Incident Management Group Test 2016 – The Results

This group test is a review of software products and vendors in the ‘Incident Management’ market area. Our remit was to explore how toolsets can support and optimise the Incident Management process.

Incident Management Overview

Incident Management is a key part of the ITSM Software Market – think about it – what organisation doesn’t do Incident Management? Incident Management is one of the most visible processes in the ITIL lifecycle. The aim of Incident Management is to restore usual service to customers as quickly as possible and with as little adverse impact whilst making sure nothing is lost, ignored or forgotten about. Can you imagine what would happen if end users couldn’t raise Incidents or contact the Service Desk in the event of a crisis? I reckon it would be 5 minutes max before total chaos.

When I’m explaining the Service Desk and Incident Management in ITIL training; I refer to them as the superheroes of the ITSM world. Let’s face it; they’re constantly firefighting, at the sharp end of the user community if something’s gone wrong as well as being under targets that would make lesser beings hide under their desk whilst mainlining vodka.

Frontline service desk and incident management, heroes of the ITSM world
Frontline service desk and incident management, heroes of the ITSM world!

Incident Management is a rockstar process and deserves a rockstar tool to support it so without further ado, let’s get started!

Customer Numbers

  • Alemba (UK) – 300+
  • Atlassian (Australia) –  15,000+
  • Cherwell Software (USA) – 1,000+
  • HPE – Hewlett Packard Enterprise (USA) – 1,500+
  • InvGate (Argentina) – 3,000+
  • ManageEngine (India) – 100,000+
  • Marval Software (UK) – 500+
  • Matrix42 (Germany) – 3,000+
  • Nexthink (Switzerland) – 600+
  • Summit Software (India) – 100+

Incident Management Group Test – The Players

Alemba Ltd.

Strong Incident Management offering which puts the end user experience at the heart of the tool.

Funky user interface using bubbles to highlight workflow and orbitor tool that aids the user by highlighting available actions.

Facebook style notifications alert users and technicians if the ticket has been updated with a handy “add me” option for Major Incidents.

Special module for displaying analytics to Service Desk screens – great idea that does away with the need for manual processes and faffing around with USB keys.

Atlassian

Solid Incident Management functionality. Atlassian are Incident Management ninjas; they aim to get customers up and running within one – two weeks of buying the tool.

Integration with Hipchat for easy chat and video calls.

Seamless integration with other JIRA products so that the customer has a consistent user experience.

Cherwell Software

User friendly user interface with Outlook integration to make it easier of users to log tickets.

Xmatters compatibility gives it advanced SMS gateway, telephony stats, monitoring and fault tolerance functionality.

Thriving customer community; FAQ’s, “how to” guides and oodles of free apps.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)

Awesome landing page that empowers everyone from end users to senior management to customise and view reports.

Revamped reporting module that completely removes the need for any Crystal Reports faffery. Relationships clear and specific; instead of vague linked records, tool delivers meaningful linkages such as “fixed by Change” or “caused Incident”.

Big data is used to power the Knowledge Base; fixes and workarounds are automatically suggested and hot topics can identify Incident trends and proactively raise Problem records.

InvGate

Brilliant customer focused ethos: “Service Desks are like snowflakes, no two are alike”.

User interface modelled on common social media platforms making it easy for end users to navigate.

Service Catalogue actively encourages end user to use the self-help route and gives a virtual high five message for every Incident logged.

Market leading gamification; kudos points for adding Knowledge Base article, merit badges for resolving Incidents within SLA and mini quests to encourage healthy competition between Service Desk Analysts.

ManageEngine

ManageEngine user their superpowers for good; free PinkVerified Incident & Knowledge Management tools available via the ManageEngine website.

Thriving user community; customers have access to over 90 products and free tools.

User friendly interface; users can chose from raising an Incident or a Service Request and FAQs are on the right hand side of the screen meaning that help and further information is easily accessible.

Impressive use of predefined categories and email integration – tickets can be auto logged and updated without duplication of effort.

Marval Software

Outstanding Incident Management functionality.

Just like Starfleet, Marval have a prime directive, theirs is to enable people to be as productive as possible as quickly as possible.

Special instructions field part of every customer entry.

Each Knowledge entry has a set of work instructions, useful links, tools and diagnostic scripts.

Integrated ITSM process driven solution which is service and customer centric underpinned by a service portfolio.

