SDI Annual Conference

Last year's conference
Last year’s conference

We are excited to announce that we will be the Social Partner for the annual SDI Conference, 17-18 June 2014, at the Hilton Metropole in Birmingham, UK.

What you can expect

  • 6 keynote presentations covering a multitude topics – motivation, customer service, change, team building, IT challenges and the future of work
  • Hear from practitioners and industry experts on topics such as problem management, IT costs, service catalog, the future of the service desk, IT security, metrics and KPI’s, delivering service excellence and more
  • Networking opportunities with peers

Both Rebecca Beach and I will also be in attendance. If you would like to schedule a meeting with either of us at the conference please email me. We are interested in hearing from all attendees whether you are a vendor, practitioner, consultant or other!

We hope to see you there!


Event Summary

WHAT

SDI Annual Conference

WHERE

Hilton Metropole, Birmingham, UK

WHEN

17th-18th June

BOOKING

Booking rates are available online

Podcast Episode 2: 'Hot tables' at SITS, ITSM Industry News, CSI and Barclay in his onesie?

ManageEngine
Thanks to our friends at ManageEngine for sponsoring this podcast.

Episode 2 of The ITSM Review Podcast!

Hosted by Barclay Rae and Rebecca Beach.

Special Guest: Stuart Rance from Optimal Service Management

ITSM Industry News

CSI

  • Most problem management is CSI
  • CSI – source of the biggest ROI
  • Metrics for change management, Real meaningful metrics for CSI
  • Stuart Rance – Balanced Scorecard Approach
  • 1. What does it look like for the customer?
  • 2. How well are my internal processes running?
  • 3. What do the finances look like?
  • 4. What am I doing to learn and improve?
  • Taking Service Forward

Our next Podcast is scheduled to be recorded at SITS14.

If you have industry news to share ahead of our next podcast please give me a shout.

Thanks to our friends at ManageEngine for sponsoring this podcast.

ITAM Review and ITSM Review Feeds

Technology Review: Solarwinds Web Help Desk (WHD) V 12.1

solarwinds-inc-logoThis is an independent review of Solarwinds Web Help Desk, reviewed in March 2014.

AT A GLANCE

A global leader in the market of service automation software and remote management
SolarWinds mission is to provide purpose-built products designed to make IT professional’s jobs easier.

This review takes a look at the core capabilities, the route to market, competitive strengths and weaknesses, product development roadmap and market reach of SolarWinds Web Help Desk (WHD) V 12.1, which was released in January 2014.

Available as both self-hosted and SaaS (through their partner Loop1) SolarWinds WHD has an intuitive browser-based user interface with customizable forms, easy to create rule-based workflow and integration with many network and application management tools.

SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS

Strengths

Weaknesses

Easy installation and deployment  Separate Change Management area needed
Consistent look and feel with other SolarWinds products   No Release Management
Easy scalability   No graphical representation of asset relationships
125,000 strong user community   No Service Catalog

PRIMARY MARKET FOCUS

Although encompassing a broad range of industries and sizes of organization, SolarWinds WHD is popular in the Education sector and with SMB’s.

70% of SolarWinds customers are currently based in North America but purchase is being made in both EMEA & APAC.

With several products that fit into the ITSM space, namely Dameware Remote Support, Patch Manager and Mobile Admin, SolarWinds are now actively promoting these together and plan to offer bundled sales packages.

ANALYSIS

Named as Forbes Best Small Company in America in 2012, SolarWinds provides a wealth of network and system management tools including over 30 free offerings.

In 2012 SolarWinds made the logical move to add a ticketing tool to their product portfolio by procuring Web Help Desk, at the time their seventh acquisition since 2011.

Products are grouped into the following categories:

  • Application and Server Management
  • Log and Security Information Management
  • IT Alert and On Call Management
  • Network Management
  • IT Help Desk
  • Virtualization Management
  • Storage Management
  • Database Management
  • File Transfer

The company has headquarters in Austin, Texas and operates out of a growing number of worldwide regional offices (eight at the time of writing).

SolarWinds community, Thwack, has over 125,000 users worldwide who collaborate and share.  As a result with a little searching you can find a Knowledge Base article or forum post with the answer to almost any question you may have.

With advanced and well integrated suites within almost every aspect of IT Management this competitive differentiator means that they are a good fit for network support heavy IT Departments wanting to track tickets and assets with the minimum of fuss.

Fully customizable forms make fitting the tool around your processes much easier than with some others.  It’s surprisingly easy to define complex rule-based workflow meaning that no matter how obscure some of your processes are, with careful consideration and time spent on Thwack you’re sure to find a way.

Native asset discovery and integration with 3rd party software platforms for asset discover and asset management.  This together with the Parts area of the tool which helps to catalogue spares such as keyboards, mice, etc. should help to ensure that even the most controlling of Asset Managers are happy.

Most current competitors offer some kind of integration to third party discovery/event management tools but not to the extent or with the ease of SolarWinds WHD and are often accompanied by extended consulting engagements. With the right marketing SolarWinds with their cost effective tool and highly integratable portfolio should climb the ITSM tool vendor ladder swiftly.

The Self Service portal along with the Tech area contains a reservation desk to check in or out assets and warranty and lease alerts are configurable to ensure vendor maintenance contracts are maintained.

SolarWinds WHD has the ability to easily scale to the largest of organisations whilst still maintaining the ease-of-deployment and use that has made SolarWinds among the most popular vendors for the mid-market.

SolarWinds WHD is an excellent entry nearing mid-range Service Desk tool.  However with the development of Change Management/Release Management this would raise the profile of the tool considerably.

Like Asset Management, Change Management is not an area usually dealt with by the Service Desk Analysts and as such I believe it warrants it’s own area separate from tickets.  A dedicated Change calendar would also be useful with the ability to set blackout schedules.  This combined with some degree of Release Management, even if basic, would open SolarWinds to a much larger audience.

