All posts by Marcel Shaw

Marcel Shaw is a technology blogger focusing on ITSM, ITAM, and Endpoint Management at marcelshaw.com. Marcel has worked as technical consultant for more than 25 years for industry leading IT companies with a focus on United States government agencies. Marcel's experience also includes working as a legal expert witness for IT management. Marcel writes about industry technology trends and best practices. He incorporates his views and his many years of experience to provide unique technology advice for people that manage and support IT solutions. Marcel Shaw graduated from Brigham Young University in 1991. Marcel has worked in both pre-sales and post-sales roles for companies such as Softsolutions, Novell, Dell, Softricity, Gateway, Landesk, and Ivanti. Marcel’s expertise and experience include networking technologies (LAN, WAN), IP infrastructure. Internet Caching technology, Storage and Fibre technology (SAN), Security Standards and Technologies, Document Management, Directory Services (NDS, AD, LDAP), Federal Security Standards and Requirements (DIACAP, FDCC, USGCB), ITIL, Asset Management (ITAM), endpoint Management, and endpoint security. Marcel has worked extensively with United States federal agencies solving IT problems. These agencies include USDA, NIST, FDA, DEA, DHS, FBI, DHA, Whitehouse Communications, Army, Air Force, Navy, Joint Task Force, NIH, Social Security Administration, IRS, NOAA, and FAA among others. All of Marcel's posts are edited by Carrie Shaw (@carrieshaw). She is not only a very good editor, but a great wife. Thank You

Three Ways Artificial Intelligence (AI) will Impact the Travel Industry

I remember my first business trip many years ago, when paper tickets were as valuable as cash and everyone had to check-in at the airport to get a boarding pass. Today, with self-service check-in kiosks, smartphone apps, and the internet, passengers can check-in to a flight, change their seat or change their flight without talking to anyone from the airline.

Self-service technology provides customers with the tools they need to plan and monitor each trip, ultimately giving them a much better experience than they would have to endure if they were required to wait on hold for an airline operator. Furthermore, self-service technology enables the airlines to handle more customers with less employees, allowing them to be competitive and much more efficient.

In 2016, Hilton hotels introduced a robot powered by AI named Connie. “Connie will work side-by-side with Hilton’s Team Members to assist with visitor requests, personalize the guest experience and empower travelers with more information to help them plan their trips.”

To stay competitive, many travel service providers are exploring Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a way to improve the customer experience, to improve efficiency, and to lower overhead costs.

How will AI impact the travel industry?

Chatbots

Although chatbots have been used for many years in the travel industry, chatbots powered with AI technology will personalize the customer experience in ways we have not yet experienced. AI technology expands conversational capabilities of chatbots so that customer requests are interpreted properly and then assigned to the appropriate backend process, such as a process that issues a ticket, or a process that resolves a customer issue. We will see the chatbot framework and chatbot technology used by the travel industry expand into solutions like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Talk, and Apple in 2019. Soon, booking a hotel or an airline ticket will be initiated by simply saying “Alexa, I would like to go on vacation.”

Targeted Advertising

Big Data technology gives advertisers the ability to discover and interpret unstructured data, such as data found on a someone’s social media page. AI provides “machine learning” technology that refines the process of identifying and profiling potential customers with pinpoint accuracy. For example, by analyzing comments that customers share about vacation experiences on social media outlets, advertisers will identify what a person likes to do and when they like to do it. Furthermore, by analyzing data about vacations previously taken by a customer, advertisers would be able to predict a customer’s budget constraints. With AI machine learning capabilities, advertisers will be able to target potential customers by creating much more relevant and personalized advertising than is available today.  

Customer Service

Organizations that provide travel services such as airlines, cruise lines, hotels, and travel agencies are using AI technology to gain a better understanding of the customer experience. Information that customers share on social media along with data collected from customer surveys is used to identify what people liked about recent travel, in addition to what they didn’t like about their experience. Combined with data collected from other sources that provide research and science information, AI technology will provide analytics and recommendations to travel service providers for improving the customer experience, such as how to make a hotel room more comfortable, how to make a flight less stressful, or how to improve the menu on a cruise.

