IT Service Management At VMTurbo Speed

Holonomix MD Darren Prince

Management software company VMTurbo has announced HoloSphereVMT, an operations/service desk management offering which has been developed with industry partner Holonomix.

Claiming to be able to provide “out-of-the-box” integration with service desk solutions such as ServiceNow, Zendesk and OTRS, this new offering aims to reflect real-world customer requirements in its core design

TECHNICAL NOTE: VMTurbo describes its Operations Manager as an intelligent workload management product for virtual data centres and cloud environments. Its capabilities include the ability to look at what resources applications in the data centre require, what resources these applications use and any capacity constraints there are that need to be accommodated for. For those that are not virtualisation specialists, this translates into giving applications more horsepower when they need it based on business rules and demand levels. According to VMTurbo, this integration of back-end IT and service desk management of delivery has the potential to improve how services are made available to end-users.

Holonomix MD Darren Prince contends that (in his experience) customers “love” the problem identification and recommended remedial steps that VMTurbo Operations Manager provides. “We have integrated this information directly into enterprise service desk solutions to streamline the process of logging records. This negates the need for human intervention for those incidents & change requests that require escalation in the Service Desk application,” he said.

HoloSphereVMT automates what is currently a manual process, transferring relevant data from VMTurbo Operations Manager into the service desk. Using HoloSphereVMT customers are said to be able to streamline incident & change management processes by freeing up manpower associated with data entry and ensuring consistency in data between the service desk itself and VMTurbo Operations Manager.

As VMTurbo controls how much resources these business-critical applications receive, improving the speed of getting these changes made should therefore add up to better performance overall.

“Holonomix has worked closely with our own engineering team on the development of HoloSphereVMT,” said Yuri Rabover, vice president of product strategy, VMTurbo. “The ability to automate a manual process provides increased efficiencies and cost savings and is an absolute requirement for IT organisations to maintain service level agreements.”

ITSM Metrics: Known Knowns, Known Unknowns and Unknown Unknowns

Former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

Common sense tells us we ought to choose a select few ITSM metrics which clearly demonstrate value.

But what happens if we outgrow our original metrics? Or the goalposts change? Or we acquire 15 different companies?

Similarly, once we have completed the basics and want to start exploring continual service improvement – Do we start all over again? or can we work with what we have?

Former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld famously stated in 2002:

“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.”

The same might be said of ITSM metrics. The reporting capabilities of most industry tools are based on a certain subset of metrics which are usually accessed via canned reports, bespoke queries or bespoke reporting (Known Knowns). But what if we want to peel back the layers of the ITSM onion and REALLY discover what is going on? We need to explore the Unknown Unknowns.

Next Generation BI?

The next logical step is to investigate Business Intelligence (BI) – but unfortunately most IT professionals I know shudder at the prospect of BI project because we want the results next month not next year.

UK based Service Management Company ‘RMS Services’ believes it has hit upon an ideal solution to this conundrum with what it claims to be next generation Business Intelligence.

In a nutshell: RMS Vision provides free form search of both database schemas and data from multiple data sources simultaneously.

Gone are the limitations of enterprise integrations, labour intensive excel pivots and custom reporting – to be replaced by on-the-fly analytics across local or enterprise data sources. Best of all, hundreds of chart options are auto-generated.

From the brochure:

“RMS Vision combines a powerful keyword search engine, with comprehensive graphical reporting to deliver real-time business intelligence and analytics on terabytes of data, permitting unrestricted cross-dimensional  associations between data entries and spanning multiple data sources.”

I believe the most compelling aspect of this offering is that you can begin to start exploring data without knowing precisely you are looking for. You can just surf, browse and discover.

The end result is more flexible access to the stuff you know about and a creative process of discovering the stuff you don’t know about. All of which lead to more insights and better decision making. So if you are frustrated with the limitations of the reports in your existing technology but don’t want to throw out the whole service desk – it’s worth a look.

More info here or for UK based readers RMS will be exhibiting at SDITS next week.

Twelve IT Helpdesks For Under $1,000

Say What You See

ITSM folklore states that the helpdesk software market is heavily oversaturated. Companies don’t suddenly discover the need for an IT helpdesk – it is a replacement market.

That may be the case for large enterprises, but this overlooks the enormous market of small and growing businesses.

In the UK for example the Federation of Small Businesses claims that 99% of UK business activity stems from small and medium size companies.

