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 Reasons Government Needs ITAM

Several times a year, I take Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. on my way to visit government agencies. It is a beautiful city with many beautiful buildings and museums. Prior to my first visit, I imagined government buildings in Washington, D.C. were bland and boring, much like my old high school. To my surprise, I found each government building mesmerizing with beautiful architecture that is designed by some of the greatest architects in the world.

I also experienced the enormity of the U.S. federal government as I visited various agencies. I learned that the U.S. federal government is the largest IT consumer in the world, employing over 4.3 million people. However, unlike commercial enterprises, government agencies have a unique challenge with regard to how IT assets are purchased and managed.

Government Acquisition Requirements

Government agencies around the world typically have acquisition requirements that must be followed when making an IT purchase. In the United States, it is called the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) which has an underlying objective of conducting business with integrity, fairness, and openness. These requirements help government agencies avoid corruption that can possibly occur when commercial companies lobby politicians.

Government agencies usually have a budget for IT expenditures; however, unlike commercial companies, if government agencies do not spend the entire budget during the government’s fiscal year (Oct. 1 – Sept. 30), they are at risk of their budget being reduced. For this reason, government agencies are at risk of purchasing IT assets that have redundant features, or assets that might not be necessary because they have an objective to spend their budget. This is unlike commercial enterprises who typically scrutinize every purchase with the objective of spending less.

For a government agency, IT Asset Management (ITAM) practices and processes can help control and manage IT asset costs. For agencies looking to meet budget, instead of saving money, ITAM is a good way to re-allocate funds to other projects that can help the agency be more productive and efficient.

Below are three areas where ITAM will help government agencies:

  1. Control Spending

Many years ago, I hosted a party and provided food and drinks for everyone attending. I was expecting quite a few people; however, I failed to ask the invitees to confirm whether or not they would attend. As a result, I was not sure how much food to purchase. To be safe, I bought a ton of food and drinks so that I would not run out of anything. I had leftovers for two weeks and still had to throw a lot of food in the garbage.

ITAM lets you see what IT assets you have which allows you to make accurate decisions about what assets are needed. It’s simple, if you are not using ITAM, it is like trying to provide food for a party of friends without knowing how many will attend. I have found that government organizations that lose track of IT assets usually purchase too many software licenses and they tend to purchase technologies with features that overlap each other.

In a report posted in 2015 by the International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers, Inc. (IAITAM) titled “Understanding the Federal Government’s ‘IT Insecurity’ Crisis,” they noted that in an audit of eight locations maintained by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Inspector General (IG) found that in 2012 DOE spent nearly $2 million more than necessary on IT equipment acquisitions. Another audit in September 2014 by IG found that over a three-year period, DOE paid approximately $600,000 more than necessary on software licenses.

2.  Eliminate IT Assets that are Underutilized

When purchasing IT assets for a large government organization, it is important to understand the requirements so that products purchased can be mapped to the specified requirements. Unless an agency is using ITAM, they will quickly lose track of recent IT acquisitions along with the requirements that had been used to justify the purchase.

For software assets, when features overlap, the result will be that applications or features within applications will not be utilized. Even when applications are not used, they are costing the organization money with ongoing maintenance and support costs. With ITAM, not only will organizations be able to see all the assets, they will be able to see if assets are utilized. On the website of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), they claim:

3.  Security

It is hard to imagine a good IT security system without proper ITAM practices. For example, think of how a physical security system is installed in order to protect a building. Before it can be installed, a security specialist evaluates the building by taking an inventory of all doors and windows, along with any other security risks. It would not be realistic to install a security system on most windows and doors. Security would need to be installed on ALL windows and doors.

It is no different when trying to secure IT assets. An inventory needs to be kept of all hardware and software assets before any security measures can be effective. If you don’t know what hardware assets you have, then you won’t know if something is lost or stolen. If you don’t know what software assets you have, then you can’t be sure that all software is patched and up-to-date.

The IAITAM published a report that states, “Spending greater and greater sums without proper ITAM controls in place is a prescription for more breaches, risks posed by unauthorized devices, increases in lost and stolen hard drives, and major vulnerabilities created by outdated and/or ‘unpatched’ software.”

Summary 

IT asset management can help identify risks in your IT environment and cutcosts by up to 50 percent. So why don’t more government organizations invest in asset management? For many, the reason could be they don’t know where to start and they don’t know how to sell the value of asset management to the rest of their organization.

Government agencies need to understand the importance of ITAM practices. They need to understand that it is not only required to keep costs down, it is also needed to ensure that every device is accounted for and secure.

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

Three ITSM Projects for Your Five-Year Plan (PART 5 of 5): Self Service

I’ve had to travel a lot throughout my career in technology. Years ago, I remember having to stand in line at the airport to get my boarding pass. Then, when the internet was adopted by the airlines, they provided the ability to check-in online and print your boarding pass, which eliminated the process of waiting in line. Now, I simply check into my flight using a smart device, and then I present an electronic boarding pass at the gate.

When we look around the world we live in today, it seems everything is moving to self-service portals. Grocery stores, airports, banks, gas stations, and fast food restaurants are examples of places we interact with a self-service portal instead of an actual person. Because of these technological advances, a new culture has emerged in the emerging generation which Gartner has named ‘Gen Z.’

“With consumers’ preference for using the Internet and mobile services to drive business efficiencies and optimize time management, every industry is striving to improve the customer experience and meet the demands of Gen Z by simplifying, automating and making more intelligent end-to-end processes, and minimizing manual interventions, enabling the consumer to self-serve.”

