Review: ServiceNow for Service Catalogue

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

Executive Summary – ServiceNow

Overview
  • High end functionality
  • Enterprise focus
  • Strong corporate backing and growth
Strengths
  • Extensive functionality
  • Best Demand dashboard functions
  • Flexibility of product
Weaknesses
  • UI busy and complicated
  • Flexibility of product
  • Organisation geared towards enterprise clients
  • Needs usability configuration/customisation
Primary Market Focus “ServiceNow are the Enterprise IT Cloud Company”

Commercial Summary

Vendor ServiceNow
Product ServiceNow
Version reviewed Berlin
Date of version release September 2012
Year founded 2004
Customers 1600 enterprise customers as of May 2013.
Pricing Structure “ServiceNow offers a subscription license based on IT process users. We charge $100 / IT process user / month with volume discounts available. We also offer end user pricing in certain scenarios.”
Competitive Differentiators ServiceNow state:

  1. “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 catalogue and request, runbook automation, CMDB, ITAM, software license management, etc. all included in the subscription license.
  2. An approachable, social and modern Web UI built to improve the end user experience with IT through an emphasis on usability and self service.
  3. 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.”

ServiceNowlogo_STANDARD_RGB_226px_122012Independent Review

ServiceNow has emerged in recent years as a leading innovator in the SaaS and Cloud provision of ITSM products – this is backed up with an active and innovative community of users and partners that use the platform to develop new applications and approaches with the toolset.

The Service Catalogue product is part of an extensive and function-rich ITSM toolset that is aimed at competing and ultimately leading the enterprise area of the market – the company has achieved impressive growth and market share, replacing major legacy ITSM systems, leading with speed, agility and a disruptive commercial model.

The Catalogue product has full functionality and meets all the stated requirements. In particular the demand management, dashboard and reporting capabilities are impressive and delivered to support useful views of consumption vs. forecast etc. The system supports multi-tenancy operations and provides good integration with asset and discovery modules to create service bundles.

The product offers a potential hybrid and options for ‘bottom up’ and ‘top down’ approach. The vendor offers a variety and depth of implementation and development services and as well as support to clients through workshops and training – supported by a growing partner network of integrators and consultancies.

The standard Out of the Box interface looks busy and complicated – there are many good tailored implementations which are built for clients, however these may take consultancy and configuration time.

This is a good option for enterprise clients who need to customise their system, look and feel, as well as needing to develop some specific functionality. Product tailoring and configuration would suit large enterprise organisations with expansive requirements. Small, medium-sized, and some enterprise organisations – with standard requirements, looking for ‘vanilla’ implementations –  might struggle with the complexity and User Interface of the Out of the Box version.

Overview

  • ITSM track record over last 6/7 years of significant growth and ‘rip-out’ replacement implementations – major ‘disruptive’ player introducing new commercial model and fast implementation approach
  • Comprehensive functionality available – competing with enterprise ITSM tools
  • Meets all stated requirements
  • Out of the box User Interface and overall functionality looks busy and complex
  • Catalogue functionality integrates with ITSM processes
  • Strong capability in Demand Management
  • Vendor has developed strong, open user community and partner base for sharing knowledge and innovation with the product
  • Consultancy and tailoring required for a simple, intuitive implementation

Strengths

  • Extensive functionality available for hardware and software request and lifecycle management
  • Effective portal and user request functionality
  • Seamless integration with discovery and asset modules to build service bundles and ‘discover’ services
  • Vendor has experience and skilled resources for technical integration of request management/portal processes
  • Expanding and impressive portfolio of enterprise client implementations
  • Partner network provides input to innovation and development of leading edge product best practice
  • Real time dashboards and reports look impressive
  • Excellent breadth of (delivered) Demand Management functionality
  • User and partner community a great resource and source of innovation and good practice
  • Vendor has growing resources and financial backing as part of growth strategy
  • System highly tailorable and therefore suitable for large bespoke implementations and requirements

Weaknesses

  • Out of the Box interface looks busy and over-engineered for many basic functions
  • Basic functionality will require tailoring for a simple clean interface and functionality  – may not suit organisations looking for clarity and simplicity in solution
  • Strength of flexibility may also be weakness in complexity
  • Standard implementations of Service Catalogue around 10 days – re-design for simple clean look and feel requires more time and cost

ServiceNow Service Catalogue Customers

In Their Own Words:

“ServiceNow Service Catalogue and Request Management offers all your defined business and technical services via flexible storefront interface. Using configurable ServiceNow workflow, you can provide a friendly, personalized user experience to capture data, collect approvals, automate fulfilment, and leverage the benefits of operating in one platform to deliver value to the business.

Empower your business and technical users to interact and order the services they need to do their job, provide transparency into the approval process, and allow users to track the progress of their own requests. Through the service catalogue, your organization can deliver standardized services, capture data for an array of department services, coordinate transfer pricing between departments, and improve internal controls with full audit capabilities.

Drag-and-drop your way to a powerful, world-class experience and improve communication, transparency, and the perception of IT by the rest of the business. All the workflow orchestration, notifications, request fulfilment, interface design and connections to underlying processes are built into the ServiceNow platform.”

Screenshots

Further Information

Group Test Index

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

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: Biomni Front Office for Service Catalogue

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

Executive Summary – BIOMNI

Overview
  • Good functionality
  • Nice commercial approach
  • Good option for Tech-only implementations (e.g. MSPs)
Strengths
  • Good intuitive functionality
  • Commercial approach
  • Speed of implementation – doesn’t need other ITSM processes
Weaknesses
  • Little Strategic implementation focus
  • Functionality gaps
Primary Market Focus Offers IT Service Management, with integration to third party Systems Management software

Commercial Summary

Vendor Biomni
Product Front Office
Version reviewed V7.3
Date of version release December 2012
Year founded 1999
Customers 600
Pricing Structure End Users; either one-off purchase or subscription.
Competitive Differentiators
  1. Flexibility via easy configuration not customisation and supporting of multi-clients with users of different language
  2. Intuitive self service portal designed with shopping cart or app store like request experience
  3. Decoupled service catalogue able to integrate to multiple existing fulfilment system and not tied to any specific services desk
Additional features Biomni say “We have built a variety of integration adapters for cloud, service desk, asset management, user directory systems and platforms. Our community site allows customer to download service and request templates and adapters.”

largeIndependent Review

Biomni is based in the UK and is focussed on Service Catalogue capability. The vendor has developed a number of proven technical links with other products and providers, and offers a ‘bottom up’ discovery and integration approach.

The product is simple to use and has an intuitive WYSIWYG interface – the user view is similar to familiar retail experiences. The system meets most functional requirements, although there are gaps in visualisation of services and hierarchies, plus also some areas of reporting and demand management – although some aspects of this look effective (Reporting consumption forecast vs. actual).

Prospective clients can also use the product free as a trial until the catalogue is needed as an ‘actionable’ system (i.e. transactional) – this is useful for flexible and fast appreciation of Service Catalogue concepts and also for presentation of services, which can be useful to get buy-in and financial backing.