Brilliant use of Near Field Communications, you can log an Incident simply by zapping a smart tag.

Slick Major Incident process that closely links into Problem, Change and IT Service Continuity Management.

Use their powers for good out in industry, regular contributors to the itSMF and Service Desk Institute.

Matrix42

Initial landing screen is very similar to your standard Microsoft offerings so most users will find the familiarity of the dashboard makes it easier to navigate.

Analyst screen easy to customise.

The tool can be configured to integrate with CTI systems so you can start a phone call and have it added to the audit diary.

Fab use of automation so you can use workflows to schedule routine tasks like server reboots.

Concurrence management is in place so if more than one person is updating the Incident at the same time, the data is merged and nothing is lost.

Nexthink

A vendor that loves talking to customers and end users!

Impressive IT analytics tool to drive proactive Incident Management.

Initial dashboard gives you an immediate, real time view of business critical services.

Automation drives out white noise and focuses on anomalies; enabling Service Desk Analysts to focus on the most important issues to the business.

The end user analytics support asset tracking and licensing monitoring.

As part of the product training, Nexthink advises Service Desk analysts to spend the time saved by automation to go out and talk to users; maximising value and improving the relationship between IT and the rest of the business. Love it when a vendor recognises that the end user is everything!

SUMMIT Software

Easy to navigate user interface – when an end user logs on to raise an Incident they can see their five most recently logged Incidents along with status information.

Analyst view flexible and easy to customise.

Service Request module is directly accessible from the Incident screen and is clear and fully configurable. Up to ten levels of approval can be used which to me covers every possible scenario.


Deep Dives


The Group Test Process

It was really important to me that the group test was fair. Each vendor was asked to fill in a questionnaire and then I had an individual session with each supplier to demo the tool and to ask lots of geeky questions. All the vendor presentations were slick and professional; it really helped me when vendors went out of their way to tailor the session to differentiators and functionality that was value driven.

Key Benefits of Incident Management

ITIL defines Incident Management as “the process responsible for managing the lifecycle of all Incidents. Incident management ensures that normal service operation is restored as quickly as possible and the business impact is minimized.” An effective Incident Management tool is a fundamental part of delivering Incident Management to the rest of the organisation.

In general, Incident Management is made up of the following steps with monitoring, communication, ownership and tracking carried out by the Service Desk:

  • Incident detection – something falls over, has performance issues or isn’t as it should be
  • Logging and recording; capturing all the details in an Incident record
  • Categorisation and prioritisation – ensuring that the Incident is categorised against the correct service and has the appropriate priority set by impact and urgency
  • Initial diagnosis -first go at resolving the Incident. If the Incident is resolved by the Service Desk at this point it is known as a first time fix.
  • Escalation -there are two types; Functional, where it goes to the next level of support eg from first line to second line support and Hierarchical, where something gets escalated to a team leader or manager.
  • Investigation and further diagnosis – where we figure out what’s gone wrong and how to fix it.
  • Resolution & Recovery -we’ve fixed the issue – happy days – normal service has been restored!
  • Closure -ensuring the end user is happy and closing off the Incident record with resolution details.

The following are some of the benefits of using a dedicated Incident Management toolset:

  • Models and templates to ensure all Incidents and Service Requests are handled consistently
  • Central point of capture so that nothing is lost, ignored or forgotten about.
  • Better adherence to SLAs, OLAs and UCs due to toolset monitoring.
  • Major Incidents workflow; especially with automated communication workflows.
  • Better results for Availability and Capacity Management; if Incidents are logged and managed effectively; they will also be resolved more effectively meaning that downtime and performance issues are minimised.
  • Increased Configuration Management accuracy; the Service Desk can check and confirm CI data when logging Incidents.
  • Enhanced management information regarding service quality due to reporting dashboards
  • Increased customer satisfaction.

