Killer Cats, DevOps, ITSM & Star Wars – BCS CMSG 2016 Conference

It’s Covent Garden baby! The BCS Configuration Management Group held their annual conference on Tuesday. The CMSG was set up in 1995 to provide a forum for the promotion of Configuration Management as a discrete management process. The group now covers the transition areas of Change, Release and Software Asset Management, including the specialist UK SAM Networking Group.

The theme of the conference was “transitioning the future” and the event had three streams:

  • DevOps
  • Change Configuration & Release Management
  • SAM  Licensing & Strategy

 

Roo Reynolds, Chief Operating Officer at Digi2al Limited – Driving Transformation In A Government Environment

First up was Roo Reynolds on driving transformation in a government environment. Roo’s first task was a quick public service announcement on Larry, the cat that lives at Number 10 (where the Prime Minister lives for non UK readers). Apparently, whilst appearing cute and fluffy. Larry actually has a vicious streak so if you’re ever invited to Downing Street, consider yourself warned – the last thing you want is a Rabbit of Caerbannog scenario.

 

Roo talked about the challenges of working in a government environment and his transformation mission:

Roo shared how using Agile transformed the environment:

The next part of Roo’s session focused on practical guidance.

Roo talked about the importance of putting your customers at the centre of the requirements gathering phase “your users are unlikely to grow wings so they no longer need lifts”  As Roo put it “transformation doesn’t have to be huge, the smallest things can make a difference.”

Here are Roo’s top tips for driving transformation:

  • Start with the needs of the user; genuinely put the user first
  • Work with people who are committed

  • Show the thing. Minds out of the gutter people! Roo was talking about having prototypes and getting regular customer feedback.
  • When getting feedback for a prototype, feedback from five people is often enough (hits 75_80% of issues)
  • Walls are important

 

Vawns Murphy Senior ITSM Analyst, Enterprise Opinions – Going From Good To Great Using ITIL & DevOps

I was up next talking about my practical experience of using ITIL and DevOps to make things better in the real world. My session focused on a real life client engagement where we went from IT Ops and Dev teams literally snarling at each other from different sides of the room to a happy, collaborative environment with a 99.91% Change success rate and a 50% reduction in deployment time. There was also a lot of talk about Star Wars , the Avengers and erm, Frozen. You can check out the slides here.

 

Connor Shearwood, Developer,  Springer Nature – Managing Continuous Delivery

Up next was Connor from Springer Nature on continuous delivery. Connor talked about the need for common sense in a delivery environment: “keep things simple, have conventions around how software is built and tested.”

Connor went on to explain the importance of automation explaining “we need to make doing the right thing easy and the wrong thing impossible.

Connor gave practical guidance on continuous delivery, talking about the benefits of consumer driven contracts for micro services, and why automated testing is so important “most of your tests should be automated because people are fallible”.

Connor talked about how there’s no silver bullet; “you need discipline and willpower but having good processes makes things easier. If you make it easy for people to try new things there will engage and they will try”

My favorite piece of wisdom from Connor’s session was this: “You need to have an exit process, broken gets fixed, crappy lives on forever”. Be warned people!

 

Patrick Bolger, Chief Evangelist, Hornbill – Rethinking Your ITSM

Patrick’s session was all about rethinking your ITSM from Shadow IT to Agile. He started by talking about being schooled by his daughter on iPhone usage:

The first part of Pat’s session focused on the rise of Shadow IT and how we risk alienating our customers if we don’t keep up. The first step to sorting it out? Investing in your Service Desk

Pat talked about major trends impacting 21st century IT departments and what it means for IT decision makers:

  • User Experience
  • IT Delivery
  • Information & Communication
  • Innovation & Usage Models
  • Data

The upshot? Next generation IT is all about people.


Pat concluded by talking about the importance of being inclusive when driving transformational: “change is a threat when done to us but an opportunity when done by us”. A very powerful message and a great way to maintain focus on the customer when managing change.

 

Robert Cowham, Consultant, Perforce Software – DevOps In The Cloud, A Pathway To Heaven?

The last session we attended was Robert’s presentation on DevOps and the cloud. Robert opened by talking about the background of DevOps and how it links into Agile. Robert then went on to explain the impact of DevOps on continuous delivery on development and discussed the impact of cycle times.

The next part of Robert’s session focused on the impact of the cloud, advantages and the big players including Microsoft, Amazon and Google.

Robert went on to talk about the practicalities of applying DevOps in a cloud environment discussing how to maximise pipeline flow, automation, feedback, micro services and release technology & containers.

Robert finished his session by demonstrating a functioning pipeline – a fascinating example of real life application.

