Review: BDNA for Integrations [BEST IN CLASS]

This independent review is part of our Integrations 2013 Group Test.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch If anyone has ever tried to cleanse raw inventory data to build a picture of what is actually installed out there for a managed estate, this product solves all that. Data is brought in whatever format and normalized to identify a standard naming convention, but that is not all. That data then has market intelligence appended to provide the most comprehensive definition for hardware and software
Strengths
  •  BDNA have tapped into Data-as-a-Service and the concept is fiendishly simple – take in data, clean it, classify it to a sensible taxonomy hierarchy and pump it back into ITSM
  • They have extended their reach to Purchase Orders to begin to integrate procurement into a single record of consistently referenced data
  • Their catalogue is free to browse online
Weaknesses
  • It sounds too good to be true and that is their biggest challenge – this is something that really works for the larger organisations who have the insight to make the investment but may be out of reach of smaller organisations
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, BDNA’s customer base is more focused on larger companies.They are classified for this review as:Specialised tooling, requiring integration to ITSM.

Commercial Summary

Vendor BDNA
Product Technopedia NormalizeTechnopedia Normalize for Purchase Orders
Version reviewed Version 4
Date of version release Version was released on August 10th, 2013.
Year founded 2002
Customers 100+
Pricing Structure Technopedia Normalize pricing is based on number of devices whose data is being normalized.
Competitive Differentiators
  • BDNA normalizes data across multiple vendors and feel very confident to be able to offer SLAs on the level of data accuracy and completeness
  • BDNA employ a team to curate and add Market Intelligence to that normalized data
  • They have now applied those same algorithms to Purchase Orders in either structured or unstructured fields – so now information can be tracked from acquisition to retirement.
Additional Features They recognise that larger customers are able to negotiate extended products (for example where end of life support may be extended) and they offer a Private Catalog offering to capture and normalize that data but it is not sharable with any other organisation.

Independent Review

Integrations 2013 Group Test Best in Class: BDNA

BDNA has tapped into a concept so simple – it is a wonder that no-one has really figured this out before. Except they have – in endless projects to tidy up disparate asset collections with equally endless meetings to define taxonomy and standards.

What BDNA do is fiendishly simple – they bring in data, clean it up, align it to a sensible, and it has to be said logical taxonomy, and then push it back to your ITSM system.

Their data factory then can pull information in as scheduled and repeat the entire process, until anything all data is defined as either relevant or irrelevant (i.e. too low level).

The fact is the Technopedia Catalog grows organically all the time – and the data can be used to apply to other customers – although they do take care to strip out sensitive information.

The real value is the way they enrich the data with market intelligence – a team of people collect information such as End of Life state, Upgrade and Downgrade information, Operating System compatibilities. They can also collect information like power ratings which can be vital information for large data centre transformation projects.

BDNA will supply their own taxonomy – they have developed this with two or three iterations from scratch and now have a sensible hierarchy of:

Category – Sub Category – Vendor – Product.

The area of taxonomy is one that sometimes has people with emotional attachments to long strings of hierarchy – this feels spot on.

BDNA also provide customers with a real-time analysis tool to slice and dice their information which makes it a powerful tool when you consider areas like compliance.

When they apply this same knowledge to the mish-mash of information held in Purchase Orders and can perform those same levels of normalization – the end to end capability of this software is remarkable.

Integration and specific recognised criteria

There are three phases to their integration process:

  • Identity reconciliation – establishing a unique identity of the elements being managed
  • Consistency across the systems
  • The ability to support the integration in a vendor agnostic manner – so it does not matter what the source is, the information is brought in and normalized.

In the demonstration, it was staggering to see that even within one software brand, the markers differed to a large extent, from the Vendor company name to the software itself.

BDNA bring that in, and define a standard reference from which to act as the root for the definition.

Security Controls

BDNA have the ability to strip out sensitive information, for example user ids and machine ids – they assign an alternative id so that they can maintain a connection to the course systems but that data is withheld as they propagate the data elsewhere.

Pre-Deployment Integration

Even though this is not a traditional ITSM tool, the task of collecting the Master Data is a very integral part of the process and this is where BDNA comes into its own.

