Knowledge14, steal like an artist

In this article, I hope to capture my thoughts and experiences from Knowledge14, the ServiceNow annual conference. See an early preview from the first day here [Live from Knowledge14 – ServiceNow preview Kanban visual tasks boards]

Steal like an artist

Fred Luddy, CPO and Founder of ServiceNow, quoted Steve Jobs during his keynote:

“Good artists copy, great artists steal” ~ Steve Jobs

Fred was referring to the creative process and innovation. He stated that in the last decade 70% of the Fortune 1,000 consisted of new companies. The life span of companies at the top is getting shorter, the churn is getting faster.

Big ‘ole corporates don’t stick around like they used to. To survive companies must innovate or die. A key part of the innovative process is to be inspired by, mash-up, and build upon previous work.

Creative Destruction - 70% of Fortune 1000 consists of new companies in last decade.
Creative Destruction – 70% of Fortune 1000 consists of new companies in last decade.

The Penny Drops

I attended the ServiceNow London forum last year when Frank Slootman urged us to “Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way”. For a company whose market valuation and pitch to investors is based on expanding outside IT, the company demonstrated precious little leadership on how a company might actually get there.  It was clearly the customers doing the leading.

In the short time since those forums the penny seems to have dropped. Knowledge included a number of initiatives to empower customers and encourage them to borrow (steal) the best ideas from each other and build solutions outside the IT department:

  • Pointing customers in the right direction with a Service Taxonomy
  • ServiceNow Share – “an online exchange where customers and partners can upload and download applications and development content.”
  • Special interest groups (Human Resources, Portfolio Project Management, Higher Education, US Public Sector and Life Sciences Cloud Initiative)

Freddy Luddy launching 'Share' the ServiceNow App exchange
Freddy Luddy launching ‘Share’ the ServiceNow App exchange 

The Business Engagement Managers Playbook

In terms of new features announced at Knowledge14, my personal highlights were the Kanban visual tasks boards and new features to assist Demand Management.

I can see the Demand Management features being a great toolbox and playbook for Business Engagement Managers or those tasked with direct interaction and responsiveness to business requirements. In theory – you could collect all suggestions and develop them right through to delivered services. But also include the reality check of business impact, risk and resource constraints.

Showcasing demand management - assessing and prioritizing potential projects by size and risk
Business Engagement Managers Playbook: Showcasing demand management – assessing and prioritizing potential projects by size and risk

ServiceNow Partner News

  • Cloud Sherpas delivers cloud services around Salesforce, Google and ServiceNow. ServiceNow is said to be the fastest growing of the three business units (1,000th project completed). The company also announced a further $12M investment in the business.
  • Fruition Partners were showcasing the launch of their App Factory with some specialist solutions for the Healthcare market. The ‘Healthcare Management Suite’ is a set of apps built on the ServiceNow platform with Healthcare standards and compliance in mind. More info here.
  • KPMG stated that they had historically worked with alternative service management software providers but were now a 100% ServiceNow business. To support their growing function the firm announced a ServiceNow centre of excellence in Denver, Colorado.
  • Platf4Mation picked up the ServiceNow 2014 Innovation of the year award for their Facility Management App, as voted for by the Keynote attendees.
Fred Luddy and Craig McDonogh from ServiceNow awarding the 2014 Innovation of the year award to some snappily dressed duded from Plat4mation
Fred Luddy and Craig McDonogh from ServiceNow awarding the 2014 Innovation of the year award to some snappily dressed dudes from Plat4mation

Was it worth it?

As an analyst, it’s all too easy to become cynical of events, marketing hype and stock price hysteria in the technology space. With your nose pressed close to the industry effluent pipe, an observer can become jaded from the sheer volume of bilge.

Whilst Knowledge14 had it’s fair share of chest beating and hyperbole, I found the energy and enthusiasm from the event infectious. Cranky Frank the CEO gave us the company perspective and spoon-fed cute lines to journalists, the main man Fred Luddy entertained us and painted a vision of the future – but for me the main event was the attendees.