The UK has 4.5 million SME companies that account for 58.8% of all private sector employment in the UK and 48.8% of private sector turnover (source).

I have used UK figures here but my bet is that the vast majority of countries have a similar balance – perhaps even more so in developing countries.

Similarly, teams or divisions within larger organizations are breaking free of the shackles of prehistoric software and taking IT support provision into their own hands.

With this is mind I have compiled a short list of companies offering IT helpdesk software offering an entry level for under a grand. All the offerings below are web-based (do start ups and small companies buy servers?).

Conditions of inclusion

  • Under US$1,000 per year per user
  • Pricing is readily available on their website
  • Delivered via the Web
  • The website is not scary

If I have missed any companies that meet the criteria above please leave a comment below. Thanks in advance for your help.

Company Marketing Blurb… Pricing (Named user / agent per month from…)
1 Beetil “Adopt best practices the easy way” $39
2 BMC RemedyForce “A simpler, more affordable IT helpdesk in the cloud” $79
3 Desk (Salesforce, formerly Assistly) “The simple, social, mobile, affordable Customer Support Help Desk” $49
4 Freshdesk “Deliver a refreshing customer support experience through email, your website, phone, your communities and even Facebook and Twitter. Take your support to where your customers are” $9
5 ITRP “Make IT service management work for you. Your customers will thank you.” $30
6 ITSmartDesk “Social IT Service Management” ~$80 (for whole company not per named user)
7 Kayako “Helpdesk Evolved. Never miss a beat. Manage your email, live chat, calls, remote support and self-service, all in one place.” $29
8 My Service Desk (Hornbill) “Best Practice ITSM that delivers in Days not Weeks” $59
9 SAManage “Thousands of people around the world use SAManage, the leading online IT Service Desk and IT Asset Management tool.” $800 per year
10 Web Help Desk “Powerful Software for Technical Support” $75
11 ZenDesk “The fastest way to great customer support” $24
12 Zoho “Great Customer Support Quick and Easy” $12

Rapportive – Adding Social Context to Email

The Rapportive Panel within Gmail

Strictly speaking, this technology is probably best described as ‘Social CRM’ rather than ‘ITSM’ but it’s a great example of pulling social feeds into a web service.

In a nutshell – you get a social summary of the person you are emailing.

The more information and context I have about my customer, user, reader, business partner – the better service I can provide.

If you are thinking about adding social data into your ITSM environment, or even questioning the value – then perhaps the items below will provide some food for thought.

I’m a big fan of Rapportive; the list below provides a quick summary of the strengths:

Blindingly Easy

First of all, the technical stuff. It’s a Gmail add-on delivered via a Chrome plugin. It’s very easy to install and use, these things needn’t be difficult. The Rapportive panel replaces what were previously adverts within Gmail. In the interests of privacy I’ve used my own details (right).

Within My Workflow

You don’t need to leave your workspace to lookup anything. Everything you need is presented within the workspace you are working in without any hassle or additional windows or clicks. Just like pulling the pertinent details from an asset register into an incident record – I get to see the headlines and dig out into further detail if I need it.

Automatic

I’ve worked with tools in the past that require you to link every single person to their social details manually. Rapportive just does it automatically, if I get an email out of the blue from someone new it automatically just grabs everything I need right within the email window. It’s awesome.

Social Context

This is the most important bit – my email conversation is enhanced by social context and relevance. For the person I am corresponding with I can see their photo, job title, last few tweets, Facebook updates and other social accounts. It’s great information to have at hand when responding to someone new and saves time hunting around LinkedIn. This gives a much richer experience than just seeing some boring corporate auto-signature.

Social Analytics

Click to Enlarge

This is where things get really smart. I can also connect Rapportive to other web services accounts and it will cross-reference email addresses with those services.

For example I use MailChimp for my email newsletter so when I receive an email support request, query or business enquiry from someone via email Rapportive will tell me:

  • Whether that person is already on my newsletter list and
  • Which articles they clicked on within the newsletter

This is a huge advantage when responding.  For example I will respond differently to someone that has subscribed to my newsletter for a year and read last month’s update compared to someone new.

Zero Lag Time

Finally, somebody else can worry about the computing power. Between them Gmail and Rapportive can worry about that. When I’ve used social CRM plug-ins locally (such as Xobni or Plaxo for Outlook) they tend to be compute hungry and slow down the email experience. Rapportive has its moments when it temporarily goes offline but it does not stop me from processing email.

The Right Price

It’s free.

