Review: TOPdesk for Change, Configuration and Release

Logo TOPdesk Service Management Simplified CMYKTOPdesk

This independent review is part of our Change, Configuration and Release Review.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch TOPdesk 5 is a visually pleasing and easy to navigate tool.TOPdesk’s modular structure accommodates a wide range of requirements from different-sized organisations. All products include extensive reporting options, clear overviews and a handy Plan Board for planning resources.Web-based hosted as a service, or on-site Service Management software, TOPdesk has made the transition from IT into Facilities Management and HR.
Strengths
  • Tabbed working (ability to have more than one active record open at a time)
  • Attractive GUI which helps make the product simple to use and requires no coding experience
Weaknesses
  • Form Designer is only available to customers in the Enterprise version
  • No drag and drop capability on change/release calendar
  • Blackout and maintenance windows not created against Configuration Item (CI) or Service but instead in the Event and Actions module
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, TOPdesk markets to organisations ranging from small (-100 users) to very large, multi-national companies (10,000+ users)

Commercial Summary

Vendor TOPdesk
Product TOPdesk
Version reviewed 5
Date of version release 2012
Year founded 1993
Customers 4,000+
Pricing structure The licensing structure is based on the number of end users that the customer wishes to support with the software. This structure allows customers to have an unlimited number of agents, operators and technicians working on the tickets themselves.Both on-premise installations and SaaS options, hosted by TOPdesk, are available.
Competitive differentiators
  • Shared Service Management and One-Stop-Shop application integrates multiple support processes into a unified system, which can be used by multiple departments either coupled with IT or independently within the business
  • Licensing structure is based on the number of end users rather than operators
  • Comprehensive and modular solution that allows customers to add new processes as they grow

Independent Review

With a modern and attractive interface TOPdesk 5 will likely appeal to the wider business, as well as IT, due to its differing from the usual use of the Windows Explorer-style in favour of a more intuitive GUI.  Whilst most ITSM tool vendors are now looking at ways to enable the integration of their tools outside of IT, in my opinion TOPdesk has been involved in leading the way in a shift towards Enterprise Service Management (ESM).

Our impression of the tool is that the Enterprise edition would be suitable for organisations with a basic to moderate maturity of change/release process with low to medium volume.  The choice to create actions in the Event and Alert module to notify of blackout and maintenance windows after the change has been requested, seems like an afterthought, and is the primary reason why we would not recommend the tool to organisations with a high maturity of change/release.

Without Form Designer, which lets you design your own forms ensuring you gather the correct information, the Professional edition lacks, what we believe, should be basic functionality. However, the processes link well together and the GUI is intuitive, with the ability to create new changes etc. from most areas without the need to navigate away from the current page.

In ITSM Review’s opinion, TOPdesk 5 is a solid ITSM tool, but unfortunately change and release is not its strongest area.  Our recommendation to TOPdesk would be to add Form Designer to its basic offering and to make a few changes to the change calendar (such as: creation of changes from calendar view and drag and drop of change requests) as well as to revise how maintenance and blackout windows function in all editions. This would then ensure that the tool is better suited to organisations with more complex change/release requirements.

General

As with a number of other tools included in this review, TOPdesk 5 combines release with change and the Project Management module (available to Enterprise customers) can also be used to plan releases.

TOPdesk has two offerings: Professional (basic) and Enterprise (standard). The Professional package allows customers to choose the modules, functions and processes that they require, paying only for what they need but with the flexibility to add new processes as they grow. However, as not all modules are available in Professional, should you wish to implement telephony integration, log or update calls on the go, or run surveys for continuous improvement then you will need to upgrade to the Enterprise offering.

TOPdesk states that Change, Configuration and Release are offered as part its Enterprise package. However for potential customers investigating capabilities, we feel that the website lacks clarity as to the inclusion of Configuration and Release as part of its offering. Furthermore, in our opinion little information is provided as to what functionalities can be included as part of the Professional package. It is therefore our recommendation that potential customers contact TOPdesk directly to discussion their Change, Configuration and Release requirements.

Change

As with the other processes in TOPdesk 5, change is easy to access from every screen.  The change record can be linked from incidents, problems, known errors etc. and provides a very good overview of the history of the issue. Change workflow can be configured to create a variety of change types dependent upon the processes an individual organisation has set up.

Configurable dashboards make change management easy to monitor with various widgets available to show you the relevant information you need, such as all current changes awaiting approval etc.  Dashboards can be set on a role-by-role basis giving an “at a glance” view to workload.

Although there are no change templates available out-of-the-box, TOPdesk states that these can be easily created by the customer and copied.

If your role requires you to wear more than one hat i.e. not just Change Manager, then TOPdesk 5 could be useful to you.  TOPdesk 5 has tabbed working that means that you can work on other areas (such as raising an incident) even if you are in the middle of creating a long and complicated change.  This is something that we personally feel is missing from a lot of tools in the market offering Change, Configuration and Release, and is an extremely useful component not just in change but all aspects of working in a busy IT department.

Configuration

For discovery and inventory within TOPdesk you can either use the additional network scanning tool “TOPsis” or integrate with a third party application.  There is also a Barcode scanner module available to Enterprise customers, which enables you to scan a room and attach labels to an item or object, with all relevant data being sent to directly to TOPdesk.

CI forms are fully configurable within Form Designer . The Form Designer allows customers to design forms for calls and requests for change, enabling them to determine which information must be filled in. Whilst Form Designer is part of the Enterprise package, we were surprised to find that this basic functionality is not included as part of the Professional edition. With many other tools containing similar functionality to Form Designer as part of their basic offerings we believe that TOPdesk needs to revisit its decision to not include Form Designer as part of its basic package.