Market Observations

From carrying out this group test, it quickly became clear that the Incident Management toolset game has been well and truly upped. Recent developments have seen a number of technical innovations that have allowed increased automation, faster delivery and quicker benefit realisation. The areas of differentiation in the market are therefore defined in the following terms:

  • End to end approach- the days of silos or everyone working in their own little bubbles are well and truly over. The most effective tools are aligned with other ITSM modules such as Configuration, Change, Problem, Service Level and IT Service Continuity Management.
  • User-friendly navigation -the most effective tools had the user journey modelled on common social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. By making it easier to log Incidents and Service Requests not only are we encouraging our customers to buy in to Incident Management, we’re getting them back up and running quicker via self-help and Knowledge Management.
  • Flexible workflow -there is no one size fits all. A start up IT organisation with less than twenty employees will have different requirements than a global financial institution with thousands of employees so flexibility is key.
  • Automation – models, templates and workflows all take the pain out of logging and managing Incidents and anything that makes the Major Incident process less of a nightmare or avoids someone having to get out of bed to reboot a server (automated task management) has got to be a winner!
  • Gamification – we work in IT – we are techies, geeks and engineers saving the world one Windows update at a time so work should absolutely be fun! Not only does gamification drive engagement from both end customers and support personnel; by rewarding people with fun badges and bragging rights in the office, we drive up productivity as well.
  • Big Data – a recent US study estimates that poor data quality costs US organizations over $600 billion a year. Missing, incorrect or out of date information is completely unacceptable in a service driven environment. Enter big data analytics which streamlines the Incident Management process, promotes self-service / self-help via Knowledge Management and allows users to log Incidents via smart tags without a single inbound call to the Service Desk.
  • Value driven approach – ever since the launch of ITIL V3; value has been the name of the game. By doing Incident Management we are committing to our customers. This commitment isn’t applying lip service, talking a good talk or even asking “have you tried switching it off and then on again?” on loop. This is about delivering our customers the service that they deserve. By committing to Incident Management via a solid process and toolset; we’re saying to the business – we care.

Strengths & Weaknesses

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Best Overall: Marval Software LimitedIM Best Overall Winner 2016_Marvel

Awesome tool. Everything about it was lovely to use both from an end user and a techie experience. It’s apparent from working with Marval that they’ve spent years sat beside Service Desk analysts and support techies watching them work, seeing the pressures they’re under and figuring out ways in which the tool can make life easier. It’s slick, user friendly and enterprise focused and a fantastic option if you want to take your Service Desk, support teams and Incident Management to the next level.  Some of my favourite things about Marval are the following:

  • The user information: everything from service information and CI data from the CMS to locational info (with Google Maps) and a special instructions section (FYI; my special instructions would be please send coffee and chocolate)
  • Automation: keyword lookups for suggested models and templates
  • The Knowledge Base: each Knowledge entry has a set of work instructions, useful links, tools and diagnostic scripts. The idea behind this according to Marval is that this information can be pre-populated by second and third line techies.
  • Near Field Communication or NFC: if you happen to walk by a jammed printer, you can let the Service Desk know simply by zapping the label – how cool is that?
  • Slick, effective Major Incident process with solid links to Change, Problem and IT Service Continuity Management.

Marval is fantastic option if you need your Incident Management process to be customer and service centric, bulletproof and mature so we’ve given them the Batman award for best overall Incident Management tool for this group test.

Best Innovation: InvGate Inc.

Gamification is used to fantastic effect to make Incident Management easy, scalable and fun whilst the user interface makes for an efficient, positive customer journey. Some of my favourite things about InvGate are the following:

  • IM Best Innovation 2016_InvGateThe login screen can be configured for single sign on, linking into Active Directory / Windows authentication and also works with Mac machines.
  • All the major navigation buttons are placed at the top of the screen and a social interaction log (similar to the Facebook alerts function) can be expanded to view recent interactions between the Service Desk and the end user.
  • If a user goes down the self-service route – they get a really cool “Kudos” message for successfully logging the Incident. It’s a lovely touch that gives a virtual high five to the user for rocking self-help.
  • Market leading gamification: kudos points for adding Knowledge Base article, merit badges for resolving Incidents within SLA and mini quests to encourage healthy competition between Service Desk Analysts.

InvGate is fantastic option to get up and running quickly; not just for ITSM but for other functions such as HR and Facilities. Gamification and a user centric interface makes this effective and fun to use so we’ve given them the Star Wars award for best innovation for this group test.

