Trends and opinions for improved IT service management and client management

Posted By: Jim Blayney
27 Feb 2015

All companies strive to integrate new employees as quickly and seamlessly as possible, as a smooth onboarding process allows for greater productivity and overall cost efficiency. The sooner an employee is equipped with the devices, access, and information he or she needs, the sooner meaningful work can begin. Effective onboarding is also important because a company that fails to afford new hires an easy transition provides a poor first impression of corporate operations and imposes unnecessary delays and challenges, both of which can affect new hire retention rates.

Employee onboarding has traditionally been conducted using manual methods; however, this approach is no longer optimal as it requires the coordination of multiple departments that a hiring manager must each depend on to be timely and efficient.

For example, using manual onboarding methods, when a manager hires a new employee he or she will first need to notify the company’s human resources department. The human resources manager will then email other relevant departments, such as finance, IT, and facilities, to prepare for a new employee. Each department will in turn create relevant onboarding tasks to complete; the IT department will need to order and configure a new laptop, tablet or smartphone, the finance department will need to add the employee to the company payroll, and the facilities team will need to begin set-up of a new workstation. Each of these tasks could take multiple days to complete, and only once all are reported back to the HR department is the new employee ready to begin work.

So what does a more effective approach to onboarding look like? Onboarding can now be completed in significantly less time with innovative service automation. Using service automation software, a hiring manager will submit a “new employee setup request” which will automatically implement a hardware and software profile for the employee based on his or her position within the company. Required software applications will be automatically provisioned to each new device, and once completed the company’s service desk will confirm that each of these automated tasks meet service level agreements. From there, the service desk will ensure that the employee’s devices and access are running optimally, and the new hire is ready to begin work!

View our service automation infographic here.

Posted By: Jonathan Temple
12 Feb 2015

Today marks an important new chapter in the evolution of service and unified endpoint management with the merger of FrontRange and Lumension. The two companies are merging to form HEAT Software and I’m thrilled to be heading the newly formed organization as CEO. I should hasten to add that the new company will feature a blended management team with executives from both organizations.

By bringing together the two leaders of hybrid service management and unified endpoint management solutions under one “roof”, HEAT Software is going to be a force to reckon with.

For starters, HEAT Software is now backed by the financial strength of private equity firm Clearlake Capital Group who initiated this merger with the acquisition of FrontRange. Clearlake had the foresight to merge their portfolio client Lumension with FrontRange to form an organization that is going to transform the service management and UEM landscape.

HEAT Software now has a combined 350 employees and thousands of customers worldwide. And that means the newly created organization, with business operations worldwide, has the breadth and depth to scale R&D, product development, customer service, sales and marketing operations on an entirely new level.

So, what’s the motivation for the merger? As part of our growth strategy, we see a clear opportunity to become the leading provider of hybrid service management and unified endpoint management software solutions. To do so requires a strategy to merge with or acquire complimentary companies that offer solutions and services that help fill out our portfolio in support of our mission to be a dominant player in these fast growing markets. We will continue to look for new products, services, solutions and partners that can help us achieve our goal.

FrontRange's merger with Lumension represents an important step in support of this vision. As a global leader in endpoint management and security, Lumension helps businesses protect their vital information and manage critical risk across network and endpoint assets. These capabilities dovetail perfectly with FrontRange’s service and client management technologies that are part of a service automation initiative that will transform how enterprises achieve greater efficiency in delivering uninterrupted IT and workflow processes across business units.

Posted By: Mareike Fondufe
26 Jan 2015

A company’s service department can experience a number of unexpected challenges on any given day. Maybe network service is lagging, customers are having difficulty accessing their accounts, or an internal employee discovers that his tablet is no longer working. These types of service challenges are no doubt problematic, but are far less cumbersome when resolved with the help of Service Automation software, which can automate and streamline solutions to technical problems. Compared to addressing IT issues in a manual system, service automation saves time, expense, and increases overall efficiency.

