Review: Outside IT 2014

OutsideITTo download the full report as a PDF please visit : Outside IT 5th August 2014

This is a competitive review of software vendors who offer Outside IT capabilities as part of their IT service management (ITSM) solution.
Products reviewed:

 

Outside IT 2014 – Best in Class

ServiceNow(R)_logo_STANDARD_RGB_226px_122012(1)[1]

In The ITSM Review’s opinion, ServiceNow is an excellent option for large-and-very large sized businesses looking to achieve synergy and efficiency of cross-departmental operations, as well as flexibility in their IT and wider non-IT shared service operations. Furthermore, we believe it is an excellent option for large and very large organisations implementing service management and work automation across and beyond IT.

We feel that ESM is a strong and forward-thinking message and an excellent opportunity for real success through ITSM and wider service management and automation. In our opinion, this is a stronger and more sustainable message than ServiceNow’s earlier focus on Cloud/commercial models, community and flexibility (although useful and helpful) as the ESM message transcends IT and straddles business areas and can finally take ITSM to a C-Level audience for sales and delivered value.

In our view, continued expansion via the ESM message and product capability for Global Enterprises should be the ServiceNow goal, possibly with some options on how to take this message to the mid-market market in future.

Overview

This report has been unusual in terms of a normal industry product/vendor review – for two reasons:

  1. The initial review criteria were quite generic (by necessity) and to some extent vague (i.e. “what have you done with your product outside of IT?”) and
  2. The results and outcomes are not particularly (or only) related to functionality or product capability – and this relates strongly to marketing, positioning and implementation approach.

As a review of what vendors can or are doing with their (ITSM) products outside of the IT and ITSM operational area, this review had to be somewhat open-ended, giving the participating vendors specific requirements to follow, but also opening up the options for them to show us what else they can do and are doing outside of IT. This includes not just options on software functionality but also how the vendors are positioning themselves in the market.

Each vendor in this report provides ITSM tools that can be used to build forms and workflow based automation for administration of ‘back-office’ work, this includes: managing workloads; requests; automating approvals and escalations; automating spreadsheets and other databases centrally to remove risk; provide customer service and call centre tools; manage work schedules; provide knowledge repositories, calendars, reports dashboards and customer portals etc. In addition, they each provide this functionality in a modern, social, mobile and intuitive ‘connected’ environment that can be quickly implemented and maintained with minimum technical resources.

So what are the differences between the vendors in this report? How can we distinguish and identify differentiators, pros and cons between them? If all products can be used to develop work automation, logging and escalation/ownership and tracking of tasks etc., does this mean that the differences between vendors go beyond simple software functionality? This review looks at how to differentiate the vendors’ approach for beyond IT across the ITSM market.

Industry Context

There has been a move in recent times to develop more applications and tools that can cross the boundaries of internal service departments. The ITSM toolsets available have helped to drive practice in this area, in particular service catalogues, service portals, automated fulfilment processing, approvals etc. and for many organisations this is a huge opportunity for IT to be the department of solutions and success rather than simply the folks who say ‘no’ all the time.

Most manufacturers of ITSM tools report that their sales engagement process usually now involve the inclusion of non-IT people as the norm which has happened historically although not consistently with many vendors also reporting the fact that, once their ITSM tool has been successfully implemented, their clients in IT then help to ‘sell on’ the wider use of the toolsets within and across their own organisations.

Much of this has been driven by the opportunities offered via Cloud solutions and also via assorted sourcing options. However, the barriers between IT and its internal customers/departments are now also breaking down such that, finally, there is the appreciation that the overall needs of the organisation they support can be met via a ‘supply chain’ approach rather than a siloed one. Commoditisation of IT has led to greater awareness of, and demand for, proper end-to-end solutions and collaborative working. Toolsets are the final piece in this jigsaw, as they offer simple and effective solutions for this.

Opportunities for IT organisations

This is therefore a time of huge opportunity for IT organisations to re-invent themselves and to show their true value to the organisations that they serve. This moves away from just being inward-looking and self preserving around their own (IT) processes but to also being the facilitator, catalyst and ‘solution superheroes’ for the whole organisation. This can help to develop efficiency and remove risk by automating manual and single point of failure processes and systems, e.g. spreadsheets that still provide key business functions.

IT can show leadership in their own businesses if they grasp the nettle and use the skills they have developed via ITSM and the associated toolsets, relationship management, value-demonstration, service monitoring, and cost management. It’s the time and opportunity to take ITSM to the next level and IT organisations and their people are best placed to deliver this.

Client maturity

Whilst this sounds exciting, there is also the question of maturity and awareness, and this brave new world cannot apply across all organisations evenly. There are those IT organisations that have the maturity and drive to take their knowledge and skills forward to capitalise on these opportunities. These organisations will respond well to vendor positioning and messaging around business-led IT and the value of service management beyond IT.