Best Use of Analytics: HPE

IM Best Use of Analytics 2016_HPIndustry leading use of Big Data analytics makes HPE the standout in this area. Some of my favourite things about HPE are the following:

  • Fully configurable landing page and introduction screen
  • The revamped reporting capability: point and click, oodles of config options and no complicated third party reporting software needed
  • The chat functionality: the system will even suggest people that could help resolve the related Incident!
  • The big data powered Knowledge Base with smart task management and keyword lookups
  • Heat mapping to view trends and anomalies

HPE is a fantastic product for large organisations. The tool has a comprehensive engine behind it that can manage any enterprise level ITSM task it encounters. Big Data analytics drive efficiency savings and support a move to more proactive service model without compromising on functionality or management information so we’ve given them the Spiderman award for best use of analytics for this group test.

IM Best For Proactivity 2016_Nexthink (3)Best for Proactivity: Nexthink

A powerhouse of proactivity. Here are some of my favourite things about the tool:

  • A new approach and a proactive way to do Incident Management – can notify users of a fault and work on a fix without a single inbound call to the Service Desk
  • Landing page gives a clear view of the operational status of all business critical services
  • Designed to remove white noise so Service Desk Analysts can focus on “the serious stuff”
  • Part of their training is to encourage analysts to spend the time saved by automation to go out and talk to users; which can only be good right?

Nexthink empowers the Service Desk and makes Incident Management proactive so we’ve given them the Superman award for proactivity for this group test.

Using their powers for good award: ManageEngine

IM Best Using Powers for Good 2016_ManageEngineManageEngine are definitely on the light side of the force with their free PinkVerified Incident & Knowledge Management tool available for free from their website. Here are some of some of my favourite things about the tool:

  • Thriving user community
  • User friendly self Service Portal – users can raise an Incident or Service Request and browse through the FAQs
  • Multifunctional – the tool can also be used for desktop support, the deployment of software upgrades, patch management and the management of mobile devices

ManageEngine pride themselves on having a significant percentage of the functionality of the four biggest ITSM vendors, so by offering their Incident & Knowledge Management tool for free they deserve the Black Widow award for using their powers for good for this group test.


Deep Dives


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.

Image Credit

Self Service Review [2015] – The Results

logoThis is a review of software products and vendors with their products in the ‘Self Service’ market area.

Products reviewed:

1 Overview

1.1 Self Service and the ITSM Market

‘Self Service’ is a current buzzword for vendors and practitioners alike in the ITSM world.

For some time this simply referred to the process whereby users/customers could carry out some standard contact/communications activities via a portal or an Intranet page, rather than call a Service Desk. So for example, this would include: raising and tracking tickets, ordering kit and browsing FAQs and other published pieces of information relating to IT.

These are of course key functions – and most product offerings include them – and have done for some years. The context of this has changed somewhat in recent times due to the demands for better user interfaces and customer experience (no one these days wants or expects to use an old IT menu-driven ‘greenscreen’).

The capability of automation and collaboration products has also increased expectation and potential around what these types of interface can deliver and achieve, not only for IT departments and their users, but also for wider enterprise orgnaisations beyond IT.

In short, Self Service is now the entry point towards great efficiency and as a means of transformation and collaboration. It is an opportunity for IT departments to reverse their fortunes and improve their image and effectiveness, by automating repeatable and manual processes, thereby affording more time for strategy and customer engagement.

So what sorts of capabilities are available? Above and beyond the classic areas referred to above: – e.g. Ticket logging, tracking and escalating, request logging tracking and escalating:

  • Automated password resetting
  • Mobile support and facilitation
  • Automated delivery – e.g. software provisioning, product ordering, account creation
  • Non-technical interfaces for Workflow and process creation
  • Simple development of work management tools
  • Real-time collaboration and social interfaces
  • Real-time dashboards and dynamic reporting

All of these functions – particularly around ease of use and automation – are highly valued in the current market, due to the need for IT organisations to use these tools as a means of managing their work more efficiently, whilst at the same time offering a greatly improved user experience of interacting with IT – and other back office departments like HR/Finance – through familiar and easy to use interfaces.

1.2 Market Observations

Recent developments have seen a number of technical innovations that have allowed increased automation, faster delivery and provisioning, which many of the products reviewed can deliver in some form or another.

The areas of differentiation in the market are therefore defined in the following terms:

Target clients – SME, Mid-market and Enterprise, Product and vendor (e.g. Microsoft/VMware) focus.

Some products are clearly only aimed at one specific market niche, or by client size and ITSM maturity. In some areas such as product or vendor focus this is clear, although many of the SME vendors aspire to move into the Enterprise space, which may confuse and squeeze the market.