The links wizard allows CI’s to be linked to changes, incidents etc. and each CI has a tab showing a trail of all operation changes.  It is possible within this tab to access all linked records by double clicking or single clicking for a quick overview.

Calendar    

Although TOPdesk 5 does not have the most basic of change calendars it’s not the most advanced either.

Creating blackout and maintenance windows is not as straightforward as it could be.  Rather than creating a window against a CI or a Service that would show on the calendar, these need to be created within the Events and Actions module (available in all versions), which triggers an email after submission dependant upon the parameters set.  We don’t think that it would be an inconvenience if you could go straight to the calendar, check the dates and then create the change from there, but unfortunately this is also not possible.

We feel that were we customers of TOPdesk, we would be frustrated by the toing and froing required to check dates and create requests.

There is also no drag & drop capability for changes on the calendar.  This is certainly by no means a deal breaker, but in the interest of making life as easy as possible for the user this is a possible enhancement TOPdesk could make in the future.

Approvals

Multiple activities can be created within a change, with different tasks involved that have specific time constraints.

Approvers and evaluators of changes can be person or role based.  There are fully customisable drag and drop workflow approval paths, which can be as simple or as complex as your organisation requires with the option for single and CAB approval.

Notifications or emails are automatically sent to approvers with details of the change request and these can be responded to via email or within the tool itself.

In Summary

If you are a purely reactive IT organisation, of basic to moderate maturity, with a low to medium number of change requests, then the Enterprise offering of TOPdesk 5 would be a suitable candidate for your organisation.

In Their Own Words:

TOPdesk develops ITIL-aligned Service Management Software for IT, Facilities Management, and eHRM helpdesks and is among the top five service management tools offered worldwide. Our award-winning solution, along with our ITIL verified consultants and outstanding customer support has helped over 4,000 unique customers to process questions, complaints and malfunctions. With over 20 years of service management experience, we have assisted businesses, to optimize their services with our 100% web-based and user-friendly application. TOPdesk’s modular structure accommodates a wide range of requirements from different sized organisations. TOPdesk can be hosted as a Service or can be installed on-site. All products include: extensive reporting options, clear overviews and a handy Plan Board for planning your resources. Every day, millions of users across 47 countries trust in TOPdesk as their service management solution. Raising your service levels and reducing your workload and costs have never been easier.

Screenshots

This independent review is part of our Change, Configuration and Release Review.

Review: ITinvolve for Change, Configuration and Release [BEST IN CLASS]

logoITinvolve

This independent review is part of our Change, Configuration and Release Review.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch ITinvolve Service Manager is a progressive and ambitious product.Uniquely combining knowledge capture, analysis, and social collaboration, Service Manager proactively delivers timely and relevant information whenever needed.  The solution greatly reduces the burden on staff and ensures risk can be quickly and accurately assessed.Saas based, Service Manager is licenced per user with an additional annual cost for the platform.
Strengths
  • Advanced and proactive delivery of knowledge
  • Dynamic identification, analysis and engagement of changes
  • Key settings can be recorded against individual items/objects and are immediately obvious from all areas of the application
Weaknesses
  • No drag and drop or create functionality from within the calendar
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, ITinvolve primarily targets the medium to enterprise market

Commercial Summary

Vendor ITinvolve
Product ITinvolve Service Manager
Version reviewed Winter ‘14
Date of version Release December 2013
Year Founded 2011
Customers 8 current customers using ITinvolve Service Manager
Pricing Structure The licencing structure is based on IT users, Business users, i.e. approvers, and Portal users with pricing set accordingly. Service Manager is SaaS-based.
Competitive Differentiators
  • Comprehensive understanding of not only configuration dependencies but also compliance and key settings
  • Dynamic identification and engagement of all relevant change stakeholders with facilitated collaboration and risk assessment prior to formal change approval workflows
  • Knowledge is proactively delivered to IT staff in the context of the change/release being created/worked on

Independent Review

ITinvolve seem to be heading in a slightly different direction to the other vendors in this Change, Configuration and Release review, which is refreshing to see. With emphasis for the other vendors being on broadening the scope into the wider business (outside IT), ITinvolve’s “Agility Application” is focusing on its use within IT and concentrating on helping to take the hard work out of capturing undocumented information, the “collective wisdom” – known by some but not easily accessible by all.

This product is far more dynamic than any of the others in this review and hits the knowledge management angle far harder than anyone else.  If our experience within IT has taught us anything it’s that you can have the best quality knowledge documented but if it’s not immediately available to you it’s not very useful. Ensuring that intelligence is not just recorded, but is immediately accessible to those that need it, as and when they need it, without the need to search through hordes of documentation is key to mature and successful ITSM.  With knowledge management nailed everything else seems infinitely easier and more straightforward.

Change, Configuration and Release work smoothly and effectively in this product.  The collaboration component and Key Settings establish a clear understanding of the needs of the IT department. In my view, doing both these two things exceptionally well, as ITinvolve Service Manager does, supports and benefits all other processes within the product.

In ITSM Review’s opinion ITinvolve Service Manager (hereafter referred to as “Service Manager”) would be suitable for organisation of all sizes, especially the more “forward-thinking market” looking to bring a more proactive way of distributing knowledge to the right audience in order to reduce risk and speed time to execution for change, configuration and release activities.

General

As with other tools in this review, release and changes are both created from within the change area of the tool, but with the difference here being that ITinvolve also handles releases as individual change items within a change record rather than just as a change.

Service Manager is built on the Salesforce1 platform and leverages the APIs, data integration facilities, and connectors available to integrate with third party systems such as discovery tools, CMDBs, systems management tools, etc.

Change

Service Manager supports pre-approved, normal and emergency change with the facility to configure these to your organisational needs.

