The ABC of ITSM: Why Building The Right Process Matters

Attitude, Behaviour and Culture (ABC) - this sets out to ensure that the human aspect of ITSM and service delivery matches that of the IT implementation.

This article has been contributed by Ben Cody of Serena Software.

In my previous piece for The ITSM Review, I examined the state of general dissatisfaction with ITSM tools at the moment.

In doing so, I wanted to question why a positive dedication to “process” should be at the heart of how organisations solve complex (and simple for that matter) IT services challenges. This time around, I want to look at the human element of process.

The new ABC

ABC (for the purposes of our story here) stands for Attitude, Behaviour and Culture — basically, this sets out to ensure that the human aspect of ITSM and service delivery matches that of the IT implementation.

One area that can help ITSM professionals today is to look at their approach to ABC in a new light, based on understanding the wider processes that are in place.

Re-evaluating processes gives ITSM teams the opportunity to look at their own ABC successes and issues again. It also represents a chance to examine how these ABC milestones can be used to improve wider service within the organisation. Without the right elements in place, those individuals working on the service desk may not be able to deliver what the business expects and requires of them. More importantly, changes within the organisation won’t be successful.

ABC is equally important when it comes to inter-team communication, as the hand-off between teams can be affected by differences in approach and behaviour. If one team is performing well on its own terms, but its output goes through another group with motivational challenges or a different work method, then the initial team’s work may be viewed as not meeting the overall requirements of the business.

The release management black hole

This can be seen in the ITSM world when an application implementation is not completed successfully across to the complete scope and breadth of the organisation. The application itself has been written to specification, thoroughly tested and was ready to go — but the team responsible for managing help-desk calls may see a massive spike in users getting in touch. In this example, the release management process has not been completed successfully, which leads to issues getting raised with the help-desk team and poor perception of IT in general.

Nothing was wrong in the development phase and the ITSM function can provide a great level of service — however, what users remember is that there was a problem in the first place.

In the user’s mind, IT is seen as being one complete unit, yet this is not often the case. Most teams within large organisations are broken down into project and technology teams, depending on how they have evolved over time. Responsibility is split across these different teams and each can have its own approach to managing work based on how it is led.

Achieving some kind of level of “unity of approach” and getting each part of IT to buy into a common set of values is a significant challenge. The responsibility for this should sit with the CIO as part of their leadership role. As business requirements change and IT has to evolve to support new demands, so getting the right processes in place to complement the right ABC is therefore critical. Changing or amending behaviour at the individual level relies on how much people buy into what is being put in place at the process level, too.

Process and ABC: a two-way street?

On the individual attitude and behaviour front, there has to be an understanding across the IT team responsible for delivering a service of how their section fits into the wider business process. This can be as simple as letting each individual know how their work contributes towards a key performance indicator or meeting a service level. For organisations that already have some degree of joined-up processes, the information given back to people can be much more granular.

At the same time, this emphasis on process can be used to remove manual work where it is possible to take it out. In the example above, automating the release of an application that has been developed and tested properly, rather than relying on ad hoc scripting and manual labour, could remove the potential for things going wrong. Not only does this speed up the process overall, it also makes the whole IT team concerned with that installation appear to be part of a uniform and co-ordinated strategy to the business.

For organisations with ABC challenges, looking at “process hand-overs” between teams is the simplest way to evaluate where these problems start and why. Is this an issue with an individual, a team or with the wider IT function within the organisation? Depending on the level at which the problem is occurring, this will change how the ITSM team looks at their processes in a new light.

The attitude and culture that a company has in place will have an impact on the overall process that is being completed — if employees feel valued and trusted, then they are more likely to care that the results of their work are good. At the same time, design of a process can affect ABC as well — a well-designed process that is fit for purpose, automated where it needs to be, and running well should support employees in achieving job satisfaction.

The business-to-IT connection challenge

One of the most common complaints around IT is that it does not match up with the business. Traditionally, IT has been separate to business functions based on the availability of the skills that were required to understand and run the technology department. This is changing with the advent of cloud computing and the growing understanding of IT within the business itself. But whether organisations want to embrace a cloud computing approach or not, the fact is that ITSM professionals have to realise that their service delivery is being judged against a different yardstick. Whereas previously, IT operations and services would be based on what direct competitors are doing, now it is more likely that the business will look at what consumer websites and portals are able to deliver.

