Following the success of our recent IT Asset Management events program we are very pleased to announce our very own series of events here at The ITSM Review, beginning with ‘Transforming User Experience – Enterprise Service Management and Self Service’ Seminar at the BCS in central London.
In a nutshell:The Transforming User Experience – Enterprise Service Management and Self Service expert led seminar will highlight how the use of self service and automation can help IT departments to focus on key business priorities.
Helping Customer Help Themselves
Do you want to ensure your team or department is viewed as a valued provider and business enabler? This event focuses on how tools and techniques used in IT can be utilised across organisations and enterprises to build real collaboration, improve efficiency and quality of work.
This free* seminar, led by ITSM authority Barclay Rae, will provide practitioners with access to key knowledge and practical guidance on ITSM, networking/interaction and the opportunity to discuss issues with industry peers, together with access to recent ITSM Review Group Test content on Enterprise Service Management/Outside IT and Self Service.
This is an extraordinary opportunity to explore the current challenges of 2-speed ITSM together with practical examples of how to re-invent the IT department using self-service, automation, Enterprise Service Management and positive transformation from with one of ITSM’s leading professionals.
*Free to attend, however cancellations charges apply.
Who: The ITSM Review
What: Transforming User Experience – Enterprise Service Management and Self Service
When: 6th March 2015
Where: BCS Offices, The Strand / Covent Garden, Central London
SITS ITSM Contributor of the Year 2014, Barclay Rae is an experienced consultant, mentor and business manager. With over 25 years working in the industry & upwards of 500 ITSM projects under his belt, you can be sure that his latest seminar will be packed full of practical & proven tips & tricks.
His work as a consultant, mentor and ITSM analyst have put him in high demand at industry conferences globally with appearances at SITS, itSMF, Pink Elephant, Fusion, BCS etc & we are thrilled to have him leading this seminar.
Transforming User Experience – Enterprise Service Management & Self Service will draw from Barclay’s wealth of experience & recent market research, along with practical examples, to help delegates use strategic direction and recognise end-user opportunities to improve their ITSM.
I have noticed recently during my travels with EasyVista, that Hotel staff have begun to offer two or three WIFI codes on check-in, in recognition of the fact that we are all carrying multiple devices. Like sheep and rats, devices connected to the Internet outnumber humans.
The number of objects connected to the Internet actually surpassed humans back in 2008. According to Cisco 12.5 billion devices were connected in 2010 and they predict 25BN devices by 2015 and 50BN by 2020. Nowadays the average professional might be connected via their phone, tablet and PC. In a few years time you might also add their home thermostat, fridge, home media centre, home surveillance system, health monitoring system and so on.
The Internet of Things
This growing trend of everyday objects sending and receiving data over the Internet is known as the Internet of things or industrialized Internet.
Sensors can be embedded everywhere and programmed to either communicate with us, or communicate with each other.
Machine-to-Machine Communications (M2M)
RFID chips have led the way in devices communicating data about themselves – but this has been surpassed by the incredibly low cost and ease of access of simply providing devices with WIFI connectivity and management control with a cheap smart phone app.
In the absence of a usable WIFI connection, many devices can use a simple mobile phone SIM card to communicate with the wider world. M2M is a huge growth area for the mobile telecommunications industry, especially as connected devices are growing at a faster rate than humans and can provide significant strategic advantage to businesses that analyze and act on their activity.
Runbook Automation – If this, then that
Futurists have long predicted the fridge that can order it’s own food. But the Internet of Things is far from science fiction. Smart meters and apps on smart phones can already monitor and regulate heating in your home or remind you of tasks to be done based on location.
One of the most fascinating developments in the last couple of years is for devices and services to perform actions based on certain criteria. This is demonstrated perfectly via the free online service IFTTT (If this, then that). Simply connect your online services and use ‘recipes’ to automate tasks such as ‘Turn on the lights when I go into a room’. 16 years ago I travelled to Microsoft in Seattle. I had a meeting with Steve Ballmer, but while I was there, one of the execs showed me around ‘Microsoft house’. When you walked from the bedroom into the lounge, the building sensed nobody was in the bedroom, so the wall moved making the lounge bigger and the bedroom smaller. Perhaps a little too visionary, but it was clever.
It is only matter of time before these consumer-oriented services are standard in the enterprise; Zapier is an example of a corporate grade automation tool for joining together hundreds of different SaaS APIs. If the automation sounds too trivial for business consider that pharmaceuticals are building tablets that can signal when they’ve been swallowed or suitcases that can tell passengers their luggage has been loaded on the wrong flight.
Early adopters for such automation are logistics companies using efficient freight routing or redirection based on real time congestion data to save fuel and time. Manufacturing plants are using sensors to adjust the position of component parts in the assembly process to improve efficiency and reduce errors.
