Proactive Problem Management Review [2014] – The Results

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

Products reviewed:

 Proactive Problem Management 2014 

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

Best in Class – ALEMBA vFIRE

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

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

Honourable Mention

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

The main topic areas covered by the review included:

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

Market Positioning

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

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

Competitive Overview

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

Number of Customers

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

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

Analysis

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

Deep Dive

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

Disclaimer, Scope and Limitations

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

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

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

For further information, please read the ‘Group Tests’ section, on our Disclosure page.

Review: LANDesk for Integrations

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

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch A solid product from a vendor with expertise in both ITSM and systems management, which adds a dimension to what they can offer.
Strengths
  • Strong event management background
  • Understand that the deployment phase needs structure and the range of materials and consultancy they offer is comprehensive
  • Encompass BYOD with integration and include some neat new innovations
  • Integration/Automation platform through a graphical process workflow.
Weaknesses
  • LANDesk have put some much needed focus into their service management, and it is at least on a par with almost all the main players.
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, LANDesk are typically active in the mid-large market.They are classified for this review as:Specialised Service Management Suite – Offering ITIL processes and proprietary discovery tooling and Data Integration Points

 Commercial Summary

Vendor LANDesk
Product LANDesk Service Desk
Version reviewed 7.6.1
Date of version release July 2013
Year founded 1985
Customers ~1000
Pricing Structure Service Desk Concurrent AnalystService Desk Fixed AnalystService Desk SaaS Concurrent AnalystService Desk SaaS Fixed AnalystAlternatively available as part of LANDesk Total User Management suite : complete portfolio of integrated ITSM, Systems, Security, Mobility, Asset management solutions.

Licensed only by end user (not by number of devices or IT Users).

 

Competitive Differentiators
  1. LANDesk’s offer experience in ITSM and beyond that, systems management and as such they can provide Total User Management – covering systems management, security management, asset and service management, seamlessly integrated together through a process driven workflow platform.
  2. They provide self-service capability accessible to users via desktops and mobile devices
  3. They provide a two-way integration between Microsoft Outlook and the service desk to track task assignments

Independent Review

thumbnail (1)LANDesk combine experience across ITSM and include systems management, which comes to the fore with their approach to integrating one of the harder disciplines into their Service Management capability.

They have a good understanding of the way the market has moved in recent times – offering web services and because of their broader background, they not only lend their product but their in-house expertise to understanding what to integrate.

The focus of the solution is to be directly productive, and it is good to see them almost embrace BYOD capability – their focus is delivery of what IT does into the hands of the user.

What they have done well is to identify some neat little innovations and put some lateral thought about how these can be used. For example the use of RSS feeds to provide assignment updates to technicians and the use of QR codes to perform simple actions on processes (create/close a record). Whilst the take-up may be slow in some cases – they are ready for when the first organisation(s) latch on to the ideas.

LANDesk have developed their product to offer the same service management capability as the majority of vendors in the industry, and they provide integration and automation built in to their graphical process workflow.

They should take the opportunity to shine the light on the other bushels in their pack – not everyone can boast all 15 processes and that gives them an interesting depth in their section of the market.

Integration and specific recognised criteria

LANDesk Service Desk has been Pink Verified against the maximum 15 verifiable processes :-

The product uses ITIL terminology throughout the product, and the comprehensive coverage of all the process means they cover the bases in terms of recommended approaches and supporting practices.

Security Controls

A comprehensive matrix of permissions apply across every action and activity in the Service Desk product, so ability to perform actions will only appear for an analyst when they have this right.

Other integrations use workflow and process definition which ensures that only the right activity can take place in a secure and controlled fashion.

All integration activities are typically audited as standard design.

Pre-Deployment Integration

LANDesk is another vendor that also employs some level of sense checking as well as pure automation methods to bring across data, including:

Customer Profile Document

Introductory phone call and Project Kick-off meeting

Data collection spreadsheet which shows all the different typical default areas of data collected and imported

Workshops

In addition connectors to Active Directory, LANDesk Management Suite, Microsoft SQL, Oracle, Excel, Access, OLEDB all allow connection to other typical sources for import

Asset and Configuration Information

LANDesk Service Desk provides preconfigured integration to populate the CMDB, to import ITAM managed assets and to update any existing items. Their features include:

  • Unlimited field definitions and CI types
  • Asset/CI relationships can be imported into CI structure diagrams
  • Asset/CI relationships can be discovered and defined with a rules-engine.