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

12 Technology Predictions for 2019

  1. Technology breakthroughs will give AI access to much more data than it ever has before, marking the beginning of an AI lifecycle that will span 50-75 years.
  2. Cyber Security solutions with machine learning features (AI) will become the norm.
  3. Big Data scientists employed by larger online vendors and social media sites will perfect methods to use data collected from social media as a way to improve revenue streams.
  4. IoT will expand into health care and disrupt traditional healthcare methods for diagnosing, testing, and monitoring patients. These disruptive technologies will come in many forms, including pills, miniature monitoring devices, wearable devices, smart clothing, and implants.
  5. Personal assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa will expand beyond the home while keeping you connected to everything in your home.
  6. New smart home appliances will become the norm. Until now, only certain models of home appliances were able to connect to the internet, however we should see most new models coming out this year and, in the future, to offer smart home technology capabilities. Smart appliances still have a way to go before they compete with the likes of Bissell vacuum cleaners.
  7. Image recognition technology will be introduced into many schools as a way to prevent a would-be Active Shooter from completing his/her objectives.
  8. Chatbots will expand into the fast food industry, reducing the employees required to operate a restaurant, and eliminating many jobs for those who work in this industry.
  9. Traditional help desk solutions for IT will eliminate almost all front-line calls by using chatbots and self-service portals with advanced searching capabilities along with AI technology
  10. 5G will become the new standard for mobile devices.
  11. We will see most car manufacturers announce new electric car offerings in an effort to compete with Tesla. Remember how the iPhone changed the cell phone? We will see Tesla’s competitors realize that Tesla’s car is the car of the future, making Tesla’s impact to the automobile market similar to the iPhone’s impact on the cell phone market 10 years ago.
  12. Advancements made in image recognition technology will introduce a new line of apps that will recognize when someone is telling the truth or telling a lie with much greater accuracy, which could open the door for a reliable lie detector app for the phone. A tool that will be helpful to law enforcement, yet problematic for many families.  -Something many people might coin as the “Cheater Detector”

How Artificial Intelligence (AI) will Disrupt 3 Key ITSM Technologies

It won’t be long before Artificial Intelligence (AI) dramatically improves current technology in both our homes and the workplace. AI is technology that has the ability to learn resulting in a capability to provide responses/outputs that were not programmed or predicted by its creators.

When AI infiltrates our corporate and government networks, IT Service Management (ITSM) organizations will be responsible for keeping these systems up and running. With enormous workloads, limited budgets, and an influx of IoT, ITSM departments are struggling to keep up with demands. To help service management organizations keep up, we will see ITSM solution providers incorporate AI into their solutions as a way to improve efficiency while reducing costs.

According to Gartner, “Employing AI offers enterprises the opportunity to give customers an improved experience at every point of interaction, but without human governance, the opportunity will be squandered.”

We should expect AI technology to disrupt current ITSM technology in three key areas:

  1.  Point of Entry (Incident/Request Creation)

 As demands and workloads for ITSM organizations increase, front line human intervention for ANY request or incident (one to one) will not be sustainable. Therefore, we will see many organizations turn to chatbots with AI capabilities as a way to handle front line IT support calls. AI will ensure information is accurately interpreted before it is documented and assigned to an ITSM process.

In a report titled Predicts 2017: Artificial Intelligence, Gartner claims that “Chatbots driven by artificial intelligence (AI) will play important roles in interactions with consumers, within the enterprise, and in business-to-business situations.”

Automated ITSM processes reduce workloads when the information provided to a process is accurate. I remember one organization that provided a self-service portal for requests and incidents. They used an online form that required their customers to declare if they were asking for help or making a request for an IT service, software, or hardware.

Requests were then assigned to one of two available automated processes. One process fulfilled IT requests and the other provided automated help along with escalation services. Unfortunately, many requests turned out to be incidents and many incidents turned out to be requests. As a result, the customer experience was negatively affected because requests and incidents were often delayed or lost. Furthermore, the ITSM solution they were using could not convert an incident to a request or a request to an incident.

Adding AI technology to chatbots will arm automated ITSM solutions with a capability to interpret incidents and requests accurately. As the technology matures, we will see it improve and personalize the end-user experience in addition to improving the efficiency of the service management solution.

  1.  Automated Backend Processes

IT service management consists of backend processes that are designed to manage any request or technical issue entered into the ITSM database. ITSM processes that integrated with non-ITSM solutions on the network increase automation capabilities, which is critical for reducing errors and overall costs that are associated with an incident or request. Furthermore, integrating solutions on the network is important for next generation technologies, such as AI. The real power of AI in ITSM will manifest itself through integration with other technologies on the network.

