Transforming the User Experience

4813041825_072902db4e_zWe often hear that we need to do more to transform the ‘experience’ of our IT Customers. Transforming what? Why do we need to do this?

Well because so many IT customers and users complain about the quality and level of communications and feedback when dealing with IT departments. This can vary from simply being too slow to respond, or slow to run projects, being negative or resistant to change, (the department that likes to say no). Also there is the need to keep up with new technologies and it seems that our internal IT departments can’t keep up. In the past IT users didn’t have anything to compare this ‘experience’ with, but now everyone buys IT in some way and this has (justifiably) raised much higher expectations.

Here’s some points I regularly find mentioned by IT Customers and business people about their IT departments

 

  • Not easy to ‘do business with’
  • Too much senior focus on technical detail and components
  • Defensive, over protective ‘old IT’ approach
  • Lack of relationship – need to get out and talk/listen more
  • Poor communications across  management and teams
  • Lack of valuable Management Information – or clear targets/service criteria to measure
  • Clunky horrible old tools that we are expected to use

 

For me the case for transformation is absolutely clear and there is right now a great opportunity to do this and win back hearts and minds around the skills and value of IT. We can change from the ‘blocker’ to be the enabler and the solution provider, simply by

 

  1. Realising we can’t do everything ourselves – so we need to use more automation and shared sourcing to free up our time and resources
  2. Using freed up time to focus on customer and business priorities
  3. Using new tools and innovations to improve the experience of dealing with IT – and beyond

 

We can’t keep up with all the latest trends and new tech, particularly if we are constantly firefighting and chasing our tails with inefficient processes and tools. There are areas that can be automated like request management and provisioning, password maintenance, procurement and standard implementation that can free up significant technical resources. In addition its no longer acceptable to get users to use old menu based and confusing, non-user friendly portal and tools – particularly if this is sold as being ‘progress’. Its vital to get colleagues and customers on board by offering a seamless and enjoyable experience when ordering kit or requesting new services – and the tools on offer really can help here.

If we also accept that we probably need to use some sort of shared sourcing model, then there is emerging experience and expertise in this areas – SIAM or Service Integration and Management provides the opportunity to really think through end-to-end service delivery and the associated supply and value-chain activities required. In the past it was too easy to simply outsource a problem, or an area that apparently wasn’t adding value –like a service desk. However it’s important to understand firstly the supply chain (i.e. what is done to deliver a service) and then the value chain (where the areas of value, cost and efficiency lie in this chain) – in order to identify what needs to be kept in-house and what can be outsourced, and still meet business objectives.

All of this requires IT organisations to get out and talk/listen to their customers, as well as building a clear model and understating of what they deliver and how it provides value – so service design and catalogue are key elements. However the real point is the need to first engage then deliver what is really needed by your customers. Sometimes this requires a first step of appreciating and accepting what the current ‘experience’ is like. It’s a good idea to try and use your own services and then listen to those that have to do this regularly – for feedback.

Overall we need to be able to ‘walk in our customer shoes’ and use this as input to drive the best possible experience when dealing with us. It’s easy to talk about doing this but a harder job actually getting out and doing it and also translating the feedback into something truly transformational and enjoyable for customers, and not just another IT-driven tool that is there to serve the IT departments way of working.  So, in order to transform the User Experience, we also need to transform the way that IT works and does business.

Ultimately we can use this approach to develop our service mantra beyond IT – and many are doing this, using portal and request management tools as a starting point to implement single tools and process across a number of internal and external departments – HR, Finance and marketing. As such many forward thinking IT organisations have managed to transform themselves as part of this into clear ‘value providers’ , rather than the guys who like to say ‘no.

 

So let’s say ‘YES’ to transformation – both the User/Customer experience and of course ourselves…

 


 

ITSM Review Transforming User Experience event – how can we help?

The event will focus on the underlying issues, opportunities and solutions available to help you make your transformation. The day will include expert guidance including output from recent ITSM review studies and the current ‘Self Service’ Review.

ITSM Vendors will be on hand to show how their solutions have been used in new and innovative ways to help their IT customers achieve success and value together with a selection of workshops facilitated by a mix of industry peers, practitioners, consultants and vendors to discuss and map out practical strategies to help make your transformation a success.