Flexibility and ease of implementation – including non-technical tailoring, ease of use/skills needed, ability to tailor without coding, vendor implementation support.

A significant focus area for many vendors centres on the ‘codeless’ capability of their products, whereby applications and workflows can be simply modified without technical skills. The level to which this is delivered is a highly useful feature given the need to implement and update portals, workflows and catalogues quickly and efficiently.

This also works well in support of ‘non-IT’ implementation – i.e. for process collaboration across internal service departments.

Complementary products and capabilities – including IT Management, automation, provisioning, security, ITSM capability.

For many buyers, particularly at the enterprise level, simply buying the ‘front end’ or self-service function (and even just ITSM functionality) is not enough.

There is a growing need to procure and implement products that go beyond process and service management, so the need to identify those with the capacity to provide or at least interface with other IT Management tools is becoming a key requirement.

1.3 Market Product Review and Comparison

In summary, LANDESK and Cherwell are seen to be the most complete solutions, with LANDESK having greater capability to deliver to the Enterprise client, whereas Cherwell has the best UI and is more suited to the upper middle market.

EasyVista and Alemba are also seen as excellent products that would fit the enterprise as well as upper mid market.

SMT-X is an excellent option for a front-end solution that can be added to existing ITSM tools for large organisations.

Cased Dimensions is a good option for bespoke solutions – based on a Microsoft System Center platform.

Atlassian and Freshservice are also excellent options for SMEs or discrete teams to get Self Service up and running, with minimum tailoring or bespoking.

 

Pros Cons Overall Review Rating
Alemba
  • Clean and fresh interface – simplified but functional
  • Technical integration and virtualized capability
  • Legacy product well regarded
  • Still being developed to compete at high end of marketSmall
    company, now independent from
  • VMware – still growing
  • Limited social and collaborative interfaces and functionality
8
Atlassian
  • Easy and simple fo use for fast implementation
  • Workload tab – nice quick view of tickets / SLAs per analyst
  • Well set up for non-IT people
  • User access limited functionality
  • Only basic workflow functions can be edited non-techlimited
    innovation or eg social interfaces
7
Cased Dimensions
  • MS focus
  • MS integration – eg with System Center
  • Lots of pre-built processes
  • MS FocusSmall company
  • Bepsoke/consultancy approach won’t work for every organisation /
    small organisations
7
Cherwell
  • Functional capability
  • UX and ease of use
  • Vendor approach and focus
  • Competition from both ends of the market
  • Capability to deliver in tier 1 – though growing in size
  • Multi-tenancy not native
9
EasyVista
  • Good standard self service functionality
  • Open, flexible, using industry tools
  • Global network of data on use and performance
  • Workflows and configurations look complex and not
    intuitive/graphical ITSM tool looks strong although slightly dated
  • May need to focus target market/position
8
Freshservice
  • Low cost
  • Simple, straightforward operability
  • Gamification
  • Limited non-tech configuration
  • Org not set up for Enterprise customers
  • Lacks some key interfaces, social, provisioning
7
BEST IN CLASS:
LANDESK
  • ITSM complete
  • User friendly to develop and manage
  • Focus on automation to improve efficiency
  • May be overkill for some smaller organisations
  • Self service not available standalone
  • Social not embedded in tool – minor
10
SMT-X
  • Clear market niche well defined – good positioning
  • Product is multi-functional/function rich
  • Professional looking – will engage non IT people
  • Company size – small
  • Not an ITSM tool – limited and reducing market as competition
    improves
  • Could improve UI for workflow/design
7

 

Target Clients Flexibility /implementation Complementary Products
Alemba Enterprise and large IT and ITSM organisations –
particularly VMware customers.
Broad level of flexibility, vendor supports
implementation
VMware product integration
Atlassian SMB, SME or teams within large orgs Limited flexibility, client drives implementation Other Atlassian products
Cased Dimensions Large IT organisations, using Microsoft Systems Center –
looking for bespoke build
Highly flexible, vendor drives build and implementation Microsoft
Cherwell Large SMEs and medium enterprise organisations Customer tailorable, vendor/partners offer
implementation support
Numerous industry products. MS Partner
EasyVista Medium to large and some enterprise organisations Good level of flexibility, vendor moving from SME to
enterprise offering
A number of established links to industry products
Freshservice SME/SMB, small enterprises Limited flexibility, client drives implementation APIs in progress – e.g. Azure
LANDESK Large/Medium and enterprise IT organisations Highly and easily flexible, Vendor offers multi-level
implementation services
Numerous LANDESK offerings and industry integrations
SMT-X Enterprise organisations and their IT and back office
functions
Flexible and configurable, Vendor supports
implementation – limited resources
Established links to ITSM tools

 

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

Review: Alemba vFire Core

This independent review is part of our Self Service Market Review.