BDNA’s Technopedia Catalog is a definitive library of hardware and software elements of more than 300,000 different hardware elements and more than 350,000 types of software.

BDNA augment this catalog with over 1000 updates, daily. In addition to the product data, they add contextual market intelligence about the products – for example compatibility, power ratings, dimensions etc.

This information then be piped back in to an ITSM tool with a single standardised definition of the hardware and software being managed, with the following advantages and conditions:

  • No manual entry of catalogs thus avoiding the errors and duplications that can have a ripple effect on all ITSM/ITIL processes and the integrations that depend on these.
  • BDNA provide a consistent model that works across vendors such as IBM, HP, ServiceNow, BMC etc.
  • Automated maintenance of this model through the Data as a Service model keeps the information current and prevents drifts in ITSM/ITIL systems that introduce inefficiencies over time.

Asset and Configuration Information

Technopedia Normalize takes data from 36 input sources that feed Asset and Configuration data –typically discovery systems from vendors such as HP, BMC, ServiceNow, Microsoft, and Cisco etc.

Once imported, the data is filtered to remove items that are considered non-essential or irrelevant for typical ITIL processes, for example low-level DLLs, patches, tools within a software distribution etc.

They discard any duplicates and assign the data to their taxonomy to give it its definitive name/identity from the Technopedia Catalog, and the definitive information is integrated back into ITSM.

Configuration data is passed from the source system into ITSM after it has been through its reconciliation to ensure that the data is correct as it comes into configuration management, again using the Technopedia Catalog taxonomy.

Additional Areas of Integration

BDNA have made the Technopedia catalog free online – there you can search through manufacturers, hardware and software and see some of the contextual business intelligence as well.

  • Technopedia Normalize for Purchase Orders

The issue with Purchase Orders is that often product data is even more fragmented than the multiple definitions in hardware and software inventory sources. BDNA have established a method of taking the structured and unstructured fields and applying the same normalization process to pull out the information, and align it to their taxonomy. In this way, the information can be integrated across Financial and Business system as well ITSM.

BDNA Customers

From the BDNA Brochure

  • BDNA Data as a Service – we take data from your systems, clean it and enrich it with market intelligence to provide insights that directly lead to action.
  • Technopedia is the world’s largest categorised repository of information on enterprise software and hardware.
  • Updates over 1000 data points daily through the Technopedia Data Factory to ensure Technopedia is current and complete – and offers an SLA on data refresh and turnaround time.

In Their Own Words:

BDNA is the leading Data as a Service (DaaS) company whose industrialized approach to delivering clean data solves the challenge enterprise IT has faced for years in wasteful spending, recognizing risk, improving IT processes and unlocking new value streams. IT data is fraught with quality issues and is inconsistent, inaccurate and incomplete which makes it difficult to gain meaningful insights from the data.

The BDNA solution aggregates IT data from more than 35 supported data sources, filters, de-duplicates, normalizes and enriches the data with market intelligence. The resulting clean, curated and complete data can then be used by any ITIL process including ITSM, ITAM, CMS/CMDB, IT Planning, Cost and Governance, Procurement etc., to improve ROI, increase efficiency and drive decisions.

Technopedia™ Catalog: The world’s largest cloud-based IT reference catalog, providing over 900,000 hardware and software products and configuration items (CIs) in a structured taxonomy.

Technopedia™ Content: BDNA’s market intelligence repository for over 900,000 software and hardware products with over 2,500 updates per day and over 38 million market data points including software EOL dates, support data, hardware lifecycle and many more.

Technopedia Normalize™: Aggregates, filters and de-duplicates raw data from over 35 enterprise data sources, aligns the results to Technopedia Catalog and enriches with Technopedia Content.

Technopedia Normalize for Purchase Orders: Normalizes purchase orders with or without manufacturer’s part numbers enabling organizations to accurately establish what was purchased and map that to actual usage providing data clarity and consistency across purchasing systems and other IT systems of record.

Screenshots

Further Information

This independent review is part of our Integrations 2013 Group Test.

Integrations Group Test line up announced

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

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

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

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

The assessment criteria at a glance:

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

Full details of the assessment criteria can be found here.