 

For our money the CMSG conference was a great day, informative, lots of practical guidance and lots of subject matter expertise. A huge thanks to the BCS for inviting us and we hope to be back next year.

Did you attend the CMSG conference? Let us know in the comments!

 

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Event Listing: BCS CMSG Conference 2016

The BCS Configuration Management Special Interest Group are holding their annual conference in London on the 7th of June.

BCS

The theme of the conference is transitioning the future and the event will have three streams:

  • DevOps
  • Change Configuration & Release Management
  • SAM  Licensing & Strategy

This is the 11th conference run by the BCS CMG. The main conference objectives are to share experiences in how Configuration Management supports and enables Change Management in software development and ITIL Service Management. Software Asset Management (SAM) and licensing are critical to today’s organizations and the conference will detail new approaches and strategies to aid today’s practitioners. Best practices in adopting an integrated approach, and communicating and selling this to the rest of the organisation are essential elements.

The Conference will bring together managers and practitioners working across the service lifecycle (which incorporates the application lifecycle) together in an open forum.

 

Event Breakdown

What: The BCS CMSG Conference; Transitioning The Future

When: 7th June 2016 08:30 – 20:00

Where:  BCS, 1st Floor, The Davidson Building, 5 Southampton Street, London, WC2E 7HA.

How To Book: Click Here

 

I’ll be one of the speakers at the conference (check out my session overview here) so if you’re attending the conference, come and say hi!

ManageEngine for ITAM and ITSM

This independent review is part of our ITAM vs. ITSM Integration group test.

Also participating:

To read the summary, strengths and weaknesses, and criteria please visit this page.

Commercial Summary

Vendor ManageEngine; a division of ZOHO Corp
Product ServiceDesk Plus
Version reviewed 9.1
Year Founded 2002
Customers 100,000+
Pricing Structure By Technicians / Assets (Nodes) Available On premise and SaaS

ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus

ManageEngine is a division of Zoho Corp, a privately owned Indian software company with 3,000 employees.

Zoho’s divisions include:sdp_high_res_logo

  • ZOHO – CRM, email and back office functions
  • WebNMS – Network management framework
  • ManageEngine – IT management tools

ServiceDesk Plus from ManageEngine includes a service desk offering and asset management features. ManageEngine claim that ServiceDesk Plus has over 125K deployments in over 100K customers and is used in 186 countries in 29 language variations.

A core differentiator for ManageEngine is delivering IT management tools at a fraction of the price of their enterprise IT management rivals.

 

ServiceDesk Plus Editions

ServiceDesk Plus is available in Standard, Professional and Enterprise editions.

In summary: 

  • Standard Edition (Free): Free software for Incident Management, providing self-service and a knowledgebase. Aimed at the first rung of the ladder of ITSM and getting organizations organized for free.
  • Professional Edition – As per the Standard Edition plus asset scanning and Software Asset Management capabilities.
  • Enterprise Edition – The full suite (Incident, problem, change, asset, service catalogue, CMDB and IT Project Management). Billed as ”ITIL ready helpdesk software with Asset and Project Management”.

The free version from ManageEngine is a bold move to capture market share. There are no limitations on number of agents or tickets raised. ManageEngine state that they provide this free software as a way of giving back to the ITSM community.

Complementary Tools from ManageEngine

The full ManageEngine product portfolio includes:

  • Datacenter & Server Performance
  • Network Performance
  • Log Analysis and Security
  • Desktop and Mobile Device
  • Application Performance
  • Active Directory Management

And for the purposes of IT Asset Management and IT Service Management complementary products to ServiceDesk Plus include:

  • AssetExplorer – Standalone Inventory Management Software
  • Social IT Plus – An internal private social network for IT
  • SupportCenter Plus – Customer facing customer support software

 

Asset Lifecycle Embedded within ITSM  

Asset dashboardServiceDesk Plus includes asset discovery of all IP devices directly into the service desk based on agent based or agent-less scanning. All software and hardware information is recorded and managed for each asset.

Once IT assets are inventoried, administrators can group and manage assets by their preferred criteria or attributes. Asset status can also be assigned for easier visibility of assets in use such as ‘in repair’, ‘disposed’, ‘in use’ and so on. Asset managers can assign contracts and maintenance expiry dates to certain assets and manage them throughout their lifecycle, including non-IT assets.

ServiceDesk asset scanning also includes recording of software usage metering, so with effective policies and management ServiceDesk Plus customers can remove software waste and ensure they only pay for software being used. Organizations can also monitor the usage of restricted applications to support the enforcement of IT policy and to mitigate information security risks.

