Tag Archives: ITSM

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

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. 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

Five Future Technologies to Watch for IT Service Management

As technology advances at such a rapid pace, many IT solutions become outdated very quickly. If organizations want to stay competitive and up-to-date with current technology, they need to stay informed about future technologies or their current solutions become quickly outdated . With regards to IT service management (ITSM), here are five technologies to watch that impact ITSM solutions in the future:

    1. Internet of Things (IoT)
    2. Security and Compliance
    3. Security Broker Authentication
    4. Predictive Analysis
    5. Virtual Reality

 

Internet of Things (IoT)

We will see an impact to ITSM solutions from IoT in two areas, CMDB and ITAM. To support IoT, ITSM processes and tools need the ability to integrate into IoT APIs.

Network systems and applications are typically provided access with Identity and Access Management (IAM) technology; however, IAM would be overwhelmed with the relationship and access demands required by IoT. Therefore, the Identity of Things (IDoT), which is an extension of IAM applies a unique identifier (UID) to IoT devices. This allows you to control relationships and access between the IoT and other entities inside and outside of your organization.

Gartner says, “IT asset management (ITAM) and software asset management (SAM) systems have traditionally managed IT and software assets of all types. The IDoT will assume some functional characteristics of ITAM and SAM within or integrated with IAM architecture, or be linked to ITAM as attribute stores.”

Without proper tracking of IoT devices and their configurations, it is difficult to apply security policies. ITAM and a CMDB will be critical for tracking the influx of IoT devices that are expected to hit company networks over the next several years.

Security and Compliance

Security is the number one priority in most organizations; however, not all organizations have integrated their security with IT service management processes. ITIL security management defines best practices when planning, controlling, analyzing, and maintaining security policies and processes to protect sensitive data.

A solid padlock securing the data paths of a circuit board. White Background.

It is important to build processes that integrate security management into change management processes if organizations are looking to minimize risk in the future. Over the next few years, IT organizations should expect to see more integration capabilities from their ITSM solution providers, which will allow them to integrate their security tools.

Security Broker Authentication

As IT solutions move into the cloud, many organizations will implement a cloud access security broker for authentication.

2016-09-16_8-08-31

Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASBs) can be on-premises or cloud-based. CASBs enforce security policies prior to allowing access to cloud resources.

Gartner says, “By 2018, 50 percent of enterprises with more than 1,000 users will use cloud access security broker products to monitor and manage their use of SaaS and other forms of public cloud.”

IT service management need to be prepared to support those having difficulty accessing the organization’s cloud solutions using CASBs

Predictive Analysis

In order to make informed decisions, it is important to understand current network service impact and costs. This is accomplished when current data as well as historical metrics are analyzed in order to predict future behaviors or to understand unknown events.

Predictive Analysis helps IT service organizations distribute workloads based on data from multiple sources.

Many ITSM software solutions are expected to add predictive analytics capabilities to their service management solution; however, these features are not useful if the IT organization does not have the expertise required to understand the data provided by these tools. IT organizations should consider employing a data scientist if they want to take full advantage of all the data and metrics that IT service management tools will soon deliver.

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) solutions could soon work their way into the IT business environment. Knowledge management is a challenge for many organizations. In the near future, don’t be surprised to see IT organizations flirt with VR technology as they advance their employee training services.

Double exposure of man wearing virtual reality headset

Research and Markets believes that the industry will see over 60% growth every year for the next five years, transforming it from a fringe technology enjoyed by the techy few into a major medium for gaming, entertainment, and business.

VR could one day become a component of your Knowledge Management offering if the technology is retrofitted and accessible via an ITSM self-service portal.

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

How IT Asset Management (ITAM) Can Integrate With Your CMDB

Tracking IT assets using ITAM best practices can be confusing for organizations looking to use a Configuration Management Database (CMDB). The confusion stems from a perception that managing a configuration item (CI) and managing an IT asset is the same or very similar. In reality, ITAM and CMDB objectives are quite different.

If you were looking to travel from New York (NY) to London, you would identify the flight to London by a flight number. For example, let’s say the flight you book is identified as flight #192. The airline’s database for flight #192 from NY to London would have a date, time, plane, crew, gate, and any relevant information needed to complete the flight service offering.