For IT service management organizations, I believe the most important project should be to either build or improve the self-service portal. For an ITSM self-service project, asset management (ITAM), along with process automation tools, will provide a solid foundation.

Remember, it is important that the tools selected are able to integrate with the ITSM solution. If choosing a cloud solution, be sure to understand integration capabilities or integration limitations.

What is ITSM Self Service?

An ITSM self-service portal should provide the following:

  1. IT technical support
  2. Service requests

IT Technical Support

When a user has an issue, a good self-service portal provides access to a knowledge base listing common issues or frequently asked questions, reducing the number of calls to an analyst. If an issue needs to be analyzed, the user should be able to open the incident using a simple form designed to route the incident to the appropriate support group.

Automated processes that can reset a password or update their device with the latest approved patches should be made available to the user. Personally, I have found that one of the most valuable features provided in a self-service portal is the ability of online chat with the analyst.

Service Requests

A large part of your self-service project will be the service catalog. It will be important to determine what services will be offered through the self-service portal. Once the services are determined, they will be added to the service catalog. Services should be designed so that they are only visible to the appropriate users.

For example, if an inside sales person is not allowed to have a company phone while an outside sales person is provided with a phone, the self-service portal should not make the ‘request phone’ service visible to the inside sales person.

A request process might need to reach beyond the traditional boundaries of an ITSM software solution. Integration into HR, sales, asset management, and accounting are just the beginning. The goal should be to build your solution with efficient B2B connections.

Gartner says, “Business to business (B2B) processes are also continuing to be streamlined to drive down costs by decreasing the number of redundant manual interventions. This is being accelerated by new technologies focused on providing more intelligent and predictive processes linked to the IoT to speed up and automate even skilled-people-based processes.”

As you design your self-service portal, follow the advice of Joe the IT Guy, an ITSM blogger, who says to “…think about self-service from an end user point of view. They shouldn’t have to worry about which part of the business supplies phones, or pensions, or paperclips. They shouldn’t have to go to multiple self-service facilities for different goods or services. So plan for the extension of the self-service capabilities at the outset rather than allowing it to be a belated addition when someone suggests that a HR employee portal is needed. Not only will this deliver a better employee experience, it will also allow the organization to benefit from increased efficiency and effectiveness, and economies of scale.”

Summary

ITSM projects require significant time and money. Projects need to be aligned with current needs as well as future technologies. Providing a self-service portal that can provide help in addition to fulfilling requests will help organizations reduce IT support costs. Furthermore, organizations will have an infrastructure in place that will be able to adapt to technology changes and demands expected in the near future.

On November 18th 2015, I gave a webcast for BrightTalk and discussed three key projects for ITSM. You can view the webcast by following this link.

BrightTALK

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

Three ITSM Projects for Your Five-Year Plan (Part 4 of 5): Integration & Automation

Recently, I called a company because the heater in my house would continue to operate regardless of the temperature reading. They insisted on having their service technician come to my house to evaluate the problem and make a diagnosis. For several hours, I was concerned about how much this would cost because they could not tell me until the technician completed his investigation.

I have had this same experience when calling IT support; however, I am not as concerned about costs as I am about meeting a deadline. In any event, this is still a cost for IT support. Anytime IT has to investigate issues on the network, or in software for a solution, there are unknown costs associated with that process. The longer it takes to find the issue, the more it costs.

Historically, as IT organizations looked at the costs of supporting all their computers, they began looking at tools that could automate manual processes. The reason for automating processes was simple, automation reduces costs. Furthermore, integrating your IT solutions into your ITSM solution makes IT support easier, faster, and much more efficient.

For example, many years ago, an analyst would often dispatch a tech to a person’s desk to troubleshoot a problem that could not be diagnosed over the phone. Many organizations found that implementing a tool that controlled the computer remotely from the analyst’s computer reduced the cost of the incident by up to 90 percent.

The only way to prepare for emerging technology, in addition to supporting your current ITSM requirements which are often operating with reduced budgets, is to implement automation tools that can integrate with all your network, database, and software solutions.

For example, when an account is locked because a customer forgot their password, the analyst might need to call the IT admin. However, if the analyst has the appropriate rights, they could unlock the account by accessing the required network tools. If an automated process is implemented, the analyst could trigger the account to be unlocked by simply pressing a button from the incident page. Ultimately, the best way to handle this example would be through a self-service process; however, I will discuss this in more detail in part 5 of this series.

When examining costs, an incident can fall into one of three categories:

  • Instant Resolution
    • Known cost
  • Resolution Pending Action
    • Known cost
  • Resolution Pending Investigation
    • Unknown cost pending investigation
    • Most expensive
    • Troubleshooting required

Instant Resolution

Integration Projects 1

When an incident can be instantly resolved by the technician, the cost of the incident is easily determined. Some examples of instant resolution would be a password reset, a “how-to” question, or a known issue with resolution instructions available in the knowledge base. Any incident that is opened and resolved during a call falls into this category.

Resolution Pending Action

Integration Projects 2

When an incident can be resolved by the technician pending an action, the cost of the incident is also easy to determine. For example, if it is determined that a customer needs a software update or a replacement phone or laptop. The analyst would determine if the item is under warranty and initiate an automated process to replace the device. The analyst would mark the incident as ‘resolved’ when the customer receives the replacement device or software update. The incident cost is easily determined, even if there is an outstanding action item that needs to happen prior to closing the support incident.

Resolution Pending Investigation

Integration Projects 3

Anytime an incident needs further investigation to determine the cause of an issue it is placed in this category. For example, if the analyst has to dispatch a technician or escalate an incident, the cost of the incident will be unknown until a diagnosis and resolution is determined.