Click here for more information!

 

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ITSM14 Preview: Karen Brusch and Managing Multiple Suppliers from an SLM Perspective

Karen Brusch of Nationwide Building Society and itSMF UK
Karen Brusch of Nationwide Building Society and itSMF UK

In the run up this year’s itSMF UK conference, ITSM14, I chatted with Karen Brusch of Nationwide Building Society and itSMF UK about her upcoming session entitled “Managing Multiple Suppliers from an SLM Perspective”.

Q. Hi Karen, can you give a quick intro to your session at the itSMF UK Conference?

The itSMF UK Service Level Management SIG has always been keen to research and present topics that are identified as problem areas by practitioners in the industry. Supplier Management and how that impacts Service Level Management has been an area of discussion which has gained momentum over the last 18 months. This session takes a look at some key points around the complexities of managing multiple suppliers.

Q. What impact does managing multiple suppliers have on an organisation?

The most obvious impact is the failure to deliver what an organisation’s business needs. It is hard enough to understand and document business requirements when you have one supplier; but when you have a multitude of suppliers, there is a real risk that requirements become diluted, compromised, or more crucially missed. Managing multiple suppliers is a black art, where what works for one set of suppliers will not necessarily work for another; so each combination requires a modified approach. Service Integration specialists (SIAM) have helped to shape some answers, but even here, flexibility is the key. So any organisation embarking on a multi-vendor strategy has to have the knowledge, capability and determination to succeed.

Q. Where should organisations start with managing multiple suppliers?

The most important thing is to understand your business’ end game; where do they want to be in 5 years’ time, for example. Once you have this information you can begin to formulate supporting IT strategies and requirements. Too many organisation write their Invitations to Tender (ITTs) and Request for Proposals (RFPs) without understanding business strategy

Q. What are likely to be the potential pitfalls and/or benefits an organisation may experience with implementing a framework for managing multiple suppliers?

An organisation will derive real benefit for taking the time to develop an appropriate governance framework for the selected preferred suppliers. As I’ve said already, each combination requires a modified approach, so it really pays to invest some time in this activity. The fundamental pitfall that I’ve seen on many occasion is that organisations select the cheapest provider for each area/tower of service, not taking into consideration the overall impact and integration issues. It goes back to having people with the knowledge, capability an determination to succeed.


Karen is an ITIL Expert, recognised as a member of the itSMF UK Expert Faculty, and a Service Design specialist with 12 years’ experience. She chaired the itSMF UK Service Level Management Special Interest Group for several years, and has recently stepped down from this role to support the newly formed Service Design SIG. When not engaged in itSMF activities, she works for Nationwide Building Society as a Service Design Consultant.

medium ITSM14 banner aug 14

Karen’s session is on day two and featured within the Managing Complexity track. To find out more or to book your conference place please visit itSMF UK

Follow Karen on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

Technology Review: EasyVista

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

  • EasyVista ServiceManager
  • EasyVista Service-Apps
  • EasyVista Click2Get

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

At a glance

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

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

Summary of Key Findings

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

Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Languages available:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Key Capabilities

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

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

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

Key functions observed:

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

Problem Management – as above, plus integrated reporting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go-to-market Strategy

EasyVista’s sweet spot target clients:

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

Regional focus:

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

Channel Focus:

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

Features delivered as part of the standard offering:

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

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

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

Licensing and Payments:

  • On premise = Concurrent
  • SaaS = Named or Concurrent

Range of project values for a typical installation:

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

Annual maintenance and support cost:

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

Key Reference Customers

OTD

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

Domtar

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

Expro

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

Case studies available from these customers.

Geographical Coverage

Direct Presence Geographical area:

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

Vendor Profile – In their own words

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

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

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

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

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

All codeless, and all joined up.”

Screenshots

Further resources

Contact details

www.easyvista.com

Phone: +1 (888) EZV ITSM

 

EASYVISTA

Summary

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

Disclaimer, Scope and Limitations

The information contained in this review is based on sources and information believed to be accurate as of the time it was created.  Therefore, the completeness and current accuracy of the information provided cannot be guaranteed.  Readers should therefore use the contents of this review as a general guideline, and not as the ultimate source of truth.