The vendor is focussed on developing and selling mostly at the technical level, so is not widely known as a fully functional option – they are now extending some marketing activity to make more of the industry aware of the product.

This product is useful for a variety of organisations as a simple and low cost entry to the market – the commercial option allows potential users to try out and create some functionality without major effort or expense. As a more strategic option it requires more focus from the vendor on positioning and capability around the product – in order to sell in at a more senior level.

This product is an excellent option for small and medium sized organisations as a means to quickly get up and running with Service Catalogue – it is also a good option for those looking outside their own existing ITSM product, as the vendor is experienced and capable in developing interfaces and integration with a number of ITSM tools. It is sold to enterprise organisations, although mostly as part of a ‘bottom-up’ technical integration.

Overview

  • Specific Service Catalogue/Request Management Vendor
  • Simple, easy to use and effective portal, user administration and request management system
  • Well established and integrated with multiple ITSM and other 3rd party systems management software
  • Interesting and useful commercial approach – software provided free as a presentation system
  • Meets most of the stated requirements – full request management – gaps in visualisation, service hierarchy, demand management, reporting
  • Sales and implementation approach is focussed on technical integration and organic development
  • Vendor becoming active in ITSM community
  • Little focus on strategic/top down approach

Strengths

  • Strong product for Service Portal and Request Management, plus discovery and IT user administration – e.g. security
  • Strong track record of integrations and front-end implementations with other ITSM and systems management tools
  • Product is offered on free basis until it becomes actionable (i.e. with transactional capability rather than just a service brochure). This is useful in this area as it allows for gradual organic development and implementation – or ‘suck it and see’ approach
  • Vendor becoming active in ITSM community – marketing and partnerships
  • Strong technical focus and subject matter skills from vendor
  • Demand Management not fully complete but looks to be potentially highly effective – forecasting vs. actual feature already in place. Looks intuitive and easy to use

Weaknesses

  • No dynamic graphic visualisation for service structure and hierarchy
  • Some gaps in demand management
  • Little vendor focus on business services and strategic approach
  • Gaps in dashboard and reporting features OOTB – requires specific consulting or in-house SQL skills
  • Vendor focussed on technical and bottom up implementation – could do more marketing around IP and practise to develop interest beyond technical level
  • Vendor has limited recognition beyond technical areas and also beyond UK/European base.

Front OfficeService Catalogue Customers

In Their Own Words:

“Biomni Front Office provides IT organizations of any size a flexible decoupled self-service portal through which users can intuitively discover and request services of any type. With easy point and click configuration and extensive interfaces to integrate supporting systems, processes such as cloud, software and user provisioning can be made available for self-service consumption with highly automated fulfilment.

In use by over 1 million production users globally, Front Office is a proven addition to any customer ITSM tool portfolio, delivering rapid tangible and highly visible value.

Front Office Essentials is the free entry level edition to the Front Office suite and provides foundation Service Portfolio/Catalogue management and publishing functionality.

Front Office Express adds shopping cart and app store requesting with optional approval to provide a fully actionable Service Catalogue. Request forms, approval routing rules and service packages/bundles can be configured and linked to services for intuitive self-service requesting.

Front Office Enterprise adds request fulfilment and measurement functionality, allowing requests to be orchestrated across multiples fulfilment systems and teams.

Front Office Service Provider adds multi-client support including client specific branding and support for client hierarchies (e.g. distributors and resellers) within a single instance of Front Office.”

Screenshots

Further Information

Group Test Index

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

Review: Axios assyst

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch A tidy interface, driven by product hierarchies, and backed up with a potentially powerful CMDB.Work put in to configure the Info Zone, Guidance and FAQs can make the job of the Service Desk, Analysts, and even the end user interaction easier.
Strengths
  • Crisp and clean interface with not much clutter
  • From a self-service point of view, a nice touch in walking end users through investigation before logging a ticket
  • For those logging directly with the service desk pulls in pre-populated forms and guidance to make that role easier/more efficient.
Weaknesses
  • Very much rooted in the technical – with the product hierarchy very comprehensive.  Would be nice to see perhaps an incorporation of more business language – which can be achieved with further configuration.
  • The ability to record an analysts time against a charge code also seems to drive a specific cost as well – whilst this could just be a notional cost, some form of correlation between the two, removing the need for the analysts to know financials as well as resolving an incident, might be more beneficial – this can be achieved with further configuration,
  • There are some elements of earlier ITIL iterations in the tool, as nothing is taken out which could be cumbersome to customise out. – This can be achieved with further configuration.
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 V10.2
Date of version release December 2012
Year founded 1998
Customers 1000+
Pricing Structure The assyst solution supports both dedicated (named) and concurrent models to allow flexibility with all core functions covered under a single licence.
Competitive Differentiators
  • Our market leading Service catalogue – ranked number one in ITSM by Gartner in their recent Service catalogue Critical Capabilities report – ensures business deliver an outstanding customer experience
  • We focus on the business user with service catalogue, self-service, web and mobile
  • Highly Configurable Solution – flexible interfacing with third party tools, fully supported integrations
Additional Features assyst represents a functionally complete, fully integrated solution, that offers considerably lower lifetime TCO and therefore considerably faster ROI than the complex, technically challenging and costly solutions offered by other vendors.assyst comes truly out-of-the-box, with all service support processes delivered pre-integrated. This includes its own CMDB (also pre-integrated), which can federate from multiple external systems (Discovery tools, ADM tools, Asset and Inventory systems, Directory Systems, etc.)The assyst CMDB comes pre-integrated and sits at the heart of assyst, providing a single-source-of-truth for all configuration, relationship and asset management data required to support the Service Desk and ITIL processes.

As data is captured and shared between all the ITIL processes this allows assyst to streamline IT Service Management without the efforts usually associated with the integration of disparate modules for Incident Management, Problem, Change, etc.assyst offers powerful data and Process interaction, supported by a fully  integrated CMDB. All of the ITIL processes are fully Integrated within assyst.

Independent Review

This tool comes with everything you would expect from a well-established player in the ITSM industry, and has moved on a lot from its earlier versions to bring it bang up to date.

The interface is not cluttered, and focuses very much on driving efficiencies through the lifecycle of Incidents and Problems by providing mechanisms to automate as much as possible.

Pre-populating forms, scripted guidance for the service desk, and as much automation around the assignment to support groups for both incidents and problems is driven by a CMDB with is at the core of the product.

At a time, when customer experience is fast becoming the trend-de-jour, assyst can at least offer nice touches, for example FAQs that walk an end user through investigating their own issue before resorting to raising a ticket.

Interestingly, though, assyst’s foray into more social interaction with a Chat feature seems to be more popular among support staff, but not as attractive a feature for end users, based on their customer feedback.

It is not surprising why they market primarily to large/very large customer bases, but they might want to keep an eye out on the need to talk the business language too, as its next stage of evolution.

Logging & Categorisation

As well as the ability to directly log calls via a service desk and the end user self-service portal, assyst can offer automated logging from event management integration.

