist organisations in taking proactive step towards managing incidents and problems and exploring problems before they result in incidents.

The main topic areas covered by the review included:

  • Managing the lifecycle of problems
  • Identifying problems
  • Assessment and alerting
  • Solving problems, root causes and problem solving methodologies
  • Known errors / managing work in progress / CSI
  • Integrations, monitoring and triggers

Market Positioning

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

  • Enterprise – Either integrated or part of a suite/brand that provides E2E IT Systems & Service Management, for example: Includes Monitoring, Discovery & Service Management capability.
  • Specialised – Offers IT Service Management, with integration to third party Systems Management software
Vendor Primary user base Product Characteristics
Freshservice Small Specialised
Nexthink Large Specialised
ServiceDesk Plus Small to medium Enterprise
vFire Large Enterprise

Competitive Overview

Vendor Elevator Pitch Strengths Weaknesses
Freshservice Freshservice is an uncomplicated and attractive ITIL service desk solution.The simplicity of Freshservice allows customers to provide basic proactive problem management services whilst easily linking to the other areas of the solution.
  • Simple easy to use interface
  • Easy linkage between processes
  • Proactive suggestion of possibly related records when creating description
  • Internal monitoring within the solution could be improved
  • Financial management capabilities require extending
  • Lack of automation in areas such as setting records as proactive
Nexthink Nexthink V5 is an intelligent and attractive solution.Providing far more than proactive problem management, Nexthink delivers extensive analytics and intelligence capabilities in a user-focused manner
  • Ability to search in normal non-IT language (natural language, plain English, google-like experience)
  • Ability to compare objects and contextual situations in order to troubleshoot
  • Robust visual impact analysis
  • No ticketing facility within the solution but has API and connectors to integrate with
ServiceDesk Plus ServiceDesk Plus is a solution that contains the ability to carry out problem management but is immature with specific regard to proactive problem management.The attraction of ServiceDesk Plus is the ability to open several instances of the solution at the same time ensuring multitasking is possible whilst providing easy linkage between records.
  • Proactive problem management records link with other record types
  • No automatic suggestion of knowledge base articles, workarounds etc
  • Too much manual input required
  • Does not seem to clearly separate proactive from reactive problem management
vFire vFire 9.1 is a strong and uncomplicated proactive problem management solution.The solution provides advanced capabilities allowing customers to take advantage of many automated features to make problem management less painful.
  • ‘Find causes’ functionality takes a good portion of the leg work out of troubleshooting
  • Ability to simulate an outage to show possible impact to business
  • Good visual display of CMDB showing related items and services
  • While the dashboards are easy to create and contain a good choice of information they are not the best looking

Number of Customers

  • Freshservice 1200
  • Nexthink 500
  • ManageEngine 25,000
  • Alemba 350

Please note that for the purposes of this report we are showing paying customers only

Analysis

Vendor Functionality Summary Analysis
Freshservice
  • Open API
  • Existing standard integrations with Event Management tools such as Nagios and Solarwinds
  • Default forms and structure as basic starting point
  • Easy linkage between Problems and other types of tickets (i.e. Incident)
  • Proactive solution suggestion as ticket details inputted
  • Implementation support available
Freshservice provides basic yet capable functionality for use by users with low to medium proactive problem management maturity.If you’re after bells and whistles such as sophisticated visual service mapping then this is probably not the solution for you, however, if you are after a good basic package, with ticketing, that has the proactive problem management essentials then Freshservice is a good option
Nexthink
  • Nexthink is a standalone analytics and intelligence solution which integrates with ticketing tools. It does not contain it’s own ticketing capabilities
  • Full integration toolkit. Data can be imported into and out of Nexthink in various ways to serve many different purposes. More info: http://www.nexthink.com/integration/
  • Templates and pre-filled forms and structure available for basic starting point from Nexthink library, a cloud based platform for collective intelligence
  • Web API
  • Existing standard integrations with Service Desk solutions such as LANDESK, ServiceNow, BMC Remedy, EasyVista and PMCS Helpline.
Nexthink provides a comprehensive analytics and intelligence solution which provides far more than Proactive Problem Management capabilities. What’s more it provides them in a user-focused way which is quite different to the majority of other solutions on the market that are all data centre focused.I believe that this solution would create huge value to any organisation looking for real-time end-user analytics.
ServiceDesk Plus
  • Drag and drop templates
  • API’s available to integrate with third party tools such as event management
  • Default templates and admin configuration wizard for quick install
  • Implementation support available
ServiceDesk Plus provides a very basic and mostly manually driven proactive problem management offering. I feel that this solution would be more suitable for those organisations looking for reactive problem management capabilities with the ability to integrate event/alert monitoring. If ManageEngine were to invest in creating more automated features in the proactive problem area, such as auto update from CMDB, the solution would appeal to a much wider and more mature audience.
vFire
  • Drag and drop workflow design
  • User defined dashboards
  • 188 out of the box reports available
  • Existing standard integrations with monitoring tools such as SAM and SCOM
  • Default forms and structure as basic starting point
  • Known errors and outages displayed on customer portal bulletin board
  • Easy linkage between Problems and other types of tickets (i.e. Incident)
  • Proactive solution suggestion as record details inputted
  • Implementation support available
vFire provides very good functionality for users with all levels of proactive problem management maturity.vFire provides more automation than most of the other solutions reviewed and goes the extra mile with regard to fault finding and diagnosis via it’s graphical interface. I believe that this solution would be a good option for most medium to large enterprise organisations.