Similarly, this review is not based on rigorous and exhaustive technical study.  The ITSM Review recommends that readers complete a thorough live evaluation before investing in technology.

This is a paid review, that is, the vendors included in this review paid to participate in exchange for all results and analysis being published free of charge, without registration.

For further information, please read our Disclosure page.

Stop Blaming Release Management!

When releases fail, we often point a finger at the release manager, expecting that person to make the necessary corrections to prevent similar failures in the future.  In doing so, we miss the real target – the service delivery flow.  This flow, with its many inputs, is in disarray in most organizations and the solution seems daunting.  This article proposes that there is a simple, inexpensive, and self-healing approach to improving the flow of service modification.

When a Release Goes Bad

The scene is too familiar.  The service desk, on the verge of panic, is swamped with increasingly irate calls.  The boss is on a bridge line with a host of managers and technicians trying to restore order.  The business units, demanding action, are banging on the CIO’s door and the echoes reverberate throughout IT.

Last night, IT distributed a major release of a critical business application.  Today, users are converging on IT with torches and pitchforks.  The business application update had an enormous impact on productivity and revenue.  The impact continues as the business owner demands that the changes be “backed out” – a request that IT finds exasperatingly difficult to satisfy.

When the dust settles, it is not uncommon to see root cause analysis identify the numerous mistakes made in the “release”.  The list might include:

Table1
Common Issues and Likely Culprits

Who is to blame?  Release management?  Of the 11 mistakes listed, 9 belong to groups outside release management.  Yet, in many cases, release management will still take the heat.  The purpose of this article is not so much to absolve release management but rather to bring understanding to the larger service lifecycle in hopes that the readers can address the true causes of release failures.

Know the River

Release and deployment management is just one part of a much larger lifecycle.  Think of it as a port along a river.  A business service starts out as an empty barge on the business dock.  In ITIL terms, the manager of that dock, Business requirements management (BRM), loads the barge with service requirements.  In the diagram, this is the “Identify” stage.

Service Flow - Stages, Participants, Output
Service Flow – Stages, Participants, Output

The barge makes a number of stops on its way down the river.  Along the way, the manifest of the barge is equivalent to the seldom referenced (but, in some form, always present) service design package of ITIL.

When the barge, stacked with cargo, finally pulls into the release and deployment dock, the only issue should be how to transport the contents of the barge effectively and safely to the appropriate recipients.  One could think of release and deployment as a trucking company.  The truckers did not design or build the cargo.  Nor are they to blame if the item in the package performs poorly.

I recently ordered a manual online.  The package arrived in the expected time frame and was intact.  As I read the manual, I noticed that an entire section was missing.  Should I blame the trucking company?  Of course not.  Likewise, we should not hold the release management responsible for defects over which it has (by design and best practice) no control.

The following table might help to identify the “river ports” where the service barge might be picking up sub-standard cargo.

Service Lifecycle River
Service Lifecycle River

Look Upstream

In order to effectively manage and improve the delivery of a release, we need to focus on three major points:

  • Transition review
  • Service delivery package
  • Project charter
Feeding the Transition Review
Feeding the Transition Review

Transition Review

The objective of the transition review (post implementation review) is simple: Learn from your mistakes.  When an organization first commits to regular PIRs, they may be a bit disorganized.  As inputs and outputs become better defined, so will the overall process.   The transition review is the spawning ground for improvement of this lifecycle.

Service Design Package

Although few enterprises seem to understand the concept of the SDP, it is, in my opinion, a brilliant addition to ITIL v3 2011.  When organizations address the output of Transition Reviews, they inevitably make adjustments to the SDP because it is the mechanism for improving consistency, governance, and effectiveness for the service modification lifecycle.

Project Charter

In most shops, the service modification lifecycle begins around a table of senior managers.  The beginning of a project needs to be less about hierarchy and more about process because this is not a hand-off; this is a flow.  Four players are critical to the project charter.

  • Business relationship manager – understands business requirements.
  • Service portfolio manager – understands the pipeline and service catalog.
  • Service level manager – understands issues that might impact service levels and process.
  • IT architecture – understands the importance of a consistent framework.
Deming's PDCA Organic Flow
Deming’s PDCA Organic Flow

With these, the organization understands business requirements, process, and infrastructure within the context of service delivery.