Because their CMDB is at the heart of the product, it can auto-populate many user information fields to speed up the process, of course dependent on the depth of information collated.

Also, as an up-front feature assyst provides the service desk with Model Incident templates to use for repetitive incidents (for example Password Resets).

The record displays a number of actions for the service desk to just log, or to log and assign the ticket, depending on the level of first-time-fix information that can be made available to them as part of an InfoZone and Guidance section on their home page.

Out of the box, the categorisation is firmly rooted in product and infrastructure related types and values.

Tracking and Escalations

assyst’s Event Monitor function, and an “InfoZone” area of the home page can dynamically display a number of on-going records related to the data being entered.

The Event Monitor can display time values relating to the record through its lifecycle, and can also relate that information to any SLAs associated with it, so that there is an on-going view of potential breach conditions.

As well as maintaining a complete audit trail of any updates carried out on the record, the number of assignments (or hops) can also be recorded.  Usefully, a value can be set after which point a senior person can be alerted to give the record more focussed attention.

Prioritisation

Tied in to the categorisation hierarchy, records are driven by business rules set up using their Event Builder capability, building the rules into their CMDB.

This can reduce logging times, whereby rules can link a configuration item to an SLA, the impact and urgency, its class, specific products, sites, buildings, business units or even a specific user.

Actions can then be displayed to the service desk by means of scripted procedures – all in the aim of making their job easier and more efficient.

Tying these down closely to the product hierarchy and the CMDB means that more can be automated up front.

Closure

When an incident or a problem has been resolved, it can be set to closed or pending concurrence (based on the permissions).

If set to pending, then typically the ownership transfers back to the service desk to gain that concurrence and close or, if required, re-open the record and continue with the assignment process as before.

Major Incident/Problems

All incoming incidents relating to the major incident can then be linked and (once resolved) closed in one action.

A problem record, and automated notifications to the relevant support groups can also be kicked off through the appropriate workflow, to ensure the right teams are working on identifying the root cause.

With respect to major problem records, assyst use updates to these more time-crucial events to help drive continual improvement, updating the quality of information they can provide the front line when logging similar events in the future.

As part of the record, there is a capability to record time and cost incurred in its resolution.

This is useful for charge back, but if an organisation chooses to use it, the specialist will need to know what the related cost is (although this could just be a notional value).

Conclusion

As you would expect from an established vendor, the capability of moving through Incident and Problem management has everything it needs to tick the process boxes.

But there are some interesting things around the periphery:

The use of the InfoZone with links to any knowledge base articles or even external links, or Guidance scripts to help drive first-time-fixes all look to improve efficiency.

The real potential lies behind the incorporation of their CMDB, and it is flexible enough to start slowly and build more and more, to be able to pull in the most pertinent information into a record.

assyst is very firmly rooted in driving the records through the technical route, with the hierarchical product structure at its heart.

Perhaps to get the best out of the product, a lot of strategic thought has to go around harnessing the power of that CMDB to help drive the other functions.

AssystService Management Customers

Screenshots

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

From the Axios Brochure

  • 12 PinkVERIFY™ ITIl V3 processes
  • Robust enterprise-class ITSM technology with the simplicity of SaaS to deliver rapid business value
  • Designed for easy deployment and flexibility to support changing business needs
  • Helps customers manage services, assets and customer support in a fast-paced business environment.

Further Information

In Their Own Words:

Axios’s enterprise ITSM software, assyst, is purpose-built, designed to transform IT departments from technology-focused cost centres 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.

assyst is one of the most functionally mature ITSM software solutions on the market, with a proven track record spanning over 25 years for delivering measurable results in large organizations across the globe.

Available for SaaS and on-premise, assyst brings to market the latest in real-time dashboard technology, social IT management, mobility, reporting, resourcing and forecasting – offering a series of solutions and templates that enable an immediate return in the form of customer satisfaction and cost reduction.

assyst also provides integrated functionality to support IT Asset Management (ITAM), governance and standardisation within a single, rapidly deployable, application.

As an out-of-the-box solution, assyst delivers value faster than any other enterprise-class ITSM software available today.

In addition to recognition from leading organizations, including Gartner, Ovum and Forrester Research, who noted Axios has “robust, scalable offerings that could meet the majority of service management needs for the largest and most complex organizations,”[1] we have, likewise, been honored by the Service Desk Institute, PINK and HDI.

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Review: BMC Footprints

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch An improved interface and comprehensive coverage of Incident and Problem Management, with some added innovation to make scheduling work a little easier for Service Desks and support staff alike.
Strengths
  • Logging by Type, Category and Symptom adds a meaningful level of granularity.
  • Incorporates an availability of resources view by integrating to Outlook Exchange
  • Subscription function for end users for major incidents, as well as pop ups for potential SLA breaches.
Weaknesses
  • Design elements behind the scenes are still largely text based.
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, BMC FootPrints typically market to customers with between 500 to 10,000 users (Medium to Large)They are classified for this review as:Specialised Service Management Suite – Offering ITIL processes and proprietary discovery tooling.They provide IT Operations Management integration with their own tooling.

Commercial Summary

Vendor BMC
Product BMC FootPrints ServiceCore
Version reviewed V11.5
Date of version release Autumn 2012 was the release date for this version of FootPrints. The previous version had been certified under the PinkVerify scheme to 10 ITIL 3.1 processes. This version has been re-verified to the same level.
Year founded BMC Software was founded in 1980 and today has revenues of $2.2bn
Customers BMC FootPrints has approximately 1000 customers across Europe and 5000 worldwide.
Pricing Structure BMC FootPrints can be provided as a Starter Pack and this includes 5 named or 1 named + 2 concurrent user licenses, LDAP, unlimited Self-service and unlimited project workspaces. All additional ServiceCore modules are licensed in the same way. AssetCore modules such inventory management, patch are licensed in blocks of 100 nodes. For SaaS and Managed Services subscription licensing is also available.
Competitive Differentiators
  • BMC FootPrints is widely regarded as an affordable and flexible solution which can address both IT service management and IT Operations Management from a single pane of glass. One view, one console, one solution.
  • BMC FootPrints is optimised for ITIL but provides a highly adaptive workflow environment (Workspaces) which quickly allows organisation to replicate own best practice support processes or design and launch other non-IT service desks. One view, one console, multiple service desks.
  • In its converged state BMC FootPrints provides seamless integration to ITOM capabilities with open process transparency and data integration. BMC FootPrints supports physical, virtual and mobile devices
Additional Features Additional integration is available with other BMC products such as End-User Experience Management and Network Automation.

Independent Review

BMC Footprints provide a comprehensive end-to-end flow for Incident and Problem Management, and is beginning to benefit from being part of a larger group of products, as functionality from products like RemedyForce add the ability to view process flows (Alignability Process Model)

The tidy-up of the workspace architecture makes the overall interface a cleaner and less confused dashboard view.

They have also incorporated a view of support staff resources by integrating directly with Outlook Exchange to show support staff availability.

Logging & Categorisation

Stand out features for FootPrints when logging a call is the Incident Type, Category and Symptom, which can bring up key problem determination questions.