For example, imagine an ITSM solution is integrated with a facilities management solution that manages IoT devices, such as smart lightbulbs. Integration would allow the ITSM solution to be notified when a lightbulb is not working. An automated process could then be triggered to open a service ticket or open an asset request to replace the lightbulb without any human intervention.

When ITSM processes are powered will AI, they will be able to evaluate efficiency, then provide feedback to IT administrators. For example, AI automated processes that make an asset request to replace a lightbulb could provide recommendations for different lightbulb suppliers based on costs, reliability, and response times. These recommendations would be based on information AI has gathered and learned from similar requests made in the past.

Gartner states that “The next big shift is convergence of technology products and services to create next-generation service offerings that will include AI platforms. More specifically, Gartner defines these next generation service offerings as “intelligent automation” services that use one or more AI technologies (such as a cognitive-computing technology platform) as the basis of an offering’s core value proposition.”

As AI technology matures, it will go beyond providing recommendations. It will be able to make decisions and correct a problem without human intervention.

Let’s review some examples: an ITSM solution with a system that provides IT Operations Analytics (ITOA) would enable the ITSM solution to recognize network issues before they become disruptive. Patterns that are causing concern would be observed by the ITOA system which would then alert the ITSM software.

The ITSM software would document this information into a knowledge database. Information collected about an issue and how it was ultimately resolved would then be available as a reference for AI to use if a similar problem appears in the future. In other words, AI will be equipped to remember past experiences so that it can learn from them.

When an ITSM solution is integrated with all systems installed on the network, it has the ability to observe and document much larger network patterns than it would without integration. Integrating network technologies will not only provide information, but allow ITSM processes to trigger additional processes that automatically resolve issues before they are detected by a human. However, triggering an action on the network is a decision; should a fix be implemented or not. Decision making capabilities are a key component of AI technology

Imagine an ITSM solution that is integrated with an ITOA system and an IT security solution. The ITOA system detects an increased amount of browser crashes occurring on the end-user devices throughout the day, then reports that data back to the ITSM solution as a potential problem.

The ITSM solution then investigates that issue by cross referencing the data it received with data provided by the IT security solution. Meanwhile, a problem is automatically logged into the ITSM database. When the ITSM solution logs the “problem,” it would be able to provide insight and predictions to IT administrators about the associated risk. It would also be able to identify a fix and then it could create tasks for the purpose of applying the fix, then assign the tasks to an analyst and to field technicians.

When powered with AI, ITSM processes will be equipped with decision making capabilities. This means that recommendations for resolving an issue could automatically be turned into an action that is triggered and performed by an automated ITSM process, thus eliminating all human intervention.

  1.  Knowledge Management

ITSM processes powered with AI will look to knowledge databases for answers before making a decision. If answers are not found on local databases, they will have the ability to evaluate data provided on trusted knowledge sites in the cloud. ITSM solutions powered with AI will be able to solve problems based on infinite amounts of data and they will document these findings in local ITSM knowledge databases that are used to support humans, both customers and analysts.

Knowledge management solutions powered with AI technology will learn by applying “deep learning” techniques.

Knowledge solutions powered with AI technology will change the way end-users ask for help. They will give accurate answers to almost any question very quickly. We live in a world where “instant gratification” has become the norm. We expect the right answer right now.

When AI is added to ITSM solutions, we will see knowledge information shift from articles that were created by humans to articles that are created by the ITSM solution itself. Articles created by humans are often outdated or not relevant with current issues. However, knowledge databases powered with AI technology will remove information that is not relevant, keep knowledge articles up-to-date, and provide deeper insights with accurate conclusions at a pace that no human could perform.

Summary

Although ITSM solutions are rapidly evolving, service management will never go away as long as IT exists. However, by implementing AI technology, IT service management will experience a disruptive change that will shift the way humans interact with a service management solution. Eventually, memory and learning capabilities in AI technology will not have a limit to how much they can remember and learn, which is what alarms many “futurists” who claim AI could one day become “self-aware.”

IoT vs. Mobile Devices: What’s the Difference?

I live in a house that requires a well sytem to provide water. The problem with the well water is that it contains a lot of sediment, including iron and sulpher which makes the water taste horrible, and smell even worse. Therefore, we have a water softener as well as an iron filter to keep the water from tasting and smelling bad.