The interesting thing about the way Service Manager works compared to other tools is that it gives interested parties a chance to weigh in on change requests before they go to the approval stage.  Proactive identification, analysis and engagement of changes ensures that everyone that needs consulting is consulted – avoiding the all to common “loop” where changes are brought forward to the CAB only to be pushed back for further analysis.

Service Manager is built with collaboration capabilities throughout, including the ability to follow particular items (which ITinvolve calls objects) such as applications, policies, and infrastructure components if you have a vested interest in them. Users can build a perspective (think of a “hot” Visio diagram) that includes all the objects valuable to their role rather than having to filter through information. This, in turn, enables the ITinvolve application to recommend the relevant experts to change planners for change, configuration and release activities.

These stakeholders are then able to collaborate virtually with one another on the change, adding or removing associations with other objects and engaging other stakeholders as necessary. The visual impact analysis is continuously updated during this activity, helping collaborators to easily see potential upstream and downstream impacts.

Additionally, any key setting information, policy information, or relevant knowledge objects/articles are inherited to the change for the objects associated, ensuring that all stakeholders have advanced access to the information they need to assess the change accurately and quickly without having to hunt for information.

Key settings for an object are able to be recorded and shown in the Activity Stream, as an icon within the Impact Analysis and within the Impact Factors tab, ensuring that important intelligence does not have to be hunted for and should never be missed.

This is by far the most agile and proactive change and release (as this is bundled also) product that we have reviewed so far.

Configuration

Service Manager supports a variety of integrations to leverage existing discovery and asset management data, but does not directly provide auto-discovery itself.  Objects in Service Manager support common attributes found in inventory control, asset management tools and barcode scanners making synchronization frictionless and consistent.

All automated updates to objects are written into the Activity Stream and followers of the object are updated immediately and are able to review, validate and correct revised information.  This creates a continuous mechanism for verification between expected and actual configuration avoiding the configuration inaccuracy challenges so common in CMDB implementations.

Service Manager supports a visual model of relationship mapping between objects including business services, applications, servers, databases, networking devices, policies, knowledge, etc., and also support custom objects.  Service Manager’s Impact Analysis not only shows which objects, services etc. are relative to one another, but utilizes badges to also show where changes and issues may be in effect for specific objects, as well as any key settings or information that you may need to be aware of.

What ITSM Review likes most about Service Manager is that you don’t have to go searching for relevant information.  Although there are times when you will want to manually attach information to an object, Service Manager does so intelligently without the need to perform extra steps or leave the screen you are on and go to a different area of the product.

Calendar    

The ability to set change/release blackouts/maintenance periods against individual objects as well as records that contain multiple objects, provides the opportunity to manage changes from a macro-level to a meticulous calendar ensuring that a change/release is only able to be requested for time periods that have been pre-approved.

One thing that we were surprised to find is that there is no drag and drop or create-from calendar ability within Service Manager.  Although this is not vital, it’s absence seemed a bit surprising given the other functionality contained. However this is functionality that ITinvolve states is on its roadmap for a future release.

Approvals

Once the change requester has performed an initial association of objects, including the business impact for the associated objects, relevant stakeholders are automatically identified based on those individuals, or groups that have included one or more of those objects in their perspectives (mentioned earlier within Change section).

Potential upstream and downstream impacts are visually represented ensuring that those stakeholders can easily spot any potential areas of concern.  Stakeholders are able to collaborate virtually with one another on the change, adding and removing associations with other objects and engaging other potentially interested parties, including business stakeholders as necessary. This “extra step” actually streamlines change approvals enabling greater change velocity.

Change and release approvals can be set to individuals or teams on a one/majority/percentage etc. must approve basis, e.g. a high risk change/release requires 100% agreement from all stakeholders before approval is granted. Escalations are also automated based on lack of stakeholder response within define timeframes.

Approvals, the same as all activities within the product, are documented and in effect creates a public audit that can be questioned, crowd sourced and peer reviewed.

In Summary

Despite the one noted absence of drag and drop and create option functionality from within the calendar, regardless of the size of your organisation, we strongly believe that you can’t go wrong with considering ITinvolve Service Manager as your ITSM tool for Change, Configuration and Release.

In Their Own Words:

ITinvolve Service Manager transforms IT Service Management (ITSM) with a unique, breakthrough approach.

Cloud computing, virtualization, and BYOD are making greater demands on traditional service management tools and processes. Unfortunately, commoditized service desk tools offer little more than ticketing and more “enterprise class” products are process-heavy and difficult to configure. What’s more, the collaboration capabilities they contain are afterthoughts at best and lack the context required for effective engagement.

ITinvolve challenges this status quo.

Product Highlights:

  • Provides a unified self-service portal for incidents, requests, and help information
  • Supports ITIL processes for incident, problem, change, and request management
  • Brings valuable, but scattered, IT knowledge and data together in one place – displaying it visually
  • Captures undocumented, expert tribal knowledge through easy-to-use social collaboration
  • Ensures teams have a trusted, complete, and accurate foundation for rapid decision making and risk analysis

Screenshots

This independent review is part of our Change, Configuration and Release Review.

Review: Cherwell for Change, Configuration and Release

logo_cherwell-softwareCherwell Service Management

This independent review is part of our Change, Configuration and Release Review.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch Cherwell Service Management® is a functionality-rich and user friendly tool.

The flexibility of Cherwell Service Management allows customers to automate existing change and configuration processes without the need to compromise the status quo to fit around the tool.

With Cherwell Choice™ concurrent licensing and flexible hosting model, you can choose what works best for your business — Pay-as-you-go or perpetual license, Hosted on-premise, by Cherwell or by a third party.