Their consultancy approach to get that level of granularity focuses on working through what organisations look for in their reports, and working backwards from there.

Tracking and Escalations

As the record progresses through its lifecycle, there is an option to just provide Quick Edits (for example for the Service Desk) as opposed to pulling up the entire record.

FootPrints allows for skill-based routing of the record.

There was no means to look at incidents that seem to bounce around groups, but the audit logs are very comprehensive, and everything is contained within the record.

Any SLAs likely to breach will send a pop up to the agent’s screen and could be configurable in a variety of ways (pop-up, colour change etc.)

Prioritisation

The impact and urgency definitions can be defined in more business-focussed language, and the priority can be solely linked to those values.

Closure

On resolution, FootPrints triggers an email with two links to signify if the end user is happy or not that the issue has been resolved.

Records can be auto-closed.

FootPrints offers the option of re-opening previously resolved records or, if organisations prefer, to link a new incident to the previously closed one.

Major Incident/Problems

Major Incidents (and indeed Problems) can be logged from scratch or flagged from a number of incoming records.

As with a lot of US based vendors, the terminology can veer towards the reference “Global” but this is easily customisable.

The record is easily identifiable in a list with either a globe for the master ticket, or a globe with a chain link to show it is one of a series of records as part of the major incident.

A broadcast message goes out to everyone using FootPrints to notify them of a major incident.

But on the self-service side, an end user can see and subscribe to a major incident.

Incident and Problem Templates

Although none are provided out of the box, FootPrints comes with a Quick Template feature for both incidents and problems, where the record can be pre-populated.

Conclusion

The features to help speed up the process of logging records, and providing initial questions around investigation continue to be an attractive feature in FootPrints.

Adding the integrated Outlook resource view adds to their philosophy of making the Service Desk’s life a little easier.

With each successive release, FootPrints is becoming a crisper, more comprehensive tool, supplementing its functionality with additional elements such as Remote Control, Discovery and Software Deployment modules.

BMC FootPrints Service Management Customers

Screenshots

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

From the BMC FootPrints Brochure

  • Increase first-call resolutions by quickly associating the incident to a known problem and the appropriate resolution
  • Improve organisational knowledge by providing the status of known issues and knowledge base solutions to ease troubleshooting
  • Track performance against service level agreements with configurable dashboards

In Their Own Words:

BMC FootPrints follows ITIL best practices and supports key processes like incident and problem, change, and configuration management. So what sets it apart? BMC FootPrints is designed for the evolving business with a just-right balance of usability, security and functionality. It’s flexible enough to configure, affordable enough to invest in, and powerful enough to grow with you. The BMC FootPrints family of IT Management products and solutions streamline, automate and improve IT operations. They have been designed to leverage your legacy IT management solutions and enable IT to optimize the management of PC’s, mobile devices, software and IT infrastructure by simplifying and automating the entire ownership experience. Our solutions uniquely integrate the processes that manage IT, not just the data generated by those processes. BMC FootPrints has been optimized for use over the web but equally satisfies organizations looking for a solid and secure on-premise solution. Certified to ITIL 3.1 it can be deployed quickly ‘out-of-the-box’ with minimal configuration and for those organizations seeking to facilitate non-IT service desks (such as Facilities Management or HR/Payroll), the easy-to-design workflow environment makes one-to-many service desks a reality from a single instance of BMC FootPrints. BMC FootPrints is one solution in the ‘One Size Does Not Fit All’ ITSM portfolio and has been specifically designed for mid-sized organizations seeking to deliver excellent services internally and externally.

Further Information

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Review: Cherwell

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch Cherwell use intelligent interfaces and well constructed forms to automate the basics of the processes in a comprehensive and informative way.
Strengths
  • Core stages of process management as part of the user interface
  • In-context configuration mapping that makes handling concurrent incident and problem mapping management very easy
  • Potential depth of customisation in terms of use of forms (Specifics) lends itself to improving/enhancing investigation and first-time-fix.
Weaknesses
  • While promotion to a Major Incident, automatic raising of a Problem, linkage to the Global Alerts feature and the ability for users to indicate they are affected too from Self Service is great, that indication is linked to the automatically opened problem record, not the Major Incident.
  • Customers seem to have indicated interest in linkage to the Major Incident as an out-of-the-box capability and it would make sense to provide it.
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Cherwell actively market to customers of all sizes(Small <100 to Very Large >10,000)They are classified for this review as:Specialised Service Management Suite – Offering ITIL v3 processes and proprietary discovery tooling.

They use a best of breed approach to Monitoring and also Third Party discovery tools.

Commercial Summary

Vendor Cherwell Software
Product Cherwell Service Management
Version reviewed V4.3
Date of version release December 2012
Year founded 2003
Customers 400+
Pricing Structure Fully inclusive concurrent user usage for both perpetual and SaaS licensing models.
Competitive Differentiators
  • Completely integrated management processes and totally 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 easy develop and deliver integrated business services offerings.
  • Quick, easy, seamless system upgrades and low cost of ownership for ongoing system management overheads.
Additional Features Integrated application development platform. Integrated Project Portfolio Management module. Full social media integration and features for BYOD management. Multi portal, multi user, fully configurable web portal technology.

Independent Review

There was an interesting debate to be had about the incorporation of the core elements of recording an incident, as part of the record – Record, Classify, Investigate, Resolve, Close.

This “Breadcrumb Trail” is an effective way to have the system reinforce best practices.

One of the best features is the ability to create as much automation around the investigation phase of incident recording.

Cherwell make use of a form structure (“Specifics”) that are presented crisply and succinctly within the record to help the service desk to work through some very simple initial investigation queries.

Several are supplied out of the box but can be easily built.

Using business language in the impact and urgency matrices (again primarily for Incident) shows that Cherwell recognise that ITSM tools need to work across organisations.

There is a lot to like out of the box for Cherwell, and their 80/20 philosophy pays off again, in trying to expedite the processes.

Logging & Categorisation

From the moment an incident record is opened, the interface can bring up all kinds of neat interfaces for example:

The level of integration demonstrated within the tool allows for callers to be identified by just first name and department (if they so chose) and also bring up a wealth of information about the caller if required for example assets related to them, information about any surveys they have responded to, and other record they have opened.

The Categories and Sub-Categories are dependent on the type of service selected (the Sub-Category determines if that record is indeed an Incident, or a Service Request).

But behind that the “Specifics” form structure that Cherwell provide (both out of the box and customisable) provide the Service Desk Analyst with a number of queries to try and drive a first-time-fix resolution.

Tracking and Escalations

From the start point of a Service Desk Analyst to transferring to support teams, the depth of information is primarily controlled by macros (called “One-Steps”).

These macros are used to automate as much of the process as possible.

As tools evolve, the more of the mundane that can be automated, the better the focus can be on the user experience, and One-Steps are a great mechanism for taking care of those repetitive actions.

The key, as with any tool, will be to ensure that the process (i.e. the point at which a record is transferred) is clear and concise and that the tool can provide that transition as seamlessly as possible.