There was a genuine energy about the place as IT departments were beginning to realize they could perhaps become an enabler again and take a seat at the table of the business. The realization that ITIL and other frameworks are important, but they should be the wiring under the board – not what the customer experiences.

Don’t get me wrong, the streets of San Francisco were not paved with ITSM gold, organizations attending were still facing the same old incident-problem-change daily grind and curve balls as the rest of us – but there is a light at the end of tunnel.

Was it worth it? Yes. I thoroughly enjoyed it and thanks for the ServiceNow team for looking after us at a very well organized event.

Knowledge 15 is April 19 – 23, 2015

PS – I recommend a good book on creative stealing: “Steal like an artist” by Austin Kleon.)

Steal

Review: TOPdesk

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch TOPdesk adds Kanban-type resource scheduling to add a new dimension onto Incident and Problem Management.
Strengths
  • The Plan Board incorporates a Kanban style approach to scheduling tasks to help drive efficient resourcing
  • Keywords trigger standard solutions, linking into a two-tier Knowledge base (for Analysts and End Users)
  • Task Board for individual support staff can be sliced and diced by most time critical events
Weaknesses
  • Sometimes “over-customisability” can rear its head in reviews – just because it is possible to have 7 different priorities does not mean it is a good practice to do so.
  • Some terminology (which can be changed with a little more detailed knowledge) can be a little cumbersome – for example Objects for Assets.
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, TOPdesk’s typical market is to customers of between 500-2000 employees (Small – Medium/Large)They are classified for this review as:Specialised Service Management Suite – Offering ITIL v3 processes and proprietary discovery tooling.The offer integration to Monitoring tools.

Commercial Summary

Vendor TOPdesk
Product TOPdesk Enterprise
Version reviewed V5.1
Date of version release December 2012
Year founded Founded in 1993.£22,000,000.00 Turnover in 2012
Customers 3150 approximate TOPdesk Enterprise customers, > 5,000+ unique customers in total.
Pricing Structure TOPdesk offer a SaaS and an on-premise solution.The license bracket is based on the number of end users supported and an unlimited amount of users of the system.With regards to on-premise pricing, annual maintenance is 15% of the one-off value per annum.Within the SaaS subscription all fees for support, technical maintenance and hosting are included.
Competitive Differentiators
  • Truly flexible commercial model with an end user license bracket that allows for an unlimited amount of operators to be registered for free.
  • Genuine ability to deliver a Shared Service Centre where multiple departments may combine budgets and expertise to support end users at no additional cost.
  • Human Resource Plan Board functionality.
Additional Features TOPdesk strongly believes in Shared Services in which multiple teams work together to deliver services to end users.

For this reason TOPdesk offers out-of-the-box solutions to support processes like, but not limited to, Building Management, Visitor Registration, Planned Preventative maintenance, HR services or Room booking management.

TOPdesk’s framework is delivered with full advanced reporting wizard, dash board, task board and plan board which will provide our customers with the tools they need to manage their processes.

topdesklogoIndependent Review

The jewel in the crown of the TOPdesk solution is the incorporation of Kanban style resourcing, and some intelligent linkage of solutions and workarounds to categories and key word matching.

A while back, I wrote an article reviewing Kanban capability, but concluded that if it was standalone, it would be a level of additional work that was not practical.

To bring that functionality into the tool makes it a very powerful addition to a suite.

The basics of Incident and Problem Management are all there, and they use Wizards to try and speed up the process for the service desk.

Their deployment model is very much set-up and train-the-trainer rather than on-going consultancy, and as such the product is highly configurable.

As a result initial best practice-based implementation lies with the consultants – and unlike other vendors, it was not immediately clear the level of their experience and knowledge – so it could be easy to make the tool quite unwieldy, quite quickly.