Deep Dive

Further details for each vendor can be found by using the links below:

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 the ‘Group Tests’ section, on our Disclosure page.

Nexthink V5 Review for Proactive Problem Management

This is part of a competitive review of software vendors who offer Proactive Problem Management capabilities as part of their IT service management (ITSM) solution.

Other products reviewed:

Commercial Summary – Nexthink V5 Review

Vendor Nexthink
Product Nexthink V5
Version reviewed 5.2
Date of version Release July 2014
Year Founded 2004
Customers +500
Pricing Structure Perpetual and subscription licences for both Nexthink Analytics Platform and Nexthink Analytics Modules. All priced per number of devices/endpoints.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch Nexthink V5 is an intelligent and attractive solution.Providing far more than proactive problem management, Nexthink delivers extensive analytics and intelligence capabilities in a user-focused manner.
Strengths
  • Ability to search in normal non-IT language (natural language, plain English, google-like experience)
  • Ability to compare objects and contextual situations in order to troubleshoot
  • Robust visual impact analysis
Weaknesses
  • No ticketing facility within the solution but has API and connectors to integrate with
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Nexthink is primarily a large-market solution

Independent Review

nexthink-logoNexthink V5 is a highly sophisticated solution yet still manages to look clean and simple. In contrast to the other solutions reviewed within this group test Nexthink does not contain any ticketing functionality and is wholly an analytical tool. However, it does have the necessary API and connectors to integrate with ticketing tools to create proactive alerts and track actions taken upon its analytics.

Proactive problem management is provided by monitoring the end-user experience and reporting back on real-time events. Dependencies and relationships are recorded without the need to install additional monitoring tools.

Nexthink is about discovering what you don’t know by learning and detecting what is different to the norm. In a time when event notification overload can cause more harm than good, Nexthink uses context to ensure that only pertinent info is alerted…

i.e. If you leave your car unlocked a normal monitoring tool would send an alert regardless, however if you were parked within a locked garage Nexthink would be able to apply context to recognise that this is not alert worthy (or less critical).

My impression of the solution is that it would be suitable for all medium to large enterprise organisations of medium to high proactive problem management maturity.

I believe that this highly developed solution could provide organisations with the visibility and insight into not only proactive problem management but also big data generally by only collecting summary activity data and related issues rather impractically expecting IT departments to mine through everything or make decisions on what is, and what is not important.

General

User configuration possible for:

Forms

Tables

Workflows

Dashboards

N.B. every form and workflow can be customized through the admin module

  • Nexthink is a standalone analytics and intelligence solution which integrates with ticketing tools. It does not contain it’s own ticketing capabilities
  • Full integration toolkit. Data can be imported into and out of Nexthink in various ways to serve many different purposes. More info: http://www.nexthink.com/integration/
  • Templates and pre-filled forms and structure available for basic starting point from Nexthink library, a cloud based platform for collective intelligence
  • Web API
  • Existing standard integrations with Service Desk solutions such as LANDESK, ServiceNow, BMC Remedy, EasyVista and PMCS Helpline.

Identification

The integration of end-user IT analytics for incident and problem management is driven from the service desk. Nexthink helps align incidents and problems and enables the service desk to identify outage-problems in real-time and configuration-change-problems faster. In other words Nexthink can fast track incident to problem identification and help provide probable cause to solve problems and/or provide suitable workarounds before (further) incidents recur.

Nexthink’s internal technology assists in the identification of potential proactive problems via

Self-learning, topological relationships, base lining, benchmarking, statistics & heuristics.

