Nottingham based company Retail Assist, has won the globally recognised ‘Best Managed Service Desk’ Award at the Service Desk Institute’s (SDI) Annual IT Service and Support Awards. If you’ve not heard of Retail Assist before, they provide managed services for the retail sector and some of the brands they support are Pizza Hut, Vue Cinemas, Cath Kidston, Karen Millen, White Stuff and Oasis.
The Service Desk Institute Awards
The SDI annual Awards identify the excellence of outstanding service desk teams and individuals, and celebrates their success.
After reaching the Final 3 last year, Retail Assist was keen to re-enter with a host of fresh innovations to its service desk provision. ‘Best Managed Service Desk’ was a tough category – in the Final 3 were SCC based in Romania, and Maersk Group headquartered in Denmark. However, Retail Assist impressed the judges with the level of investment demonstrated in their Help Desk, and focus on the customer; providing a proactive, quality service to enable them to reach their goals.
Dan Smith, CEO of Retail Assist, commented on the achievement:
“We are extremely proud to have won the award, and to claim the title as the World’s ‘Best Managed Service Desk’. We have progressed significantly over the last 17 years to support many of the leading retail and hospitality brands, but this really gives the team the recognition they deserve for all their hard work and dedication to providing the best possible service to over 8000 global locations around the clock.”
The Retail Assist Help Desk team enjoyed an impressive gala dinner event, receiving the award along with winners in each of the awards categories, at a prestigious awards ceremony at the Birmingham Hilton Metropole last night. The £1000 prize for winning the award will be donated to Emmanuel House, Retail Assist’s chosen charity for the financial year.
I caught up with Dan this week to find out more about Retail Assist and how much the win meant to his team. The Retail Assist Service Desk provides IT support services to 8,000 locations across the globe 24 x 7 x 365 in 8 different languages – that’s a lot of tech support! The Service Desk is made up of 50 – 55 analysts with over 3,000 procedures to ensure that all the essentials are covered and that the team always have something to refer to.
From speaking to Dan it was clear that a fantastic customer experience was the objective of every single person in the team. As Dan explained it; the Service Desk had two main objectives:
Fix the issue quickly and effectively (no nightmare automated menu systems for RA customers; it takes just 40 seconds from calling their number to connect with a Service Desk analyst)
Look after the customer so that even if the Incident can’t be resolved at first line; the customer has a workaround, information or an escalation to second line support and is in a much happier position.
So often in the Service Desk world we get so hung up on measurements, metrics and statistics that we forget about what’s important – the customer – so it’s brilliant to see Retail Assist putting the customer at the heart of everything they do. The attention to detail is fantastic, RA will work with their customers to provide proactive support as well as world class Incident Management.
One of the examples Dan shared with me was that when the latest Star Wars film came out (seriously – how awesome was The Force Awakens? All three of my children sat through it, completely entranced from beginning to end – even my 3 year old which is nothing short of a miracle I can tell you) not only did the RA desk ensure that extra team members were on shift, they also made provided extra wrap around support for early in the morning and late at night, as well as working with Vue to ensure all tills were tested and fully operational prior to the premier date.
Another example Dan talked about was for a retail customer in central London. A fire at a local BT exchange effectively took out their card systems during the weekend. The RA analysts were able to remotely dial in and set a £50 floor limit to enable the customer to be able to take debit and credit card payments of up to £50 so they could continue to trade. As someone who worked in retail all the way through college (Hi Tesco & Easons!) being unable to take card payments at the weekend is the stuff of nightmares so all power to the Retail Assist guys for being able to come up with a workaround.
One of the things that really impressed me about the Retail Assist Service Desk was its commitment to it’s people. There are two permanent trainers on the team, there is an Application Academy for further reading and all team leaders go on the ITIL foundation training. The Service Desk supports career progression, some examples of next roles include second line support, project management and analyst programmers. The procedures and work instructions are there to support rather than limit the analysts who are encouraged to use their judgement and skill to look after each caller.
A big well done to the Retail Assist team for their win and fair play for donating their winnings to charity – you rock!
One of the ITIL processes that tends to be glossed over is Knowledge Management which is a shame because it’s the process that can empower your people the most. Used effectively, Knowledge Management can empower your people, reduce Incident resolution times and increase customer satisfaction.
So what is Knowledge Management?
Knowledge Management is the process responsible for sharing perspectives, ideas, experience and information, and for ensuring that these are available in the right place and at the right time. The Knowledge Management process enables informed decisions, and improves efficiency by reducing the need to rediscover knowledge.
In other words, Knowledge Management is the process that takes all the information rattling around in our heads and puts it into a database / management system where it can be captured, shared and backed up.
What are the benefits? Too many to count!
How about increased engagement and staff retention? Take it from someone who knows staff attrition can be a nightmare especially in a Service Desk environment. Anything that can be done to improve morale and self esteem will increase engagement and help with staff retention. This can be in the form of training, mentoring or shift left.
Improved first time fix rates and improved Incident resolution times. If your people have the right skills, they will be able to resolve Incidents more quickly reducing call waiting times, improving up time and increasing ability to meet agreed service levels.
Less failed Changes. If service information is captured correctly the Change can be impact assessed more accurately and your team will be less likely to miss things. You know those wash up meetings where a Change has broken something because of a really daft reason? The meetings where the Incident and Change Managers are trying to write to the business explaining said daft reason? It happens all the time. Off the top of my head I can remember a critical trade floor application being out of service for 8 hours because a time change wasn’t done correctly and the time the transactional website of a large retail back was down for over 2 hours because we forgot to restart a database as part of a planned Release. Both really daft things that caught us out because when we went back to look at our processes, they weren’t documented properly.