The water filtration system also protects appliances that use the water, keeping them from getting damaged as a result of iron buildup in their pipes.

Recently, we replaced our water filtration system with an updated version. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the new system provided us with the ability to monitor and configure the system through our smartphone. Now, I can configure the system to schedule a backwash of the filter from my phone if I think the filters need to be cleaned, but what I am most impressed with is the monitoring capability of the water system.

Whenever there is a continuous flow of water, I get an alert on my phone. Sometimes, the alert is a result of an appliance running, such as the dishwasher, but on two occasions the alert was a result of a toilet that had malfunctioned, which left the water running for several hours.

It brings me comfort to know that if I am away from home and a pipe were to break, I would receive an alert telling me that there is a continuous water flow happening in the house.

Technology embedded in non-traditional computer devices, such as our water filtration system is referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT), but I often hear people get it confused with the term “mobility” or “mobile device” which refers to something completely different. With so many different terms that refer to the many types of technologies emerging in the world today, it can be difficult to keep up with them. Let’s explore the differences between mobile devices and IoT.

Mobile Devices

Mobile devices are typically computer devices that fit in the palm of your hand with an LCD flat screen which provides the user the ability to control the device by simply touching the screen, referred to as a touchscreen. Smartphones and Tablets typically fall under this category, with Samsung and Apple leading the mobile device market space.

Mobility management has been a hot topic for the past several years because most people own a mobile device, and many people use their device as a tool in their jobs. For example, most organizations currently have a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, which allows employees to use their own devices to access company email and data. These policies are typically associated with protecting company data and access to company networks. Mobility management is typically used to enforce these policies, forcing employees to load applications and security policies on their devices before being granted access to the network.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT devices or objects, often referred to as “things” contain embedded technology with a unique identifier that enables them to connect to the internet, to smartphones, or to other IoT devices. The unique identifier allows each individual thing to be individually identified and connected through its embedded computing system, and inter-operate within the existing internet infrastructure.

Some examples of IoT devices that we see on the market today include security systems, thermostats, light bulbs, cars, drones, speaker systems, medical alert systems, farm equipment, and more. IoT devices can transfer data over the internet as well as having the ability to receive data.

With regards to drones (the DJI Mavic Mini being a prime example), these IoT capable devices are being used in agriculture, mining operations, and industrial inspection services. With the interconnection of devices expected to reach dizzying new heights over the next few years, these are exciting times indeed.

Additionally, this means that things equipped with IoT technology can be configured, controlled, or monitored using a computer device, such as a smartphone. Such technology can be installed by a crestron dealer in london.

Today, it is estimated that there are over 12 billion IoT devices connected to the internet. However that number is growing very quickly. Some estimates claim that by 2020, there will be more than 30 billion IoT devices connected to the internet. In the future, we will see an increase of IoT devices equipped with sensors and actuators, working together to support cyber-physical systems.

In cyber-physical systems (CPS), physical and software components are deeply intertwined, each operating on different spatial and temporal scales, exhibiting multiple and distinct behavioral modalities, and interacting with each other in a myriad of ways that change with context. Examples of CPS include smart grid, autonomous automobile systems, medical monitoring, process control systems, robotics systems, and automatic pilot avionics

IoT devices will continue to change the way we do things today, creating direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems. This will allow us to sense and control more physical devices, resulting in improved accuracy and efficiency, while reducing human intervention. Reducing human intervention will provide an economic advantage for those who use the technology, as well as change the employment landscape.

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

Why Should Amazon Buy Uber?

Amazon has changed the way millions of people purchase merchandise while Uber introduced a new and convenient way to travel. Both organizations have taken advantage of mobile technology making their services available anytime and anywhere. Amazon introduced disruptive technology by providing millions of products through an on-line catalog service. Uber provided an easy way to get a ride in just minutes from almost any location.

Amazon’s Grocery Services

Recently, Amazon expanded their offerings by providing consumers a way to purchase groceries online. However, to provide a comprehensive grocery catalog, Amazon needed to sell perishables in addition to their pantry offerings. When Amazon acquired Whole Foods last year, many people believed that Amazon was making a move into brick-and-mortar operations. In reality, local grocery chains have established a local grocery supplier for Amazon’s real objective, online grocery shopping.