Completing the Circle

With the project charter, service design package, and Transition Review, we have completed the deming circle (Plan, Do, Check, Act).

Most shops fall short in planning and checking because these activities are poorly governed and too loosely integrated into the overall flow.  As Yoda would say, “Without plan, no do; without check, no act.”

Start Small but Start Smart

When a release fails (especially when it fails in a spectacular way), the fault generally lies in the process.  If, as I assume, this is common knowledge, why do these broken processes persist?  Because most enterprises perceive that process optimization costs too much money, takes too much time and does not meet more immediate business objectives.This reticence is understandable given the typical consulting approach.  A consulting firm will probably suggest starting with a comprehensive assessment that forms the basis for a massive proposal that drains resources from business-critical initiatives.

Instead, insist that any partner (consultancy) starts simply.

Enable the Flow to Manage the Activities

The degree to which this lifecycle is managed is inversely proportional to the likelihood of failure.  The simplest way to manage a lifecycle is shown above in the Deming diagram.  The idea is to implement the organic lifecycle flow and let the flow improve the subordinate activities.To accomplish this, we need to implement the flow with the associated roles.

Step 1 – Establish and Empower the BRM Role

The business relationship manager role usually exists in some tainted form.  We need to plug this role into the organic flow.  This role seeks to understand the needs of the business but, just as important, collaborates on those requirements throughout the service lifecycle.  As mentioned above, the BRM is critical to project initiation.

Step 2 – Establish and Empower the Enterprise Design Coordinator Role

The enterprise design coordinator is really the key to success.  There are three main tasks for this role.  Aside from coordinating design and build activities at a high level (not an application development manager), this role also a) ensures that the input from the BRM is adequate and b) ensures that the service design package is complete and accurate.

Step 3 – Establish Policies and Procedures for Transition Review

The release manager (hopefully already in place) will collaborate with the BRM, design coordinator and stakeholders to create policies and procedures for transition review.  The guiding principle for transition review should be that it examines service transition output (incidents, issue logs, metrics) to identify opportunities for process improvement.

Step 4 – Establish SIP Procedures

The output from the transition review will sometimes include a service improvement plan.  The organization needs a standardized procedure for initiating and implementing an SIP.

Step 5 – Do it and Keep Doing it

We have created the organic flow.  We only need to execute it.  Each SIP will improve the effectiveness of the service modification lifecycle.

Note on Change Management

Change management, from an enterprise perspective, plays a significant role in controlling the flow of the service lifecycle.  Most organizations perceive change management from an operational rather than an enterprise perspective – an outgrowth of legacy implementations of IT change requests.  This narrow focus deprives the organization of the true power of this governance process.  I would have enjoyed weaving into this article the benefits that a cohesive and integrated change management process could provide but it deserves a separate piece.

Conclusion

Release and deployment relies, for its success, on a number of upstream processes.  Business relationship management and design coordination, both new to ITIL v3 2011, are key to managing the upstream service lifecycle.  Though they may seem unfamiliar, everyone has implemented these processes to some degree but few have implemented them effectively.  This oversight poses a risk because any enterprise that does not consistently manage the entire lifecycle does not control the operational outcome.  In other words, every release is a roll of the dice.

Feeling lucky?

Service Catalogue 2013 Group Test – The Results

This is a review of software products and vendors in the ‘Service Catalogue’ market area.

This is a complex and varied market place and consideration should be given to the Market Overview section.


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Service Catalogue 2013 Best in Class: Axios Systems
Service Catalogue 2013 Best in Class: Axios Systems

Service Catalogue 2013 Best in Class

  • Axios – scalable to big customized projects as well as nice UI for OOTB implementations. Strategic ITSM focus.

Of the other products reviewed, these areas were of particular note:

Best for MSPs and Small/Medium Organizations: 

Best for Enterprise Organizations:

  • ServiceNow – particularly for large implementations where customization is expected. Good product and corporate fit

Service Catalogue Market Overview

By Barclay Rae

Service Catalogue Approach

large ‘Service Catalogue’ market is a niche sub-set of the IT Service Management (ITSM) Software market, which has seen considerable interest and growth in recent years.

Whilst ‘Service Catalogue” can be given a clear definition, the term can be and often is used to cover a number of functional and strategic approaches that stretch from fairly low-level request fulfilment to strategic Service Design and Strategy.