Easier to find the right information at the right time – no more faffing about trying to find that key how to guide – it will be saved and linked to in one central location. This is particularly important in big organisations where things can get lost or misplaced within massive intranets.
No more reinventing the wheel. Having a Knowledge Management process means that reusing ideas, processes and experience is so much easier – making our processes repeatable and accurate using models and templates.
Getting the message out – again it’s about getting it right first time – the right information to the right audience.The Knowledge Base can be a great way to communicate with our customers; think about it – if it’s the go to place for everyone to check in use it to communicate new services or maintenance windows.
Promoting accurate, repeatable processes procedures and work instructions – a standard way of working that stands up to audit and external review. If everything is templated in a central location with an agreed review process, your processes and procedures will be accurate, useful and have a consistent look and feel.
Making niche or specialised knowledge more widely available. When I worked in second line support for a tech company 15 years ago, I was fascinated with Lotus Notes. It used to really bug me that every time we had a user call in with a Notes issue we had to sanity check and then bounce the call to third line support, so one day I went to see the e-mail team and asked them if there were some basic things they could teach me. There may have been some beer related bribery involved but I got some solid experience supporting the application and was able to share with the rest of the team. Also – when the Notes guys were looking for guinea pigs to try out a new instant messaging product – guess who was first in line? Everyone was a winner!
Empowering your customers and taking their experience to the next level – Self service and self help. We live in the world of Google, Amazon and Facebook; no one wants to spend 10 – 15 minutes on the phone to the Service Desk if it’s something they can take care of themselves so let’s start building this into our Service Desk functions!
Struggling to know what level of empowerment to aim for?This is how I’d love every business customer to feel when using IT services.
Speed of delivery– you can react quicker if you’re lean, streamlined and organised. If you have effective Knowledge Management in place you can be quicker to market – no more faffing about for a key document. RFP response template or spreadsheet – they’re all stored in one place.
Continual Service Improvement or CSI – improve improve improve. Knowledge Management drives CSI – gathering Data and processing Wisdom (more about this soon) enables us to focus on the most business critical areas to improve. Keep getting better. As the saying goes- knowledge is power so use it to ensure quality is inherent in everything you do.
What’s not to love?
How do I get started?
Let’s start with the basics. I know ITIL suggests the SKMS but being realistic – not everyone can afford a tool which has been hyped up to be effectively Google. Also – there is no one size fits all; the Knowledge Management requirements of a global investment bank regulated to the hilt will be completely different to those of a tech startup made up of thirty people so flex your approach accordingly.
If you don’t have a tool can you start capturing the basics on a network share or simple SharePoint form?
Have a chat with the Service Desk. Chances are they’re already doing some sort of Knowledge Management even if it’s pretty informal. Look at the shift left principle; empowering those the next tech level down from you to drive efficiency. If you work on the Service Desk, invite the second line support guys to your team meetings once a month to give you trouble shooting tips. The first line support guys get to add to their skillset and second line support are freed up to concentrate on the more complex issues.
The main thing? Do something. Seriously – it’s that simple.
Anything you do will be better than not having anything in place. Start with the system that you know you’re on dodgy ground with support wise. Think about it – there’s always some quirky legacy system that depends on the expertise of one or two people. Having support rockstars is all well and good but what if they get sick or win the lotto and decide to relocate to Disneyworld? Ask them what their top ten support tips are and stick them in your Knowledge Base – even if it’s just a spreadsheet or word document. You’ve made a start in capturing key information about a difficult to support system so I’m calling that a win. At least it’s a start right? And that’s the thing – once you’ve made a start with Knowledge Management you can build on it over time until you’ve got a process that supports and empowers your people.
Up next I’ll be talking about the Knowledge Management process and the DIKW model so stay tuned. What are your thoughts on getting started with Knowledge Management? Let us know in the comments!
This group test is a review of software products and vendors in the ‘Incident Management’ market area. Our remit was to explore how toolsets can support and optimise the Incident Management process.
Incident Management Overview
Incident Management is a key part of the ITSM Software Market – think about it – what organisation doesn’t do Incident Management? Incident Management is one of the most visible processes in the ITIL lifecycle. The aim of Incident Management is to restore usual service to customers as quickly as possible and with as little adverse impact whilst making sure nothing is lost, ignored or forgotten about. Can you imagine what would happen if end users couldn’t raise Incidents or contact the Service Desk in the event of a crisis? I reckon it would be 5 minutes max before total chaos.
When I’m explaining the Service Desk and Incident Management in ITIL training; I refer to them as the superheroes of the ITSM world. Let’s face it; they’re constantly firefighting, at the sharp end of the user community if something’s gone wrong as well as being under targets that would make lesser beings hide under their desk whilst mainlining vodka.
Incident Management is a rockstar process and deserves a rockstar tool to support it so without further ado, let’s get started!
Alemba (UK) – 300+
Atlassian (Australia) – 15,000+
Cherwell Software (USA) – 1,000+
HPE – Hewlett Packard Enterprise (USA) – 1,500+
InvGate (Argentina) – 3,000+
ManageEngine (India) – 100,000+
Marval Software (UK) – 500+
Matrix42 (Germany) – 3,000+
Nexthink (Switzerland) – 600+
Summit Software (India) – 100+
Incident Management Group Test – The Players
Strong Incident Management offering which puts the end user experience at the heart of the tool.
Funky user interface using bubbles to highlight workflow and orbitor tool that aids the user by highlighting available actions.
Facebook style notifications alert users and technicians if the ticket has been updated with a handy “add me” option for Major Incidents.
Special module for displaying analytics to Service Desk screens – great idea that does away with the need for manual processes and faffing around with USB keys.
Solid Incident Management functionality. Atlassian are Incident Management ninjas; they aim to get customers up and running within one – two weeks of buying the tool.