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In addition to a database that tracks flights, airlines also have a database that tracks aircraft. The database used to track aircraft logs details about aircraft performance, maintenance, and contracts. This database is used to help airlines identify the lifecycle status of each aircraft. For example, is the aircraft in service or out of service? Is it time to service the aircraft? Is it time to replace the aircraft?

Obviously, Flight #192 needs an aircraft so let’s say that a Boeing 777 identified as B777-1421 is scheduled to support flight #192; however, an issue is discovered with the aircraft. To keep flight #192 in service, imagine the airline replaces the aircraft identified as B777-1421 with a similar aircraft identified as B777-1502.

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Notice that when the aircraft is replaced, the fight number does not change. Flight #192 will continue to be flight #192. Integrating your CMDB with an IT asset management solution should be similar to how an airline integrates their flights database with their aircraft database. An IT asset should be looked at as a supporting component of a configuration item (CI)

The CI can be a single physical asset but in most situations, the CI is a combination of IT assets, such as an email server which consists of hardware and software. Imagine a CI for the email server is identified as “EMAIL-SRV.” Let’s identify the physical server supporting EMAIL-SRV as SRV01.

ITAM CMDB 12

When SRV01 approaches the end of its lifecycle, a change request would be issued to replace the server. Let’s call the replacement server “SRV02”.

ITAM CMDB 9

Upon completion of this change, the CI record would need to be changed to show that it now uses the physical server identified as SRV02; however, the name of the CI, EMAIL-SRV would keep its identity.

ITAM CMDB 5

When you link the physical server to that CI, you will be able to update the CMDB with that server’s specifications logged in the asset management database.

Why should the CMDB and ITAM be separate solutions integrated with each other?

The CMDB and ITAM have much different objectives, so building a single solution to meet both objectives would be challenging. A CI located in a CMDB is tracked because the organization wants to monitor availability, stability, and impact to the organization.

ITAM CMDB 2

CIs use ITIL best practices and processes such as “problem” and “change” for the purpose of maintaining and improving business processes supported by IT assets.

ITAM best practices focus on tracking IT asset inventory (hardware and software) as well as associated contracts, cost centers, lifecycle status, and location.

ITAM CMDB 1

ITAM solutions will assign, unassigned, or re-assigned IT assets to end-users or to CIs so that IT assets are not misplaced or lost. ITAM provides details about the IT asset contracts, warranties, refresh schedules, and cost centers. ITAM primarily focuses on IT assets from an organization’s financial perspective.

Summary

When managing IT assets, use ITAM processes to manage the IT asset inventory. Build integration into the CMDB, then link supporting IT assets to the CI instead of recreating the IT asset in the CMDB. When choosing software tools, choose tools that provide seamless integration between the CMDB database and the ITAM database.

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

Eight Questions to Ask About Your ITSM Software Solution

As technology continues to advance in the work place, many organizations are looking to move from their current ticketing or IT service management (ITSM) software solution to an ITSM software solution that can support ITIL processes such as Request fulfillment, Configuration Management, Problem, and Change.

When evaluating an ITSM solution, it is important to create a list of requirements so that you can properly evaluate the ITSM software solutions available.

ITAM CMDB 15

I sat down with Matt Hooper, an ITSM Evangelist, and together we created a list of questions we think every organization should ask when evaluating an ITSM software solution.


Matt 2

Can I create sub-tasks for requests that enable multiple people to resolve a single request?

Requests come in all sizes. While many requests will be simple, like ordering a new laptop or resetting a password, some requests involve multiple people or teams. Providing traceability and communications back to the requestor requires your ITSM solution manage this as one request. However, the activities need to be child tasks that link back to the request for status updates and closure.

Can I log and record an incoming inquiry when I don’t yet know it’s a request or an incident?

When inquiries come in, there may not be enough information to yet determine if it is a request or an incident. Thus a staging area, a queue where tickets can be assessed and evaluated, is required to allow the analyst time to determine the inquiry type. This will aid significantly in keeping reporting and metrics clean.

Are incidents and requests assigned automatically based on category or symptoms?

Knowing who can resolve a request or incident can sometimes be as difficult to determine as how to resolve the issue itself. Ownership and responsibility can easily be managed when the ITSM solution can route assignments based on pre-defined rules. This allows the analyst to focus on asking the right questions to determine the category, and then the tool can do the rest. It improves efficiency by reducing the misdirected assignments, and increases the visibility of demand on teams.