What’s missing? A delivery service that can meet Amazon’s requirements for its entire customer base. Currently, grocery services that include perishables, have been limited to a small percentage of Amazon’s customer base.

Why is Uber the best option to deliver Amazon’s groceries?

Who is the biggest delivery service is the world? Most people would probably not consider Uber to be a delivery service, however; Uber is probably the biggest delivery service in the world if you consider a rideshare service to be a delivery service. Uber delivers people and recently, Uber started offering meal delivery services by contracting with local restaurants.

One more thing to consider when looking at Uber as a delivery service, Uber’s model allows them to provide delivery service without purchasing delivery trucks, unlike other delivery services that would have to consider increasing their vehicle inventory if they were to provide grocery delivery services for Amazon.

Why should Amazon purchase Uber instead of contracting with Uber?

If there is something you want to buy, chances are that you will see what you are looking for through the Amazon app. Amazon is the world’s largest one-stop-shop for almost anything you want. However, if you need a ride, you go to Uber.

Amazon should purchase Uber, then incorporate features from the Uber app into the Amazon app. I dream of a world where one day, I can purchase my dinner, movie tickets, and transportation from a single self-service portal. I believe that Amazon is positioned to provide the world’s first one-stop-shop for all your needs and desires.

Amazon, if you are listening, strike while the iron is hot. It’s time to acquire Uber.

It’s time to build the world’s best self-service portal.

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

Avoid Ransomware Attacks with IT Asset Management

When installing a home security system or a panic alarm system, it is important to perform a discovery so that you can document all vulnerabilities around the property you wish to secure. Why? Because a home camera system is worthless if you do not cover every window and door. When implementing an IT security solution to protect your data, it is important to perform a discovery so that you can identify all IT assets that need to be secured.

Unfortunately, many organizations continue to struggle with IT asset management and as a result, assets are often misplaced or lost. Why? Because IT assets are often misplaced or lost when they are changed, updated, relocated, or refreshed. Assets that are misplaced or lost can put an organization at risk because it is not possible to keep an IT asset up-to-date when you don’t see it.

It is no secret that many organizations have recently been hit with ransomware attacks such as WannaCry. On March 14, 2017, Microsoft released a critical patch that protected IT assets from WannaCry ransomware; however, on May 12, 2017, at least 230,000 computers in more than 150 countries were paralyzed by the ransomware.

Why? Because these organizations were not current with their patch and security updates. Many organizations that were hit with the ransomware were running unsupported operating systems like Windows XP and Windows 2003, which Microsoft no longer supports.

The Importance of an IT Asset Database

Maps are critical to generals and commanders who are at war because they provide a complete view of the battlefield. Maps provide details about the landscape along with all its obstacles. When fighting a war, it is important not to be surprised by the enemy. Without maps, generals and commanders would find it very difficult to identify and secure vulnerable areas on the battlefield.

IT asset databases are much like maps that provide a view of the battlefield. When IT can see everything, they are able to see obstacles that are putting the organization at risk. Organizations that want to protect themselves from ransomware attacks need to have adequate Anti-Ransomware protections such as Zonealarm installed and reliable IT asset reports. These precautions ensure businesses can see all assets that are vulnerable to a ransomware attack, such as older outdated operating systems and applications.

Organizations that do not have reliable asset reports are at risk. In other words, they are fighting a battle without a reliable map.

To avoid the cost and stress experienced by people who have been impacted by ransomware attacks, get a reliable map, i.e., build an accurate and complete IT asset database using a reliable IT asset management solution. Then build processes and procedures to track the assets throughout their lifecycle.

Security Starts with Discovery

To apply security policies to IT assets, security solutions must see the asset. Historically, organizations have not given much attention to the importance of discovery services and the IT asset database. They view it as a necessity to their security solution instead of a critical component to the business.

If you left one window unlocked in your home, it would not matter that the rest of the windows and doors were locked. Everything must be discovered for complete security. Be sure to choose reliable discovery solutions if you want to ensure your network is secure. An undiscovered device is like an unlocked window.

Summary

Organizations need to implement IT asset management to ensure security is applied to every IT asset on the network. Organizations that are not managing IT assets using ITAM principles do not have a complete security solution. Don’t let your data be compromised by an IT asset that you did not see.

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

Why is Change Management Critical for Software Asset Management?