Nexthink states that their solution, without configuration or definition of a potential problem can discover what’s in-use, understand the dependencies (process, devices, ports, services, server, cloud domain, etc.) and profile a baseline to further identify deviations e.g. connection is getting slower or failing for a specific group of users.

Information about the context of any identified proactive problem is displayed on Nexthink user interfaces (Finder and Portal). Portal is a web-based dashboard platform where specific widgets can be added to see the past, current and potential future impact of a change, a growing issue or an outage, including break-ups by departments, and type of problems (devices, network/infra, web requests, servers, etc.).

Nexthink specify that integration with network and server monitoring solutions is not necessary for their analytics to perform and deliver but welcome such integrations to create a full end-to-end visibility with both user-centric (outside-in) and server-centric (inside-out) visibility and analysis. They maintain that the solution is able to identify anomalies in data patterns resulting from configuration changes without the aid or knowledge of those changes and that it’s more efficient and effective to use the many diagnostic tools available within the solution to do root cause analysis.

Assessment and Alerting

Nexthink calculates an objective risk assesment via the end-user perspective. Their argument is that this positions users to compute an impact analysis from a business point of view because they will already have information such as the department, job role, location of affected users and are therefore using business language rather than IT speak i.e. you are not saying x router interface was flapping for 10min, dropping xxx packets, but rather 15 users from our Finance department attempted to use SAP without success for 10 minutes (while the 45 users from sales didn’t have any issues).

Nexthink also provides the ability to compute based on current activity, e.g. if we shut down these 10 servers now, 120 users currently connected to these servers with these 10 applications will suffer and this equals, based on each application business criticality, a business loss of £££. Based on feedback we receive from readers this functionality is highly sought after yet sadly lacking from many solutions. We believe that this functionality provides solid value to potential customers. Analytics provides the ability to push the concept of proactive problem management to preemptive and predictive.

Although there is no ticketing tool available within Nexthink, by analyzing all end-users’ activity collectively and centrally the solution is able to apply mechanisms and algorithms to understand if the problem is on the device, user, application, network/infrastructure or server side enabling the problem to be routed to the most appropriate group using the integration interface or finding the solution looking at the Nexthink Portal or Finder.

Implementation  

Tracking and management of the lifecycle of a proactive problem would have to be provided by an integration with a third party ticketing tool. However, new/updated information can be fed into the third party tool to notify about a situational change, i.e. the problem has increased in severity.

Auditing and Accountability

Nexthink gives the option to visually display an impending breach/breach of an SLA by colouring the issue yellow/red within the widget, building a history trends graph, triggering an alert or exporting context (what, when, where, what, how long, how badly) to a third party tool. Gives the context and impact of the breach (what, when, where, what, how long, how badly).

In Summary

Nexthink provides a comprehensive analytics and intelligence solution which provides far more than Proactive Problem Management capabilities. What’s more it provides them in a user-focused way which is quite different to the majority of other solutions on the market that are all data centre focused.

I believe that this solution would create huge value to any organisation looking for real-time end-user analytics.

In Their Own Words:

Nexthink is the innovator of End-user IT Analytics for security, ITSM and transformation. Our software uniquely provides enterprise-wide, real-time: analytics covering all endpoints, users, applications and network connections; and visualization of 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’s real-time analytics and visualization extend help desk, server monitoring, APM (application performance management) and PCLM (PC lifecycle management) tools and provide essential visibility for IT governance.

Nexthink pro-actively monitors IT networks and reports on important end-user related events, such as changes in the IT infrastructure, application usage and bandwidth, error messages and crashes, as well as potential security risks, ensuring that the performance of IT services is recorded and uniquely visualized from the end-user perspective.

Screenshots

Freshservice Review for Proactive Problem Management

This is part of a competitive review of software vendors who offer Proactive Problem Management capabilities as part of their IT service management (ITSM) solution.

Other products reviewed:

Commercial Summary – Freshdesk FreshService Review

Vendor Freshdesk Inc.
Product Freshservice
Version reviewed n/a
Date of version Release n/a
Year Founded 2010
Customers 1200
Pricing Structure The licensing structure is based on the number of agents. Freshservice is a SaaS only offering

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch Freshservice is an uncomplicated and attractive ITIL service desk solution.The simplicity of Freshservice allows customers to provide basic proactive problem management services whilst easily linking to the other areas of the solution.
Strengths
  • Simple easy to use interface
  • Easy linkage between processes
  • Proactive suggestion of possibly related records when creating description
Weaknesses
  • Internal monitoring within the solution could be improved
  • Financial management capabilities require extending
  • Lack of automation in areas such as setting records as proactive
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Freshservice is primarily a small to mid market solution

Independent Review

freshservice-logoFreshservice is a straightforward solution for users with straightforward needs. Simple and easy to use, the drag and drop workflow and form templates make for an easy set up of proactive problem management as well as the main solution.