This change in emphasis and the need to keep pace with what the business expects from IT, makes looking at ABC more important than ever. Service providers have the mantra in place that “the customer is king” – even when they either don’t know what they want, or are actively looking at the wrong approach. For ITSM, this means looking again at their attitudes to managing users and where this may have to change in future. As cloud continues to attract interest, IT will have to learn lessons from the service provider world.

Ben Cody, Serena Software
Ben Cody, Serena Software

Managing ABC in this environment should theoretically be easier — after all, IT and the business are both part of the same company. However, there can be this barrier between the two that has to be broken down. If it is not, then IT risks either remaining as a support function with little value, or instead being replaced with outside tools and services instead. This would do ITSM a grave disservice, as it should be obvious that internal IT teams have not only the interest of the organisation at the front of their minds but also the most in-depth knowledge of what the business really requires. What does have to change is that understanding of service delivery from the business perspective.

Hand in hand with this ITSM imperative is the need to get the business function’s perception of IT to change. The attitude and behaviour of the business towards IT is just as important as IT’s own ABC i.e. without the willingness to embrace IT as a strategic part of the corporate decision making process, there can be no real change in approach across ITSM. IT can aim at being customer-centric as much as possible, but if the IT team is not involved in the decision-making process from the outset, then this will remain a largely unfulfilled ambition.

Analysing the role of IT across the business process is the best way to achieve the much-needed inclusion that we must achieve here, alongside aligning the culture of the IT team with that present across the wider organisation. By understanding how work goes through the business and the ITSM resources required to support that flow, IT can claim its place at the table.

This article has been contributed by Ben Cody of Serena Software.

Barclay Rae: The Service Desk Inspector

Barclay Rae, The Service Desk Inspector
Barclay Rae, The Service Desk Inspector

ITSM Industry stalwart Barclay Rae has been working with SDI to produce some short, digestible video clips sharing news, rants and opinion on all things service management.

Barclay’s latest feature is the “Service Desk Inspector” whereby Barclay visits real organizations and offers his advice:

“Programmes will follow real organizations as they work with our ‘inspector’ Barclay Rae – an experienced ITSM consultant – to tackle their biggest service delivery challenges and improve overall performance.”

UK readers of a certain age might remember ‘The Troubleshooter’ or similar fly-on-the-wall documentaries digging into business issues. Barclay  follows a similar theme and does a sterling job. It is great to see some real life ITSM coverage with all of the ITIL framework and IT geekery stripped away.  Kudos to Mirus IT Solutions for being so candid and opening their business kimono for the entire world to see.

Episode 1

Episode 2

“May You Live in Interesting Times” – The Impact of Cloud Computing

Changing of the Guard
Changing of the Guard

Kylie Fowler is a regular columnist for The ITSM Review, see previous articles from Kylie here.

It’s not often that most people get to experience a true paradigm shift, even in IT where change is endemic and part of the lifeblood of the industry. However there is no doubt that cloud computing and the commoditization of processor power and storage represent a true metamorphosis in the way we think about and structure IT services.

Cloud computing is actually the next step in a long series of IT developments which have promoted the decentralization of computing in businesses. The gradual decentralization of corporate IT can be tracked from highly centralized mainframes with their bespoke software, through the development of client server computing, the commoditization of software and finally, with cloud computing, the commoditization of processor power. This shift will have dramatic implications for how and where IT professionals will carry out their roles in future,

Right back at the beginning of corporate IT (in the dark ages known as the 1970s) computing power was served up from giant mainframes to users sitting at dumb terminals who carried out business functions using highly centralized in-house applications. Believe it or not, some of these old systems, developed on punch cards by engineers are still in use today, generally because they are too expensive to redevelop on a more modern platform, or the risks of doing so are too high.

The first steps towards the decentralization of IT came in the next era of computing, the one most of us are familiar with – the era of client-server computing. Significantly lower processor costs mean that processor power can be co-located with users (although largely separated from storage to ensure data security), while large clusters of servers provide basic services such as network access and email. For most businesses, day to day IT operations are still architected, managed and controlled within the organisation, albeit on highly commoditised hardware. In contrast, software has been largely commoditised, with powerful software publishers selling software for use under license. Complex applications are still modified in-house to meet corporate needs, but the underlying intellectual property is owned by the software vendor. This is the era of Microsoft, Oracle and SAP.