Early in my career, I often traveled to work with our customers. I remember one trip that required me to visit several cities in just four days. Before embarking on that trip, I remember calling a travel agent to make a change to the first flight of that trip. The travel agent was inexperienced because he made the change exactly as I had instructed.

To my surprise, the change that the travel agent made to the first leg of my flight caused the airline to cancel the flights I had scheduled for the entire trip. Why, because on most airlines, a change to the first segment of a trip requires the entire trip to be cancelled, and then the tickets have to be re-issued. Unfortunately, I lost all the discounts from my original ticket because my discounts were based on a seven day advance purchase.

As a result, I had to find another airline with cheaper flights, rearrange several of my appointments, and stay an extra night in a hotel. An experienced travel agent would have advised me of the consequences of my change request if it were to be granted. If I had been advised properly, I would not have made the change based on the additional costs that were to be incurred. Although some changes seem simple, they can have unintended consequences without the required expertise.

When audited, many organizations are required to pay thousands, and in some cases millions of dollars for violating software license agreements. Configuration changes and software updates are often to blame when an organization is found to be out-of-compliance with their contracts. For that reason, it is important that organizations consider software license contracts as part of their change management process.

Change Management

IT changes made within an organization are typically done to improve performance, and ultimately to save money. However, IT changes can also have unintended consequences that have a reverse affect, resulting in additional expenses as did the change to my flight. Change management is important for IT because it formally manages ongoing transitions from a current configuration to a future configuration.

Gartner states that “Change management is the automated support for development, rollout, and maintenance of system components (i.e., intelligent regeneration, package versioning, state control, library control, configuration management, turnover management, and distributed impact sensitivity reporting).

A change management request first requires detailed information about the future configuration to be submitted, then the configuration details to be reviewed by a change advisory board.

Change Advisory Board (CAB)

A change advisory board (CAB) supports IT personnel or a “Change Management Team” by reviewing change requests that have been submitted. After reviewing a change request, the CAB will either approve or deny the request.

The CAB is generally a team of representatives from various departments as well as people that have a specific expertise.

Because a configuration change can have an effect on employees and/or business processes, many organizations require a CAB to review all change requests in order to protect cost, risk, and revenue.

Software License Management Challenges

According to Gartner, “Optimizing complex licenses manually is labor-intensive; it requires specialized knowledge and does not scale. Larger enterprises will need a SAM tool. A SAM tool can automate, accelerate, and improve manual processes. It can pay dividends over manual alternatives, and can often pay for itself.”

Software license contracts are difficult to understand. For example, IBM releases over 3,000 license changes a year and they have over 100 license metrics. Some IBM products have up to 5 or 6 different license metrics depending on what a customer has purchased. The challenge many organizations face when managing software licenses is that they do not have a good understanding of their software license contracts which is required when using a Software Asset Management (SAM) tool. For this reason, it is important that change management requests are reviewed by a software license expert.

In the scenario above, Sally makes a request for change (RFC) to add a new partition to a server. After the RFC is reviewed by the CAB, the change is approved and then scheduled.

Following the change, a software audit is performed and the organization is found to be out-of-compliance with their contract based on the new partition that was added to the server.

How did this get past the CAB?

The CAB did not have the proper expertise required to make an evaluation about how that change would impact the software license agreement.

Add a License Expert to the Change Advisory Board (CAB)

To avoid unnecessary costs resulting from a software audit, organizations need to have a software license expert on the CAB.

Many organizations struggle when it comes to finding the expertise required to evaluate software license impact. For this reason, it is important to consider hiring a third-party with the proper expertise for the CAB. Although this is an additional expense for an organization, it will help avoid additional costs that come from being out-of-compliance with a software license agreement.

Conclusion

A change management process that requires software license contracts to be considered for every change request can help organizations avoid unnecessary costs resulting from a software audit. However, much like an inexperienced travel agent incurred additional costs for my trip, an inexperienced license expert on the CAB might approve changes that could incur more costs simply because they do not understand their software license agreements and the impact of the RFC. Be sure to hire or partner with the expertise required for evaluating software license contracts.

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

Five Reasons the Data Center Needs Software License Optimization (Part 2)

In part one of this series, I suggested that every organization should consider implementing a software license optimization solution in the data center. Having full-stack software solutions can often be a very big positive for an organizations software development. Here are five reasons your organization needs Software License Optimization:

1 . Complex License Variations

Software licenses are defined using multiple factors. These factors include the physical server, the number of processors, or the number of users; however, licensing becomes much more complicated if using virtual servers, cluster or fail-over solutions, and storage arrays.

