Review: Biomni Front Office for Service Catalogue

This independent review is part of our 2013 Service Catalogue Group Test.

Executive Summary – BIOMNI

Overview
  • Good functionality
  • Nice commercial approach
  • Good option for Tech-only implementations (e.g. MSPs)
Strengths
  • Good intuitive functionality
  • Commercial approach
  • Speed of implementation – doesn’t need other ITSM processes
Weaknesses
  • Little Strategic implementation focus
  • Functionality gaps
Primary Market Focus Offers IT Service Management, with integration to third party Systems Management software

Commercial Summary

Vendor Biomni
Product Front Office
Version reviewed V7.3
Date of version release December 2012
Year founded 1999
Customers 600
Pricing Structure End Users; either one-off purchase or subscription.
Competitive Differentiators
  1. Flexibility via easy configuration not customisation and supporting of multi-clients with users of different language
  2. Intuitive self service portal designed with shopping cart or app store like request experience
  3. Decoupled service catalogue able to integrate to multiple existing fulfilment system and not tied to any specific services desk
Additional features Biomni say “We have built a variety of integration adapters for cloud, service desk, asset management, user directory systems and platforms. Our community site allows customer to download service and request templates and adapters.”

largeIndependent Review

Biomni is based in the UK and is focussed on Service Catalogue capability. The vendor has developed a number of proven technical links with other products and providers, and offers a ‘bottom up’ discovery and integration approach.

The product is simple to use and has an intuitive WYSIWYG interface – the user view is similar to familiar retail experiences. The system meets most functional requirements, although there are gaps in visualisation of services and hierarchies, plus also some areas of reporting and demand management – although some aspects of this look effective (Reporting consumption forecast vs. actual).

Prospective clients can also use the product free as a trial until the catalogue is needed as an ‘actionable’ system (i.e. transactional) – this is useful for flexible and fast appreciation of Service Catalogue concepts and also for presentation of services, which can be useful to get buy-in and financial backing.

The vendor is focussed on developing and selling mostly at the technical level, so is not widely known as a fully functional option – they are now extending some marketing activity to make more of the industry aware of the product.

This product is useful for a variety of organisations as a simple and low cost entry to the market – the commercial option allows potential users to try out and create some functionality without major effort or expense. As a more strategic option it requires more focus from the vendor on positioning and capability around the product – in order to sell in at a more senior level.

This product is an excellent option for small and medium sized organisations as a means to quickly get up and running with Service Catalogue – it is also a good option for those looking outside their own existing ITSM product, as the vendor is experienced and capable in developing interfaces and integration with a number of ITSM tools. It is sold to enterprise organisations, although mostly as part of a ‘bottom-up’ technical integration.

Overview

  • Specific Service Catalogue/Request Management Vendor
  • Simple, easy to use and effective portal, user administration and request management system
  • Well established and integrated with multiple ITSM and other 3rd party systems management software
  • Interesting and useful commercial approach – software provided free as a presentation system
  • Meets most of the stated requirements – full request management – gaps in visualisation, service hierarchy, demand management, reporting
  • Sales and implementation approach is focussed on technical integration and organic development
  • Vendor becoming active in ITSM community
  • Little focus on strategic/top down approach

Strengths

  • Strong product for Service Portal and Request Management, plus discovery and IT user administration – e.g. security
  • Strong track record of integrations and front-end implementations with other ITSM and systems management tools
  • Product is offered on free basis until it becomes actionable (i.e. with transactional capability rather than just a service brochure). This is useful in this area as it allows for gradual organic development and implementation – or ‘suck it and see’ approach
  • Vendor becoming active in ITSM community – marketing and partnerships
  • Strong technical focus and subject matter skills from vendor
  • Demand Management not fully complete but looks to be potentially highly effective – forecasting vs. actual feature already in place. Looks intuitive and easy to use

Weaknesses

  • No dynamic graphic visualisation for service structure and hierarchy
  • Some gaps in demand management
  • Little vendor focus on business services and strategic approach
  • Gaps in dashboard and reporting features OOTB – requires specific consulting or in-house SQL skills
  • Vendor focussed on technical and bottom up implementation – could do more marketing around IP and practise to develop interest beyond technical level
  • Vendor has limited recognition beyond technical areas and also beyond UK/European base.