However we’re gradually moving into a new era, where the configuration and day to day management of hardware, software and the actual processing of bits and bytes are moving out of the corporation altogether. More and more organisations are asking themselves whether it is really cost effective to host basic services like email or word processing or spreadsheet analysis in-house when high quality services are available on-line for minimal cost.

Don’t get me wrong, there will always be servers and desktops and laptops, just as there are still mainframes, while large organisations may decide to develop private clouds to take advantage of economies of scale while reducing the risks inherent in trusting data to a third party, but the paradigm shift, the change in the computing world view that we are experiencing at the moment, is every bit as profound as the shift from mainframes to client-server computing was 20 years ago.

So what will the impact of this paradigm shift be for real people like you and me? Here are some of my predictions.

Service Operations will migrate out of the business

The essence of cloud computing is that what we have traditionally thought of as ‘IT’ has become a commodity. Most companies will no longer find they have a requirement for staff who can build a PC or a server as this requirement will have either been outsourced, virtualized or hosted on the cloud. But as is the case for mainframes, there will always be the odd niche where techies will thrive, so don’t despair!

Despite the growing importance of the actual connection to the cloud, network operation skills will also be outsourced, despite the fact that a secure, robust network to access cloud services will be even more critical than it is now.

Service Strategy and Service Design will become the core competence of IT Departments

The main business of IT is providing services that meet the needs of the business, but the new world of the cloud means most of those services will actually be provided by external companies. Logically, then, the core function of an IT department will be to decide HOW to provide the services to the business. Questions for Service Strategists and Designers will include: Which services do we put on the cloud, and which do we keep in house?  How will we ensure there is a seamless blend between the two? Which services should be provided as a unit, and which can be provided be different suppliers? How do we manage our suppliers to ensure they work together to ensure effective provision of all the services we need?

Service Transition will be vital for keeping suppliers on their toes

One of the biggest risks inherent in cloud computing is the danger of being locked into poorly performing, costly services which are either too risky or too expensive to escape. Service transition skills will be critical in keeping suppliers on their toes by giving management the confidence that it is possible to walk away if the service isn’t up to scratch while ensuring that new services are up and running as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Peripheral skills will move to the core

Areas which are currently considered peripheral to the operation of an IT organisation will become more prominent. The ability of Strategic Procurement to negotiate contracts that create value and minimise costs and risks will determine whether IT brings competitive advantage to the business, or, at the opposite extreme, becomes a costly white elephant that reduces productivity. IT Vendor and Asset Management will focus on ensuring the business achieves the value it expects from its Service Providers and will manage the fall-out when things go wrong, while Information Security will become more akin to Business Risk Management, assessing information risks and ensuring safeguards are in place to protect the organisation’s reputation.

How to survive the coming change?

The move to cloud computing resembles the slow grind of tectonic plates rather than a sudden tsunami devouring everything in its path. As with the movement of the continents, the shift to cloud computing will be slow but both inevitable and unstoppable. There will be the odd earthquake, of course, devastating for those on the fault line, but many people will find it has no major effect on their careers, and in some instances, may even enhance them.

IT folk are inured to change, but it has to be said that many of us lack flexibility. Be willing to shift sideways, or into a different industry (or onto the cloud itself) and be open to alternative ways of using your existing skills – perhaps move into consultancy or (shudder) sales. Broaden your skills base and see continuous professional development as a fundamental part of your working life – on a par with your morning commute or annual review.

Develop your soft skills, particularly communication. It’s hard to be a consultant, for instance, helping organisations change, unless you can communicate effectively and work with a wide range of people on many different levels.

Make it your business to understand the business. IT exists only because it offers businesses competitive advantage. The higher the competitive advantage provided by IT, the higher the rate of investment – you just need to compare the level of investment between the Finance and Construction industries to see clear evidence of that! Understand how IT offers your business competitive advantage and make sure your work supports this. If the business asks you to change because you are no longer helping it succeed, then change!

Find a niche. There are still jobs out there supporting mainframes, and there will always be jobs maintaining server based in-house applications. The jobs will be limited, but if you find a niche or have an obscure skill that a particular company can’t survive without, then the rest of your career could be very comfortable indeed. But don’t forget to be flexible! If your bosses out-source 90% of the niche jobs to India, it will be your ability to manage the outsourcer effectively that means you keep your job!