SolarWinds face the challenge of educating the market of their new capabilities in ITSM in a market crowded with competitors. However, they face these challenges with an already huge existing user base and from a position of proven track record in the IT Management sector.

ss1 ss2

KEY CAPABILITIES

The table below shows the key capabilities of SolarWinds WHD

Tickets
  • Eases migration by importing tickets from legacy ticket systems
  • Enables configuration of multiple tiers and groups of IT staff and assignment of triage and escalation tasks to tiers and groups
  • Includes easily-customizable and dynamic ticket forms with unlimited custom fields
  • Simplifies ticket organization by allowing linking of unlimited incident tickets to a single problem
  • Dynamically routes and assigns help desk tickets to a specific technician or group of technicians
  • Each ticket’s processing sequence is time stamped and user tagged, including system updates and automation decisions
  • Automates load balancing of ticket assignment

 

Asset Management
  • Easy to build parent/child relationships between assets
  • Shows software licensing distributions across network, including how many license keys of a particular software are in the field versus ready for assignment
  • Calculates warranty and lease end dates based on purchase order information
  • Tracks by asset type, status, location, manufacturer and model
  • Enables you to manage who uses what by associating an end user with a specific asset or group of assets
  • Associates end-users to service requests or incident tickets with a specific asset or group of assets
  • Provides a running history of all service requests for a given asset
  • Allows end users to select their current location and then provides a list of all assets in that specific location for easy asset identification
  • Asset discovery data from any source can be scheduled to import regularly or on-demand
  • Includes a Reservation Center that allows end users to request a designated check-out time and date range for a specific asset
  • An overdue alert system easily identifies lost or stolen inventory

 

Change Management
  • Enables association of service request types with approval and change processes
  • Approvers can approve or deny directly from email or via the web interface
  • Supports individual voting and voting by panel
  • Approval processes can be simple or complex as needed, from a one step sign-off to multiple levels of succession
  • Approvers can be configured based on roles, ensuring the request is addressed by the appropriate individual based on location, department and position

 

Knowledge Base
  • Enables you to query a knowledge base article that resolves a request and inject a hot link to a FAQ or tool tip into the trouble ticket note
  • Offers related FAQs and tool tips to end users as they submit a service ticket
  • Supports embedded videos and file attachments
  • When technical knowledge base articles are intended primarily for internal use or reference, SolarWinds Web Help Desk can organize your knowledge base articles and flag visibility to the departments of your choice
  • Enables you to grow your knowledge base organically by letting your IT staff easily submit common ticket resolutions as potential knowledge base articles for internal or external public consumption
  • Automatically flags each newly submitted article as “unapproved” requiring final approval from your knowledge base manager before becoming visible

 

GO-TO-MARKET STRATEGY

Founded in 1999 SolarWinds have grown year on year and provide over 50 IT management tools in their portfolio.

SolarWinds sells it’s products through an inside sales model and through channel partners all over the world.  Rather than involve consultants, potential SolarWinds customers are encouraged to self evaluate for a period of 30 days and visit the user community, Thwack, to witness the sharing and support that take place.

With a good solid grounding in the network, systems and application management arena the move into the Service Desk area completes a very comprehensive set of IT tools.

With the consistent look and feel of the SolarWinds products WHD will

It is estimated that the average user now deploys 2.5 of the main product groupings.

SolarWinds WHD is licensed per user/technician in a perpetual licensing mode which is scaled down as users are added.

Prices start at $695 per user and scales down as users are added.

Business Partner Summary

Key Business Partners
  • Loop1 (Loop One)

Market Penetration

Number of customers on maintenance 4,000+
Typical Customer
  • Small-medium business
  • Based in North America
  • Late adopters

ss3

IMPLEMENTATION

Typical Installation

Installation of SolarWinds WHD is fast and straightforward taking anything from 10 minutes to a few hours to set up depending on the complexity of importing/migrating configuration data such as tickets, locations, request types, FAQ’s etc.

SolarWinds WHD can be implemented/deployed using only internal staff and typically can be dealt with by one technician/engineer.

Full installation requirements (please note this is not the case for evaluation installations):

Software Requirements
Operating System
  • Windows Server 2003 32/64-bit, Windows Server 2008 32/64-bit, Windows Server 2008 R2 64-bit, Windows Server 2012 32/64-bit, Windows Server 2012 R2 32/64-bit
  • Recommended for installations with more than 20 technicians, Windows Server 2003, 2008 or 2008 R2, and 2012 64-bit OS .

 

Web Console Browser
  • Chrome 30, 31, and 32
  • Firefox 24, 25, and 26
  • Internet Explorer (IE) 8, 9, and 10
  • Safari 5 and 6

Note: Chrome v32 and Mozilla v26 are the latest versions of those browsers tested with WHD 12.1.0. Because Google and Mozilla release new versions of their browsers so often, testing WHD on the very latest browser is not always possible. It is likely, however, that WHDv12.1.0 will work with Chrome and Firefox releases newer than those it has been tested on.

Hardware
  • CPU Speed – Dual Core 2.0 GHz or faster
  • Hard Drive Speed – 20 GB
  • Mac Architecture – 64-bit Intel
  • Memory – 3 GB (add 1 GB for every 10 additional technicians/engineers)
  • Application Ports – 8081 (or alternate browser port), 1433 (SQL)

The installer configures the application and the optional embedded PostgreSQL database automatically.  A setup wizard walks the administrator through initial configuration steps.  It is suggested that you run the SolarWinds WHD application and external database on separate servers for optimal performance.

As an alternative to Windows, Mac, and Linux installer applications, a Linux-based virtual appliance is also available.

To fully benefit from all features, WHD requires configuration (e.g. email, Active Directory/LDAP connection, Asset synchronization etc.) however it is possible to use it almost instantly by using web UI to raise tickets, auto-creation of users and the Free version requires very little configuration and is basically a straight-out-of-the-box solution for very simple use.

Time to Value

The short time required to install SolarWinds WHD together with the ease of use, scalability and minimal manpower costs for deployment suggests a rapid ROI.

Resources Required

As with all ticketing systems the tool is only as good as the information inputted.  Ongoing maintenance and data verification will be required especially with regard to Knowledge Management and Asset Management.