This approach varies because there are several different components that can be described as ‘Service Catalogue” – from ‘front-end’ portal to ‘back-end’ workflow and high-level business views of services. There are also potentially a number of different inputs and outputs – and types of document – that can be described as part of the ‘Service Catalogue’.

This reflects the developing nature of how the industry has defined and understood what a ‘Service Catalogue’ is, which has led to some fundamental differences and interpretations of how to make this work and what the expectations are from implementation.

In a nutshell the 2 main different approaches are:

Strategic/Top Down

This is where the organisation takes a strategic view of all IT services – including the business services (applications/departmental services, external customer services). Usually this will lead to a definition of an overall service structure of Core IT Services (PCs, Phones, email etc.) and Business Services (departments, business processes, applications).

This can then drive service reporting and service differentiation and is a long-term strategic approach to ‘service’ management and value demonstration. Request fulfilment follows out of this process, once the overall structure has been defined.

Technical/Bottom Up

This tends to be started by technical teams to ‘discover’ services, solve specific configuration management and integration problems and provide a practical user interface for consumption of core services and request fulfilment.

Both approaches are viable and necessary at some point to lead to a successful implementation:

Top Down is useful to ensure that the whole IT organisation is on board and that the wider goals and expectations are defined as part of a customer engagement process. Visualisation is useful for all parties to have a tangible view of the overall goals for IT.

Bottom Up can be a good tactical approach to get moving quickly. Request Management automation usually provides efficiency benefits and can significantly improve service quality to customers. The strategic view will need to be defined at some point so should be considered whenever (and as soon as) possible.

For the purposes of this review both of the above approaches have been considered and the overall key elements for tools defined as follows:

  • General – user friendly and with proven integrations to other tools
  • Service Design – the ability to create a database of service records, containing a number of business and technical attributes, processes and workflows
  • Service Structure – the ability to organise and structure these services into a hierarchy of services and service offerings – ideally in a graphical format
  • User Request Portal – a user friendly portal with an intuitive interface to request and track services
  • Request Fulfilment – request management workflow and functionality that can be easily used and configured by system users
  • SLA and Event Management – the ability to define SLAs that can be linked via Event Management to other ITSM processes
  • Demand Management – the ability to provide real-time allocation and monitoring of service consumption, with e.g. financial calculations
  • Dashboard – real-time user-friendly graphical monitoring and analysis of usage, trends and metrics across services and to various stakeholders
  • Service Reporting – the ability to present output that summarises individual and ‘bundled’ service performance, consumption, SLA and event performance – in user-friendly, portable and graphical format

See the full list of criteria here

Approach to Implementation

Organisations and their practitioners who are considering buying and implementing Service Catalogue technology should consider the following:

  • As there are a number of potential applications and objectives for Service Catalogue, these must be clearly defined and agreed in advance. This shouldn’t be embarked upon because it is the ‘flavour of the month’ or it ‘looks like a good thing to do’.

Key benefits that can be derived:

    • Improved professionalism and quality of service experience to customers
    • Value demonstration of IT through business and service based reporting
    • Clarity around service differentiation and value – e.g. commodity versus quality, value-add, time to market
    • Improved cost efficiency of request management and administration
    • Improved quality and speed of service for request management and administration
    • Greater visibility of IT costs and service level performance
    • Improvement in Service Desk performance via better central access to information
  • It is vital that all participants not only understand the expected benefits and objectives, but are also clear on the taxonomy of Service Level Management. This saves considerable time during projects, due to the fact that there are often many misconceptions and variances in understanding around basic concepts like SLAs, Service Catalogue etc. Time spent on some explanations and clarification of definitions is time well spent.
  • The big mistake that orgnaisations still make is to try to do Service Level Management (Portfolio Management, Request Management, SLAs and Service Catalogue…) all without engaging with their customers and supported businesses. The process requires engagement (service definition, performance discussion, objective setting, feedback on the customer experience etc.) as a major input to this process. This provides business validation as well as improving the relationship and demonstration of understanding between parties. It also vitally provides clear goals in terms of service provision and performance reporting. Without this the process can completely miss out on customer requirements and expectation, and so is wasteful, arrogant and bad PR.
  • Organisations should define their services in a simple structure – ideally that can be visualised and shown on 1 page or 1 slide for clarity. This can be done in a workshop, where key people are brought together to work through the concepts and definitions (this can begin with some education) and then use this to define the service structure for that organisation. There are always ‘learning curves’ to be overcome (e.g. the distinction between ‘systems’ and ’services’) – however if this is done in a workshop then this build momentum and consensus.
  • The Service Structure is a vital element as it provides the visual key to this process and also then the framework for a repository of information on each service. From this the project can start to create other outputs, documentation and service views as required from the project goals.
  •  Getting started and moving is a vital element to avoid long term prevarication and too much theorising. A lot can be achieved relatively quickly with some workshops and brief customer meetings. It’s essential to produce a simple representation of the service structure that helps to visualise the process for all involved and give them a consistent view of what is being delivered and defined. All this can be done within a few days and weeks based around workshops and a clear set of objectives.
  • Ultimately this is a business-focussed process so it’s important to have people with business and communications skills to work on the project. Technical details and understanding will be needed but should not be the starting point, which tends to be what happens if this is given to technically-focussed people.