Can the risk of changes be easily detected by attaching a configuration item (CI)?

As asset configurations are changed, the services they support are jeopardized by misconfiguration, conflicting changes of dependent items, or the introduction of incidents. It is then vital that changes be assessed in real-time to determine the appropriate level of communication and approvals that need to occur for a change to happen.

marcel

Does it have a customizable self-service portal?

A self-service portal that can display information relevant to the end-user can help you reduce calls into the analyst. For example, a person who works in the accounting department might use accounting software. Knowledge information containing tips and tricks or frequently asked questions regarding the accounting software could be published only to those who are part of the accounting department. Furthermore, bulletins, such as service interruptions should only be posted to those who are impacted by the service interruption. When it comes to the self-service portal, the more it can be customized for the end-user, the better.

Does it support process integration with third party solutions?

Automated processes are critical when providing IT support, especially when providing request fulfillment services through a self-service portal. For example, if an end-user makes a request for software, your ITSM process should be able to integrate with your software distribution tools. When the software request is approved, software should be set up for installation without manual intervention from an analyst. Be advised that integration is important whether or not your ITSM solution is on premise or in the cloud.

Can we make simple changes to workflow processes without paying for services?

There are some very powerful ITSM software solutions available on the market today. If it is difficult to make changes to your ITSM automated processes, you could find yourself paying for additional services. Choose tools that minimize or eliminate the need for coding. There are several ITSM solutions available that allow a change to be made to a process through a “point-and-click” in place of writing or modifying a script.

Does it support Business Value Dashboards?

To measure how IT is doing, dashboards are critical. When analyzing your data from dashboards, you will be able to determine if IT is complying with established service level agreements (SLA’s). However, what would this information mean to non-IT managers and executives? Non-IT managers and executives are concerned about cost and risk.

**Don’t tell me how many miles/kilometers my car gets to the gallon/liter, tell me how much it will cost to drive to the store.  

If your dashboards can translate technical terms and ITIL mumbo jumbo into a dollar value, then you will have the attention of non-IT management. Business Value Dashboards provide a value beyond the IT department because they are relevant to non-IT management and easy to understand.

Summary

ITSM software solutions are expensive and will typically have a longer lifecycle within an organization. It is important to choose tools that support your objectives and requirements. Whether evaluating your current ITSM solution or evaluating a new ITSM solution, it is important to ask the right questions. Be sure to meet with IT managers and non-IT managers to determine what questions are needed in addition to the questions above or you could find yourself filling in the gaps with additional services or software solutions, which will drive your IT costs up instead of down.

-Thank You Matt Hooper ( @Vigilantguy )  for your contribution

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

Five Tips for Improving the ITSM End-User Experience

I often use public transportation services. Sometimes I have a good opinion of the service provider and sometimes I do not. I develop my opinion of service offerings based on the experience I have when I use the services offerings. For example, if I travel on a train that is dirty and doesn’t smell very good, then I am likely to judge the service offerings in a poor light. As a passenger, I am expecting to arrive at my destination so I am not going to develop my opinion of the services based on whether or not I arrive. Instead, I develop my opinion on the overall experience I had while traveling to my destination. If I have a poor experience, I will probably try to find another way to get to my destination even if it takes longer and costs more money.

When providing IT services to end-users, it is important to understand that end-users expect that IT services will be delivered much like I expected my train to arrive at its destination. Therefore, end-users will judge the quality of IT services based on their experience while using IT support. For example, imagine a process is published offering a way to request a laptop through a self-service portal. If the interface is difficult to navigate, or if the automated process fails to deliver the asset in the time it was promised, then you might find your end-users searching for other ways to fulfill their asset requests.

Unhappy end-users reflects poorly on the IT department. Without the support of the end-users, your ITSM solution will not be successful.

  • Do you know what makes end-users happy or unhappy?

When designing your ITSM solution, use the following steps to identify and document what makes end-users happy or unhappy, then design your ITSM processes and interface in such a way that end-users will have a positive experience:

  1. What makes end-users unhappy?
  2. How does IT make end-users happy?
  3. Design your ITSM solution to improve the end-user experience

sad face

What makes end-users unhappy?

