2012 Request Fulfilment Group Test – The Results

In a previous article I looked at what ITIL 2011 had added to the Request Fulfilment process and some of the pitfalls we may have seen with implementation in the past.

This technology review looks at what this means, in practical terms, when approaching Request Fulfilment – what should we be looking for?

Our goal is to highlight the key strengths, competitive differentiators and innovation in the industry. The assessment criteria we used to steer the review process can be found here: REQUEST FULFILMENT ASSESSMENT CRITERIA.

Tools Reviewed:


INTRODUCTION

There is a particular challenge when it comes to assessing ITSM tools in some depth.

You want to see more than just a glossy demo – you want to understand how it can help you tackle some of the key processes at its core.

I decided the best way to showcase how ITSM tools and suites could help potential customers meet their process AND tool needs was to split up the processes and throw the doors open to vendors one by one.

The best place to start was the End User – how they come into contact with the ITSM beast in as seamless a way as possible to their experience.

Although the guts of the process involves pushing records from group to group before closure, the ways in which our participating vendors get you to the finish line was at times quite varied.

Do end users care about all the steps along the way regarding their requests? Or do they just want to see an end date by when they can expect a shiny new smartphone to land at their desk.

All of these elements can be tracked and configured to within an inch of their lives, if required.

One thing that was refreshing in this round of reviews was gaining an understanding of more than just the tool/module.

Quite often, the lifecycle of a record for any of the processes is going to be similar, creation, assignment, some decision trees and then done (in a perfect world!).

But it is the journey, and more importantly the interpretation by our featured vendors, that made this review as interesting as it was.


MARKET POSITIONING

Unlike many single-function tools out there, ITSM tools tend to have their fingers in many pies, and will offer integration to all kinds of other tools. All the vendors who participated were classified as Specialists – i.e. Vendors whose sole focus is ITSM.

Vendor

Mid-Market

Enterprise

BMC FootPrints

Cherwell

Marval

PMG

ServiceNow


COMPETITIVE OVERVIEW

The next table provides a high level overview of competitive differences between the tools.

  • In a nutshell – A brief description of each technology
  • Primary Purpose – Each technology may be used in different ways but this is the main purpose of the technology.
  • Strengths – key positive points highlighted during the review
  • Weaknesses – key negative points highlighted during the review

Vendor

Elevator Pitch Strengths

Weaknesses

BMC FootPrints Entry-level, flexible ITSM solution, offering customisable services Nice tough in incorporating screen-prompts to start to mould end-user behaviour Text driven workflow is comprehensive but lacks the visual effect of graphical workflows
Cherwell Cherwell offer an holistic approach by providing customers with a comprehensive out-of-the-box offering for fast deployment, and ease of use Predefined forms based on their years of experience of what details are required, for a number of standard requests Although not programming outright, some of the depth of customisation lends itself to administrators with string process knowledge, business logic and data structures.
Marval Marval bring their “ITIL: Common sense written down” approach to their tool, which takes you to the root of the task to get the job done. Simplicity and flexibility which does the job smartly. It would have been good to see what the supplied services and examples were Out of the Box.
PMG A “rescue remedy” for replacing inadequate Service Catalogue/Request Fulfilment modules of ITSM Suites A dedicated approach to providing enterprise delivery specifically around Service Catalogue & Request Fulfilment Although they have a few standalone ITSM customers, their Ticketing system for other ITSM processes is very basic when standing up against other
ServiceNow A solid integrated platform, with the focus on improving the user’s experience of Request Fulfilment, and also focussing on the equally important business view. They boast a unique approach of focussing on an end-user’s experience in engaging with IT through the Request Fulfilment process Although there are administration courses, all too often the responses relied on finding answers to configuration questions “in the wiki”.As comprehensive as it is, when others promote that element of “handover” to the system’s custodians, ServiceNow seem to want to default to detachment.

CUSTOMERS

Approximate number of customers for each vendor:

  • BMC Footprints – Europe: 1000+ ; Worldwide: 5000+
  • Cherwell – 400+
  • Marval – 400+
  • PMG – Not disclosed
  • ServiceNow – 1200+

BEST IN CLASS

Of the five vendors reviewed I was particularly impressed with the following vendors:

  • Best in Class Mid-Market: Marval – Their ethos of keeping it simple just made it stand out.
  • Best in Class Enterprise: ServiceNow – I had a managed service view of this product and thought I knew what I would see.  I was pleasantly surprised, and although I can completely appreciate PMG’s position and can absolutely understand why they are called in to replace some ITSM suites.
  • Best in Class All Tools: Cherwell – I was an IT Architect, specialising in ITSM, and the Pareto 80/20 rule was my mantra in my former life. Cherwell’s approach to (re)use their expertise and develop a depth of standard requests covering pretty much most details that are required makes them the most comprehensive offering in this review.

Deep Dive

Further details for each vendor can be found by using the links below:


DISCLAIMER, SCOPE & 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 the ‘Group Tests’ section on our Disclosure page.

Review: ServiceNow Request Fulfilment

This independent review is part of our 2012 Request Fulfilment Group Test. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch A solid integrated platform, with the focus on improving the user’s experience of Request Fulfilment, and also focussing on the equally important business view.
Strengths They boast a unique approach of focussing on improving an end-user’s experience in engaging with IT through the Request Fulfilment process.
Weaknesses Although there are administration courses, all too often the responses relied on finding answers to configuration questions “in the wiki”.It is comprehensive, but when others promote that element of “handover” to the system’s custodians, ServiceNow seem to want to default to detachment.
Primary Market Focus Mid-size to Large Enterprise level customers

Commercial Summary

Vendor ServiceNow
Product ServiceNow
Version reviewed Berlin Release
Date of version release September 2012
Year founded 2004
Customers 1,200+
Pricing Structure ServiceNow offers a subscription license based on the number of IT process users, starting at $100 / IT process user / month with volume discounts available. There is no charge for end user access.
Competitive Differentiators
  • A single, organically developed ITSM platform built in the cloud with nothing acquired or OEMed that leverages knowledge management, collaboration, graphical workflow engine, ITSM stack, service catalog and request, runbook automation, CMDB, ITAM, software asset management, etc. all included in the subscription license.
  • An approachable, social and modern Web UI built to improve the end user experience with IT through an emphasis on usability and self service.
  • A configurable platform includes a content management system that allows IT to provide a user experience that is identical to existing customer Web properties and that matches existing user experience and IT workflow.
Additional Feature Service catalogue, service portfolio, and dozens of other enterprise service automation applications all provided through a single cloud-based platform.

ServiceNow

Independent Review

ServiceNow has been one of the fastest growing software companies in the world, since forming in 2004.

One significant difference I saw in looking more at the single-tenant commercial deployment scenario (opposed to Managed Service Provision) was how to leverage a business view of the service catalogue.

More importantly, that view can be combined with elements of the Employee Self Service portal to give users a lot more information about the services they use, even before they go down the Request Fulfilment route.

That is not to say that other vendors do not offer the same, but ServiceNow’s focus sees the tool as an enabler for information up and down the chain, about the affordability of the services IT provide, and the usability for end-users.

Request Models

End-users can come in to the Request Fulfilment screens through a self-service portal URL which provides them a simplified view of the options available.

This can be configured to provide a customer’s look and feel, and limits the choices in the sections so that the end-user is not overwhelmed with a mass of service catalogue options.

ServiceNow recommend the three main sections (Order Things, Knowledge, Get Help) and no more than four elements beneath that.

Requests can be bundled together (for example for new hires) and most vendors now adopt the look and feel of a shopping cart experience to good effect.

But they want to make the interface as intuitive as possible.

All this is laudable, but as always that freedom of intuition requires detailed thought and configuration behind the scenes.

Menu Selection

The back end allows administrators to configure routing options, approvals, even the addition of fields mostly through drop-down and selectable variable values.

There is the capability of doing further, more complex development and administrators would need to either have an understanding of Java Script programming, or (in their words) at least have a desire to learn.

But in fairness, ServiceNow also recognise that resources or skill levels in organisations may not stretch to that – and certainly enough can be done with the options available to build on the existing  templates, utilising a graphical workflow editor, pick lists and right-click UI controls .

Request Fulfilment Lifecycle

The first step in the ServiceNow world is to build up the items in a way that makes it an appealing experience for the end user.

Once the aesthetics are taken care of, then start tackling the more repetitive elements of the process first, and then worry about tackling your exceptions.

The graphical workflow is extensive, and tasks, actions, options attached to those actions are taken care of with drag-and-drop.

It is designed so that Business Analysts or Process Managers can translate those steps graphically to configure the back-end workflow.

In addition, a business service catalogue can be developed, and this has a two-fold purpose.

Often customers have difficulty in transitioning to a service model, and understanding what that really means to them.

Here, IT can define to the business what services it offers, the reasonable levels of availability and response that can be expected, and can obviously build from there, for example Email Services.

This view is also linked to an end-user’s view of their world, so they can proactively see (even before entering the whole ticket rigmarole), service alerts or issues.

Conclusion

ServiceNow are not alone in the market place at focussing on how customers want to set things up behind the scenes.

Administrators of the system should have a strong end-to-end process knowledge to get the best from configuring the workflows.

Their approach, though, differs between good practical advice in terms of configuration versus a wiki-focussed depth of support information.

For example, during the demo, I was impressed at the steps outlined for an approach to tackling the workflow configuration:

  1. Build the items you want the end user to see first
  2. Worry about process later (repetitive tasks first, then exceptions)

But I am also pointed to a range of links of everything in the wiki.

There is no doubt that the information is comprehensive and, given how much is in there, fairly well organised but it can be very time consuming to wade through the options to find things, and I speak from experience!

ServiceNow offer a foundations e-learning course that can be completed within an hour.

They also provide a three-day ServiceNow system administration class, a two-day advanced system administration class, and a three-day scripting in ServiceNow course. System administrators can be up to speed within a day and be extremely proficient within a week.

However, at its core, ServiceNow does offer a well-integrated Request Fulfilment module, and reminds us that business benefit should be a driver, and provide a well thought out visual capability in that area.

ServiceNow Customers

Screenshots

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

From The ServiceNow Brochure

  • Leading provider of cloud-based services that automate enterprise IT operations.
  • Suite of applications built on our proprietary platform that automates workflow and provides integration between related businesses.
  • We help transform IT organizations from reactive, manual and task-oriented, to pro-active, automated and service-oriented organizations.
  • Assessed to PinkVERIFY 3.0
  • Provides an open, no-registration-required live instance of ServiceNow: http://demo.servicenow.com

Further Information

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2012 Request Fulfilment Group Test. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Assessment Criteria for Request Fulfilment

We will soon begin our review of Request Fulfilment offerings in the ITSM market place. Our goal is to highlight the key strengths, competitive differentiators and innovation in the industry.

In my previous article I looked at what ITIL 2011 had added to the process, and some of the pitfalls we may have seen in trying to implement Request Fulfilment in the past.

I would now like to take a look at what this means, in practical terms, when approaching Request Fulfilment – what should we be looking for?

At the recent UK itSMF ITSM Software Tools Forum event in Manchester, vendors spoke to the audience at length about transitioning from IT focussed decisions, to business outcomes, and this is an area where Request Fulfilment could come into its own, especially in the sphere of interaction by non-IT users.

But a transition is a gradual thing, and the importance of the concept of conformance should not be forgotten. I think it remains an important element for any vendor’s toolset to be comparable to identified, accepted benchmarks, as well as unpicking the practicalities of deployment a solution.

Principles vs. Process

What is more important at this stage, is the ease of which a tool’s capability can be displayed.

Demos at shows are slick and well prepared and I dare say a lot of us have had to go through the rigours of setting up demos and knowing what to click, how and where.

What we are looking for vendors to do is demonstrate to us how easy is it to start from scratch, ideally with meaningful options for an end user to start with.

Suggested Criteria


It is probably too much of an extreme to launch from recognisable standards and certification/verification platforms, to merely focussing on the look and feel of menus and options for end users in one fell swoop.

So for that reason, I am including a need to understand how vendors align to accepted best practice standards.

Overall Alignment

  • Have our target vendors aligned to ITIL and if so, to which version?
  • How do the set up roles and users to perform functions?
  • What demo capabilities can they offer potential customers?

 Request Models

  • What request workflows are available out-of-the-box
  • How easy is it to develop more specific workflows?
  • What additional administration is required for deeper customisation? At what cost?

Menu Selection

  • How is your self-help portal set up?
  • How do you incorporate new service descriptions for your users?
  • How much administration is needed to do the more bespoke work?

Request Status Tracking

  • Show us how any request is tracked throughout its lifecycle?
  • Who can see it, and when, and which teams can change it/move it on its way?

Prioritising & Escalating Requests

  • Show us how your tool prioritises requests and how they can be escalated?
  • What kind of other factors can affect a ticket (for example breaching SLAs and the escalation from that point)?
  • If a request becomes something more complex, how does your tool allow the alteration of the request (for example, a Change)

Financial & Other Approvals

  • Demonstrate a request model that includes alternative approvals (other than immediate manager)

End-to-End Co-ordination to Closure

  • We don’t expect tools to prescribe exactly how organisations manage their Request Fulfilment processes, just as we don’t follow ITIL blindly BUT during the course of the review, we want to understand how  a request can move through its lifecycle, end-to-end.
  • We want to understand the simple (out of the box), the medium and the complex (and the related additional costs that might be involved to get an organisation there).

I think it is rare that anything is utilised completely “out-of-the-box” these days, and that organisations will always have a requirement for some level of customisation. Request Fulfilment is certainly a process that could lend itself to quite intricate customisation, to the point of over-complication.


What is your view? What have we missed?

Please leave a comment below or contact us. Similarly if you are a vendor and would like to be included in our review please contact us. Thanks, Ros.

Request Fulfilment in ITIL 2011

"ITIL 2011 sees a hefty revision for the Request Fulfilment process."

What is it?

The ITIL® Request Fulfilment process exists to fulfil Service Requests – for the most part minor changes or requests for information.

Request Fulfilment landed on us in ITIL v3 when there was now a clear distinction between service interruptions (Incidents) and requests from users (Service Requests for example password resets)

And what does ITIL 2011 give us?

ITIL 2011 sees a hefty revision for the Request Fulfilment process.  There are more detailed sub-processes involved with steps broken down logically.

Now, I like me a good diagram and finally Request Fulfilment gets a decent flow and most importantly the linkages to other interfaces to the other lifecycle stages are included in a lot more detail.

Perhaps the most impressive thing is far more detail in the section about the Critical Success Factors (CSFs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that have been included.  Having experienced the hilarity of definitions of over-complex metrics – this is a good starter for 10, straight off the bat and of course can be added to suit an organisation’s needs.

But what does all this REALLY mean?

It means nothing if the best practices cannot be applied and adapted into real life.

  • Now we all know that at the back of a Service Request is a process that will step through authorisation, any interfaces to other processes etc., but the business value is to provide a quick and easy way for end users to get new services.
  • A mechanism to reduce costs through centralising functions.
  • Understand what other stages of the lifecycles are needed alongside Request Fulfilment – this does not happen in glorious isolation.

Is there such a magic bullet?

The simple answer?  NO!

But there are a few things that should be taken into consideration when looking at implementing Request Fulfilment (often as part of an integrated solution).

Let’s look at the easy stuff first:

  • Look at starting nice and easily with simple Request Models that will happen often, and can be met with a consistently repeatable solution.
  • Look at what kind of options you are going to put in front of the user.  Most people are now familiar with the type of shopping basket type approach through the internet so offer them a familiar interface, with as many options that can be pre-defined
  • Make sure that the different stages of the request can be tracked – the purpose is two-fold:
    • End users don’t get (as) ratty
    • Reporting and routing can be made simpler and more accurate with meaningful status definitions

Getting the hang of this…

  • Give some thought to how you want to prioritise and escalate requests depending on their complexity to fulfil, and again pre-define where possible.

Let’s do the whole shebang…

  • Eventually there will be a need to include financial approval(s) which in turn means sticky things like deputies and budget limits
  • There may also be external interactions with fulfilment groups dealing with procurement

Back up a second – who now?

  • Give some thought to which groups are going to be involved.  In my experience it is sometimes easier to work backwards, from the outcome to the selection and fill out all the bits you need in between.
  • Easy stuff is most likely taken care of by a single, often centralised group – typically the Service Desk, or in some cases specific co-ordinators who work at that Level One tier.
  • Decide if your existing resolver groups are appropriate for some fulfilment tasks or where you need specialised groups and build your workflows to suit.  Typically the first-line support group handling the request always has the ability to track the progress of the request, and is the point of contact for the end users.

Is that it?

  • Whether your request is a simple How Do I to a Hand craft me a personally engraved and gift wrapped iPad the request needs a defined closure procedure.  There has to be a mechanism to validate that the request has been fulfilled satisfactorily before it is closed.

How do we go about deciding what works and what doesn’t?

There is something I will state, use and promote constantly, and that is the use of scenarios.  These are invaluable whether you are testing a deployment, performing user-acceptance testing with a client, or whether you are just evaluating products.

  • Decide on what criteria you need to establish your end goal
  • Break them down to manageable steps, and here the ITIL 2011 activities and points are very nicely presented to give a starter for ten
  • For a product review, for example, look at how easy it is to configure – can I do this myself using demos on the web, or do I need a proper demo on site/webinar with a tool administrator
  • As an aside, what kind of administrative skill is required for your tool of choice?

This is a doddle, no?

A number of things can kill an otherwise promising and/or straightforward deployment:

  • Poorly defined scope – People wanting the process to do too much or not really grasping the idea that Service Request models should be pre-definable, and consistently repeatable.
  • Poorly Designed User Interfaces – The best back end workflows in the world will not help you if the user interface makes no sense to an end user.  Too often I have banged my head against a desk with developers who love how THEY understand what is being asked, so who cares if some desk jockey can’t – they can ring the help desk, right?  WRONG!  Missing the entire point of the business benefits for removing the need to drive everything through 1-2-1 service desk interaction.
  • What is worse than a front end you need a degree in programming to work through?  Haphazard back end workflow that twists and turns like a snake with a stomach upset.  Just keep it simple.  Once it starts to get super-complex, then really ask yourself is this a minor request or something that requires specific change planning.
  • Make sure your tool of choice is capable of measuring meaningful metrics.  Remember, there are lies, damned lies and statistics.  What are you looking to improve, why, what is the benefit, and what can it lead to in terms of Continual Service Improvement

There are, of course, interactions that I haven’t gone into any great level of detail in this article; but do look at one of our latest articles by  Rob England has already touched on this in: What is a Service Catalogue? here on The ITSM Review.

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