Data Driven Automation ITSM & Skynet; LOGICnow Global Survey Results

A sparkly new global survey from LOGICnow shows that data-driven automation is imminent among IT service providers.

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Introduction:

LOGICnow have recently released the results of a survey into data driven automation in the ITSM community. The results overwhelmingly suggest that data driven automation is becoming an important trend in the ITSM world with over 44% of IT Service Providers & MSPs calling themselves “data driven” and of the 54% of IT service providers that collect and store data on customers’ IT performance, 81% were able to use the data to proactively improve service delivery.

 

So What Is Data Driven Automation & Why Do We Need It?

Data driven automation is:

  • The ability to automatically transform raw data into insights that can be implemented immediately

 

Or

  • Enabling data to automatically trigger corrective actions using analytics beyond simple event/ threshold triggers

 

So far so Skynet right? The reality is that data driven analytics is becoming more and more prevalent in ITSM as we move from the traditional reactive model to a more proactive stance to improve customer experience. The concept of simply waiting for our customers to ring the Service Desk to report Incidents is becoming less and less useful as we have more sophisticated event monitoring in place to capture alarms, alerts and notifications before they spiral into Incidents that adversely impact our people. It’s not just the Service Desk that are getting more proactive; Problem Management is a key area for getting ahead of the game, from trending to simply going out and asking our support teams and delivery managers what keeps them up at night; proactive activities give you a solid list of potential issues. Extend that out to other processes such as Change Management, Knowledge Management and CSI and you have potentially game changing improvement options.

LOGICnow Research Findings In Their Own Words:

LOGICnow, now a part of the SolarWinds family and still a global market leader in integrated cloud-based IT Service Management (ITSM) solutions, today announced the results of a global research study entitled “The value of data-driven automation to the ITSM community.” The results are based on a survey of over 350 ITSM companies across the US, UK, Europe and Asia Pacific. Results show that the ITSM community is on the cusp of a massive shift towards data-driven automation. This is fueled by the widespread recognition of its importance and commercial potential—and the fear of losing ground to early adopters who are already enjoying measurable commercial benefits.

According to the research, 44 percent of IT service providers and MSPs are already “data-driven” i.e. able to collect, store and act upon performance data drawn from their customers’ IT estates. However, automated processes to produce proactive recommendations and reactions based on this data are currently a step too far for all but eight percent.

The findings also highlight the quantified benefits that those few companies that are using automation are enjoying, including 38 percent seeing client servicing capacity at least double; 72 percent now able to service more complex IT estates; and 21 percent able to identify 100 percent or more ROI from automation.

Key findings from the new LOGICnow research include:

  • 54 percent of IT service providers collect and store data on customers’ IT performance, 81 percent of whom are able to use the data to proactively improve service delivery. Yet only eight percent have put in place automated processes for transforming data into actionable recommendations.
  • 21 percent of these early adopters have enjoyed 100 percent ROI or more; within two years, those experiencing 100 percent or more ROI is expected to rise to 47 percent.
  • Of those who have not yet deployed data-driven automation strategies (the 92 percent majority): Almost 75 percent believe that doing so will enable them to deliver a range of new services, while 49 percent believe that it is a route to offer more sophisticated services and win more business. 85 percent believe it will give them a competitive advantage, and 52 percent actively fear they will lose out to more advanced competition if they do not adopt automation. Six percent believe either late or no adoption will lead to them going out of business within two years.

“The need to collect and query customers’ IT performance data delivers a proven competitive advantage, regardless of the MSP’s size. Armed with this data, IT service providers have the power to investigate trends, pre-empt threats and deliver more thorough and proactive services,” said Alistair Forbes, Managing Director, SolarWinds MSP (former General Manager, LOGICnow). “However, the most powerful benefits of data use stem from automating the actions and recommendations, empowering engineers to escape routine tasks and focus on value-adding services. Every day that service providers spend not doing this enables their competition to surge further ahead. The industry is predicting a major shift: that data-driven automation will be the norm in less than two years. Considering the progress made so far and the benefits already seen, it is hard to disagree.”

The full report, “The value of data-driven automation to the ITSM community,” is available to download here.

About LOGICnow

LOGICnow ® delivers the only 100% SaaS, fully cloud-based IT service management (ITSM) platform, backed by collective intelligence and the highest levels of layered security. LOGICnow’s MAX products including Risk Intelligence, Remote Management, Backup & Disaster Recovery, Mail and Service Desk – comprise the market’s most widely-trusted integrated solution. Deployed on over two million endpoints across 240,000 networks, the platform has the industry vision to define and deliver the future of the market. LOGICnow provides the most comprehensive IT security available as well as LOGICcards, the first ever IT notification feature powered by prescriptive analytics and machine learning. LOGICnow’s passion is helping IT professionals secure and manage their systems and data through actionable insights, rewriting the rules of IT. For more information, visit www.logicnow.com.

 

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Coming Soon – Reporting & Analytics Group Test

Ta dah! Preview of coming attractions – our sparkly new reporting & analytics group test! Our next group test will explore how reporting & analytics can support your IT organisation and will look at the following areas:

  • Format & view options
  • Reactive metrics
  • Proactive metrics
  • Integration
  • CSI

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 Reporting & Analytics.