Problem management is dealt with in much the same was as incident within the solution and although this will be perfectly acceptable for the majority of Freshservice’s customers those with more mature proactive problem requirements will likely find that this solution lacks the automation they will expect. The addition of automation to distinguish between the different types of problems would be useful together with the ability to smartly decide which problems are, in actual fact, a problem. The issue many IT teams are experiencing at this time is not that events and alerts are not being received but that so many are received that it is difficult to sort through to find the ones that actually matter. If Freshservice can master this then their worth to their customers would dramatically increase.

The ability to set a “book value” for a particular type of asset is a useful feature, providing the ability to report on those assets that are perhaps experiencing continued faults to see whether continued endeavour is of benefit, I would like to see this area expanded to help track the cost of faults. My impression of the solution is that it would be suitable for all small to large organisations of low to medium proactive problem management maturity. For the vast majority of these organisations, I believe that Freshservice has all the functionality required to perform proactive problem management to a successful level. However, if your organisation is likely to grow in the near future then I believe a more sophisticated solution would be suitable. The number of manual actions required within the solution would be counterproductive to organisations with large numbers of reported proactive problems.

General

User configuration possible for:

Forms

Tables

Workflows

Dashboards

N.B. every form and workflow can be customized through the admin module

  • Open API
  • Existing standard integrations with Event Management tools such as Nagios and Solarwinds
  • Default forms and structure as basic starting point
  • Easy linkage between Problems and other types of tickets (i.e. Incident)
  • Proactive solution suggestion as ticket details inputted
  • Implementation support available

Identification

Freshservice defines the difference between a reactive and proactive problem management record within the solution by the addition of a “known error” tag next to the problem subject. This is done manually by agents within the Problem Module and then provides the ability for reports to be run on “known errors”. I would like to see the ability for Freshservice to automatically recognise these and tag accordingly without the need for the manual process. For organisations receiving large numbers of proactive problems I imagine this would become quite an onerous task. Freshservice’s internal Discovery probe is able to scan networks to populate the CMDB and is able to monitor the available disk space of relevant items.

Freshservice advise that although currently this is all that is able to be monitored, additional capabilities are to follow. Alerts from monitoring and networking tools such as Nagios and Solarwinds, which can be integrated via existing standard integrations, can be sent to Freshservice using Email commands and then automatically create a record within the solution.

Assessment and Alerting

Freshservice calculates an objective risk assesment of the proactive problem and is able to flag this against an associated CI as low, medium or high (colour coded) depending upon how the CI’s business proprity has been set. Assets are able to be attached to all proactive problem records with the importance of the asset viewable from within the record screen.

The solution also contains a basic visual relationship map for impact assesment. Freshservice is able to manually route proactive problems to relevant resolver groups by assigning the particular record to the respective group or agent from the Problems module, alternatively workflow rules can be used to automatically assign records to assign proactive problems to resolver groups or agents. Once a group or user has been assigned an email notification will alert the relevant people.

Implementation  

Freshservice provides the ability to link records to each other in one click. Workflow rules within the system can be utilized to provide the ability to update all linked records upon the update of the problem record. All file types and in solution notes can be attached to a proactive problem record ensuring that all relevant information is available to agents. Changes of status are possible by the use of a dropdown box within the record screen. Although there is no ability to set individual assets and CI’s as unavailable, the solution can be used to advise users of planned outages using both email and the self-service area. In the future I would like to see the ability to set items as unavailable, when affected by a fault that causes it to be so, in order that users can easily see the state of the item. Freshservice state that their customers main need is automatic notification when there is an issue and as a result I believe that development of this area would be very beneficial to both them and their customers.

Auditing and Accountability

Freshservice’s simple workflow rules can be utilised to set thresholds to notify of impending SLA breaches to both individual users and groups. Escalation emails can also be set to once breach has taken place. Each asset has a history of all requests associated with it – problem, change, release etc. that can be viewed after the request has been closed.

In Summary

Freshservice provides basic yet capable functionality for use by users with low to medium proactive problem management maturity. If you’re after bells and whistles such as sophisticated visual service mapping then this is probably not the solution for you, however, if you are after a good basic package, with ticketing, that has the proactive problem management essentials then Freshservice is a good option.