Also participating:

Commercial Summary

Vendor Alemba Limited
Product vFire Core
Version reviewed 9.2.0
Date of version Release 2014
Year Founded 2007
Customers 350
Pricing Structure Currently vFire is sold as a perpetual licence for concurrent and dedicated agent users, the customer interface is supplied as an unlimited licence.

Review

Elevator Pitch ITSM functionality and user oriented product with simple and fresh interface.

Delivers most of the key functions and with simple intuitive editing and building capability.

Industry areas Aims to compete at enterprise level as a multi-function ITSM tool – also can provide a number of technical interfaces and views on virtualised environments – e.g. CMDB.
Unique points Alemba say their USP is their variety of plug in VMWare connectors – so they can provide technical insight and capability around highly virtualized environments.

Self Service function is provides standard-looking interface with extensive functionality.

Target market Enterprise and large IT and ITSM organisations – particularly VMware customers.

Positioned mostly at ITSM market.

Solutions/ issues solved Simple approach to ITSM – also some technical integration (in specific VMware market).
Product/vendor gaps
  • Little social interface or functionality
  • Could show more of a non-technical cross departmental builds – e.g. for HR –   but presentation is aimed at ITSM
Positives
  • Simple modern friendly interface
  • My IT world – nice simple dashboard
  •  Choice for users of logging via Service Catalogue or MY IT store
  • Extensive control and workflow integration – updating/creation drag and drop
  •  Multi-tenancy approach
  • Extensive control over KB creation and upkeep
  • Auto-provision Virtual desktop
  • Reporting – clear and simple
Negatives
  • Small company, now independent from VMware – still growing
  • Product still playing catch up in some areas as fully function rich ITSM enterprise offering
  •  Social interface missing
Overall view Looks to be a credible competitor in tier 1 and tier 2 markets – high end ITSM functionality for the enterprise.

May be playing catch up with other players in this area but the product has extensive functionality and also looks clean and quite fresh as an ITSM tool.

Vendor information

thumbnailAt Alemba we understand that effective communication between the IT Department and its end users is essential to the success of any organization. Designed with user engagement in mind, vFire Customer Portal offers a modern,attractive interface that is highly intuitive.

vFire provides:

  • self-service logging for your customers
  • a Knowledge Bank, making it easier to find solutions to known issues
  • a recognizable and intuitive Shopping Cart function
  • Service Desk performance statistics with customer friendly dashboards
  • review of Major Incidents affecting the customer organization
  • up-to-date, relevant News Bulletins
  • the ability to personalize vFire Portal to reflect corporate branding
Key Business Benefits
  • Effective communication between Service Desk and customer base
  • Efficient cost and resource management
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Fewer calls, improving the efficiency of the Service Desk
  • Fewer logged Incidents by promotion of Knowledge Bank articles.

Screenshots

 

Alemba vFire Review for Proactive Problem Management [BEST IN CLASS]

This is part of a competitive review of software vendors who offer Proactive Problem Management capabilities as part of their IT service management (ITSM) solution.

Other products reviewed:

Alemba vFire Review – Commercial Summary

Vendor Alemba Ltd
Product vFire 9.1
Version reviewed 9.1
Date of version Release 2011
Year Founded 2007
Customers 350
Pricing Structure Currently vFire is sold as a perpetual licence for concurrent and dedicated agent users, the customer interface is supplied as an unlimited licence.