Market Products

Products in this area fall into 2 main categories:

  • Existing ITSM Toolsets with Service Catalogue functionality
  • Specific Tools with Service Catalogue and Request Management functionality

Existing ITSM Toolsets

These often will have either modular or intrinsic functionality based around the ‘ITIL’ framework – Incident, Request, Problem and Change Management, plus Asset and Configuration Management and Service Level Management.

The Service Catalogue should be a valuable addition to this with a ‘service layer’ that can be added to the existing task and event management functions, as well as providing customer/user-friendly portals and ‘front-ends’ for requesting and tracking services.

Generally these products will be used by organisations to develop and to implement a ‘service strategy’ – as well as implementing request management – so these will generally follow a more ‘top down’ approach.

Ideally these will be able to leverage work already down defining existing ITSM processes and the Service Catalogue can then easily integrate with these. This is not always the case, as previous configuration structures may need to be revised to meet new Service Structure requirements.

Specific Service Catalogue Tools

These are newer, standalone systems that have come into the market in the last few years – initially as there was little functionality in this area in the existing ITSM tool market.

They will generally follow a more technical ‘bottom up’ approach that provides faster and more agile implementations. So they can deliver high quality user interfaces, discovery and request management workflow in short timeframes and deliver fast Return on Investment (ROI)/Time to Value (TTV) around the automation of a number of manual processes that speed up the customer experience.

Challenges can include how to reverse-engineer these systems for a strategic service structure once in operation, plus the need to integrate with a variety of other tools, including the existing ITSM solution.

These tools all have some level of basic Help-desk/Incident Management and support processes – the level to which these can either be used or integrated depends on the requirements and maturity of the existing systems (and organisations)

Market Observations

  • ‘Service Catalogue’ is a term that can encompass a number of areas – request management, user portal, service strategy and design, SLAs, portfolio management, service reporting, customer, business and technical views. There is no single product or view that is definitive and products that focus on one area only will require some technical and process integration.
  • In key areas of request management, portals and workflow, reporting and SLAs, most products offer very similar functionality. Variations exist in the development of Demand Management, strategic Service Design and Service Visualisation.
  • In particular vendors can be differentiated by their approach – strategic and technical, but also the level to which they can offer support and value added services to help with implementation. This is still a relatively new area and few practitioners and/or organisations have broad experience or even clear requirements for how to make this work – vendor support and guidance is a key asset and differentiator.
  • Implementation support should also be in the form of template and standard configurable data – i.e. to provide sample service ‘bundles’, workflows, reports, dashboards and in general as much practical guidance as possible.
  • Whilst implementation approach and product focus are the key differentiators – i.e. strategic vs technical Bottom Up / Top Down – a key strength is also the ability to show a clear path that encompasses both approaches.
  • Integration experience and proven capability is a key capability (more than just a differentiator) – this will always be required to some extent:
  • For ‘Service Catalogue Specific’ vendors this is essential to get their product working with a variety of monitoring, asset and event management tools, as well as interfacing with other ITSM systems. Usually they will offer a number of existing APIs and proven links as part of their approach. These tools are useful for standalone Service Catalogue implementation at mid-market level and can also be found sold into enterprise organisations at the technical and integration level.
  • For ‘Existing ITSM Vendors’ they will lead on the seamless integration with their own tools. This is a good pitch for their existing customers but a dilemma for the wider market, i.e. whether to buy a standalone Service Catalogue product (from one ITSM Vendor) separately from a new or existing ITSM product from another ITSM vendor. Many of these vendors will have already created links to other systems via their multi-source and managed services clients.
  • In all aspects of this area, consideration should be given to the customer experience in using these systems and the interaction with IT organisations, particularly in terms of how SLAs and service delivery expectations are set.
  • These toolsets can help to improve service quality and experience, as well as improving the value demonstration of IT. However this will not simply be delivered by tool implementation alone and care is required where systems and vendors promise this without some significant process and organisational change.
  • Overall the market has developed significantly in the last 2/3 years although most vendors are still developing their approach to financial and demand management. Some of this functionality is available across the market but generally only as reports and with some development rather than as an integral feature for dynamic business use.  