In Their Own Words:

Freshservice is an online ITIL service desk with a fresh twist. It puts a refreshing user experience on top of powerful ticketing and asset management capabilities, and is the most user-friendly app in the space.  In addition to core functionalities like Incident, Problem, Change, Release and Asset Management, Freshservice also lets you put your knowledge base on the cloud. Freshservice offers a plug and play ITIL solution for organizations looking to align themselves to best practices without getting any expert implementation help. It has been developed by the team of experts behind Freshdesk, the leading customer support software that is currently being used to support over 5 million customers across the world.

Screenshots

ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus Review for Proactive Problem Management

This is part of a competitive review of software vendors who offer Proactive Problem Management capabilities as part of their IT service management (ITSM) solution.

Other products reviewed:

Commercial Summary – ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus Review

Vendor ManageEngine
Product ServiceDesk Plus
Version reviewed 9.0
Date of version Release September 2014
Year Founded 2004
Customers 85,000 (25,000 paid)
Pricing Structure Pricing is based on the number of technician login (named technicians) and the number of assets managed by the application.  License is issued both on Annual Subscription as well as Perpetual models.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch ServiceDesk Plus is a solution that contains the ability to carry out problem management but is immature with specific regard to proactive problem management.The attraction of ServiceDesk Plus is the ability to open several instances of the solution at the same time ensuring multitasking is possible whilst providing easy linkage between records.
Strengths
  • Proactive problem management records link with other record types
Weaknesses
  • No automatic suggestion of knowledge base articles, workarounds etc
  • Relationships and services require entering manually within CMDB
  • Does not seem to clearly separate proactive from reactive problem management
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Service Desk Plus is primarily a small to medium-market solution

Independent Review

sdp_logoServiceDesk Plus is a solution heavily dependent upon manual input within the proactive problem management area.

The manual operation required within ServiceDesk Plus, especially the CMDB, means that for organisations with anything other than basic IT infrastructure there is going to be a lot of time and effort involved in mapping relationships and services in order to make troubleshooting easy within the solution as every time a change is made to the network or asset configuration relationships and services will need to be remapped. If however you are content to do this and your primary concern is with procuring a tool that pulls this information in and logs tickets then ServiceDesk Plus will be adequate.

My impression of the solution is that it would be suitable for all small organisations of low proactive problem management maturity.

For these organisations I believe that ServiceDesk Plus has the functionality required to perform proactive problem management. However, if your organisation is likely to mature in the near future then I believe a more sophisticated solution would be suitable. Having said that if ManageEngine were to increase the amount of automation in areas such as relationship management it would appeal to a more mature audience.

General

User configuration possible for:

Forms

Tables

Workflows

Dashboards

  • Drag and drop templates
  • API’s available to integrate with third party tools such as event management
  • Default templates and admin configuration wizard for quick install
  • Implementation support available

Identification

ServiceDesk Plus defines the difference between a reactive and proactive problem management record within the solution by providing the ability to add an additional drop down field within the problem template called “Create Problem Additional field” which allows the manual assignation to either Reactive or Proactive. I would like to see the ability for ServiceDesk Plus to automatically recognise the distinction and assign accordingly without the need for the manual process. For organisations receiving large numbers of proactive problems I imagine this would become quite an onerous task.

ServiceDesk Plus does not contain any internal technology to assist in the identification of proactive problems. It can however integrate with OpManager, the ManageEngine event and network monitoring software through a standard integration and third party event and network monitoring software via the open API.

Alerts from monitoring and networking tools can be sent to ServiceDesk Plus to automatically create an incident ticket. In order for this to be created as a problem record, reactive or proactive, the ticket must be manually changed. In the future I would like to see the ability for problem records to be created automatically cutting down on time and manpower for customers.

Assessment and Alerting

In order for ServiceDesk Plus to calculate an objective risk assesment of the proactive problem relationships such as what/who is affected by each item will need to be manually built within the CMDB. Once this is done the solution does have the ability to visually notify of an issue with an asset by displaying an exclamation sign within the relationship map.

The problem with this process, as with all manual relationship creation, is that what was correct yesterday may well not be correct tomorrow. In order for this are of the solution to work for any but the smallest most basic of organisations to work without high overhead in both time and manpower then this really needs to be automated.

ManageEngine state  that there is no current ability within ServiceDesk Plus to automatically alert or route proactive problems to relevant resolver groups. They have however mentioned that by using Business Rules and Problem Closure Rules that there may be ways to manually create these processes.