When it comes to creating a Problem from an existing Incident, Cherwell offer a visual configuration map, which allows in-context updates to the related Incident and/or Problem without the need to navigate away from the map itself.

Prioritisation

Another great feature is the wording on the Impact and Urgency matrix.

The Matrix applies to a specific service and when customised, can display terminology that the business understands.

Instead of values of High, Medium and Low, having terminology like: Individual, Department, Building to describe the impact makes it a lot less like describing an IT problem, and a lot more like describing a business issue.

Closure

Coming back to those “breadcrumbs” – if a customer wishes to re-open a resolved incident, the core stages turn an angry red, with a warning triangle and escalation mark to make it very obvious this is a record that needs continued action.

Of course, those incidents that are resolved without further issues are seen as a soft-closure until the service desk receives concurrence from the user that the record can be closed.

Major Incident/Problems

There is not a separate workflow for Major Incidents (or Problems for that matter), and out of the box, there is a button to promote an incident to be Major.

This in turn triggers off the creation of a problem, and can update a Global Alert section on the Self Service Portal so that end users can see that there is something happening on a wider scale.

They can even indicate that they are affected too, but currently this will create a link to the Problem that was created when the Incident was promoted.

It can be easily resolved by the creation of a new business object for a Major Incident, and indeed customers have fed this back, so it is a little bit of an oversight that it works this way.

Conclusion

The value is how that experience can be enhanced to enable the Service Desk to achieve higher First-Time-Fix, and how terminology can be modified to appeal to the wider business, and not just those who read ITIL books at night.

The star of the Incident and Problem show were the Specifics forms – Business Objects that Cherwell have developed that sit within a record (across a number of processes) with meaningful prompts and questions.

Obviously this does not happen by magic – there is a case for a knowledgeable administrator who understands more than just playing with technical toys.

To really get the most out of this system, an administrator would need to understand the business processes in play, a level of system design knowledge, and the ability to not get carried away adding forms and macros.

Of course, the extremely customisable nature means that this is by no means guaranteed, but the level of knowledge given in demonstrations should ensure that organisations receive good advice.

The only glitch for me was the Global Alert link for affected users not lining up with the incident – this is easily fixable though and really is a minor pick, rather than a fundamental faux-pas.

Cherwell Service Management Customers

Screenshots

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

From the Cherwell Brochure

  • 11 PinkVERIFY™ ITSM processes
  • Intuitive wizards and simple drag-and-drop functionality
  • With Cherwell’s Codeless Business Application Technology (CBAT), you never need to write a line of code or script. Upgrades are effortless.
  • Rapid easy implementation and easily adaptable over time
  • Out-of-the-box processes to assist customers with critical Business Alignment

In Their Own Words:

Cherwell Software

The Complete IT Service Management Solution

Cherwell Software is the developer of Cherwell Service Management™ – a fully integrated solution for IT and support professionals.  The Cherwell solution offers complete choice of software deployment and licensing models: on premise or hosted; perpetual purchase or subscription; you choose!

Designed using Microsoft’s .NET platform and Web 2.0 technology, Cherwell delivers 11 fully integrated ITIL v3 PinkVERIFY accredited management processes straight ‘out-of-the-box’, including Incident, Problem, Change, CMBD, Request, SLA, Service Catalogue and Knowledge.

Web portal technology and social media integration is key to the future success of the Service Desk. With increasing business demand for enhanced services and improved access to information, Service Desks need agile, innovative and flexible web based technologies to meet the high expectations of  users.

Cherwell’s latest Web Browser Portal experience uses leading edge and cross-platform technologies (HTML5/CSS3, Ajax and jQuery) built from the ground up to provide a very responsive application-like experience with no browser plug-ins needed.

Cherwell Service Management is 100% configurable and customisable by its end users and delivers a highly scalable and extensible development platform.  Its CBAT platform enables customers to develop integrated business applications such as: CRM, HR, Project Management, Student Records and Facilities Management systems.

Offering a truly holistic approach to service management, Cherwell empowers IT and support departments to fully align themselves with the organisation they support.  Quick to deploy and easy to use, Cherwell delivers true enterprise functionality at lower costs and without the need for any programming resources.

Further Information

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Review: TOPdesk

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch TOPdesk adds Kanban-type resource scheduling to add a new dimension onto Incident and Problem Management.
Strengths
  • The Plan Board incorporates a Kanban style approach to scheduling tasks to help drive efficient resourcing
  • Keywords trigger standard solutions, linking into a two-tier Knowledge base (for Analysts and End Users)
  • Task Board for individual support staff can be sliced and diced by most time critical events
Weaknesses
  • Sometimes “over-customisability” can rear its head in reviews – just because it is possible to have 7 different priorities does not mean it is a good practice to do so.
  • Some terminology (which can be changed with a little more detailed knowledge) can be a little cumbersome – for example Objects for Assets.
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, TOPdesk’s typical market is to customers of between 500-2000 employees (Small – Medium/Large)They are classified for this review as:Specialised Service Management Suite – Offering ITIL v3 processes and proprietary discovery tooling.The offer integration to Monitoring tools.

Commercial Summary

Vendor TOPdesk
Product TOPdesk Enterprise
Version reviewed V5.1
Date of version release December 2012
Year founded Founded in 1993.£22,000,000.00 Turnover in 2012
Customers 3150 approximate TOPdesk Enterprise customers, > 5,000+ unique customers in total.
Pricing Structure TOPdesk offer a SaaS and an on-premise solution.The license bracket is based on the number of end users supported and an unlimited amount of users of the system.With regards to on-premise pricing, annual maintenance is 15% of the one-off value per annum.Within the SaaS subscription all fees for support, technical maintenance and hosting are included.
Competitive Differentiators
  • Truly flexible commercial model with an end user license bracket that allows for an unlimited amount of operators to be registered for free.
  • Genuine ability to deliver a Shared Service Centre where multiple departments may combine budgets and expertise to support end users at no additional cost.
  • Human Resource Plan Board functionality.
Additional Features TOPdesk strongly believes in Shared Services in which multiple teams work together to deliver services to end users.

For this reason TOPdesk offers out-of-the-box solutions to support processes like, but not limited to, Building Management, Visitor Registration, Planned Preventative maintenance, HR services or Room booking management.

TOPdesk’s framework is delivered with full advanced reporting wizard, dash board, task board and plan board which will provide our customers with the tools they need to manage their processes.

topdesklogoIndependent Review

The jewel in the crown of the TOPdesk solution is the incorporation of Kanban style resourcing, and some intelligent linkage of solutions and workarounds to categories and key word matching.

A while back, I wrote an article reviewing Kanban capability, but concluded that if it was standalone, it would be a level of additional work that was not practical.

To bring that functionality into the tool makes it a very powerful addition to a suite.

The basics of Incident and Problem Management are all there, and they use Wizards to try and speed up the process for the service desk.

Their deployment model is very much set-up and train-the-trainer rather than on-going consultancy, and as such the product is highly configurable.