Scalability

The application is implemented as a J2EE servlet running under Tomcat, with JDBC connections to a relational database that can run on a separate server or cluster. (Comes bundled with an optional embedded PostgreSQL database. MySQL and SQL Server are also supported.) Additional servlet containers, running on the same or separate nodes, can be configured as needed. For most SMB customers, the application’s caching mechanisms facilitate scaling to increased performance requirements by simply allocating additional memory, without requiring additional hardware nodes. For larger customers, a common configuration separates background daemon processes such as asset discovery and e-mail processing onto a second server, which can be set up using the standard application installer

PRODUCT ROADMAP

SolarWinds have several directions in which they plan to further grow Web Help Desk

  • Provide tighter integration with other SolarWinds products, particularly Orion based, to provide streamlined problem resolution and the remote support product, Dameware
  • Enhance the reporting capabilities to provide data that will help customers understand and foresee issues for greater IT control.
  • Further develop configurability and ability of Web Help Desk to adapt to the customers processes
  • Enhanced project management capabilities

The next product release is tentatively scheduled for September 2014.  There are usually 1 major and 1-2 minor releases per year.

ss4

PRODUCT PORTFOLIO

  • Server and Application Monitor
  • Virtualization Manager
  • Storage Manager, Powered by Profiler
  • Patch Manager
  • Log and Event Manager – Affordable SIEM
  • Web Performance Manager
  • Web Help Desk
  • Dameware Remote Support
  • Dameware Mini Remote Control
  • Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server
  • Mobile Admin
  • System Center Extension Pack
  • Virtualized Application Performance Pack
  • Web App Monitoring App
  • Log and Security Information Management
  • Log and Event Manager – Affordable SIEM
  • Firewall Security Manager
  • Alert Central
  • Network Performance Monitor
  • Netflow Traffic Analyzer
  • Network Configuration Manager
  • IP Address Manager
  • User Device Tracker
  • VoIP and Network Quality Manager
  • Engineer’s Toolset
  • Network Topology Mapper
  • Database Performance Analyzer
  • Database Performance Analyzer – VM Option

COVERAGE

Head Office Austin, Texas
Regional Offices Utah, Colorado, Canada, Czech Republic, India, Singapore, Australia, Ireland

FURTHER RESOURCES

Website – http://www.webhelpdesk.com

Demo – http://www.webhelpdesk.com/download-demo/

VENDOR PROFILE

In their own words:

“Named by Forbes as one of the top 10 fastest growing technology companies, SolarWinds is improving the way IT management software is developed, priced, purchased, delivered, and used. At SolarWinds, we are fanatical about putting our users first in everything we do. We strive every day to deliver powerful functionality that is easy to use with one of the fastest and longest lasting ROIs in the market.

Our IT monitoring and management software is built for SysAdmins and network engineers who need powerful, affordable, and easy-to-use network and server monitoring software that saves time and simply gets the job done. Evaluating, buying, deploying, and using enterprise software shouldn’t be complex. IT management and monitoring software from SolarWinds is easy to try, buy, deploy and use. That’s unexpected simplicity.”

CONTACT DETAILS

SolarWinds Contact Details

Head Office 3711 South MoPac Expressway, Building Two, Austin, Texas 78746 P: 866.530.8100 F: 512.682.9301
Other Locations EMEA Headquarters Unit 1101, Building 1000, City Gate, Mahon, Cork, Ireland P: +353 21 5002900 F: +353 212 380 232APAC Headquarters Intec House, Level 22 – SolarWinds, 215 Adelaide Street, Brisbane, QLD, 4000 P: 1 800 090 386 F: +61 (07) 3319 6401Tulsa, OK 4111 S. Darlington Ave. Suite 500, Tulsa, OK 74135New Zealand Duckworths Building, 20-22 Munroe Street, Napier, New Zealand

Singapore 6 Temasek Boulevard #39-01/02, Suntec Tower Four, Singapore 038986 Tel : +65 6593 7600 Fax : +65 (0)6 491 5123

Dallas, TX 4040 McEwen Road, Suite 240, Dallas TX 75244

India Module 4, 6th Floor, Block A, SP Infocity, #40

MGR Salai, Perungudi
Chennai – 600 096, Tamil Nadu

Brno, Czech Republic Holandská 6/873, 639 00 Brno, Czech Republic

Post Falls, ID 510 S Clearwater Loop # 100, Post Falls, ID 83854

Lehi, Utah 2500 West Executive Parkway, Suite 300 Lehi, UT 84043 385-374-7000

SUMMARY

SolarWinds WHD is a good fit for SMBs and organizations in the Education sector with IT Departments heavily dependent on network monitoring and event management.

Strengths

Weaknesses

Easy installation and deployment   Separate Change Management area needed
Consistent look and feel with other SolarWinds products   No Release Management
 Easy scalability   No graphical representation of asset relationships
125,000 strong user community  No Service Catalog

Disclaimer, Scope and Limitations

The information contained in this review is based on sources and information believed to be accurate as of the time it was created.  Therefore, the completeness and current accuracy of the information provided cannot be guaranteed.  Readers should therefore use the contents of this review as a general guideline, and not as the ultimate source of truth.

Similarly, this review is not based on rigorous and exhaustive technical study.  The ITSM Review recommends that readers complete a thorough live evaluation before investing in technology.

This is a paid review, that is, the vendors included in this review paid to participate in exchange for all results and analysis being published free of charge, without registration.

For further information, please read our Disclosure page.

Podcast Episode 1: Pink14 and the best moustache in the world

ManageEngine
Thanks to our friends at ManageEngine for sponsoring this podcast.

We are pleased to lift the lid on our very first podcast!

Recorded at Pink14 in Las Vegas with Barclay Rae and Rebecca Beach with guest Ian Aitchison from LANDESK.

The team discuss Shadow IT, Axelos Announcements, Pink Conference agenda and other industry news (not forgetting the best moustache in the world!)

Listen on SoundCloud here (Itunes feed to follow soon).

Who and what would you like to hear on future podcasts? Please get in touch and let us know – Drop us a line, leave a comment on this blog post or post ideas on our community forum. Thanks.

Links

Live from PINK14 – Day 1 in review

mediaAs day one of PINK14 comes to a close I am feeling somewhat frazzled. In Vegas nothing is modest and reserved and PINK14 is no different.

Held in the beautiful and ostentatious Bellagio hotel the sheer number of sessions is frankly mind boggling and trying to decide which to attend leaves you wishing cloning yourself were an option. Luckily the majority are repeated to make missing anything you really want to see unlikely.

Keynote presentations

Opened with a far too energetic lycra clad Wonder Woman dancing her way to the stage the Super Hero theme has continued throughout the day with the message that we can all be IT Super Heroes.

Both keynote speakers, retired Canadian astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield and social entrepreneur Caroline Casey gave rousing and emotional talks with audiences reaching for the Kleenex on several occasions.

 

Both told truly inspirational stories on what can be done when you dare to dream and follow those dreams through. Both presentations were also laced with great advice applicable to any IT service management organization.

Pink Think Tank

One of the many selling points for attendees of the annual Pink Elephant conferences (so I am told) is the quality of after-hours conversations. Often taking place over a meal or a beer, but often limited in their exposure outside of those party to them (and potentially the inability to remember what was said the following day).

So this year an attempt was made to formalise and capture the essence of such conversations – the Pink Think Tank. Where a pre-selected group of the ITSM industry’s deep thinkers spent a day discussing the main issues faced by corporate IT organisations before focusing on just one – from problem definition through to potential solutions. This was then fed back to the conference via a panel session today, with a Q&A session to follow on Wednesday.

The issue the think tank chose was: the complexity of multi-supplier value streams. Where the traditional IT function is faced with two discrete pressures:

  • A need to change to accommodate the needs of more agile businesses; and
  • Supplier-driven commoditisation.
The group’s solution statement pointed to a number of discrete areas/activities that need to be addressed (see the link below), headlined by the statement that IT really needs to start understanding the business. And the concept of IT needing to deal with commoditisation, innovation, and complexity simultaneously.

There was also a practical set of activities for attendees to address on their return to the workplace. Hopefully making the efforts of the Think Tank more relevant and accessible to attendees. With a commitment to create supporting documents to supplement the initial outputs.

If you are at Pink14, then look out for the Q&A session on Wednesday. If not, Rob England has shared the group’s first outputs on Slideshare. It also details those involved. In addition Rob himself will be providing a written article for us post-PINK detailing the entire Pink Think Tank process. In the meantime let us know what you think.

Everything else

There was also the announcement today that Attivio who won the PINK 2013 IT Excellence Award for Innovation Of The Year. So huge congratulations to those guys!

And we can’t forget all the numerous AXELOS announcements that took place today.

I can’t finish without mentioning the networking opportunities that been fantastic so far with a special pink cocktail created specially for the occasion, and in the exhibition hall there was a great mix of old hands and first time vendors and a certain penguin that seems to be everywhere these days.

It’s hard to really go into detail about the specific presentations live from the floor, but stay tuned for more in depth reviews of the sessions and Barclay Rae’s podcast.

 

LogMeIn ends free offering

support

Within the last week remote computer access software company LogMeIn have announced that they will be discontinuing their free remote access product – LogMeIn free – with immediate effect.

“After 10 years, LogMeIn’s free remote access product, LogMeIn Free, is going away,” wrote LogMeIn’s Tara Haas. “We will be unifying our portfolio of free and premium remote access products into a single offering. This product will be a paid-only offering, and it will offer what we believe to be the best premium desktop, cloud and mobile access experience available on the market today.”

Current users of the service will receive an email and a screen message the next time that they log in informing them that they have a paltry seven days to upgrade to a premium account before access to their account is revoked.

In an article for PC World Tony Bradley, Principal Analyst at Bradley Strategy Group states:

“The decision to end LogMeIn Free is abrupt and a bit confusing. It seems like it’s been relatively successful at luring customers to sign up and generating revenue for LogMeIn from the premium account subscriptions.”

Forum members of tech.slashdot.org have criticized the company for the abrupt change:

“…I must say I might have considered signing up for pro, but the zero-notice cancellation of the free account has left a major bad taste in my mouth. It’s a pretty blatant attempt to rush people into signing up for the paid program, because hey, give people a month’s notice to evaluate alternatives and the might find something else they like. For that reason, there is zero chance I’ll sign up for logmein pro.” – TX

Though it appears not all customers are jumping ship with some reportedly being offered six months of pro service as an incentive to continue:

“…at the risk of not conforming to a potential lynch mob mentality, it would appear they’re giving me 6 months of pro service on my existing account before they turn it off. This is plenty of time to make a change.” – Zugmeister

With some just suggesting users should thank LogMeIn for provided the free service for as long as they did:

“It’s so typical. Someone offers a service/product for free. People use it and like it. They keep using it. Then the service/product gets changed/removed/etc. and everyone yells at the owner about how they feel shafted instead of *thanking* the owner for providing such a useful service for free for so long. Everyone feels entitled to get whatever they want for free.” – Nicholasjay

Thinking of changing to another free service?  Stuart Facey, VP EMEA at Bomgar has the following advice…:

“A lot of people are complaining that the once-free service is being taken away and they’ve only been given a week to either pay for LogMeIn Pro or switch to another free service, like Teamviewer. However, while these free tools can be great for accessing your personal computer, they aren’t designed for providing professional support to your company’s or customers’ systems.

If you find yourself having to switch away from a free tool, it’s important to think about your next step – are you only supporting friends and family? Then stick with other free tools that are on the market.

If you are responsible for a wider range of services, or if you have to think about connecting to customer systems in a secure way, then you will have to put more thought into this change. In the world of support, it is important to look at how you deliver services over time and make sure that you are providing value for your customers as well as maintaining your own approach in the right way. The increasing need for collaboration around support challenges, including the capability to securely involve third party vendors, means that free tools will only be able to provide small sections of what you are after overall.

In this instance, it is very much a case of “you get what you pay for” – if you pay nothing, then you won’t get all the functionality that you need, and that may negatively impact the overall quality of service.”

LogMeIn hasn’t done itself any favours with the way it has approached the situation with many users seeming to be more annoyed with the notice period than the discontinuation of the service.

Advice to anyone else planning on pulling a free service where you have a paid alternative:  Treat users like prospective paying customers and not a bunch of freeloaders.

Moving away from LogMeIn?  Here are some alternatives:

Tool Name Description Cost
TeamViewer TeamViewer provides an All-In-One solution for a wide variety of scenarios in a single software package: remote maintenance, spontaneous support, access to unattended computers, home office, online meetings, presentations, training sessions and team work. Free for all non-commercial users£439-£2,219 for Business users depending on package
Chrome Remote Desktop Chrome Remote Desktop allows users to remotely access another computer through Chrome browser or a Chromebook.  Computers can be made available on an short-term basis for scenarios such as ad hoc remote support, or on a more long-term basis for remote access to your applications and files.  All connections are fully secured. Free*As it’s supplied by Google I’d check the privacy policy
Remote Utilities Remote Utilities gives users 15 different modes for connecting to PCs remotely. Users can view screens, send keystrokes, control the mouse, and transfer files. This makes it ideal for IT professionals looking to provide remote support and network administration. Free for both business and personal use for up to 10 remote PC’sOver this$29.95 per remote PC OR$549.00 per operator

 

Citrix GoToAssist GoToAssist enables you to provide fast and easy live remote support with a solution designed to meet your specific business needs. Compare our remote support, service desk and IT monitoring solutions and see which works best for you and your organisation. £39/mo per technician
Bomgar Remote Support Bomgar lets you support all of your systems over the web, even if they are behind firewalls you don’t control.Support customers on remote desktops running Windows, Mac or various Linux distros. Or support a variety of mobile devices – including Android, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile. POA

Image Credit 

 

 

Coming Soon: The Battle of Change, Configuration and Release

wrestling
Let the battle begin!

We’re excited to be kicking off our research briefings next week for our competitive analysis on Change, Configuration and Release. Scheduled for publication in May, vendors confirmed to participate so far include:

The research will highlight competitive differentiators; feature key strengths (and weaknesses too of course); and showcase innovation within each product. Once reviewed, we will crown one Vendor “Best in Class” and the “leader” in Change, Configuration and Release.

Our research is based solely on responses to an in-depth questionnaire as well as a series of briefings, but we are always interested in hearing the end-user perspective.

Do you have experience with any of the participating Vendors? Do you have any views on their capabilities when it comes to Change, Configuration and Release? Are there any Vendors that you think are successful in this area who are not currently scheduled to participate in this review?

The review will be conducted by Rebecca Beach. For more information on the assessment view the Group Test criteria here. Vendors can still sign up to be involved up until Friday 31st January.

Subscribe to the ITSM Review newsletter or follow us on Twitter to receive a notification when the research is published.

Image Credit

Customer Experience the Apple Way

geniusYou’ve probably noticed that Customer Service has become an old fashioned term.  Nowadays it’s all about the “Customer Experience” led in no small part by Apple and it’s crew of blue shirted genii poised to help with all of your purchasing and technical needs.

According to Carmine Gallo, author of The Apple Experience, there are ‘5 Steps of Service’ that every Apple Store staff member needs to work through and these should either lead to a sale, or more importantly to Apple, to build a customer for life:

A = Approach Customers with a personalized, warm welcome       

P = Probe politely to understand the customer’s needs

P = Present a solution for the customer to take home today 

L = Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns

E = End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return

He continues by saying that ‘Apple employees are not in the business of selling computers, they are in the business of enriching lives’.

Recently I’ve noticed there have been more organizations eschewing the traditional customer service model and adopting the ‘Experience’ paradigm.  Walnut Hill Medical Centre in Dallas, Texas is creating its own steps of service complete with its very own acronym (W-E-C-A-R-E = Warm welcome, Empathize, Communicate and connect, Address concerns, Resolve and reassure, End with a fond farewell) to improve relations between patients and staff, and AT&T have been using a form of Apple’s system for a number of years.

Although its early days with Walnut Hill, AT&T clearly don’t have all the answers yet as last year they were ranked last for the third year running for value, voice quality and customer support by Consumer Reports and in November 2013 Lifehacker named AT&T as the US’ least favourite cellphone carrier following a vote by readers.

How is this different to how other companies do customer service?

In mid 2013 Craig Johnson head of Customer Growth Partners suggested that ‘Apple needs to recreate and reinvent its once novel retail model, which is now not so novel,’ (source: Daily Mail).

Perhaps this is true in the US, but back here in the UK I have seen little to suggest this in my day-to-day life.  To me, for the most part, Customer Service is still the same stale old formula it’s been for years.  Things that I would expect to be a bare minimum such as smiling, politeness and a willingness to help are still missing more often than not, so to me that approach is still very novel.

I mean how many stores can you think of where you can go in and play with the merchandise?  All Mac’s, iPads and iPhones are preloaded with apps and connected to the Internet to encourage you to try them out.  This is in stark contrast to most other stores where if you move a product more than the allotted 5cm’s an alarm goes off and you get rugby tackled to the floor by security personnel.

Is it possible though to create the kind of Customer Experience that Apple strives to offer for companies that are selling more than just a few different types of products?

It’s much easier for an Apple Genius to be clued up on everything they sell when there’s, at most, a fifth of the products on offer that there are in say Curry’s PC World.  Plus when you take into consideration the massive markup on an Apple product they can afford to not only have people trained to an expert level in a chosen area but also to hire more of them.

My experience at the Apple store

Recently I had my first ever visit to an Apple store.  This might seem odd to some of you, especially the ones who are aware of my attraction to pretty shiny things, but my family hails from Yorkshire and the miser in me always won.

I’d like to start with the good in my Apple experience but frankly there wasn’t a lot of it.  I waited a good 25 minutes loitering but not entirely sure what to do or where to go. There was no ‘Help’ point and each Apple employee was surrounded by many other slightly peeved potential ‘customers for life’ circling like shoals of piranha’s.

When I did manage to flag down a blue shirt the advice I received was practically non-existent.  Rather than probing me to understand my needs it was more a case of me prompting as to what was required.

I’m led to believe by my subsequent conversations with store managers at Apple that at this point I should have been asked what kind of work I would be doing and what I would be using the product for in order for appropriate advice to be given.

However, once I had decided on my purchase things started to look up considerably.  My shiny new MacBook Air appeared within a matter of minutes and aforementioned blue shirt then produced a handheld gizmo, which appeared to be an iPhone strapped to a card reader to take payment.  This I liked…no ‘I’ve left it behind the counter madam now if you’d like to queue for another 20 minutes someone will eventually relieve you of a shed load of money and try and persuade you to buy a bag for life and two chocolate bars for a pound’.

However it wasn’t enough to save the experience and when emailing the receipt for my purchase later that evening to the boss the message had one line…

Genius my arse!’ (For those non-UK readers out there who may not have come across this before it is an exclamation of disbelief).

The Apple way was ground breaking but where is customer service/experience heading next?

It’s reported that following the departure of Ron Johnson (Head of Retail), Apple has taken a wrong turn advising its store sales advisors to forget about Customer Experience and concentrate on the business of selling.

Never mind a wrong turn this is one gigantic step backwards.

Concentrating on what is seen as the primary need of the customer has always been short sighted.

With the addition of Angela Ahrendts (credited with the turnaround of 150 year old brand Burberry) to the top team, Apple has shown its commitment to not selling technology to the masses but to being a company that can support lifestyles by providing experiences rather than just products.

There are the obvious contenders such as Zappos and Google, but recently Samsung has invested heavily following reports of “the worst customer service ever” from consumers.  Steps to improve its reputation have included launching a worldwide customer service campaign and offering a free app that provides online support that you can take anywhere.

Hotels tend to get a bad press but Hilton makes strides by outlining exactly how they’ll take care of you. For example Doubletree, a franchise owned by Hilton Worldwide where you get free yummy cookie on arrival, maintains a CARE committee within each of its hotels that includes workers from every department and exists to monitor hotel performance and ensure that guests are satisfied. With four out of every five guests reporting an “excellent” or “good” interaction this seems to be working.

And lets not forget that Apple’s ‘5 Steps…’ model was actually inspired by the ‘steps-of-service’ pioneered by the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain.

Conclusion

Creating a model or philosophy for Customer Service/Customer Experience is fantastic.  It makes sure that everyone knows what the company is trying to achieve and where they stand.

In my experience they certainly didn’t deliver what was promised in their ‘5 steps…’ but they are clearly aware of this and are taking strides back towards where they want to be.

If you are attempting to put in place your own model don’t just assume that because something works for someone else it will work for you too.  Organizational culture, company history, who your customer is and even location can play a massive part in what make you tick and these all need to be taken into account.

In reality plain old Customer Service is of a bygone age and so much more than what consumers and customers expect, even if that’s not what they get 70% of the time.  A caller on the end of the phone will remember how you treated them far longer than whether or not you resolved the issue for them.

Every company should have something in place to show that they understand what is required of them by their customers be that in a mission statement, agreed statement of values or a formal written agreement.  We’ve all been in situations where everyone’s working to what they believe is a level of good customer experience yet side by side they all vary drastically.  Don’t leave it up to interpretation.

On that same trip to the Apple store I had the usual request from my six year old to visit the Build-A-Bear Workshop.  I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve visited and the small one has wandered around in awe. We rarely buy anything as you can get teddies much cheaper from other stores and like most parents an avalanche of toys threatens me if we add anything else.

However, it’s the experience of creating something exactly as she wants it, being able to ask any question she wants about her teddy’s back story without feeling dumb and playing teddy Star Wars with the eccentric sales assistant that means that more often than not we return.

So maybe they won’t have a customer for life but I suspect it will definitely be until the end of her childhood.

2013: A Year in ITSM Review

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

As 2013 begins to draw to a close, I thought it would be nice to finish off the year with a final article that’s an overview of what has happened at the ITSM Review over the last 12 months.  That’s right, this will be our last post for 2013 because the entire team is heading off to fill their faces with mince pies and sherry. But don’t worry we’ll be back in 2014 with slightly bigger waistlines and lots of exciting plans for 2014 (insight into which you can find at the end of this article).

Ironically I like neither mince pies nor sherry. 

Visits and Growth

  • We have had nearly 230,000 page views this year, an increase of a whopping 210% from 2012!!! A huge thank you to the circa 120,000 of you for coming to read our content.
  • Visits to our site increased by an astounding 58% between the end of June and end of July alone, and then continued to grow on average by 5.5% every month.
  • Our Twitter followers increased by 193%.

One thing that I think it’s worth pointing out here as well is that the bulk of our readers are not actually situated in the UK (which is what a lot of people presume given that this is where we are based). In 2013, 17% of our readers were from the UK, but an impressive 30% were actually from the USA. Perhaps we should open a US office?! A large proportion of visitors also came from India, Germany, Australia, Canada, The Netherlands, France and Sweden, as well as plenty of other countries too.

Owing to us attracting more and more visitors year-on-year from outside of the UK and America, we are increasingly being asked to produce region-specific content. We are therefore looking for practitioners, consultants or analysts based in Asia, South America, Africa, and Europe who would be interested in writing about their experiences of ITSM in other countries. If you are interested please get in touch.

What was popular?

The top 3 most-viewed articles of the year were:

  1. 7 Benefits of using a Known Error Database (by Simon Morris)
  2. Gartner Magic Quadrant for IT Service Support Management Tools (Martin Thompson)
  3. AXELOS: Capita and ITIL joint venture lift lid on new brand (Martin Thompson)

Of those articles only number 3 was actually written and published in 2013.

I have to say congratulations specifically to Simon Morris here as well, because his KEDB article was not only the most-read article of the year, but it achieved 37% more hits than the second most popular article of the year! (And that’s not counting the hits it originally got in the year it was published).

Of the articles written and contributed in 2013, the top 3 were:

  1. Future of ITIL workshop – a little insight (Stuart Rance and Stephen Mann)
  2. Four Problem Management SLAs you really can’t live without (Simon Higginson)
  3. 7 golden rules for getting the most from the Service Catalogue (Yemsrach Hallemariam)

Is there a specific topic that you would like us to write about? Are there are practical pieces that you would like to see us cover to help you in your day-to-day job? Please let us know.

Content Contributors

In 2013, we were pleased to welcome 3 new, regular content contributors to the ITSM Review.  These are people who now write for us on a regular basis (roughly once a month), so you can expect to see a lot more great content from them in 2014. They are:

We also published content for the first time from the following companies: Cancer Research UK; EasyVista; Fruition Partners; GamingWorks; LANdesk; Macro4; Oregon Department of Transportation; Service Management Art Inc; and xMatters.

A great big thank-you to all of our regular and ad hoc contributors for helping supply with us with such fantastic content.

If you’re reading this and think you might be interested in contributing content (we welcome content from all, including) please get in touch.

Top Searches

Given that we had over 230,000 pages view this year, I thought that many of you might be interested to see what it was that people were searching for on our site.  The top 20 searches of the year were as follows:

  1. KEDB
  2. AXELOS
  3. Known Error Database
  4. ITSM
  5. Issue Log
  6. Proactive Problem Management
  7. ITSM Software
  8. Gartner ITSM
  9. What is Service Management
  10. Cherwell Software Review
  11. Gartner ITSM Magic Quadrant
  12. ServiceNow Review
  13. ITSM Software Review
  14. ITSM News
  15. Major Incident Management Process
  16. Free ITIL Training
  17. RemedyForce Review
  18. BMC Footprints
  19. KEDB in ITIL
  20. Process Owner

Are there any search terms that you are surprised to see on there?  Or anything that you would have expected to see that isn’t?

Events

In 2013 we branched out and kicked off Media Partnerships at the itSMF UK Conference and Exhibition (Birmingham) and itSMF Estonia Conference (Tallin).

Our aim was not only to spread the word about The ITSM Review, but to spend time with delegates to find out what things they are struggling with and how we might be able to help them.

Next year you can expect to see us the PINK conference in Las Vegas, and we hope to announce some other new, exciting partnerships for 2015 in the New Year!

Launches

In May we launched the ITSM Review App (Search ‘ITSM’ in the Apple App Store). 

Then there is the ITSM Tools Universe, which we launched at the end of November. The Tools Universe hopes to shed light on the emerging ITSM players (as well as the major competitors) and, over time, the changes in the position of the companies involved and moves in market share. Most importantly it is free to participate and unlike any Magic Quadrant or Wave, the ITSM Tools Universe is open to ALL ITSM vendors. 9 vendors are already confirmed.

If you are a Vendor and are interested in learning more the ITSM Tools Universe please contact us.

Additions to the team

As of 1st January 2013 the ITSM Review was still simply just the man you all know and love Martin Thompson (he tried desperately to get me to remove what I just said there… modest and all that jazz).

However, ITSM Review finished 2013 with an additional 3 employees:

  • In January 2013 Glenn Thompson (you’d be right to suspect that they might be related) joined full-time as the company’s Commercial Director. For some reason there was no official announcement (we’ll blame Martin) so for some of you this might be the first you’ve heard of it! Without Glenn we’d struggle to continue to offer all of our content to readers free of charge, so despite the fact that he’s a Chelsea fan, you’ve got to like him.
  • In July, for some reason Martin decided it would be a good move to hire some strange blonde lady who liked penguins (that would be me) as the Marketing and Community Manager.
  • Finally, in October Rebecca Beach joined as a Research Analyst. Famous for being a “gobby midget”, Rebecca will be writing most of our ITSM research and reviews in 2014. Rebecca also spends time (in conjunction with me) making fun of Martin and Glenn on a regular basis (it’s not our fault they make it so easy).

So then there was 4.

If you’re interested in any upcoming job opportunities at the ITSM Review (or ITAM Review), then please let us know.  We certainly plan on increasing that number 4 in 2014.

What’s planned for 2014?

Next year we are hoping to broaden our coverage of the ITSM space even further by securing new content contributors; participating in more industry events; launching new products (such as video product reviews, webinars, and case studies); and more.

We’re also looking very seriously at the possibility of running regular ‘social meet ups’ like we recently did with the Christmas get-together.

In addition to the publication of our ITSM Tools Universe in the Spring we will also be continuing our Group Tests, and a full list of topics for the Group Test series will be published early January.

In addition to the above we also have some planned changes in the works for our website. Nothing too major (it will still look like the ITSM Review that you know and love), just some cosmetic updates to make it easier on the eye and increase your ability to easily find what you are looking for.

Watch this space and we’ll keep you updated of our plans throughout 2014!

Oh and if you’re interested in the 2013 review and plans for 2014 from the ITAM Review, you can read them here.

Is there anything you would like to see us doing in 2014 that we’re not doing currently? Are there any changes that you would like to suggest to the website? Would you be interested in a tooling event or social get-togethers? Are you a Vendor who is interested in our Group Tests? We welcome your feedback, so please get in touch.

And so…

2013 is drawing to a close. Our success and growth throughout the year has made everybody here happy bunnies; but most importantly we hope that our content / site / presence this year has made YOU a bunch of happy bunnies. The whole purpose of the ITSM Review is to help ITSM practitioners, and everything we do has that end goal in mind.  Even if we only gain an additional 5 readers in 2014, so long as our content aids those 5 people and makes their work lives easier then these bunnies will continue to have smiles on their faces.

So with that image of turning the entire ITSM industry into smiley rabbits, I bid you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  Thanks for reading throughout 2013; without you… the ITSM Review doesn’t exist.

Image Credit

itSMF Estonia Conference Round-up

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Beautiful Estonia

On Wednesday 11th December, in a very cold and snowy Tallinn, President of itSMF Estonia, Kaimar Karu kicked off the annual itSMF Estonia conference by introducing all of the speakers and encouraging delegates to ask questions of them throughout the day.

Kaimar had managed once again to raise attendance of the conference (by 10%), with representation from 10 different countries, and with a very good female representation in the audience too.

Delivering Service Operations at Mega-Scale – Alan Levin, Microsoft

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First speaker was Alan Levin of Microsoft whose presentation talked through how Microsoft deal with their vast number of servers and how, built into all of Microsoft products, is the ability to self-heal.

On the subject of Event Management Alan spoke about ensuring that alarms are routed to the correct people and how, in your business, any opportunity you have to reduce alerts should be taken.

Enabling Value by Process – Viktor Petermann, Swedbank

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Viktor opened his presentation by saying that 4 out of 5 improvement processes fail because people are not robots. You cannot just expect them to know what you want and how you want things to work.

He continued by saying that having the right culture, processes and learning from relevant experiences will enable you to do the right things the right way.

Viktor warned that like quitting smoking, change will not happen unless you really want it to.  Before embarking on any change make sure that you are willing to give it 100%.

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Oded Moshe

Benchmarking and BI, Sat Navs for Service Desks – Oded Moshe, SysAid Technologies Ltd.

After having to rest his voice for 24hrs due to contracting the dreaded man-flu Oded still managed to show how to use Benchmarking to improve your Service Desk.

His presentation contained useful guidance on what areas to look at and how to benchmark yourself against them.

He also explained how you can use SysAid and it’s community to gather global service desk metrics to measure yourself against.

Presentation words of wisdom from Oded: Don’t become fixated with metrics and benchmarking as they are not the only way to measure.

Service-Based Public Sector – Janek Rozov, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications

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In contrast to the other presentations “Service-Based Public Sector” was presented in Estonian.  Although I do not speak Estonian I could tell how passionate Janek was about the subject and it was one of the most talked about presentations that evening in the bar.

The presentation covered how the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication are using ICT to fulfill their vision of supporting Estonians as much as possible, while they are using their rights but bothering them as little as possible in the process. Perhaps we could pay for Janek to spend some time with the UK Government in the hopes that some of this common sense might rub off?

If you would like to know more about Estonian ICT success in the public sector you can read Janek’s pre-conference article “Standardizing the delivery of public services”.

Service Desk 2.0 – Aale Roos, Pohjoisviitta Oy

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Aale spoke profusely about how service desk’s and the mentality of “break fix” is old fashioned and flawed.  He described how the service desk needs be brought kicking and screaming into the 21st century, concentrating on proactive measures and outcomes.

He continued to say that ITIL has been outdated for over a decade and that unlearning ITIL and moving to a “Standard + Case” approach is the way of the future.

Networking

There was lots of opportunity for networking across the event, and at lunch I got the opportunity to speak to a few of the delegates and presenters to find out what they thought of the conference.

Quote from Oded Moshe:

I think the first session by Alan Levin from Microsoft was a great chance for us all to see the insides of one of the largest operational support organizations in the world! They are in charge of providing more than 200 cloud business services to more than 1 billion people with the help of more than 1 million servers. So Problem Management, Incidents, Monitoring – everything is on a HUGE scale – it is easy to understand why you must have your service processes properly tuned otherwise you are in a master-mess…

Peter Hepworth – CEO of AXELOS, Kaimar Karu – President of itSMF Estonia and Patrick Bolger – Chief Evangelist at Hornbill Service Management
Peter Hepworth – CEO of AXELOS, Kaimar Karu – President of itSMF Estonia and Patrick Bolger – Chief Evangelist at Hornbill Service Management

Industry Leaders Agree IT is Revolting – Patrick Bolger, Hornbill Service Management

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Adapt or die was the message in Patrick’s session with references to high street names that didn’t and paid the price.

Comparing how we in IT think we are viewed and how the business actually views us was sobering but mentions of SM Congress and Arch SM show that the industry is ready to change and we are not doing this alone.

Problem & Knowledge, The Missing Link – Barclay Rae, Barclay Rae Consulting

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Presenting on the missing links in ITSM, Barclay hammered home why Problem and Knowledge Management are so fundamentally important.

Using his ITSM Goodness model Barclay showed how to move away from the process silo’s we so often find ourselves in and which processes to group together for maximum effectiveness i.e. Incident, Problem, Change.

Barclay also held well-attended workshops pre-conference in conjunction with itSMF Estonia.

DevOps, Shattering the Barriers – Kaimar Karu, Mindbridge   

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Kaimar’s message is unorthodox:  Don’t play it safe, try to break things, don’t mask fragility and plan for failure, for this is the road to increased quality and innovation.

He advised that we need to not forget that developers are human and not unapproachable cowboys riding round on horses shooting code.  Get to know them over a drink so that everyone can relax and say what’s on their mind without the fear of repercussion.

But most of all remember that “Sh*t happens”.  Stop the blame, it doesn’t help…EVER.

Problem Management Challenges and Critical Success Factors – TÕnu Vahtra, Playtech

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The penultimate session of the day was from TÕnu on how Playtech are working through Problem Management and the issues they have encountered.

The major difficulties TÕnu has found is the lack of practical information on how to actually do Problem Management, and Playtech have found themselves having to teach themselves learning from their own mistakes as they go.

It was a very useful case study with helpful pointers to information and literature such as Apollo Route Cause Analysis by Dean L Gano for others struggling with Problem Management.

The Future for ITIL – Peter Hepworth, AXELOS followed by Forum

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Following on from the publication of AXELOS’ roadmap, and the announcement that they would be partnering with itSMF International, Peter talked through the progress AXELOS has made and its hopes for the future.

The forum was well attended and many useful suggestions were made for ways that ITIL and PRINCE2 could be improved.

You can learn more about AXELOS’ plans by reading our interview with Peter.

My thoughts

Considering the cost of a ticket to the conference I wasn’t expecting the content and presentations to be at the very high level it was.  I haven’t yet attended any of the other non-UK itSMF conferences but the bar has now been set incredibly high.

My main observation from the conference and the discussions that took place after is that the majority of delegates knew how very important Problem Management is, but are still struggling with implementation and making it work.  In the AXELOS workshop the main feedback seemed to be the need for ITIL to cut down on the number of processes available as standard and concentrate on the core areas that the majority of organizations have, or are trying to put in place.

Well done to Kaimar and team for the fantastic job and thank you for the wonderful hospitality. In addition to the conference I particular enjoyed the entertainment on the Tuesday evening, when some of the organisers, speakers, delegates and penguins ventured out in the snow for some sightseeing and a truly delicious meal at a little restaurant called Leib in the Old Town.

I highly recommend to anyone to attend the itSMF Estonia 2014 conference next December. With flights from most places in Europe less than £150, a hotel/venue that is less than £100 per night, and an amazing ticket price of less than £40, it is extremely great value for money. With outstanding content (90% in English), brilliant networking opportunities and excellent hospitality, it’s too good of an event to miss. I certainly look forward to being there again.

As a final note, thank -you to itSMF Estonia for having us involved as the Official Media Partner.  We are hoping to work with other international itSMF chapters in 2014, as well as on other worldwide ITSM events.  Watch this space 🙂