Tool Criteria & Scope:

Our remit is to explore how dedicated toolsets can use reporting & analytics to deliver value to the client organisation.

The group test will focus on specific reporting 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:

  • Ability to support metrics for core ITSM processes
  • Ability to support the integration of the tool with other tools for exchange of master data, ticket data and CMDB / Asset data (including relationships between CIs)
  • Ability to manage master data (priorities, locations, users, etc), including maintenance, bulk upload, and reconciliation
  • 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
  • Formatting & dashboard options
  • Ease of customisation
  • Proactive analytics
  • Reactive analytics
  • Financial metrics
  • Customer metrics
  • Big Data & CSI

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 Reporting & Analytics.

 

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

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Nexthink V6 Review

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I reviewed Nexthink earlier in the year, worthy winners of our ITAM Excellence awards for Innovation. Check out a summary of Nexthink below or read the full review on Tools Advisor here: http://www.toolsadvisor.net/tools/nexthink

Nexthink V6.0

Nexthink is a pioneer of end-user IT analytics. This review takes a look at the core capabilities of Nexthink, the route to market for the company, competitive strengths and weaknesses, and market reach.

 A new paradigm in IT Management Tools

Nexthink is perfectly placed to take advantage of the IT industry trend towards end-user centric computing, hybrid IT and analytics. Nexthink provide a sophisticated solution for visualizing IT infrastructure from an end-user perspective in real-time and over time.

This is a next-generation solution for forward thinking organizations focused on transforming the end-user experience, proactive identification of probable causes before end-users flag them as issues and generally increasing service quality.

Key Capabilities Table:

KEY BUSINESS CONCERN  KEY ISSUES  NEXTHINK – KEY CAPABILITIES
IT Operations Service quality gap between what IT believes its delivering and end-user experience View service quality from an end-user perspective
Majority of incidents are not reported by end-users Proactive Problem Management via end-user analytics
Demand to release applications at faster cadence Measure service quality before, during and after App deployments
IT Projects Stale or incomplete inventory Real-time analysis of IT Infrastructure
Lack of insight into project delivery Real-time visibility during App deployment and baseline service quality before and after
Inaccurate, out of date or failed CMDB implementations Continuous automated relationship and connectivity mapping in real-time
IT Security Poor visibility of IT infrastructure and connectivity CCTV-like experience recording real-time and historical
Zero-day exploits and rogue behavior Real-time monitoring and alerting of unauthorized or abnormal application and connectivity activity
BYOD and end-user centric behavior End-user centric relationship and connectivity mapping

Major Product Components – Nexthink V6

  • Collector – continuous real-time monitoring creates a ‘highlight reel’ of each endpoint and end-user.
  • Engine – continuous real-time analytics and alerting, discovery and dynamic pattern analysis to identify anomalies.
  • Finder – real-time visualization and ability to smart search, pivot on data / findings, look for patterns, and create custom investigations, alerts and actions.
  • Portal – near real-time visualization and historical trend analysis, sophisticated custom dashboards that include metrics, goals, thresholds, and status indicators.

Tools Advisor

 

Read the full review on Tools Advisor here.

Do you use NexthinkV6?

Please share your opinion for the benefit of others. Leave a customer review on Tools Advisor here.

 

 


 

How to Transition from a Reactive to Proactive Support Center

 This article has been contributed by Sid Suri, Vice President of Marketing for Atlassians’s JIRA Service Desk. 

Sid Suri, Vice President of Marketing for Atlassian's JIRA Service Desk
Sid Suri, Vice President of Marketing for Atlassian’s JIRA Service Desk

For years, support centers have focused on reacting to problems. According to research from SDI (Service Desk Institute), 67% of of a service desk’s time is spent firefighting. This reactive approach often leads to burnout and a lack of processes that can scale. On top of that, support centers are faced with the ever present challenge of scaling their services, decreasing costs and showing value to their business constituents.

We’d all prefer a situation where IT teams didn’t have to wait for their queue to fill up with angry tickets before they looked into a problem. What if a failing machine knew it was failing and sent out an SOS? Imagine seeing several of those SOSs as things got worse, so that all the right experts could spring into action, saving the poor server before it collapses completely. Sounds like science fiction? It’s not. It’s a new wave of IT and DevOps that aims to take a proactive approach to IT.

Here are four ways you can get started:

1) Set up server alerts

Often, support teams find out about problems after customers do. When it comes to servers, problems like high load, outages, or full disk space can be fixed before they snowball. Smart IT teams set up CPU or memory alerts to notify the team when things are heading towards a bad place, either by watching the server or running smoketests at regular intervals. This lets them correct an issue before it actually becomes a problem.

2) Monitoring automation

Along with setting up alerts, you might want the machine to do “something” according to every response. Proactive support means automating monitoring with the right combination of tools (application monitoring, service desk, chat and more). Here’s how you might automate the escalation process for a server issue:

  • Whenever servers hit a low threshold, send a chat message to the service desk room to notify all team members.
  • If it hits a second threshold, then open a service desk ticket and add a history log to the ticket.
  • If it hits a third threshold, then automatically contact the on-call engineer directly by phone or SMS.