Executive Summary – BEST IN CLASS for Proactive Problem Management

Elevator Pitch vFire 9.1 is a strong and uncomplicated proactive problem management solution.The solution provides advanced capabilities allowing customers to take advantage of many automated features to make problem management less painful.
Strengths
  • ‘Find causes’ functionality takes a good portion of the leg work out of troubleshooting
  • Ability to simulate an outage to show possible impact to business
  • Good visual display of CMDB showing related items and services
Weaknesses
  • While the dashboards are easy to create and contain a good choice of information they are not the best looking
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, vFire 9.1 is primarily a large-market solution

Independent Review

Alemba LogovFire has provided strong proactive problem management functionality without becoming too complicated and will appeal to those who like their tools to have that databasey look and feel.

Alemba have understood that proactive problem management is a useful and valuable process and not just somewhere to plonk all those annoying event alerts that come in. One of my favourite capabilities of vFire is the ability to set outages and use these in conjunction with rules to stop alerts being received at all. With the typical issue being that serious issues are missed due to over alerting I find this both refreshing and immensely useful and know a few people who would rip their arm off for this kind of functionality within a tool.

Additional useful functions include the ability to simulate outages to show what kind of impact to the business could be expected in the event of a outage and the one-click ‘Find Causes’ facility which shows all items and services that could be the cause of a failure. Both of these provide powerful automation and I imagine that current customers of the solution wonder how they ever managed without.

My impression of the solution is that it would be suitable for medium to large enterprise organisations of all levels of proactive problem management maturity.

General

User configuration possible for:

Forms

Tables

Workflows

Dashboards

  • Drag and drop workflow design
  • User defined dashboards
  • 188 out of the box reports available
  • Existing standard integrations with monitoring tools such as SAM and SCOM
  • Default forms and structure as basic starting point
  • Known errors and outages displayed on customer portal bulletin board
  • Easy linkage between Problems and other types of tickets (i.e. Incident)
  • Proactive solution suggestion as record details inputted
  • Implementation support available

Identification

vFire defines the difference between a reactive and proactive problem management record as:

  • Reactive – the manual creation of a problem record through a call or request being logged.
  • Proactive – the automatic creation, assignment and notification of a problem, created from either a defined criteria set and pattern recognition or generated from an external source if a problem is identified.

The Proactive Problem Management Module is underpinned by the Entity Based Relationship Model which creates on-the-fly custom queries via a dynamic sql query engine. This is polled by the Proactive Analysis service on a schedule configured as part of the analyse rule.

Proactive problems are identied on pre-defined, pattern based modelling via a simple wizard based interface. A rule to monitor either calls or requests can be automatically created when a criteria set is matched.

Criteria can include:

  • existing or new data
  • specific counts or percentage thresholds
  • attributes from calls, workflow, availability, CMDB and SLM

Selection Criteria can be as simple or complex as per business requirements using Boolean logic.

Any output from the proactive problem management module falls under the calls or workflow modules. This allows all functionality and usability of the calls and workflow modules available to entities created via the proactive problem management module, but can still be identified as an automatically generated problem and linked to entities that caused the problem’s creation

Assessment and Alerting

vFire calculates an objective risk assesment of the proactive problem by graphically displaying the CMDB architecture showing the linked CI and all affected, or partially affected CI’s and services allowing investigation by users and enabling problem managers to gauge the extent of the problem, the risk it poses and what immediate and medium term actions are required.

I was impressed that vFire goes a step further than some of the other visual assessment aids featured in this review by providing visibility of the end-to-end relationship of CIs and Services ensuring that the holistic impact of current outages can be viewed. The same mechanisms can also be used to simulate the impact if a planned outage is scheduled.

vFire is able to alert relevant users and resolver groups to a proactive problem at any point in the Problem Lifecycle, (create/edit, resolve, close) via the configuration of rules within the solution with similar mechanisms in place to manually add/remove users or groups at any point in the problem lifecycle.

Implementation  

vFire provides the ability to link records to each other with one click. The solution enables the parent record to cascade updates such as status changes to all linked child records.

Attachments can be added to Problem records and stored as a linked object of the Problem record. There is no limitation to the attachment file type.

The status, or any attribute of a Problem can be set when it is initially logged and then falls under standard calls functionality where call status (e.g. open, in progress, resolved, closed) can be selected at any point in the Problem’s lifecycle.

Availability of CIs and Services associated with a Problem record can have their availability tracked. This includes any scheduled downtime, the targeted availability of the CI or Service, any planned or unplanned outages and the overall performance of the CI or Service against targeted metrics. Failure management is essential for any reliable operation and I believe that vFire have provided good capabilities for doing so.