Reviewer: Ros Satar

Confirmed Participants:

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

Publication

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

Image Credit (Sky Wallpapers)

The Chips Are Down at Know 13, Vegas

AriaThere is something so unique about visiting Las Vegas – Home to ServiceNow’s Knowledge13 this year

Quite apart from the breath-taking scenery as you fly in (we’ll forget about the nerve racking sprint through Chicago and making the connecting flight literally with minutes to spare for now), it is like a whole other world.

And that also goes for the resort complex – held in the Aria complex, it really was a location that had it all – shops, there was even a pub for us Brits!

The main themes for this year focussed on Transformation and Innovation, and certainly in the first Opening Keynote by ServiceNow’s CEO Frank Slootman, The End of No, The Beginning Of Now.

There have been a few memorable events since ServiceNow’s last conference – namely ServiceNow going public on the NYSE.

The popularity of the event has grown too, with more than double the attendees- almost 3900 attendees this year.

Frank Slootman’s keynote included representatives from large companies, all with a key story to tell about IT-Led Enterprise Transformations.

Now obviously as it is an event sponsored by a vendor, you would expect Servicenow to be at the forefront of the good-news stories, but at the tail end of the panel session that Alison Collop, Global Director of Coca Cola shared the key message behind the success of IT-Led Transformation:

Organisational Change Mangement- Empowered the team to make decisions and recognising it takes everyone to help change the way they work

It was the first time that any of the panel really addressed the mindset required, not just the technology – a bold move and the golden nugget at the end of this opening keynote.

The Fred Luddy Keynote

ServiceNow Founder and CPO Fred Luddy is a hugely charismatic character and this was the keynote that everyone wanted to see.

He treated us to a (literal) face off between Google Glass and Siri, but more importantly a look and how far the industry has come, but what we need to do to continue to move forward.

There are repeatable patterns, since the 1800s – Technology is used to streamline processes (get something to work a bit faster), and create a business differentiator.

And just as in the first keynote, we were shown the finalists for ServiceNow’s Innovation of the Year award – where businesses have seen something that IT have done (streamlining) and thought of a way to help drive the business forward by creating applications within the ServiceNow platform.

The winners were Target – their employees had demanded a more personal approach to IT, and had to look to manage up to 60 appointments a day.

Target used ServiceNow to develop a booking application, as well as a custom iPad application, allowing visitors to create an appointment in person, and to be able to track and assign work and on-site support.

The application has a customer satisfaction of 94% and has moved support out of call centres.

Conduct Unbecoming The Opposition? How To Professionally Demonstrate Your Product

What stood out for me was the demonstration of the ServiceNow functionality on tablets – perhaps for a different reason than intended:

As part of Fred Luddy’s keynote, he took the audience through some of the new innovations, particularly in the area of mobile devices.

He walked us through the specific optimisation they had done for tablet devices, and it had been important for them to ensure that the full product functionality existed for staff using a tablet, perhaps supporting services remotely.

They have also developed a specific iPhone application allowing resources to be accessed, and customised to suit the individual – all with the purpose of being able to use the product to either access catalogue items (via Service Request), log incidents or work on records, assignments – all through improvements to the mobile user interface.

As an analyst, I get emails from vendors and from consultancies every day about recent press releases and new happenings – it’s nothing new, it’s part of the job.

So when I headed off to Vegas, I was not surprised to get an email from someone representing another vendor, plugging their own mobile solution, having gathered that I would be entertained by ServiceNow.

But during the first day, the #Know13 hashtag was hijacked (for want of a better word) by people connected to this vendor (I hesitate to use the word employees, partners – we just do not know) plugging their solution.

No real problem, I guess – it is, after all, a free market economy, but if it was a mischievous, puckish prank, it soon backfired in the eyes of the attendees (remember, we are talking around 3900 people… count them!).

People chattered in the breaks and at the expo wondering “why?” – after all as far as I understood, the capabilities were very different.

In all, it was a bit unprofessional (in my humble analyst opinion), and being bombarded for the week afterwards by the same partner to talk to them instead did nothing to make me reconsider that view.

ITopia

Allan Leinwand took us through the Now State of IT respectively, along with the ITopia demo in full.

This keynote really helped reinforce one of the key messages of the conference – A Single System of Record.