ServiceDesk Plus include Software Asset Management (SAM) features including the management of various license types such as CAL, concurrent, subscription and node locked licensing.

However ServiceDesk Plus should be considered a basic solution for organizations getting started with the management of desktop SAM. In particular – recognition of software is manual, so administrators must manually scan; move applications to managed status and then manually check for accuracy. This will be very labour intensive for medium to large organizations managing hundreds if not thousands of applications.

The real strength of an integrated suite such as ServiceDesk Plus is the asset register and inventory records all living within service management lifecycles.

ITAM and ITSM Integration

ServiceDesk Plus provides a holistic view over both ITAM and ITSM functions and provides a good integration between the two disciplines. Customers can pin problematic assets to service requests, problems and changes and drill down to see the relationships and inventory history for each asset associated with service.

There is a seamless link between asset and service allowing service managers to see how assets perform during a change, plan changes by viewing impacted assets or troubleshoot troublesome assets by analyzing all the incidents, problems and changes associated with assets.

ServiceDesk Plus has no current integration with Microsoft SCCM, a market leader in desktop deployment. Competitive solutions integrate with the patch and deployment lifecycle, although ManageEngine do offer their own integrated solution in the form of Desktop Central as an alternative to SCCM.

ManageEngine report that around 20% of their customers have taken ServiceDesk Plus beyond the IT department to functions such as HR, maintenance, facilities and travel. So there is clearly scope for expanding the initial value and investment in ServiceDesk Plus well beyond the IT department and providing automation and efficiency gains.

Lacks Polish

Customer - software dashboardManageEngine lacks some of the sophistication and polish of their ITSM market competitors, and lacks the depth compared to specialist ITAM players – but nonetheless is a good solid solution for building an integrated ITAM and ITSM foundation.

ManageEngine has an enormous portfolio of products. This diversity is reflected in their ITAM and ITSM offerings, which sometimes show a shortage of specialist knowledge. However for organizations seeking to build a service management platform with inbuilt asset register at a competitive price ServiceDesk Plus should be on your shortlist.

Vendor information – in their own words

“ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus for ITAM & ITSM

ServiceDesk Plus is web-based help desk software built on the ITIL framework with over 125,000 deployments in more than 100,000 organizations. ServiceDesk Plus is SMB affordable help desk software loaded with enterprise features. It can be the right fit for organizations that are looking for to organize their IT help desk without having to spend huge dollars.

ServiceDesk Plus enables an easier service delivery to the end users with a range of easy code-free customizations starting from the user interface. Automation ranging from ticket handling to automated notifications in ServiceDesk Plus help increase productivity of the technicians. ServiceDesk Plus has minimal learning curve and is easy to learn for both the technicians as well as the end users thereby ensuring a faster ROI for service desk teams.

The native mobile apps provide anytime, anywhere access to the technicians to create, edit, assign, and close requests. ServiceDesk Plus delivers the right insights on the help desk performance s with canned and custom reports, and real time dashboards. ServiceDesk Plus is also scalable for organizations of different sizes. The key features of ServiceDesk Plus include: –

  • Incident Management
  • Problem Management
  • Change Management
  • Asset management
  • Project Management
  • Purchase and Contract Management
  • Self-Service Portal
  • Knowledge Base
  • Automated Workflows
  • Multi-Site Support
  • 150+ Canned and Custom Reports
  • CMDB
  • Real-Time Dashboards
  • Service Catalogue
  • User Survey
  • Native Mobile Apps

The standard edition of ServiceDesk Plus with the basic help desk functionality is completely free without any restrictions on the number of end users, technicians, or requests. The main objective is to eliminate the cost of decision-making for small organizations and enable them to take their first step towards an organized IT and streamline their incident management process.”

Product Information: https://www.manageengine.com/help-desk-software.html

Online demo: http://demo.servicedeskplus.com

Matrix42 for ITAM and ITSM [Best in Class]

ITAM & ITSM Integration Review (10)I recently reviewed Matrix42 [Best in Class] for the ITAM vs. ITSM Integration group test. Below is a summary, read the full review on Tools Advisor here.

Also Participating:

To read the summary, strengths and weaknesses, and criteria please visit this page.

Matrix42-Corporate-Logo-300ppi

Arguably the first vendor to offer comprehensive Enterprise grade SAM within a full ITSM suite

 

ITXM – Full ITAM & ITSM Integration at last

We first reviewed Matrix42 back in 2010, when we assessed that the German IT management tool provider had strong ITAM, ITSM and Systems Management capabilities. Five years on and Matrix42 is as competitive as ever, a modern IT Management platform with vast platform coverage.