Further info at www.rapportive.com

IT SmartDesk: When Everyone Can Work in IT Support

I recently spoke with Maff Rigby of ITSM start-up IT SmartDesk.

Maff recently presented a session at the itSMF UK conference entitled ‘Social IT – how social media is turning ITSM on its head’. The slides from Maff’s session can be found here.

Facebook Meets IT Support

In a nutshell, during his itSMF session Maff suggested ways in which Social concepts could be used to our advantage in ITSM. These included real time chat and collaboration, using live feeds and activity ‘walls’, harnessing new technology to notify customers or users of issues and using modern collaboration techniques such as wiki’s, crowd sourcing and tagging.

IT SmartDesk is positioned as ‘Social IT Service Management’; using IT SmartDesk I can invite anyone to join me on the system, they can share what they are currently working on, log incidents, ask questions, follow an incident, log bugs and generally join the conversation and collaborate. It’s Facebook meets small IT team support.

IT SmartDesk is aimed at small teams or businesses seeking an online solution, Maff and his team have initially focused on logging incidents and bug tracking – but for me the real key differentiator with this offering is the type of user who can collaborate and provide support.

IT Support for IT Savvy Companies

Traditional ITSM solutions are based on a certain number of IT users who support the larger customer base. E.g. I’ll buy 5 concurrent users for my service desk system to support hundreds or thousands of my customers or users.

IT SmartDesk have turned this model on its head and have priced the system by total number of people logging into the system. They have wisely recognized the market trend that IT support does not have all the answers and many companies are providing support to IT savvy users. With IT SmartDesk anyone in the company can jump in and collaborate. The IT support operator changes from gatekeeper to curator.

The paint has only just dried on this new tool, but from what I have seen so far I found the system to be blindingly obvious to use, easy on the eye, fun to use and clean. Let’s hope they can keep it that way as the feature set expands.

I look forward to keeping track of IT SmartDesk over the coming months.

Further details can be found here > www.itsmartdesk.com

Screenshots below, click to enlarge.

Notifications
Notifications

 

Dashboard
Dashboard

 

Answer Question
Answer Question

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

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

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

V1.0 itSMF UK Conference Exhibitors by Type / Focus

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

Market Focus

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

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

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

Company Type 

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

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

Other Categories

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

Your Feedback?

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

ITSM Tools Census – Creating an Independent Guide to Tools

One of the primary reasons for starting The ITAM Review back in 2008 was to simply provide an unbiased list of the key players in the market. The vendor directory was one of the first pages to be published on The ITAM Review and continues to be one of the most frequently visited pages.

I commonly speak to organizations about to embark on their final technology selection with tools that are inappropriate for the job, they simply don’t know what is out there and what is most appropriate for their needs. They are choosing from solid software publishers who have great technology – but the technology may be wholly inappropriate for their current needs.

This is akin to planning a trip from London to the South of France with a family of four and choosing between a Scooter, and Family Saloon and a Juggernaut. All of them are good vehicles in their own right, with their own satisfied customers and accreditations – but only one is really suitable for the job in hand.

Another challenge we face in the enterprise software market is that sales reps make a persuasive case for buying a scooter or a juggernaut when we need a saloon and it is often difficult to assess their advice from an independent perspective.

I believe the same can be said of the ITSM tools market. Oranges are not always being compared with Oranges.

I plan to start conducting independent reviews of ITSM tools in 2012. My goal is to review, compare, rank and classify all of the various tools in the market, from the smallest of nimble start-ups with a handful of customers, to the industry stalwarts with hundreds of customers. My aim is that prospective buyers can discover clusters of tools that might be suitable for their particular need, maturity, size and budget rather than trying to assess the entire market.

In order to prepare for my reviews, I first intend to build a near-exhaustive list of tool providers which will include a high level overview of their value proposition, key competitive differentiators and sample customers and use cases.

CALLING ALL ITSM TOOL VENDORS

I am inviting vendors to complete an ITSM Tools Census to help generate the list – please encourage everyone you know from the vendor community to participate.

PLEASE NOTE: All results will be published free of charge without registration in a permanent public archive for future reference.

For ITSM Tool Vendors – Click here to complete the ITSM TOOL CENSUS

Thanks in advance for your time and cooperation.

Image Credit

The ITSM Tool Pricing Ouch-O-Meter

Click to Enlarge

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

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

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

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

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

The KISS Principle

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

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

Eyes Wide Open

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

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

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

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