However, there are also many (probably most) IT organisations that don’t yet have the vision, awareness, bandwidth and ITSM maturity to do this.

This is where intelligent use of new sourcing models can help to ensure that IT is moving with the times and delivering in response to needs and not just “treading water” and “sweating assets”.

These organisations will also be at risk of being by-passed in the sales process of forward thinking vendors who can then sell direct to other service areas (not IT) with their products and solutions. Vendors with mature implementations and good client relationships can also develop these accounts to “sell inwardly” as mentioned, and get the message across about collaborative working – with variable success depending on their ability to reach and get the right messages to the C-Levels working in their clients.

The new world of corporate collaboration

The message here for the vendor market – and in the context of this review – is therefore that ITSM vendors wishing to retain and increase their market share into new areas need to consider the positioning of their products in a wider context than just IT.

Products and vendors that only focus on internal IT – sold to internally focussed IT departments who don’t see the opportunities for collaboration – will be at risk, or at least will risk falling behind in the long run. There may be continuing opportunities for relatively straightforward ITSM-only sales in the short-term, but ultimately this will not be a sustainable strategy.

Vendors also need to be clear on how to reach non-IT people where necessary, as well as having clear strategies for up-selling their products beyond IT in existing and new accounts. Overall they will need to be clear as to the extent to which they take and promote these messages – from presenting either a business-focussed/business-enabled solution, to an IT-internally-focused only approach.

So whilst there is still a lively traditional ITSM ‘core market’ that vendors can focus on – where the prospects may not be interested in Outside IT (i.e. applications and their focus is solely on ITSM) – there is also a longer-term and potentially larger opportunity around selling to the wider organisation.

Clearly for vendors this requires some strategic decision making around positioning and marketing, with some implications around sales approach and targeting. This in turn may have significant cost and structural implications for vendors, and some may not have the resources to meet these requirements.

So the traditional sale to mid-management IT Operations may be simpler and easier in the short-term, but longer-term vendors may need to rethink their sales and marketing approach, collateral, and even the language used in the sales process.

So how do we evaluate the current Market?

The four vendors who participated in this review all have the capabilities to provide additional functionality outside of the ITSM/IT area and they also all have varying levels of customer adoption of this. These vendors cover a broad spectrum in terms of size, capability, and corporate coverage and their focus reflects this. All vendors also have different sales and marketing approaches to the concept of Outside IT. Details and examples of their individual offerings are shown below.

All four vendors can deliver non-IT applications with varying levels of toolkits, engagement approaches, and turnkey offerings.

 

To download the full report as a PDF please visit : http://download.itassetmanagement.net/outside-it/

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.


The ITSM Review are holding a series of seminars this year headed by ITSM superstar Barclay Rae. We will be starting in March with Transforming User Experience – Enterprise Service Management & Self Service. For more information click here

Review: Cherwell for Integrations

This independent review is part of our Integrations 2013 Group Test.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch A key understanding of what is required and the ability to provide innovation across the whole organisation – Cherwell show they understand what organisations need and are ready to supply connectors to a wide variety of additional sources of information. A comprehensive solution throughout.
Strengths
  •  Based on their experience – Cherwell cover pretty much everything required in typical deployments – the 80/20 rule – which gets clients running very rapidly but also ticks all the boxes in terms of what is offered versus what is generally required,
  • Recognise areas to offer clients in terms of integration points using elements such as Twitter and RSS.
  • Provide web services inbound bound and a very comprehensive range of connectors to external sources
Weaknesses
  • Perhaps missing a trick now in terms of integrating with task management and resource management tools (such as linking with Outlook calendars and tasks for technicians).
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Cherwell are typically active in the mid-market but are scalable to Enterprise customersThey are classified for this review as:Specialised Service Management Suite – Offering ITIL processes and proprietary discovery tooling and Data Integration Points

Commercial Summary

Vendor Cherwell
Product Cherwell Service Management®
Version reviewed Version 4.6
Date of version release July 2013
Year founded 2003
Customers 550+
Pricing Structure Saas, Subscription, Perpetual options
Competitive Differentiators
  1. Service automation and innovation through actionable features – a nice touch in particular is being able to create a new incident from an incoming Twitter feed, and exploring using RSS feeds for travelling technicians.
  2. Mobile applications (iPad/iPhone) for IT users utilising location services but also recognise that this has a business use as well – allowing service business managers to visit locations making the integration more of a proactive tool
  3. Continued ease of use, through effective development of wizards to handle all the integrations.

Independent Review

logo_cherwell-softwareCherwell recognise that all points of integration can be applied to any part of the ITSM suite, and that organisations are going to have tools in place and so focus on making the inevitable need to pull in data from external sources as easy as possible.

