Incident Management Group Test 2016 – The Results

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.

Frontline service desk and incident management, heroes of the ITSM world
Frontline service desk and incident management, heroes of the ITSM world!

Incident Management is a rockstar process and deserves a rockstar tool to support it so without further ado, let’s get started!

Customer Numbers

  • 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

Alemba Ltd.

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.

Atlassian

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.

Cherwell Software

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.

InvGate

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

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.

Marval Software

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.

Matrix42

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.

Nexthink

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!

SUMMIT Software

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.


Deep Dives


The Group Test Process

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.

Market Observations

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

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Best Overall: Marval Software LimitedIM Best Overall Winner 2016_Marvel

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:

  • IM Best Innovation 2016_InvGateThe 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

IM Best Use of Analytics 2016_HPIndustry 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.

IM Best For Proactivity 2016_Nexthink (3)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

IM Best Using Powers for Good 2016_ManageEngineManageEngine 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.


Deep Dives


Disclaimer Scope & Limitations

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

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

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

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Coming Soon: SIAM Group Test

Our next Group Test will explore how toolsets can aid you on your SIAM journey:

SIAM:

Service Integration & Management (SIAM) is the term given to a multi-vendor service model, where the traditional service towers (storage, network, infrastructure, desktop, service desk, etc) are sourced to a supplier eco-system.

This is supported by an internal or external SIAM function which delivers IT Service Management, end-to-end governance and business focus, as well as undertaking the integration of the various service provider capabilities, into a business facing service

Tool Criteria & Scope:

Our remit is to explore how dedicated toolsets can aid SIAM and deliver value to the client organisation.

The group test will focus on specific SIAM challenges, rather than duplicating the test criteria typically associated with the procurement of a Service Management tool. The tool review will focus upon the following areas:

  • Integration of the tool with other tools for exchange of master data, ticket data and CMDB / Asset data (including relationships between CIs)

  • Ability to onboard / offboard service providers

  • Ability to manage master data (priorities, locations, users, etc), including maintenance, bulk upload, and reconciliation

  • Ability to support configuration changes to workflow

  • Ability to support serial and parallel assignment of tasks to different service providers, potentially across toolsets

  • Ability to track progress of assigned tickets and tasks in real-time, generating automated alerts in accordance with user defined near-breach/breach parameters

  • Ability to apply multiple SLA/OLA/UC clocks to a single ticket and run these in parallel

  • Ability to produce comprehensive reports on Service Provider SLA performance service tower performance and end user SLA performance, both in real-time and on-demand

  • Ability to act as the point of control between IT supply and IT demand

  • Ability to manage Change & Release Management across multiple suppliers – how to carry out a solid risk assessment across multiple vendors and multiple roles

  • Effective management of commercial component; for managing contracts, procurement, service level penalties, invoicing, etc.

  • Effective management of integration component for all activities that focus on the actual coordination of the services provided by the multiple suppliers, and can be split up in three sub-layers: managerial (e.g., vendor analytics, project management), operational (e.g., cross-supplier change management), and infrastructural (e.g., data dictionary management) aspects.

  • Ability to support common use of data to eliminate duplication and make it easy to update individual data elements

  • Appropriate, role based security so that only authorised personnel can access information

  • Workflow engine to support multiple service towers

  • Defined forms to support multiple activities and roles

The research will highlight competitive differentiators; feature key strengths and showcase innovation within each product. Once reviewed, we will crown one Vendor “Best in Class” in Service Integration and Management.

For more information of if you’d like to take part in the assessment please contact us!

Subscribe to The ITSM Review newsletter or follow us on Twitter to receive a notification when the research is published.

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Coming Soon: ITAM and ITSM Integration Group Test

Our next Group Test will explore the relationship between the IT management disciplines of IT Asset Management (ITAM) and IT Service Management (ITSM).

The review will explore the opportunities for managing assets and interacting with ITAM teams whilst maintaining everyday ITSM processes.

We’re looking to review:

  • ITSM tools that offer ITAM functionality or integrate with tools that do
  • As well as ITAM tools that provide value add to ITSM lifecycles

Our Group Tests review and compare the features and strengths of technology for a particular use case.

Previous Group Tests:

The aim of the review is to support prospective buyers with their selection process by providing features to consider when building integrations between ITAM & ITSM – highlighting key competitive differentiators between products.

ITAM and ITSM (2+2=5)

To be agile in making financial decisions in IT, we need to shift from ITAM being a reactive process (counting up the mess after it has happened, performing true-ups) to be Proactive. ITAM need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the architects and project managers making technology choices to support them and help the business make smarter decisions. Decisions need to be made whilst considering efficient delivery of services (ITSM) whilst also considering risk and total financial impact (ITAM).

The table below highlights the six most likely sources of change within your IT environment. By embracing and working with these sources of change, we can help the business make quicker and smarter decisions.

ITAM can be an enabler and source of business intelligence for ITSM and IT teams in general – addressing change at a strategic level rather than in a reactive fire-fighting capacity.

Sources-of-Change1

The diagram below shows a typical cradle-to-grave lifecycle of an asset and where I believe the opportunities exist for providing more agile ITAM and integrating with ITSM.

Where-ITAM-meets-ITSM1

ITAM & ITSM Integration Group Test- Key Topic areas:

  • Inventory – How do you manage an inventory of assets and ensure accuracy?
  • Change Management – How are formal changes communicated to the ITAM team?
  • Request Fulfilment – How are asset costs and authorisations delivered via requests?
  • Relationship Mapping – How is the relationship between users, assets and services managed?
  • Asset Usage – How are unused, AWOL or stolen assets managed?
  • Installs, Moves, Adds and Changes (IMAC) – How are everyday changes to systems reflected in asset data?
  • Procurement – How are ITAM and ITSM data combined to allow smarter procurement decisions?

Have I missed anything – what else would you add to this list?

Suppliers who wish to participate should contact us.

Coming Soon: The Battle of Change, Configuration and Release

wrestling
Let the battle begin!

We’re excited to be kicking off our research briefings next week for our competitive analysis on Change, Configuration and Release. Scheduled for publication in May, vendors confirmed to participate so far include:

The research will highlight competitive differentiators; feature key strengths (and weaknesses too of course); and showcase innovation within each product. Once reviewed, we will crown one Vendor “Best in Class” and the “leader” in Change, Configuration and Release.

Our research is based solely on responses to an in-depth questionnaire as well as a series of briefings, but we are always interested in hearing the end-user perspective.

Do you have experience with any of the participating Vendors? Do you have any views on their capabilities when it comes to Change, Configuration and Release? Are there any Vendors that you think are successful in this area who are not currently scheduled to participate in this review?

The review will be conducted by Rebecca Beach. For more information on the assessment view the Group Test criteria here. Vendors can still sign up to be involved up until Friday 31st January.

Subscribe to the ITSM Review newsletter or follow us on Twitter to receive a notification when the research is published.

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Assessment Criteria – Change, Config and Release

Today we begin our competitive analysis of Change, Config and Release.  As with previous reviews our goal will be to highlight the key strengths, competitive differentiators and innovation in the industry.

Widely recognised as key to the successful preservation of production systems, the ITSM processes of Change, Config and Release are perceived as pivotal to maintaining the integrity and stability of the IT environment.

Flow diagram showing the five areas of Change, Config and Release.  These will not always be used in order and Auditing and Reporting should be ongoing.
Flow diagram showing the five areas of Change, Config and Release. These will not always be used in order and Auditing and Reporting should be ongoing.

In a nutshell:

Change Management is the process used to track and communicate any changes in service that may impact the customer such as when systems are taken offline for updates.

Configuration Management is the process used to track individual CI’s (Configuration Items) and the way in which they interact with one another.

Release Management is the process of managing software releases from development right through to release.

Each process can be used individually but more often than not you will find these processes intertwined.  When considering either a Change or Release you will need to know the CI’s that will be affected before you begin.

E.g: Your organisation needs to upgrade your in-house software package to all of its desktop pc’s, tablet devices and kiosks.

Release Management is used to track the in-house development of the software in question, Config management is used to scope the number of devices, number of people and types of people affected while Change Management is used to ensure the changes take place on a date that will cause the least disruption and that the why, how and when the changes will take place are communicated to the relevant people.

The criteria we will be using for our assessment is published below.