IDC predicts that “Software License Complexity will Indirectly Cost Organizations an Average of 25% of their Software License Budgets in 2016.”

 

Software vendors that sell into the data center tend to have many license variations for their product offerings. For example, terminology used in software license contracts will use terms such as Power Value Units (PVU), Resource Value Units (RVU), and Core Factor Table to define their software entitlement.

Complex statements in software license contracts are often confusing for most IT managers, especially when conditions or exceptions are added to the license definitions.

Some software vendors have up to 5,000 active license variations, which leaves many IT managers guessing about how to properly apply the licenses they have purchased.

2. License vendors make changes which can affect licensing

Software license posture can be compromised when configuration changes or software updates are made to the network.

 

IT managers that are tasked to manage licenses need to understand how these updates or changes impact current license agreements. This is a lot to ask of someone who does not have licensing experience or expertise.

3. Technology alone is not able to correctly calculate most server licensing

Software licensing tools provided by a software vendor or a third party are needed to monitor and manage software licenses, however these tools are not sufficient without people who have licensing knowledge and experience. It would be like providing software to model data in a database to someone who does not understand a database.

The complexity of datacenter software licenses requires those that manage the licenses to have a proficient understanding about the licenses and license contracts they are managing.

4. Market expertise required – Having the right people with the right knowledge

Organizations that try to manage software licenses without hiring the proper expertise are at risk. Unfortunately, too many organizations are willing to take on this risk and as a result, software auditing has become a lucrative and profitable business for many software vendors and their partners.

Software optimization solutions require people with expertise in many areas. For example, Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle have unique licensing models that have many license variations that are often modified or updated.

Software optimization vendors typically employ software license experts that keep up-to-date with changes or updates to software licensing models. These experts can provide valuable insight and recommendations to help their customers stay compliant with their software license agreements.

5. Software Audit Protection

Software optimization vendors can also assist an organization that is facing a software audit. In fact, some of these vendors will even represent an organization, much like an attorney, and fight on their behalf during an audit. These experts are usually people that have worked as software auditors in the past, so they are familiar with the software audit process.

Another important benefit is that software optimization experts can help organizations that have been hit with fines and penalties after a software audit by negotiating with the auditors on behalf of the organization. These experts are often successful at reducing penalties and fines demanded by the software auditors.

Conclusion

When software auditors are aware that an organization uses IT asset management (ITAM) best practices, they tend to move on to their next victim. In a study, Express Metrics claims: “Respondents whose organizations have implemented IT asset management (ITAM) tools report a 32% lower audit rate within the last two years than organizations with no such tools.”

Organizations that do not partner with software license optimization solutions and experts need to budget for unknown expenses. Why? Because these organizations will probably be out of compliance with software license agreements and as a result, they will pay the price.

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

Five Reasons the Data Center needs Software License Optimization (Part-1)

Many years ago, I supported document management software like ediscovery software used primarily by legal firms. The software provided attorneys with the ability to quickly access legal documents on the network. The software included intelligent searching capabilities, powerful reporting features, and version control for thousands of documents on a local area network. The capabilities we provided boosted the efficiency of legal departments and law firms all over world.

Although we provided a great software package that supported legal departments everywhere, the software alone was useless without the expertise of a legal expert or an attorney. When organizations need legal expertise, they hire legal experts. They don’t rely on legal software alone to handle legal matters.

Hire the Right Experts

When taxes are due, tax accountants are hired or subcontracted versus relying solely on a tax software solution. Software vendors that audit their customers typically employ software license experts along with software tools to perform the audit.

Regarding software license management, I am amazed how many organizations still do not employ or contract with software license experts in addition to software optimization tools for software license management in the datacenter.

Software audits are on the rise because software vendors are realizing that audits can generate revenue, and that customers are not investing in software license management solutions or experts.

As long as there are organizations that are non-compliant with their software license agreements because of poor license management, software vendors will continue to find software audits to be profitable.