Integration points are all guided by wizards – even at the start of the pre-deployment, which is in keeping with their fundamental principle that everything should be codeless – so the UI hides the administrator from the backend XML magic that goes on behind the scenes.

Within their admin panel – the customer is created as a business object – which creates a core table in their database and allows the flexible wizard driven interfaces to map across to whatever is required.

There is a lot that can be done with their One-Step macros, that allow simple customisation for repeatable task – a clued-up admin can make light work of many of the pre-deployment and scheduled updates using these customisable objects.

They have utilised some nice new innovative touches to lend itself not only to ITSM staff (travelling technicians being able to use either mobile devices or RSS feeds to pull information depending on their location), but also to continue to build on what IT can offer other business areas – that same technology can be applied to business managers travelling from location to location.

Perhaps an area could still benefit from attention – more and more vendors recognise the value of linking with resource or task-management tools, as tools start to connect with Outlook calendars and put intelligence around task management and more importantly task distribution.

Cherwell very much hold by an 80/20 philosophy in what they offer – and that still provides one of the most comprehensive ITSM and business process suites on the market.

Integration and specific recognised criteria

Cherwell offer the following points of integration with no additional coding required (everything is driven by wizards):

OLE DB

Connect to External Databases – commonly used to pull data from SCCM, LANDesk, SNOW, Lansweeper, CRM data.

Active Directory (and other Directory Services)

Used for Authentication and Data Population (e.g. Customer Contacts)

SAML

SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language) is an XML-based open standard for exchanging authentication and authorization data between Identity Providers and Service Providers to support Single-Sign-On (SSO) capability

Email (POP/SMTP, IMAP, Exchange (EWS))

Used for inbound and outbound electronic communications

Bomgar

Secure Remote Control and Chat

Twitter

Monitor Feeds and Send Tweets

RSS

Monitor Feeds and RSS Query for Cherwell

Web Service

Consume external (WSDL and REST) Web Services via our codeless one-step functionality

File System

Write File and Read File functionality from our codeless one-step functionality

Run program

Run any external program from our codeless one-step functionality – call any program or Powershell script parsing parameters from Cherwell

Cherwell Windows API

Any .Net developer can utilize the Cherwell Windows API to call Cherwell functions and features

Cherwell Web Service

Any .Net developer can utilize the Cherwell Web Services API to call a subset of Cherwell functions and features

Security Controls

Cherwell use the security controls which are governed by the specific type of integration.

Pre-Deployment Integration

Typically Cherwell will look to use Active Directory for contact information to import with all subsequent updates as a scheduled activity.

Asset and Configuration Information

Cherwell has its own Discovery and Inventory to capture data on network devices, printers, windows PCs and devices and Apple MAC workstations, utilising it’s scheduled and automated processes.

Again Cherwell use wizards to handle migrating the collected data into the CMDB including mapping the fields, frequency of updates and so on.

Cherwell also recognise that third party ITAM tools (SCCM, LANDesk, Centennial, SNOW, etc.) are often in place in organisations – they recommend using an External OLE DB Connection method to map, import and schedule updates from external database tables and views into Cherwell.

After the CMDB is populated with information, then a configuration manager can manipulate and maintain the non-auto-discovered aspects of the data and the relationships. That then is used across all the other ITSM processes (e.g. incident, problem, change, etc.)

Support Services Integration

  • Remote Control

Cherwell partners with Bomgar and can use their Chat function in any ITSM and/or business process that has been built into the CSM platform. This allows them the flexibility of linking what would be considered as service management tooling into parts of the business that may not necessarily use the same interfaces (for example HR portals).

  • Social Media

Twitter, Email and RSS are all possible communications methods that can also be incorporated into any of the processes (Business or ITSM processes). The platform used then depends on the kind of process – Major Incident communications might use Twitter and RSS, regular Incident may suffice with email. Cherwell can offer the flexibility depending on an organisation’s requirements.

Additional Areas of Integration

  • Cherwell offer the flexibility to build out business processes (for example to Finance or HR) to help join one part of the business to another. When the industry is constantly looking at ways to show how IT can help the business – this is a useful area of development.
  • Event management – the tendency is for it to be centred around email integration – alerts come in and get converted into an event record from that point.

Cherwell Customers

From the Cherwell Brochure

  • Fully integrated, comprehensive view of the relationships between Incidents, Problems, Changes and other processes and resources.
  • Intuitive wizards and drag-and-drop functionality that allows you to quickly and easily modify processes to match your specific business needs
  • Service management teams move from managing activities to delivering solutions.