Implementation  

ServiceDesk Plus provides the ability to easily link records to each other but there is currently no ability to change the status of a proactive problem record.

When updating a proactive problem record with linked records it is possible to copy problem solutions and workarounds to all associated incidents. It is also possible to close all associated incidents from the problem record.

ManageEngine state that notes, .doc, .docx and .xls formats are able to be attached to a proactive problem record within ServiceDesk Plus. I would like to see this extended in the future to include image formats for easier troubleshooting.

Currently there is no provision to record availability and capacity information within ServiceDesk Plus, however, as a workaround, ManageEngine have suggested additional fields can be created within “problem additional fields” to denote stock availability. Although the solution can be used to advise users of planned outages using both email and the self-service area, in the future I would like to see the ability to set items as unavailable, when affected by a fault that causes it to be so, in order that users can easily see the state of the item.

Auditing and Accountability

ServiceDesk Plus workflow rules can be utilised to set thresholds to escalate upon breach of both response and resolution time.

Each record has a history associated with it – problem, change, release etc. that can be viewed after the request has been closed.

In Summary

ServiceDesk Plus provides a very basic and mostly manually driven proactive problem management offering.

I feel that this solution would be more suitable for those organisations looking for reactive problem management capabilities with the ability to integrate event/alert monitoring. If ManageEngine were to invest in creating more automated features in the proactive problem area, such as auto update from CMDB, the solution would appeal to a much wider and more mature audience.

In Their Own Words:

ServiceDesk Plus is a help desk software with integrated asset and project management built on the ITIL framework. It is available in 29 different languages and is used by more than 85,000 companies, across 186 countries, to manage their IT help desk and assets. ServiceDesk Plus comes in three editions. First is Standard edition which covers the IT help desk module. The standard edition is completely free forever with no restrictions on tickets, users or tech agents. Available free both on-premise as well as Cloud. Next is professional edition, which comes with help desk management along with Asset management. And finally, the third is Enterprise edition which covers professional edition and adds ITIL and project management. The ITIL modules include Incident, Problem, Change, CMDB and Service Catalogue. In addition to all the modules, ServiceDesk Plus also comes with Purchase and Contract Management.

http://www.manageengine.com/products/service-desk/sdp-editions.html

Screenshots

Alemba vFire Review for Proactive Problem Management [BEST IN CLASS]

This is part of a competitive review of software vendors who offer Proactive Problem Management capabilities as part of their IT service management (ITSM) solution.

Other products reviewed:

Alemba vFire Review – Commercial Summary

Vendor Alemba Ltd
Product vFire 9.1
Version reviewed 9.1
Date of version Release 2011
Year Founded 2007
Customers 350
Pricing Structure Currently vFire is sold as a perpetual licence for concurrent and dedicated agent users, the customer interface is supplied as an unlimited licence.

Executive Summary – BEST IN CLASS for Proactive Problem Management

Elevator Pitch vFire 9.1 is a strong and uncomplicated proactive problem management solution.The solution provides advanced capabilities allowing customers to take advantage of many automated features to make problem management less painful.
Strengths
  • ‘Find causes’ functionality takes a good portion of the leg work out of troubleshooting
  • Ability to simulate an outage to show possible impact to business
  • Good visual display of CMDB showing related items and services
Weaknesses
  • While the dashboards are easy to create and contain a good choice of information they are not the best looking
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, vFire 9.1 is primarily a large-market solution

Independent Review

Alemba LogovFire has provided strong proactive problem management functionality without becoming too complicated and will appeal to those who like their tools to have that databasey look and feel.

Alemba have understood that proactive problem management is a useful and valuable process and not just somewhere to plonk all those annoying event alerts that come in. One of my favourite capabilities of vFire is the ability to set outages and use these in conjunction with rules to stop alerts being received at all. With the typical issue being that serious issues are missed due to over alerting I find this both refreshing and immensely useful and know a few people who would rip their arm off for this kind of functionality within a tool.

Additional useful functions include the ability to simulate outages to show what kind of impact to the business could be expected in the event of a outage and the one-click ‘Find Causes’ facility which shows all items and services that could be the cause of a failure. Both of these provide powerful automation and I imagine that current customers of the solution wonder how they ever managed without.

My impression of the solution is that it would be suitable for medium to large enterprise organisations of all levels of proactive problem management maturity.