The same logic can be applied to the delivery of IT Services:
Enterprise objects can have an online ‘information shadow’ similar to the additional reference material found on a Google map or an augmented reality. Printers have long been able to communicate their status over the network – this can be applied to all things a business owns.
Support can be provided in context. In an ideal world I only want to be reminded to buy batteries when I’m stood in the queue at the supermarket next to the batteries. The same filtering can be applied to support – for example knowledgebase information can be shown when customers are in a certain location, or using a certain process or device.
Smart business equipment can report their own faults in real time, and use predictive analysis to prevent failures in the future. Field service operations can be quicker and more efficient.
Automating a network of connected devices over the Internet is obviously not without risk. As with all IT Services, organizations need to be concerned with what happens with a system failure, or the ramifications of a vulnerability attack when business devices are automated and autonomous. Privacy of data and cultural shifts should also be considered, the UK retailer Tesco received complaints from packing staff for using armbands on staff to track worker productivity.
What this means for IT Service and support
What does this mean to those delivering and supporting IT services?
Ultimately businesses can harness data collected from the Internet of Things to provide better services and make better decisions based on real time data. All of these devices and online services create unprecedented volumes of data to analyze (known as Big Data). For IT Service Management professionals, new skills will be required to visualize these huge data sets, draw insights from the data exhaust and architect run book automation scenarios.
Traditionally IT support have used data from tickets or infrastructure to facilitate support – the great opportunity with the Internet of Things is to learn more about the users themselves and their behavior in order to provide exceptional support.
It also means that IT may just become BFF with marketing 😉
The Met Office has to implemented a new software release and deployment automation solution to reduce the number of software planning, delivery, deployment and execution errors it needs to handle on a day to day basis.
The UK national weather and climate services authority has worked with specialist partner in release and deployment management solutions Cachet Software to implement the XebiaLabs Deployit product.
This installation is intended to enable the Met Office to save time, with tests already showing a substantial reduction in deployment times compared to their in-house solution.
It will also help reduce errors and increase efficiency of preparation and deployment.
Overall, the solution is hoped to increase accuracy, speed and scale for the Met Office’s deployments of new applications and services — the organisation had previously confirmed that it needed a flexible solution that could better scale and support continuous delivery of primarily web-facing services to millions of customers.
NOTE: The team at the Met Office manage hundreds of projects and services across dozens of servers — until recently, release preparations were manual, meaning each step would be subject to time-consuming checks to ensure it was planned and executed properly.
By applying deployment automation best practices with Deployit, the Met Office will be able to reduce the risk of deployment errors whilst enabling an increase in the number of deployments. Deployit will also ensure more efficient performance and deliver the ability to keep track of deployments and report on deployment results, leading to a substantial improvement in efficiency of the service delivery process.
Alan Morbey, Configuration Management Team Leader at Met Office, commented: “At the Met Office our deployments were both increasing in volume and complexity whilst staff resources were limited. Deployment automation using Deployit has allowed us to cope with both of these issues, minimise deployment errors and helped us to further safeguard our production environment, key to delivering services to our customers. Deployit is already showing some very encouraging results, with deployment times being substantially reduced .”
NOTE: The Met Office uses more than 10 million weather observations and a supercomputer to create 3,000 tailored forecasts daily. These briefings are delivered to the general public, Government, businesses, the armed forces and other organisations.
Stuart Kenley, MD at Cachet Software Solutions, added: “Customers today expect up-to-date services at all times, which means IT departments need to deploy more, faster and accurately. Continuous delivery is becoming a must-have for all companies. We are delighted to be working with the Met Office, having been able to help them through the process of selection by conducting a due diligence to choose the best fit for their specific requirements.”
RES Software chief technology offer Bob Janssen says that IT management is being pushed in different directions, so how can we steady stage and make sure we’re all singing from the same song-sheet?
The facts are simple, businesses want more information for decision-making and insight into customers, while individual users are accessing applications and working on more devices from smartphones and tablets to laptops and the traditional desktop. At the same time, IT has to provide better services to users across all these devices, which means new challenges and more platforms to support with the same level of resources.
It’s a cacophony of service management sound
To keep up with the demands of users and support business objectives, IT must look at better ways of managing IT through innovative approaches to automation and orchestration.
How do we speed up the IT production line?
For the IT team, there is the constant challenge of completing new projects, like migrating to Windows 7 or rolling out new applications to the business, all against the backdrop of tightening budgets and shrinking staffs. The natural response to this is to cut down on manual intervention wherever possible by automating IT management.