Auditing and Accountability

vFire has a number of escalation levels prior to a SLA breach occuring. These are displayed graphically on the call, i.e. red for breach, and on each escalation and recipients can be configured to receive a breach notification. Recipients can be a user, a group or another stakeholder.

The solution contains the ability to suggest Knowledge Base articles and Known Error information that may relate to a proactive problem record via the Service Window which is available in all call windows. This provides real-time calculations based on the calls information and looks for similar records.

A matching matrix is provided which will show potentially matched items based on a number of criteria such as the linked CI or Service.

All Problem report data is retained in the database once resolved or closed

In Summary

vFire provides very good functionality for users with all levels of proactive problem management maturity.

vFire provides more automation than most of the other solutions reviewed and goes the extra mile with regard to fault finding and diagnosis via it’s graphical interface. I believe that this solution would be a good option for most medium to large enterprise organisations.

In Their Own Words:

vFire is an Enterprise level IT Service Management Software tool made by Alemba. As the successor to VMware’s Service Manager product (formerly infraEnterprise), Alemba’s vFire has inherited over 20 years of industry knowledge and offers a truly innovative User Interface that puts customer experience front and centre.

vFire offers support for implementing and delivering ITIL best practices. vFire provides out-of-the-box ITIL functionality for all major ITIL processes including: Incident, Request Fulfilment, Problem, Service Level, Knowledge, Change, Release & Deployment, Service Configuration & Asset, Service Catalog and Availability Management.

Key features:

  • Mould the system to your own requirements with flexible configuration options and a powerful screen designer.
  • Easily deploy an integrated, actionable Service Catalog that aligns IT activities to business services.
  • Publicize Service expectations and reduce the impact of service outages on business operations.
  • Effortlessly discover and map inter-dependencies between infrastructure components, applications, and business services, across both physical and virtual environments through Federated CMDB connectors.
  • Monitor and report performance against Service Level Agreements and Service Availability targets, to demonstrate the value IT provides to the business leveraging third party event management tools.
  • Easily model and automate your organization’s business processes in a powerful workflow builder which can be used to automate any IT or non-IT processes.
  • Ensure processes are carried out in a consistent, best practice manner that adhere to audit and compliance requirements.
  • Ensure that ITIL processes implemented are tailored to meet your site specific needs

Screenshots

Assessment Criteria: Proactive Problem Management Product Review

In August of this year, we will be kicking off our product review dedicated to “Proactive Problem Management”, the use of ITSM technology that enables organizations to practice proactive or pre-emptive problem management.

Which vendor will win when it comes to proactive problem management?
Which vendor will win when it comes to proactive problem management?

Overview

The aim of this review is to showcase best of breed ITSM software in use outside the IT department, highlight key competitive differentiators and provide readers of The ITSM Review with impartial market intelligence to enable informed purchasing decisions.

Previously published product reviews include:

Also coming soon: Outside IT.

Assessment Criteria 

This review will support prospective buyers with their selection process by providing features to consider when selecting ITSM systems and highlighting key competitive differentiators between suppliers.

Proactive Problem Management – if problem management is concerned with addressing the root cause of incidents, then proactive problem management is the systems and techniques to address these incidents before they occur and cause service disruption, or reduce or eliminate recurring incidents.

This review looks at the technology to assist organizations take a proactive step towards managing incidents and problems and explore problems before they results in incidents.

A problem is a problem, whether it has caused an incident yet or not” – Rob England, “Proactive Problem Management

Main Topic Areas

  • Managing the lifecycle of problems
  • Identifying problems
  • Solving problems, root causes and problem solving methodologies
  • Known errors / managing work in progress / CSI
  • Integrations, monitoring and triggers

Solutions that do not include all of the criteria above will not necessarily score badly – the criteria simply define the scope of areas will be covered. The goal is to highlight strengths and identify differences, whilst placing every vendor in the best light possible.

Please note: The assessment criteria are just a starting point; they tend to flux and evolve as we delve into solutions and discover unique features and leading edge innovation. Identifying key competitive differentiators is a higher priority than the assessment criteria.

Confirmed Participants

Vendors who wish to participate in this “Proactive Problem Management” product review should contact us directly. We also welcome feedback from readers on their experience with their use of ITSM tools and proactive problem management (although this feedback will not directly impact the review).

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