Trends and opinions for improved IT service management and client management

Posted By: FrontRange
19 Dec 2014

By Steve Brasen

EMA, Manging 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: Anonymous
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:

White Paoer: Best Practices: Maximizing Efficiency Through Service Automation

Posted By: FrontRange
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: FrontRange
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: FrontRange
18 Nov 2014

In order to successfully meet your business goals and maintain a position as a competitive entity in your industry, empowering a mobile workforce is absolutely essential. Enabling efficient enterprise mobility has a beneficial effect on users’ productivity, agility and job satisfaction, thus creating an overall improvement to business performance.

Most end users have embraced mobility concepts and incorporated them into their regular work experience. No longer content with being chained to an office environment, workers are demanding unprecedented mobile access to business IT resources. In many cases, IT managers have been caught unprepared to support the influx of new requirements for supporting mobility. Introducing enterprise mobility is therefore primarily a challenge for IT operations to accept changes to its processes that will foster improved workforce productivity.  The downside, however, is that introducing changes to your IT systems isn’t always easy. IT administrators are already spending the bulk of their time on reactionary “firefighting,” often requiring an inordinate amount of out-of-hours support. This leaves little time to implement new procedures for extending support to an additional set of mobile devices and operating systems. So, is there an effective solution available?

To be effective in supporting workforce mobility, several factors must be directly addressed.

  • Management processes and resources should be consolidated: all user devices used to perform business tasks -including smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop - should be optimally monitored and managed from a single unified console. You can begin by discovering configuration and status details for all devices involved and consolidating them into a single asset data repository.
  • Enable End User Self-Service:  End users should have the ability to provision their own devices with little or no interaction with IT. This can be accomplished with a consolidated application delivery system, such as a mobile AppStore that provides a “one stop shopping” experience for accessing all business applications. All provisioning procedures should include approval and authentication processes to ensure resources are only accessed by authorized personnel.

To learn more how you can efficiently empower your mobile workforce, read the full version white paper here.

Posted By: FrontRange
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 Management solution 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.

Posted By: FrontRange
18 Nov 2014

To ensure that your company remains competitive, profitable, and successful in meeting all of its goals, you must be prepared to adopt new and trending technologies. Cloud solutions, process optimization, and workforce mobility are just a small collection of the various improvements and opportunities that are available for a modern enterprise.

The major problem, however, is that changes in process and technology are often met with resistance from both users and administrators. This can cause disruption in the productivity of your business, effectively defeating the purpose of otherwise necessary company improvements. With the enhanced solutions provided by FrontRange's HEAT Service Management software, many of these issues can be put to rest. 

HEAT Service Management is an extremely flexible ITSM solution which has been developed based on the IT best practices. We have studied the solutions that have successfully helped customers meet the individualized requirements of many different growing businesses and have finally designed software that can ensure the highest level of service quality, delivery and performance.

HEAT Service Management makes it possible to easily send in a request for any services or changes. You can also plan for appropriate remediation measures, saving much needed time in the future. We give you the power to automatically approve and authorize requests, implement changes regarding your users, while efficiently auditing successful completions and service level agreements. Why continue running your business at a downgraded pace? Begin ensuring enhanced service quality and customer satisfaction through the use of HEAT Service Management solutions today.

Posted By: Udo Waibel
29 Oct 2014

Not too long ago, here on the FrontRange blog, I took a look at the challenges that an in-demand new device like the iPhone can create for IT departments.  Rolling out a new device and provisioning enterprise apps for it are just some of the specific tasks that form part of an organization’s broader enterprise mobility management (EMM) responsibilities.  Above and beyond individual tasks, an all-encompassing enterprise mobility management philosophy should be designed to focus on empowering the mobile workforce and removing as many obstacles that hinder the productivity of the mobile workforce as possible.     

To gain an understanding of how firms are coping with the demands of enterprise mobility management, we decided to conduct a survey (in conjunction with Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), a leading industry analyst and consulting firm). 

The survey, the results of which are being announced today, canvassed the opinions of more than 200 IT professionals from a diverse range of industries and regions worldwide.  EMA has produced a report on the findings, entitled “Enabling Unified Endpoint and Service Management for a Mobile Workforce”, which you can download here.   

One of the key findings of the research is that only 15 percent of organizations feel ‘fully prepared’ to support mobile requirements, despite the fact that 60 percent consider mobile management to be important or critical to their business – an indication that businesses are struggling to provision adequate mobility management solutions.

The survey also showed that there is a strong demand for a unified approach to endpoint management, with more than 50 percent indicating that they have a preference for a single solution that supports both mobile devices and PCs.

Some of the other interesting findings include:

  • More than 80 percent indicated that, in their organization, some or all mobile devices may be used for both business and personal tasks (suggesting that ‘BYOD’ remains a popular and significant trend)
  • 60 percent indicated a preference for cloud-based EMM solutions, with small to medium sized businesses (between 500 and 1000 employees) overwhelmingly identifying cloud as the preferred approach (82 percent) – recognizing that this approach meets more limited budgets and support resources
  • 87 percent of enterprise users that regularly access computing devices to perform job tasks rely on both a PC (desktop or laptop) and at least one mobile device (smartphone or tablet). Which is an indication that mobile devices are being adopted to supplement, rather than replace the use of PCs

As the enterprise becomes ever more dispersed, and the provisioning and support of mobility strategies become far more critical, simple and powerful solutions are required to help underpin initiatives.  This is the approach that FrontRange takes to these challenges and you can find out how we can help support EMM with our HEAT Client Management Solution here

We’ll also be hosting a webinar later this week (on Thursday October 30th) to look closer at the research survey, which we hope you can join us for.  Register your details here.

Posted By: Steve Gardner
06 Oct 2014

By all accounts, 2014 has been a tough year for IT teams. From ever-growing cybersecurity threats to ever-shrinking IT budgets, there have been a number of issues prompting IT pros to pull their hair out. Likewise, IT service desk professionals don’t always get the appreciation they deserve, despite their immense contribution to business operations.

It’s for these reasons that FrontRange is proud to be supporting IT Service Week in the UK (6 - 10 October 2014). ITSW is an initiative from the Service Desk Institute to give IT professionals some much needed recognition and to celebrate the importance of excellent customer service. With a range of promotional events happening this week, ITSW is a great way to showcase the truly vital work of IT professionals up and down the country and to recognise the very best IT teams in Europe.

IT Service Week

According to the Service Desk Institute, the main purpose of ITSW is to:

  • highlight the dedication of the entire service desk team – first line, second line and field engineers in delivering great customer service
  • let work colleagues and customers know how vital the role of the IT support analyst/engineer is and that the IT service team committed to meeting and exceeding customer expectations
  • ‘blow the trumpet’ of the IT service desk staff who work hard and go that extra mile to ensure the technology in their business continues to function
  • boost the morale and teamwork of the IT service desk
  • recognise and reward those teams and employees who deserve it

At FrontRange we’re keen to show our support by any means necessary. We’ll be sponsoring live webinars with the SDI every day this week; promoting ITSW offers (including free donuts); Joining the conversation on social media via the #ITSW hashtag; and even giving away a free iPad Mini for the lucky winner of our ITSW competition

We believe that this week is the perfect chance for organisations to thank their hard-working service desk superheroes so we’re encouraging everyone to get involved – we certainly will be.

Be sure to follow IT Service Week on Twitter using the #ITSW hashtag and via the @FrantRange and @SDI_institute feeds. Good luck and enjoy IT Service Week!

ITSW webinars

Posted By: Mareike Fondufe
30 Sep 2014

In a recent article I wrote for Information Security Buzz, I discussed the advantages of an EMM platform vs. MDM point products. I’ve used a common use case to describe the benefits of an EMM platform.

Highly mobile workforces are a dominant characteristic of modern businesses. Currently, 58 percent of smartphones used in business are purchased by employees, not employers, and this number is projected to grow to 85% in 2016 (Enterprise Management Associates).

As the number of devices in the workplace rises, the likelihood of theft or device loss also increases. On average, one out of every eight mobile devices will be lost or stolen (Enterprise Management Associates). When handling the complications of device loss or theft, let’s compare how an EMM solution, which manages all devices from one central platform, compares to a siloed MDM solution, composed of several, disconnected platforms. 

A siloed MDM solution might be able to track and wipe the device, but the employee often has to report the loss to the service desk, wasting valuable time. The user doesn’t have access to services such as Self Service or Service Catalog to automatically and immediately report the loss, order a replacement device, and initiate a security alert. Instead such responsibilities are left to the employee.

By utilizing a unified EMM solution, the employee can use Self Service and Service Catalog processes to report his lost device and simultaneously order a replacement. Workflows and approval rules initiate automatically (zero touch) and notify the employee when his new device will arrive. Using EMM, the employee can regain access to his applications and personal settings from his previous device. Zero-touch deployment allows new applications and updates to be automatically pushed out to devices.

For the full article please click here.