General

User configuration possible for:

Forms

Tables

Workflows

Dashboards

  • Drag and drop workflow design
  • User defined dashboards
  • 188 out of the box reports available
  • Existing standard integrations with monitoring tools such as SAM and SCOM
  • Default forms and structure as basic starting point
  • Known errors and outages displayed on customer portal bulletin board
  • Easy linkage between Problems and other types of tickets (i.e. Incident)
  • Proactive solution suggestion as record details inputted
  • Implementation support available

Identification

vFire defines the difference between a reactive and proactive problem management record as:

  • Reactive – the manual creation of a problem record through a call or request being logged.
  • Proactive – the automatic creation, assignment and notification of a problem, created from either a defined criteria set and pattern recognition or generated from an external source if a problem is identified.

The Proactive Problem Management Module is underpinned by the Entity Based Relationship Model which creates on-the-fly custom queries via a dynamic sql query engine. This is polled by the Proactive Analysis service on a schedule configured as part of the analyse rule.

Proactive problems are identied on pre-defined, pattern based modelling via a simple wizard based interface. A rule to monitor either calls or requests can be automatically created when a criteria set is matched.

Criteria can include:

  • existing or new data
  • specific counts or percentage thresholds
  • attributes from calls, workflow, availability, CMDB and SLM

Selection Criteria can be as simple or complex as per business requirements using Boolean logic.

Any output from the proactive problem management module falls under the calls or workflow modules. This allows all functionality and usability of the calls and workflow modules available to entities created via the proactive problem management module, but can still be identified as an automatically generated problem and linked to entities that caused the problem’s creation

Assessment and Alerting

vFire calculates an objective risk assesment of the proactive problem by graphically displaying the CMDB architecture showing the linked CI and all affected, or partially affected CI’s and services allowing investigation by users and enabling problem managers to gauge the extent of the problem, the risk it poses and what immediate and medium term actions are required.

I was impressed that vFire goes a step further than some of the other visual assessment aids featured in this review by providing visibility of the end-to-end relationship of CIs and Services ensuring that the holistic impact of current outages can be viewed. The same mechanisms can also be used to simulate the impact if a planned outage is scheduled.

vFire is able to alert relevant users and resolver groups to a proactive problem at any point in the Problem Lifecycle, (create/edit, resolve, close) via the configuration of rules within the solution with similar mechanisms in place to manually add/remove users or groups at any point in the problem lifecycle.

Implementation  

vFire provides the ability to link records to each other with one click. The solution enables the parent record to cascade updates such as status changes to all linked child records.

Attachments can be added to Problem records and stored as a linked object of the Problem record. There is no limitation to the attachment file type.

The status, or any attribute of a Problem can be set when it is initially logged and then falls under standard calls functionality where call status (e.g. open, in progress, resolved, closed) can be selected at any point in the Problem’s lifecycle.

Availability of CIs and Services associated with a Problem record can have their availability tracked. This includes any scheduled downtime, the targeted availability of the CI or Service, any planned or unplanned outages and the overall performance of the CI or Service against targeted metrics. Failure management is essential for any reliable operation and I believe that vFire have provided good capabilities for doing so.

Auditing and Accountability

vFire has a number of escalation levels prior to a SLA breach occuring. These are displayed graphically on the call, i.e. red for breach, and on each escalation and recipients can be configured to receive a breach notification. Recipients can be a user, a group or another stakeholder.

The solution contains the ability to suggest Knowledge Base articles and Known Error information that may relate to a proactive problem record via the Service Window which is available in all call windows. This provides real-time calculations based on the calls information and looks for similar records.

A matching matrix is provided which will show potentially matched items based on a number of criteria such as the linked CI or Service.

All Problem report data is retained in the database once resolved or closed

In Summary

vFire provides very good functionality for users with all levels of proactive problem management maturity.

vFire provides more automation than most of the other solutions reviewed and goes the extra mile with regard to fault finding and diagnosis via it’s graphical interface. I believe that this solution would be a good option for most medium to large enterprise organisations.

In Their Own Words:

vFire is an Enterprise level IT Service Management Software tool made by Alemba. As the successor to VMware’s Service Manager product (formerly infraEnterprise), Alemba’s vFire has inherited over 20 years of industry knowledge and offers a truly innovative User Interface that puts customer experience front and centre.

vFire offers support for implementing and delivering ITIL best practices. vFire provides out-of-the-box ITIL functionality for all major ITIL processes including: Incident, Request Fulfilment, Problem, Service Level, Knowledge, Change, Release & Deployment, Service Configuration & Asset, Service Catalog and Availability Management.