In some cases, these types of issues are moved to the Problem Management team. To reduce the costs of IT support, organizations are focusing on incidents that require investigation. This is accomplished using smarter technology.

When I called about the problem with my heating system, a technician was dispatched to my house.

Integration Projects 4

In the near future, embedded technology such as (IoT) will eliminate the need to have someone investigate an issue.

The ideal solution would be to know about an issue before the customer realizes there is an issue.

Integration Projects 5

When technology can self-evaluate and determine the cause and resolution without manual intervention, the cost of the incident can immediately be determined.

With embedded technology, my heating system could have reported back to a central system with the diagnosis. As a result, a person or an automated system could contact me and notify me of the impending problem and recommended resolution.

Forbes quoted Gartner regarding future technology trends stating that “to an increasing extent, technologies will be able to not only collect information, but learn based upon it. In the process, much of the initial analysis that has typically required a human can be done by machines, elevating the analysis in the process. People will need to engage at a higher level as a result.”

We can expect this type of technology to rapidly expand over the next several years for IT support. The demand for problem notification from network and software solutions continues to increase as budgets for IT support shrink.

Process Automation

It is important that organizations have tools in place to support automation. This can be done using a business process manager (BPM).

Integration Projects 7

Automation tools can eliminate redundant manual tasks. For an ITSM solution, automated tools can trigger a new incident.

ITSM Integration

Be sure to choose process automation tools that are easily integrated into a wide variety of network solutions, including your ITSM solution.

Integration Projects 6

Process automation tools should be able to listen for changes in other databases. Tools should be capable of triggering a process based on a change. Also, automation tools need to have the ability to move data from one system to another. For example, if a person is terminated from an organization, an automated process should be able to cancel all accounts that have been setup through the IT department, such as a mobile telephone account.

Be sure that automation tools can execute programs or run scripts. Finally, automated tools should be able to integrate with database standards such as ODBC or web services in order to integrate the different network solutions.

Summary

Building automation and ITSM Integration into your network architecture will reduce the cost to support redundant manual tasks that could introduce human error. The tools used need to have the ability to integrate with different solutions on the network. With this type of architecture in place, your ITSM solution will be prepared to handle the smart technology that is evolving which can notify the ITSM solution of impending issues, thus reducing the time and costs required to investigate and diagnose a problem.

In Part 5, I will discuss Self Service as an ITSM project.

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

Three ITSM Projects for Your Five-Year Plan (Part 3 of 5): Asset Management

When I call my bank for assistance, an automated recording helps direct me to the right person. Recently, I have noticed an increase in ‘intelligent’ automated telephone assistance where the system tries to resolve my issue without ever sending me to an actual person. In my opinion this is more annoying than it is helpful. I usually end up saying “operator” over and over until I can speak with a person.

What I believe to be most helpful is when I call for assistance and the automated system recognizes me by my phone number. When IT service management solutions are able to map IT devices to their owners, service analysts can quickly determine what devices the customer has within seconds. Furthermore, integration tools can be implemented giving the analyst the tools to resolve issues remotely.

To properly map IT assets, make IT asset management one of your ITSM projects. All organizations that are dependent on technology should have IT asset management. Be sure to use ITAM principles when defining your requirements.

Also, it is important to understand there are two components to managing IT assets, Configuration Management (CMDB) and IT Asset Management (ITAM). Gartner defines the difference in a report titled ‘Configuration and ITAM Intersect in the IT Service View CMDB’.

2015-12-07_22-40-42

A CMDB is an important component of an ITSM solution; however, I am assuming that most organizations are using a CMDB. If not, then it might be a good time to start.

ITIL defines service management processes while ITAM defines asset management processes. Good ITIL practices suggest that you build a CMDB to track and manage configuration settings on IT assets that you support. Use ITAM processes to manage and track the lifecycle of IT assets.

Three Reasons to Build an ITAM Solution into ITSM

  1. IT Asset Mapping
  2. Request Fulfillment
  3. IoT

IT Asset Mapping

ITSM solutions can benefit by saving time and money when asset information is easily available to the analysts supporting their customers.

An ITSM solution should be able to tell you what your customer is using when they call for support. A verbal discovery process wastes valuable time. By mapping the IT assets to the person using the asset, the analyst will immediately be able to see hardware IT assets, software assets, software version, accounts, and warranty expirations.

Request Fulfillment

Many IT organizations are working towards automating tasks and processes that are redundant, such as ordering and assigning IT assets. For example, if somebody needs specific software to accomplish a task, an automated request and automated software delivery process can eliminate the need for an analyst to spend time fulfilling the software request. IT asset management would be required to properly track the software entitlement in order to protect the organization from allocating more licenses than it owns.

IoT

Support will be required for non-traditional IT technology in the near future; however, there is not an immediate IoT project needed for ITSM solutions because IoT is not a mature technology yet.

In a post by Forbes, they wrote that ‘Gartner indicates that the providers of Internet of Things platforms are fragmented today, and would benefit greatly from cobbling together a better ecosystem where data is shared more broadly. This issue will persist through 2018, and IT departments will likely procure more one-off solutions as opposed to integrated webs of solutions that would serve them better. As IT leaders clamor for a better way, the change will come, says Gartner.

As IoT matures, there will be a natural progression towards using ITSM solutions to support IoT solutions.

Asset Projects 1

In this example, smart technology in a lightbulb at face value might seem trivial for IT to support. However, what happens when there are 1,000 smart lightbulbs attached to a central circuit with software that is able to turn lights on and off depending on when people are in the room?

