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10 Free Android and iOS Apps for Better Business

Posted by on January 21, 2014 in General IT
Mobile Apps for the Service Desk Do you ever wonder how business carried on before smartphones and tablets? I sure do. Fortunately, these days anybody with an Android or Apple device has access to apps for every conceivable business need, whether it’s booking a last minute flight, signing an important contract, or crafting your next big idea. With so many fantastic free apps out there, narrowing a list to 10 is quite a challenge. Nevertheless, here I go!
  1. Evernote – Have a brilliant idea for a new product, but don’t have a pen and paper to scribble it down? Think of Evernote as your digital notebook. The app allows you to store everything from photos to web pages to notes, PDF files, and audio clips. The best part – the app is completely searchable and can be accessed on your desktop, mobile device, or tablet.
  2. TripIt – Business travel is hectic enough without having to keep hard copies or locate emails with confirmation numbers and reservations. With TripIt, you can forward your travel confirmation emails to plans@tripit.com, and the app instantly creates a single itinerary. Now you can focus less on the minor details and more on the big presentation you’ve been working on for months.
  3. Docs To Go – If you’re like me, you don’t want to drag your laptop with you everywhere so being able to access your Microsoft Office docs from your mobile device is a must. With Docs To Go, whether you need to look at an Excel spreadsheet or edit a Word document, it’s all easily done. Not only is the app’s functionality top-notch, but knowing you won’t get separated from important time-sensitive documents should provide some peace of mind.
  4. SignEasy – Despite the fact that we live in a digital age, many critical documents still require a good old-fashioned John Hancock. SignEasy provides a simple and secure way to sign documents remotely with your finger or a stylus. The app eliminates the need for extra trips to the office or the nearest scanner.
  5. Expensify – This is another great app for business travel - one that keeps you organized and consolidated. Expensify keeps tabs on your mileage and business expenses by scanning receipts with your device’s camera and importing data from your credit or bank card. Let’s be honest: expense reports are a pain. Expensify is your pain reliever.
  6. Google Drive – Considering all the capabilities of today’s Androids and iPhones for that matter, it makes perfect sense that you’d need somewhere to store all the brilliant work you’re doing—from dynamic sales proposals to crucial office memos. Google Drive provides you storage space and also offers protection from file loss. Even if your device breaks, you’ll be able to recover anything previously uploaded to Google Drive. I think this one is a no-brainer :).
  7. Google Translate – Let’s face it; most of us aren’t well versed in multiple languages, which can pose a problem when traveling internationally. Google Translate is like having your very own personal translator, except this one comes for free. The app provides accurate translations in over 50 different languages, ranging from English to Spanish, to Haitian Creole.
  8. HopStop – Traveling on business to an unfamiliar city can be overwhelming. Is the subway faster? Or should I try my luck at hailing a taxi? HopStop takes the anxiety out of traveling by providing real-time detailed transit information such as subway, bus, taxi, walking and biking directions as well as transit maps, nearby stations, and station schedules in over 600 cities throughout the United States, Canada, UK, Ireland, France, and more.
  9. CamCard – If you’re like most business professionals, odds are you have a stack of business cards sitting on your desk in no apparent order. With CamCard, an app that reads and instantly saves business cards to your smartphone’s contact list, you no longer have to sift through hundreds of cards to find a contact’s name and phone number. With the app, you can sync cards accurately across all devices and easily edit and manage contacts.
  10. SleepBot – I had to include this sleep cycle app, if only because it sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie. SleepBot has a number of innovative features, but we particularly like the alarm designed to wake you up during your lightest period of sleep, within a 30-minute window. Get a good night’s sleep with SleepBot and show up to work bright-eyed and ready to work!
Despite my best efforts, it’s possible I left something critical off the list. If you notice one of your favorite business apps missing, let me know!
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IT Benchmarks: Incident Classification Categories

Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Service Desk
IT Benchmarks: Incident Classification Categories Following on from my last IT Benchmark blog on Customer Access Channels and Improving Service, this time around we are going to look at Incident Classification Categories – their levels of use, the problems they can cause and the benefits of simplifying your classification.

The Benchmark

According to our figures, on average customers have a total of 205 categories defined in their Service Desk. However, only 34 categories on average are actually in use. Categories Defined in the Service Desk IT has a tendency to set up too many categories in implementation because they see incidents from an IT point of view as opposed to a customer point of view, i.e. based on technology domains, devices, etc. However, the fact that only 34 categories on average are being utilized, shows us that not only are the end users not using the additional 171 categories, but neither are the system administrators! IT generally wants to help the customer as quickly as possible, and complex categories can often slow them down. It also risks the category of ‘other’ becoming a ‘dumping ground’ that kills the value of incident management information, simply because it’s easier to use ‘other’ than having to browse through numerous categories to find the one that they actually require. My guess is that even Stephen Hawking would struggle to categorize an incident with 205 categories to choose from.

The Advice

My last post discussed ways to encourage your end users to the use the Self-Service Portal, and effective classification is certainly one of those ways, simply because it makes it easier for them to log their issues. It also has many benefits for System Administrators, such as: it makes it easier to manage and therefore quicker to find the solution to a problem, it properly routes incidents to the correct support, which saves time, and it increases user productivity. Quite simply you need to simplify the submission of incidents and service requests by avoiding using complicated categories, and instead use titles that end users understand and can easily identify. I challenge you to sit down with a group of end users to read through your category classifications. How many do you think they understand? Do you know how many categories you have defined within your Service Desk? And do you know how many are actually in use? Please share with us your experiences in the comments section below. My next IT Benchmark blog will be on Knowledge Management and Reuse with statistics, benefits, and advice on how to implement a Knowledge Base, so check back soon!
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The Revolution of the Embedded Database in SysAid

Posted by on January 9, 2014 in SysAid
Embedded Database in the Help Desk Ever since the very first release of SysAid, we made sure to support several database types. To this day, SysAid supports Microsoft SQL, MySQL, and Oracle, as well as an embedded database type - Derby. The Derby database was great for most small-medium sized businesses using SysAid because it is lightweight, requires no maintenance or handling through its lifetime, and it provides decent performance on small databases. This is now changing. SysAid is adding more features, capabilities, and audit logs. This means that the database is growing faster than ever. Even the smaller customers using SysAid see their database growing rapidly and performance degrading with time.
On the other hand, customers using SysAid with an external database are enjoying better performance and virtually unlimited scalability in terms of database size. In addition, some customers are also taking advantage of the possibility of running reports directly on the database with third-party software (which was never possible, or at least it was not easy, to perform with Derby). All these reasons - plus the ones Oded discussed in his blog - have lead us to stop supporting the Derby database and concentrate our efforts in providing a better product. Starting with version 14.1, the Derby database will no longer be supported. Customers upgrading from earlier versions with Derby database will be required to migrate their data into one of the other supported database types.

What Do You Need To Do?

First, check if you are even using the Derby database. If you have SysAid 9.1, click the personal menu on the top-right and then click About. It should tell you the database vendor. If you have an older version, the information will be displayed in Preferences > About. If you are using the Derby database, we recommend migrating the database to a different type before upgrading. This requires you to run an external database server of either Microsoft SQL (2005 or above), MySQL (5.0 or above), or Oracle (9i or above). If you have such a database server available to host your SysAid data, contact SysAid Customer Relations to coordinate the migration (you’ll send us the database, we’ll process it, and send it back migrated to whatever type you choose). If you don’t have any external database server, then your data will be migrated as part of the upgrade to 14.1. The upgrade patch will install a copy of Microsoft SQL Server Express Edition and run a built in migration tool to move all the data from the Derby database into a new SQL database. The migration could take a long time, so we recommend performing the upgrade when you could most afford for SysAid to be down (e.g. over the weekend). Keep in mind that Microsoft SQL Server Express Edition is free of charge, and is limited to 10GB of database size, 1 CPU, and 1GB RAM usage. This would still perform better than your old Derby database! One final note - Customers running SysAid on a Linux server with the Derby database will not have the option to use the built in migration tool to Microsoft SQL (as you can’t even install Microsoft SQL on Linux). These cases will require the help of the caring hands of SysAid Customer Relations :). Contact us for this or any other questions.
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Google Apps vs. Microsoft 365: Who Packs the Bigger Punch?

Posted by on January 6, 2014 in General IT
Google Apps vs. Microsoft 365: Who Packs the Bigger Punch? Everyone loves a good rivalry. Whether it’s talk show hosts Leno and Letterman battling it out on late night TV or heavyweight champs Ali and Frazier throwing combinations in the ring – everyone has their favorite. But rivalries aren’t just for the boxing ring and late night TV. In fact, the technology industry has sprung some of the most intense rivalries throughout history. Google versus Microsoft, anyone? Google and Microsoft have been embroiled in an ugly battle for some time now. In one corner sits Google, the creator of Google Apps, and in the other corner sits Microsoft, the inventor of Microsoft 365. While there’s no shortage of opinions on which tech giant packs the bigger punch, we are here to give you all the facts and let you decide who the real winner is! Let the battle begin…

Productivity Applications

Google Apps and Microsoft 365 are both well-known for their productivity applications, which include word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet software. When it comes to word processing, both Google Docs and Office Web Apps have easy-to-use interfaces. However, Microsoft is probably better suited for users that are already familiar with Microsoft’s products. In terms of presentation and spreadsheet software, Office 365 takes the cake as it boasts more advanced presentation features and most users are already familiar with the formulas and features of Excel. On the other hand, others prefer Google Spreadsheets for its ability to easily collaborate. For example, multiple people are able to share and edit documents within Google Spreadsheets.

Email and Instant Messaging

Communication is an integral part of every business in which email and messaging play critical roles. Gmail, Google’s email and messaging platform, and Microsoft’s platform, Exchange Online, both offer the ability to host an unlimited amount of users, however, Microsoft will charge businesses extra for more users. In terms of organization, navigation and reminders, Exchange Online has similar features as its Outlook 2013 desktop client, while Gmail uses the same labeling system as its Google Docs, which is beneficial for both Microsoft and Google users respectively, as they will already be familiar with the features. One glaring feature missing from Gmail is the ability to set calendar reminders. In terms of messaging, Gmail undoubtedly delivers a one-two punch. Its Google Talk application hosts some impressive features such as status updates, file transfer, voice and video chat. Google Hangouts, which can support up to 10 people, is also great for chat and video conferencing. Moreover, businesses can enable the Google+ social network service, as well as Google Sites and its blogging platform, Blogger.

Calendar

When it comes to the calendar feature, it usually comes down to personal preference. However, in terms of functionality, many believe that Google Calendar is a letdown, especially for large enterprises, as it lacks the sophisticated functionalities beneficial for larger businesses, like the “Scheduling Assistant” feature found in Microsoft. The Exchange Online calendar, on the other hand, is better suited for larger organizations as its capacity to integrate with other aspects of the platform is extremely helpful. In terms of navigational and compositional elements, each service has similar features. It’s the “Events” feature that sets these two services apart. For example, Google Calendar has three ways to notify a user of an upcoming event: email, SMS, and in-app pop-up. And Microsoft has two features, the Resource Booking Attendant and Room Finder, which helps to automate the scheduling of conference rooms.

Apps Marketplace

The Google Apps marketplace definitely makes up for its lack of functionality in certain areas (i.e. spreadsheets and productivity applications). As opposed to Microsoft, which only offers solutions based around its Microsoft Dynamic product, Google Apps offers a number of third party services that integrate with its platform. For example, Google Apps has a number of email marketing and ecommerce apps, while Office 365 has virtually none.

Price

Ding ding, final round! Google Apps has a straight forward pricing plan for their standard Google Apps for Business package, which comes in at $5 per user per month or $50 per user per year, whether you’re an organization containing 10 employees or 10,000. Microsoft's small business plans, geared toward 25 users or less, provide a good mix of features for $5 or $12.50 per user per month or $60/$150 per year. A midsize business plan for 300 users or less is $15 per user per month. Before deciding on which platform to choose, you must first consider how each feature might add value to your organization. While Microsoft 365 has a large number of rich features, businesses will have to pay a premium. As a general rule of thumb, we would suggest that smaller companies strongly consider Google Apps, while larger businesses should look to adopt Microsoft 365, but the overall decision really depends on the requirements of your individual business. So who wins the battle? It’s up to you to decide… Tell us… which do you prefer: Microsoft 365 or Google Apps?
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Progressing from 2013 to 2014: It Is All About You!

Posted by on December 30, 2013 in SysAid
In 2014 ITSM is all about you 2013 was a great year and it is all thanks to you…SysAiders around the world, you rock! Just as 2013 comes to an end, I would like to summarize briefly a few highlights that happened this year:
  • We released two SysAid versions that included 34 new features and 146 bug fixes.
  • We delivered the first step in our end-user interface revolution.
  • We implemented patch management.
  • We lost one database (see Oded’s blog).
  • We exhibited at one trade show (SITS13).
  • We initiated SysAid On The Road and already visited 5 customers.
  • We had 12 webinars, 392 eLearning course participants, 1062 Community discussions, and 4 Pathfinder Roundtables.
But for me, our biggest achievement this year is our new Contributions feature implemented in SysAid 14.1. This new feature enables us to celebrate our achievements together all year long. It is our way to thank each and every one of you for every Feature Request implemented that was your idea, every bug resolution that was fixed thanks to your report, and every SysAid On The Road visit that allows us to learn something new and implement it in the product for the benefit of the Community.
Our first special thanks on our 1st and 2nd contributions go to our valuable and irreplaceable Community member Michael Z, who was also our first visit with SysAid On The Road this year, in Denmark. Thanks to Michael's requests, users can now set reminders to alert them of an expiration date for a knowledge base article (FR #13525) and a notification is now sent to administrators when an action item is reassigned to them (FR #13522). See screenshots below: Contributions feature in SysAid Contributions feature in SysAid   We know that it is all about YOU and with the Contributions feature within SysAid, we no longer need to wait for the year to end to say THANK YOU! We will say it all year, 365 days a year. 2013 was great but 2014 is going to be even better. We have big plans:
  • Three releases with an emphasis on fixes
  • Four tradeshows
  • We are going to lose one more database (just kidding ;))
  • Additional end-user interface improvements
  • New reports
  • iPad app
  • More: webinars, SysAid On The Road visits, roundtables, videos, Community discussions…..more of everything…. and it is all about you and for you.
So our New Year’s resolution is to do more for all of you, listen, share, and of course to come see you. You deserve the best and we are going to deliver. We are here for you on Twitter, Facebook, SysAid Community , email, phone….whatever feels right for you to communicate to us your requirements, wishes, and anything you want to share to the team or to me directly. I look forward to hearing, seeing, and sharing so much more in 2014. Happy New Year, everyone!
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Top 4 Considerations When Moving to the Cloud

Posted by on December 23, 2013 in Cloud
Top 4 Considerations When Moving Your Service Desk to the Cloud Since it burst impressively onto the scene in the late 1990s, when Salesforce.com introduced the concept of delivering enterprise applications via a simple website, the buzz surrounding cloud computing has showed no signs of slowing down. Conversely, this technology trend has just begun to make its mark. In 2013 alone, researchers predicted that the cloud market will burgeon to $160 billion. The cloud has been celebrated for the many benefits it affords businesses—both large and small—such as lowered capital expenditures, simplified maintenance and upgrade processes, increased flexibility, mobility and scalability, business continuity and, with a competent SaaS provider, even improved IT security. While the cloud has many uses, its capabilities have found a strong footholding in the IT service management sector. This is because 91 percent of IT decision makers have a positive opinion toward cloud computing, according to a national survey. As an IT professional, you're constantly on the lookout for tools that will help you perform better and more efficiently, which makes it difficult to resist the cloud. But before you jump head first, there are considerations you must first bear in mind.

Security

Data security in the cloud has been a point of contention for some time. According to a recent Alsbridge survey of 250 IT decision makers, 45 percent of respondents were concerned about the release of sensitive data as a result of a major security breach. However, despite participants concerns, only 10 percent believe that the cloud has yet to prove its worth and just four percent still feel the cloud is just hype. Before committing to the cloud, you should ensure that your cloud provider can meet your security and compliance standards. Does your provider use data encryption? Are they SSAE-16 certified? These are questions you may want to ask before handing your sensitive data over.

Vendor Lock-In

According to a survey of IT decision makers, 39 percent of respondents said they feel “locked-in” with their existing suppliers. Don’t get into a hostage situation with your cloud vendor. Make sure your vendor provides you with an open platform that supports all different types of solutions. Your business needs are sure to scale, and so too should your solution.

Performance

With your servers just a few feet away, you’re accustomed to speedy application performance. However, the cloud can feel light-years away and performance issues may come up. Based on your requirements – whether its bandwidth, latency, or scalability – make sure your existing applications are good candidates for being migrated to the cloud. For example, an application with high bandwidth needs may not be a good candidate.

Public, Private, or Hybrid

Depending on the type of data you wish to move, you will want to consider which type of cloud structure is best for you and your needs. For example, the public cloud, which is network-based services stored in datacenters outside your organization, offers a high level of efficiency in shared resources, but can be more vulnerable to security issues. The private cloud, which is network-based services stored behind a company's own firewall (inside your organization), offers a greater level of security, but is oftentimes costly. A hybrid structure, on the other hand, combines the best of both worlds, where the company provides and manages some resources in-house, but has others stored and managed externally. A hybrid approach allows businesses to take advantage of the scalability and cost-effectiveness of a public cloud structure and the security provided by a private cloud structure. With more than half of businesses in the United States now using cloud computing for IT purposes, such as IT service management, it’s time to consider whether or not the technology is right for you. To learn more about IT service management in the cloud, click here.
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itSMF Estonia 2013: One Day in December

Posted by on December 17, 2013 in ITSM
Estonia ITSM Event Last week I had the privilege to attend and to speak in another leading itSMF event in Europe - This time it was Estonia https://konverents2013.itsmf.ee/ What a fantastic event! It was held at the Swissotel in beautiful Tallinn, the oldest capital city in Northern Europe, on a date that is very unique as well - December 11th 2013, which is 11.12.13, a rare sequential day on the Gregorian calendar that will not occur again for 90 years. The next time a similar date will occur will be February 1, 2103 – 01.02.03 (not 2003). The organizers are definitely paying attention when picking dates for their events. When do you think their 2012 event took place? That’s right, on December 12th - 12.12.12. Now about the event itself… it was a full day packed with a super interesting agenda and more than 140 eager-to-be-enlightened ITIL advocate delegates from several countries in the surrounding region.

Highlights from the Sessions

After the great welcome and introduction by our host, none other than Kaimar Karu, President of itSMF Estonia, we dived right into the fascinating world of Delivering Service Operations at Mega Scale by Alan Levin from the Microsoft Operation Center. Now I hope you are sitting down while I go through these numbers: The MS Operation Center is in charge of more than 200 Cloud services, delivered to more than 1,000,000,000 users (that is 1 BILLION for those of you who lost track of the zeros) and they deliver all of this running on more than 1,000,000 servers. Now you understand why the presentation’s title justifies the word “Mega” :). Alan took us through their Event Management, Incident Management, and Problem Management processes. You can imagine that these processes get a whole new meaning in this magnitude of operations. So you must have these properly tuned and everyone needs to know their exact role, otherwise it’s a complete chaos with an out of business risk. One of the questions from the audience to Alan was whether he sees his department as a Service Provider to the business or a partner. Well that is a tricky question, and the answer was a lot of both - all the mandatory requirements from a service provider with highest standards and SLAs, and a real value enabler that can be a partner for success and growth with new business lines. Next up we had Viktor Petermann from Swedbank, who began his presentation Enabling Value by Process with a Yogi Berra quote: ‘In theory there’s no difference between theory and practice. In Practice there is.” For me, this totally hit the spot! He went on to give us a reality check that 4 out of 5 projects fail because of poor process design. He continued with suggestions for all the right ways of doing things to lead to success. Coffee breaks were an excellent time to get some networking done, demo SysAid at our booth and even meet up with a customer of ours - Vahur Jõesalu from HANZ A. After the first coffee break it was time for yours truly to present Benchmarking & BI - Sat Navs for Service Desks. It’s not nice to judge oneself, but according to the comments from the audience, I think I am safe to say it went well. I usually don’t get too nervous when I am in front of a crowd, but I was running a bit of a cold that day and was worried about losing my voice. Thanks goodness, my voice stayed with me and it was great. The audience was especially interested in some of the tips given by our Community to improve the percent of tickets being submitted via the End-User Portal, and how to get a higher percentage of participation in the quick surveys sent out when closing tickets. Here's the relevant slides from my presentation: World-Wide IT Benchmarks at itSMF World-Wide IT Benchmarks for ITSM in Estonia Another great session that stands out was by Tõnu Vahtra from Playtech (EE), who spoke about Problem Management Challenges and Critical Success Factors. Although Playtech doesn’t have as many servers as Microsoft, 10,000 servers with 200 million transactions per day on their platform is an operation we can all learn from. Besides learning all about effective Problem detection and reporting, I personally learned from the presentation that Dilbert is a truly endless source for IT wisdom :). Patrick Bolger gave everyone an update on what SMCongress is all about. When asked who is familiar with it - only a few hands were raised not counting myself. If you want to know more about it, I recommend reading this blog post. Kaimar gave us a lesson with some great tips on DevOps - Shattering the Barriers. Development teams won’t be so happy to hear that Kaimar recommends that the next time a devop team member is woken up at 3am to solve an issue, he or she should in turn wake up someone from the development team. It will be annoying at first, but will help bonding and even make things better! Some other pearls from his session:
  • Try and break systems and stress test them. They will grow to be stronger
  • Solve things with beer. Make sure dev and op teams sit together over beer - they can solve almost everything that way.
  • If you want to stabilize your systems and get them to run smoothly, add your CIO or CEO to all late-night wake-up calls to your dev teams. It will take only 1 or 2 of these calls to get the relevant teams to dedicate their time to making things better. I must add that this is brave and radical advice, but Kaimar says that you will see it works (assuming you will still be there to witness it).
The day ended up with a workshop lead by AXELOS CEO, Peter Hepworth. During the workshop Peter shared the AXELOS roadmap and immediate plans for 2014. He also listened first hand to what the people from this region (Estonia) have to say about how they see the tasks and priorities AXELOS should address. After the session we had some time to bond with all the speakers and organizer for drinks, food, more drinks, and even more drinks….. anybody hear about the famous Jellyfish shot containing tequila, tabasco, and some other unidentified ingredients? It helps keep you warm in the cold weather - but also knocks you off your feet! I did have a chance just before bonding to take an amazing 2-hour walk along the walls of the Old City of Tallinn together with my colleague Shai Korem, Sysaid Sales Executive, who also attended the conference and took care of the traffic to our SysAid booth. As for attending future itSMF conferences around the world - I think it is so important to constantly stay updated to what is going on and listen to where the wind is blowing in respect to ITIL and in IT in general. So you can count on seeing me at the next itSMF conference playing in a city near you! By the way, if you would like to download any of the presentations from itSMF Estonia, just go to the Programs page and download from there. Would love to discuss….please find me on Twitter @OdedMoshe. Meanwhile, check out a few of the many gorgeous photos I took on my walk in the Old City of Tallinn. IT service management forum in Estonia Oded at itSMF Estonia
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What’s New in SysAid 14.1?

Posted by on December 12, 2013 in SysAid
My previous blog explained how and why we're jumping from SysAid 9 to SysAid 14.1, the latter being the subject of this blog. Just doing my part to keep you all updated! Next week, we're beginning to upgrade our Cloud customers to the latest version of SysAid—version 14.1—and we're starting Beta 14.1 for our On-Premise customers. You probably heard a lot of talk about it because it will include the new Patch Management module, which is something I will address in another post and webinar. But, for now, I want to talk about some other really great features we added, which give tremendous value in your day-to-day tasks.

Convert Incidents to Requests and Vice Versa

The first feature I want to mention is the option to convert incidents to requests and vice versa. This is specifically for those of you who utilize the SysAid ITIL package. You have incidents and you have requests and often you find out very quickly that your users don’t always know the difference between them, causing you to be stuck with an incident, when actually the issue involved is a request. So what do you do? Instead of trying to deal with it by deleting/duplicating/copying related items, SysAid just added a button that allows you to instantly convert the service record from an incident to a request or the other way around. Convert Incidents to Requests and Vice Versa
Note that the button will be enabled only if you allowed it inside the permissions. We want to give you, the admins, the capabilities as well as the decision of whether or not to utilize this feature. Some of you will find it very helpful. Some of you might want to follow your own processes where you keep the service record as it was originally created. If you do decide to use it, know that when the conversion takes place, it's documented inside the history - who converted the item and when. By the way, this was a feature that came up by you guys...so thanks for that...and enjoy it.

Email Business Rules

The next one is a large feature and it’s called Email Rules. With this feature, you have the option to set up business rules for incoming emails. That means when an incoming email arrives, you can parse the subject line and the body. You can look for various texts and decide on what should happen. For example, if an email comes from a specific user, say the CEO, then you may want to perform specific actions upon creating that service record, like making it high priority. Or let’s say you get an email with the word “urgent” in the subject line, you probably will want to automatically set the urgency field to “urgent” in this case. This is a business rule that you can set up. Another example is if you want to forward any SAP-related issues to a specific team, so you can parse for the word “SAP” in the body or subject and if it's found, the service record will automatically be assigned to the admin group for SAP, or any admin that's in charge of that software. Email Business Rules You'll find this important business feature under your General Settings. We migrated the automatic settings from email integration to there as well so the setup of categories and other settings that used to be under the email integration are now under Service Desk > Email Rules. I hope you enjoy them as well.

Reopen a Closed Ticket

Another feature that we did based on your requests is the option to reopen a closed ticket. Best practices show that if an issue reoccurs, you probably want to reopen a ticket, and not open a new ticket each occurrence. Until now, only the admin was allowed to do this in SysAid, which is a shame because the end user is usually the first person to know that an issue needs to be reopened. So we changed this and now we allow the end user to reopen tickets – only if you enable the feature under the settings of the End-User Portal. Reopen a Closed Ticket in the Help Desk When enabled, there are two ways for the end user to reopen a closed ticket:
  • From the End-User Portal, the end user can go to Closed tickets, find the one to reopen, add a note, click the button, and voila - the ticket is reopened.
  • Another option is when you send out the automatic notifications informing an end user that a ticket has been closed, you can add a link that says something like: "If your issue returns or has not been completely resolved, click here to reopen the ticket." With this option, you can control whether you want the end user to be able to add a note or not.

Email Replies on Closed Tickets

Another new feature in SysAid 14.1 is how we are handling email replies from closed tickets. Many of you set up a rule that any email that is sent regarding a specific ticket, the status is automatically changed, for example, it may be changed to: customer responded or attention required. But what happens when the ticket is already closed and the end user replies with: Thank you for solving my issue, or something like that? Will the status be changed? The new feature allows you to better control what happens in these cases. So if an end user replies to a closed ticket, you might want to decide not to change the status. In your settings under email integration, you'll see that you can better control which statuses will be the ones that will lead to change of status when an email is received. I believe you'll find this useful to fit your processes as well. Email Replies on Closed Help Desk Tickets

Guest Mode in the End-User Portal

Moving on to another feature in the End-User Portal: With SysAid 14.1, we now allow guest mode in the End-User Portal, which makes it possible for you to receive requests from anonymous users. Again, this is only enabled if you make it so within your End-User Portal settings. Guest Mode in the End-User Portal How does one submit a ticket in a guest mode state? There are two new fields - email and full name - added to the submission form. When guests submit a ticket, they enter their email and full name so when you get the ticket you'll get these details inside the request user field, and then you can create a user on the spot. Many of you work in environments where this can be extremely helpful, for example, if you're an MSP, educational institution, or any institution that doesn't manage their users in the LDAP, and doesn't have a quick sync set up between SysAid and LDAP - accepting guest mode submissions can be crucial. You can also make the FAQ enabled for these guest end users.

Emails to Non-Defined Users

The last thing that I want to mention that we did for the new release is allowing the sending of emails to users who are not part of your defined end users. Like guest mode, this is related to communicating with end users who are not listed under your end-user management. Emails to Non-Defined Users If you have a license for unlimited end users, you can correspond with non-defined end users without having the need to officially add them as users in the system. Note that this feature can only be enabled if you have a SysAid license for unlimited end users.

And There’s More…

These were just a few of the new features that we have for SysAid 14.1. There are many more. I'd like to state again that, like with most new features, you have to be aware of them and control them if you want them implemented in your environment. By default, we do not enable most of the features for you because we don't want to forcibly change anything in your environment just by going through the upgrade. So please be attentive, check the Release Notes and Bug Fixes, read the Online Aid, and watch our webinars - that's the way to learn about the new features, test them, and decide when, how, and if to implement them in your environment. They are added to all SysAid editions, so make the most of them. Enjoy!
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IT Benchmarks: Customer Access Channels and Improving Service

Posted by on December 10, 2013 in Service Desk
IT Benchmarks: Customer Access Channels and Improving Service In this day and age we have access to a lot of data and information, but we don’t always necessarily know how to use it. In a recent presentation that I conducted at the itSMF UK Conference and Exhibition in England, I looked at real numbers and statistics (taken from our own customer-aggregated benchmark data) and discussed ways in which you could utilize the data to help improve basic issues faced on the Service Desk. As many of you would obviously not have been able to see that presentation, I’ve decided to turn it into my very own blog series of benchmarks and advice. One message that I am keen to make clear with this blog series is that you don’t have to be a SysAid customer to benefit from it. The series will utilize SysAid data, but the advice given will be applicable to anybody within the ITSM industry regardless of which tool you are using. So please help share the advice given in these blogs amongst your peers and colleagues for the benefit of the entire ITSM community. In the series you can expect to see statistics and advice on:
  • Incident Classification Categories
  • Knowledge Management and Reuse
  • Customer Satisfaction Surveys
If there is anything else that you would like to see addressed as part of this series then please leave a note in the comments section of this article. Today, we start with looking at customer access channels and how to improve service.

The Benchmark

The average percentage of Service Requests opened via the End-User (Self-Service) Portal is 59.38%. Service Requests Opened Via the End-User (Self-Service) Portal This means that roughly 40% of incidents are still being submitted via phone and email. Reasons for this could be:
  • IT hasn’t activated the End-User Portal
  • End users feel it is easier to submit a ticket via email or call the helpdesk
  • End users don’t see any benefits to using the End-User Portal (which could mean that there is a breakdown in communication between the business and IT)
  • End-Users feel that it is too complicated
There are huge benefits to be had for both IT and the business by implementing an End-User Portal (and encouraging people to use it). At a corporate level it can help reduce costs and downtime (therefore improving productivity), and on a personal level it can improve the overall service that a person receives, for example they can report an issue or request a service even if the service desk is shut. Implementing the End-User Portal is the easy part, selling its benefits to the business is usually where things can become difficult. You need to engender change via carrots, sticks, or carrots on sticks! People need to know why they need to change the way they currently submit tickets and the benefits of change. They need to know and understand both the corporate benefits and the personal benefits – the WIIFM (what’s in it for me). It could even be that you need to make using the End-User Portal a corporate mandate. For example, “from the 1st of January 2014 everyone needs to use the self-service portal for non-critical incidents and service requests.” The way you encourage use really depends on your company culture.

The Advice

My advice to help encourage your end users to utilize the End-User Portal would be:
  • Communicate the value of the End-User Portal to the business
  • Create pre-defined forms that end users can select based on the most common problems, leaving blanks only if you require specific information (such as serial number); this simplifies the process of them submitting an incident/request
  • Give your users control and better service by:
    • Providing them with visible information on the status of their ticket
    • Enable them to close a ticket (useful in cases where they have solved the issue themselves before you have had chance to respond)
    • Provide Instant Message options within the End-User Portal to allow users to directly contact the Service Desk with simple questions
    • Make your End-User Portal a familiar place – don’t just utilize it for incidents tickets, use it for things such as HR or Finance queries
    • Offer an incentive to encourage end users to submit tickets via the End-User Portal (e.g. for any person who submits 100% of his tickets via the End-User Portal)
As mentioned before, there is great value to be had in using a self-service portal both on a personal and corporate level, and in particular if you are passionate about customer service, it’s really a no-brainer to implement. Do you have an End-User Portal? If yes, do you know how many of your tickets originate from the End-User Portal? Are you below or above average? If you don’t have an End-User Portal, why not? Please do share your answers, stories and your questions with us in the comments section of this article. We’d love to hear from you. My next IT Benchmark blog will be on Incident Classification Categories – their levels of use, the problems they can cause and the benefits of simplifying your classifications, so check back soon!
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Productivity vs. Security: BYOD Pros and Cons

Posted by on December 3, 2013 in BYOD
The debate over whether or not BYOD (bring your own device) is an effective policy focuses on two major issues: productivity and security. Proponents of BYOD stress the fact that allowing employees to use personal devices for business increases productivity immensely. A recent survey of over 500 executives by CIO Insight showed that 63% of the participants had an increase in productivity as a result of their BYOD policies. On the opposite end of the spectrum, BYOD does create new issues in terms of security. It is well documented that many of the companies using BYOD often overlook the possible security threats it may cause. Before you decide whether or not your company will institute a BYOD policy, let's explore some of the pros and cons in terms of productivity and security.

Here Are the Pros

Flexibility One of the most obvious advantages of BYOD is the flexibility it offers. Allowing employees to choose their own devices to use for work opens doors in terms of accessing newer technology and using equipment they feel comfortable with rather than being forced to adapt to company mandated devices. With the consumerization of IT, the line between consumer and enterprise devices and software is blurred. This has created more options for users who want the ease of use offered by consumer products and the productivity functions often delivered by enterprise products. Mobility No longer are employees restricted to a desk in the office in order to complete their work. With laptops, tablets, and smartphones, more employees are taking their work outside of a cubicle and into their homes, coffee shops, and anywhere they can get Wi-Fi access. By being able to work virtually anywhere, employees can choose a comfortable environment where they are able to work within their personal preferences and subsequently work more efficiently. Reduced help desk calls People tend to buy devices they’re comfortable working with and have some knowledge of. The more they know about their devices, the less they will need to submit support tickets. Also, some software and hardware related issues can be handled by the original manufacturer or the company that sold the device if they’re under warranty.

Here Are the Cons

Less control over business information A survey conducted by Ovum found that over 60% of employees surveyed used their personal devices to access company information. When employees save business documents or programs onto their personal devices, the information is, in essence, being made available to anyone who has access to that person’s device. It’s easier to manage company information within the confines of an office, rather than an employee’s personal iPhone. This threat also extends to mobile device usage in public areas. If employees use company devices on unsecured Wi-Fi networks at coffee shops or restaurants to access company information, hackers may be able to hack into their device and steal sensitive data. Exposure to hackers Over 25% of computers don’t have any antivirus protection. The people within that 25% who use personal devices for business are exposing privileged and sensitive information to hackers. Company- provided equipment is typically protected with enterprise level security software and supported by an educated help desk. With personal devices, information is only as safe as the user allows it to be. That means that if they have a tendency to click on ads, fall for phishing attempts, or have a general lack of computer security knowledge, the company information they retain on their personal device is at risk. Addressing security issues Luckily, it is becoming much easier to incorporate a BYOD policy. Many security-related issues can be reduced with MDM software with ticket management integrated. Tracking the different IT assets under a company’s network allows the company to seek out potential security threats and monitor which employees may be acting irresponsibly. Also, it’s important to have well defined policies in place specifically for BYOD. Issues such as what information can be accessed, what software can be downloaded, and other common security issues should all be included in a written policy.

So What Does It Come Down To?

BYOD can be a great initiative. While most companies are quick to note the advantages it offers, you must also account for the security threats it poses. By addressing the issues and having rules in place, companies do not have to sacrifice security for increased productivity with BYOD.
Please share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook where we are always listening.
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