Integration with Hipchat for easy chat and video calls.
Seamless integration with other JIRA products so that the customer has a consistent user experience.
User friendly user interface with Outlook integration to make it easier of users to log tickets.
Xmatters compatibility gives it advanced SMS gateway, telephony stats, monitoring and fault tolerance functionality.
Thriving customer community; FAQ’s, “how to” guides and oodles of free apps.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)
Awesome landing page that empowers everyone from end users to senior management to customise and view reports.
Revamped reporting module that completely removes the need for any Crystal Reports faffery. Relationships clear and specific; instead of vague linked records, tool delivers meaningful linkages such as “fixed by Change” or “caused Incident”.
Big data is used to power the Knowledge Base; fixes and workarounds are automatically suggested and hot topics can identify Incident trends and proactively raise Problem records.
Brilliant customer focused ethos: “Service Desks are like snowflakes, no two are alike”.
User interface modelled on common social media platforms making it easy for end users to navigate.
Service Catalogue actively encourages end user to use the self-help route and gives a virtual high five message for every Incident logged.
Market leading gamification; kudos points for adding Knowledge Base article, merit badges for resolving Incidents within SLA and mini quests to encourage healthy competition between Service Desk Analysts.
ManageEngine user their superpowers for good; free PinkVerified Incident & Knowledge Management tools available via the ManageEngine website.
Thriving user community; customers have access to over 90 products and free tools.
User friendly interface; users can chose from raising an Incident or a Service Request and FAQs are on the right hand side of the screen meaning that help and further information is easily accessible.
Impressive use of predefined categories and email integration – tickets can be auto logged and updated without duplication of effort.
Outstanding Incident Management functionality.
Just like Starfleet, Marval have a prime directive, theirs is to enable people to be as productive as possible as quickly as possible.
Special instructions field part of every customer entry.
Each Knowledge entry has a set of work instructions, useful links, tools and diagnostic scripts.
Integrated ITSM process driven solution which is service and customer centric underpinned by a service portfolio.
Brilliant use of Near Field Communications, you can log an Incident simply by zapping a smart tag.
Slick Major Incident process that closely links into Problem, Change and IT Service Continuity Management.
Use their powers for good out in industry, regular contributors to the itSMF and Service Desk Institute.
Initial landing screen is very similar to your standard Microsoft offerings so most users will find the familiarity of the dashboard makes it easier to navigate.
Analyst screen easy to customise.
The tool can be configured to integrate with CTI systems so you can start a phone call and have it added to the audit diary.
Fab use of automation so you can use workflows to schedule routine tasks like server reboots.
Concurrence management is in place so if more than one person is updating the Incident at the same time, the data is merged and nothing is lost.
A vendor that loves talking to customers and end users!
Impressive IT analytics tool to drive proactive Incident Management.
Initial dashboard gives you an immediate, real time view of business critical services.
Automation drives out white noise and focuses on anomalies; enabling Service Desk Analysts to focus on the most important issues to the business.
The end user analytics support asset tracking and licensing monitoring.
As part of the product training, Nexthink advises Service Desk analysts to spend the time saved by automation to go out and talk to users; maximising value and improving the relationship between IT and the rest of the business. Love it when a vendor recognises that the end user is everything!
Easy to navigate user interface – when an end user logs on to raise an Incident they can see their five most recently logged Incidents along with status information.
Analyst view flexible and easy to customise.
Service Request module is directly accessible from the Incident screen and is clear and fully configurable. Up to ten levels of approval can be used which to me covers every possible scenario.
It was really important to me that the group test was fair. Each vendor was asked to fill in a questionnaire and then I had an individual session with each supplier to demo the tool and to ask lots of geeky questions. All the vendor presentations were slick and professional; it really helped me when vendors went out of their way to tailor the session to differentiators and functionality that was value driven.
Key Benefits of Incident Management
ITIL defines Incident Management as “the process responsible for managing the lifecycle of all Incidents. Incident management ensures that normal service operation is restored as quickly as possible and the business impact is minimized.” An effective Incident Management tool is a fundamental part of delivering Incident Management to the rest of the organisation.
In general, Incident Management is made up of the following steps with monitoring, communication, ownership and tracking carried out by the Service Desk:
Incident detection – something falls over, has performance issues or isn’t as it should be
Logging and recording; capturing all the details in an Incident record
Categorisation and prioritisation – ensuring that the Incident is categorised against the correct service and has the appropriate priority set by impact and urgency
Initial diagnosis -first go at resolving the Incident. If the Incident is resolved by the Service Desk at this point it is known as a first time fix.
Escalation -there are two types; Functional, where it goes to the next level of support eg from first line to second line support and Hierarchical, where something gets escalated to a team leader or manager.
Investigation and further diagnosis – where we figure out what’s gone wrong and how to fix it.
Resolution & Recovery -we’ve fixed the issue – happy days – normal service has been restored!
Closure -ensuring the end user is happy and closing off the Incident record with resolution details.
The following are some of the benefits of using a dedicated Incident Management toolset:
Models and templates to ensure all Incidents and Service Requests are handled consistently
Central point of capture so that nothing is lost, ignored or forgotten about.
Better adherence to SLAs, OLAs and UCs due to toolset monitoring.
Major Incidents workflow; especially with automated communication workflows.
Better results for Availability and Capacity Management; if Incidents are logged and managed effectively; they will also be resolved more effectively meaning that downtime and performance issues are minimised.
Increased Configuration Management accuracy; the Service Desk can check and confirm CI data when logging Incidents.
Enhanced management information regarding service quality due to reporting dashboards
Increased customer satisfaction.