Take for example the dilemma a company’s Vice President of Sales experiences upon discovering that a price quote cannot be modified in his Excel spreadsheet. The Vice President knows that this modification must be made as soon as possible to continue work and further a positive relationship with his client. To ensure that this is possible, with service automation software the Vice President of Sales would log on to his company’s online Self-Service portal, receive an article from the Self-Help database that recommends the reinstallation of the Excel program, initiate an automatic reinstallation which is in line with the company’s compliance guidelines and the software will fully automatically complete the task. In total, this procedure could take just minutes to complete.

If we consider a manual solution, which would involve calls to a support desk, manual lookups, emails and additional phone verifications, there’s no doubt that service automation is the most streamlined approach to resolving software issues expediently. Ultimately, when it comes to solving a technical problem, the fewer manual interactions involved, the less chance of delays and setbacks that could continue to halt production and decrease customer satisfaction.

See how service automation makes a difference by viewing our infographic, here.

Posted By: Anonymous
07 Jan 2015

By: Dennis Drogseth

EMA VP of Research

If you think that ITSM is static and old hat, think twice. A huge number of innovations are just emerging—some have been a long time in coming; while others are unexpected surprises—as analytics and automation are changing the ITSM game dramatically.

Here are some trends that I’ve seen in 2014 that I expect will grow in importance in 2015. Some may explode into prominence, but I expect most will continue to rise more gradually into industry consciousness, which is typical of the more profound transformations versus those that enjoy a chic but shallow industry cachet.

· As the role of IT is changing to become a more front-office (as opposed to back-office) presence, ITSM will become a yet more critical part of that transformation. Why is this? ITSM can become a new center for IT insights, governance, automation, and analytics to come together with a fully human voice, capturing vital perspectives on real user experience and sharing them with development and operations. But to do so, ITSM will have to change in its technology adoption priorities, as indicated in the following discussions.

· Mobile, wireless, and social IT will become a yet more important part of that transformation—as end-point awareness becomes ever more critical in delivering, sustaining, and optimizing IT services. Critical “areas to watch” in 2015 include: managing and optimizing endpoints as performing assets while cultivating the powers of enhanced GUI designs, mobile and social IT to promote improved service interaction.

· Automation will be one of the biggest game changers for ITSM, with the potential to impact virtually every other “game-changer” here. While ITSM is traditionally viewed in terms of “service desk,” as it evolves it will reach out through automation and analytics to include operations, and even development, far more proactively. This is true whether we’re talking about configuration automation, more advanced workflows, runbook or IT process automation, or other automation investments.

· Perhaps nowhere will automation become more conspicuous than in the changing role of change management (including release and configuration management) from slow, laborious, and fragmented manual processes to more streamlined and yet more service-aware capabilities. In 2015, I predict that automation, service modeling, and analytics will begin to come together in new ways, with far less overhead than in the past—transforming not only ITSM but service management even more broadly. This will be one area in 2015 where agile, DevOps, and ITSM will begin to converge.

· None of the above will work, however, without attention to governance, process, dialog, and business alignment. Fragmented, piecemeal automation can result in train wrecks, while cloud computing is adding ever more options that need to be assessed for performance, usage, capacity, and costs. ITSM will begin to play a role as an interactive center for that dialog in 2015, at least in some IT environments, with a new face and a new look.

Does all this sound like wishful thinking?

Maybe, but I’ve already seen good evidence supporting everything here.

I’m also holding myself accountable, as we’ll be doing some unique research beginning in January—looking at the future of ITSM. If the data proves me right, or even if it proves me wrong, I promise you’ll hear from me when the results are in some time in February.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to disagree (vehemently, if need be) or cheer me on. Or otherwise add or comment. I very much welcome the conversation.

Posted By: Jim Blayney
29 Dec 2014

Enterprise has long-anticipated the advent and integration of the “Internet of Things,” a concept which refers to the projected rise of interactive, independent internet devices, so transformative it will usher in a new era for enterprise. Among its many revolutionary aspects, the “Internet of Things,” (IoT), will allow more objects to be represented digitally and controlled remotely, affecting how companies provide customer service, conduct system management, oversee IT networks, and much more. The widespread application of the IoT is forecasted to monumentally change the way in which companies engage in business and secure revenue.

The good news is that the “Internet of Things” has already arrived. Devices with internet connections currently far surpass the total population of humans on earth, and according to Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group, there will be approximately 50 billion internet-connected devices by the year 2020. As implementation of the IoT increases through “Smart Solution Networks,” applied by progressive enterprises around the world, if your enterprise hasn’t considered capitalizing on the IoT, the time to do so is now.

Existing Smart Solution Networks

While at present the “Internet of Things” may be best known for affording a new level of personal convenience through smart refrigerators and Wi-Fi thermostats, the IoT offers enterprises equal convenience and efficiency with potential for greater revenue. For example, a healthcare system is an example of how a “Smart Solution Network” can improve both the quality of customer service and enterprise efficiency. Through an integrated system of multiple, interactive internet devices, which include servers, tablets and desktops, the rapid flow of communication and information between doctors, staff and patients essential to its operations can now be conducted more quickly and accessibly. Such also results in greater attention given to patients and less time conducting routine administrative tasks.

The Need for Effective Service Management

However, while there’s abundant opportunity for profit and customer connectivity, a “Smart Solution Network” can also present enterprises with challenges in terms of IT service management software, automation and remediation. Why? In a healthcare system, for example, meeting regulation compliance and affording optimal efficiency to patients requires the help of an effectively managed “Smart Solution Network” that can seamlessly coordinate things like the simultaneous use of virtual electronic medical records, automatic submissions of health insurance, and automatic responses to staff requests.

An optimally managed “Smart Solution Network” is also one that offers lifecycle management with software and hardware that is simplistic, secure, and most importantly, scalable. The IoT demands a new level of flexibility for enterprises, which means any service management solution must be able to enact changes swiftly and simply. According to a recent survey conducted by KPMG, 20 percent of global technology business leaders saw the complexity of the IoT as a barrier to embracing its network; a truly effective “Smart Solution Network” management system will eliminate any such complexity with automated processes, easy provisioning capabilities and more.

A “Smart Solution Network” with a robust, highly flexible service management software solution, built on IT best practices, will afford enterprises the ability to make more informed decisions, increase productivity, reduce costs, and ultimately offer customers a higher quality of service.

Posted By: Anonymous
19 Dec 2014

By Steve Brasen

EMA, Managing Research Director - Enterprise, Mobile & Endpoint Management

Reflecting on my earlier career in IT management, I have to confess to a level of astonishment at how naïve IT administrative practices were just a decade or two ago. Failure events were common, and most organizations just accepted as immutable fact the reality of systemic firefighting. IT services critical to business operations were all too often held together with little more than a hope and a prayer. Sure, my colleagues and I were acutely aware of the importance of performing “root cause analysis” and implementing proactive management practices, but who had the time for that? The inevitability of business pressures, support limitations, and time constraints most often contributed to sustaining a mantra of “just get it working and move on!”

At the core of these deficiencies was the unfortunate fact that administrators principally relied on manual process and a few ad hoc scripts to perform support tasks. This approach is inherently inefficient as it is eminently time consuming and fraught with human errors and inaccuracies. Nowhere is this shortcoming seen more keenly than in the inability to perform effective change management. Nearly all IT failures can be attributed to an unforeseen problem with a planned or unplanned change. Relying on manual processes for implementing changes will always result in an elevated number of failure incidents and exceptionally long resolution times.

The recently published EMA white paper, “ Effective Change Management: Maximizing IT Reliability Through Service Automation ,” outlines best practices for adopting service automation to support change processes. Also revealed in the paper are the key business values achieved by automating change management, which can be summarized in five areas:

  • Ensures Consistent Implementations – By standardizing the execution of change processes, all deployments are performed in a predictable manner, reducing incidents of human error.
  • Achieves SLA & Compliance Goals – Automated monitoring processes continuously identify and report on any performance issues or potential problems that may impact user or business productivity.
  • Reduces Time-to-Resolution – Automation enables instant reporting on out-of-compliance changes as well as continuous performance monitoring to promptly alert administrators when incidents occur, enabling rapid remediation times.
  • Enables Proactive Management – Automation, in conjunction with analytics, identifies potential problems before they impact business production and performs root cause analysis, ensuring failure events do not recur.
  • Minimizes Costs – Resource optimization and capacity planning enabled by automation increase the life of existing asset investments while enabling new investments to be right-sized to meet business requirements. Operational expenses are also reduced as fewer administrators are empowered to perform a greater number of tasks.

Change in IT is persistent as both technologies and business requirements are constantly evolving. But change does not need to be a painful and challenging experience. With the strategic application of automation, any change process can be simplified and made more reliable and cost effective—transforming chaotic, reactive IT operations into predictable, proactively managed environments.

Posted By: FrontRange
05 Dec 2014

By Jim Frey

EMA, VP Research, Hybrid Cloud & Infrastructure Management

The dual revolutions of consumerization and cloud have certainly caused much disruption within and around IT. And universally they have also increased the expectations of IT end users. IT-enabled workers and the lines of business they represent are looking for a fast response to new technology needs combined with high levels of service quality—all at a minimum cost.

How is it possible for IT to accommodate such demands? Two themes that emerge from both EMA research and practitioner dialogue are “automation" and “service awareness.” Taking a service-centric approach to automation allows the IT organization to both accelerate delivery and improve the accuracy of how resources and applications are delivered to meet the needs of supported organizations while also improving end-user satisfaction. Service automation can also have a number of beneficial side effects, including reduced operating costs, improved staff productivity, and reduced incidence of human errors.

In order to reach this desired end state, there are a number of steps that need to be addressed and challenges that must be overcome. Identified in EMA’s recently published white paper, “Best Practices: Maximizing Efficiency Through Service Automation,” are six focal points for ensuring success:

1. Cultural transformation: Adopting a service-centric approach starts with setting expectations by opening the dialogue between IT and the organization it serves to define and agree on service requirements. With standardized processes and simplified practices optimized to unique environmental requirements, IT can improve decisions regarding infrastructure investment, staff allocations, and issue prioritization in order to better support the organization as a whole as well as the individuals that comprise the organization.

2. Elimination of technology silos: In order to implement automations that will address services directly, organizational and political roadblocks between traditional network, storage, and compute teams must be eliminated. Focusing on service first is a great way to bridge the divide and rise above finger-pointing and favor-jockeying.

3. Mobility: Accommodating highly mobile business users is an everyday issue, so IT services must be packaged and centrally delivered in a well-coordinated, automated manner. This helps assure that end users will choose internal options to support business process rather than shopping around the App Store.

4. Workflow and business processes: Some of the greatest efficiencies can be gained via workflow and process automation. But take care to ensure the chosen automation engine is flexible enough to accommodate complex workflows that may range from fully automatable to partially automated to fully manual.

5. Empowering end users: The age of the IT self-service portal has arrived, and tech-savvy end users are able to help themselves in a growing number of cases. Take advantage of this by letting users help themselves—they will love it and love IT for being flexible.

6. Governance: Most governance comes down to effective enforcement of policy, and this is where automation really shines. Use automation to make sure that consistent access, security, and quality policies are applied when deploying resources and services.

The service-centric approach opens the door for truly optimizing IT, transforming it from cost center/barrier to strategic enabler for business. With ever increasing rates of change within information technologies paralleled by rising user expectations, service automation has become a must-have for effective IT.

For more information on Service Automation, check out:

Posted By: Jim Blayney
25 Nov 2014

The ability for IT organizations to deliver quality services can significantly impact a company’s overall operational efficiency, productivity and, most importantly, customer satisfaction. While companies undoubtedly recognize the importance of maintaining a high level of service delivery, achieving optimal operation isn't always easy. Are there procedures and processes in place that are working against each other? Is our overall IT infrastructure and services inefficient? Could our approach to service support be improved? While these questions may indeed help companies better understand and improve their services, we believe that the real key to achieving operational efficiency is through the implementation of end-to-end service automation. Why? Service automation has been proven to have a positive impact on service delivery; improvement of uptimes, and the overall performance.

What are some of the key elements necessary to support a service automation strategy? Probably the most important element in this equation is the Service Catalog. FrontRange’s HEAT Service Catalog is a great example of how a service catalog is central to providing employees a means to efficiently address routine issues without initiating a lengthy communication process with the service desk to request or retrieve the information they need. The Service Catalog also provides a direct way for IT to communicate their service offerings to their customers, which for example can include both business and technical service requests, such as onboarding of new employees, installation of software, and activation of new devices.

Implementing voice and workflow automation is also a simple method of providing a higher level of performance and service delivery. Through the use of a voice automation system, you can deliver a better customer experience by phone-enabling your service management solution. This improves call handling with complete automated call distribution (ACD), integrated voice response (IVR), skills-based routing and screen pop features; all in one solution. You can also reduce costs with phone-enabled self-service for resetting passwords, initiating and approving change requests, or checking service management status.

Even one the most complex of workflows , such as that of hiring and onboarding a new employee can be optimized to deliver a higher level of service; for example, rather than manually communicating to a number of departments when hiring a new employee, a manager can simply log into the Service Catalog and submit a "New Employee Setup Request Form." This will initiate a series of automatic cross-departmental tasks to setup the employee’s new laptops and devices based on predefined software/hardware profiles. Once all the tasks are completed the Service Desk will be sent an automated confirmation to HR that setup tasks have been completed within Service Level Agreements.

Ultimately, this fully optimized process allows the newly hired employee to be productive from the start and in compliance with the company’s standards.

As you can see, it only takes a few enabling technologies for companies to implement a service automation strategy and achieve a higher level of service delivery with ease.

Posted By: Jim Blayney
24 Nov 2014

Maintaining truly efficient management over an IT infrastructure can be a sizeable challenge for any company, even those who have managed expansive IT departments for years. Why? In light of rapidly evolving technologies and systems, it’s become increasingly difficult to quickly and effectively adapt to new procedures and processes, and as an IT infrastructure is one of the most influential components of a business’s success, consistency in high-level IT service is critical. This means that companies can no longer get by with reactive approaches to IT management; they must now engage in proactive strategies and strive to achieve optimal control over systems and services at all times.

But just how can companies gain better control of their IT infrastructure and services given the ever-evolving IT landscape?

One of the easiest ways to optimize performance of company’s IT infrastructure and services is through the implementation of service automation, which allows companies to streamline recurring processes that would otherwise consume valuable time and energy if attended to manually. FrontRange’s HEAT Service Management is one example of an ITSM solution that provides service automation to enhance service support processes for IT help desks and call centers. HEAT workflows are easily configurable and can be extended for mobile access, which means that service technicians can quickly respond to assignments and inquires regardless of their location.

In addition to service automation, an overall focus on simplification is another effective way to maintain optimal control of an IT Service, regardless of how the field evolves going forward. When corporations focus on maintaining a simplistic approach to managing their IT infrastructures and services, cost-effectiveness and increased efficiency are inherent results. Solutions like the HEAT Client Management drastically simplify the often overly-complex environment through automatic software provisioning, configuration and remediation, while affording a more unified approach to management.

Upgrading to a more advanced management platform is also an essential component of acquiring full control over expansive, rapidly evolving IT services. An advanced management dashboard, like those in HEAT Service Management, afford companies a consolidated view of every operation across its enterprise to make things like extensibility and the integration of various processes both more visible and highly configurable. When real-time information and the power to implement changes can be channeled into a single, accessible platform, companies are better equipped to enhance workflows and increase overall productivity.

Finally, elevating options for end-user service can also significantly improve a company’s handling of an IT service, as the more customers can do for themselves, the lighter the load on an IT service support team. FrontRange’s HEAT Self Service is one such example of a solution whereby customers can gain control of their service experience that increases company productivity and efficiency. Through HEAT Self Service, customers can submit requests, receive status updates online, gain answers to commonly asked questions, reset passwords and find solutions for a variety of other routine problems. The company employing a self-service program in turn benefits from decreased call volumes, lighter workloads and optimal levels of staffing.

How will your company gain better control of its IT infrastructure and services?

Posted By: Mareike Fondufe
18 Nov 2014

Today’s businesses require greater agility and high-availability of supported IT services. Employees expect services to be eminently available “on-demand” and require prompt access to critical applications and data in order to respond to rapidly changing market conditions. Rising to the challenge of delivering a wide variety of reliable IT services on-request has led to the development of new technology concepts such as virtualization, enterprise mobility, and cloud computing. As these emerging technologies grow in adoption, methods for delivering, securing and managing them must also evolve to meet expanding requirements.

Traditional methods for managing IT resources, including servers, desktops, laptops, and mobile devices are the core precepts of client management. Put simply, client management encompasses all the endpoint management processes necessary to ensure systems meet business requirements from their initial deployment through their final retirement. A number of disparate management services comprise client management. The most critical of these include: system deployment, application provisioning, patching, change and configuration management, security and compliance, problem and incident management, and backup and disaster recovery. Because of the breadth of administrative tasks required for these individual services and the extensive number of endpoints managed by typical medium and large-sized organizations, support for client management cannot be achieved by manual process alone. Since a majority of client management activities are eminently repeatable, these procedures are ideal for automation. The more IT processes are automated, the more time support staffs regain to focus on IT improvements and business-focused projects. Fortunately, a number of automated management solutions are available in the market today. Many of these are point solutions only designed to address one or a few endpoint management challenges. More effective, however, are automated suites that provide a broad range of automation services to achieve the breadth of client management requirements.

The FrontRange HEAT Client Management solution is specifically designed to address challenges in both traditional and emerging endpoint management requirements. The HEAT Client Managementsolution suite offers a unified management solution for supporting physical, virtual, and mobile devices, thin clients, and servers across the enterprise. With a web-accessible interface and role-based access and authentication, the product set allows IT professionals easy access and customized views of the entire support stack from a centralized location. Wizard-based tasks and an end-user self-service portal are included to greatly simplify administrative tasks.

Addressing core endpoint management requirements, HEAT Client Management provides asset management, system provisioning services, software and configuration management, remote control, patch management, security assurance, and backup automation. For asset and inventory management, the solution set discovers all IP-addressable hardware components and integrates with CMDB implementation for a consolidated and holistic enterprise view. Image-based and/or “pre-scripted unattended build” system deployment is also included to enable the bare-metal provisioning of physical and virtual endpoints. The solution’s “Software Factory” provides integrated operating system, application, patch and driver packaging with 170 pre-defined wizard driven commands included out-of-the-box to simplify software delivery. Security assurance reports and alarms ensure endpoints meet compliance objectives, and both vulnerability and malware scans prevent endpoints from being compromised. Backup and restoration features are also included to assist in data and configuration migrations and to facilitate disaster recovery.

Going beyond traditional management processes, HEAT Client Management provides advanced capabilities specifically developed to address emerging management challenges. For instance, the platform includes virtualization aware monitoring and maintenance features. VMs are discovered and can be fully and easily provisioned with the same interface used for deployment to physical endpoints. Application virtualization packaging and provisioning capabilities are also included as well as full support for Citrix XenApp implementations. Personality migration automation enables a smooth transition of user states to and from virtual and physical endpoint or between different operating environments. Additionally, a dashboard is provided, which achieves full software release monitoring and management functionality. Wizard-based queries identify software dependencies and appropriate package installation order prior to deployment, and individual release packages can be modified to meet unique endpoint requirements. Also, the status of software package delivery is tracked and clearly reported on the dashboard interface.

In order to address emerging requirements the FrontRange solution also provides easy-to-use integrations with third-party solutions, greatly enhancing the extensibility of the platform. Taken as a whole, the HEAT Client Management suite offers a comprehensive and consolidated platform for achieving both traditional client management requirements and emerging technologies, allowing organizations to provide the management resources necessary for enterprises to succeed in meeting evolving IT requirements.