In Their Own Words:

Positioned on the 2013 Gartner®  Magic Quadrant for ITSSM tools and recognised by Forrester Research as one of the top three enterprise SaaS ITSM tools worldwide, Cherwell Software is one of the fastest growing IT service management software providers. It has corporate headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., U.S.A.; EMEA headquarters in Wootton Bassett, U.K.; and a global network of expert partners. Cherwell Software is passionate about customer care and is dedicated to creating “innovative technology built upon yesterday values.”

Its flagship product is Cherwell Service ManagementTM, a fully-integrated service management software solution for IT and technical support professionals with out-of-the-box PinkVERIFY accredited ITIL processes. Its wizard-driven customisation allows customers to tailor the tool to match their processes without writing any code. Cherwell Service Management offers unmatched flexibility in hosting and concurrent licensing for low total-cost-of-ownership.

Please visit www.cherwell.com for more information about Cherwell Software.

Screenshots

Further Information

This independent review is part of our Integrations 2013 Group Test.

Review: Cherwell for Knowledge Management

This independent review is part of our 2013 Knowledge Management Group Test. 

Executive Summary – Cherwell

Overview
  • Vendor emerging across ITSM market space
  • Knowledge approach seamless with other ITSM areas in product
  • Provides all functionality required for review
  • Good vendor approach
  • knowledge article key element of system
  • Overall looks a good option
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Cherwell actively market to customers of all sizes (Small <100 to Very Large >10,000) They are classified for this review as:Specialised Service Management Suite – Offers IT Service Management, with integration to third party Systems Management software

Commercial Summary

Vendor Cherwell Software
Product Cherwell Service Management
Version reviewed v4.3a
Date of version release January 2013
Year founded 2004
Customers 500+ ITSM customers worldwide.
Pricing Structure Fully inclusive concurrent user usage for both perpetual and SaaS licensing models.
Competitive Differentiators
  • Completely integrated management processes and totally configurable against an organisation’s current and future service request models, without the need to write a single line of code via programming or scripting services.
  • Integrated Platform as a Service (PaaS) technology to empower users to easy develop and deliver integrated business services offerings.
  • Quick, easy, seamless system upgrades and low cost of ownership for ongoing system management overheads.

 

Independent Review

cherwell-logoThis is an easy to use and multi-capability option for Cherwell users – the knowledge function is shipped with the product and seamlessly integrated with it.

Some nice features around integration of discussion boards and the ability to link articles to services and incidents.

A good option for developing knowledge for Cherwell users or those considering the product overall, with a view to making Knowledge Management work.

 Overview

  • Vendor emerging as strong contender across ITSM market space
  • Knowledge approach seamless with other ITSM areas in product
  • Provides all functionality required for review
  • Vendor approach aims to drive clients to use and integrate knowledge management with other processes
  • Knowledge article key element of system ‘business object’ – with links to other processes, tracking and clearly defined lifecycle
  • Overall looks a good option – in places a bit complex-looking (user UI is good), but generally will deliver integrated Knowledge Management functions.

Strengths

  • Meets all the basic functionality required for the review, for creation, approval, maintenance, tracking of Knowledge Articles (KAs)
  • ‘Knowledge is shipped OOTB with the product and is a key element cross ITSM processes
  • Federated search’ engine provides facility to search multiple knowledge sources simultaneously
  • Configuration and set up of system can be done by non-tech users – ‘codeless’ programming
  • User portal interface for self-help looks simple and user-friendly
  • Delivery and access to KAs can be controlled and specified to (field) level security
  • KAs can be associated to services (which in turn can be linked)
  • Approval process can set % approvers required rather than just all approvers
  • Approval steps can be defined at multiple levels
  • ‘One Step’ feature can be used to create set of tasks, updates, escalations, to simplify approval process
  • Can simply combine number of internal and external knowledge sources
  • Able to create relationships between articles and specific incidents
  • Tracking – simple to identify usage and like/dislike of KAs
  • Knowledge ‘Mapping’ – can show relevant knowledge sources in context – e.g. different in Incident vs. Change Management
  • Nice ‘Community Discussion’ board – can see threads of discussion and collaboration related to KA. Can also raise incident or create KA from Discussion area
  • KAs can be raised and applied to any (process) area of the tool

Weaknesses

  • Can look overly complex in places
  • Internal (IT User) interface could be clearer and less complex
  • Can’t map approval workflow process
  • Could provide more tangible, focussed information on customer success stories using KM

Cherwell’s Knowledge Management Customers

In Their Own Words:

Positioned on the 2012 Gartner®  Magic Quadrant for ITSSM tools and recognized by Forrester Research as one of the top three enterprise SaaS ITSM tools worldwide, Cherwell Software is one of the fastest growing IT service management software providers. It has corporate headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., U.S.A.; EMEA headquarters in Wootton Bassett, U.K.; and a global network of expert partners. Cherwell Software is passionate about customer care and is dedicated to creating “innovative technology built upon yesterday values.”

