Tag Archives: Projects

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