3) Get smart with ChatOps

When urgent issues come in, they need fast answers. Often, managers aren’t notified right away, resulting in lost time. Other times, domain experts need to get involved and aren’t quickly reachable. Many chat applications help overcome these challenges with real-time messaging. This means you can collaborate and solve problems in real-time, involving all the right experts instantly.

More than just chatting, what the DevOps community is now calling ChatOps, is about integrating bots and plugins to a standard chat application to automate tasks. With a chat bot, you can get notified of any critical tickets that need to be assigned right away. Mentioned previously, you can also set up server monitoring bots that send out notifications if there’s ever a problem, so you stay ahead of issues. More advanced chat bots let you type commands that fetch information, execute deployments and more.

4) Deflect repetitive issues with self-service

Taking a break from bots and automation, an IT team can also be proactive when it comes to repetitive incidents (and there is no shortage of those).

Here are the costs of support, according to industry standard:

  • Level 3 support is around $100 per contact.
  • Level 2 costs are $45-$75 per contact
  • Level 1 is $12-27.50 per contact.
  • Self-service, or Level 0, is 10 cents or less.

As organizations grow, self-service reduces cost per incident whereas manned incidents will rise in costs with company growth. If growth and costs are concerns for your support team, implementing self-service is a great way to proactively solve repetitive issues. This means developing a knowledge base for customers to access and self-serve answers to their problems.

The transition from reactive to proactive IT support is happening now, and it’s more than just getting the right tools – it’s a cultural transformation. It’s about taking traditionally separate functions and encouraging cross-team collaboration – like passing information between IT and development teams. These two sides combined, tools and culture, help break down silos across the organization.

Nexthink V5 Review for Proactive Problem Management

This is part of a competitive review of software vendors who offer Proactive Problem Management capabilities as part of their IT service management (ITSM) solution.

Other products reviewed:

Commercial Summary – Nexthink V5 Review

Vendor Nexthink
Product Nexthink V5
Version reviewed 5.2
Date of version Release July 2014
Year Founded 2004
Customers +500
Pricing Structure Perpetual and subscription licences for both Nexthink Analytics Platform and Nexthink Analytics Modules. All priced per number of devices/endpoints.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch Nexthink V5 is an intelligent and attractive solution.Providing far more than proactive problem management, Nexthink delivers extensive analytics and intelligence capabilities in a user-focused manner.
Strengths
  • Ability to search in normal non-IT language (natural language, plain English, google-like experience)
  • Ability to compare objects and contextual situations in order to troubleshoot
  • Robust visual impact analysis
Weaknesses
  • No ticketing facility within the solution but has API and connectors to integrate with
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Nexthink is primarily a large-market solution

Independent Review

nexthink-logoNexthink V5 is a highly sophisticated solution yet still manages to look clean and simple. In contrast to the other solutions reviewed within this group test Nexthink does not contain any ticketing functionality and is wholly an analytical tool. However, it does have the necessary API and connectors to integrate with ticketing tools to create proactive alerts and track actions taken upon its analytics.

Proactive problem management is provided by monitoring the end-user experience and reporting back on real-time events. Dependencies and relationships are recorded without the need to install additional monitoring tools.

Nexthink is about discovering what you don’t know by learning and detecting what is different to the norm. In a time when event notification overload can cause more harm than good, Nexthink uses context to ensure that only pertinent info is alerted…

i.e. If you leave your car unlocked a normal monitoring tool would send an alert regardless, however if you were parked within a locked garage Nexthink would be able to apply context to recognise that this is not alert worthy (or less critical).

My impression of the solution is that it would be suitable for all medium to large enterprise organisations of medium to high proactive problem management maturity.

I believe that this highly developed solution could provide organisations with the visibility and insight into not only proactive problem management but also big data generally by only collecting summary activity data and related issues rather impractically expecting IT departments to mine through everything or make decisions on what is, and what is not important.

General

User configuration possible for:

Forms

Tables

Workflows

Dashboards

N.B. every form and workflow can be customized through the admin module

  • Nexthink is a standalone analytics and intelligence solution which integrates with ticketing tools. It does not contain it’s own ticketing capabilities
  • Full integration toolkit. Data can be imported into and out of Nexthink in various ways to serve many different purposes. More info: http://www.nexthink.com/integration/
  • Templates and pre-filled forms and structure available for basic starting point from Nexthink library, a cloud based platform for collective intelligence
  • Web API
  • Existing standard integrations with Service Desk solutions such as LANDESK, ServiceNow, BMC Remedy, EasyVista and PMCS Helpline.

Identification

The integration of end-user IT analytics for incident and problem management is driven from the service desk. Nexthink helps align incidents and problems and enables the service desk to identify outage-problems in real-time and configuration-change-problems faster. In other words Nexthink can fast track incident to problem identification and help provide probable cause to solve problems and/or provide suitable workarounds before (further) incidents recur.

Nexthink’s internal technology assists in the identification of potential proactive problems via

Self-learning, topological relationships, base lining, benchmarking, statistics & heuristics.

Nexthink states that their solution, without configuration or definition of a potential problem can discover what’s in-use, understand the dependencies (process, devices, ports, services, server, cloud domain, etc.) and profile a baseline to further identify deviations e.g. connection is getting slower or failing for a specific group of users.