From an IT service management (ITSM) perspective, automation can deliver more benefits to the business. Responses to typical IT problems like application upgrades or operating system migrations can be automated, so users can get the best experience without demanding direct intervention from the IT team.
For companies looking at IT automation, the main benefit is that they can improve internal processes and reduce the manual effort required of common, recurring tasks. Their emphasis (in a perfect world) should be on making everything run properly the first time around and cutting the time spent on tasks in the future.
The end result should be:
less time spent delivering patches,
less time spent updating desktops,
less time spent migrating operating systems,
less time needed for other day-to-day tasks.
There are other benefits too: automated processes can be done uniformly across all machines, reducing potential for error and improving reliability. Plus, time saved through automation can help keep costs lower, while maintaining service quality.
After automation comes service orchestration
The next step after automation is to take a fresh look at service orchestration. At first glance, this may seem similar to IT automation: it is aimed at making the mechanics of a process run smoothly, with minimal human intervention. In fact, service orchestration is something bigger: it looks at how IT-related processes interact with the other business functions and assets engaged with the same processes. This means that a project undertaken by IT may actually enable IT to deliver value to the larger organization – not just to IT.
The aim of service orchestration is to apply the potential of IT automation to common business tasks. Again, the end result should be a smoother process for end-users, and more efficient results for the business. Plus it will involve interaction with those business units in order to be successful. Orchestration also goes further into aligning IT with business activities, ensuring that IT continues to deliver better service and support to the organisation as a whole.
A prime example of service orchestration is around onboarding: new users entering an organisation.
Certainly new employees must be provided with the right level of access to IT resources, applications and data; but how this is achieved can tell you a lot about how the organisation approaches IT management – and ITSM in particular.
Here’s a typical scenario:
The new employee is provided with a desktop or laptop to work on, and the necessary applications are either installed on that machine or delivered to that machine as a service. Finally, the user is set up in Active Directory and granted role-based access rights and permissions, as well as access to printers and shared drives.
In most environments, these interactions are manual: the IT staff adds the employee to the right domains, provides the appropriate permissions, installs applications, and sources the desktop or laptop. Documenting the employee’s resource requirements, securing the necessary approvals, and implementing those resources can take at least many hours – and quite often days. But service orchestration can drastically reduce this time by automating the process. Also, the new employee’s business unit – which is already specifying the employee’s unique resource and access requirements – can be given more control over delivering the employee’s new technology.
Instead of relying on the traditional “heavy lifting” approach of person-to-person interaction between IT staff and the rest of the business, an IT service can be set up to automate this interaction. For example, an HR application can be used to define each new employee’s application and data access privileges based on his or her job description and seniority level.
A task that can take hours and engage multiple staff resources is reduced to minutes, with little to no “hands on” interaction. Investing the time up-front to set up this capability can save enormous amounts of time longer term, as the new IT services can then be applied to every new employee at every level. It also reduces human interaction, and the possibility of time consuming error.
The service orchestration score
Service orchestration provides more opportunities for improving service delivery throughout an employee’s lifecycle within the business through service catalogues and self-service portals. Based on ITIL guidance, building up a service catalogue makes it easier for IT to provide a list of relevant IT services in one place for users to access.
But service orchestration can take this one stage further, by automating deployment of business processes. Approval processes and permissions can be built into the service orchestration process to ensure that managers within the organisation maintain proper levels of control.
A working example:
For example, password resets and printer access tasks – which often make up the bulk of service desk calls – can be automated. Doing so not only makes life easier for the IT team, it helps employees return to productivity more rapidly as well.
What does the future hold for IT?
At the heart of automation and service orchestration is the recognition that human time and effort is an expensive approach to managing IT. By automating IT management where possible, it frees up time that would otherwise be spent on low-value tasks that “keep the lights on”, and instead let IT concentrate on how those assets are used to create value for individuals and for the business as a whole.
For those in charge of IT, whether they are responsible for overall budget spend or for keeping desktops running day-to-day, this change represents a big shift. Instead of being solely a back-office function, IT has to step into the limelight and be part of wider business projects from the start.
It also links into changing how companies think about their IT assets from the start: rather than being static assets that remain the same for years, these applications and services can change rapidly depending on what endpoint a user is on, whether they are mobile or office-based, and how their job differs depending on circumstances. All of these criteria can be changing at once for each user, so the ITAM function has to respond to this. Doing it manually represents a huge potential time-sink, so automation is the only way that it can be achieved cost-effectively.
Automation and orchestration is therefore a necessary investment for the future of IT management. As internal IT professionals, this level of control provides greater opportunities to improve service delivery, while it also offers more time to concentrate on where value can be created and delivered.
Bob Janssen is CTO for RES Software. He has spent over ten years establishing and growing RES Software in its mission to help customers with their desktop and IT management requirements.