Front OfficeService Catalogue Customers

In Their Own Words:

“Biomni Front Office provides IT organizations of any size a flexible decoupled self-service portal through which users can intuitively discover and request services of any type. With easy point and click configuration and extensive interfaces to integrate supporting systems, processes such as cloud, software and user provisioning can be made available for self-service consumption with highly automated fulfilment.

In use by over 1 million production users globally, Front Office is a proven addition to any customer ITSM tool portfolio, delivering rapid tangible and highly visible value.

Front Office Essentials is the free entry level edition to the Front Office suite and provides foundation Service Portfolio/Catalogue management and publishing functionality.

Front Office Express adds shopping cart and app store requesting with optional approval to provide a fully actionable Service Catalogue. Request forms, approval routing rules and service packages/bundles can be configured and linked to services for intuitive self-service requesting.

Front Office Enterprise adds request fulfilment and measurement functionality, allowing requests to be orchestrated across multiples fulfilment systems and teams.

Front Office Service Provider adds multi-client support including client specific branding and support for client hierarchies (e.g. distributors and resellers) within a single instance of Front Office.”

Screenshots

Further Information

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2013 Service Catalogue Group Test.

Request Fulfilment in ITIL 2011

"ITIL 2011 sees a hefty revision for the Request Fulfilment process."

What is it?

The ITIL® Request Fulfilment process exists to fulfil Service Requests – for the most part minor changes or requests for information.

Request Fulfilment landed on us in ITIL v3 when there was now a clear distinction between service interruptions (Incidents) and requests from users (Service Requests for example password resets)

And what does ITIL 2011 give us?

ITIL 2011 sees a hefty revision for the Request Fulfilment process.  There are more detailed sub-processes involved with steps broken down logically.

Now, I like me a good diagram and finally Request Fulfilment gets a decent flow and most importantly the linkages to other interfaces to the other lifecycle stages are included in a lot more detail.

Perhaps the most impressive thing is far more detail in the section about the Critical Success Factors (CSFs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that have been included.  Having experienced the hilarity of definitions of over-complex metrics – this is a good starter for 10, straight off the bat and of course can be added to suit an organisation’s needs.

But what does all this REALLY mean?

It means nothing if the best practices cannot be applied and adapted into real life.

  • Now we all know that at the back of a Service Request is a process that will step through authorisation, any interfaces to other processes etc., but the business value is to provide a quick and easy way for end users to get new services.
  • A mechanism to reduce costs through centralising functions.
  • Understand what other stages of the lifecycles are needed alongside Request Fulfilment – this does not happen in glorious isolation.

Is there such a magic bullet?

The simple answer?  NO!

But there are a few things that should be taken into consideration when looking at implementing Request Fulfilment (often as part of an integrated solution).

Let’s look at the easy stuff first:

  • Look at starting nice and easily with simple Request Models that will happen often, and can be met with a consistently repeatable solution.
  • Look at what kind of options you are going to put in front of the user.  Most people are now familiar with the type of shopping basket type approach through the internet so offer them a familiar interface, with as many options that can be pre-defined
  • Make sure that the different stages of the request can be tracked – the purpose is two-fold:
    • End users don’t get (as) ratty
    • Reporting and routing can be made simpler and more accurate with meaningful status definitions

Getting the hang of this…

  • Give some thought to how you want to prioritise and escalate requests depending on their complexity to fulfil, and again pre-define where possible.

Let’s do the whole shebang…

  • Eventually there will be a need to include financial approval(s) which in turn means sticky things like deputies and budget limits
  • There may also be external interactions with fulfilment groups dealing with procurement

Back up a second – who now?

  • Give some thought to which groups are going to be involved.  In my experience it is sometimes easier to work backwards, from the outcome to the selection and fill out all the bits you need in between.
  • Easy stuff is most likely taken care of by a single, often centralised group – typically the Service Desk, or in some cases specific co-ordinators who work at that Level One tier.
  • Decide if your existing resolver groups are appropriate for some fulfilment tasks or where you need specialised groups and build your workflows to suit.  Typically the first-line support group handling the request always has the ability to track the progress of the request, and is the point of contact for the end users.

Is that it?

  • Whether your request is a simple How Do I to a Hand craft me a personally engraved and gift wrapped iPad the request needs a defined closure procedure.  There has to be a mechanism to validate that the request has been fulfilled satisfactorily before it is closed.

How do we go about deciding what works and what doesn’t?

There is something I will state, use and promote constantly, and that is the use of scenarios.  These are invaluable whether you are testing a deployment, performing user-acceptance testing with a client, or whether you are just evaluating products.

  • Decide on what criteria you need to establish your end goal
  • Break them down to manageable steps, and here the ITIL 2011 activities and points are very nicely presented to give a starter for ten
  • For a product review, for example, look at how easy it is to configure – can I do this myself using demos on the web, or do I need a proper demo on site/webinar with a tool administrator
  • As an aside, what kind of administrative skill is required for your tool of choice?

This is a doddle, no?

A number of things can kill an otherwise promising and/or straightforward deployment:

  • Poorly defined scope – People wanting the process to do too much or not really grasping the idea that Service Request models should be pre-definable, and consistently repeatable.
  • Poorly Designed User Interfaces – The best back end workflows in the world will not help you if the user interface makes no sense to an end user.  Too often I have banged my head against a desk with developers who love how THEY understand what is being asked, so who cares if some desk jockey can’t – they can ring the help desk, right?  WRONG!  Missing the entire point of the business benefits for removing the need to drive everything through 1-2-1 service desk interaction.
  • What is worse than a front end you need a degree in programming to work through?  Haphazard back end workflow that twists and turns like a snake with a stomach upset.  Just keep it simple.  Once it starts to get super-complex, then really ask yourself is this a minor request or something that requires specific change planning.
  • Make sure your tool of choice is capable of measuring meaningful metrics.  Remember, there are lies, damned lies and statistics.  What are you looking to improve, why, what is the benefit, and what can it lead to in terms of Continual Service Improvement

There are, of course, interactions that I haven’t gone into any great level of detail in this article; but do look at one of our latest articles by  Rob England has already touched on this in: What is a Service Catalogue? here on The ITSM Review.

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Event Listing: Service Catalogues & Service Portfolios Seminar, itSMF UK, 18th April, Solihull

National Motorcycle Museum, Solihull

What?

itSMF UK Seminar – Service Catalogues & Service Portfolios

“Service catalogue, service portfolio and service level management are the essential elements of the relationship between IT and the business.  Without these processes in place, it is increasingly difficult to define what IT services are available to the business and on what basis.

But the relationship between service catalogues and service portfolios is often poorly understood, and this can lead to confusion and misunderstanding. This seminar explains how these concepts inter-relate, and helps attendees to build a solution that suits their specific business needs. “Problem management is often the most under used process, and is described by some as the “If we only have the time” process. In reality it is a process that if used correctly adds real value to the business, and supports all of the other service management processes. To get there, there is a need to invest both time and resource – the very things that problem managers have little of.”

When?

  • Wednesday 18th April 2012, 9am – 4pm

Where?

Who?

  • itSMF UK

Agenda

  • Service catalogue – all things to all people?Not only is the service catalogue a way to orientate your organization and processes around services, it is also a user facing service itself. This is Unilever’s experience of delivering a user-friendly catalogue that is part of improved customer satisfaction. ~ Andrew Davies, Unilever
  • Unlocking the potential of service portfolios and service catalogues, and measuring the right thing This presentation will destroy some myths, make you think differently, and give you the tools to continually improve both IT and the business by integrating portfolios, catalogues and measures. ~ Kevin Holland, UK Public Sector Consultant.
  • Magic wand session: Service catalogues and service portfolios in your organizationTake part in one of our interactive round table discussions, led by Dr Don Page of Marval, and discuss the answers to some key questions concerning service catalogue and service portfolio implementation. ~ Don Page, Marval
  • The service portfolio – the new tool in your service management toolset Just when you have finally understood the concept of the service catalogue and managed to produce a useful addition to your service management toolset, along comes ITIL v3 and the service portfolio. What is it, how does it help us? This presentation will give you some answers. Rob Young, Fox IT

Further Info…

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