Assets and CIs are accessible from all ITSM processes, updated under change management, and can be imported back to source tools from Service Desk updates.

They also provide an inventory lookup – in Systems Management focussed discovery, the tool will typically pick up all manner of information that is not required for Configuration Management – the Inventory lookup facility shows you the full detail.

Support Services Integration

  • LANDesk include (but are not limited to) their own IT Management tools supported in context:
    • Remote Control
    • Inventory Lookup
    • Software Deployment
    • Chat
    • Ping
    • Patch/Security Scan
  • As part of Request Fulfilment, Release, Change, and Incident they provide integration as part of process activity in the background. This drives self-service and IT-initiated process automation across the business, providing, for example integrated:
    • Software Deployment
    • AD Data Management
    • Mobile device wipe and other admin functions
    • Security scan, patch, OS deploy, among other functions
  • Major Incidents Communications
    • RSS – any query of data, list or dashboard gadget can be converted into an RSS feed that can be pulled on demand using any commercial standard RSS client.
    • Major Incidents are typically distributed through: Product Dashboards, Email, RSS and Twitter
  • Support Chats/Social Media
    • Core social discussion and chat features are provided as standard as well as integration through APIs and Automation is provided on request for:
      • Enterprise Social Platforms (e.g. BlueKiwi)
      • Twitter
      • Facebook
      • Jive
      • These are the basis of LANDesk’s Social Content Pack, including Discussion Threads and a Chat function within Self-Service.
      • LANDesk make use of RSS feeds which can take any view of the data and publish it as a feed to be incorporated into dashboards

Resource Management Integration

LANDesk provides two-way integration between Microsoft Outlook and the Service Desk. Assignments can be dragged and dropped to individuals or groups taken from live Outlook calendar as Gantt style views.

Assigned work appears as appointments in Outlook calendars or as tasks and once updated in Outlook, the work item in Service Desk is updated too.

Additional Areas of Integration

  • Event Management

LANDesk Event Manager provides a configurable, flexible interface to allow current and future monitoring and alerting systems to interact with the service desk.

The Event Management engine captures significant issues within the infrastructure and automatically logs prioritises and routes Incidents to the appropriate analyst team. This alerts the relevant team of issues, even before end users become aware of them, thereby increasing the chance of early resolution and minimizing impact on the user community.

  • QR

Another neat innovation is the use of QR codes – for example putting integration with simple process actions such as creating or closing records – whilst take up might be few and far between at the moment, it is a way of tapping into an increasingly mobile workforce to speed up tasks.

LANDesk Customers

From the LANDesk Brochure

  • An integrated solution for systems management, endpoint security, mobility and ITSM (premise, cloud or both).
  • Easiest ITIL path for increasing end-user productivity
  • One price per end-user – unlimited devices, including BYOD

In Their Own Words:

LANDesk Service Desk is a process-driven IT Service Management software solution that can be deployed as an on-premise, SaaS or hybrid solution. It delivers all of the core ITSM functionality expected from a market-leading solution. Service Desk is ITIL®-verified in 15 processes, including incident, request, self-service, change, and knowledge management and provides powerful multi-level reporting.

LANDesk Service Desk provides a rich end-to-end service management platform that not only supports core service management, but enables your IT organization’s high-level business goals, from basic resolution management to mature service portfolio management, capacity and availability optimization, and continuous service improvement. It integrates seamlessly with your systems and network management environments, including all LANDesk solutions for systems lifecycle management and endpoint security.

The solution’s out-of-the-box functionality is easily configurable to match specific business needs without coding. It helps enterprise IT organizations move swiftly from a reactive state to a more controlled, proactive, and service-oriented posture.  They improve the availability and continuity of services and the productivity of service desk staff and users, while reducing the time-to-restoration, downtime expense, and service-related business risk.

Screenshots

Further Information

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