The demo showed how ServiceNow could be used across the enterprise, using a single database to help automate and improve efficiency, involving a cast of people playing a roles across an organisation:

  • Data Centre Manager – using dashboards to manage on premise and cloud environments, linkage to Change, and automated provisioning via the Service catalogue
  • Network Operations Centre – moving away from reactive alerts to filtered events and more proactive practices, using collaborative tools to drive Change Management
  • Procurement – More accurate inventory information and dashboards to show contract expiration and licence information
  • Field Services Technician – working remotely with mobile devices with the same amount of functionality as he would expect if located centrally
  • Human Resources – Using automation to help drive the onboarding process for new employees
  • Help Desk – Knowledge Management and collaborative tools (LiveFeed and Chat tools) to help people contacting them in a more structured way
  • Development Manager – Seeing where software defects are being logged and who are having the issues
  • Development Operations – Using the new App Creator where all the information to create a new application on the ServiceNow platform is focussed in one place
  • Crisis Response Manager – how they could retire a best-of-breed external application by developing their own within ServiceNow to do the same thing and putting all the information in one place
  • Facilities Management – recognising that their request forms, with a little modification, and by adding items to the CMDB, could also use the same system
  • Business Line Manager – Dashboard focussed on projects and associated costs, as well as automation of repetitive tasks
  • Project Management – keeping track of resources and their assigned tasks, and making that information available to stakeholders in the organisation
  • Governance – Real time collation of evidence for audits and dashboards to help identify immediate risks
  • Finally, the CIO – to demonstrate the underlying theme of the conference  – how IT can help transform the enterprise from within a single platform.

Instead of having a number of applications, they showed how applications could be built in the platform, how dashboards be used across the enterprise to show pertinent information, how new applications can be developed, all using a single course for information – the single source of record.

And none of this is amazingly new fangled gadgetary that has materialised at the hands of aliens with super-powers (even allowing for the fact we were in Vegas for a week)!

This conference gave attendees an insight as to what was possible, using existing technologies, teamwork, collaboration, and dare I say it, a bit of common sense.

Something Fun & New – The Hackathon

A new addition to the ServiceNow conference was the introduction of the Hackathon, inviting administrators and developers to show off their innovative flare to create transformational applications using the ServiceNow Service Automation Platform.

There were no limits as to what could be built, but it had to be built on ServiceNow.

The winners developed a Project Incubator application allowing users to gather required resources for new projects, across an organisation.

What others had to say

Ken Gonzalez, Know13 Session Panellist and Senior Advisory Consultant (now Capita):

I think that the diversity and topics that are associated with that, and the sessions that I went to, they talked about the technology and they talked about how to leverage it but it had a nice blend of “hey you want to do real interesting stuff, here’s some things you want to think about”

I think it struck the right blend between being too prescriptive and too salesy

Mark Kawasaki, Know 13 Speaker and ITSM Specialist at Emory University

To me it was a lot of meeting some great, some new people too, especially some practitioners that I met that were really struggling with some things.

It’s funny, one guy came up to me and said he had just spoken on CMDB and gave the exact opposite points that I gave on CMDB.

It was good discussion I had with him on different ways you can look at it.

Adam Mason, Know13 Hackathon Winner and featured customer as part of Frank Slootman’s Presentation.

I really enjoyed the quality of presenters that I saw was very high calibre and I thought the expo hall was fantastic

It was nice to see what others are doing with the product besides just customers that were trying to push the envelope a little bit so I thought that was impressive.

The Hackathon was just a ton of fun, it was a good communal experience too and I would hope they do it again

Stephen Mann Former Forrester Analyst, now Senior Manager – Product Marketing, ServiceNow

The things that really stuck out for me:

Firstly the size and the enormity of it – to get that many people who use a single product rather than parts of a portfolio of products is absolutely crazy.

Second thing would be the organisation and then within that the quality of the content, particularly yesterday – Everything consistently seemed great throughout the day.

What resonated with me

There were a lot of phrases bandied about throughout the week.