Who will support the IoT software when it fails? I believe initial responsibility will be given to the IT service organization.

A good way to prepare for IoT as it matures is to build an ITAM infrastructure that can document and track IT assets.

Summary 

IT asset management is a project that many organizations have neglected to properly define and fund. With the influx of IT assets coming into the market, it is hard to imagine controlling inventory, software licenses, and ultimately security without a proper IT asset management system in place.

BrightTALK

On November 18th 2015, I gave a presentation via webcast on this topic for BrightTalk.

In part 4, I will discuss ITSM integration and automation.

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

Three ITSM Projects for Your Five-Year Plan (Part 2 of 5): Trends

I remember during school in the mid-1970s, we often enjoyed an educational film that felt like a break from the normal school curriculum. The films consisted of a projector, screen, and a large reel of film that made a loud clicking noise in the background throughout the presentation. Towards the late 1970s, I remember we began watching education films on TV using the latest technology; Betamax.

In the early 1980s, consumers were able to purchase a device that played popular movies at home. The problem consumers faced at that time was deciding which format to purchase; VHS or Betamax. At a price of $1,000.00 USD and up, the purchase of such a device was an enormous investment for most families. The ongoing debate during that time was about which technology would become mainstream, and which would become obsolete.

Initially, Betamax owned 100% of the market in 1975; however, when VHS was released, a battle for the consumer was born; so by 1981, Betamax dropped to just 25% market share in the United States, and by 1986, 7.5% market share in the United Kingdom. Ultimately, those who invested in VHS had a wider variety of movie selections available, while those who invested in Betamax stood by and watched their movie options diminish each time they went to the video rental store.

Building ITSM solutions require significant time and a significant amount of money. Projects need to be aligned with current needs as well as future technologies. For example, if an organization invests in an operating system that is not widely adopted in the marketplace, they might see their options decline when looking for software providers, integration, and expertise; similar to those who chose Betamax that ultimately had fewer options in movies. Not only is it important to understand the needs of your organization, it is also important to understand the current technology trends.

For those who are making decisions regarding ITSM solutions within an organization, it is important to understand IT trends. The reason; to stay competitive and efficient.

Trends

Trend can be defined as a ‘shift’ or ‘bend’ which in summary means to change direction or move in another direction.  

In a gated report called “Top 10 Technology Trends for 2015,” Gartner explains why it is important to monitor technology trends stating that, “IT professionals should examine these predictions for opportunities to increase their support for cost control, revenue generation, and business transformation initiatives.” 

Social Media Trends

In Gartner’s Top Ten Technology Trends report, they also claim, the rapid evolution of social media and mobile technologies is driving consumer behavior, especially with Gen Z, which grew up expecting on-demand, speedy, but flexible services.

I plan to discuss this trend in more detail on the last installment of this series.

Mobility Trends

I think it is safe to assume that mobility is no longer a trend, rather a way of life. The trend we are seeing now in the world of mobility is wearable devices. All ITSM projects need to include mobility capabilities for both analysts and their customers. Although it might be premature to create specific wearable ITSM projects, supporting today’s mobility platforms should put your solution in a better position to support the onslaught of wearables entering the marketplace.

Mobility should be a subset of all your ITSM projects. It is important to offer the same services from mobile devices as from a PC. All IT organizations should have mobility as part of their requirements when looking for an ITSM solution provider.

Cloud Trends

Cloud technology has matured; however, it still may not be ready for some organizations. Companies offering cloud solutions often tout their uptime (typically 99.99%) along with cost savings and simplified management requirements. However, be cautious when choosing this type of infrastructure. Sometimes ROI is not achieved for several years, so be prepared to make a long term commitment to your solution provider if you wish to see that cost savings.

Also, consider that your data is with a third-party. Make sure you understand the termination provisions if your organization and provider part ways.

Security can also be an issue, especially if your organization has to meet government requirements to protect personal data. Who will be responsible if there is a security breach and consumer personal data is stolen? Who will pay for the lawsuits and government fines?

I believe cloud technology has significantly improved over the past couple of years; however, it may not be the right solution for all organizations. I will discuss this in more detail in part 4 and 5.

IoT Trends 

Many experts believe that IoT devices could reach up to 50 billion by 2020. There is no doubt there will be a market disruption as IoT begins to flood the markets.

With IoT, access to systems and applications is provided using Identity and Access Management (IAM). However, traditional IAM solutions are not capable of dealing with the relationship and access requirements that come with IoT. Therefore, the Identity of Things (IDoT) is an extension of IAM that applies a unique identifier (UID) to IoT devices/objects, which allows you to control relationships and access between IoT and other entities inside and outside of your organization.

How IoT Trends apply to ITSM Projects

In the near future, I expect ITSM solutions will be required to support IoT along with IDoT. Presently, IoT APIs are too segmented to begin building a specific ITSM project around IoT. Funding such a project would be risky and could waste money. However, service managers can prepare for the oncoming IoT technology surge with the right projects in place. I will discuss this in more detail in part 3 of this series.

On November 18 I plan to introduce three key projects that will help you meet ITSM demands over the next five years while building an infrastructure to support ITSM demands that are expected in the future.

BrightTALK

The three ITSM projects I will discuss during my webcast are:

  1. Asset Management (Part 3)
  2. Business Process Automation and Integration (Part 4)
  3. Self-Service Portal (Part 5)

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

Three ITSM Projects for Your Five-Year Plan (Part 1 of 5)

Several years ago, when we purchased our house, I envisioned doing several projects around the property, yet here I am almost five years later and everything is still as it was when we purchased. Projects require planning, which is where I failed.