Its flagship product is Cherwell Service Management®, a fully-integrated service management software solution for IT and technical support professionals with out-of-the-box PinkVERIFY accredited ITIL processes. Its wizard-driven customisation allows customers to tailor the tool to match their processes without writing any code. Cherwell Service Management offers unmatched flexibility in hosting and concurrent licensing for low total-cost-of-ownership. Please visit www.cherwell.com for more information about Cherwell Software.

Screenshots

Further Information

Knowledge Management Review Index

This independent review is part of our 2013 Knowledge Management Group Test.

Review: Cherwell

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 Cherwell use intelligent interfaces and well constructed forms to automate the basics of the processes in a comprehensive and informative way.
Strengths
  • Core stages of process management as part of the user interface
  • In-context configuration mapping that makes handling concurrent incident and problem mapping management very easy
  • Potential depth of customisation in terms of use of forms (Specifics) lends itself to improving/enhancing investigation and first-time-fix.
Weaknesses
  • While promotion to a Major Incident, automatic raising of a Problem, linkage to the Global Alerts feature and the ability for users to indicate they are affected too from Self Service is great, that indication is linked to the automatically opened problem record, not the Major Incident.
  • Customers seem to have indicated interest in linkage to the Major Incident as an out-of-the-box capability and it would make sense to provide it.
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Cherwell actively market to customers of all sizes(Small <100 to Very Large >10,000)They are classified for this review as:Specialised Service Management Suite – Offering ITIL v3 processes and proprietary discovery tooling.

They use a best of breed approach to Monitoring and also Third Party discovery tools.

Commercial Summary

Vendor Cherwell Software
Product Cherwell Service Management
Version reviewed V4.3
Date of version release December 2012
Year founded 2003
Customers 400+
Pricing Structure Fully inclusive concurrent user usage for both perpetual and SaaS licensing models.
Competitive Differentiators
  • Completely integrated management processes and totally configurable against an organisation’s current and future service request models, without the need to write a single line of code via programming or scripting services.
  • Integrated Platform as a Service (PaaS) technology to empower users to easy develop and deliver integrated business services offerings.
  • Quick, easy, seamless system upgrades and low cost of ownership for ongoing system management overheads.
Additional Features Integrated application development platform. Integrated Project Portfolio Management module. Full social media integration and features for BYOD management. Multi portal, multi user, fully configurable web portal technology.

Independent Review

There was an interesting debate to be had about the incorporation of the core elements of recording an incident, as part of the record – Record, Classify, Investigate, Resolve, Close.

This “Breadcrumb Trail” is an effective way to have the system reinforce best practices.

One of the best features is the ability to create as much automation around the investigation phase of incident recording.

Cherwell make use of a form structure (“Specifics”) that are presented crisply and succinctly within the record to help the service desk to work through some very simple initial investigation queries.

Several are supplied out of the box but can be easily built.

Using business language in the impact and urgency matrices (again primarily for Incident) shows that Cherwell recognise that ITSM tools need to work across organisations.

There is a lot to like out of the box for Cherwell, and their 80/20 philosophy pays off again, in trying to expedite the processes.

Logging & Categorisation

From the moment an incident record is opened, the interface can bring up all kinds of neat interfaces for example:

The level of integration demonstrated within the tool allows for callers to be identified by just first name and department (if they so chose) and also bring up a wealth of information about the caller if required for example assets related to them, information about any surveys they have responded to, and other record they have opened.

The Categories and Sub-Categories are dependent on the type of service selected (the Sub-Category determines if that record is indeed an Incident, or a Service Request).

But behind that the “Specifics” form structure that Cherwell provide (both out of the box and customisable) provide the Service Desk Analyst with a number of queries to try and drive a first-time-fix resolution.

Tracking and Escalations

From the start point of a Service Desk Analyst to transferring to support teams, the depth of information is primarily controlled by macros (called “One-Steps”).

These macros are used to automate as much of the process as possible.

As tools evolve, the more of the mundane that can be automated, the better the focus can be on the user experience, and One-Steps are a great mechanism for taking care of those repetitive actions.

The key, as with any tool, will be to ensure that the process (i.e. the point at which a record is transferred) is clear and concise and that the tool can provide that transition as seamlessly as possible.

When it comes to creating a Problem from an existing Incident, Cherwell offer a visual configuration map, which allows in-context updates to the related Incident and/or Problem without the need to navigate away from the map itself.

Prioritisation

Another great feature is the wording on the Impact and Urgency matrix.

The Matrix applies to a specific service and when customised, can display terminology that the business understands.