As a result initial best practice-based implementation lies with the consultants – and unlike other vendors, it was not immediately clear the level of their experience and knowledge – so it could be easy to make the tool quite unwieldy, quite quickly.

Other little niggles lie around some of the terminology – referring to assets as Objects, and requiring a back-end change to alter that.

But all-in-all the tool was an appealing offering, with a unique selling point in the Plan Board.

Logging & Categorisation

There are some nice features here for calls being logged – where a service desk analyst can take a number of details and pull up any information on the caller, including any assets associated with them, and all calls logged by them.

It is also possible to create a custom field indicating the level of IT Competency (for example) helping the service desk to build a profile of the person they are dealing with.

Once the analyst identifies the call as an incident to be logged, all the initial notes are pulled into the new record.

From a self-service point of view, TOPdesk try and limit the amount of information initially asked for, and on an initial save more fields are activated – showing target date for resolution, priority (linked back to categorisation) and displaying any actions that have been taken to resolve the issue.

Tracking and Escalations

TOPdesk provide a capability to link key words (for example specific error codes) to categories and based on the category, can have the records automatically assigned to a specialist.

Records can be sent to a general queue to await assignment.

TOPdesk have incorporated a Kanban style scheduling structure within the tool – the Plan Board.

Using this board, all support analysts can be listed, and tasks assigned to them displayed.

In a single view, it is easy to see who is currently over-loaded with work, and who has capacity to take on more work.

It accommodates office absences, and shift availability.

In addition, Task Boards exist for the individual analysts, and can be listed in terms of SLAs and target resolution times.

As SLAs are being breached, TOPdesk use Elapsed Time Triggers to send automated emails.

Prioritisation

The Impact and Urgency matrices shown used business language to help drive the priority for an incident but in the demo, there was an abundance of potential priorities.

There are none provided out of the box, and consultants who assist with the deployment come with standard practices to help customers in their implementations.

Closure

The terminology works on an incident being completed, and can be closed once concurrence has been given.

Major Incident/Problems

Within any incident record, TOPdesk offer a Major Incident tab where the incident can either be marked as the first incident in the chain or other incidents can be linked to a master.

Once multiple incidents are linked, there is a Closure Wizard which will close multiple records on resolution of the major incident.

In terms of Problem Management, in a similar way, multiple records can be linked to a new or major problem in a cart-based selection process.

It should be noted that here, the Impact and Urgency reflects more IT terminology (although this can be configured).

TOPdesk use a concept of Partial Problems where different groups can play a part in substantiating a problem, as part of determining the root cause.

This concept also exists for Incidents.

Known errors can be created after that point, and links back to their Standard Solutions to show that there is a workaround, which can be triggered by keywords during the logging phase.

Conclusion

TOPdesk offers some innovative ways to manage Incidents and Problems, namely using the Plan Board, but also go some way to make the service desk role a little easier with the linkage of the standard solutions to key word matching and tying those to the categories.

The product is extensively customisable, but perhaps some care should be taken to maybe show that off in combination with simpler best practices.

TOPdesk Customers

Screenshots

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

From the TOPdesk Brochure

  • Wide  range of ITIL®-based modules for all your business processes
  • TOPdesk’s Plan Board gives you all the information you need. Stay on top of your employees’ availability and workload, and assign tasks with ease.
  • The Task Board displays all your tasks in one overview, enabling you to see your calls, change activities, operational activities and services at a glance.

In Their Own Words:

TOPdesk makes ITIL aligned service management software for IT, Facilities Management, and eHRM help desks. Our award-winning solution helps you process questions, complaints and malfunctions. Optimize your services with a user-friendly application, experienced consultants and expert support. Raising your service levels and reducing your workload has never been easier. TOPdesk is an international leader in cutting-edge Service Management solutions and standardized ITIL software.

Our unrivalled integration, implementations and support is tried and trusted across the Service Management industry.

  • 5,000+ organizations use TOPdesk
  • We are located in the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Brazil and Hungary
  • We are one of the top 5 Service Management software providers worldwide
  • We employ over 450+ FTE professionals worldwide

Further Information

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Review: Nexthink

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch If systems management monitoring takes care of servers, Nexthink presents you all you need to know about the end-user side of the coin.

Nexthink sits apart from the nuts and bolts of Service Management tooling, but offer guidance to analysts to help expedite resolution with real-time End-user IT Analytics, integrated into major ITSM tools to significantly reduce problem diagnosis times.

Strengths
  • Lightweight, non-invasive kernel-driven footprint on end-user targets helps define trouble spots in real time
  • Complements and integrates with existing IT Service Management deployments
Weaknesses
  • With so much technical capability, it needs a very strong balancing hand of strategy to get the best of a combination of this product, a service management suite, and server monitoring collaboration.
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Nexthink’s customer base ranges from Small (100 end users) to Very Large (250,000+)They are classified for this review as:Specialised tooling, requiring integration to ITSM.

Commercial Summary

Vendor Nexthink
Product Nexthink V4
Version reviewed V4.3
Date of version release February 19 2013
Year founded Founded in 2004.Turnover is not disclosed but 100% yearly growth. Today 2 million users’ licenses sold
Customers 400
Pricing Structure # IT users with perpetual or subscription license. On premise Enterprise product and Cloud/SaaS offering (Q2 2013)
Competitive Differentiators Nexthink provides unique real-time end-user IT analytics across the complete infrastructure.This perfectly complements existing performance monitoring systems to drive better ITSM initiatives; end-user IT analytics are used to:

  • 1) Diagnose and isolate problems in real-time for service desk to become more effective and responsive for higher customer satisfaction
  • 2) Continuously compute metrics and KPIs for proactive actions so IT operations can improve service quality for higher business agility and productivity
  • 3) Configuration and change management is fully under compliance control.
Additional Features Nexthink’s product does real-time discovery, dependency and relationship mapping, real-time activity monitoring, alerting and reporting on all object and data analytics available.

It doesn’t rely on any external product or data to function. However integration methods exist to enrich Nexthink data with external data sources (E.g. Active Directory, Event database, CMDB), to export Nexthink data/analytics to other tools to create end-to-end correlated views/results (CMDB, ITSM, Security Events Management).See an example here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSstzl_KMdc

Independent Review

Credit should be given to Nexthink for putting themselves up against “traditional” ITSM Vendors, as their product does not do traditional Incident Management and Problem Management.

What it can do, however, is significantly shorten the amount of time it takes to resolve an incident and/or problem, by showing end user data in real time.

Nexthink have established major partners and product integrators with companies like BMC, HP and ServiceNow and provide a button on their ITSM consoles to allow analysts to view the data when required.

It almost presents itself as the super-hero of incident and problem diagnosis.

But following that super-hero position for just a moment, it is easy to get carried away with the technical potential of a shiny mapping, real-time toy.

It is much more than that, and it needs a sharp strategic mind to position it – remembering the key drivers of any ITSM related deployment.

The potential to drive down incident resolution time, and more importantly problem root cause analysis time makes it a compelling accompanying tool alongside an ITSM tool, to achieve tangible business efficiency benefits.