Strengths
  • Offers multiple ways to achieve the same outcome (e.g. creating a change request) meaning that users can work whichever way best suits them and their requirements
  • Mature change calendar with drag and drop functionality and ability to create changes direct from the calendar view
  • Robust collision detection
Weaknesses
  • Requires experience and an increased investment in time to implement release management if your existing process is complex
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Cherwell Service Management is primarily a mid-market solution with the ability to be scaled-up to enterprise class organisations

Commercial Summary

Vendor Cherwell Software
Product Cherwell Service Management
Version reviewed 4.6
Date of version Release November 2013
Year Founded 2004
Customers 600+ ITSM customers worldwide
Pricing Structure Fully inclusive concurrent user usage for both perpetual and SaaS licensing models
Competitive Differentiators
  • Fully integrated management processes that are 100% configurable against an organisation’s current and future service request models, without the need to write a single line of code via programming or scripting services
  • Integrated Platform as a Service (PaaS) technology to empower users to easily develop and deliver integrated business services offerings
  • Quick, easy, and seamless system upgrades, as well as low cost of ownership for on-going system management overheads

Independent Review

Cherwell Service Management® (hereafter referred to as “CSM”) is a tool that is a relatively straightforward to use. This is not because there is only one way to achieve a particular outcome but rather that there are many ways to achieve the same goal – with the ability to choose the one that better suits your style of working, rather than having to tailor around the tool.

Cherwell admits that previously it has tried to be “everything to everyone” but that it is now working to better provide for its target audience.  With Change, Configuration and Release Management generally being somewhat “hit and miss” amongst vendors, CSM is a well-rounded tool that manages to be both straightforward and robust enough for all but the most complicated of change and release processes.

In ITSM Review’s opinion, CSM would be suitable for all types and sizes of organisations, except for those that already have a heavy and complex release management process in place.  Whilst we believe that it is possible to successfully configure CSM to meet more complex release needs (such as these), given the time, energy and expertise required to do so, it is likely that that an alternative tool would be a better fit for your organization.

For the vast majority of organisations, we believe that CSM has all the functionality required to compliment your change, release and configuration processes to operate an efficient and successful management service.

In our opinion, CSM looks marginally older fashioned than its rivals in this group test, but what it lacks in style, it makes up for in operation.  Easy to navigate, with all the functionality that anyone other than the most demanding release connoisseur could ever need, we see this tool as being a welcome addition to many IT organisations.

General

Release and changes are both created from within the change area of the tool.  Although CSM change management has solid out-of-the box functionality, which is easy to implement and is suitable for any organisation, release management almost always needs configuration by the customer.

This having been said, CSM states that it prides itself on being highly configurable without requiring scripting know-how, and we can see how with a little time and perseverance even someone brand new to the tool, like ITSM Review for example, could create a perfectly adequate, although basic, release management process with CSM.  However, if your existing release management mechanism is complex and entrenched then implementation will require a little more time and experience to ensure success.

Change

Changes are broken down into three types;

  • Emergency
  • Standard (repeatable)
  • Normal

Each change type has it’s own thread to follow and contains templates that can be configured and set for pre-approval.

Normal changes follow a step-by-step form designed to ensure that no area is missed with the added bonus of an expanded view that shows all steps in one go.  This feature would be especially useful to newcomers or occasional change coordinators who are unsure of all the information required for a change to be submitted.  The expanded feature is only available in Read Only to ensure that all steps are completed.

When creating a change, the Risk Impact is dynamically updated by the ticking and un-ticking of certain pre-defined (and customisable) check boxes.  The priority is then easy to identify from a table that shows the impact vs. urgency.

Where more than one undertaking is required during a change, tasks can be created to divide work and responsibility.  Tasks can be set to run concurrently or once the previous task is completed depending upon configuration, which is again customisable. For more complex changes, the ITPT (IT Project Tracking) can be used.  Resources for Tasks (as with Approvers) can either be individuals, teams or expression-based. Expression-based refers to individuals who, for example, are responsible for a specific Configuration Item (CI) (this would change based on which CI was being changed).

Time limits can be set on tasks with the ability for notifications to be sent via e-mail, Dashboards, RSS Feeds or mobile devices.

Changes can be bundled into a release for deployment together.  Although these bundled changes may not aggregate a release in the strictest sense, this option is a good one as for the vast majority of organisations, there is no real need for a separate area for this functionality.

Configuration

For discovery and inventory within CSM, you can either use the internal tool or integrate with a third-party application such as SCCM, Altiris, Express Metrics etc. Via OLEDB/ODBC drivers, SQL views, web services or the API.

Whenever a CI is introduced into the CMDB, a snapshot is taken of the CI, and from that point, any changes made to it are noted in the Baseline Changes Tab.

CI forms, like the rest of the tool, are highly configurable with the ability to set fields as mandatory, read-only etc., as you would expect.  CIs are easily filterable and easy to locate from within other areas of the system.

CSM has a mature impact analysis tool, which shows a graphical representation of CIs, Services AND Users with the ability to click-through on each type to see historical changes, problems and incidents. Many IT organisations only have a vague idea of what could adversely be affected by changes – if you are one of these organisations we feel that a demonstration of CSM will likely give you hope that it is possible to create a change in complete confidence that everything will not fall down around your ears!

Calendar    

In our opinion, the change calendar is one of the most advanced calendars within this Change, Configuration and Release Management review.

There are unlimited maintenance and blackout windows that can be set, and the Collision Detection tool is able to intelligently suggest adjustments to proposed changes, such as escalation to Emergency change if it detects that the date is not within the maintenance window, or date change if the change falls during a blackout window.