Market Positioning and Approach

Vendor

Mid-Market

Enterprise

 

Top Down

 

Bottom Up

Axios

question

Matrix42

question

Biomni

question

ServiceNow

question

    – Definitely

question    – Possibly

Top Down / Bottom up?

Vendor

 

Top Down

 

Bottom Up

Axios

  • Approach geared to Business and Tech services
  • Good UI with visualisation of services and structure

question

  • Vendor and product can start from discovery approach
  • Unlikely to be sold as SC only bottom up product

Matrix42

  • Little product or vendor focus Business or Top Down approach
  • May not be relevant for some clients – e.g. MSPs

  • Product and vendor geared to discovery approach
  • Excellent tool for fast implementation of Request and self service for IT products

Biomni

  • Little product or vendor focus on Business or Top Down approach
  • Commercial approach helps for quick start and visualisation

  • Product and vendor geared to discovery approach
  • Excellent tool for fast implementation of Request and self service for IT products

ServiceNow

  • Approach geared to Business and Tech services
  • Good strategic focus in dashboards and Demand Management functions

  • Can start from discovery approach
  • Sales focus on enterprise with Business and Tech capability

    – Definitely

question   – Possibly

Competitive Overview

Vendor

Overview

Strengths

Weaknesses

Axios

  • High-end option for Medium – Enterprise
  • Simple intuitive UI/OOTB
  • Seamless integration with assyst ITSM processes
  • UI
  • Strategic approach
  • Vendor capability
  • Not geared up for standalone SC implementation
  • May be overkill for technical or small implementations

Matrix42

  • Strong request and Catalogue functionality – technical focus
  • Good option for Tech-only implementations (e.g. MSPs)
  • Good Request and Catalogue functionality
  • Speed of implementation – doesn’t need other ITSM processes
  • Service Now integration
  • Lack of US/UK coverage
  • Approach – little strategic implementation focus
  • Functionality gaps

Biomni

  • Good functionality
  • Nice commercial approach
  • Good option for Tech-only implementations (e.g. MSPs)
  • Good intuitive functionality, commercial approach
  • Speed of implementation – doesn’t need other ITSM processes
  • Little Strategic implementation focus
  • Functionality gaps

Service Now

  • High end functionality, enterprise focus
  • Strong corporate backing and growth
  • Extensive functionality
  • Best Demand dashboard functions
  • Flexibility of product
  • UI busy and complicated
  • Flexibility of product
  • Organisation geared towards enterprise clients
  • Needs usability configuration/customisation

Product Deep Dive

Follow the links for a deep dive review of Service Catalogue features:

Further Reading


DISCLAIMER, SCOPE & LIMITATIONS

The information contained in this review is based on sources and information believed to be accurate as of the time it was created. Therefore, the completeness and current accuracy of the information provided cannot be guaranteed. Readers should therefore use the contents of this review as a general guideline and not as the ultimate source of truth.

Similarly, this review is not based on rigorous and exhaustive technical study. The ITSM Review recommends that readers complete a thorough live evaluation before investing in technology.

This is a paid review. That is, the vendors included in this review paid to participate in exchange for all results and analysis being published free of charge without registration. For further information please read the ‘Group Tests’ section on our Disclosure page.