Instead of values of High, Medium and Low, having terminology like: Individual, Department, Building to describe the impact makes it a lot less like describing an IT problem, and a lot more like describing a business issue.

Closure

Coming back to those “breadcrumbs” – if a customer wishes to re-open a resolved incident, the core stages turn an angry red, with a warning triangle and escalation mark to make it very obvious this is a record that needs continued action.

Of course, those incidents that are resolved without further issues are seen as a soft-closure until the service desk receives concurrence from the user that the record can be closed.

Major Incident/Problems

There is not a separate workflow for Major Incidents (or Problems for that matter), and out of the box, there is a button to promote an incident to be Major.

This in turn triggers off the creation of a problem, and can update a Global Alert section on the Self Service Portal so that end users can see that there is something happening on a wider scale.

They can even indicate that they are affected too, but currently this will create a link to the Problem that was created when the Incident was promoted.

It can be easily resolved by the creation of a new business object for a Major Incident, and indeed customers have fed this back, so it is a little bit of an oversight that it works this way.

Conclusion

The value is how that experience can be enhanced to enable the Service Desk to achieve higher First-Time-Fix, and how terminology can be modified to appeal to the wider business, and not just those who read ITIL books at night.

The star of the Incident and Problem show were the Specifics forms – Business Objects that Cherwell have developed that sit within a record (across a number of processes) with meaningful prompts and questions.

Obviously this does not happen by magic – there is a case for a knowledgeable administrator who understands more than just playing with technical toys.

To really get the most out of this system, an administrator would need to understand the business processes in play, a level of system design knowledge, and the ability to not get carried away adding forms and macros.

Of course, the extremely customisable nature means that this is by no means guaranteed, but the level of knowledge given in demonstrations should ensure that organisations receive good advice.

The only glitch for me was the Global Alert link for affected users not lining up with the incident – this is easily fixable though and really is a minor pick, rather than a fundamental faux-pas.

Cherwell Service Management Customers

Screenshots

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

From the Cherwell Brochure

  • 11 PinkVERIFY™ ITSM processes
  • Intuitive wizards and simple drag-and-drop functionality
  • With Cherwell’s Codeless Business Application Technology (CBAT), you never need to write a line of code or script. Upgrades are effortless.
  • Rapid easy implementation and easily adaptable over time
  • Out-of-the-box processes to assist customers with critical Business Alignment

In Their Own Words:

Cherwell Software

The Complete IT Service Management Solution

Cherwell Software is the developer of Cherwell Service Management™ – a fully integrated solution for IT and support professionals.  The Cherwell solution offers complete choice of software deployment and licensing models: on premise or hosted; perpetual purchase or subscription; you choose!

Designed using Microsoft’s .NET platform and Web 2.0 technology, Cherwell delivers 11 fully integrated ITIL v3 PinkVERIFY accredited management processes straight ‘out-of-the-box’, including Incident, Problem, Change, CMBD, Request, SLA, Service Catalogue and Knowledge.

Web portal technology and social media integration is key to the future success of the Service Desk. With increasing business demand for enhanced services and improved access to information, Service Desks need agile, innovative and flexible web based technologies to meet the high expectations of  users.

Cherwell’s latest Web Browser Portal experience uses leading edge and cross-platform technologies (HTML5/CSS3, Ajax and jQuery) built from the ground up to provide a very responsive application-like experience with no browser plug-ins needed.

Cherwell Service Management is 100% configurable and customisable by its end users and delivers a highly scalable and extensible development platform.  Its CBAT platform enables customers to develop integrated business applications such as: CRM, HR, Project Management, Student Records and Facilities Management systems.

Offering a truly holistic approach to service management, Cherwell empowers IT and support departments to fully align themselves with the organisation they support.  Quick to deploy and easy to use, Cherwell delivers true enterprise functionality at lower costs and without the need for any programming resources.

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.

2013 Incident and Problem Tools Review

Tools Reviewed:


Download Review

(Free PDF, No Registration Required – 601kb, 7 Pages)


INTRODUCTION

Incident and Problem Management are such mainstays of an ITSM tool, it is quite hard to find a way to dig through the differentiators.

The process and the related workflows themselves are so seemingly straight forward, are there really any ways to improve?

Not only that, but it has to be looked at in the context of the trends in the industry to focus on the end-user’s experience. That’s all fine when we take a look at the options available to an end-user logging an incident from a self-service portal.

But in reality, people still call service desks.

The answer is – there are ways to improve, and in many ways they are subtle features that make tools stand out.

This review bought out nuances and features to help make a couple of mature processes look exciting again.

  • Stylish use of forms, questions and linkage to knowledge bases
  • Resourcing and task planning
  • Real-time end-user analytics

These tools do more than just provide a mechanism to move an incident or a problem from A to B.