The change calendar view is customisable by person, group or role (by admin) and contains a number of filters and sorting capabilities for even the most saturated of change environments.  If however you decide to use a calendar function external to Cherwell Service Management, (although we have no idea why you would want to) items in the calendar can be exported in iCal or vCal format and can be automated using one-step automation actions.

Functionality that ITSM Review especially likes is the ability to create a change from within the calendar and also “drag and drop” changes to another date.

What never ceases to amaze us is the amount of change processes that make life so complicated for change manager’s/coordinator’s etc., which means that they spend more time requesting changes than actually doing them.  Although Cherwell can do nothing about your specific process implemented within your organization, it has at least made it such that CSM is no longer a further hindrance.

One size does not fit all with ITSM tools, and being able to do the same things several ways suggests to me that Cherwell is more about fitting the tool around the people and process than vice versa.

Approvals

As mentioned with Tasks, Approvers can either be individuals, teams or expression-based, and time limits can be set with approvals being able to be sent via e-mail or by logging into the tool (including on mobile devices).

The approval matrix can be set to a straight Yes/No response or a percentage response option giving approvers the ability to accept, decline or abstain the request.

Depending on your personal set up, approvals can go to backup approvers or auto decline etc. In the event that there is no response by the end of the time specified.  Using workflow in CSM approvals provides infinite possibilities with even the most complicated approval process feasible.

All requested approvals are stored in the database and can be viewed via a report on the dashboard.

In Summary

Unless you are an organisation with advanced or complex release management requirements, we highly recommend that you consider Cherwell Service Management as your tool of choice.

In Their Own Words:

Cherwell Software is one of the fastest growing IT service management software providers. It began with simple goals: to make service desk software it would want to use and to do business honestly, putting customers first. Cherwell Software is passionate about customer care and is dedicated to creating “innovative technology built upon yesterday values.”

The company has  corporate headquarters in Colorado Springs, CO, U.S.A. and EMEA headquarters in Swindon,  U.K. A global team of dedicated employees and expert partners who appreciate the technology – but love customers – serve in North America, South America, Asia and Australia. Cherwell Software  received the 2013 SDI Best Vendor for Customer Service  award.

Cherwell’s flagship product, Cherwell Service Management®, delivers an innovative, award-winning and holistic approach to service management, allowing IT and support departments to align with organisation strategy and to deliver maximum IT business value.  Cherwell Service Management is the affordable, easy-to-use, ITSM suite with maximum portability. With Cherwell ChoiceTM concurrent licensing and flexible hosting model, you can choose what works best for your business — SaaS or purchase, and hosted on-premises, hosted by Cherwell or hosted by a third party.

Screenshots

This independent review is part of our Change, Configuration and Release Review.

Review: Axios for Change, Configuration and Release

PrintAxios

This independent review is part of our Change, Configuration and Release Review.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch Axios assyst is a solid, mature and well-rounded tool marketed towards organisation with 1,000+ end users.The functionality and design of assyst provides the ability to manage both simple and complex workflow processes to support the management of change and request.Available both as a SaaS solution and on premise – with concurrent and named licenses – assyst provides a flexible model to fit around your business.
Strengths
  • Relationships between configuration items, services and users are clearly displayed via a visual impact explorer
  • Drag and drop calendar functionality
  • Easy to collaborate on changes etc., reducing the need for the use of external software
Weaknesses
  • Requires experience and an increased investment in time to implement release management if your existing process is complex
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided Axios assyst is exclusively used by large to very large organisations (circa 1000+ users)

Commercial Summary

Vendor Axios
Product assyst
Version reviewed V10.4
Date of version Release January 2014
Year Founded 1998
Customers 1,000+
Pricing Structure Available both as a SaaS solution and on premise, with concurrent and named licenses
Competitive Differentiators
  • All ITSM process integrated into one app – non-modular
  • Visual Impact Explorer provides clear graphical views of infrastructure and relevant relationships
  • Drag and drop change/release process design

Independent Review

Axios assyst (hereafter referred to as “assyst”) is an extremely mature and well-rounded tool, which covers the larger end of the ITSM market, i.e. 1,000+ users.  Requiring no development or programming know-how, users of assyst are able to use the templates and workflows to tailor the system to their organisational needs with minimal training.

Axios boasts that it has 18+ years experience of service management experience in the wider business, not just in IT, and as a result is in a better position to cater to the expanding market of Enterprise Service Management.  However, although I would agree that assyst is capable of catering to this market, I feel that the look and feel would be less conducive to the wider business than in some of the other tools featured in this Change, Configuration and Release Review. It is my opinion that assyst currently looks like an IT tool trying to expand into other areas, rather than a tool that can already sufficiently work outside of IT and would benefit from some superficial user experience enhancements to make it less IT department centric

My overall impression of the tool is that assyst would be suitable for large (1,000 – 9,999 users) to very large organisations (10,000+ users) with moderate to mature change processes in place.  Release will take these organisations additional time and manpower to configure due to the need to modify change to resemble your release process, however, provided that this is not too complex, this should be fairly painless and relatively straight forward to implement.

If you are looking for a solid tool that interacts well with other processes (such as Incident and Problem Management), and gives a clear graphical view of your infrastructure for risk assessment, then provided that you are part of an organisation with 1,000+ users, I believe that assyst would be a strong candidate for your consideration.  Whilst assyst could certainly be considered by smaller organisations, I feel that cost may be prohibitive.

General

assyst performs release via the change area of the tool.  A change form can be used to record the release details and is categorised as a ‘Major Release’ or ‘Minor Release’, with these categories being fully customisable.

assyst contains a number of standard release processes that can be easily modified, together with a set of common stages, such as approval escalation based on monetary thresholds, which can be used to rapidly build custom release processes (Stage Library).  If your release process is uncomplicated then implementation of this mechanism should be fairly straightforward.