From the beginning of the week, ERP for IT and the excessive use of the word ecosystem perhaps made me roll my cynical analyst eyes, but in the panel session as part of Frank Slootman’s keynote, and in a Q&A with customers, the real drive for transformation innovation came from within the teams, with a passion and drive to innovate using the technology that exists today.

For me – the concept of Single System of Record and ITopia continue to promote applying common sense, technology and teamwork to solve business problems.

I conclude with my own thanks to Dawn Giusti and her team – their organisation on the ground was superb.

With so many attendees, it was flattering to feel that you were under their watchful eye, known by name, and that they would take care of things for you.

A great week, all round.

Knowledge 14 will take place – April 27th to May 1st 2014, at The Moscone Centre, San Francisco.

See you all same time next year?

Product Reviews Roadmap

Ros_Satar
Swit Swoo! Ros Satar looking glam at Edgasbaston Cricket Stadium in Birmingham for the SDI awards dinner.

We have the following technology reviews scheduled for publication before the end of 2013 on The ITSM Review:

Service Catalogue

Knowledge Management

Integrations

  • Tools and technology that facilitate ITSM processes – By Ros Satar
  • Invites being sent now, contact us to participate

Managed Service Providers

  • By Barclay Rae
  • Scheduled for later in 2013

Change, Config and Release

  • by Ros Satar, pencilled in for early 2014
  • If you have any questions or suggestions about who should participate in these reviews please give us a shout.

Futures

We’re currently planning our review calendar for 2014 and very open to your suggestions. Current ideas include Game mechanics on the service desk, Pure play SaaS ITSM, use of ITSM tech for non-IT, Social IT & codeless ITSM.

Don’t be shy, let us know what you want to see! 🙂

Thanks, Martin

Image Credit

Integrating IT management data to support ITSM

Integrating IT management plumbing to support ITSM processes
Integrating IT management plumbing to support ITSM processes

With my Incident and Problem Management focussed review completed, I am now turning my attention to my next review project: Integration tools that compliment ITSM.

Integration Tools complementing ITSM

One of the key elements of delivering quality service to an organisation is to ensure that teams have relevant information to hand, to assist in having a clear understanding of the situation.

But even the most inclusive IT Service Management Tools offer integration to complementary tools to make end-to-end management achievable.

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

What are we looking for?

  • Pre-Deployment Set-up – User data, location data, HR information (managers, budget centres)
  • Integrations to Asset and Configuration information – A lot of the main ITSM vendors offer integration connectors to pull in the “meat” of the ITSM sandwich
  • Event Management – Alerts are generated for anything and everything in a managed estate, but how is the wheat sorted from the chaff so that only the vital, service-affecting information gets through?
  • Support Services – Remote Control, Communications Platforms during Major Incidents and Support Chats etc.
  • Resource Management – Integration with Email/Schedules of support staff workload scheduling and management of projects within the ITSM tool
  • Any other useful data that supports ITSM

Why do we care?

Whilst it would be lovely to think that there could be “one ring to rule them all”, the reality is that as comprehensive as ITSM suites are becoming, they are likely to be deployed into environments that will require an element however small of integration.

This may be something as simple as connecting to Active Directory to pull user data and related location and organisational information in, to taking an asset baseline, to start the journey into Change and Configuration Management.

All of these require some form of data integration – the easier the better.

But companies on the periphery of the suites are recognising that there is an area for innovation and providing enhancement to that service, for example reducing time to initially deploy, or being able to take over a machine as part of the problem determination actions in an incident record, and logging all that information in the record.

Think of it as the backing singers to the main act, or the instrumental solo – the supporting tools that help drive the overall efficiency of an IT Service Management solution for a business.

If you offer technology in this area and would like to participate in our next review please contact us.

Image Credit

The “Capita” Label – A Red Herring Swimming in the Moat of Castle ITIL

Chris Barrett, Capita
Chris Barrett, Capita

Ever since the announcement of the Cabinet Office and Capita Group Joint Venture, the great, the good, and some of the rest have speculated here and there about the future of the Best Practices Portfolio.

Chris Barrett (currently a Transformation Director at Capita Consulting) is one of the first of the newly appointed management team for the new joint venture company, and spoke to us at the Knowledge 13 event, Las Vegas.

The Issue of Communications

The first question had to look at the communications, lack of and standard of (which is ironic given our collective jet-lagged state, at the time).