It looks to improve the lifecycle, and practice the points of the Process Certification that vendors put themselves through.

A word should be said, though, about the knowledge levels of the people who market these products day in, day out.

I would like to share an insightful tweet from Forrester’s Stephen Mann

 

In both the reviews I have done, it is always good to work from qualified consultants who have a very good understanding of balancing what the tool can do, functionally, against what the real world sometimes requires.

The devil for all these tools is in the detail of the customisation – any tool, with dedicated customisation, and knowledge, pragmatic consultancy can get the best out of any record-pushing mechanism.

Having replaced many a tool in large-scale ITSM deployments, I often recognised shortcomings in both the outgoing and the incoming tool-set.

But the key remains – can the vendor impart a sense of comfort that they not only understand their tool, the processes that need to be translated to workflow, but can they identify ways to improve?

Having people who not only understand the tool, but also recognise the need to encompass evolving best practices goes a long way to make a tool stand out from its peers in the crowd.


MARKET POSITIONING

For the purposes of this review, vendors were classified based on their primary market focus, and product capabilities.

Vendor

Target Market Size Specialist ITSM Functions Discovery Own Tool/Third Party Integration Event Management & Monitoring Own Tool/Third Party Integration

Real-Time End-User Analytics

Axios assyst Large Very Large Own Third Party Integration
BMC FootPrints Medium Large Own Own (via Integration)
Cherwell Service Management Small Medium Large Very Large Own Third Party Integration
Nexthink Small Medium Large Very Large Own Third Party Integration

TOPdesk Small Medium Large Own Third Party Integration

COMPETITIVE OVERVIEW

The table below shows a high level overview of the competitive differences between the tools

  • Elevator Pitch – An independent assessment of what this module has to offer
  • Strengths – key positive points, highlighted during the review
  • Weaknesses – areas perceived to be lacking, during the review
Vendor Elevator Pitch Strengths Weaknesses
Axios assyst A tidy interface, driven by product hierarchies, and backed up with a potentially powerful CMDB.Work put in to customise the Info Zone, Guidance and FAQs can make the job of the Service Desk, Analysts, and even the end user interaction easier
  • Crisp and clean interface, with not much clutter
  • From a self-service point of view, a nice touch in walking end users through investigation before logging a ticket
  • For those logging directly with the service desk, pulls in pre-populated forms and guidance to make that role easier/more efficient
  • Very much rooted in the technical – with the product hierarchy very comprehensive.  Would be nice to see perhaps an incorporation of more business language
  • The ability to record an analysts time against a charge code also seems to drive a specific cost as well – whilst this could just be a notional cost, some form of correlation between the two, removing the need for the analysts to know financials as well as resolving an incident, might be more beneficial
  • There are some elements of earlier ITIL iterations in the tool, as nothing is taken out which could be cumbersome to customise out
BMC FootPrints An improved interface and comprehensive coverage of Incident and Problem Management, with some added innovation to make scheduling work a little easier for Service Desks and support staff alike.
  • Logging by Type, Category and Symptom adds a meaningful level of granularity
  • Incorporates an availability of resource’s view by integrating to Outlook Exchange
  • Subscription function for end users for major incidents, as well as pop ups for potential SLA breaches
  • Design elements behind the scenes are still largely text based
Cherwell Service Management Cherwell use intelligent interfaces and well constructed forms to automate the basics of the processes in a comprehensive and informative way
  • Core stages of process management as part of the user interface
  • In-context configuration mapping that makes handling concurrent incident and problem mapping very easy
  • Potential depth of customisation in terms of use of forms (Specifics) lends itself to improving/ enhancing investigation and first-time fix
  • While promotion to a Major Incident, automatic raising of a Problem, linkage to the Global Alerts feature and the ability for users to indicate they are affected too from Self Service is great, that indication is linked to the automatically linked problem record, not the Major Incident
  • Customers seem to have indicated interest in linkage to the Major Incident as an out-of-the-box capability and it would make sense to provide it.
Nexthink If systems management monitoring takes care of servers, Nexthink presents you all you need to know about the end-user side of the coin.Nexthink sits apart from the nuts and bolts of Service Management tooling, but offers guidance to analysts to help expedite resolution with real-time End-user IT Analytics, integrated into major ITSM tools to significantly reduce problem diagnosis times
  • Lightweight kernel-driven footprint on end-user targets helps define trouble spots in real time
  • Complements existing IT Service Management deployments
  • With so much technical capability, it needs a very strong balancing hand of strategy to get the best of a combination of this product, a service management suite, and server monitoring collaboration
TOPdesk TOPdesk adds Kanban-type resource scheduling to add a new dimension onto Incident and Problem Management
  • The Plan Board incorporates a Kanban style approach to scheduling tasks to help drive efficient resourcing
  • Keywords trigger standard solutions, linking into a two-tire Knowledge base (for Analysts and End Users)
  • Task Board for individual support staff can be sliced and diced by the most time critical events
  • Sometimes “over-customisability” can rear its head in reviews – just because it is possible to have 7 different priorities, it 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 Objects for Assets