Forms within assyst are dynamic, which means that dependent upon which fields are selected, other areas will appear or disappear, thus tailoring the experience and making it easier to gain exactly the information you require.  I believe this advancement will make for a more positive interaction for the self-service customer.

Change

assyst comes with a number of standard release processes that can be easily modified to suit an organisation’s individual needs.  These can be configured to provide analysts with the ability to select Change/Release templates, including pre-approved, from a pre-defined list.

assyst features a “visual impact explorer”, which provides clear graphical views (i.e., service-oriented, hierarchic, impacted users and peer-to-peer) of the infrastructure.  Clicking on an item, i.e. a server, will change the view to show all the relationships that will be affected by a change.  This is one particular feature that I can see being especially useful for organisations with complicated infrastructure, and use of it should greatly reduce the time spent on risk assessment.

As you would expect all Changes logged require a Category, an Impact / Urgency and a Service Department to be assigned to it for resolution.  Dependent upon the configuration of the change template and fields completed, the risk is calculated and set as either minor, major, or significant, and the proper Workflow is then initiated to match the risk level calculated.

The link types are fully configurable enabling customers to rename with terminology appropriate to their organisation and is particularly useful for widening the use of the tool into Enterprise Service Management and shows that the expanded use of the tool has been taken into consideration by Axios.

Pre-approved Change/Release templates are available for selection from a pre-defined list.  The template and workflow associated can be fully customized using the visual Process Manager.  Dependent upon set up, the Workflow Processor will automatically route the request to the appropriate staff for the relevant authorization, decision and fulfillment tasks to be completed.

Configuration

assyst provides functionality to design and manage both simple and complex workflow processes to support the management of change and request. A workflow process is constructed from a series of stages, which are in turn constructed from a series of Tasks that can comprise of actions to be taken, authorizations and decisions.

Tasks are assigned dynamically based on information held within the CMDB by setting “Task Expressions”, and as a result authorisation can be advanced to a more senior employee if the cost of the change is above a certain threshold value.  The workflow engine manages the control of this process and is capable of handling multiple threads simultaneously.  This means that for standard requests, such as new starters, where several change requests could require processing, they can be run concurrently saving valuable time.

assyst allows each user to customise their view of the system which means that Dashboards and Reports can be tailored individually, permission allowing.

Calendar    

The change calendar is able to detect conflicts on a number of levels including blackout periods, maintenance windows or instances where more than one change is planned against the same item or system/service at the same time.

Changes can be dragged/right clicked to move to a more appropriate time, such as within a maintenance window.  Drag and drop functionality within the change calendar is extremely useful and something that I hope more vendors incorporate within their change management tool.

Approvals

As with the rest of the tool, change management security is based on group and role permissions, access to which is dynamically allocated based on operation process roles set by the customer. assyst allows for the creation of multiple groups, for example CAB’s, and users can be associated to any number of these groups.

Individuals and groups can be assigned tasks within a change, due to assyst’s workflow capabilities, and the workflow process can be configured by the customer to include multiple stages and tasks. These can include any number of authorisations, approvals and decision stages, which can dynamically alter the flow of the process.

assyst is another tool that is applying collaboration within the solution, and change is certainly an area that can benefit from keeping communication in one place. Groups of users can create an online CAB meeting from the Change and invite other members to review changes, post comments and approvals without requiring tasks to be assigned to individuals.  I can see this being a well-used area especially with dispersed teams and CAB’s.

In Summary

assyst offers solid change, configuration and release functionality with strong risk assessment capabilities. I therefore believe that it is a good offering for both large and enterprise organisations with moderate to mature change processes in place.

In Their Own Words:

Axios was formed in 1988 with one single objective in mind – to deliver software that better enables Strategic IT Service Management (ITSM) initiatives for the professionals that deliver world-class IT services within their organizations daily.

With over 2 decades immersed in ITSM routed in ITIL and R&D investment in our software, we believe that we offer customers an unrivaled combination of product functionality, depth of understanding of ITSM and the ability to execute delivery of ITSM initiatives with customers with a world class Global Services organization. Our long-standing involvement also means that as ITIL has evolved, our solution has evolved and matured, allowing us to better support and enable organizations navigate the complexities of practical implementation of best practice to strategic, value driven ITSM.

The assyst product has been developed from inception as an ‘out of the box’ IT Service Management (ITSM) solution, fully compliant with the recognised PinkVERIFY / ITIL and BS15000 (now ISO 20000) philosophies for Service Management Best Practice.

assyst fully supports both ITIL V2 and ITIL V3. assyst is currently used by a number of customers to support IT governance initiatives (such as Sarbanes Oxley).

Screenshots

This independent review is part of our Change, Configuration and Release Review.

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:


Download Review

(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.

Review: Axios assyst for Service Catalogue [BEST IN CLASS]

This independent review is part of our 2013 Service Catalogue Group Test.

Executive Summary – Axios (BEST IN CLASS)

Overview
  • High-end option for Medium – Enterprise
  • Simple intuitive UI/OOTB
Strengths
  • Seamless integration with assyst ITSM processes
  • UI
  • Strategic approach
  • Vendor capability
Weaknesses
  • Not geared up for standalone SC implementation
  • May be overkill for technical or small implementations
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Axios typically market to large/very large customers with a minimum of 1000 business users.They are classified for this review as:Specialised Service Management Suite – Offering ITIL processes and proprietary discovery tooling.They provide Event and Monitoring bridges as integration points.