Key features:

  • Mould the system to your own requirements with flexible configuration options and a powerful screen designer.
  • Easily deploy an integrated, actionable Service Catalog that aligns IT activities to business services.
  • Publicize Service expectations and reduce the impact of service outages on business operations.
  • Effortlessly discover and map inter-dependencies between infrastructure components, applications, and business services, across both physical and virtual environments through Federated CMDB connectors.
  • Monitor and report performance against Service Level Agreements and Service Availability targets, to demonstrate the value IT provides to the business leveraging third party event management tools.
  • Easily model and automate your organization’s business processes in a powerful workflow builder which can be used to automate any IT or non-IT processes.
  • Ensure processes are carried out in a consistent, best practice manner that adhere to audit and compliance requirements.
  • Ensure that ITIL processes implemented are tailored to meet your site specific needs

Screenshots

Industry News Roundup inc The New Sheriff of the Web

News and Info Week 4No time to read all the interesting news and info floating around social media and appearing in your inbox? Read our round up of what we’ve found interesting this week.

  • Print Everything.Matt Beran (officially the most fidgety man in ITSM), Matt Hooper and Mark Kawasaki talk productivity tools, podcasts and print services. Watch here
  • First NHS IT Service Desk In England To Secure 3-star Accreditation – Informatics Merseyside has become the first NHS service desk in England to be accredited with 3-star certification from the Service Desk Institute (SDI) Read more here
  • Is The BIS Growth Accelerator Scheme Worthwhile For Technology Startups? Caroline Baldwin reports on why few technology companies are taking advantage of the additional financial and growth support available. Read more here
  • Do You Have A Service Management “House Plan”? Matt Hooper explains why one process at a time isn’t going to cut it. Read more here
  • Problem Management – The Value In Not KnowingRyan Ogilvie celebrates the opportunity of unrealized value. Read more here
  • FBI Warns: Criminals Could Walk Free If Tech Companies Encrypt User Data – As tech companies try to outdo one another in the battle to address user privacy concerns, the FBI is warning that new encryption methods might hinder investigations. Read more here
  • Should I Upgrade to Mac OS X Yosemite? – Golden delicious or bad apple? Read more here
  • How Microsoft Appointed Itself Sheriff Of The Internet – Cyber criminals, digital crime fighters and collateral damage. Read more here

Got some interesting news to share – say hello via @gobbymidget 

Image Credit

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.

image001

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.

image004

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.

Podcast Episode 2: 'Hot tables' at SITS, ITSM Industry News, CSI and Barclay in his onesie?

ManageEngine
Thanks to our friends at ManageEngine for sponsoring this podcast.

Episode 2 of The ITSM Review Podcast!

Hosted by Barclay Rae and Rebecca Beach.

Special Guest: Stuart Rance from Optimal Service Management

ITSM Industry News

CSI

  • Most problem management is CSI
  • CSI – source of the biggest ROI
  • Metrics for change management, Real meaningful metrics for CSI
  • Stuart Rance – Balanced Scorecard Approach
  • 1. What does it look like for the customer?
  • 2. How well are my internal processes running?
  • 3. What do the finances look like?
  • 4. What am I doing to learn and improve?
  • Taking Service Forward

Our next Podcast is scheduled to be recorded at SITS14.

If you have industry news to share ahead of our next podcast please give me a shout.

Thanks to our friends at ManageEngine for sponsoring this podcast.

ITAM Review and ITSM Review Feeds

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:

Untitled1

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: Proactive Problem Management Product Review

In August of this year, we will be kicking off our product review dedicated to “Proactive Problem Management”, the use of ITSM technology that enables organizations to practice proactive or pre-emptive problem management.

Which vendor will win when it comes to proactive problem management?
Which vendor will win when it comes to proactive problem management?

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: Outside IT.

Assessment Criteria 

This review will support prospective buyers with their selection process by providing features to consider when selecting ITSM systems and highlighting key competitive differentiators between suppliers.

Proactive Problem Management – if problem management is concerned with addressing the root cause of incidents, then proactive problem management is the systems and techniques to address these incidents before they occur and cause service disruption, or reduce or eliminate recurring incidents.

This review looks at the technology to assist organizations take a proactive step towards managing incidents and problems and explore problems before they results in incidents.

A problem is a problem, whether it has caused an incident yet or not” – Rob England, “Proactive Problem Management

Main Topic Areas

  • Managing the lifecycle of problems
  • Identifying problems
  • Solving problems, root causes and problem solving methodologies
  • Known errors / managing work in progress / CSI
  • Integrations, monitoring and triggers

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 “Proactive Problem Management” product review should contact us directly. We also welcome feedback from readers on their experience with their use of ITSM tools and proactive problem management (although this feedback will not directly impact the review).

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