Widening the scope to look at the effects of IT Transition projects, and again the potential business benefits of understanding what specifications end user machines need to be to ensure speedier access to services, for example, could reap significant rewards.

Systems Monitoring vs. Real Time End User Monitoring

Nexthink acknowledge that infrastructure monitoring is an established discipline.

There are all manner of event and systems management tools that can also integrate into service management tools to present an organisation with enterprise level management.

What Nexthink do is focus on the end user perspective.

A kernel driver that is deployed out to end user machines, and loads into memory on boot-up.

Real-time data is then loaded up to a central server which can then be interrogated as and when required.

Incident & Problems Scope

Forrester research has shown that 80% of the time during the lifecycle of an incident is spent trying to isolate the problem itself.

Source: Forrester (http://apmdigest.com/5-it-operations-challenges-%E2%80%93-and-1-main-cause)

Nexthink offer a way of shortening that timeframe, mapping out relationships between failing components to see where the problem has occurred.

For example, a user may ring with a general issue of a slow response time.

Ordinarily, a support analyst would then have to drill down through applications, servers, configuration mapping to see what may be affected and how.

Nexthink can demonstrate where the issue lies and could isolate the failing link in the chain a lot more rapidly.

Nexthink’s own interface can even be used to directly query the user’s asset to assist with the diagnosis.

The information gathered can also be used to supplement the CMDB in the ITSM tool.

All this could then be used to drive more accurate logging and categorisation, and linking to any subsequent processes to resolve the situation.

The knock-on benefit is improved resolution times, potential workarounds and knowledge-base material, not to mention improved reporting.

When Nexthink is integrated with an ITSM tool, the support analysts will work off the ITSM console, but they will have a Nexthink button to be able to access the real-time analytics data.

Looking in the context of incidents and problems, whether major or otherwise, the ability to have multiple teams looking at the related end user data in terms of applications and services is invaluable.

Conclusion

There is a lot to appeal to the technical heart, looking at the depth of analytical data possible.

Key points to remember though – it takes everything from the end user point of view, and is not geared to sit on servers themselves to do that level of monitoring.

Taking just Incident and Problem Management, it is easy to see how the investigation can be shortened as an incident call comes in.

But looking at Problem, it can take proactive root cause analysis to another level.

If that is then combined with ITSM tools and their own abilities to manage multiple records (in the case of Major Incidents or Problems) then it is a powerfully complementary part of a company’s overall ITSM strategy.

Nexthink Customers

Screenshots

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

In Their Own Words:

Nexthink provides unique real-time end-user IT analytics across the complete infrastructure. This perfectly complements existing application performance monitoring systems to drive better ITSM initiatives.

End-user IT analytics are the path to better IT quality, security and great efficiency and cost savings.

Nexthink provides IT organizations with a real-time view of the IT activity and interaction across the complete enterprise, from the end-user perspective. This unique visibility and analytics give IT the capability to truly evaluate and understand how organizations are performing and rapidly diagnose problems or identify security risks. Nexthink uniquely collects in real time millions of events and their respective dependencies and relationship to IT services from all users, all their applications, all their devices, all workloads, and all network connections patterns (server accessed, ports, response time, duration, failure, timeouts, etc.).

Nexthink helps IT connect, communicate and collaborate to achieve their major initiatives and improve their business end-user’s IT experience. Nexthink is complimentary hence integrates well with traditional application performance management (network and server), help desk, operations management, and security tools and eases ITIL change and release management processes.

Further Information

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Stephen Mann – ITSM Tool Verification: A Good Or Bad Thing?

ITSM Tool Certifications - Good or Bad Thing? What is your view?

This article has been contributed by Stephen Mann, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research.

I recently stumbled upon the fact that Pink Elephant had introduced a new PinkVERIFY “version,” PinkVERIFY 2011, I assume to move into line with ITIL 2011.

It reminded me that I still owed the IT Service Management (ITSM) Community a blog on such ITSM tool verification or certification schemes based on my own thinking and some quick-and-dirty analysis I did at the start of 2012.

I ran two polls – one I pushed out to 20 ITSM tool vendors and the other I made available to ITSM tool customers via a Forrester blog (“How Do You Value IT Service Management Tool Verification Or Certification Schemes?”).

A Summary of Vendor Responses: 

Firstly, please be advised that this was an unscientific, quick-and-dirty ITSM tool vendor survey and the results should be treated as such. I am just trying to “paint a picture” rather than be precise with a certain degree of accuracy. Of the 13 ITSM tool vendor respondents (2 could not help, 5 didn’t reply):

  1. 10/13 either have, or are planning to get, the latest PinkVERIFY endorsement (this was 3.1 back then). The other 3 all have a previous version of PinkVERIFY and consider it adequate (for now).
  2. Most have seen an increase in RFPs asking for PinkVERIFY (or similar) endorsement, particularly in Europe and North America – the larger the prospect, the more chance there is that they will ask for PinkVERIFY or similar.
  3. In terms of not having PinkVERIFY (or an alternative) being a barrier to shortlist, the consensus was that not having it definitely doesn’t help (Of all the questions answered this was the most vague).
  4. 7/13 of the respondents felt the version of PinkVERIFY certification held to be irrelevant – that RFPs just ask if the product is endorsed and then move on.
  5. All vendors still see PinkVERIFY as the de facto certification/endorsement scheme; with the OGC scheme having greatest traction in the UK and consequently appearing most in UK RFPs.

Customer poll feedback

It was a low response rate (77 responses versus 2000+ blog reads after a month):

As you can see, only 8% would not consider an ITSM tool that does not have an independent verification. In my opinion I think this is great – I expected it to be much higher. Although, from the vendor feedback, most prospective customers still ask for independent verification of some sort in RFP/RFIs. Hopefully customers are not using the lack of it as a barrier to entry.

At the other extreme, 35% place little value in a tool having the “stamp of approval.” Perhaps this is biased by the type of people that generally read my blog? I imagine that if this poll had been publicized via more traditional means this would have been considerably lower.

However, the main headline for me is that ¾ of respondents (thankfully) perceive ITSM tool verification to be a “lesser element” of the overall tool selection process; with just ¼ seeing it as a key part or its absence a deal breaker.

And thus my conclusions …

Whether it is for the right or the wrong reasons, ITSM vendors think that some form of product verification is needed to put a proverbial “tick-in-the-box” to the RFP question around certification. I can’t help think that certification is seen as a “necessary evil” by some and as a good marketing investment by others. The verification itself is not evil – one would like to think that it is purely intended to help organizations with ITSM tool selection – but does it really help? Does certification help find the perfect tool for a not-so-perfect organization? I personally think not, at least not in its current guise (or the popular perception of its current guise).

Such certifications are merely an MOT test (Wikipedia: an annual test of automobile safety, roadworthiness aspects and exhaust emissions required for most vehicles over three years old used on public roads in the United Kingdom) for ITSM tools rather than a robust mechanism for ITSM tool selection. And if the vendor feedback is indicative it is merely the waving of a piece of mandatory paper rather than showing that a tool is “fit-for-purpose” as of right now.