Other little niggles lie around some of the terminology – referring to assets as Objects, and requiring a back-end change to alter that.

But all-in-all the tool was an appealing offering, with a unique selling point in the Plan Board.

Logging & Categorisation

There are some nice features here for calls being logged – where a service desk analyst can take a number of details and pull up any information on the caller, including any assets associated with them, and all calls logged by them.

It is also possible to create a custom field indicating the level of IT Competency (for example) helping the service desk to build a profile of the person they are dealing with.

Once the analyst identifies the call as an incident to be logged, all the initial notes are pulled into the new record.

From a self-service point of view, TOPdesk try and limit the amount of information initially asked for, and on an initial save more fields are activated – showing target date for resolution, priority (linked back to categorisation) and displaying any actions that have been taken to resolve the issue.

Tracking and Escalations

TOPdesk provide a capability to link key words (for example specific error codes) to categories and based on the category, can have the records automatically assigned to a specialist.

Records can be sent to a general queue to await assignment.

TOPdesk have incorporated a Kanban style scheduling structure within the tool – the Plan Board.

Using this board, all support analysts can be listed, and tasks assigned to them displayed.

In a single view, it is easy to see who is currently over-loaded with work, and who has capacity to take on more work.

It accommodates office absences, and shift availability.

In addition, Task Boards exist for the individual analysts, and can be listed in terms of SLAs and target resolution times.

As SLAs are being breached, TOPdesk use Elapsed Time Triggers to send automated emails.

Prioritisation

The Impact and Urgency matrices shown used business language to help drive the priority for an incident but in the demo, there was an abundance of potential priorities.

There are none provided out of the box, and consultants who assist with the deployment come with standard practices to help customers in their implementations.

Closure

The terminology works on an incident being completed, and can be closed once concurrence has been given.

Major Incident/Problems

Within any incident record, TOPdesk offer a Major Incident tab where the incident can either be marked as the first incident in the chain or other incidents can be linked to a master.

Once multiple incidents are linked, there is a Closure Wizard which will close multiple records on resolution of the major incident.

In terms of Problem Management, in a similar way, multiple records can be linked to a new or major problem in a cart-based selection process.

It should be noted that here, the Impact and Urgency reflects more IT terminology (although this can be configured).

TOPdesk use a concept of Partial Problems where different groups can play a part in substantiating a problem, as part of determining the root cause.

This concept also exists for Incidents.

Known errors can be created after that point, and links back to their Standard Solutions to show that there is a workaround, which can be triggered by keywords during the logging phase.

Conclusion

TOPdesk offers some innovative ways to manage Incidents and Problems, namely using the Plan Board, but also go some way to make the service desk role a little easier with the linkage of the standard solutions to key word matching and tying those to the categories.

The product is extensively customisable, but perhaps some care should be taken to maybe show that off in combination with simpler best practices.

TOPdesk Customers

Screenshots

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

From the TOPdesk Brochure

  • Wide  range of ITIL®-based modules for all your business processes
  • TOPdesk’s Plan Board gives you all the information you need. Stay on top of your employees’ availability and workload, and assign tasks with ease.
  • The Task Board displays all your tasks in one overview, enabling you to see your calls, change activities, operational activities and services at a glance.

In Their Own Words:

TOPdesk makes ITIL aligned service management software for IT, Facilities Management, and eHRM help desks. Our award-winning solution helps you process questions, complaints and malfunctions. Optimize your services with a user-friendly application, experienced consultants and expert support. Raising your service levels and reducing your workload has never been easier. TOPdesk is an international leader in cutting-edge Service Management solutions and standardized ITIL software.

Our unrivalled integration, implementations and support is tried and trusted across the Service Management industry.

  • 5,000+ organizations use TOPdesk
  • We are located in the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Brazil and Hungary
  • We are one of the top 5 Service Management software providers worldwide
  • We employ over 450+ FTE professionals worldwide

Further Information

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.