Commercial Summary

Vendor Axios Systems
Product Axios assyst
Version reviewed v10
Date of version release February 2012 (multiple feature packs since initial release)
Year founded 1988
Customers 982
Pricing Structure Axios state:

  1. “SaaS – Organizations that are focused on capital expenditures and do not want to be concerned with managing hardware.
  2. On-Premise – Organizations that would rather pay a larger upfront cost, keep their annual costs lower, and keep their data in house.
  3. On-Premise Pay-Per-Month – Organizations that would like to spread the costs across 3 or 5 years, keeping their upfront cost low, while at the same time keeping their data in house.Within each of these delivery models, users can have either concurrent or dedicated license or a mix of both.While these form the basic structure of our licensing options, variants within these options are also available.  Furthermore, if a client should, at any point, want to move between the different models, we will certainly provide for that capability.    The assyst solution supports both dedicated (named) and concurrent models to allow flexibility with all core functions covered under a single licence.”

largeIndependent Review

Axios is an established vendor with a track record in the ITSM market. The Service Catalogue product is a relatively recent addition, now seamlessly integrated into the wider ITSM product functionality.

The standard interface is clean, uncluttered and intuitive, and in many cases could be used Out of the Box (OOTB). The system provides extensive functionality with all requirements met, although some advanced demand management functions require extra configuration (will be in next release). assyst offers ‘multi-tenancy’ options with links to its Customer Service Groups (CSG) functionality, which allows for customer separation and simple service definition.

The seamless integration with the rest of the assyst ITSM functional areas makes it suitable for a ‘top-down’ approach. It has not been sold extensively as a stand-alone (Service Catalogue) product, although there are some customers and so it could support a ‘bottom up’ approach The vendor is geared up to sell and implement to the ITSM market in general rather than marketing the Service Catalogue as a separate product. The vendor has extensive experience of technical integration with other products.

This is a high-end product and would be suitable for medium and large enterprise implementations. It is an excellent option for existing or prospective assyst customers and is a simple and function-rich option for others, although it may be a high cost and over engineered option for those simply looking for a request portal to get started. It is a good option for enterprise clients who want an intuitive simple interface and minimal tailoring and configuration.

 Overview

  • Existing ITSM vendor
  • Established (25+ years) independent vendor competing with large framework vendors for enterprise-wide ITSM functionality
  • Relatively recent entry to Service Catalogue market – design has incorporated recent thinking and practice
  • Strong approach that meets strategic and technical approach
  • Meets all state requirements
  • Seamless integration with existing assyst ITSM process and event management engine
  • Good overall Service Catalog product and implementation service offering for assyst clients
  • Was designed as potentially standalone product
  • Excellent full functional option for enterprise and medium sized IT organisations

Strengths

  • Pitch and approach suggests strategic focus and capability in full strategic value of Service Catalogue
  • Follows Service Strategy and Service Design approach generally in line with ITIL v 3 onwards
  • Simple forms-based service design – creates service structure and relationships
  • Services integrate with existing CMDB data and existing Incident Problem and Change functionality and workflows.
  • Existing Customer Service Grouping (CSG) functionality is a strong offering for ITSM wide integration – good business-view option for Managed Services clients who require multi-tenancy ITSM with Service Layer.
  • Recent version has developed and improved slick interface for end users and IT users.
  • Request Management workflow simple and dynamic – looks easy to use for non-technical staff
  • Strong approach based on workshops and skills transfer to clients. Axios has an in-house global network of implementation staff with technical and process experience.
  • The product visualises service structure well, providing opportunity to see services and relationships. This is a key element in developing awareness and ‘buy-in’ across a number of stakeholders.
  • Established integrations with other ITSM and technical products
  • Mobile function allows full functionality
  • Meets all stated requirements

Weaknesses

  • May be over-rich ‘high end’ option where simple technical request management and portal is required
  • Mobile functionality late to market – relatively low pick up to date – particularly of standalone version
  • Designed to be a standalone product – Axios sales, marketing and implementation approach geared up more for large ITSM-wide sales cycle and projects
  • Some areas of Demand Management still to be fully implemented – can track and review consumption by reporting, but this needs to be developed as a dynamic real-time feature (next release)
  • Limited global recognition and limited partner network – limited pool of global expertise beyond in-house
  • Dashboard tool can involve some external technical work to develop beyond standard configurable offerings

assyst Service Catalogue Customers

In Their Own Words:

“For more than 25 years, Axios Systems has been committed to innovation by providing rapid deployment of IT Service Management (ITSM) software. With teams in 22 locations globally and over 1,000 successful customer SaaS and on-premise deployments, Axios is a worldwide leader in ITSM solutions, with an exclusive focus on ITSM.

Axios’s enterprise ITSM software, assyst, is purpose-built, designed to transform IT departments from technology-focused cost centers into profitable business-focused customer service teams. assyst enables better, faster, less costly delivery and support of IT services, and was developed to support current ITIL® best practices. Designed for SaaS and on-premise, assyst offers the latest in real-time dashboard technology, social IT management, mobility, reporting, resourcing and forecasting.

assyst allows our clients to offer unparalleled multichannel support, bringing substantial tangible business benefits. We take pride in our complete ITSM package, and all customer-facing staff is ITIL foundation qualified and all consulting staff is ITIL Service Manager (Expert / Master) qualified to ensure our customers get the best solution for their business.

In addition to recognition from leading organizations, including Gartner, Ovum and Forrester Research, we have been honored by the Service Desk Institute, PINK and HDI.  Axios Systems was also:

  • Ranked in the top 1% of software companies for financial stability in 2010 by Dunn & Bradstreet
  • First in the world to adopt ITIL®
  • Involved in the original ITIL V3 re-write

Axios is headquartered in the UK, with offices across Europe, the Americas, Middle East and Asia Pacific.”

Screenshots

Further Information

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2013 Service Catalogue Group Test.