To me the “popularity” of such schemes (and the way that they are currently used) raises a number of thoughts/questions:

  • I have to question what is driving the demand for verification in RFPs: is it ill-informed purchasing functions or ill-informed ITSMers? This definitely needs further analysis. The customer poll response says otherwise (again please note the perceived bias assumed on my part) but maybe it is a little too much of “no one was ever sacked for buying Microsoft/IBM/etc.”
  • Does anyone ever fail verification/certification? I hope that some do at least to give some semblance of reliability and credibility to such schemes. In the case of PinkVERIFY shouldn’t failed certifications also be listed on the Pink Elephant website? At least the OGC shows a few failures have happened BUT without naming names http://www.itil-officialsite.com/SoftwareScheme/EndorsedSoftwareTools/EndorsedSoftwareTools.aspx
  • Maybe the real value is in focusing on the differentiators? Is the number of processes verified an indicator of the tool’s capabilities or of the vendor’s marketing budget? Should it focus more on the uncommon processes? Or newer processes? At least some form of process differentiation (at a glance) would allow prospective buyers to step back from the fact that it is 10 verified processes to see which they really need to be supported. Customers should also be educated in the fact that more verified processes doesn’t mean it is a better tool (as the listing by process numbers suggests).
  • Ultimately, the ITSM community needs better educating in the value and use of, and the differences between, certification schemes such as PinkVERIFY and OGC endorsement. BUT, before this, there is still that bigger education need – that of understanding that the current method of creating RFPs and selecting vendors based on a cut-and-paste, ask-for-everything-possible-mentality is so, so flawed. I eventually hope to address this is in a formal piece of work, Forrester willing.

So that’s my 2 cents on ITSM tool verification. How about depositing yours with the Bank of ITSM Review?

This article has been contributed by Stephen Mann, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research.

The "Fantasy" ITSM team

Who would be in your fantasy ITSM implementation team?

After years of experience deploying ITSM solutions in a variety of customers,  and in the midst of a major soccer tournament here in Europe which brings out the managerial expert in football-watching folk, I found myself musing on what would be my “Fantasy” ITSM team.

What is that seemingly mythical combination of team members that brings about either an aura of calm  or a maelstrom of chaos.

The ITSM Solution Architect

Quite often with fingers in various pies – a little project management here, a touch of subject-matter-expert (SME) there and a healthy dose of OCD in terms of getting Visio lines to snap to geometry.

You will typically work directly with customers, to understand what magic is required to get this Service Management tool malarkey to work.

And then – you find yourself stuck in the middle of a team trying to get processes and tools to live in harmony, so maybe add the role “politican” to your skill-set.

Size does NOT matter

No really – believe me, it does not where ITSM projects are concerned.

My most recent deployments have been as part of outsourcing projects – and even within those beasts of burden, the projects have ranged from the Service Management work-stream being a small part of a large outsourcing project, or a small group running as jacks-of-all-trades.

But there is one common denominator in all this – the need to dovetail the team’s efforts into reworking of the process with the development/customisation of the tool.

Potential Pitfalls

1) Don’t Make Me a Liar…

Process Implementation and Solution rests in two camps.  If you are lucky, the project will have a work-stream specifically for Service Management and the two areas can advance in lock step with each other.
And they NEED to.

The Process team has to know what the capabilities, and at times limitations, of the tool as they are redefining processes.

The worst case scenario here is that the earth is promised, yet for whatever reason the tool simply cannot deliver, leaving everyone looking a little foolish.

2) You can Have it all…

Of course the flip side of the coin is that you twist the tool to do anything you want, and add anything to the process.

That tends not to help much either, (see above re: foolish)

3) So Happy Together…

There are several ways, in my opinion, to bring the Process and Tool together, without uber-educating one individual to be a complete Service Manager, Process Implementation Manager, and Tool Subject Matter Expert!

(Mind you, just think what you could ask as a daily rate!)

  • A single work-stream which brings together the Service Management Processes and the tool implementation team together.
  • It requires a strong, knowledgeable Project Manager who can understand the technical, and process elements, but steps back and manages the project using those resources.
  • Collaboration between the members of the team – there is absolutely nothing wrong with a little skills cross-pollination.
  • It doesn’t hurt to herd Process folk towards the tool – yes I know, it’s horrible and it involves clicking and things, but it does bring to life those lovely diagrams you make!
  • Actually – it also doesn’t hurt for Solution Architects to perhaps get up closer and personal with some of the administration of a system so that they can combine brain-power with the Subject Matter Experts/developers from time to time

Is it ever possible to do things “turnkey”?

Now that IS a good question.

“Turnkey” is a phrase I heard all the live-long day on one project, where it was assumed that customers would just sign on the dotted line, leaving us to go and pretty much do what we wanted.

Once upon a time, maybe that could have been true, but not in the 20 odd years I have worked in the industry!

1) Requirements Gathering

No two customers ever have exactly the same business requirements.  But most companies will have developed decent sets of templates to drive out specific requirements – standardised questions and a repeatable approach helps here.

2) ITSM Solution

Ah, we architects LOVE our solution templates – plug in requirements and it might be useful to work out what belongs to Process, what are Organisational and whatever left is Tool.

THEN figure out what the tool does easily, what the contract says, and work out where your implementation headaches will b

3) Process

Here’s where we start to overlap.  Whether your tool solutions are high or detailed level, it is likely to start to cross some boundaries especially if the definitions for elements like Impact and Urgency need to be configured in the tool.

The solution needs to reflect the way the process has been written and the process needs to be implementable.

This cannot be done in isolation and also is likely to involve SMEs or developers for more fine tuning of the tool – do not leave them out of the equation.

4) Tool Implementation

The magic area where it all miraculously comes together!

Priorities, urgency, impact, fields, workflows, data loading… need I go on?

People wonder why Service Management deployments take a while!

Some things, of course, can be standardised,  for example supplying standard data loading templates, but sources of information will differ, and it is worth remembering that often the project will have to interact with groups who are maybe not directly involved with the ITSM project.

A fool with a tool… how to avoid that scenario!

There can never be a single person who possesses all the tools to make a Service Management Deployment a success – it has to be a team effort.

The best project managers have a degree of technical skill in Service Management, but can remove themselves from interfering in the technical detail.

The best process managers are actively involved with working alongside the implementation team and perhaps involved in developing testing material to aid that familiarisation.

The best teams have engaged service managers who have a vested interest in what is coming their way – all too often they are either the last people to be informed, or worse they feel they are too busy to give it the time – a recipe for disaster, every time.

The best architects understand at the very least the ITIL basics to hold their own in process/solution design discussions, and it is better still if they can hold their own in the more heated debates of “the book says” vs. “the tool does, in alignment with ITIL Best Practice

The best implementation teams have a good bond between architect and SME; often two heads can be better than one in getting darned pesky tickets to go where you want them to.

The nature of the deployment beast is that you may have some, but probably not all of your perfect team attributes but if enough of balance can be struck between the vital roles Process Implementation and Tool Implementation play during a deployment – then I think you are half way there.

Image credit