Information about the context of any identified proactive problem is displayed on Nexthink user interfaces (Finder and Portal). Portal is a web-based dashboard platform where specific widgets can be added to see the past, current and potential future impact of a change, a growing issue or an outage, including break-ups by departments, and type of problems (devices, network/infra, web requests, servers, etc.).

Nexthink specify that integration with network and server monitoring solutions is not necessary for their analytics to perform and deliver but welcome such integrations to create a full end-to-end visibility with both user-centric (outside-in) and server-centric (inside-out) visibility and analysis. They maintain that the solution is able to identify anomalies in data patterns resulting from configuration changes without the aid or knowledge of those changes and that it’s more efficient and effective to use the many diagnostic tools available within the solution to do root cause analysis.

Assessment and Alerting

Nexthink calculates an objective risk assesment via the end-user perspective. Their argument is that this positions users to compute an impact analysis from a business point of view because they will already have information such as the department, job role, location of affected users and are therefore using business language rather than IT speak i.e. you are not saying x router interface was flapping for 10min, dropping xxx packets, but rather 15 users from our Finance department attempted to use SAP without success for 10 minutes (while the 45 users from sales didn’t have any issues).

Nexthink also provides the ability to compute based on current activity, e.g. if we shut down these 10 servers now, 120 users currently connected to these servers with these 10 applications will suffer and this equals, based on each application business criticality, a business loss of £££. Based on feedback we receive from readers this functionality is highly sought after yet sadly lacking from many solutions. We believe that this functionality provides solid value to potential customers. Analytics provides the ability to push the concept of proactive problem management to preemptive and predictive.

Although there is no ticketing tool available within Nexthink, by analyzing all end-users’ activity collectively and centrally the solution is able to apply mechanisms and algorithms to understand if the problem is on the device, user, application, network/infrastructure or server side enabling the problem to be routed to the most appropriate group using the integration interface or finding the solution looking at the Nexthink Portal or Finder.

Implementation  

Tracking and management of the lifecycle of a proactive problem would have to be provided by an integration with a third party ticketing tool. However, new/updated information can be fed into the third party tool to notify about a situational change, i.e. the problem has increased in severity.

Auditing and Accountability

Nexthink gives the option to visually display an impending breach/breach of an SLA by colouring the issue yellow/red within the widget, building a history trends graph, triggering an alert or exporting context (what, when, where, what, how long, how badly) to a third party tool. Gives the context and impact of the breach (what, when, where, what, how long, how badly).

In Summary

Nexthink provides a comprehensive analytics and intelligence solution which provides far more than Proactive Problem Management capabilities. What’s more it provides them in a user-focused way which is quite different to the majority of other solutions on the market that are all data centre focused.

I believe that this solution would create huge value to any organisation looking for real-time end-user analytics.

In Their Own Words:

Nexthink is the innovator of End-user IT Analytics for security, ITSM and transformation. Our software uniquely provides enterprise-wide, real-time: analytics covering all endpoints, users, applications and network connections; and visualization of IT infrastructure and service delivery. Nexthink helps IT departments connect, communicate and collaborate to achieve their major goals and to optimize endpoint security, operations, support and workplace transformation projects. Nexthink’s real-time analytics and visualization extend help desk, server monitoring, APM (application performance management) and PCLM (PC lifecycle management) tools and provide essential visibility for IT governance.

Nexthink pro-actively monitors IT networks and reports on important end-user related events, such as changes in the IT infrastructure, application usage and bandwidth, error messages and crashes, as well as potential security risks, ensuring that the performance of IT services is recorded and uniquely visualized from the end-user perspective.

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Freshservice Review for Proactive Problem Management

This is part of a competitive review of software vendors who offer Proactive Problem Management capabilities as part of their IT service management (ITSM) solution.

Other products reviewed:

Commercial Summary – Freshdesk FreshService Review

Vendor Freshdesk Inc.
Product Freshservice
Version reviewed n/a
Date of version Release n/a
Year Founded 2010
Customers 1200
Pricing Structure The licensing structure is based on the number of agents. Freshservice is a SaaS only offering

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch Freshservice is an uncomplicated and attractive ITIL service desk solution.The simplicity of Freshservice allows customers to provide basic proactive problem management services whilst easily linking to the other areas of the solution.
Strengths
  • Simple easy to use interface
  • Easy linkage between processes
  • Proactive suggestion of possibly related records when creating description
Weaknesses
  • Internal monitoring within the solution could be improved
  • Financial management capabilities require extending
  • Lack of automation in areas such as setting records as proactive
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Freshservice is primarily a small to mid market solution

Independent Review

freshservice-logoFreshservice is a straightforward solution for users with straightforward needs. Simple and easy to use, the drag and drop workflow and form templates make for an easy set up of proactive problem management as well as the main solution.

Problem management is dealt with in much the same was as incident within the solution and although this will be perfectly acceptable for the majority of Freshservice’s customers those with more mature proactive problem requirements will likely find that this solution lacks the automation they will expect. The addition of automation to distinguish between the different types of problems would be useful together with the ability to smartly decide which problems are, in actual fact, a problem. The issue many IT teams are experiencing at this time is not that events and alerts are not being received but that so many are received that it is difficult to sort through to find the ones that actually matter. If Freshservice can master this then their worth to their customers would dramatically increase.