Matrix42 want to be the management layer that sits on top of the services that run IT and claim their key differentiators are strength of integration, automation and speed to value – eschewing the consulting heavy approach of many IT management tool rivals. Existing customers range from mid-market to very large enterprises.

Enterprise Grade SAM within ITSM

Many ITSM tool providers pay lip service to ITAM. Adding a few inventory fields with incidents or offering database level integrations between tools. Matrix42 is arguably the first ITSM suite to offer fully integrated enterprise grade ITAM capabilities.

The vision of fully integrated ITAM and ITSM is:

  • For ITAM
    • Meeting compliance and efficiency goals whilst decisions and changes are being made rather than attempting to clean up mess afterwards.
    • Allowing users to be productive and have access to the assets they need whilst being compliant.
  • For ITSM
    • Offering visibility of asset relationships and costs to facilitate faster incident resolution, proactive problem management and less error prone change management.
    • Delivering self-service without risks.

Matrix42 is the closest toolset manufacturer we’ve seen to be able to realize this vision from one platform. The solution offers both strong ITSM capabilities (verified for eight ITIL processes via a modern interface) whilst also offering depth of datacentre SAM coverage (Identifying options and packs enabled for Oracle database).

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Read the full review on Tools Advisor here.

Do you use Matrix42?

Please share your opinion for the benefit of others.

Leave a customer review on Tools Advisor here.

 

 


 

ITSM: Making a big splash in SAM

The following article forms part of a larger publication looking to understand the merits of best-practice as they pertain to Software Asset Management. Like any IT discipline, SAM does not exist in isolation, and can benefit greatly from the data typically deemed resident in Service Management. As ever, your feedback in the comments section below would be welcomed.

Software Support & Maintenance Review Process

To round off this updated version of the Process Kit, we have a process that might not be considered core SAM but should absolutely be in place if we are to make use of valuable data at our disposal. The review of value delivered by Support & Maintenance contracts should be instigated off the back of a software contract renewal. Support & Maintenance costs can add a substantial levy to the cost of software so an examination of its worth to the business should be a built-in step to any decision relating to contract renewal.

Primary Objectives:

  1. To assess the value received of vendor support & maintenance offered on software titles that have entered a contract renewal phase.
  2. To undertake a benefits analysis of the Support & Maintenance contract in relation to the IT strategy of the company.

Secondary Objective:

  1. To communicate the Support & Maintenance findings to the contracts renewal team

Assumptions:

  1. That such data required to support this process is retrievable from the Service Desk tool.

Function Step Overview:

1.10 Gather Service Desk data. The contracts renewal team should reach out to the Service Desk Manager to gather support call data relating to the software titles covered by a contract currently due for renewal.
1.20 Plot support calls. The Service Desk Manager should then seek to plot that data in a graph akin to the diagram below (Fig.1) Undoubtedly styles and layout will vary as regards preferences go, but if you can offer a breakdown of support calls answered at the varying levels of support offered to the business then this offers invaluable intelligence to the contracts renewal team.   The very simple Excel Spreadsheet that was used to generate figure 1 is available with this publication.
1.30 Determine acceptable call spread for your organisation.   Having plotted the support calls as per the graph in figure 1, the subjective task of determining the acceptable call-spread for your company has to take place. You might be more forgiving for newer titles, as these will not have received as many hot fixes and patches to plug potential vulnerabilities. Conversely, more for more mature titles, you might expect to see fewer overall calls logged against them due to the stability should titles should demonstrate.One aspect that should be evident of such analysis is the potential burden that these titles place on your company.   Let’s not forget that software is installed to facilitate end users to do their jobs, not to hinder a company in its productivity. A further benefit of such analysis to Service Desk Manager is that he/she can see at a glance where the greatest load is being borne for that software vendor, and so can direct training resources accordingly.
1.40 Examine support calls that escalated to vendor.   The percentage and quantity of support calls that have made it to the software vendor need assessing. As does the effective resolution rate, and overall experience of having dealt with the software vendor. Again, such an assessment will be subjective, but so long as the assessment is consistent and demonstrable to the contract renewals team then any findings are less likely to be questioned.
1.50 Compare Support & Maintenance benefits to future roll-out plans. The final piece of analysis required is to examine what adjacent benefits are bundled into the support & maintenance on offer. Some vendors will bundle in training (both on line and in person) their might even be upgrade rights to the next version of the software covered by the contract; rights to transfer; multiple install rights etc. This list goes on…. Such benefits should be compared to the mid-term direction the business and IT wishes to take those software titles.
1.60 Communicate recommendation to Contract Review Team. Having formulated the preceding research in an acceptable format for the contracts renewal team, the Service Desk Manager can submit his/her report to the team knowing that more than a “finger in the air” assessment has been made of the support & maintenance on offer.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 09.35.29

(Fig. 1 – Example of Support Call Analysis – See Section 1.20)

The business can analyse this data and use it formulate a truly informed decision as to which titles are taken forward with support and maintenance, and which they feel they are capable of supporting through their own in-house technical expertise.