I remember growing up, we had a neighbor with an unusual man-made hole in the ground next to his home. It turns out that he was building a swimming pool. In fact, he finished it six years ago. The problem with his project is that he started it 25 years ago. This is a good example of a poorly planned and underfunded project.

It is important to properly plan your projects with timelines and a completion date. But more importantly, the project needs to be properly funded.

IT support covers all types of business and government organizations. Projects that define, enhance, or upgrade the IT infrastructure are a part of everyday life for IT employees. The people responsible for choosing and planning projects often put their careers on the line depending on the outcome and success of the project.

With the adoption of the internet in the mid 90s, Dell aligned their strategies and IT projects to build a streamlined process to sell computers directly to the consumer market, cutting out the middle man. Competitors eventually followed Dell’s lead; however, by then it was too late, Dell surpassed Compaq to become the largest PC manufacturer in 1999. Operating costs made up only 10 percent of Dell’s $35 billion in revenue in 2002

Many careers were ruined inside Dell’s competitors. Those who failed to see the power of the internet cost their companies millions of dollars in market share by not funding projects to make them competitive.

Commercial organizations that choose the wrong IT strategy will fund the wrong projects and quickly fall behind their competitors. Government organizations that define the wrong strategy, i.e., fund the wrong projects, become inefficient, ultimately costing officials their jobs and/or the elections.

With regards to IT Service Management (ITSM), how should you build solutions today so that you can meet the demands of tomorrow?

In a report published by Software Magazine called “The Future of ITSM”, they claim the following:

“Our data shows that the top three strategic priorities for ITSM teams include improved user experience for internal service consumers—end users, improved operations-to-service desk integrations for incident and problem management, and improved operations-to-service desk integrations for configuration and change management. All three data points call out for stronger operations-to-ITSM integrations—in terms of workflow, analytics, and automation, as well as effective role-aware visualization”

When defining ITSM strategy, you can look to technical magazines, blogs, and analyst reports; however, the information overload might be overwhelming. There are many opinions about what you should do to meet the demands of today while keeping up to date with the technology of tomorrow. Buzz words such as cloud, IoT, social media, and mobility, amongst others, are in the headlines of almost every technical article in the media.

BrightTALK

On November 18, I will be presenting via webcast for BrightTALK on how three key ITSM projects will enhance your current service management requirements while preparing you for your service management demands in the future. In addition to the webcast, I will post a five-part series, this being part 1.

In Part 2, I will continue to discuss the trends. I will also introduce my recommended ITSM projects.

 

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly ITAM & ITSM Reports – Can you tell the Difference?

I remember getting my report cards as a child. Report cards could be either good or bad, and sometimes they were just ugly. From an IT perspective, good reports, bad reports, and ugly reports are defined much differently.

At face value, a report can appear to be a good report. It might contain beautiful graphics in 3-D with beautiful colors highlighting important data relevant to the non-IT business managers throughout an organization. However, if the data in the report is inaccurate, irrelevant, or skewed, then you might not have a good report.

Reports are a way for ITSM and ITAM managers to add value to an organization. Reports should contain unbiased data that reveals a summary of IT’s performance and how that information translates into the non-IT business units. How can you differentiate the good reports from the bad reports? Are you creating ugly reports that need a makeover?

Good ITAM & ITSM Reports 

Do unfavorable results displayed in a report make it a bad report?

From an IT perspective, the report is only bad if it is inaccurate or irrelevant. For example, from an IT perspective, my bad report card would be a good report if the data is accurate. Unfavorable results often lead to positive change and progress. Good reports should point out areas for improvement.

Good ITAM and ITSM reports can show you favorable information which confirms that you are making the right business decisions, or unfavorable information that helps you identify areas for improvements. The key factors that make a good report includes data that is accurate, complete, and easy to interpret and understand.

Good reports can also build trust between IT managers and non-IT managers. If you provide just one bad report, you might lose trust from your non-IT business managers and from their perspective, all your reports will be bad reports. Trust is not easily gained and can be lost with a single bad report.

With good ITAM and ITSM reports, business executives will be able to make informed decisions regarding IT purchases and organizational structure. They will also see where investment is needed with regard to software and hardware tools, or employee training that might be required to reduce service calls.

Bad ITAM & ITSM Reports

Bad reports cannot be trusted. They either contain inaccurate data or they omit relevant data; therefore, giving you inconclusive or inaccurate results. To turn a bad report into a good one, the data in the database has to be analyzed. The database has to be normalized and contain the information needed to produce the results for the report.

Are the right people getting the right reports?

Bad reports might only be bad because they contain data that is irrelevant to the non-IT business manager receiving the report. Be sure to understand the objectives of different business managers within the organization. Align the reports to their objectives.

Are you biased?

Omitting relevant information or presenting it in such a way that the results are skewed or easily misinterpreted, results in bad reports. Be sure you are not trying to persuade the organization’s policy or decisions with skewed reports because of personal opinion or agendas.

For example, the helpdesk manager might not be meeting the SLAs that have been contracted by the organization, so he/she determines that more analysts are needed. However, a report might show the problem is something else, such as inadequate software tools or lack of training. Let the reports show the results without a personal agenda based on personal opinion. You might not like what the reports are showing, but that doesn’t make them bad reports. Skewed results make bad reports.

Bad ITAM and ITSM reports can lead to bad executive decisions. For example, if ITSM reports are not indicating why SLAs are not met, the decision makers might not be able to address the problem. Not addressing areas of improvement or success can lead to poor decisions which will cost an organization money.

Ugly ITAM & ITSM Reports 

Ugly reports are reports that have a problem communicating the message you want to convey. They might contain irrelevant data, unnecessary charts, data that needs to be interpreted, or too much data that clouds the message. The good news is that ugly reports can be modified. If you have the right tools, ugly reports can be turned into good reports.

Do you have to explain the report?

Ugly ITAM and ITSM reports are difficult for non-IT business managers to understand. For example, an ITAM software report might indicate that the organization purchased too many licenses of a software package based on a software usage report that shows only 10% of the employees are using the software. Although an executive might find this information to be troubling, the executive might not apply the appropriate urgency to the issue without a dollar amount included in the report. Showing cost, revenue, and risk to executives can turn an ugly report into a good report.

If you have to explain or interpret the results in your report to the non-IT business managers, you have an ugly report.

Suggestions for Creating Good Reports

  • Add data intelligence tools to your IT portfolio that allow you to normalize IT data and map IT data contained in your databases. This will help ensure the data you are providing to the reporting tools is accurate and relevant.
  • Choose the right reporting tools. The software tools you are using should never be an obstacle in creating a good and meaningful report. If the reporting tool is difficult to use, find something else.
  • Choose reporting tools that allow you to report from multiple databases so that you can cross reference your findings. Reporting tools designed to report on one software solution or database are not sufficient when creating Business Value Dashboards (BVDs).
  • Choose reporting tools that allow you to create meaningful dashboards; however, don’t overdo it. Avoid using animation or unnecessary graphics. Too much information makes an ugly report.

How To Choose a Chart

Summary

My advice for identifying good reports is as follows:

Some good reports are bad, some bad reports are good, and some reports are just plain ugly. So how do you determine the good, from the bad, from the ugly? As mothers have said for many generations, “It’s what’s on the inside that really counts.”

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

10 WAYS TO LOSE YOUR IT ASSET MANAGEMENT JOB

Do you like your IT Asset Management Job? If so, take my advice and avoid making 10 common mistakes when it comes to managing IT assets:

ITAM Employment Tips

  1. Not properly trained according to ITAM standards
  2. Poor discovery strategy
  3.  Failure to know where assets are located
  4.  Failure to understand your software license agreements
  5.  Unprepared for software audits
  6.  No integration with your ITSM solution
  7.  Poor reporting capabilities
  8.  Incomplete ITAM software solutions
  9.  Inefficient asset lifecycle processes
  10.  Over budget/under-deliver

Not properly trained according to ITAM standards

Nothing is better than knowing how to do your job. If you are an IT asset manager, get some ITAM training so you can do your job properly. Managing IT assets without ITAM training is like managing an ITSM solution without ITIL training, so be the best you can be. Also, take comfort in some reports that suggest that IT asset managers make a higher salary than other IT jobs.

Poor discovery strategy

If your discovery strategy doesn’t include a way to get data from multiple sources, you might come up short when you build IT asset reports. Be sure to have discovery tools that do the following:

  • Discover network devices
  • Discover installed software
  • Integrate with discovery tools such as barcode scanners
  • LDAP capabilities
  • Discover databases
  • Procurement integration strategies

If your discovery strategy is incomplete, you could become an unemployed IT asset manager that needs to be discovered.

Failure to know where assets are located

If you are an IT asset manager and you are asked to provide a report showing where IT assets are located, I suggest you have that information available. Furthermore, you might want to make sure you know which department the IT assets belong to and who currently uses them. Executives that dish out money for an IT asset manager will not be happy if you can’t provide this basic request.

ITAM Security from Nicole

If you don’t know where your assets are located, then you might not know if assets mysteriously walk out the door. Don’t be the manager named in the news for a major security breach. Not only could this cost you your current job, but also any future job that might come your way. 

Failure to understand your software license agreements

IT asset management includes software asset management. If you are going to manage software, it might be a good idea to understand your software license agreements so that you don’t install more than what you paid for. Not knowing how many licenses you own and how many are available could make you look foolish to other business managers, especially if your title is ‘IT asset manager.’

Unprepared for software audits

If you are not prepared for a software audit, you could end up with unexpected true-up costs to pay for licenses and maintenance fees going back several years. This unexpected hit against your IT budget might be funded by your salary if management decides to off-set those costs by sending you out the door.

If you are prepared, you will sleep better at night knowing that Express Metrics claimed: “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.”

No integration with your ITSM solution

If you don’t have integration with your ITSM solution, you might not be able to explain the total costs of your IT assets. When management asks your opinion about hardware vendors, you might be able to give an answer but, without ITSM integration, you might not be able to back it up, which could make you look uninformed. This is not a good look for an IT Asset Manager.

Poor reporting capabilities

Be sure you provide reports with meaningful detail to your non-IT business managers and executives. If your reports are over their heads, your head might be next.

ITAM Dashboard Blog COPYRIGHT

Use BVDs to translate your IT data so that it displays things such as revenue, cost, and risk. The executives will love you for it because you will help them make better decisions regarding IT. Without these types of reports, executives will not fully understand the value you provide which could cost your job if ever a reduction is required.

Incomplete ITAM software solution

Beware of ITAM solutions that only do a portion of asset management. You might have good software to help you understand how many software installations are out there; however, if there is hardware on your network that is not tracked, you might be surprised when you receive the bill after a software audit.

ITAM

Remember, ITAM includes both software and hardware. Surprises are not well received from executives, so not tracking your software and hardware could surprise them with unexpected costs, which then costs you unexpected free time.

Inefficient asset lifecycle processes 

Asset lifecycle is a very big part of ITAM. Some suggest that 80% of ITAM is process. Be aware that ITAM processes will touch every organization.

Nicole2

Don’t be an ITAM dictator. Be sure to include each department when building ITAM processes or you might find it difficult to get other departments to buy-in to your solution. If the non-IT business managers are not with you, then they are against you, and the odds will be stacked against your job.

Over budget/under-deliver

Be sure to understand the full cost to implement your ITAM solution. Remember, the vendor demo is much different than an implementation. Take the time required to fully evaluate processes, software solutions, and the hours required to build your ITAM solution or you might find yourself under-delivering on the solution. Spending more money than expected might be the only solution.

Whether you are over budget or you under-deliver an ITAM solution, it doesn’t help you when it comes time for evaluations. Don’t be that person, or you might be the next casualty when the budget is evaluated.

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

Four Ingredients to Build Meaningful ITAM Dashboards (Part 2 of 2): Add Value

I am a ‘bottom–line’ type of guy. I remember several years ago, my daughter came home one evening and began to tell me a story about a very dark road, a street lamp that wasn’t working, and how all the cars were cramped into a small space. She was excited and I was confused. I stopped her abruptly, waving my hands back and forth as if I were trying to stop a car. I yelled, “Give me the bottom line!”

She said, “Dad, your son backed into another car this evening.” Yes, that was the bottom line and needless to say, I was not happy. I then worked my way through the story backwards, getting the details I needed because I knew I had to call the insurance company.

I find IT managers and non-IT managers often experience similar communication challenges, especially when it comes to reports. If an IT manager communicates down–time statistics for a router with a non-IT business manager, the non-IT business manager is going to ask, “How does that affect me?”

IT asset management reports and dashboards need to show the ‘bottom line’ to the different non-IT business managers. Remember, the ‘bottom line’ is going to be different for each department. What is important to them is determined by their objectives, and each department will have different objectives.

In part 1 of this blog, I introduced four ingredients to build a meaningful ITAM dashboard. 

  1. Build dashboards integrated with ITSM data
  2. Display trends
  3. Create queries aligned with each department’s strategy and objectives
  4. Create business value dashboards (BVDs)

If you build dashboards that include information from your ITSM solution, you will be able to provide additional information about IT assets including the cost to support those assets.

Display trends

Trending information should include how often help is required from end-users while using software tools to meet their objectives. By integrating ITSM data, you will have a wealth of information available to build trending dashboards for your assets. For example, trends can show if training is adequate based on how often help requests are made to the ITSM knowledge base.

Trend dashboard

Trends can tell you if your software solutions meet performance requirements and whether or not any issues are related to the software or to training. For example, an application that updates a database might slow down during certain times of the day, resulting in increased support incidents and decreased output.

Build hardware trends that track vendor and model. The cost of a failed laptop includes loss of productivity and/or loss of data, as well as the time required by IT services to address the problem. Trending reports can identify specific models that tend to have a higher fail rate over other models.

Trending reports provide IT asset managers with valuable information; however, the challenge will be how the dashboard adds value to non-IT business managers of the organization.

Create queries aligned with each department’s strategy and objectives

IT department managers need to have a good understanding about what information is relevant to each non-IT business manager. Remember, each business manager will differ in what is important to them, so work with business managers to understand what type of data would help them with their objectives, then build dashboards that are relevant to each business manager.

For example, imagine a company website that generates revenue. The sales organization might be concerned about the performance of the website used to sell a product. Queries that display performance metrics, support incidents, change requests, or down-time related to the website might be relevant for the business manager and not the sales department. However, the accounting department business manager might be interested in queries that find warranty, contract, and maintenance renewals schedules so that he/she can properly forecast operational expenses.

Create business value dashboards (BVDs)

After you have aligned IT asset data queries to the objectives of the organization, and the departments within the organization, I suggest you translate the results into business value dashboards (BVDs). BVDs are aligned to the organization’s business objectives verses the IT department’s objectives.

The primary audience for BVDs are business managers and executives of the organization. These dashboards will show the value of IT asset management and the role IT plays in meeting the organization’s objectives.

In a gated report titled Market Guide for I&O Business Value Dashboards, Gartner states “the I&O organization is accustomed to dealing with metrics such as network availability, application uptime, response time and mean time to repair, whereas the business ultimately cares how those things translate into revenue, cost, risk or some other business value metric.”

Gartner also predicted “by 2020, more than 50% of infrastructure and operations (I&O) organizations will adopt business value dashboards (BVDs), which will be a significant increase from today’s level of less than 10%.”

Colin Fletcher, Research Director, IT Operations Management for Gartner, talks about the emergence of the business value dashboard (BVD).

The Business Value Dashboard audience, much as defined for Business Service Management, is people outside of IT. It has to be something that they care about, that they want to use, and ultimately that is the measure of whether or not a dashboard is successful or not.

A single ITAM query can produce information that is relevant to multiple business managers throughout your organization however, the way the information is presented through a dashboard may differ according to what is relevant to each manager. 

Business Value Dashboard Scenario for ITAM

Let’s take a look at software license vs. software installation data as an example for creating an ITAM BVD.

Dashboard Blog2

An IT Asset Manager can look at a dashboard that shows how many installations the organization has installed and then compare the information to the license agreement. This information is valuable to the IT Asset Manager if the organization is audited.

Dashboard Blog1

Imagine if the organization needed to purchase 100 additional licenses. By applying cost to the dashboard, you could show that it would cost $10 per license to comply with the license agreement. This additional $1,000 would be important information for the accounting business manager to have on a dashboard. This information could be used for budgeting purposes which is the accounting department’s objective.