The ability to set a “book value” for a particular type of asset is a useful feature, providing the ability to report on those assets that are perhaps experiencing continued faults to see whether continued endeavour is of benefit, I would like to see this area expanded to help track the cost of faults. My impression of the solution is that it would be suitable for all small to large organisations of low to medium proactive problem management maturity. For the vast majority of these organisations, I believe that Freshservice has all the functionality required to perform proactive problem management to a successful level. However, if your organisation is likely to grow in the near future then I believe a more sophisticated solution would be suitable. The number of manual actions required within the solution would be counterproductive to organisations with large numbers of reported proactive problems.

General

User configuration possible for:

Forms

Tables

Workflows

Dashboards

N.B. every form and workflow can be customized through the admin module

  • Open API
  • Existing standard integrations with Event Management tools such as Nagios and Solarwinds
  • Default forms and structure as basic starting point
  • Easy linkage between Problems and other types of tickets (i.e. Incident)
  • Proactive solution suggestion as ticket details inputted
  • Implementation support available

Identification

Freshservice defines the difference between a reactive and proactive problem management record within the solution by the addition of a “known error” tag next to the problem subject. This is done manually by agents within the Problem Module and then provides the ability for reports to be run on “known errors”. I would like to see the ability for Freshservice to automatically recognise these and tag accordingly without the need for the manual process. For organisations receiving large numbers of proactive problems I imagine this would become quite an onerous task. Freshservice’s internal Discovery probe is able to scan networks to populate the CMDB and is able to monitor the available disk space of relevant items.

Freshservice advise that although currently this is all that is able to be monitored, additional capabilities are to follow. Alerts from monitoring and networking tools such as Nagios and Solarwinds, which can be integrated via existing standard integrations, can be sent to Freshservice using Email commands and then automatically create a record within the solution.

Assessment and Alerting

Freshservice calculates an objective risk assesment of the proactive problem and is able to flag this against an associated CI as low, medium or high (colour coded) depending upon how the CI’s business proprity has been set. Assets are able to be attached to all proactive problem records with the importance of the asset viewable from within the record screen.

The solution also contains a basic visual relationship map for impact assesment. Freshservice is able to manually route proactive problems to relevant resolver groups by assigning the particular record to the respective group or agent from the Problems module, alternatively workflow rules can be used to automatically assign records to assign proactive problems to resolver groups or agents. Once a group or user has been assigned an email notification will alert the relevant people.

Implementation  

Freshservice provides the ability to link records to each other in one click. Workflow rules within the system can be utilized to provide the ability to update all linked records upon the update of the problem record. All file types and in solution notes can be attached to a proactive problem record ensuring that all relevant information is available to agents. Changes of status are possible by the use of a dropdown box within the record screen. Although there is no ability to set individual assets and CI’s as unavailable, the solution can be used to advise users of planned outages using both email and the self-service area. In the future I would like to see the ability to set items as unavailable, when affected by a fault that causes it to be so, in order that users can easily see the state of the item. Freshservice state that their customers main need is automatic notification when there is an issue and as a result I believe that development of this area would be very beneficial to both them and their customers.

Auditing and Accountability

Freshservice’s simple workflow rules can be utilised to set thresholds to notify of impending SLA breaches to both individual users and groups. Escalation emails can also be set to once breach has taken place. Each asset has a history of all requests associated with it – problem, change, release etc. that can be viewed after the request has been closed.

In Summary

Freshservice provides basic yet capable functionality for use by users with low to medium proactive problem management maturity. If you’re after bells and whistles such as sophisticated visual service mapping then this is probably not the solution for you, however, if you are after a good basic package, with ticketing, that has the proactive problem management essentials then Freshservice is a good option.

In Their Own Words:

Freshservice is an online ITIL service desk with a fresh twist. It puts a refreshing user experience on top of powerful ticketing and asset management capabilities, and is the most user-friendly app in the space.  In addition to core functionalities like Incident, Problem, Change, Release and Asset Management, Freshservice also lets you put your knowledge base on the cloud. Freshservice offers a plug and play ITIL solution for organizations looking to align themselves to best practices without getting any expert implementation help. It has been developed by the team of experts behind Freshdesk, the leading customer support software that is currently being used to support over 5 million customers across the world.

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ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus Review for Proactive Problem Management

This is part of a competitive review of software vendors who offer Proactive Problem Management capabilities as part of their IT service management (ITSM) solution.

Other products reviewed:

Commercial Summary – ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus Review

Vendor ManageEngine
Product ServiceDesk Plus
Version reviewed 9.0
Date of version Release September 2014
Year Founded 2004
Customers 85,000 (25,000 paid)
Pricing Structure Pricing is based on the number of technician login (named technicians) and the number of assets managed by the application.  License is issued both on Annual Subscription as well as Perpetual models.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch ServiceDesk Plus is a solution that contains the ability to carry out problem management but is immature with specific regard to proactive problem management.The attraction of ServiceDesk Plus is the ability to open several instances of the solution at the same time ensuring multitasking is possible whilst providing easy linkage between records.
Strengths
  • Proactive problem management records link with other record types
Weaknesses
  • No automatic suggestion of knowledge base articles, workarounds etc
  • Relationships and services require entering manually within CMDB
  • Does not seem to clearly separate proactive from reactive problem management
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Service Desk Plus is primarily a small to medium-market solution

Independent Review

sdp_logoServiceDesk Plus is a solution heavily dependent upon manual input within the proactive problem management area.

The manual operation required within ServiceDesk Plus, especially the CMDB, means that for organisations with anything other than basic IT infrastructure there is going to be a lot of time and effort involved in mapping relationships and services in order to make troubleshooting easy within the solution as every time a change is made to the network or asset configuration relationships and services will need to be remapped. If however you are content to do this and your primary concern is with procuring a tool that pulls this information in and logs tickets then ServiceDesk Plus will be adequate.

My impression of the solution is that it would be suitable for all small organisations of low proactive problem management maturity.

For these organisations I believe that ServiceDesk Plus has the functionality required to perform proactive problem management. However, if your organisation is likely to mature in the near future then I believe a more sophisticated solution would be suitable. Having said that if ManageEngine were to increase the amount of automation in areas such as relationship management it would appeal to a more mature audience.

General

User configuration possible for:

Forms

Tables

Workflows

Dashboards

  • Drag and drop templates
  • API’s available to integrate with third party tools such as event management
  • Default templates and admin configuration wizard for quick install
  • Implementation support available

Identification

ServiceDesk Plus defines the difference between a reactive and proactive problem management record within the solution by providing the ability to add an additional drop down field within the problem template called “Create Problem Additional field” which allows the manual assignation to either Reactive or Proactive. I would like to see the ability for ServiceDesk Plus to automatically recognise the distinction and assign accordingly without the need for the manual process. For organisations receiving large numbers of proactive problems I imagine this would become quite an onerous task.

ServiceDesk Plus does not contain any internal technology to assist in the identification of proactive problems. It can however integrate with OpManager, the ManageEngine event and network monitoring software through a standard integration and third party event and network monitoring software via the open API.

Alerts from monitoring and networking tools can be sent to ServiceDesk Plus to automatically create an incident ticket. In order for this to be created as a problem record, reactive or proactive, the ticket must be manually changed. In the future I would like to see the ability for problem records to be created automatically cutting down on time and manpower for customers.

Assessment and Alerting

In order for ServiceDesk Plus to calculate an objective risk assesment of the proactive problem relationships such as what/who is affected by each item will need to be manually built within the CMDB. Once this is done the solution does have the ability to visually notify of an issue with an asset by displaying an exclamation sign within the relationship map.

The problem with this process, as with all manual relationship creation, is that what was correct yesterday may well not be correct tomorrow. In order for this are of the solution to work for any but the smallest most basic of organisations to work without high overhead in both time and manpower then this really needs to be automated.

ManageEngine state  that there is no current ability within ServiceDesk Plus to automatically alert or route proactive problems to relevant resolver groups. They have however mentioned that by using Business Rules and Problem Closure Rules that there may be ways to manually create these processes.

Implementation  

ServiceDesk Plus provides the ability to easily link records to each other but there is currently no ability to change the status of a proactive problem record.

When updating a proactive problem record with linked records it is possible to copy problem solutions and workarounds to all associated incidents. It is also possible to close all associated incidents from the problem record.

ManageEngine state that notes, .doc, .docx and .xls formats are able to be attached to a proactive problem record within ServiceDesk Plus. I would like to see this extended in the future to include image formats for easier troubleshooting.

Currently there is no provision to record availability and capacity information within ServiceDesk Plus, however, as a workaround, ManageEngine have suggested additional fields can be created within “problem additional fields” to denote stock availability. Although the solution can be used to advise users of planned outages using both email and the self-service area, in the future I would like to see the ability to set items as unavailable, when affected by a fault that causes it to be so, in order that users can easily see the state of the item.

Auditing and Accountability

ServiceDesk Plus workflow rules can be utilised to set thresholds to escalate upon breach of both response and resolution time.

Each record has a history associated with it – problem, change, release etc. that can be viewed after the request has been closed.

In Summary

ServiceDesk Plus provides a very basic and mostly manually driven proactive problem management offering.

I feel that this solution would be more suitable for those organisations looking for reactive problem management capabilities with the ability to integrate event/alert monitoring. If ManageEngine were to invest in creating more automated features in the proactive problem area, such as auto update from CMDB, the solution would appeal to a much wider and more mature audience.

In Their Own Words:

ServiceDesk Plus is a help desk software with integrated asset and project management built on the ITIL framework. It is available in 29 different languages and is used by more than 85,000 companies, across 186 countries, to manage their IT help desk and assets. ServiceDesk Plus comes in three editions. First is Standard edition which covers the IT help desk module. The standard edition is completely free forever with no restrictions on tickets, users or tech agents. Available free both on-premise as well as Cloud. Next is professional edition, which comes with help desk management along with Asset management. And finally, the third is Enterprise edition which covers professional edition and adds ITIL and project management. The ITIL modules include Incident, Problem, Change, CMDB and Service Catalogue. In addition to all the modules, ServiceDesk Plus also comes with Purchase and Contract Management.

http://www.manageengine.com/products/service-desk/sdp-editions.html

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Alemba vFire Review for Proactive Problem Management [BEST IN CLASS]

This is part of a competitive review of software vendors who offer Proactive Problem Management capabilities as part of their IT service management (ITSM) solution.

Other products reviewed:

Alemba vFire Review – Commercial Summary

Vendor Alemba Ltd
Product vFire 9.1
Version reviewed 9.1
Date of version Release 2011
Year Founded 2007
Customers 350
Pricing Structure Currently vFire is sold as a perpetual licence for concurrent and dedicated agent users, the customer interface is supplied as an unlimited licence.

Executive Summary – BEST IN CLASS for Proactive Problem Management

Elevator Pitch vFire 9.1 is a strong and uncomplicated proactive problem management solution.The solution provides advanced capabilities allowing customers to take advantage of many automated features to make problem management less painful.
Strengths
  • ‘Find causes’ functionality takes a good portion of the leg work out of troubleshooting
  • Ability to simulate an outage to show possible impact to business
  • Good visual display of CMDB showing related items and services
Weaknesses
  • While the dashboards are easy to create and contain a good choice of information they are not the best looking
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, vFire 9.1 is primarily a large-market solution

Independent Review

Alemba LogovFire has provided strong proactive problem management functionality without becoming too complicated and will appeal to those who like their tools to have that databasey look and feel.

Alemba have understood that proactive problem management is a useful and valuable process and not just somewhere to plonk all those annoying event alerts that come in. One of my favourite capabilities of vFire is the ability to set outages and use these in conjunction with rules to stop alerts being received at all. With the typical issue being that serious issues are missed due to over alerting I find this both refreshing and immensely useful and know a few people who would rip their arm off for this kind of functionality within a tool.

Additional useful functions include the ability to simulate outages to show what kind of impact to the business could be expected in the event of a outage and the one-click ‘Find Causes’ facility which shows all items and services that could be the cause of a failure. Both of these provide powerful automation and I imagine that current customers of the solution wonder how they ever managed without.

My impression of the solution is that it would be suitable for medium to large enterprise organisations of all levels of proactive problem management maturity.

General

User configuration possible for:

Forms

Tables

Workflows

Dashboards

  • Drag and drop workflow design
  • User defined dashboards
  • 188 out of the box reports available
  • Existing standard integrations with monitoring tools such as SAM and SCOM
  • Default forms and structure as basic starting point
  • Known errors and outages displayed on customer portal bulletin board
  • Easy linkage between Problems and other types of tickets (i.e. Incident)
  • Proactive solution suggestion as record details inputted
  • Implementation support available

Identification

vFire defines the difference between a reactive and proactive problem management record as:

  • Reactive – the manual creation of a problem record through a call or request being logged.
  • Proactive – the automatic creation, assignment and notification of a problem, created from either a defined criteria set and pattern recognition or generated from an external source if a problem is identified.

The Proactive Problem Management Module is underpinned by the Entity Based Relationship Model which creates on-the-fly custom queries via a dynamic sql query engine. This is polled by the Proactive Analysis service on a schedule configured as part of the analyse rule.

Proactive problems are identied on pre-defined, pattern based modelling via a simple wizard based interface. A rule to monitor either calls or requests can be automatically created when a criteria set is matched.

Criteria can include:

  • existing or new data
  • specific counts or percentage thresholds
  • attributes from calls, workflow, availability, CMDB and SLM

Selection Criteria can be as simple or complex as per business requirements using Boolean logic.

Any output from the proactive problem management module falls under the calls or workflow modules. This allows all functionality and usability of the calls and workflow modules available to entities created via the proactive problem management module, but can still be identified as an automatically generated problem and linked to entities that caused the problem’s creation

Assessment and Alerting

vFire calculates an objective risk assesment of the proactive problem by graphically displaying the CMDB architecture showing the linked CI and all affected, or partially affected CI’s and services allowing investigation by users and enabling problem managers to gauge the extent of the problem, the risk it poses and what immediate and medium term actions are required.

I was impressed that vFire goes a step further than some of the other visual assessment aids featured in this review by providing visibility of the end-to-end relationship of CIs and Services ensuring that the holistic impact of current outages can be viewed. The same mechanisms can also be used to simulate the impact if a planned outage is scheduled.

vFire is able to alert relevant users and resolver groups to a proactive problem at any point in the Problem Lifecycle, (create/edit, resolve, close) via the configuration of rules within the solution with similar mechanisms in place to manually add/remove users or groups at any point in the problem lifecycle.

Implementation  

vFire provides the ability to link records to each other with one click. The solution enables the parent record to cascade updates such as status changes to all linked child records.

Attachments can be added to Problem records and stored as a linked object of the Problem record. There is no limitation to the attachment file type.

The status, or any attribute of a Problem can be set when it is initially logged and then falls under standard calls functionality where call status (e.g. open, in progress, resolved, closed) can be selected at any point in the Problem’s lifecycle.

Availability of CIs and Services associated with a Problem record can have their availability tracked. This includes any scheduled downtime, the targeted availability of the CI or Service, any planned or unplanned outages and the overall performance of the CI or Service against targeted metrics. Failure management is essential for any reliable operation and I believe that vFire have provided good capabilities for doing so.