When the IT department doesn’t notify end-users about projects that impacts end-users

  • End-users don’t want to be surprised by changes to the interface or changes to ITSM processes without prior knowledge. To ensure end-users buy in to new IT service offerings, be sure to include them in the design processes so they can provide feedback from their perspective.

IT analysts over commit and under deliver

  • Proper expectations need to be set for the end-users. If a callback to the end-user is promised by 5:00 PM, then be sure to call them back. If analysts are over committing, they might have too much on their plate. When assigning tasks to your analysts, be sure to monitor their follow-up. If analysts are not following up in a timely manner, monitor their workloads. Poor follow-up should never be acceptable. Remove analysts that consistently demonstrate poor follow-up capabilities.

We don’t make easy answers readily available

  • Knowledge is extremely important when providing IT services. It can take a lot of time for an analyst to troubleshoot an issue. Avoid duplicating troubleshooting efforts by providing up-to-date knowledge for your analysts. As methods for resolving an issue are discovered, document and publish those methods. When possible, publish methods for resolving an issue to the end-users. If they can fix the issue by following directions from a knowledge article, they will not have to call the help desk.

End-Users don’t like to wait on the phone

  • Long hold times frustrate end-users that call for IT support. It is important that the IT department understand peak call times, then develop methods to handle large call volumes during those times. Provide additional staffing during peak times if needed or build a process that facilitates a call-back from the analyst to the end-user when call volume is high so that end-users do not have to wait on the phone for a long period of time. The longer the wait time, the unhappier the end-user.

We treat end-users like end-users, not customers

  • The customer is always right mentality used by sales operations should be the mentality of the IT service Dept. ITIL calls the end-user a customer which is how they should be treated by the IT analysts. Encourage and positively reinforce good customer service provided by analysts.

Happy Face

How does IT make end-users happy?

Keep end-users informed and involved with IT projects

  • If end-users will be impacted by an IT project, involve them in the design and testing phase of the project. End-users are happy when they are heard. Furthermore, they will be more likely to support the IT project when it goes into production.

Apply Service Level Agreements

  • Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) provide a way for IT to set expectations for the end-user. SLA’s also provide a way for IT to monitor how well it is providing support for the end-users.

Create multiple ways to ask for assistance

  • Provide multiple ways for the end-user to open an incident or make a request. Providing multiple access points for opening incidents or making requests can alleviate long wait times for telephone support; especially during peak hours.

Provide help through a knowledge base with up-to-date relevant information

  • Today’s end-user knows how to find answers to their questions using a smartphone and Google search. If IT provides answers to commonly asked questions by publishing a knowledge database to the end-users, calls into the support center will decrease. Over-all wait times will decrease while end-users will feel empowered as they are able to solve issues themselves.

End-Users want respect

  • Although IT questions and requests might seem elementary to an analyst, they are not elementary for the end-user. Analysts need to avoid talking in a condescending way to the end-user. For example, “you should know that,” or “didn’t you go to training?” are statements that should never be uttered by an IT analyst. When end-users get respect, they will probably give respect to IT and appreciate all that the IT department does for them.

Self Service Portal 5

Design your ITSM solution to improve the end-user experience

  1. Build a self-service landing page – Publish services through a self-service catalog then automate request fulfillment processes where possible. Build approvals and authorizations into the automated self-service processes.
  2. Provide Multiple Ways to Open Incidents and Make Requests – Today’s end-users access the internet in a variety of ways. Be sure to provide a way for them to open incidents and to make requests from multiple access points. For example, not only should end-users be able to make a request for an asset by calling IT services, they should be able to make the same request using their mobile device or personal computer. I have also seen organizations that have IT services provide a “one-stop-shop” where employees can physically go to an office to report an issue or to make an IT request
  3. Look for Ways to Modernize Your Interface – Much like music and furniture, an IT interface can quickly become outdated. Be sure to use software solutions that have a modern, easy-to-use interface. Today’s software solutions need to be easy-to-use across all platforms. A good ITSM interface will change very little when going from a PC browser to a mobile app or browser. Today’s end-users want consistency.
  4. Never believe your processes are perfect – ITSM in not a destination, it is a journey. Never stop measuring and improving ITSM processes. End-users have little patience for redundant tasks that do not make any sense. Keep in communication with end-users and analysts to find areas where a processes can be improved to make them easier, faster, and more reliable.
  5. New technology is your friend – Stay current with the ITSM community by subscribing to ITSM magazines or online forums. New technology that can help you improve IT support will help you reduce your IT costs. Recently, I looked at some new ITSM technology that uses a screenshot to search a knowledge database.