In a gated Gartner report published May 28, 2014. Gartner claimed: “Tracking license entitlement has become a priority for many organizations as a means to alleviate the anxiety caused by annual software vendor audit. Gartner has seen an exponential increase in the number of contracts it has received from customers looking to purchase an SLOE tool during the past nine months. We don’t expect this trend to slow down…”

It is not practical to rely on IT managers to manage software licenses in the data center unless they have licensing expertise. This would be like having an accountant with very little legal expertise represent the organization in a lawsuit accusing executives of misappropriating funds. What I’m basically trying to say, is even if you use an effective software similar to something like FilecenterDMS, although simple to use, if you want to use it for legal documents, you still need to have someone who can understand and manage these legal documents effectively. Although the accountant could provide the information required to defend against the accusation, the accountant would not have the required expertise to handle legal process, legal negotiation and most importantly, knowledge of local applicable laws.

Here are five good reason’s every organization should consider implementing an efficient software license optimization solution in the datacenter:

  1. Complex License Variations
  2. License vendors make changes which can affect licensing
  3. Technology alone is not able to correctly calculate most server licensing
  4. Market expertise required – Having the right people with the right knowledge
  5. Software Audit Protection

Part 2

In the second installment of this two part series, I will discuss complex license variations, market expertise, software audit protection, and how software licensing can be affected when configuration changes are made in the datacenter.

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

Rise of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) and the Impact to ITSM

Within the IT organization, different entities often fight for control and resources to support their objectives. For example, IT security personnel might ask for more control by taking away rights from end users, while IT support services objects to the request for fear of increased call volumes. Furthermore, with limited budgets, resources are limited, making it difficult to support IT projects for each department. However, executives have to make decisions, leaving some IT projects unfunded.

Unfortunately, too many executives make decisions based on intuition instead of readily available data. This endangers the future of many organizations. In a gated report, Gartner predicts “through 2020, over 95% of business leaders will continue to make decisions using intuition, instead of probability distributions, and will significantly underestimate risks as a result.”

Intuition can be dangerous to an organization. For example, the evolution of Netflix over the past decade was a result of a series of decisions that were made based on the available data as well as some predictive analytics. The data they analyzed indicated a decline in store rentals, an increase in future bandwidth capabilities, and a generation (Gen Z) that expected “instant gratification.” Those who ignored the data did not understand what customers wanted, what future customers would expect, and the technology that would be available to meet customer expectations.

Many companies used “intuition,” to project that people would not want to abandon the local store experience. Today, those companies are nowhere to be found.

Who is the CDO?

Many organizations are realizing the value of their data so they are beginning to treat their data as a company asset; hence, the rise of the Chief Data Officer (CDO). The new executive CDO role is responsible for exploring how to use the organization’s data for its benefit. The CDO role will require this executive to have market and industry knowledge with a “technical” understanding of the organization’s data.

Gartner claims that “the race to drive competitive advantage and improved efficiency through better use of information assets is leading to a sharp rise in the number of chief data officers (CDOs). As a result, Gartner predicts that 90 percent of large companies will have a CDO role by the end of 2019.”

CDO responsibilities will more than likely vary across different organizations; however, we should expect the role will include data governance, data analytics, and data technology. Data governance responsibilities include setting standards and consistent processes to ensure the consistency, accuracy, security, and availability of the data, you can read more up about data governance and its vital role in marketing over on this page on Singular. Interpreting data using data analytics from business intelligence tools will be a critical part of the CDO role as well as choosing the best software tools that support the organization’s objectives.

How will the CDO impact IT Service Management?

The CDO will play a large role in how the IT service management organization and software is structured and integrated with other software tools. Analytics and metrics provided by ITSM reports will provide critical information that will help the CDO determine risk to the organization when new software tools, new processes, and new policies are implemented.

The data provided from the ITSM tools and reports is important when setting IT strategy and defining IT architecture. ITSM reports help organizations make informed decisions when choosing software and hardware to support the objectives of the organization.

For example, if an organization decided to change from PCs to tablets on a project supporting one of the business units, a pilot program would ensure the objectives of the project are met. ITSM reports and metrics are important when analyzing data to determine the costs required to support the proposed solution.

ITSM reports and metrics will provide CDOs with the information they need in order to make informed decisions, avoiding the need to guess or use intuition to set objectives for future IT strategy and related IT projects.

Summary

Data provided from IT service management reports and metrics will be vital information for the CDO as he/she defines strategy for new technology, process, policy, security, and IT architecture. ITSM managers should expect the CDO role to have a direct impact on how IT service management will be implemented, delivered, measured, and most importantly, integrated with other IT solutions within the organization.

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw