Proactive Problem Management Review [2014] – The Results

This is a competitive review of software vendors who offer proactive problem management capabilities as part of their IT service management (ITSM) tool.

Products reviewed:

 Proactive Problem Management 2014 

ppmThere seems to be a imbalance within proactive problem management and alerting generally that means that either you aren’t able to pull in enough useful data or you end up with way too much and end up drowning in a sea of notifications.

Best in Class – ALEMBA vFIRE

Alemba vFire seems takes all of this in its stride and gives the ability to set outages and rules to stop alerts being received when they are not required leaving analysts free of the need to wade through the detritus that many other solutions produce. This together with the ability to simulate outages to show what kind of impact to the business could be expected in the event of a outage and the one-click ‘Find Causes’ facility which shows all items and services that could be the cause of a failure provide powerful automation and give control, intelligence and awareness back to the IT organisation.

We believe that vFire has the functionality the vast majority of organisations require to assist in operating an efficient and successful proactive problem management process.

Honourable Mention

Nexthink V5 is a highly sophisticated analytical solution which operates by monitoring the end-user experience and reporting back on real-time events recording dependencies and relationships without the need to install additional monitoring tools.

Offered as a stand-alone solution with no ticketing functionality, Nexthink state that the solution contains the necessary API and connectors to integrate with ticketing tools to create proactive alerts and track actions taken upon its analytics. We feel the solution proactively delivers timely and relevant real-time information whenever needed.  The solution greatly reduces the burden on staff and ensures risk can be quickly and accurately assessed.

We feel that Nexthink is a remarkable analytical tool but would perhaps be overkill for those less mature or organisations looking purely for proactive problem management capabilities.

Introduction

Most of us are familiar with the concept of problem management whether we are practicing it within our organisation or not. The objective is to minimise both the number and severity of incidents and potential problems to the business by investigating the root cause of issues rather than concentrating on finding the cure.

Problem management is split into two different, but equally important aspects:

  • Reactive deals with problem solving after one or more incidents occur
  • Proactive involves Identifying and solving problems and known errors before incidents occur

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

This review looked at four ITSM solutions, targeting all market sizes, that assist organisations in taking proactive step towards managing incidents and problems and exploring problems before they result in incidents.

The main topic areas covered by the review included:

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

Market Positioning

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

  • Enterprise – Either integrated or part of a suite/brand that provides E2E IT Systems & Service Management, for example: Includes Monitoring, Discovery & Service Management capability.
  • Specialised – Offers IT Service Management, with integration to third party Systems Management software
Vendor Primary user base Product Characteristics
Freshservice Small Specialised
Nexthink Large Specialised
ServiceDesk Plus Small to medium Enterprise
vFire Large Enterprise

Competitive Overview

Vendor Elevator Pitch Strengths Weaknesses
Freshservice Freshservice is an uncomplicated and attractive ITIL service desk solution.The simplicity of Freshservice allows customers to provide basic proactive problem management services whilst easily linking to the other areas of the solution.
  • Simple easy to use interface
  • Easy linkage between processes
  • Proactive suggestion of possibly related records when creating description
  • Internal monitoring within the solution could be improved
  • Financial management capabilities require extending
  • Lack of automation in areas such as setting records as proactive
Nexthink Nexthink V5 is an intelligent and attractive solution.Providing far more than proactive problem management, Nexthink delivers extensive analytics and intelligence capabilities in a user-focused manner
  • Ability to search in normal non-IT language (natural language, plain English, google-like experience)
  • Ability to compare objects and contextual situations in order to troubleshoot
  • Robust visual impact analysis
  • No ticketing facility within the solution but has API and connectors to integrate with
ServiceDesk Plus ServiceDesk Plus is a solution that contains the ability to carry out problem management but is immature with specific regard to proactive problem management.The attraction of ServiceDesk Plus is the ability to open several instances of the solution at the same time ensuring multitasking is possible whilst providing easy linkage between records.
  • Proactive problem management records link with other record types
  • No automatic suggestion of knowledge base articles, workarounds etc
  • Too much manual input required
  • Does not seem to clearly separate proactive from reactive problem management
vFire vFire 9.1 is a strong and uncomplicated proactive problem management solution.The solution provides advanced capabilities allowing customers to take advantage of many automated features to make problem management less painful.
  • ‘Find causes’ functionality takes a good portion of the leg work out of troubleshooting
  • Ability to simulate an outage to show possible impact to business
  • Good visual display of CMDB showing related items and services
  • While the dashboards are easy to create and contain a good choice of information they are not the best looking

Number of Customers

  • Freshservice 1200
  • Nexthink 500
  • ManageEngine 25,000
  • Alemba 350

Please note that for the purposes of this report we are showing paying customers only

Analysis

Vendor Functionality Summary Analysis
Freshservice
  • Open API
  • Existing standard integrations with Event Management tools such as Nagios and Solarwinds
  • Default forms and structure as basic starting point
  • Easy linkage between Problems and other types of tickets (i.e. Incident)
  • Proactive solution suggestion as ticket details inputted
  • Implementation support available
Freshservice provides basic yet capable functionality for use by users with low to medium proactive problem management maturity.If you’re after bells and whistles such as sophisticated visual service mapping then this is probably not the solution for you, however, if you are after a good basic package, with ticketing, that has the proactive problem management essentials then Freshservice is a good option
Nexthink
  • Nexthink is a standalone analytics and intelligence solution which integrates with ticketing tools. It does not contain it’s own ticketing capabilities
  • Full integration toolkit. Data can be imported into and out of Nexthink in various ways to serve many different purposes. More info: http://www.nexthink.com/integration/
  • Templates and pre-filled forms and structure available for basic starting point from Nexthink library, a cloud based platform for collective intelligence
  • Web API
  • Existing standard integrations with Service Desk solutions such as LANDESK, ServiceNow, BMC Remedy, EasyVista and PMCS Helpline.
Nexthink provides a comprehensive analytics and intelligence solution which provides far more than Proactive Problem Management capabilities. What’s more it provides them in a user-focused way which is quite different to the majority of other solutions on the market that are all data centre focused.I believe that this solution would create huge value to any organisation looking for real-time end-user analytics.
ServiceDesk Plus
  • Drag and drop templates
  • API’s available to integrate with third party tools such as event management
  • Default templates and admin configuration wizard for quick install
  • Implementation support available
ServiceDesk Plus provides a very basic and mostly manually driven proactive problem management offering. I feel that this solution would be more suitable for those organisations looking for reactive problem management capabilities with the ability to integrate event/alert monitoring. If ManageEngine were to invest in creating more automated features in the proactive problem area, such as auto update from CMDB, the solution would appeal to a much wider and more mature audience.
vFire
  • Drag and drop workflow design
  • User defined dashboards
  • 188 out of the box reports available
  • Existing standard integrations with monitoring tools such as SAM and SCOM
  • Default forms and structure as basic starting point
  • Known errors and outages displayed on customer portal bulletin board
  • Easy linkage between Problems and other types of tickets (i.e. Incident)
  • Proactive solution suggestion as record details inputted
  • Implementation support available
vFire provides very good functionality for users with all levels of proactive problem management maturity.vFire provides more automation than most of the other solutions reviewed and goes the extra mile with regard to fault finding and diagnosis via it’s graphical interface. I believe that this solution would be a good option for most medium to large enterprise organisations.

Deep Dive

Further details for each vendor can be found by using the links below:

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.

Freshservice Review for Proactive Problem Management

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

Other products reviewed:

Commercial Summary – Freshdesk FreshService Review

Vendor Freshdesk Inc.
Product Freshservice
Version reviewed n/a
Date of version Release n/a
Year Founded 2010
Customers 1200
Pricing Structure The licensing structure is based on the number of agents. Freshservice is a SaaS only offering

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch Freshservice is an uncomplicated and attractive ITIL service desk solution.The simplicity of Freshservice allows customers to provide basic proactive problem management services whilst easily linking to the other areas of the solution.
Strengths
  • Simple easy to use interface
  • Easy linkage between processes
  • Proactive suggestion of possibly related records when creating description
Weaknesses
  • Internal monitoring within the solution could be improved
  • Financial management capabilities require extending
  • Lack of automation in areas such as setting records as proactive
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Freshservice is primarily a small to mid market solution

Independent Review

freshservice-logoFreshservice is a straightforward solution for users with straightforward needs. Simple and easy to use, the drag and drop workflow and form templates make for an easy set up of proactive problem management as well as the main solution.

Problem management is dealt with in much the same was as incident within the solution and although this will be perfectly acceptable for the majority of Freshservice’s customers those with more mature proactive problem requirements will likely find that this solution lacks the automation they will expect. The addition of automation to distinguish between the different types of problems would be useful together with the ability to smartly decide which problems are, in actual fact, a problem. The issue many IT teams are experiencing at this time is not that events and alerts are not being received but that so many are received that it is difficult to sort through to find the ones that actually matter. If Freshservice can master this then their worth to their customers would dramatically increase.

The ability to set a “book value” for a particular type of asset is a useful feature, providing the ability to report on those assets that are perhaps experiencing continued faults to see whether continued endeavour is of benefit, I would like to see this area expanded to help track the cost of faults. My impression of the solution is that it would be suitable for all small to large organisations of low to medium proactive problem management maturity. For the vast majority of these organisations, I believe that Freshservice has all the functionality required to perform proactive problem management to a successful level. However, if your organisation is likely to grow in the near future then I believe a more sophisticated solution would be suitable. The number of manual actions required within the solution would be counterproductive to organisations with large numbers of reported proactive problems.

General

User configuration possible for:

Forms

Tables

Workflows

Dashboards

N.B. every form and workflow can be customized through the admin module

  • Open API
  • Existing standard integrations with Event Management tools such as Nagios and Solarwinds
  • Default forms and structure as basic starting point
  • Easy linkage between Problems and other types of tickets (i.e. Incident)
  • Proactive solution suggestion as ticket details inputted
  • Implementation support available

Identification

Freshservice defines the difference between a reactive and proactive problem management record within the solution by the addition of a “known error” tag next to the problem subject. This is done manually by agents within the Problem Module and then provides the ability for reports to be run on “known errors”. I would like to see the ability for Freshservice to automatically recognise these and tag accordingly without the need for the manual process. For organisations receiving large numbers of proactive problems I imagine this would become quite an onerous task. Freshservice’s internal Discovery probe is able to scan networks to populate the CMDB and is able to monitor the available disk space of relevant items.

Freshservice advise that although currently this is all that is able to be monitored, additional capabilities are to follow. Alerts from monitoring and networking tools such as Nagios and Solarwinds, which can be integrated via existing standard integrations, can be sent to Freshservice using Email commands and then automatically create a record within the solution.

Assessment and Alerting

Freshservice calculates an objective risk assesment of the proactive problem and is able to flag this against an associated CI as low, medium or high (colour coded) depending upon how the CI’s business proprity has been set. Assets are able to be attached to all proactive problem records with the importance of the asset viewable from within the record screen.

The solution also contains a basic visual relationship map for impact assesment. Freshservice is able to manually route proactive problems to relevant resolver groups by assigning the particular record to the respective group or agent from the Problems module, alternatively workflow rules can be used to automatically assign records to assign proactive problems to resolver groups or agents. Once a group or user has been assigned an email notification will alert the relevant people.

Implementation  

Freshservice provides the ability to link records to each other in one click. Workflow rules within the system can be utilized to provide the ability to update all linked records upon the update of the problem record. All file types and in solution notes can be attached to a proactive problem record ensuring that all relevant information is available to agents. Changes of status are possible by the use of a dropdown box within the record screen. Although there is no ability to set individual assets and CI’s as unavailable, the solution can be used to advise users of planned outages using both email and the self-service area. In the future I would like to see the ability to set items as unavailable, when affected by a fault that causes it to be so, in order that users can easily see the state of the item. Freshservice state that their customers main need is automatic notification when there is an issue and as a result I believe that development of this area would be very beneficial to both them and their customers.

Auditing and Accountability

Freshservice’s simple workflow rules can be utilised to set thresholds to notify of impending SLA breaches to both individual users and groups. Escalation emails can also be set to once breach has taken place. Each asset has a history of all requests associated with it – problem, change, release etc. that can be viewed after the request has been closed.

In Summary

Freshservice provides basic yet capable functionality for use by users with low to medium proactive problem management maturity. If you’re after bells and whistles such as sophisticated visual service mapping then this is probably not the solution for you, however, if you are after a good basic package, with ticketing, that has the proactive problem management essentials then Freshservice is a good option.

In Their Own Words:

Freshservice is an online ITIL service desk with a fresh twist. It puts a refreshing user experience on top of powerful ticketing and asset management capabilities, and is the most user-friendly app in the space.  In addition to core functionalities like Incident, Problem, Change, Release and Asset Management, Freshservice also lets you put your knowledge base on the cloud. Freshservice offers a plug and play ITIL solution for organizations looking to align themselves to best practices without getting any expert implementation help. It has been developed by the team of experts behind Freshdesk, the leading customer support software that is currently being used to support over 5 million customers across the world.

Screenshots

Assessment Criteria: Proactive Problem Management Product Review

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

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

Overview

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

Previously published product reviews include:

Also coming soon: Outside IT.

Assessment Criteria 

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

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

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

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

Main Topic Areas

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

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

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

Confirmed Participants

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

Image Credit

Review: itSMF Problem Management Seminar [Chelsea Football Club]

Steve White, Kepner Tregoe, Engaging the Audience at Chelsea
Steve White, Kepner Tregoe, Engaging the Audience at Chelsea

The UK itSMF hosted a popular Problem Management seminar this week.

Around 100 itSMF members met at Chelsea Football Club to learn about ‘Proactive Problem Management’ from a variety of industry specialists.

Firstly, a quick summary of the sessions (Football Clichés A Go-Go):

FOX IT – GENTLE STRETCHES TO WARM UP

John Griffiths from Fox IT explored the human elements of problem management, the communication channels that exist between incident capture and problem resolution and the interpretation and translation that must happen via the service desk.

SERVICENOW – OWN GOAL

In many ways this event felt a little like a ServiceNow user group – but when the SaaS vendor took centre stage to deliver some thought leadership we were delivered an undiluted sales pitch.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting David D’Agostino before and know him to be clever, funny and articulate – so I had high expectations for this session. This was an opportunity missed – The itSMF need to be brutal with their editorial – in the end it’s the vendor who came off worst.

KEPNER TREGOE – THE CROWD ARE ON THE PITCH…

A great session from Steve White at Kepner Tregoe. Steve hosted an interactive whiteboard session on defining proactive problem management. For me and for the other delegates I spoke to this was the highlight of the day. More like this please itSMF! It would have been interesting to perhaps walk through some real life scenarios and discuss options with the audience using this open forum approach.

PINK ELEPHANT – A HEARTY PERFORMANCE

Unfortunately I missed parts of Vawns Guest’s session but from what I saw and feedback from others Vawns gave a passionate lesson on the relationship between incident, problem and availability management.

OASIS HEALTHCARE – END-TO-END ACTION

This was an interesting case study from Mike Evans from ITS and Rich Starkey from Oasis Healthcare.   The double act provided a before and after picture of progress at Oasis Healthcare, a network of over 200 UK dental practices. It was also great to see an organization sharing business benefits and return on investment for their project.

Is Honesty The Best Policy?

An interesting point was made during one of the sessions regarding honesty with problems – i.e. do we tell the customer we’re experiencing a problem?

There were mixed views on this – do we keep our problems to ourselves for fear of the organization using it against us or do we openly admit that, we’re human, mistakes happen and we’re doing everything we can to resolve it?

In my view – How an organization answers this question gives a good insight into their culture and maturity. I’m sure that at times there are perfectly good reasons for keeping schtum – but I think honestly is the best policy.

Whether you are trying to run trains on time, hosting services in a datacenter or delivering fruit and vegetables– a bit of honesty from your provider strengthens the relationship and gives the impression that you are not just being fobbed off.

Wrap-Up

Overall I would definitely recommend this seminar, some interactive sessions with lots of questions. I look forward to attending future itSMF seminars this year (further info here).

Finally, Colin Rudd asked the audience if there was interest in rejuvenating the Problem Management SIG and the response was positive – contact itSMF to learn more.

Photo