Identification

  • Ability to maintain a detailed record of each system’s configuration
  • Ability to interface with all internal Management Data Repositories (MDR) allowing the tool to compare reported configuration with actual configuration stored in the MDR
  • Ability to define dependency relationships between CIs
  • Ability to assign maintenance windows to CIs
  • Ability to auto discover CIs
  • Ability to interface with Inventory Control tools (to automate gathering of asset and inventory information) and barcode scanners
  • Ability to create automated alerts when a CI is found to be in an unauthorised state
  • Ability to link Release records to Change records
  • Ability to provide a Change/Release calendar with scheduled change viewing by group, and to customize the sorting and filtering of calendar views and link to existing calendar products

 Assessment/Approval

  • Calculate an objective risk assessment considering business impact and affected services
  • Show logical links between components included in a service in order to carry out business impact analysis
  • Ability to automatically create a Change Request when unauthorised changes are made to CI’s
  • Ability to schedule recurring events and maintenance
  • Ability to create and select pre-approved Change/Release from a pre-defined list
  • Pre-determined fields to auto-populate when Standard Change/Release from list used
  • Ability to capture the Change/Release date and time and who will be responsible for implementation
  • Ability to automatically send approval requests to the appropriate approvers
  • Ability to notify the assignee of the task and due date
  • Ability to link resources/approvers to Changes/Releases
  • Ability to assign tasks to individuals to be accomplished within specific time frames
  • Ability to alert Change/Release managers when approvals are past due
  • Ability to change status of Change/Release approvals
  • Ability to easily identify scheduling conflicts and reschedule appropriately

 Implementation

  • Ability to attach and store documentation with a Change/Release record
  • Ability to authorize and schedule Release deployments in conjunction with Change Management processes
  • Ability to change status of Release and linked Changes
  • Automatic notification for scheduled start/end and when the status of a Change associated with a Release changes
  • Ability to build, bundle and schedule different types of release packages for deployment
  • Ability to change status of Change/Release documentation
  • Ability to create sub activities or tasks for separate assignment to an individual, group or vendor
  • Ability to version release components and packages
  • Ability to assign tasks to teams/resolver groups

Accountability

  • Ability to track the physical location of contracts and agreements, and identify the individuals responsible for them
  • Ability to define Change and Release Windows (including freeze windows)
  • Ability to document back-out procedures
  • Ability to ensure that Release deployments are subject to scheduling and approval requirements managed by the Change management process
  • Ability to provide proactive notification to stakeholders and Change Advisory Board (CAB) members for Changes with critical business impact and provide fully configurable filtered views of scheduled changes to multiple stakeholders
  • Ability to designate back up approvers
  • Ability to set thresholds for automated approval process
  • History of approval requests logged

Auditing/Reporting

  • Ability to easily identify affected CIs whenever a change is made
  • Ability to maintain an audit trail of changes made to a CI
  • Ability to track Asset status and lifecycle management
  • Support of multiple software audit options
  • Ability to perform software license management including automated notification of license expiration and non-compliance
  • Ability to create and publish a Master Release Schedule
  • Ability to associate the Master Release Schedule with Service Level Agreement information
  • Ability to store approver comments with the approval, and store approval history for a Release
  • Ability to track and trace post deployment activities
  • Ability to trace implementation to the authorized version in the Document Management Library (DML)
  • Bulk import of licensing data
  • Ability to track costs of CI’s

General/Other Criteria

  • Alignment with industry frameworks
  • Ability to support a “virtual” CAB (i.e. approvals/issues stored electronically)
  • User-configurable forms, tables, workflows, dashboards
  • Role-based access for approvals, retracting or rescheduling RFC’s/Release
  • Open system for real-time integration with financial management and other monitoring tools
  • Provision of templates and pre-filled forms and structure to act as basic starting point
  • Vendors should provide expertise and guidance in the implementation of the tool and relevant processes

If you would like to comment on the above criteria or if you are a vendor and would like to be included in this review please comment below or contact me via email.

Integrations 2013 Group Test – The Results

integrationsThis is a competitive review of software products and vendors who offer integrations to other technologies and data sources.

Products reviewed:


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(Free PDF, No Registration Required – 605kb, 12 Pages)


Integrations 2013 Best in Class

Integrations 2013 Group Test Best in Class: BDNA
Integrations 2013 Group Test Best in Class: BDNA

BDNA. It is a concept so simple but offers so much value, especially in an IT Service Management environment.

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

  • Specialized Service Management Suites – Best in Class for Integrations: ServiceNow As well as offering a range of connectors and detailed integration guidance, they provide workbooks to help focus pre-deployment across the board, so not just physical users but categories and the additional functions that go to build up a service management platform. Other tools assessed: – Cherwell, Easy Vista and ManageEngine
  • Systems Management Toolsets – Best in Class for Integrations – Absolute Software Their comprehensive approach to a full range of endpoint management with a subtle interface makes it a powerful suite in its market area. Other tools assessed: LANDesk and Matrix42
  • ITSM Value Added Tools – Best in Class for Integrations – BDNA It is a concept so simple but offers so much value, especially in an IT Service Management environment. Other tools assessed: Bomgar, Nexthink

IntegrationsIntroduction

It is all too easy, when looking at ITSM tools, to focus on perhaps the bread and butter functionality that we have all come to know, love and sometimes stumble over in implementation.

Sometimes it seems a secondary concern as to how the information gets there in the first place. As easy as it sounds, and to be honest as easy as it is for the more straightforward commercial engagement, my experiences with some managed service implementations were a different story.

Rigid, unyielding client security policies matched with equally rigid developed methods to load the data, it made the whole affair at times uncomfortable for all. There had to be easier ways.

Of course there are, and not only that but as products sets integrate with more and more third parties, as well as looking for ways themselves to innovate and manoeuvre in the market place, so we find ourselves looking across the wide base of integrations into and out of ITSM tools.

Where once it seemed to be the playground of development teams to come up with imaginative ways to squirt records from one system to another, again especially in large and complex projects, the use of real-time web services makes it easy for tools be less the “king of the castle” and more the glue that holds everything together.

What is perhaps more liberating, for want of a better word, is the range of products that presented themselves for this review.

From niche products that offer very succinct areas of integration to complement the service management function to the more established tool bases that recognise that increasingly they are becoming but one cog in an IT service chain – we take a look at an extensive range of tools and their integration points within IT Service Management.

Market Positioning

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

Target-Market-Size


Vendor

Specialist ITSM Functions

Discovery
Own Tool/Third Party Integration

Event Management & Monitoring
Own Tool/Third Party Integration

Web Services

Niche

Absolute Software

Y

Own/Integration

Own

Y

N

BDNA

N

Integration

N

N

Data as a Service

Bomgar

N

N

N

N

Secure remote support

Cherwell

Y

Own/Integration

Integration

Y

N

EasyVista

Y

Own/Integration

None demonstrated/Listed

Y

N

LANDesk

Y

Own/Integration

Own/Integration

y

N

Manage Engine

Y

Own/Limited Integration

Own

Y

N

Matrix42

Y

Own/Integration

Own

Y

N

Nexthink

N

Integration

Integration

N

Real-time End-user Analytics

ServiceNow

Y

Own/Integration

Integration

Y

N

Competitive Overview

The table below shows a high level overview of the competitive differences between the tools

  • Elevator Pitch – An independent assessment of what this module has to offer
  • Strengths – key positive points, highlighted during the review
  • Weaknesses – challenges or areas perceived to be lacking, during the review
Vendor Elevator Pitch Strengths Weaknesses
Absolute Software A restful and subtle  interface with an inclusive service management solution that wraps around a comprehensive endpoint management solution.
  • They offer a comprehensive set of connectors out of the box to a number of sources
  • An element of true CMDB federation exists by way of their mapping in real time with wizard driven interfaces
  • While they offer a range of innovative integrations for additional support – the current take-up tends to be slow for their market
BDNA If anyone has ever tried to cleanse raw inventory data to build a picture of what is actually installed out there for a managed estate, this product solves all that. Data is brought in whatever format and normalised to identify a standard naming convention, but that is not all. That data then has market intelligence appended to provide the most comprehensive definition for hardware and software
  • BDNA has tapped into Data-as-a-Service and the concept is fiendishly simple – take in data, clean it, classify it to a sensible taxonomy hierarchy and pump it back into ITSM
  • They have extended their reach to Purchase Orders to begin to integrate procurement into a single record of consistently referenced data
  • Their catalogue is free to browse online at www.technopedia.com
  • It sounds too good to be true and that is their biggest challenge – this is something that really works for the medium to large organisations who have the insight to make the investment but may be out of reach of small organisations
Bomgar A niche product that complements ITSM tools with a completely self-contained remote support offering that negates a lot of the issues around security and access
  • Specialises in remote support
  • Completely self-contained within their own supplied orange box
  • A wide range of integrations to some of the biggest ITSM vendors to complement service management end to end
  • It can be difficult to change the mentality of organisations as to why they would need/benefit from an additionally integrated remote support tool, rather than looking for other alternatives.
Cherwell A key understanding of what is required and the ability to provide innovation across the whole organisation – Cherwell show they understand what organisations need and are ready to supply connectors to a wide variety of additional sources of information. A comprehensive solution throughout.
  • Based on their experience – Cherwell cover pretty much everything required in typical deployments – the 80/20 rule – which gets clients running very rapidly but also ticks all the boxes in terms of what is offered versus what is generally required,
  • Recognise areas to offer clients in terms of integration points using elements such as Twitter and RSS.
  • Provide web services inbound bound and a very comprehensive range of connectors to external sources
  • Perhaps missing a trick now in terms of integrating with task management and resource management tools (such as linking with Outlook calendars and tasks for technicians).
Easy Vista A concise interface where simplicity is in the detail. A good application of best practice based on their commercial experience to take a lot of the pain away from pre-deployment set-up and a recognition that brokering service to and from other third parties needs to also be simplified.
  • Purpose built interfaces to import data and interact with third party integrations
  • Use of standard protocols to take away the need for programming capabilities for integration
  • Can integrate to third party search engines including those of third party vendors within the product
  • Their constraints are really tempered by the maturity levels of their customers – but they get around this by offering email integration where perhaps inbound and outbound web service based integration is more advanced. This is maybe indicative of the upper-mid-market segment that they are comfortable in currently.
LANDesk A solid product from a vendor whose roots start in system management and it adds a dimension to what they can offer.
  • 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
  • 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 but is not as innovative as some of the other approaches they take.
ManageEngine An entry-level ITSM solution with additional features such as Project Management and web services and a range of supporting tools available from the same stable of products.
  • Offers a range of products within their suite to manage across an organisation
  • Nice touch in providing project capability within the ServiceDesk Plus Change function
  • Misses automation in some key areas (CMDB) and not able to view a graphical representation of the process workflow
  • Some integrations rely on purchasing the other proprietary products as opposed to integrating with products organisations may have already.
Matrix42 Extensively focussed on Workplace management with Service Management wrapped around that capability.
  • Focus rooted in workplace management, and have invested heavily in their linkage with Airwatch Mobile Device Management  and then have built their Service Management around that
  • When added to their capabilities to integrate with other ITSM and Asset tools – can position themselves well as an IT services broker – an area that seems to lend itself to smaller operators in the market.
  • A strong European presence but maybe as a European Technology vendor, they lack that presence to make them more global business partners with some of the larger ITSM vendors that they could partner with to leverage their MDM capabilities.
Nexthink A niche product that takes a very different view of management and, when integrated into ITSM, can provide a real-time analytical interface into process for proactive, rather than reactive resolution.
  • Offers a completely different view of information within an enterprise
  • Everything is displayed in real-time and with the integration options to key ITSM tools, the combination really lends itself to large organisations or to those running complex transition projects
  • It takes a huge leap of faith to make a financial commitment to cover this level of end-to-end management and analytical capability – Probably not for the very small organisations.
ServiceNow With a solid base of ITSM processes and an extensive range of partnerships – ServiceNow covers all the bases as to drive organisations towards a single source of truth
  • They recognise that pre-deployment can almost be a project and provide a comprehensive workbook to focus on the data to bring across
  • Very extensive range of integration points through an ever growing partner base
  • A reliance on information imparted through their admittedly extensive wiki – although it has been tidied up and the Books function is a lot more comprehensive, it does create a “hands-off” impression when it comes to actually helping people find out more information.

Customers

Integrations-Number-of-Customers

Analysis

Vendor Functionality Competitive Differentiators Analysis
Absolute Software A subtle interface for a service management solution which has been wrapped around a comprehensive endpoint management system
  • They offer a number of integrated functions within the tool including Remote Control and Chat functions
  • They have focussed a lot of attention on a comprehensive Mobile Device Management strategy across Android and iOS
  • They recognise that everyone has tools and to avoid “swivel-chair management” – they provide connectors to any third party data source.
Absolute brought themselves into the Service Management market to complement their already established endpoint management toolset – to give themselves the complete package.They are in a great position to give some of the more established names in this market segment a real run for their money.
BDNA Data normalisation wrapped up as a service
  • BDNA normalizes data across multiple vendors and feel very confident to be able to offer SLAs on the level of data accuracy and completeness
  • BDNA employ a team to curate and add Market Intelligence to that normalized data
  • They have now applied those same algorithms to Purchase Orders in either structured or unstructured fields – so now information can be tracked from acquisition to retirement.
BDNA have tapped into a way to collect, clean, normalize and propagate data in a quick and seamless way that adds immediate value to any kind of service management environment where accurate data is vital.
Bomgar A secure appliance-based solution for remote access which integrates to key ITSM solutions
  • Bomgar offer arguably the most uniquely secured remote support solution with their Bomgar box– a centralised, security hardened server that never passes data or system access through a third party. It handles standard authentication (e.g. Active Directory), and they offer a number of access controls out of the box, plus extensive audit trails and video recordings of sessions.
  • Their remote support capability extends to almost any device imaginable – desktops, laptops, servers, smartphones and tablets.  They work across Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android and Blackberry systems and devices.
  • They are scalable and typically supply their solutions from small to large environments, enabling collaboration within teams and across external partnerships as offer the ability to remotely support a device from initiated chat support.
Another niche product with a great concept behind it – when large organisations have complex supplier relationships, Bomgar supply a security hardened orange box and integrate with some of the key players in the ITSM industry to provide solidly auditable remote support capability.
Cherwell Comprehensive and established service management tool which provides flexibility to bring together IT and business processes
  • Service automation and innovation through actionable features – a nice touch in particular is being able to create a new incident from an incoming Twitter feed, and exploring using RSS feeds for travelling technicians.
  • Mobile applications (iPad/iPhone) for IT users utilising location services but also recognise that this has a business use as well – allowing service business managers to visit locations making the integration more of a proactive tool
  • Continued ease of use, through effective development of wizards to handle all the integrations.
Cherwell continues to impress with their pragmatic view of IT Service Management, but could be letting easy integration wins pass them by where other competitors are providing value.
Easy Vista Integrated service management and some good areas of value add integration
  • EasyVista encompass their best practices in with their NEOTM platform which removes the need for delving into databases – everything is via easy to navigate interfaces
  • They have a comprehensive list of both inbound and outbound web services to allow them to be the “glue” in the middle of maybe larger, more complex support environments, resulting in real-time data exchanges between systems.
  • They do understand where their market pitch is, and allow for the fact that less mature environments may require more “traditional” email-style integrations for customers with perhaps older systems to integrate with
Ticks the boxes in terms of providing clean interfaces to integrate data and understand that the value they can add as an intermediary in complex support environments
LANDesk A good understanding of what the market needs and a good sense of position
  • LANDesk’s core expertise is rooted in 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.
  • They provide self-service capability accessible to users via desktops and mobile devices
  • They provide a two-way integration between Microsoft Outlook and the service desk to track task assignments
Another vendor coming from a different management background with service management wrapped around it, means they have a solid platform for integration
ManageEngine A basic service management solution with some reasonable integration capability
  • Provide a reasonable level of additional integration (for example web services)
  • Have developed a suite of products to complement the ServiceDesk Plus product set
  • Have added Project Management tracking capability
A good entry level service management solution, and while many other vendors include asset management tooling, their integration in this area perhaps lags behind other vendors
Matrix42 Builds on an established workplace management platform with service management, and throwing a lot of focus on mobile device management built in to that function
  • Matrix 42 offer integration around the management of physical, virtual and mobile devices
  • Matrix 42 offer their Service Catalogue and Service Desk free with their management product set
  • They offer integration out-of-the-box with products that are recognised as commonly in place on customers (e.g. SCCM, Active Directory etc.) and also integrate with a number of integrated Service Management suits (ServiceNow, Remedy, Axios among others)
They take the interesting route of offering their service management free with their workplace management product set – which focuses on putting the power in the hands of the end-user.
Nexthink A real-time view of end-user topology allowing for more proactive problem determination
  • Nexthink provide End-User IT Analytics – the tool analyses data from all the endpoints and extrapolates information from that perspective to identify trouble spots
  • The analysis is in real-time – patterns and any anomalies detected are constantly being evaluated.
  • They turn the end-user and endpoint data into a level of intelligence and insight to sit alongside IT Service Management and offer a level of integration with known vendors to complement them in a number of areas
This power in this tool is the real-time correlation and analysis purely built up from an end-point perspective – and their continuing partnership with some of the biggest names in the ITSM industry should ensure that proactive assessment becomes a norm, but might put it out of reach of the smaller organisations.
ServiceNow Comprehensive Service Management tool with extensive integration capabilities
  • ServiceNow offers not just an extensive range of ITSM capabilities but some non-ITSM but complementary areas (Project & Program Management, Governance Risk Compliance).
  • They are able to call upon a wide range of customers as reference customers, an they have a wide partner base for implementations and integrations
  • They have scored highly in the Gartner ITSSM MQ (20th August 2013) for the Berlin Release.
As well as offering a full range of integration functions as well as their own tooling for asset management, ServiceNow had project management within their tool and partner with companies like Bomgar for remote support. They can resort to pointing at their wiki which feels at times like a slightly “hands-off” approach – even if it has been curated recently.

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.

Integrations Group Test line up announced

Winning team: Which tool set will lead our Integration Group Test by Ros Satar (…and gratuitous shot of Chris Froome in his yellow jersey enroute to win the 100th edition of the race with Team Sky)
Winning team: Which tool set will lead our Integration Group Test by Ros Satar (…and gratuitous shot of Chris Froome in his yellow jersey enroute to win the 100th edition of the Tour de France with Team Sky)

Absolute Software, BDNA, Bomgar, Cherwell, EasyVista, LANDesk, ManageEngine, Matrix42, Nexthink and ServiceNow are confirmed participants for our upcoming ‘Integrations’ review.

The review will delve into integration tools which compliment ITSM processes.

“Whether it be speeding up implementations by cleaning up the original data needed to set up the system in the first place, to incorporporating Systems Management data, we want to take a look at the supporting products that help us manage IT and business services end to end.”

The assessment criteria at a glance:

  • Pre-Deployment Set-up
  • Integrations to Asset and Configuration information
  • Event Management
  • Support Services
  • Resource Management
  • Any other useful data that supports ITSM

Full details of the assessment criteria can be found here.

Reviewer: Ros Satar

Confirmed Participants:

  1. Absolute
  2. BDNA
  3. Bomgar
  4. Cherwell
  5. EasyVista
  6. LANDesk
  7. ManageEngine
  8. Matrix42
  9. Nexthink
  10. ServiceNow

Publication

All results will be published free of charge without registration on the ITSM Review. You may wish to subscribe to the ITSM Review newsletter (top right of this this page) or follow us on Twitter to receive a notification when it is published.

Image Credit (Sky Wallpapers)

Coming Soon: Axios, BMC, Cherwell, NetSupport, TOPdesk & Nexthink Slog it out

Incident and Problem Product Review
Axios, BMC, Cherwell, NetSupport, TOPdesk & Nexthink slog it out for our Incident and Problem Management review

Axios, BMC, Cherwell, NetSupport, TOPdesk and Nexthink are confirmed participants for our upcoming ‘Incident and Problem Management’ review.

Our assessment Criteria at a Glance:

  • Logging & Categorization
  • Tracking
  • Lifecycle Tracking
  • Prioritisation
  • Escalations
  • Major Incidents and Problems
  • Incident and Problem Models
  • Incident and Problem Closure

Full details of the assessment criteria can be found here.

Reviewer: Ros Satar 

Confirmed Participants:

All results will be published free of charge without registration on The ITSM Review. You may wish to subscribe to the ITSM Review newsletter (top right of this page) or follow us on Twitter to receive a notification when it is published.