The first e-bulletin had just come out, and it is clear that the press office still needs some time to settle in to converting dry releases into something that gives the waiting ITSM public some further insight, without jargon.

At several times, he was keen to emphasis that Capita is actually more of a red herring/misnomer (which explains why a number of questions were pointed directly at Capita Group).

He said: “If there was one thing Capita was good at, it was fulfilling a remit – for example stripping out costs from a business.”

“But if people are thinking this is a land grab, they would be completely wrong.”

“We are not a corporation, we are a small joint venture.”

“The idea is to grow and invest in the community – this is about a duty of care, and custodianship.”

Whilst communications have been light and/or dry as toast, there has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes.

There will be a twitter feed and a continuation of the e-bulletins, but resources to manage the media side of operations are yet to be appointed.

The Team To Be

In terms of the physical set up, the Chief Executive has been chosen, and the management team are being finalised.

TUPE discussions are continuing regarding members of the Cabinet Office and TSO, due to come across at the end of this year (UPDATED: See comment from Chris Barrett of the Capita JV below)

For many who have actively contributed to the best practices publications, the emphasis on being a non-corporate joint venture still allows them have that airtime – if they so choose.

“Can it be altruistic?” I asked Chris

“It can be, if it serves the community and if we cut them out, how stupid would that be.”

Here is where I think the balance of power shifts.

Let’s be honest – people who have actively contributed in the past do not really need the kudos of adding that involvement to a CV or resume any more.

But there are also many people coming up now, through the ranks, with strong practitioner knowledge, and with the support and encouragement of those previously involved.

There is also an opportunity for those who have, in the past, rebelled at the gates of the fortress – surely now is their time to help shape the best practices to what they believe it should be?

Or will they choose to ignore this emerging spirit of collaboration with the community, and continue to throw stones into the moat?

Linda King and Ros Satar
Linda King and Ros Satar

Pragmatism Over Theory

A number of questions came in through various social media feeds, for us to ask and interestingly a lot seemed to focus on how Capita does things now.

Capita favours the pragmatic approach – referring to principles where appropriate but not purely for the purpose of using them for use’s sake.

It therefore stands to reason that going forward, the emphasis continues to be on the pragmatic application of these established best practices, to demonstrate real-world benefit.

As with everything that took place before, a lot of consideration will need to be given to the release programs for new versions.

This, in turn, led to an interesting revelation that the Cabinet Office themselves do not see the Swirl brand as having traction outside the UK’s shores, despite the information email ID being swirlenquiries.

Spending Spree Or Visionaries?

Interestingly, the most recent acquisitions (Knowledge Pool and Blue Sky) were never part of the original plan, but the inclusion of G2G3 was part of the original bid.

Even if they had not been acquired, the plan would have been to involve them anyway, and they look to be all set now in terms of training and simulation approaches.

Community

Chris was asked whether the joint venture were looking to create their own, newer community, for example in the mould of  Back to ITSM?

The plan is to have to have a portal approach and a formal home for people to land on.

Ideas being considered are a subscription-plan for more detailed material – this was seen as no different to paying money for training courses.

What is the Joint Venture NOT going to be

Chris confidently lined up his views:

  • “Not going to stagnate
  • Not going to be purely theoretical
  • Involving real practitioners and serving community members
  • Not going to be “Castle ITIL”

I wanted to be honest with Chris – those statements are pretty bold, but as someone still active both in consultancy and analysis on the ITSM side, this is good fighting talk.

Meet Them At The Gates

Whilst I can see a sense of continued cautiousness from those who have been discussing the future, the new joint venture are very much seeking and wanting continued dialogue.

The sense of community was a recurring theme, and as a member of this community, I think we owe it to the joint venture to try and meet them at the gates of our beloved “Castle ITIL”.

(With thanks to Adam Holtby, Linda King, and a special nod to Rob England’s suitably Skeptic “Castle ITIL ™” tag which the new company liked but equally are willing to meet, head on).


Updated: Capita folks interviewed live at Knowledge13

ITSM Weekly Podcast Episode 112 – The Capita Interview


via ServiceSphere

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

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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

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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

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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.