Kylie Fowler

It’s an exciting time to be working in IT, and although some people will suffer from the shift to the cloud, I am optimistic that the old Chinese proverb ‘may you live in interesting times’ will turn out to be a blessing rather than a curse for most IT professionals.

Note: if you are interested in reading more about the impact of the shift to the cloud, the Silicon.com website has an extensive special feature on the impact of the cloud which can be accessed at the link below.

http://www.silicon.com/special-features/cloud-security/

Kylie Fowler is a regular columnist for The ITSM Review, see previous articles from Kylie here.

Is Your Approach to ITSM Working? – An Alternative to Rip and Replace

Integration as an Alternative to Rip and Replace

Ben Cody of Serena Software contributed this article.  If you would like to guest post on The ITSM Review please contact us.

When I speak to organisations about their approach to IT Service Management (ITSM), there is no doubt that there is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction. From exorbitant upgrade quotes on ITSM solutions, frustration at not getting the reports that they want from the systems themselves, or just simply not being easy to use, organisations using ITSM solutions don’t seem to be happy.

These IT organisations are often looking for ways to transform their operations and be more service-oriented. However, they are finding that their own ITSM systems and processes severely impede their efforts to meet this goal. Far too often, providing services outside of the “break-fix” realm seem to be beyond them. In a recent study conducted by Forrester Research and itSMF USA, one out of every five ITSM professionals surveyed said they were ready and working to switch ITSM solutions.

This internal frustration can also be felt within the wider business: if the ITSM system is difficult for the professionals that live with it every day, then the rest of the organisation stand even less of a chance of getting what they want. If you find yourself nodding at this point, then it appears that you have two options open: either consider a system upgrade, or a wholesale shift to a new solution. Both can provide opportunities to improve service, but also have their own drawbacks.

Moving up to the latest version of your existing ITSM solution can provide an opportunity to change processes, or look at opportunities to improve service. However, the cost of upgrading an existing service desk implementation or retrofitting it to meet demands for new services can sometimes outweigh the cost of replacing it. In this case, it’s time to analyse the overall cost and whether it is time to make a switch.

No need to rip and replace?

As part of this process, there may be some middle ground available. If you can live with your existing service desk tools for now, then one approach to consider is augmenting them with solutions for the wider management of ITSM.

At the heart of this approach is the requirement to look at the processes involved for managing ITSM: do they meet the needs of the service desk team, the wider IT function and the overall business? For example, the service desk analysts might be getting on fine with the tools that they have, but end-users could still be left in the dark on status requests and progress of work. In this case, improving the process management side would involve building out the business users’ single point of contact with your IT organisation.

By delivering a sleek unified service request portal, your IT team can not only provide your employees with a means to gain instant status updates on their requests but it also provides a way to showcase the breadth of IT and business services that you have to offer. Not only would this improve the face of IT to the business, it could also be used to build in some self-service elements around common tasks as well, reducing calls to the service desk and therefore cost.

At the same time, this approach also provides you with a process management platform to automate and deliver additional IT services that build on the service desk. This will go a long way in improving business satisfaction with IT. As all requests are funnelled through a common demand management framework, it is easy to have a single view of all work requests, for your IT managers to quickly spot resourcing issues, and for your executives to effectively track your IT organisation’s performance against Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

What this really points to is that ITSM has to show the same level of understanding around business process and requirements that the rest of IT has built up. Rather than focusing inward and just making sure that the ITSM basics are covered, consider establishing greater automation and orchestration across the IT service delivery process life-cycle, wider IT functions and business processes involved, as the value delivered by undertaking this is far greater than sticking with your existing approach.

Evaluating ITSM solutions? Questions to ask

Here’s a ten-point checklist to consider while evaluating alternative ITSM solutions:

Ben Cody, Serena Software
Ben Cody, Serena Software
  1. Does the solution come with pre-packaged ITIL v3 verified processes?
  2. Does it provide you with the flexibility to change or add processes to match how you actually deliver IT and business services – without having to bring in an army of vendor consultants to make those changes?
  3.  Can it integrate ITSM processes and deliver full visibility into the status of issues and workloads through dashboards and configurable reports?
  4.  Does it include an integrated Configuration Management Database (CMDB) so as to deliver contextual information that can speed incident and problem investigation?
  5.  Does it provide intuitive forms and screens that improve user satisfaction and agent productivity?
  6. Can services be easily categorised and presented to your users in a single view?
  7. Is there a central portal that funnels all business requests in to IT, including development and operations?
  8. Does the solution deliver stellar self-service capabilities?
  9. Does it provide a robust process management foundation that can be leveraged to automate and streamline other core IT processes and services?
  10. Do you have the flexibility to deploy the solution on premises as well as in the Cloud?

Ben Cody of Serena Software contributed this article.  If you would like to guest post on The ITSM Review please contact us.

2011 – The Year When Irresistible Force Met Immovable Object

Kylie Fowler is a regular columnist for The ITAM Review (see tag: Kylie Fowler). Here Kylie writes her first article for The ITSM Review.

As we blithely march into the bold new world that is 2012, I’d like to take a pause to take a look back at 2011, which I would contend is one of the most momentous years in corporate computing.

Why? Because 2011 was the year of an extraordinarily swift paradigm shift, triggered by the introduction of the irresistible, mesmerizing gadget that is Apple’s iPad into Corporate Boardrooms everywhere and enabled by the same virtualization technology that is supporting the shift to the cloud.

But a simple change in technology is not in itself a paradigm shift, nor is Apple’s iPad particularly revolutionary, although it feels that way to users – after all, laptops and 3G cards have been around for years. The paradigm shift is that in 2011 IT Departments have surrendered control over their end user technology, and don’t really expect to be in the driving seat ever again!

All the ingredients for this change have been in place for several years now, but CIOs and their asset managers have been resisting the change on the grounds of information security and cost. It took the sudden demand en masse for iPads in the C-suite to break the chains of control over end user technology and shift thinking away from command and control of individual devices to the technology free-for-all that we will enjoy in 2012 and beyond.

What are the ingredients that have both demanded and enabled this change?

Consumer technology is now more powerful than corporate PCs

Corporate End User technology choices used to be driven by a need to process data effectively (ever more complex software required ever more processing power) and store secure data securely while minimizing costs. The outcome was that corporate desktop computers had highly standardized hardware and software (to minimise support overheads) were tightly controlled (to ensure data security) and were generally more powerful than the PCs most employees had at home.

However a combination of cheaper processing power, the rise of visually sophisticated computer games and fast home broadband meant that even 5 years ago the majority of new home PCs provided a far sleeker user experience than clunky work machines that were optimised for spreadsheets.

For several  years now End Users have been frustrated that the technology they used at home was so much better than the technology they had available at work, but they were unable to do anything about it until Senior Executives ignored IT concerns about data security and demanded they be allowed to use iPads.

Smartphones have made technology personal and very, very sexy

Through the technology dark ages (aka the 1960s and 1970s) and into the noughties, personal prestige and social status was signaled by the car you drove, or, for a woman, by the type of car your boyfriend drove!

Modern technology (and feminine emancipation!) means that this role has been largely taken over by the mobile phone. Everyone has one and they come in myriad shapes and sizes. Some are expensive, some are cheap, but they all make a statement about who we are, whether we like it or not.

Smart phones take this personalization a step further. They are a filofax plus – calendar, contacts, games, photos, music, TV shows, books, everything that makes us an individual has a place in our smartphones, and it won’t stop there – watch out for the introduction of mobile money into the developed world very soon.

The laptop and blackberry of a corporate road warrior used to signal superior status, but the flexibility, personality and sheer fun of a modern smartphone has completely up-staged these more staid corporate badges. Again, credit goes to Messrs Jobs and Ive for making smartphones irresistible.

Virtualisation Technology allows IT to control only the things it needs to

Virtualisation technologies have also been around for years. However the old command and control mindset meant that the vision being sold was one of ‘thin clients’ reminiscent of the dumb terminals of the mainframe era. The thin client concept gave IT even more control over the end user experience, dictating exactly what end users could see and do on their computers, wiping the slate clean every night and recreating a pure, unsullied desktop every morning. Great for call centre workers in daily contact with sensitive data, not so much fun – or necessary – for the rest of us.

The real power of virtualization comes with the combination of a virtual private network (VPN) and a virtual desktop to allow users to access the applications and data they need from any machine while letting them install games, photos, and music to their hearts content.

Of course this creates risks in itself – how do you prove the software on an unlocked machine is legal? What if an employee downloads something illegal onto their machine? To deal with this problem, many firms are allowing themselves to lose control even further and are contemplating requiring employees to purchase their own IT equipment – the ‘bring your own device’ (BOYD) revolution.

Corporate content will be delivered in a strictly controlled way over the VPN, while the computer itself, the hard drive, the processor etc belongs purely to the user.

But does this really amount to a paradigm shift? And has it really occurred in the space of just one year, 2011?

I would argue yes.

The traditional way of approaching end user computing was for IT departments to hoard control and maintain a certain mystique around the technology they commanded. This article published in February 2011 in ITPro epitomizes the old command and control approach as it discusses how to secure mobile devices, while this article, published in October 2011 on the same website positively urges IT Departments to forgo control and embrace diversity through BYOD while ensuring data is secure through the use of virtualization technologies.

Kylie Fowler
IT Departments, and indeed end users themselves, will be nervous about BYOD for several years to come. Support issues have the potential to cause major headaches, and although it is easy to say that hardware support is the end user’s problem, anyone telling that to a C-Suite Executive who can’t work because her computer has broken down will find their career cut nastily short! Adoption of BYOD may be slow and piecemeal in conservative industries and companies, but I have little doubt the revolution will happen.

So 2011 is the year in which the irresistible force of consumer demand met the seemingly immovable object that is IT Departments’ ownership over end user technology and IT Departments realised they can, and indeed must, cede control.

A momentous year indeed!

ITSM Vendor Directory V1.0 (itSMF UK Conference Exhibitors)

Web searches for tool vendors has given me a shortlist of over 100 ITSM related vendors (See here and here for a few examples).  However my goal is to present tool vendors in a meaningful and useful format for prospective buyers. The aim is to allow oranges to be truly compared with oranges.

As a starting point I have included software vendors who exhibited at the recent UK itSMF conference. I will add and enrich this grid over time adding more and more vendors as I comprehend them.

V1.0 itSMF UK Conference Exhibitors by Type / Focus

Vendors have been assigned to one of nine pens based on two characteristics; the primary market they serve and the company type. I don’t believe prospective ITSM buyers make decisions based on these criteria, but it allows a prospective buyer with an interest in one vendor to immediately see comparable vendors in that space. For example if I had shown some interest in Axios, I could quickly see companies of a similar ilk.

Market Focus

This is the primary market focus (i.e. not sole focus).

Generally speaking most software vendors will happily sell their software to anyone who wants to part with their cash, but they will typically have a market sweet spot that they focus on. I would be dubious of any company that claims to serve the entire market for every purpose, they are either desperate or naive.

The words ‘SME’, ‘Mid-Market’ and ‘Enterprise’ refer to product characteristics rather than specific numbers of users or company size. After all, each term will have a different meaning depending on where you live on the planet. A large enterprise in Helsinki is an SME in Houston. So for example, you might say that a characteristic of tools aimed at SME companies are typically aimed at high volume with DIY implementation.

Company Type 

  • Conglomerates – Large international brands with divisions that include ITSM tools.
  • Suites – IT Management tool sets which include ITSM tools
  • Specialists – vendors whose sole focus is ITSM.

Finally, I have deliberately avoided the word ‘Cloud’. Over the next few years I see this as being a delivery option rather than key competitive differentiator.

Other Categories

There are other product categories that are outside of scope of this grid which I would like to cover. They include utilities or enablers that are associated with ITSM (e.g. Intel exhibited at itSMF), customer service, general support ticketing tools and systems management tools with ITSM functionality. I also believe there is growing overlap with Social CRM tools.

Your Feedback?

Have these vendors been allocated accurately? what other characteristics would you track? Please share your feedback by leaving a comment. Thanks, Martin

Never Mind BYOD – What about BYOA?

Bring Your Own Device, Build Your Own App?

Lots of chatter happening around ‘Bring Your Own Device’ and the ‘Consumerization’ of IT.

These issues seem to represent the convergence of a number of growing trends:

  • Consumers being increasingly IT savvy
  • Consumers being used to instant internet gratification and on-demand ‘Apps’
  • Smart efficient toys
  • Productivity and GTD in a world of infinite choice
  • Cloud based apps eating the lunch of enterprise software dinosaurs

The result? Support departments are either having to support a plethora of new platforms or are facing increasing pressure to loosen up corporate standards and traditional ways of thinking.