Summary

If your ITSM software solution is not providing you with the latest technology available, or if it cannot be integrated with the latest technology features available, it’s probably time to look for another ITSM solution. To create a positive end-user experience, build an interface that is easy to navigate, provide processes that are quick and efficient, maintain an up-to-date knowledge database, and schedule re-occurring meetings with IT services and a focus group of end-users for the purpose of re-evaluating and improving your current IT services and their processes.

-A special thanks to Kirk Noren ( @kirkNoren ) for helping write this one

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

Three Keys to an Efficient ITSM Self-Service Portal

Traveling can be quite stressful, especially when visiting unfamiliar places. Many years ago, when I rented a car, I would ask for a map and directions. Even though I had a map, I always seemed to get lost in unfamiliar places. Sometimes I misunderstood the directions I was provided, and sometimes I was given poor directions.

GPS technology simplifies the process of getting you to your destination because it has the ability to pinpoint your location. With GPS technology, it is almost impossible to get lost, even in the most unfamiliar places.

When IT Service Management organizations design efficient self-service capabilities for their customers, it is much like providing GPS capabilities to someone who is looking for directions. When customers are provided the ability to solve their own IT problems, or to make a request without soliciting the help of another person, they will have a better experience. Self-service improves customer satisfaction while reducing IT service management costs.

When building self-service capabilities for incident resolution and request fulfillment capabilities, it is important to have three key building blocks for an efficient ITSM self-service portal.

  1. Knowledge
  2. Automation
  3. Asset Management

Knowledge

Empowering your customers with relevant information in a self-service portal is critical. If customers do not trust the knowledge provided, they will not use the self-service portal. An app using GPS technology not only provides directions, it provides additional relevant information about surroundings such as restaurants, gas stations, and hotels. Like a GPS, a self-service portal needs to display relevant information to the customer through the self-service portal.

Knowledge provided to customers in the self-service portal should include the ability to search for an answer to a question. Known issues should be easily obtainable along with instructions for a resolution.

Self Service Portal1

Create a ‘How-to’ section on the portal. How-to knowledge will reduce support calls. If customers are calling to ask the same question about a specific task, create a ‘How-to’ knowledge document. For example, if customers often call support to have someone assist them through the task of connecting their phone to the wireless network, create a ‘How-to’ document and post it in the ‘How-to’ section of the self-service portal. Use pictures where possible to show the customer what to do.

Consider adding a social media component to your self-service portal. Much of the information we get today comes through social media. As customers learn tips and tricks, they will post their findings for other customers to see.

Be sure to monitor the knowledge information provided to keep it fresh. If the knowledge provided by the self-service portal is not helpful to the customers, they will not trust the content. If they don’t trust the content, they will not use the knowledge database. The result will be more calls to the support analysts.

Automation

Automating redundant tasks will reduce costs and minimize errors. Analyze your incidents to find the most common issues.

Self Service Portal 4

If possible, create an automated process to resolve common issues such as a password reset. For example, when someone forgets their password, have an automated task verify the person’s identity, then allow that person to reset the password. Meanwhile, the process can log an incident as opened then resolved without intervention from an analyst.

Self Service Portal 5

When providing catalog services to your customers, automate request fulfillment through the self-service portal. For example, a request for software that requires a license might need a manager’s approval. The request process can be automated to notify the manager of the request. When approved, the software will automatically install to the customer PC.

Asset Management

Automation in conjunction with asset management will enable your self-service portal to manage and track IT assets that are requested by the customers. For example, if a customer requests a laptop, integration with an asset management database allows you to verify if the asset is currently available.

Self Service Portal 2

Connect self-service hardware requests to IT asset management procurement processes, if possible. If an asset is not available, automated processes can facilitate a purchase request with minimal intervention from the analysts.

For software, create automated processes that will facilitate the automatic delivery and installation of the software package. Use asset management to track the software license. Map the software license to the customer in addition to the location of the device. Software license tracking will insure the organization is prepared in case of a software audit.

-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 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