From carrying out this group test, it quickly became clear that the Incident Management toolset game has been well and truly upped. Recent developments have seen a number of technical innovations that have allowed increased automation, faster delivery and quicker benefit realisation. The areas of differentiation in the market are therefore defined in the following terms:
End to end approach- the days of silos or everyone working in their own little bubbles are well and truly over. The most effective tools are aligned with other ITSM modules such as Configuration, Change, Problem, Service Level and IT Service Continuity Management.
User-friendly navigation -the most effective tools had the user journey modelled on common social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. By making it easier to log Incidents and Service Requests not only are we encouraging our customers to buy in to Incident Management, we’re getting them back up and running quicker via self-help and Knowledge Management.
Flexible workflow -there is no one size fits all. A start up IT organisation with less than twenty employees will have different requirements than a global financial institution with thousands of employees so flexibility is key.
Automation – models, templates and workflows all take the pain out of logging and managing Incidents and anything that makes the Major Incident process less of a nightmare or avoids someone having to get out of bed to reboot a server (automated task management) has got to be a winner!
Gamification – we work in IT – we are techies, geeks and engineers saving the world one Windows update at a time so work should absolutely be fun! Not only does gamification drive engagement from both end customers and support personnel; by rewarding people with fun badges and bragging rights in the office, we drive up productivity as well.
Big Data – a recent US study estimates that poor data quality costs US organizations over $600 billion a year. Missing, incorrect or out of date information is completely unacceptable in a service driven environment. Enter big data analytics which streamlines the Incident Management process, promotes self-service / self-help via Knowledge Management and allows users to log Incidents via smart tags without a single inbound call to the Service Desk.
Value driven approach – ever since the launch of ITIL V3; value has been the name of the game. By doing Incident Management we are committing to our customers. This commitment isn’t applying lip service, talking a good talk or even asking “have you tried switching it off and then on again?” on loop. This is about delivering our customers the service that they deserve. By committing to Incident Management via a solid process and toolset; we’re saying to the business – we care.
Strengths & Weaknesses
Best Overall: Marval Software Limited
Awesome tool. Everything about it was lovely to use both from an end user and a techie experience. It’s apparent from working with Marval that they’ve spent years sat beside Service Desk analysts and support techies watching them work, seeing the pressures they’re under and figuring out ways in which the tool can make life easier. It’s slick, user friendly and enterprise focused and a fantastic option if you want to take your Service Desk, support teams and Incident Management to the next level. Some of my favourite things about Marval are the following:
The user information: everything from service information and CI data from the CMS to locational info (with Google Maps) and a special instructions section (FYI; my special instructions would be please send coffee and chocolate)
Automation: keyword lookups for suggested models and templates
The Knowledge Base: each Knowledge entry has a set of work instructions, useful links, tools and diagnostic scripts. The idea behind this according to Marval is that this information can be pre-populated by second and third line techies.
Near Field Communication or NFC: if you happen to walk by a jammed printer, you can let the Service Desk know simply by zapping the label – how cool is that?
Slick, effective Major Incident process with solid links to Change, Problem and IT Service Continuity Management.
Marval is fantastic option if you need your Incident Management process to be customer and service centric, bulletproof and mature so we’ve given them the Batman award for best overall Incident Management tool for this group test.
Best Innovation: InvGate Inc.
Gamification is used to fantastic effect to make Incident Management easy, scalable and fun whilst the user interface makes for an efficient, positive customer journey. Some of my favourite things about InvGate are the following:
The login screen can be configured for single sign on, linking into Active Directory / Windows authentication and also works with Mac machines.
All the major navigation buttons are placed at the top of the screen and a social interaction log (similar to the Facebook alerts function) can be expanded to view recent interactions between the Service Desk and the end user.
If a user goes down the self-service route – they get a really cool “Kudos” message for successfully logging the Incident. It’s a lovely touch that gives a virtual high five to the user for rocking self-help.
Market leading gamification: kudos points for adding Knowledge Base article, merit badges for resolving Incidents within SLA and mini quests to encourage healthy competition between Service Desk Analysts.
InvGate is fantastic option to get up and running quickly; not just for ITSM but for other functions such as HR and Facilities. Gamification and a user centric interface makes this effective and fun to use so we’ve given them the Star Wars award for best innovation for this group test.
Best Use of Analytics: HPE
Industry leading use of Big Data analytics makes HPE the standout in this area. Some of my favourite things about HPE are the following:
Fully configurable landing page and introduction screen
The revamped reporting capability: point and click, oodles of config options and no complicated third party reporting software needed
The chat functionality: the system will even suggest people that could help resolve the related Incident!
The big data powered Knowledge Base with smart task management and keyword lookups
Heat mapping to view trends and anomalies
HPE is a fantastic product for large organisations. The tool has a comprehensive engine behind it that can manage any enterprise level ITSM task it encounters. Big Data analytics drive efficiency savings and support a move to more proactive service model without compromising on functionality or management information so we’ve given them the Spiderman award for best use of analytics for this group test.
Best for Proactivity: Nexthink
A powerhouse of proactivity. Here are some of my favourite things about the tool:
A new approach and a proactive way to do Incident Management – can notify users of a fault and work on a fix without a single inbound call to the Service Desk
Landing page gives a clear view of the operational status of all business critical services
Designed to remove white noise so Service Desk Analysts can focus on “the serious stuff”
Part of their training is to encourage analysts to spend the time saved by automation to go out and talk to users; which can only be good right?
Nexthink empowers the Service Desk and makes Incident Management proactive so we’ve given them the Superman award for proactivity for this group test.
Using their powers for good award: ManageEngine
ManageEngine are definitely on the light side of the force with their free PinkVerified Incident & Knowledge Management tool available for free from their website. Here are some of some of my favourite things about the tool:
Thriving user community
User friendly self Service Portal – users can raise an Incident or Service Request and browse through the FAQs
Multifunctional – the tool can also be used for desktop support, the deployment of software upgrades, patch management and the management of mobile devices
ManageEngine pride themselves on having a significant percentage of the functionality of the four biggest ITSM vendors, so by offering their Incident & Knowledge Management tool for free they deserve the Black Widow award for using their powers for good for this group test.
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.
This Group Test explores the relationship between the IT management disciplines of IT Asset Management (ITAM) and IT Service Management (ITSM).
Our remit was to explore the opportunities for managing assets and interacting with ITAM teams whilst maintaining everyday ITSM processes. In particular we were looking to review ITSM tools that offer ITAM functionality or integrate with tools that do – or ITAM tools that provide value to ITSM lifecycles.
I was pleasantly surprised and encouraged by the growing overlap between ITAM and ITSM functionality in the tools reviewed. It was great to see all camps taking advantage of the obvious benefits of ITAM and ITSM integration. It was also refreshing to review technology from all four corners of the globe; including some new vendors that some of our readers might not have heard of yet.
Participants in this “bake-off” were:
Country of Origin
Number of Customers
Comprehensive ITAM & ITSM solution with next-generation interface
A good solid solution for building an integrated ITAM and ITSM foundation.
Matrix42[Best in Class]
Arguably the first vendor to offer comprehensive Enterprise grade SAM within a full ITSM suite
A desktop management solution providing ITAM and Configuration Management capabilities and opportunities for automating routine ITSM tasks
A refreshing alternative to big ITSM tool frameworks at a competitive price.
ITAM and ITSM in a competitive package. Detailed inventory for datacenter environments plus key service management functions to be able to turn datacenter insight into action.
What are the benefits of integrating ITAM and ITSM?
The vision for fully integrated ITAM and ITSM is –
Meeting compliance and efficiency goals whilst decisions and changes are being made rather than attempting to clean up mess afterwards, allowing the business to make smart technology choices without booby-traps and with visibility of total cost of ownership.
Allowing users to be productive and have access to the assets they need whilst being compliant.
Offering visibility of asset relationships and costs to facilitate faster incident resolution, proactive problem management and less error prone change management.
Delivering self-service without risks.
Updating asset data on the fly as part of BAU for everyone’s benefit – allowing smarter decision making.
A modern IT management platform with vast platform coverage.
Minimal market penetration outside central Europe
ITAM and ITSM mapping from day one
Workflow driven solution – adapt for every process
BYOD, Mobile and Cloud addressed
Good offering for Managed Service Providers
A good complement for the service desk – but offers no ticketing or core service desk functions.
Light versatile and automated desktop management
Low cost monthly subscription
Good inventory and asset verification offering
Self service software request platform
Strong CMDB centric ITSM offering
Minimal license management capabilities
Cloud, on-premise or flip between two
Well though out design, easy to use
Great relationship views for viewing ALL attributes
Low consulting requirement
New software offering, limited existing customers
Turn datacentre insights into service management actions
Ideal for datacentre migration or consolidation
Strong visualisation of dependencies
Best in Class for ITAM & ITSM – MATRIX42
We’ve awarded Matrix42 Best in Class for ITAM and ITMS integration for their comprehensive ITAM and ITSM suite.
ITXM – Full ITAM & ITSM integration at last!
“Matrix42 want to be the management layer that sits on top of the services that run IT and claim their key differentiators are strength of integration, automation and speed to value – eschewing the consulting heavy approach of many IT management tool rivals.”
Matrix42 is the closest toolset manufacturer we’ve seen to be able to realize the full ITAM and ITSM vision from one platform. The solution offers both strong ITSM capabilities (verified for eight ITIL processes via a modern interface) whilst also offering depth of datacentre SAM coverage (identifying options and packs enabled for Oracle database). Matrix42 are arguably the first vendor to offer comprehensive Enterprise grade SAM within a full ITSM suite.
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.
To read the summary, strengths and weaknesses, and criteria please visit this page.
InvGate Assets & Service Desk
Invgate is an Argentinian software company offering Service Desk and Asset Management applications. InvGate claim to have a strong market share in their home Latin American territory and gaining traction in USA and EMEA. The company has over 3000 customers and is ideally suited to organizations between 1,000 and 5,000 employees. InvGate is well placed to take advantage of both smaller organizations that have outgrown cheap and cheerful solutions and larger organizations that are perhaps weary of the large price tag and consulting heavy approach of large enterprise players.
InvGate offer standalone ITAM or ITSM solutions via an excellent interface. This is a strong solution and we found it difficult to find fault with it. One-third of InvGate customers are said to own the Service Desk only, one-third Asset Management only and the final third own both.
A world-class interface and user experience
The stand out differentiator when reviewing InvGate is the interface and user experience. They have managed to capture very technical IT management capabilities and communication of IT data – in a remarkably well-designed interface.
The balance between ITAM and ITSM features, ease of use and flexibility is beautifully executed. This is the future of IT management tools, tackling IT complexity head-on.
Code free configuration and first-class design means customers won’t need to engage with consultants to customize the software or ask for custom fields, they can simply do it themselves.
Getting beyond ITIL process box checking
InvGate includes a versatile and easy to use process engine to build any process, including core ITIL processes – but it’s refreshing to see this requirement take a back seat in favour of pure usability and experience.
This is technology your teams and stakeholders will want to use. The user experience and simplicity of execution is head and shoulders above anything else we have seen.
A game everyone wants to play
Invgate Service Desk has game mechanics and social network elements woven into its design and day-to-day interactions. Customers or end users provide immediate feedback and ratings to interactions within the workflow itself (as opposed to receiving an email later).
Social network elements are executed well, it not just ‘likes’ and ‘feeds’ but provides a visual and easy to understand ‘RACI’ chart of the key stakeholders underpinning each service desk process. Interactions are natural and collaborative whilst meeting process goals.
SupaCMDB = Number of configuration items to be managed
SupaDESK, SupaRELEASE, SupaSTOCK = Number of analysts Priced by managed device per month
Available SaaS and on-premise
Most ITSM tools were born from a foundation of ticketing and logging incidents. SupaTOOLS, in comparison, was first a CMDB. SupaTOOLS began life as ‘easyCMDB’ in 2006 and has evolved into a well-rounded and competitive ITSM offering.
The founders of SupaTOOLS saw a gap in the market for a robust CMDB solution offering and began developing their CMDB. Whilst SupaTOOLS suite of tools can be used without using the CMDB element, it is clear that CMDB is the foundation and a CMDB ethic of configuration, relationships and connectivity runs throughout the software.
SupaTOOLS is a web-based ITSM solution built around ITIL principles. Customers can choose a Windows or Linux install, with MySQL or SQL Server as a backend repository. Customers can also choose either on premise or SaaS (75% of SupaTOOLS customers install on premise). SupaTOOLS customers can also shift between SaaS on premise as required with many SupaTOOLS customers beginning with a cloud-based setup and shifting to on premise once the installation meets their requirements. Both customers and service management staff can access the SupaTOOLS system via mobile – on iOS and Android.
The SupaTOOLS portfolio consists of four main modules:
SupaCMDB – for config. and change management
SupaDESK – As the main service desk including Incident and requests
SupaRELEASE – A release management offering
SupaSTOCK – For inventory, warehouse management and stock control
Despite the SupaTOOLS depth of features we found the interface easy to understand and simple to navigate. Core service desk features included in SupaDESK navigation include service catalogue, incident and problem management, known errors, requests, knowledgebase, incident calendar, business services, service level agreements and reporting.
The SupaTOOLS offering is well thought out with great design. Configuration Managers in particular will love it; it is effectively an extensible database that can be configured to suit any individual customer requirements.
Every attribute of every asset, device or service can be clicked, drilled and viewed to a seemingly endless degree. Customers are never short of being able to see interconnectedness or similarities between any elements. In short, everything is linked to everything else. The relationship view is particularly useful when investigating the relationship between assets, previous incidents and changes and we particularly liked the visual management of racks within datacentres.
From a change management perspective SupaTOOLS customers can alter how relaxed they wish to be about changes to the configuration database – from very relaxed to draconian. Settings include:
Loose – any data changes are allowed
Audit – Notes must be written justifying each change
Strict – each change requires a change request
These settings allow customers to increase configuration management discipline and control as their maturity improves or situations require.
SupaTOOLS is built from the ground up as a CMDB for IT departments, but could easily be used to other assets beyond IT. Customization to customer requirements is simple and straightforward and designed to be executed by customers rather than hiring consultants.
Our only criticism of SupaTOOLS is that organizations looking for a comprehensive solution for both IT Service Management and IT Asset Management might find some software license management elements lacking compared to specialist SAM tools, but the depth of visibility and control of datacentre environments will be very useful for Software Asset Managers managing datacentre software publishers.
SupaTOOLS is a refreshing alternative to big ITSM tool frameworks at a competitive price. Built from the ground upwards as a CMDB, it is well-designed and high quality solution for organizations seeking to deliver high-class services and IT management without having to re-mortgage the IT department.
Vendor information – in their own words
SupaTOOLS is a web-based IT Service Management solution based on the ITIL standard. SupaTOOLS comprises 4 main modules that deliver different processes:
SupaCMDB – Configuration and Change Management
SupaDESK – Incident, Request and Service Management
SupaRELEASE – Advanced Release Management
SupaSTOCK – Inventory Management All of the above modules can be combined into a single database to provide a fully integrated solution. This allows the customer to pick only the functionality they require and gives them the flexibility to add more at a later date.
SupaTOOLS is available as either a Cloud (SaaS) based service or on-premise install. It supports both Windows and Linux platforms running either MySQL or SQL Server back-end.
Most importantly, SupaTOOLS includes an extremely flexible database schema and UI, allowing the customer to tailor the CMDB to record any asset type and brand the UI according to their own requirements.
This can typically be achieved by the customer with minimal additional cost and involvement from the supplier. Our customers use SupaTOOLS can be used in a variety of ways, ranging from providing a fully featured and integrated Service Desk, to an Asset repository with integrated Change Management.
Tools are included to rapidly populate the database from spreadsheet data, which is where many of our customers start from. But equally SupaTOOLS can replace multiple existing disparate systems with a centrally trusted ‘source of truth’ We pride ourselves on being very attentive to our customer needs, and responding quickly to all customer queries. Many of our customer suggestions and wishes get included in future releases so that all can benefit.”
To read the summary, strengths and weaknesses, and criteria please visit this page.
V4.1 (released June 2015)
About 40 service provider customers, servicing about 500 end customers and about 450,000 devices
Priced by managed device per month
Miradore Desktop Management
A desktop management solution providing ITAM and Configuration Management capabilities and opportunities for automating routine ITSM tasks.
Miradore was formed in 2006 when three IT specialists working at the Finnish pulp, paper and timber manufacturer, UPM, couldn’t find a suitable solution in the market for their IT infrastructure management requirements. Miradore now has customers in 70+ countries and over 450,000 devices under management.
Miradore is a Desktop Management solution for Windows, OSX and Linux providing ITAM and Configuration Management capabilities and opportunities for automating routine tasks in ITSM lifecycles.
A key route to market is Managed Service Providers who harness Miradore for monitoring and managing client environments. MSP business partners include global integrators such as Fujitsu to local specialists such as Tieto.
A key differentiator for Miradore is providing a light, versatile and automated desktop management solution to partners and end user organizations that find larger frameworks such as Microsoft Configuration Manager too expensive and labour intensive to implement.
Miradore provides partners an easy to use console for visibility and management of client environments via a low cost subscription. Managed Service Providers can easily see what devices they are supporting and the status of each device to facilitate efficient support.
Miradore also offer a SaaS based Mobile Device Management called ‘Miradore Online’ for the management of iOS, Android and Windows Phones. This provides asset location, technical specification, security settings and installed applications for connected devices. We trialled the system using Apple’s Device Enrolment program and found it remarkably easy to use.
Miradore’s product naming conventions are not obvious and those browsing their website could be forgiven for getting completely confused which product is which. Perhaps calling the products Miradore Desktop Management and Miradore MDM would be more straightforward.
Miradore offers comprehensive device monitoring and management features including:
Asset discovery and SNMP scanning for other network devices such as printers, switches and routers
Hardware and software inventory for Windows, Linux, OS X
Connection to Miradore’s ‘Miradore Online’ MDM solution for management of iOS, Windows Phone and Android devices
Power Management and centralized management of endpoint back up
Device monitoring, alerting and reporting
Automated tasks based on rules e.g. Create an incident in the service desk based on an alert
Remote control, operating system and software installation, patch management
Asset update service
Quality index reporting
Software license management including normalized inventory, software usage tracking and a software request catalogue
We particularly liked the asset update service, allowing Miradore customers to confirm the continued ownership of assets and keep their asset and ownership details fresh. The service checks-in with end user customers to ask, “Do you still own these devices?” then provides a workflow for administrators to eyeball and verify any changes.
We also found the quality index reporting a powerful reminder of key metrics and a refreshing change to the usual reporting dashboards found in IT management tools.
Quality index reporting allows Miradore customers to set thresholds for key ITAM or Configuration Management performance metrics as asset visibility or anti-virus coverage. This reporting, presumably driven from Miradore’s SLA driven MSP partners, is great practical use of asset data to improve ITAM quality over time rather than generic dashboard.
Automation and Empowering Self-Service
From an IT Service Management perspective, Miradore is a great complement to a broader service desk solution and provides great asset data to empower service management processes.
Miradore’s close device monitoring and management capabilities allow alerting on the service desk to enable proactive problem management by generating tickets based on device events, or highlighting mismatching configurations of devices, or simply identifying changes.
Similarly, Miradore’s self-service software request catalogue allows customers to select software, seek management software, and for the software to be deployed to the end user’s device – without the need for service desk agent intervention.
Finally, Miradore’s remote control facility will be a useful utility for the service desk. Features include screen sharing, controlling mouse and keyboard, file transfer and drawing tools.
In summary, Miradore is a good all round solution for desktop management and configuration management to support the service desk, especially for those organizations looking for a simpler and easier to use solution to Microsoft Configuration Manager.
Vendor information – in their own words
Miradore was born when three IT specialists working for a global paper giant UPM needed a better way to manage their own IT infrastructure. Since none of the existing configuration management solutions did not address the challenges they faced in a company with 20,000 workstations in over 30 countries, they decided to create their own. The pilot project and full-scale roll out was a success, and so in 2006 they left UPM to found Miradore Ltd. And naturally, UPM became Miradore’s first customer.
Today Miradore provides a mature and feature-rich product for managing different types of IT devices throughout their entire lifecycles. This is done by collecting accurate and up-to-date information from devices, automating device management activities, and integrating Miradore easily to overall ITSM toolset.
Miradore is committed to continuous improvement and thereby strives to further improve the product, focusing especially on utilization of cloud technologies, easiness of implementation and use, and mobility.”
To read the summary, strengths and weaknesses, and criteria please visit this page.
EcosystemManager from Virima is a new addition to the ITAM and ITSM IT management tools market. We were impressed with EcosystemManager; it offers both detailed inventory for datacenter environments plus key service management functions to be able to turn datacenter insight into action.
ITAM + ITSM in a Competitive Package
If your organization is considering migrating or consolidating datacenters or migrating to cloud infrastructure – EcosystemManager is definitely worth further investigation. It would also be extremely valuable for those looking for comprehensive datacenter visibility to support compliance goals.
EcosystemManager includes both ITAM and ITSM functions integrated into one product.
The following article forms part of a larger publication looking to understand the merits of best-practice as they pertain to Software Asset Management. Like any IT discipline, SAM does not exist in isolation, and can benefit greatly from the data typically deemed resident in Service Management. As ever, your feedback in the comments section below would be welcomed.
Software Support & Maintenance Review Process
To round off this updated version of the Process Kit, we have a process that might not be considered core SAM but should absolutely be in place if we are to make use of valuable data at our disposal. The review of value delivered by Support & Maintenance contracts should be instigated off the back of a software contract renewal. Support & Maintenance costs can add a substantial levy to the cost of software so an examination of its worth to the business should be a built-in step to any decision relating to contract renewal.
To assess the value received of vendor support & maintenance offered on software titles that have entered a contract renewal phase.
To undertake a benefits analysis of the Support & Maintenance contract in relation to the IT strategy of the company.
To communicate the Support & Maintenance findings to the contracts renewal team
That such data required to support this process is retrievable from the Service Desk tool.
Function Step Overview:
Gather Service Desk data. The contracts renewal team should reach out to the Service Desk Manager to gather support call data relating to the software titles covered by a contract currently due for renewal.
Plot support calls. The Service Desk Manager should then seek to plot that data in a graph akin to the diagram below (Fig.1) Undoubtedly styles and layout will vary as regards preferences go, but if you can offer a breakdown of support calls answered at the varying levels of support offered to the business then this offers invaluable intelligence to the contracts renewal team. The very simple Excel Spreadsheet that was used to generate figure 1 is available with this publication.