Some interesting figures published this week, firstly from LANDesk:

“(the) influx of mobile devices in the workplace, viewed by 96 per cent as vital to productivity, is resulting in huge pressure on service desks. Service desk managers are finding themselves swamped with calls to support mobile devices yet underequipped to deal with them.

The survey found that a massive 76 per cent of service desks claim that the extra support required has had a negative impact. This is due to the fact that the uptake of new devices has necessitated a rapid accumulation of knowledge and expertise to support them.”

This raises an interesting point; who says the service desk has to know everything? Shouldn’t the service desk be about support rather than encyclopedic knowledge of every device? If the service desk is to avoid collapsing under the burden of these devices organizations need to learn to work in partnership or participate in communities.

“Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information on it.” Samuel Johnson.

The second piece of research came from systems management appliance vendor Dell KACE:

Key findings from the research are:

– 87 per cent of companies have users with personal devices that are being used for work purposes

– 62 per cent thought that they don’t have the tools to manage personal IT devices coming onto the network

– 64 per cent don’t think they know about all the devices that are coming onto the network

“New Research Reveals Growing ‘Consumerisation of IT’ Trend Fuelling Security Fears and Highlights Lack of Strategy to Manage Personal Devices.

According to the research, security needs top the list for IT managers when it comes to managing external mobile devices with 82 percent citing their concerns about the use of personal devices for business use, and another 62 percent specifically concerned about network security breaches.”

In terms of security, vendors such as Good Technology are providing some interesting technology in this space. It’s about securing the data on the device rather securing the device. So the choice of device becomes less of a security headache.

BYOA?

Discussions to date have been device centric. The bigger issue, which dwarfs BYOD, is Bring Your Own App (BYOA?)– When users become bored and frustrated with the glacial pace of enterprise software and use their own Apps to get the job done. One browser, one credit card, bye-bye dinosaur.

What do you think? How should organizations address BYOD and BYOA?

Photo Credit

The ITSM Tool Pricing Ouch-O-Meter

Click to Enlarge

One thing that has surprised me during my initial exploration of ITSM tools is the simplicity of some SaaS based pricing models.

Software licensing options offer vendors the ability to flex their competitive muscles, adapt their solutions to different customers and maximize revenue.

Microsoft is particularly good at this, if you are a left-handed student living in Outer Mongolia – Microsoft has a SKU code with your name on it! To the other extreme, Salesforce.com licensing is remarkably straight forward, if you have fifty users and you want Enterprise Edition – everyone must be on Enterprise Edition.

The counter to this simplicity is that customers might end up paying for development of software that they don’t use, but I think this is easily outweighed by simplicity and predictability. No hidden surprises and endless fiddling about with licensing scenarios.

Moreover, for a SaaS based subscription model it is in the interests of the vendor to ensure you are a happy customer, rather than the vendor constantly trying to sell the next upgrade or option. Vendors are more interested in longevity and retention over winning the big deal, in theory at least.

The KISS Principle

I was pleasantly surprised to see some SaaS based ITSM vendors offering one simple price per user per year. For everything. I’m not the sharpest tool in the box so I’m all for keeping things simple when the opportunity presents itself. KISS.

Being this crystal clear over licensing represents a significant paradigm shift for some traditional ITSM tool vendors. It is difficult to wean yourself from high margin professional services revenue when you have grown used to it – how will that revenue be replaced if we simplify everything for our customers? Similarly some vendors position relatively low cost ITSM tools specifically to generate new business for their consulting business.

Eyes Wide Open

I believe pricing simplicity should be a serious consideration when choosing a tool vendor. I have compiled a quick pricing ‘Ouch-O-Meter’ to help during the tool selection process. Click on the image above to enlarge it.

I’m not saying that SaaS is the only way to go, nor am I anti-consultant (being one myself) – I just like the simplicity of the licensing model. I believe how things are priced moving forward should be a serious consideration when exploring a new vendor relationship, there is nothing worse when securing a great deal than to find the hidden extras.

Am I entering into an ‘all you can eat’ license or a ‘We’re going to nickel-and-dime you every time you breath’ relationship?

Have I missed anything here? What else should be considered when it comes to vendor pricing?