Mobile: the new frontier for self-service

Artificial Intelligence on the service desk [Holly from RedDwarf]
Artificial Intelligence on the service desk [Holly from RedDwarf]
Google searches performed on a mobile device outstripped desktop searches (in certain territories), according to figures released last week.

That’s an important milestone in the meteoric use of mobile.

Of course, the searches refer to global use of Google, including consumers searching for the nearest pizza joint, and are not necessarily reflective of enterprise IT – but we all know, since the introduction of the blackberry, iPad and then current smart phones, of the increasing business demands for mobile.

Will your service work on mobile devices? Will it provide a frictionless consumer-like experience, Does it matter who owns the device? And so on.

It doesn’t matter that we’re not delivering consumer services and that we might be delivering services in heavily regulated industries with back-breaking governance hoops to jump through – the demand for mobility and flexibility continue unabated.

Mobility promises the ability to avoid speaking to pesky humans, get things done, keep track and unlock me from the constraints of a physical office.

Avoiding speaking to people is an important point: In terms of human interaction it’s a case of quality over quantity. When I do (occasionally) speak with a human – I want a great customer focussed experience. You’ve only got to look at the growth (or is it a return?) of IT concierge desks resourced with IT staff especially selected for their more extrovert nature to witness this.

The premise: automate as much as possible, help the customer help themselves, if they do need to speak to us, make it a great experience (which doesn’t necessarily mean fixing everything).

With this in mind it has been great to see traditional ITSM providers innovating with mobile.

The future is here, just unevenly distributed

The terms artificial intelligence and augmented reality go hand-in-hand with the Jetsons, self driving cars and the fridge that knows to order more beer and lettuce. But look carefully, and it’s slowly permeating everywhere, including the humble service desk.

Smart-phone owners might be familiar with Apple’s SIRI, Google’s Voice Search or Microsoft’s Cortana as a personal navigator (Voice recognition to intelligent search / actions).  Similarly consumers might be familiar with Word Lens (Image to language translation) or Evernote (handwriting to textual search).

SnapIT from LANDESK promises smartphone image capture to knowledge base lookup. Sharing screenshots or remote sharing with end user customers to identify issues is a staple of the service desk toolkit – but what about cutting out the middle-man and connecting customers directly with help by snapping a picture of the issue on a mobile device?

Direct link to Video

LANDESK have offered this new capability with no extra charge to existing customers. It’s available via iOS, Android or simply via a browser.

I look forward to seeing this and other innovation at the ITSM show next month, we’ll be on stand 723 collecting customer reviews for TOOLSADVISOR.net (think trip advisor meets itsm tools). Come and say hi!

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Review: Cased Dimensions SCSM Self-Service Portal

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

Also participating:

Commercial Summary

Vendor Cased Dimensions
Product SCSM Self-Service Portal
Version reviewed 2.2
Date of version Release December 2014
Year Founded 2009
Customers 40+
Pricing Structure Number of employees in a company (priced per user).

Review

Elevator Pitch Portal and request management capability for ITSM and beyond.
 
Aimed only at Microsoft Customers with MS system center.
Industry areas MS clients wanting to build on System Centre and SD – building automation.
Unique points HTML5 compliant (BYO and varied hardware devices are supported such as Microsoft and Apple tablets)
Single Sign on (AD integration).
Chat integration.
Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and System Center integration
Target market SME to enterprise – MS clients only. 500 employees to 30,000+ employee.
Solutions/ issues solved Integrated with Asset Management. Single CMBD with auto discovery ensuring data is in one place to aid Process Efficiency.
 
Integration with MS – canned from vendor.
Product/vendor gaps Lacks a bit of user friendliness – presentation shown looks a bit complex.
 
Microsoft only solution. Microsoft vendor aligned.
Positives
  • Microsoft focus
  • Microsoft integration – eg with System Center, SharePoint, AD, Exchange & Lync
  •  Lots of pre-built processes
  • Bespoke/Consultancy approach – working closely to address customers requirements
  •  Microsoft Trusted Alliance Partner
  • High-end client solutions
Negatives
  • Microsoft FocusSmall client base (new entrant)
  • Product looks a little busy/complex
Overall view A niche offering for clients wishing to build process management and automation using the Microsoft platform.
 
Cased Dimensions has deployed Self-Service Portal to support not only IT Service Management Self-Service but also HR, Facilities Management and Finance Self-Service.
 
Vendor is also niche as a provider of solutions rather than simply software, so the solutions are high-end, bespoke and consultative rather than turnkey.

 Vendor information

download (1)Cased Dimension’s Self-Service Portal allows access to Self-Help from any hand held device – PC, Laptop, iPhone, Windows Phone, Android, MAC etc… Many other vendors lock users out due to a reliance on Silverlight, Flash or old HTML languages which do not work on Smart Phones or tablets.

Our focus is to enable a Self-Service platform similar to Amazon shopping or Internet Banking. Usability is easy for the typical employee with little or no training. We have had clients train 24,000+ plus employees with a 5 min video on “how to”.

Other Vendors deliver Portals which are typically technical / ’clicky’ and difficult for employees to use. Our portal is similar to an Amazon-Shopping Kart experience or online banking where features and usability aligns to ‘Journeys’ employees are already trained in.

Our platform supports Business IT, HR, Finance, Facility and other departmental Self-Service Portal Processes. For Managed Service providers, we support “client” specific Portals for Self-Service.

Standard Features exist including departmental home pages, help area categorization with easy to use menu’s. In addition, we also support Chat Integration, Asset Management Integration, Software Distribution, Password Rest and much more….

Cased Dimensions allows Enterprises to “GO DIGITAL” for all areas of their business in Self-Help (IT included).

For administrators, configuration is “type and save”. Our platform is a “zero code environment” from a configuration perspective. All features are configurable & updatable by administrators.

With clients ranging from 500 employees up to clients with 30,000+ employees, our platform is excellent for small and large alike.

Client references state a call logging threshold of 70%.

For further information, please visit Cased Dimensions or Contact Us.

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Industry News Roundup inc The New Sheriff of the Web

News and Info Week 4No time to read all the interesting news and info floating around social media and appearing in your inbox? Read our round up of what we’ve found interesting this week.

  • Print Everything.Matt Beran (officially the most fidgety man in ITSM), Matt Hooper and Mark Kawasaki talk productivity tools, podcasts and print services. Watch here
  • First NHS IT Service Desk In England To Secure 3-star Accreditation – Informatics Merseyside has become the first NHS service desk in England to be accredited with 3-star certification from the Service Desk Institute (SDI) Read more here
  • Is The BIS Growth Accelerator Scheme Worthwhile For Technology Startups? Caroline Baldwin reports on why few technology companies are taking advantage of the additional financial and growth support available. Read more here
  • Do You Have A Service Management “House Plan”? Matt Hooper explains why one process at a time isn’t going to cut it. Read more here
  • Problem Management – The Value In Not KnowingRyan Ogilvie celebrates the opportunity of unrealized value. Read more here
  • FBI Warns: Criminals Could Walk Free If Tech Companies Encrypt User Data – As tech companies try to outdo one another in the battle to address user privacy concerns, the FBI is warning that new encryption methods might hinder investigations. Read more here
  • Should I Upgrade to Mac OS X Yosemite? – Golden delicious or bad apple? Read more here
  • How Microsoft Appointed Itself Sheriff Of The Internet – Cyber criminals, digital crime fighters and collateral damage. Read more here

Got some interesting news to share – say hello via @gobbymidget 

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Security after Snowden – what do I need to do?

securityThe implications of the revelations of ex-NSA employee Edward Snowden have been much discussed and many people who were not previously concerned with cyber-security are now wondering what they should be doing. This is a good thing – but the danger has not changed, only the perception of it. Most of the ideas outlined here were well known, at least in broad terms, before this, but those who argued for them were considered paranoid.

If you’ve been asked to put a presentation together; maybe your Board is suddenly wanting to know what can be done. Then this, I hope, will be just the article for you. It is intended to be a quick, high-level guide to exactly that. The solution is not all, or even mainly, technical, the solution is actually a matter of sound service governance, as I’ll describe. So, what to do?

First; don’t panic! There is not very much that can be done in the short term – rushing about trying to fix firewalls is likely to make things worse, a worthwhile solution must be thought out properly.

Secondly; do you need to do anything at all? Maybe not. It is only worth spending money to address a risk if the risk is credible and, if it happens, will have a large impact. If the worst happened and your most important competitor and all your customers and suppliers, were to see all your corporate information, in detail, would your business suffer? For a good many businesses, the answer is ‘no, not really, not much’. If that is the genuine answer, then there is no need to waste money on expensive security measures. Many companies, on the other hand, would go out of business quite quickly in this situation – for them, it is essential, for good governance, to be certain that a proper cyber-security policy is in place, and then put into action.

What is the threat? Exactly the scenario outlined above. If somebody can access your information through a secret trapdoor in your firewalls, your applications, or your operating systems, then, in principle, anybody can.

Governance and Cyber-Security

The biggest risk to security isn’t technical at all. Anybody in your organisation can, if disgruntled, take what they’re allowed to have access to and share it with your competitor, the regulators or a foreign government. This is always the biggest risk.

How do you mitigate this one? Staff Satisfaction. If you have good governance, so that, as an organisation, you have fair policies, you are a good corporate citizen, so you help your community and you look after your staff by treating them fairly, giving them opportunities for advancement and training them, then you will have satisfied staff who will be loyal to you and won’t wish to let you down by revealing your corporate secrets to competitors.

So the first firewall you need to build is a wall of trust between your organisation and your staff – the same applies to suppliers and customers, you need to make sure that they also are part of your circle of trust so they don’t reveal things that could damage the organisation.

It helps too, because good governance ensures that the organisation is behaving ethically, so there are no skeletons in the cupboard waiting to be revealed by whistle-blowers.

Beyond that, you can make sure that your infrastructure is safe from cyber-criminals, spies (both genuine spies and industrial spies), hackers and so forth. This is not as easy as it seems, so it is worth considering technical solutions to cyber-security in a bit more detail.

Firewalls

The most obvious danger highlighted by the Snowdon’s revelations was how vulnerable organisations are to closed source solutions. In the past the simple-minded solution many people saw to security was to put everything behind a firewall. This has three problems:

  1. The firewall can be breached through any trap doors in its firmware and this breach will be undetectable
  2. Even if the firewall isn’t breached, closed-source operating systems can communicate back to the ‘mother ship’ through the firewall through their trap doors
  3. Even if your closed operating systems and closed firewalls are not letting anybody in, your closed applications can be.

On that last point, if you’re running Microsoft Office products on your computer, have a look at the activity monitor. Even if you’ve not used word, say, for many hours, you’ll see it has clocked up lots of activity. What is it doing? It’s connecting back to Microsoft to check that your license is OK – that’s it, you’re paying for it to do this several times a day, on your CPU. If Microsoft wanted it to send other information back, would you have any way of knowing?

Can you trust any closed-source firewalls, Operating Systems or Applications? Snowdon has shown that you can’t. It makes sense for anybody wanting to spy to put their bugs (in the sense of listening devices) as close to you as they can – and putting secret trapdoors into these devices simply makes sense (to a spy).

Why is open source any different?

It is still possible to put trapdoors into open source software. The difference is that you can get somebody to check the software and cut out anything in it that you don’t need, or looks suspicious – and you can get open source software to log what it is doing honestly. Closed source software can put what it wants to into a log, if it leaves out certain things it doesn’t want you to see it is doing, you can’t even know that they are missing.

If you look on the market, you will find that there are no open source firewalls, at least not hardware boxes. There is an open source operating system, though, Linux (let’s hope that in future there will be more, and better ones), open source word processing and spreadsheet software and other open source applications.

To reduce the risk, where possible, remove proprietary closed-source devices and replace them with open source ones. It would be expensive overkill to throw out everything proprietary at once. Rather, produce a service portfolio and concentrate on the services that are most important to the organisation and replace them with open source solutions first.

If you have a firewall made in China, and a firewall made in the US, you could try putting one firewall inside the other – that way you’re banking on the Chinese firewall blocking the US secret trapdoor and vice versa. Even if this worked, though, you still have the problem with operating system and application trapdoors.

A better solution is to shut down your firewalls. That seems a bit extreme, but, if you have physical boxes as firewalls, you can’t do anything about the firmware they are running, so don’t. Make a Linux box your firewall with a software firewall. It might be a bit slower, but it will be safer.

What can be done in the long term?

If you have closed source solutions, see if your supplier can give you, or sell you, the source code. Then you can check that for trap doors and remove anything you think suspicious or unnecessary.

Invest in open source development. There is no reason why an ‘open source’ router or firewall can’t be developed, where the hardware and firmware are all revealed and can be tested to see they have no trapdoors. This takes money, so organisations interested in long-term solutions need to invest in such efforts.

If you are going to have firewalls, make sure that they are governed properly. Do you actually know what the rules are on your firewalls at the moment? Probably not. Usually the rules are written in ‘techie-speak’ and only a few experts know what they are. This is bad governance. Invest in rule-based firewalls where the rules can be set by the policy you have for each service in a way that is understandable to non-technical people.

If you do invest in open source development, the most promising area for fast, easily configured and effective cyber-security is using the same machines that are currently being used for bit-coin mining. They are getting cheaper all the time and are very, very fast. They are seen to be difficult to programme though, and, again, only experts know what they are doing.

There is a solution, though, which is to invest in open source development in Ada for these boxes (FPGA, or field-programmable gate arrays – to give the jargon). Ada is a language invented by the US DoD to be reliable. It is very fast, it is proven to be faster to write and faster to execute than assembler. It is possible to produce secure routers and firewalls with no trapdoors that can be configured at the service level (so the rules are understandable in business terms) using Ada – but a number of companies need to put up the investment capital to achieve this.

What can I do about it now?

Here is a short checklist of actions that should lead towards a more secure organisation. Not every organisation will need to do all of them, and not all will need to start with them at once, but this is the basis:

Short Term:

  • Audit your staff satisfaction
  • Audit your customer satisfaction
  • Audit your business and technical infrastructure
  • Identify the greatest risks from weaknesses in the above
  • Produce a plan to address these

Medium & Long Term:

  • Fund a programme to govern services.
  • Establish a service portfolio to enable the board to understand which business services deliver most value, what they cost, what risks they are exposed to and how to mitigate those risks.
  • Use this portfolio to prioritise the requirements for the organisation into a corporate requirements register.
  • Design a set of solutions to address these requirements
  • Build business cases for these solutions
  • Execute the plans from the most appropriate business cases

Conclusion

Security has never been a truly technical matter. The best security in the world can be circumvented in a few seconds by a whistle-blower. The correct response is not to panic, but to put in place a set of well thought-out policies and then, through well-designed procedures and processes, make sure that these policies are complied with. It takes time and money, but it is the only route to reaching a tolerable level of security. If you use a modern governance framework, such as that proposed by the King III commission, it will ensure that you act to be a good corporate citizen – which will reduce the risk of whistle-blowers by achieving satisfied staff, customers and suppliers.

It is worthwhile establishing service governance as the organisation’s main governance tool because it enables and improves all business processes, delivering value to stakeholders by ensuring, along with many other things, a proper balance between risk and investment in cyber-security. Decisions to invest in an aspect of security should be based on the appropriate requirements of each particular service and its stakeholders.

Much needs to be done to develop the secure infrastructure that can be used to implement the cyber-security policy. In an ideal world, companies exposed to the risk would invest collaboratively in producing components for secure infrastructure.

Why not suggest to your board, as part of good corporate citizenship (an important part of governance) investing in a secure open source project?

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itSMF Estonia Conference Round-up

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Beautiful Estonia

On Wednesday 11th December, in a very cold and snowy Tallinn, President of itSMF Estonia, Kaimar Karu kicked off the annual itSMF Estonia conference by introducing all of the speakers and encouraging delegates to ask questions of them throughout the day.

Kaimar had managed once again to raise attendance of the conference (by 10%), with representation from 10 different countries, and with a very good female representation in the audience too.

Delivering Service Operations at Mega-Scale – Alan Levin, Microsoft

Alan Levin small

First speaker was Alan Levin of Microsoft whose presentation talked through how Microsoft deal with their vast number of servers and how, built into all of Microsoft products, is the ability to self-heal.

On the subject of Event Management Alan spoke about ensuring that alarms are routed to the correct people and how, in your business, any opportunity you have to reduce alerts should be taken.

Enabling Value by Process – Viktor Petermann, Swedbank

Viktor Petermann small

Viktor opened his presentation by saying that 4 out of 5 improvement processes fail because people are not robots. You cannot just expect them to know what you want and how you want things to work.

He continued by saying that having the right culture, processes and learning from relevant experiences will enable you to do the right things the right way.

Viktor warned that like quitting smoking, change will not happen unless you really want it to.  Before embarking on any change make sure that you are willing to give it 100%.

Oded-Moshe-small
Oded Moshe

Benchmarking and BI, Sat Navs for Service Desks – Oded Moshe, SysAid Technologies Ltd.

After having to rest his voice for 24hrs due to contracting the dreaded man-flu Oded still managed to show how to use Benchmarking to improve your Service Desk.

His presentation contained useful guidance on what areas to look at and how to benchmark yourself against them.

He also explained how you can use SysAid and it’s community to gather global service desk metrics to measure yourself against.

Presentation words of wisdom from Oded: Don’t become fixated with metrics and benchmarking as they are not the only way to measure.

Service-Based Public Sector – Janek Rozov, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications

Janek Rozov small

In contrast to the other presentations “Service-Based Public Sector” was presented in Estonian.  Although I do not speak Estonian I could tell how passionate Janek was about the subject and it was one of the most talked about presentations that evening in the bar.

The presentation covered how the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication are using ICT to fulfill their vision of supporting Estonians as much as possible, while they are using their rights but bothering them as little as possible in the process. Perhaps we could pay for Janek to spend some time with the UK Government in the hopes that some of this common sense might rub off?

If you would like to know more about Estonian ICT success in the public sector you can read Janek’s pre-conference article “Standardizing the delivery of public services”.

Service Desk 2.0 – Aale Roos, Pohjoisviitta Oy

Aale Roos small

Aale spoke profusely about how service desk’s and the mentality of “break fix” is old fashioned and flawed.  He described how the service desk needs be brought kicking and screaming into the 21st century, concentrating on proactive measures and outcomes.

He continued to say that ITIL has been outdated for over a decade and that unlearning ITIL and moving to a “Standard + Case” approach is the way of the future.

Networking

There was lots of opportunity for networking across the event, and at lunch I got the opportunity to speak to a few of the delegates and presenters to find out what they thought of the conference.

Quote from Oded Moshe:

I think the first session by Alan Levin from Microsoft was a great chance for us all to see the insides of one of the largest operational support organizations in the world! They are in charge of providing more than 200 cloud business services to more than 1 billion people with the help of more than 1 million servers. So Problem Management, Incidents, Monitoring – everything is on a HUGE scale – it is easy to understand why you must have your service processes properly tuned otherwise you are in a master-mess…

Peter Hepworth – CEO of AXELOS, Kaimar Karu – President of itSMF Estonia and Patrick Bolger – Chief Evangelist at Hornbill Service Management
Peter Hepworth – CEO of AXELOS, Kaimar Karu – President of itSMF Estonia and Patrick Bolger – Chief Evangelist at Hornbill Service Management

Industry Leaders Agree IT is Revolting – Patrick Bolger, Hornbill Service Management

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Adapt or die was the message in Patrick’s session with references to high street names that didn’t and paid the price.

Comparing how we in IT think we are viewed and how the business actually views us was sobering but mentions of SM Congress and Arch SM show that the industry is ready to change and we are not doing this alone.

Problem & Knowledge, The Missing Link – Barclay Rae, Barclay Rae Consulting

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Presenting on the missing links in ITSM, Barclay hammered home why Problem and Knowledge Management are so fundamentally important.

Using his ITSM Goodness model Barclay showed how to move away from the process silo’s we so often find ourselves in and which processes to group together for maximum effectiveness i.e. Incident, Problem, Change.

Barclay also held well-attended workshops pre-conference in conjunction with itSMF Estonia.

DevOps, Shattering the Barriers – Kaimar Karu, Mindbridge   

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Kaimar’s message is unorthodox:  Don’t play it safe, try to break things, don’t mask fragility and plan for failure, for this is the road to increased quality and innovation.

He advised that we need to not forget that developers are human and not unapproachable cowboys riding round on horses shooting code.  Get to know them over a drink so that everyone can relax and say what’s on their mind without the fear of repercussion.

But most of all remember that “Sh*t happens”.  Stop the blame, it doesn’t help…EVER.

Problem Management Challenges and Critical Success Factors – TÕnu Vahtra, Playtech

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The penultimate session of the day was from TÕnu on how Playtech are working through Problem Management and the issues they have encountered.

The major difficulties TÕnu has found is the lack of practical information on how to actually do Problem Management, and Playtech have found themselves having to teach themselves learning from their own mistakes as they go.

It was a very useful case study with helpful pointers to information and literature such as Apollo Route Cause Analysis by Dean L Gano for others struggling with Problem Management.

The Future for ITIL – Peter Hepworth, AXELOS followed by Forum

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Following on from the publication of AXELOS’ roadmap, and the announcement that they would be partnering with itSMF International, Peter talked through the progress AXELOS has made and its hopes for the future.

The forum was well attended and many useful suggestions were made for ways that ITIL and PRINCE2 could be improved.

You can learn more about AXELOS’ plans by reading our interview with Peter.

My thoughts

Considering the cost of a ticket to the conference I wasn’t expecting the content and presentations to be at the very high level it was.  I haven’t yet attended any of the other non-UK itSMF conferences but the bar has now been set incredibly high.

My main observation from the conference and the discussions that took place after is that the majority of delegates knew how very important Problem Management is, but are still struggling with implementation and making it work.  In the AXELOS workshop the main feedback seemed to be the need for ITIL to cut down on the number of processes available as standard and concentrate on the core areas that the majority of organizations have, or are trying to put in place.

Well done to Kaimar and team for the fantastic job and thank you for the wonderful hospitality. In addition to the conference I particular enjoyed the entertainment on the Tuesday evening, when some of the organisers, speakers, delegates and penguins ventured out in the snow for some sightseeing and a truly delicious meal at a little restaurant called Leib in the Old Town.

I highly recommend to anyone to attend the itSMF Estonia 2014 conference next December. With flights from most places in Europe less than £150, a hotel/venue that is less than £100 per night, and an amazing ticket price of less than £40, it is extremely great value for money. With outstanding content (90% in English), brilliant networking opportunities and excellent hospitality, it’s too good of an event to miss. I certainly look forward to being there again.

As a final note, thank -you to itSMF Estonia for having us involved as the Official Media Partner.  We are hoping to work with other international itSMF chapters in 2014, as well as on other worldwide ITSM events.  Watch this space 🙂

 

The Internet of Things, Big Data and ITSM

Science fiction becoming science fact
Science fiction becoming science fact

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.

Enterprise Automation

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.
  • Devices can also create new knowledge or provide intelligent services. IBM’s Watson is already answering help desk calls.
  • 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 😉