A point worth observing here is that the contracts renewal team will only use this as part of their considerations in deciding the direction to go in renewing a contract – financial considerations as well standard checks and controls on doing business with that particular software vendor will have to go into the overall decision.

A further point the contracts renewal team have to bear in mind is that if they choose to terminate support & maintenance on a given product, then this will have operational consequences on any software left in situ (no further vendor technical support, or possibly even the removal of the software altogether). This could entail switching costs and training demands that require fulfilling. The nuances of terminating support vary from vendor to vendor – take the time to find out what these are (or to inform the contract renewal team what they are).

Finally, with the prevalence of as-a-service, such a review would not be out of place to factor in up-time of software titles. Remember: if you don’t push for compensation at the point of contract renewal, any potential demands for remuneration for loss of service/downtime won’t have a legal leg to stand on.

Software Support & Maintenance Review Process - Page A Software Support & Maintenance Review Process - Page B Software Support & Maintenance Review Process - Page C

This, and 21 other processes have been modelled by SAM Charter in Version 2 of the SAM Process E-Kit. To take advantage of this launch (and as a thank you for making it to the end of this article!) the following promo code will offer you a $50 discount off any purchase made at the link below:

ITSMREVIEW50

http://www.samcharter.com/sam-charter-process-kit-version-2/

 

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ITSM – Crossing the SAM Divide

As can be seen from the literature and marketing brochures of many Service Management tool providers, the appeal to cross the border and reach into the Software Asset Management space is proving very difficult to resist, and there is some merit to the approach:

  • Inventory agents for SAM report the same data as inventory agents for ITSM, so if an ITSM tool is already in place, why not use it and save a network manager a headache relating to network bandwidth?
  • If an end user has a query relating to licensing or software in general, their guided instinct would be to reach out to the Service Desk to resolve that question – so it would make sense to have SAM related data at the disposal of the Service Desk.
  • SAM could benefit from the practice of SLA adherence – as a discipline, it is too often rooted in getting reports “just so” rather than being able to offer reports “on time”. The repeated activity of generating compliance reports will see to it that a company is better placed to drive strategic and operational benefit through a company if it borrows such a concept from ITSM.

However, before anyone proclaims “I do”, it is also worth noting a few of the differences that will undoubtedly have to be overcome if a marriage is to proceed:

  • Except for the most basic of calculations, “one licence does not equal one install”. Reconciliation engines within SM tools are going to have to step up to accommodate upgrade rights, downgrade rights, rights of secondary use, multiple use rights etc.
  • If an SM systems provider proclaims “they do asset management” they should be able to demonstrate where and how to import proof of entitlement; IT already struggles obtaining such data from contracts departments as they (can typically) feel duty-bound not to share such data for fear of breaching confidentiality agreements between the company and the software vendor.
  • IT Processes will need an overhaul – Systems integration between SM and SAM are but just one aspect the bullets above allude to; Service Management processes will need to account for licensing deviations highlighted in the software asset management lifecycle if a successful union is to take place.

This final point is worthy of further attention, because regardless of whether you decide to unite SAM and ITSM under one entity within your IT organisation or not, SAM still needs to be woven into your IMAC activities so as to help mitigate the risk of non-compliance.

“Here and there” installations on your desktop may not peak your interest, however, a liberal approach to random installs, moves and hardware changes in the datacenter could lead to liabilities matching or exceeding the salaries of your entire IT workforce; and with the pace and speed with which virtual servers can be instantiated and hosted, due diligence should not be considered a “nice to have” business ethos.

In an article published on this site just over a year ago (ITSM thoughts from the world of Software Asset Management) I posed the question does your service management division assist in the generation of analysis pertaining to a software support and maintenance contract review? (A strategic function of software asset management) Service Management is the discipline sitting on this valuable data, and whilst SAM suites have the capability to record that software has support and maintenance associated with it, SAM suites are invariably not used to monitor the consumption of support and maintenance.

I would welcome your thoughts on this, but also on the forthcoming article – borrowed from the sister-site (ITAM Review) we will be offering a Process of the Month analysis of how support & maintenance analysis could be achieved; and the fringe benefits it offers both Service Management and Software Asset Management.

This article was contributed by Rory Canavan of SAM Charter.

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