CUSTOMERS

Approximate number of customers for each vendor:

  • Axios assyst – 1000+
  • BMC FootPrints – Approximately 1000 customers across Europe and 5000 worldwide
  • Cherwell Service Management – 400+
  • Nexthink – 400
  • TOPdesk – 3150 approximate TOPdesk Enterprise customers, >5000+ unique customers in total

Analysis

Vendor Functionality Innovation Analysis
Axios assyst A tidy interface with a lot of focus on driving the product hierarchies for categorisation. Pre-populated forms and scripted guidance for the service desk.Chat function for support staff to collaborate. Axios focus on ways to automate as much as possible.Backed up with a very comprehensive CMDB structure at its core, work put into the configuration of a system up front will reap rewards in efficiency down the line.
BMC FootPrints Great to see a vendor improve from customer (and analyst) feedback and the result is a modern looking tool that handles the “bread and butter” tasks of Incident and Problem efficiently FootPrints links to Microsoft Exchange to display a view of the support staff resources and allocation of repetitive tasks.Logging by Type, Category and potentially Symptom adds an appealing level of granularity. BMC FootPrints is not alone in exploring and incorporating a view of the support staff resources, and it is evolving to be a very smart looking, mid-market offering that can punch above its weight.
Cherwell Service Management Cherwell add a number of features that make the process speedier – and their Specifics forms provide a great touch in terms of initial investigation. Cherwell get the balance right, with customisable features (forms and macros) and include a breadcrumb trail throughout the lifecycle of the record. Cherwell recognise that it is not just IT functions that need to use the tool – the Impact and Urgency in business language (Incident) and their other features all make it a roundly comprehensive tool to appeal to organisations of all sizes.
Nexthink Nexthink is not a traditional ITSM tool.  Instead it offers a chance for support analysts to proactively resolve issues faster by means of End-User real-time analytics It’s power comes from being able to assess elements from an end-user perspective, and integrates with existing ITSM tools to provide a comprehensive view of an end-user’s machine. There are a number of ways that Nexthink and ITSM tools can co-exist – Nexthink is a powerful enabler for much more proactive incident and problem resolution.
TOPdesk TOPdesk use wizards and key word matching to help drive efficient Incident and Problem logging and resolution TOPdesk takes resource planning to another level, planning shift patterns, and operating a Kanban style method of dragging and dropping tasks to less loaded support staff. The whole combination of the resource board, the way their task board can focus on the most pressing first, and their links to Knowledge Management made this a very attractive tool to review,There were some configuration niggles which can all be customised (some more easily than others) but it is certainly heading in the right direction.

BEST IN CLASS

Vendor End-User Base Product Characteristics
S M L VL
Axios assyst
L VL
  • Specialised Service Management Suite
  • Integration for Event Monitoring
BMC Footprints
M L
  • Specialised Service Management Suite
  • Integration for Event Monitoring
Cherwell Service Management
S M L VL
  • Specialised Service Management Suite
  • Integration for Event Monitoring
Nexthink
S M L VL
  • Specialised tooling, requiring integration to ITSM
TOPdesk
S M L
  • Specialised Service Management Suite
  • Integration for Event Monitoring

Best in Class (Small-Med-Large) – BMC FootPrints

BMC FootPrints have taken on board customer feedback, and even observations from previous reviews to make subtle but very noticeable adjustments to their interface.

The result is a tool that offers more intuitive investigation diagnostics as calls are being logged, and is continually looking to improve.

FootPrints is getting a real benefit from being part of the larger BMC brand, but is fast establishing itself as a tool to appeal across the entire market-place.

Best in Class (Small-Med-Large-V Large) – Cherwell

As with FootPrints, the inclusion of diagnostic forms, within records, linked to the categories makes Cherwell stand out when logging Incidents, in particular.

Best in Class (All Tools):TOPdesk

The inclusion of the Kanban-style resourcing board, but also the way in which tasks can be placed and moved about really made this stand out, in terms of the way that innovation within a tool can really make processes less cumbersome.

Honourable Mention: Nexthink

This tool deserves to stand apart from its Service Management cousins.

It adds a unique element, which can truly help drive efficiencies, especially where Problem Management is concerned.

With the right business drivers and strategic vision, not to mention strong partnership with some of the ITSM industry big-hitters, Nexthink’s real-time end-user analysis can help in so many more service management disciplines.  I feel we have only scratched the surface of its potential.


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.