Determine acceptable call spread for your organisation. Having plotted the support calls as per the graph in figure 1, the subjective task of determining the acceptable call-spread for your company has to take place. You might be more forgiving for newer titles, as these will not have received as many hot fixes and patches to plug potential vulnerabilities. Conversely, more for more mature titles, you might expect to see fewer overall calls logged against them due to the stability should titles should demonstrate.One aspect that should be evident of such analysis is the potential burden that these titles place on your company. Let’s not forget that software is installed to facilitate end users to do their jobs, not to hinder a company in its productivity. A further benefit of such analysis to Service Desk Manager is that he/she can see at a glance where the greatest load is being borne for that software vendor, and so can direct training resources accordingly.
Examine support calls that escalated to vendor. The percentage and quantity of support calls that have made it to the software vendor need assessing. As does the effective resolution rate, and overall experience of having dealt with the software vendor. Again, such an assessment will be subjective, but so long as the assessment is consistent and demonstrable to the contract renewals team then any findings are less likely to be questioned.
Compare Support & Maintenance benefits to future roll-out plans. The final piece of analysis required is to examine what adjacent benefits are bundled into the support & maintenance on offer. Some vendors will bundle in training (both on line and in person) their might even be upgrade rights to the next version of the software covered by the contract; rights to transfer; multiple install rights etc. This list goes on…. Such benefits should be compared to the mid-term direction the business and IT wishes to take those software titles.
Communicate recommendation to Contract Review Team. Having formulated the preceding research in an acceptable format for the contracts renewal team, the Service Desk Manager can submit his/her report to the team knowing that more than a “finger in the air” assessment has been made of the support & maintenance on offer.
(Fig. 1 – Example of Support Call Analysis – See Section 1.20)
The business can analyse this data and use it formulate a truly informed decision as to which titles are taken forward with support and maintenance, and which they feel they are capable of supporting through their own in-house technical expertise.
A point worth observing here is that the contracts renewal team will only use this as part of their considerations in deciding the direction to go in renewing a contract – financial considerations as well standard checks and controls on doing business with that particular software vendor will have to go into the overall decision.
A further point the contracts renewal team have to bear in mind is that if they choose to terminate support & maintenance on a given product, then this will have operational consequences on any software left in situ (no further vendor technical support, or possibly even the removal of the software altogether). This could entail switching costs and training demands that require fulfilling. The nuances of terminating support vary from vendor to vendor – take the time to find out what these are (or to inform the contract renewal team what they are).
Finally, with the prevalence of as-a-service, such a review would not be out of place to factor in up-time of software titles. Remember: if you don’t push for compensation at the point of contract renewal, any potential demands for remuneration for loss of service/downtime won’t have a legal leg to stand on.
This, and 21 other processes have been modelled by SAM Charter in Version 2 of the SAM Process E-Kit. To take advantage of this launch (and as a thank you for making it to the end of this article!) the following promo code will offer you a $50 discount off any purchase made at the link below:
As can be seen from the literature and marketing brochures of many Service Management tool providers, the appeal to cross the border and reach into the Software Asset Management space is proving very difficult to resist, and there is some merit to the approach:
Inventory agents for SAM report the same data as inventory agents for ITSM, so if an ITSM tool is already in place, why not use it and save a network manager a headache relating to network bandwidth?
If an end user has a query relating to licensing or software in general, their guided instinct would be to reach out to the Service Desk to resolve that question – so it would make sense to have SAM related data at the disposal of the Service Desk.
SAM could benefit from the practice of SLA adherence – as a discipline, it is too often rooted in getting reports “just so” rather than being able to offer reports “on time”. The repeated activity of generating compliance reports will see to it that a company is better placed to drive strategic and operational benefit through a company if it borrows such a concept from ITSM.
However, before anyone proclaims “I do”, it is also worth noting a few of the differences that will undoubtedly have to be overcome if a marriage is to proceed:
Except for the most basic of calculations, “one licence does not equal one install”. Reconciliation engines within SM tools are going to have to step up to accommodate upgrade rights, downgrade rights, rights of secondary use, multiple use rights etc.
If an SM systems provider proclaims “they do asset management” they should be able to demonstrate where and how to import proof of entitlement; IT already struggles obtaining such data from contracts departments as they (can typically) feel duty-bound not to share such data for fear of breaching confidentiality agreements between the company and the software vendor.
IT Processes will need an overhaul – Systems integration between SM and SAM are but just one aspect the bullets above allude to; Service Management processes will need to account for licensing deviations highlighted in the software asset management lifecycle if a successful union is to take place.
This final point is worthy of further attention, because regardless of whether you decide to unite SAM and ITSM under one entity within your IT organisation or not, SAM still needs to be woven into your IMAC activities so as to help mitigate the risk of non-compliance.
“Here and there” installations on your desktop may not peak your interest, however, a liberal approach to random installs, moves and hardware changes in the datacenter could lead to liabilities matching or exceeding the salaries of your entire IT workforce; and with the pace and speed with which virtual servers can be instantiated and hosted, due diligence should not be considered a “nice to have” business ethos.
In an article published on this site just over a year ago (ITSM thoughts from the world of Software Asset Management) I posed the question does your service management division assist in the generation of analysis pertaining to a software support and maintenance contract review? (A strategic function of software asset management) Service Management is the discipline sitting on this valuable data, and whilst SAM suites have the capability to record that software has support and maintenance associated with it, SAM suites are invariably not used to monitor the consumption of support and maintenance.
I would welcome your thoughts on this, but also on the forthcoming article – borrowed from the sister-site (ITAM Review) we will be offering a Process of the Month analysis of how support & maintenance analysis could be achieved; and the fringe benefits it offers both Service Management and Software Asset Management.