Auditing and Accountability

vFire has a number of escalation levels prior to a SLA breach occuring. These are displayed graphically on the call, i.e. red for breach, and on each escalation and recipients can be configured to receive a breach notification. Recipients can be a user, a group or another stakeholder.

The solution contains the ability to suggest Knowledge Base articles and Known Error information that may relate to a proactive problem record via the Service Window which is available in all call windows. This provides real-time calculations based on the calls information and looks for similar records.

A matching matrix is provided which will show potentially matched items based on a number of criteria such as the linked CI or Service.

All Problem report data is retained in the database once resolved or closed

In Summary

vFire provides very good functionality for users with all levels of proactive problem management maturity.

vFire provides more automation than most of the other solutions reviewed and goes the extra mile with regard to fault finding and diagnosis via it’s graphical interface. I believe that this solution would be a good option for most medium to large enterprise organisations.

In Their Own Words:

vFire is an Enterprise level IT Service Management Software tool made by Alemba. As the successor to VMware’s Service Manager product (formerly infraEnterprise), Alemba’s vFire has inherited over 20 years of industry knowledge and offers a truly innovative User Interface that puts customer experience front and centre.

vFire offers support for implementing and delivering ITIL best practices. vFire provides out-of-the-box ITIL functionality for all major ITIL processes including: Incident, Request Fulfilment, Problem, Service Level, Knowledge, Change, Release & Deployment, Service Configuration & Asset, Service Catalog and Availability Management.

Key features:

  • Mould the system to your own requirements with flexible configuration options and a powerful screen designer.
  • Easily deploy an integrated, actionable Service Catalog that aligns IT activities to business services.
  • Publicize Service expectations and reduce the impact of service outages on business operations.
  • Effortlessly discover and map inter-dependencies between infrastructure components, applications, and business services, across both physical and virtual environments through Federated CMDB connectors.
  • Monitor and report performance against Service Level Agreements and Service Availability targets, to demonstrate the value IT provides to the business leveraging third party event management tools.
  • Easily model and automate your organization’s business processes in a powerful workflow builder which can be used to automate any IT or non-IT processes.
  • Ensure processes are carried out in a consistent, best practice manner that adhere to audit and compliance requirements.
  • Ensure that ITIL processes implemented are tailored to meet your site specific needs

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Review: itSMF Problem Management Seminar [Chelsea Football Club]

Steve White, Kepner Tregoe, Engaging the Audience at Chelsea
Steve White, Kepner Tregoe, Engaging the Audience at Chelsea

The UK itSMF hosted a popular Problem Management seminar this week.

Around 100 itSMF members met at Chelsea Football Club to learn about ‘Proactive Problem Management’ from a variety of industry specialists.

Firstly, a quick summary of the sessions (Football Clichés A Go-Go):

FOX IT – GENTLE STRETCHES TO WARM UP

John Griffiths from Fox IT explored the human elements of problem management, the communication channels that exist between incident capture and problem resolution and the interpretation and translation that must happen via the service desk.

SERVICENOW – OWN GOAL

In many ways this event felt a little like a ServiceNow user group – but when the SaaS vendor took centre stage to deliver some thought leadership we were delivered an undiluted sales pitch.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting David D’Agostino before and know him to be clever, funny and articulate – so I had high expectations for this session. This was an opportunity missed – The itSMF need to be brutal with their editorial – in the end it’s the vendor who came off worst.

KEPNER TREGOE – THE CROWD ARE ON THE PITCH…

A great session from Steve White at Kepner Tregoe. Steve hosted an interactive whiteboard session on defining proactive problem management. For me and for the other delegates I spoke to this was the highlight of the day. More like this please itSMF! It would have been interesting to perhaps walk through some real life scenarios and discuss options with the audience using this open forum approach.

PINK ELEPHANT – A HEARTY PERFORMANCE

Unfortunately I missed parts of Vawns Guest’s session but from what I saw and feedback from others Vawns gave a passionate lesson on the relationship between incident, problem and availability management.

OASIS HEALTHCARE – END-TO-END ACTION

This was an interesting case study from Mike Evans from ITS and Rich Starkey from Oasis Healthcare.   The double act provided a before and after picture of progress at Oasis Healthcare, a network of over 200 UK dental practices. It was also great to see an organization sharing business benefits and return on investment for their project.

Is Honesty The Best Policy?

An interesting point was made during one of the sessions regarding honesty with problems – i.e. do we tell the customer we’re experiencing a problem?

There were mixed views on this – do we keep our problems to ourselves for fear of the organization using it against us or do we openly admit that, we’re human, mistakes happen and we’re doing everything we can to resolve it?

In my view – How an organization answers this question gives a good insight into their culture and maturity. I’m sure that at times there are perfectly good reasons for keeping schtum – but I think honestly is the best policy.

Whether you are trying to run trains on time, hosting services in a datacenter or delivering fruit and vegetables– a bit of honesty from your provider strengthens the relationship and gives the impression that you are not just being fobbed off.

Wrap-Up

Overall I would definitely recommend this seminar, some interactive sessions with lots of questions. I look forward to attending future itSMF seminars this year (further info here).

Finally, Colin Rudd asked the audience if there was interest in rejuvenating the Problem Management SIG and the response was positive – contact itSMF to learn more.

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