Review: ServiceNow Request Fulfilment

This independent review is part of our 2012 Request Fulfilment Group Test. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch A solid integrated platform, with the focus on improving the user’s experience of Request Fulfilment, and also focussing on the equally important business view.
Strengths They boast a unique approach of focussing on improving an end-user’s experience in engaging with IT through the Request Fulfilment process.
Weaknesses Although there are administration courses, all too often the responses relied on finding answers to configuration questions “in the wiki”.It is comprehensive, but when others promote that element of “handover” to the system’s custodians, ServiceNow seem to want to default to detachment.
Primary Market Focus Mid-size to Large Enterprise level customers

Commercial Summary

Vendor ServiceNow
Product ServiceNow
Version reviewed Berlin Release
Date of version release September 2012
Year founded 2004
Customers 1,200+
Pricing Structure ServiceNow offers a subscription license based on the number of IT process users, starting at $100 / IT process user / month with volume discounts available. There is no charge for end user access.
Competitive Differentiators
  • A single, organically developed ITSM platform built in the cloud with nothing acquired or OEMed that leverages knowledge management, collaboration, graphical workflow engine, ITSM stack, service catalog and request, runbook automation, CMDB, ITAM, software asset management, etc. all included in the subscription license.
  • An approachable, social and modern Web UI built to improve the end user experience with IT through an emphasis on usability and self service.
  • A configurable platform includes a content management system that allows IT to provide a user experience that is identical to existing customer Web properties and that matches existing user experience and IT workflow.
Additional Feature Service catalogue, service portfolio, and dozens of other enterprise service automation applications all provided through a single cloud-based platform.

ServiceNow

Independent Review

ServiceNow has been one of the fastest growing software companies in the world, since forming in 2004.

One significant difference I saw in looking more at the single-tenant commercial deployment scenario (opposed to Managed Service Provision) was how to leverage a business view of the service catalogue.

More importantly, that view can be combined with elements of the Employee Self Service portal to give users a lot more information about the services they use, even before they go down the Request Fulfilment route.

That is not to say that other vendors do not offer the same, but ServiceNow’s focus sees the tool as an enabler for information up and down the chain, about the affordability of the services IT provide, and the usability for end-users.

Request Models

End-users can come in to the Request Fulfilment screens through a self-service portal URL which provides them a simplified view of the options available.

This can be configured to provide a customer’s look and feel, and limits the choices in the sections so that the end-user is not overwhelmed with a mass of service catalogue options.

ServiceNow recommend the three main sections (Order Things, Knowledge, Get Help) and no more than four elements beneath that.

Requests can be bundled together (for example for new hires) and most vendors now adopt the look and feel of a shopping cart experience to good effect.

But they want to make the interface as intuitive as possible.

All this is laudable, but as always that freedom of intuition requires detailed thought and configuration behind the scenes.

Menu Selection

The back end allows administrators to configure routing options, approvals, even the addition of fields mostly through drop-down and selectable variable values.

There is the capability of doing further, more complex development and administrators would need to either have an understanding of Java Script programming, or (in their words) at least have a desire to learn.

But in fairness, ServiceNow also recognise that resources or skill levels in organisations may not stretch to that – and certainly enough can be done with the options available to build on the existing  templates, utilising a graphical workflow editor, pick lists and right-click UI controls .

Request Fulfilment Lifecycle

The first step in the ServiceNow world is to build up the items in a way that makes it an appealing experience for the end user.

Once the aesthetics are taken care of, then start tackling the more repetitive elements of the process first, and then worry about tackling your exceptions.

The graphical workflow is extensive, and tasks, actions, options attached to those actions are taken care of with drag-and-drop.

It is designed so that Business Analysts or Process Managers can translate those steps graphically to configure the back-end workflow.

In addition, a business service catalogue can be developed, and this has a two-fold purpose.

Often customers have difficulty in transitioning to a service model, and understanding what that really means to them.

Here, IT can define to the business what services it offers, the reasonable levels of availability and response that can be expected, and can obviously build from there, for example Email Services.

This view is also linked to an end-user’s view of their world, so they can proactively see (even before entering the whole ticket rigmarole), service alerts or issues.

Conclusion

ServiceNow are not alone in the market place at focussing on how customers want to set things up behind the scenes.

Administrators of the system should have a strong end-to-end process knowledge to get the best from configuring the workflows.

Their approach, though, differs between good practical advice in terms of configuration versus a wiki-focussed depth of support information.

For example, during the demo, I was impressed at the steps outlined for an approach to tackling the workflow configuration:

  1. Build the items you want the end user to see first
  2. Worry about process later (repetitive tasks first, then exceptions)

But I am also pointed to a range of links of everything in the wiki.

There is no doubt that the information is comprehensive and, given how much is in there, fairly well organised but it can be very time consuming to wade through the options to find things, and I speak from experience!

ServiceNow offer a foundations e-learning course that can be completed within an hour.

They also provide a three-day ServiceNow system administration class, a two-day advanced system administration class, and a three-day scripting in ServiceNow course. System administrators can be up to speed within a day and be extremely proficient within a week.

However, at its core, ServiceNow does offer a well-integrated Request Fulfilment module, and reminds us that business benefit should be a driver, and provide a well thought out visual capability in that area.

ServiceNow Customers

Screenshots

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

From The ServiceNow Brochure

  • Leading provider of cloud-based services that automate enterprise IT operations.
  • Suite of applications built on our proprietary platform that automates workflow and provides integration between related businesses.
  • We help transform IT organizations from reactive, manual and task-oriented, to pro-active, automated and service-oriented organizations.
  • Assessed to PinkVERIFY 3.0
  • Provides an open, no-registration-required live instance of ServiceNow: http://demo.servicenow.com

Further Information

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2012 Request Fulfilment Group Test. See all participants and terms of the review here.