Dashboard Blog

Now imagine if you could take the software usage information over the past six months. Then create a dashboard that shows 500 software installations were not utilized during that period, therefore, if the organization removes those installations, it would reduce the upcoming renewal fee at $20 per license totaling $10,000.

Dashboard Blog 4

Dashboards that can show a cost savings scenario would be of value to executives and decision-makers.

Summary

ITAM dashboards can provide complete visibility into every system within an organization. The knowledge that is provided can be used to make informed decisions about IT strategy and IT asset acquisitions. IT Asset Managers can add value to an organization by learning how each business within the organization operates, thus assisting them by displaying relevant information using dashboards.

I believe the value of IT asset data is only as good as what can be clearly and accurately reported through dashboards. Organizations should explore reporting tools that can provide data from multiple data sources, tools that are easy to use, and tools that can display dashboards which are easy to understand.

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

Four Ingredients to Build Meaningful ITAM Dashboards (Part 1 of 2)

I love the dashboard in the car. Not only do I like how it looks, I like how it provides me with a lot of valuable information. There is a computer screen that displays GPS information, as well as some statistical information regarding the gas mileage and several other things I do not pretend to understand.

To me, the dashboard of a car provides two types of information; current status and summary.

Current status information provided could include speed, gas levels, RPM, tire pressure, and possible engine problems. This is all critical information while I am operating the car. Based on the information in front of me, I can make adjustments as needed to my speed, or decisions regarding when I need to stop for gas or service. Without this type of information in front of me, I would probably owe a lot of money for speeding tickets, and I would often find myself on the side of the road because I ran out of gas, had a flat tire, or broke down.

Summary information could include statistical information such as average mile per gallon. This type of information is gathered by looking at data over a period of time. Summary information, such as gas mileage, helps me understand the cost of operating my car.

Imagine if I could enter the cost of gas over the past several months into the computer in my car, then the dashboard could show me information like how much it costs me to go to the store, or to drive into the city. Displaying how much it costs to drive to the store instead of the average gas mileage would instantly show me something I understand; money. However, I have to translate the mileage on the car into a dollar value if I want to know that information, so needless to say, I don’t know how much it costs me to drive to the store or into the city.

If you are an IT Asset Manager, you might have a lot of valuable information at your fingertips such as information that can help your organization make better decisions about IT spending and information regarding how IT assets are performing. The problem many IT managers face every day is communicating the valuable information they have in such a way that non-IT business managers can understand. Nobody wants to convert gas mileage into a dollar amount every day, just like non-IT business managers don’t want to translate uptime, downtime, or any IT lingo into costs.

ITAM dashboards, mixed with the right ingredients, can help you instantly communicate the value of the information you have in such a way that business managers and executives will understand. With this information, they will become informed and as a result, make better IT decisions.

IT dashboards can provide pinpoint data relevant to business objectives. The benefit that comes from dashboards is increased knowledge about the current state of the business. Dashboards can help business managers quickly determine:

  • Where are we now?
  • Where do we want to be?
  • Are we performing on schedule to meet objectives?
  • What adjustments do we need to make?

Gartner defines dashboards as follows:

Dashboards are a reporting mechanism that aggregate and display metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs), enabling them to be examined at a glance by all manner of users before further exploration via additional business analytics (BA) tools. Dashboards help improve decision making by revealing and communicating in-context insight into business performance, displaying KPIs or business metrics using intuitive visualization, including charts, dials, gauges and “traffic lights” that indicate the progress of KPIs toward defined targets.

The problem an IT department will have when creating dashboards is that mid-level business managers from different departments might have different business objectives. Furthermore, upper-level management will require summarized data from all of the organization’s departments. As a result, dashboards need to be aligned with the different business objectives of each department so they can add value.

IT asset management touches all departments within an organization. Whether it be HR, finance, sales, or marketing, they all need tools provided by the IT department to meet their objectives. They also need metrics, based on the tools provided by IT, so they can make informed decisions as they work towards those objectives.

ITAM dashboards provide instant visibility into all systems. Some examples of what can be displayed with an ITAM dashboard are as follows:

  • Where assets are located
  • IT asset cost codes/centers
  • Warranty information
  • Lifecycle status
  • Software license vs. installed software
  • Software license information for off-premise cloud solutions
  • Software usage
  • Software reclamation savings opportunities
  • Vendor and Partner information related to IT assets
  • Asset performance measures (when integrated with ITSM information)
  • BYOD information
  • Asset lifecycle cost

ITAM dashboards can provide insight for business managers throughout the organization, both inside and outside of the IT department. With properly designed dashboards, business managers will see IT asset information relevant to their objectives from an asset perspective. For example, a business manager would be able to monitor whether or not provided software tools are being used.

To build meaningful ITAM dashboards, I suggest the following ingredients:

  1. Build dashboards integrated with ITSM data
  2. Display trends
  3. Create queries aligned with each department’s strategy and objectives
  4. Create business value dashboards (BVDs)

Build dashboards integrated with ITSM data

An ITAM database will contain information about an asset such as the cost, contracts, asset names, location, ownership/cost center and the lifecycle of the asset. With software assets, the license information and usage information would be included as well. When you integrate ITSM data into your ITAM dashboards, you will be able to identify performance metrics based on how often assets are repaired or replaced.

Dashboard Blog 3

Adding ITSM data helps you identify the total cost of the asset by showing you how much it costs to support the asset during its lifecycle.

In Part 2, I will discuss the following dashboard ingredients:

  • Display trends
  • Create queries aligned with each department’s strategy and objectives
  • Create business value dashboards (BVDs)

 

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw