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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!
Please share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook where we are always listening.
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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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SysAid’s New Version Numbering System Keeps It Simple

Posted by on November 27, 2013 in SysAid
SysAid New Version Numbering Here at SysAid, the "naming" of our software has always been a technical issue of incrementing the numbers as we release new features…and new versions. When I joined the company in 2008, we were at SysAid Release 5. Since that time, there’s been two major releases each year, so we went from 5.5 to 6 to 6.5 to 7, and so on. Last year we reached the 9th generation of our product with the latest release 9.1. With the numbers rising and before entering the 2-digit arena (aka Release 10), we figured it’s the perfect time to improve the logic to our naming convention. So we began to rethink our numbering strategy/policy.

So What Did We Do?

We decided to break up the concept and give value and meaning in the version number that will indicate when the specific version was released. The first 2 digits would represent the year – in other words 14 for 2014, and the next digit after the period would represent the specific quarter in that year, e.g. SysAid 14.1 means the 1st quarter of the year 2014.

Common Language for Cloud and On-Premise

SysAid has Cloud releases as well as On-Premise releases. Cloud is always a little ahead of the game, getting the releases quicker, with On-Premise getting it a few cycles after. Although for Cloud the naming convention is actually less relevant than for On-Premise—because Cloud is always updated, so you don’t need to know which version you have, as you always have the latest—we still wanted to create a common language for both On-Premise and Cloud. We know we are releasing 2-3 On-Premise versions every calendar year, therefore we decided to name the versions according to when they are planned to be out for On-Premise, and not Cloud. So if, for example, we have a scheduled On-Premise release in January 2014, which incorporates a few cycles of Cloud, we’re going to call it 14.1. The Cloud version will already receive 14.1 in the year 2013, as the Cloud cycles start rolling out. Following this logic, Release 14.2 is scheduled to be out for On-Premise in June 2014, but our Cloud customers will start seeing 14.2 features already in March because March/April/May cycles are the ones that will be bunched together to create 14.2 On-Premise Release in June 2014. Note that the actual version number contains an additional two digits to control the minor releases within the major releases, for example 14.1.01 , 14.1.02, etc.

Make Sense?

Once you get used to it, it’s very simple. You can look at the version number and know exactly when your SysAid release was issued. You’ll know how up-to-date you are. Even if you’re using SysAid On-Premise, you can look at Cloud Release Notes as they get published, and you’ll know what features to expect in your next release and when it will happen. We think this will save a lot of questions, and bring added value to the numbering system.
Please share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook where we are always listening.
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SMCongress – Viewed Through a Customer Lens

Posted by on November 25, 2013 in ITSM
Future of the ITSM Industry At FUSION 13, the annual joint itSMF USA and HDI conference, a group of pre-selected people came together to consider and report back on the future of the IT service management (ITSM) industry. There are many articles and blogs that cover the group’s outputs ranging from the SM Congress site, through a CIO.com article by the group’s initiator Charles Araujo, through to blogs that take a number of different views on the group’s outputs, including: These are blogs that cover a wide range of views on the merits of and issues with the SMCongress and its outputs. But I want to put those to one side for now; well, actually for the rest of the blog. I want to give you my views. I want you to think of it from the point of view of our customers.

Putting Our Customers First

Let me lay my cards on the table. I love our customers – we succeed because they succeed. I want them to be the best they can be. I want them to be helped in any way possible. Helped in dealing with the challenges and complexity of modern IT service delivery. So I value the contributions made to the industry by anyone, or any group, willing to take the time to help. The SMCongress is/was intended to help but there is a “but.” And it is a big “but.”

Are our customers hearing about the SMCongress, let alone buying in to it?

So let’s pause for breath for a moment.

The Customer Point of View

In early November I made a number of UK customer courtesy calls, not to sell to but rather to listen to a number of our customers. While at one – a sizable media company – I asked what they thought about the SMCongress and its “call to action.” They hadn’t heard of it. And they didn’t have time for it. They also hadn’t heard of Back2ITSM or any of the other sources of conversation and help available “socially.” In some ways you could say that this is a little like “not having the time to go on a time management course” or not having time for problem management because you are too busy fire-fighting incidents. But it’s not, it’s different. It reflects the realities of the real IT industry, not those of the socially-transmitted conversations that many of us are party to. We need to realize, respect, and respond to this before we can move forward with any form of industry change.

Real-World IT

It might be a generalization but many people in real IT jobs don’t have the time to be socially active at work. They are working with limited resources, missed deadlines, and all-hands-to-the-pumps crises that mean that they are lucky to get home to their families at a reasonable hour. They want and need things to help them get through the day. They need help in dealing with the challenges and pressures of working in IT. But then they also need to ensure that all their hard work is recognized as important by the rest of the business. They need to show their worth. So they do need something or multiple things. But before we can help them we need to do those three Rs - realize, respect, and respond. I might be guilty of jumping to a solution here but we need to realize that if we are talking of change without linking it to real-world IT and using the words and communication channels real-world IT actually uses we are just talking amongst ourselves. We might as well be shouting from the moon in terms of the messages being heard, understood, and bought into at a grassroots level.

But We Shouldn’t Give Up

We just need to step back and work out how best to tailor and deliver what is ultimately an important message – that many IT organizations need to change. That is, to change for the better from a business enablement point of view. So the call to action is needed – take a look at www.smcongress.org – do you agree that things need to change? How can this call to action be made real for people delivering IT services on a day-to-day basis? And how can we at SysAid help you to help yourself and the colleagues and customers you enable through IT?
Please share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook where we are always listening.
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Gartner’s Top IT Predictions for 2014: BYOD and Cloud Computing to Take Over

Posted by on November 21, 2013 in Cloud
Gartner's Top IT Predictions for 2014: BYOD and Cloud Computing to Take Over In the world of technology, timeliness is extremely important. Being the first to take advantage of new and popular trends gives you more time to implement and perfect them. So when Gartner unveils their annual predictions for IT trends for the forthcoming year, it’s a good idea to pay attention. After looking through Gartner's top 10 IT predictions for 2014, two things are very evident:
  1. Companies need to start preparing for an influx of mobile device usage in the workplace
  2. The Cloud will become an even more integral part of ALL IT needs
We have already seen these trends emerging heavily throughout 2013. The Software as a Service (SaaS) industry has been experiencing tremendous growth thanks to the growing popularity of cloud computing, and BYOD has been a hot topic for nearly all of 2013. It’s safe to say that Gartner's predictions aren’t too far off.

Are Companies Ready for Mobile Growth?

Gartner estimates that the amount of mobile technology will be growing exponentially through 2018. For most people, this isn’t very surprising. The problem that Gartner sees is that some companies aren’t prepared for the rate in which mobile device usage at work will grow. According to Gartner’s report, “The unexpected consequence of bring your own device (BYOD) programs is a doubling or even tripling of the size of the mobile workforce.” The question that CIO’s will have to ask themselves is whether or not they have the infrastructure and protocol in place to handle that much growth. As Gartner recommends, one of the first steps companies should take to prepare for the predicted mobile device growth in the workplace is to review your current BYOD policy or create one if you don’t currently have one in place. Also, it is going to be crucial that companies invest in MDM software. Trying to monitor hundreds, or in some cases thousands of employee-owned devices for BYOD without the use of integrated software is next to impossible. For companies completely new to BYOD, you will also want to revamp your service desk to make sure they’re prepared for the change. If your service desk is primarily used to only handling issues with company issued Blackberry phones, they might be thrown for a loop when someone calls them for an issue with their iPhone 5S.

Moving to the Cloud

The Era of Personal Cloud A lot of companies have already begun integrating cloud computing into different aspects of their operations. For the most part, they’ve started out small with things like creating backups to Dropbox or collaborating on documents with Google Drive. But Gartner predicts that the cloud will eventually become more important than devices. They call this “The Era of Personal Cloud”. Obviously, a shift this big will mean increased security measures for cloud computing and advances in the services that are offered. Gartner describes a world where device specs will no longer be as relevant or as significant because all services will be handled on the cloud. Therefore, rather than improving devices, companies will have to improve the capabilities of the cloud. Web-Scale IT Gartner also mentions Web-Scale IT as a new trend for 2014. Web-Scale IT is simply a way of describing the way in which cloud services for enterprises is scaled. For the most part, when we think of scaling we think in terms of size. However, with Web-Scale IT “capabilities go beyond scale in terms of sheer size to also include scale as it pertains to speed and agility." In other words, efficiency will start to play a much bigger role in cloud computing. If Gartner's predictions are correct, companies need to start preparing for significant changes in the way that they operate. Luckily, some changes can be implemented right now such as warming up to BYOD and integrating SaaS into different areas of operation. Some of Gartner's predictions such as Smart Machines might be a little while away, but BYOD and cloud computing are here now.
Please share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook where we are always listening.
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Transitioning from SysAid CSS to IT

Posted by on November 19, 2013 in SysAid
If you have a SysAid CSS account, this blog post is directed towards you. SysAid has decided to merge SysAid CSS with our leading ITSM solution SysAid IT, and you have a lot to gain. As you may have noticed, SysAid CSS was not upgraded for quite some time. We were in thinking mode, assessing our next step with the CSS (customer service software) solution. The decision was made to bring CSS to the level of our popular IT solution, and offer all our CSS clients the same treatment as everyone else, in terms of consistent upgrades and updates. Our Customer Relations department is here to support you with any issue that might come up in the transitions process. For your convenience, we have recorded a webinar that will explain the process and demonstrate some new features that you'll be getting. Watch the video below: https://youtu.be/ue3Nkrww8w8

What Are We Changing?

Actually not much. Aside from several changes in the terminology, the transition to SysAid IT should be all smiles :). Here is a list of terms and their equivalents in SysAid IT:
  • Home = Admin Portal
  • Help Desk = Service Desk
  • Relation Mapper = CMDB Module
  • Process = Changes
  • Self Service Portal = End User Portal
  • User Management
    • Contact = End User
    • Agent = Administrator
    • Accounts = Companies

What Are the Benefits You Are Gaining?

With the transition to SysAid IT, you will have the privilege of using all the latest and greatest updates of our upcoming release version 14.1. Here is a short list of the capabilities you will be gaining.
  • A brand new and improved user interface. We have totally reconstructed the UI from the ground up to give you a great user experience.SysAid Help Desk Dashboard
  • SysAid is now fully ITIL compliant. This gives you the ability to manage very detailed work processes in order to improve effectiveness in your department.
  • Dynamic Forms. It has never been easier to submit service records. All users have to do is select the template that is suitable for the case they are presenting and SysAid will automatically fill in the rest. And of course, you have total control over the content of the template.
  • New Knowledge Base UI. We have totally redesigned our Knowledge Base, and it is now more intuitive to use and search. With the ability to add pictures, videos, and colors, you have the ability to create great knowledge items that have the potential to save you a great deal of service records being opened.

Goodbye CSS, Hello SysAid IT

So it is now time to say goodby CSS and hello to SysAid IT. Between November 24th and December 15th we will start the process of moving all our Cloud CSS clients to SysAid IT. As for our On-Premise clients, there will a beta version available for you on December 14th, and an official release in January 2014. Please follow me on Twitter @SysAidAcademy...and let me know if you have any questions.
Please share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook where we are always listening.
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itSMF UK Conference and Exhibition 2013: Review from a CEO and First-Timer

Posted by on November 12, 2013 in ITSM
IT Service Management Forum UK Well, Oded Moshe, Joe the IT Guy, and I are fresh back from the UK following our very first visit to the itSMF UK Conference and Exhibition in Birmingham last week. It was cold, and it rained a lot, but I’m pleased to say that the event itself made up for both of these facts. The wide-variety of event content was delivered by: high profile names; IT consultants; vendors; and people with proper IT jobs, and between the three of us we attended numerous sessions looking at topics ranging from effective problem solving to gamification, from financial management to change & release processes, and more. It would be a tall task for us to write about every presentation with passion, so instead we’ve decided to highlight the sessions that stood out to us most.

Energise your Service Desk for the Future & Cure Your Service Desk With Customer Experience – John Rakowski, Forrester Research

This session was one of the ones that stood out from the rest. It offered clear and simple advice, often much needed in the ITSM industry. John discussed the increasing need to better manage the experience of end users. He advised that you can no longer ignore the phrase “customer experience”, and that it’s now becoming a case of “adapt or die”. The great thing about John’s presentation was that he didn’t just preach about customer service, he provided actionable advice for attendees to take away and use to better their business. One of the things he discussed in detail was how utilizing a Self Service Portal, as a front end for the Service Desk and potentially automation, can empower end users, improve service, and offer outstanding value to the business all in one go; potentially for a relatively small investment in terms of time, money, and resources. John also walked us through the results of one of the latest Forrester customer experience surveys, with the most interesting statistic (in my opinion) being that 47% of people prefer to use external sources/fix their IT issues themselves instead of contacting the Service Desk. This is a scary statistic, but one that could be changed by making a bigger investment in customer experience and additional capabilities such as Knowledge Bases and Self Service Portals. So are you utilizing a Self Service Portal?

The Good, the Bad, and the Agile – Patrick Bolger, Hornbill Systems

I was secretly hoping that the stories I’d heard about Patrick’s brilliant presentation skills were all lies given that he works for a competitor… I’m joking of course. Regardless of whether I’m joking or not, his session was actually very interesting. He looked at the topic of Agile from a very different angle to what I’m familiar with. I’ve always viewed Agile from the perspective of R&D, but I loved that Patrick made us look at it through a Service Desk lens. Patrick offered up some interesting statistics from a recent itSMF Service Transition SIG survey:
  • 62% of people surveyed are “dipping their toes into the water” when it comes to using Agile principles
  • 30% think the idea of Agile looks great, but they don’t know how to apply it to ITSM
  • 5% said that they couldn’t live without it
  • 3% said they simply wouldn’t touch Agile
So how do you feel about Agile? Patrick also looked at the different approaches to ITSM, both the traditional approach and the newer Agile-mindset approach: So which of these approaches do you currently take? Patrick’s session also proved how ‘enthusiasm’ from the presenter (married with great content of course) is truly the key to delivering a great presentation.

The Beauty and Simplicity of Common Sense Business Relationship Management (BRM) – Andrea Kis, Tata Consultancy Services

They say that common sense is not so common, and I am inclined to agree. Sometimes you don’t need shiny tools and processes, or to throw money at new initiatives and projects, sometimes you just need to step back and apply simple common sense. This was why Andrea’s presentation was so refreshing to hear. Andrea discussed many things including:
  • How you can apply day-to-day personal relationship skills to IT Service Management to better IT’s relationship with business colleagues
  • How the role of BRM in maturing relationships takes the IT service provider from basic provider to promoter, then to partner and finally to peer
  • How you need BRM in all areas of business (not just IT) if you truly want to operate successfully
Being a huge advocate of customer service (both internally and externally), the point that Andrea made that really resonated with me was that:

“When it comes to BRM the focus must be on the relationship from the viewpoint of the customer not the viewpoint of the business – perception is reality”.

Have you implemented the role of Business Relationship Manager in your organization yet?

Overall

The formal conference content was excellent and very educational, there was so much value to be had from the presentations that it was a shame that there were not more practitioners in attendance. Unfortunately this lack of ‘real IT people’ was my only negative point about the conference. In my opinion, because of the lack of practitioners the roundtable discussions regarding the future of ITIL, and the itSMF UK Big 4 Agenda were lacking in substance. Speaking only to analysts, vendors, and consultants is never going to bring about any ‘real’ answers or commitment for change. I’d be the first to admit that what I think is a challenge for the Service Desk, could potentially be the exact opposite of what a real life IT administrator (or other IT practitioner) considers a challenge. Thus in the roundtable discussions I was not convinced that the opinions brought forward, on what was important to the ITSM industry, truly reflected the opinions of the front line of IT. So what do you think the ITSM industry needs to focus on in 2014? Gamification? Agile? Problem Management? Business Relationship Management? Is the future of ITIL and the plans of AXELOS important and/or relevant to you? My recommendation to both itSMF UK and AXELOS would be to build stronger relationships with vendors. Vendors have access to large client-bases, full of the people actually doing the things we are continuously talking about. Vendors could act as a conduit for ideas and feedback, and as a platform for change. SysAid would be more than happy to be involved in this kind of initiative. We would be happy to encourage practitioner-led discussions, and to help get to the heart of what really is important in ITSM. Of course we could technically go off and do this ourselves, but where would the benefit in that be to the wider ITSM community? Anyway, roundtables aside, the conference itself was excellent. We made lots of new friends and acquaintances, learnt even more about ITSM, and hopefully also made it known that SysAid is happy to be involved in any community-led initiatives (be it SM Congress, Back2ITSM, the itSMF Big 4 Agenda, the Future of ITIL, or similar). Finally, I just want to take this opportunity to say congratulations to Stuart Rance on winning the itSMF UK Lifetime Achievement Award. I don’t think I have ever met a person more passionate and knowledgeable about ITSM than Stuart.

IT service management forum conference I was thrilled to have the chance to chat with John Rakowski.

Sarah and Sophie at the IT service management forum

Sophie Danby and I all dolled up for the black-tie dinner.

IT Service management forum with Pengi

Oded Moshe and I also caught up with Adam Holtby.


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5 Techniques IT Departments Are Learning from Apple’s Genius Bar

Posted by on November 6, 2013 in Service Desk
Apple Genius and IT Frustration, confusion, and a general disconnect all describe the current relationship between many IT departments and business-side employees. However, the concept of the Enterprise Genius Bar is improving the way help desks operate within companies today. The Enterprise Genius Bar is essentially an Apple Genius Bar for the workplace. Within the Apple Genius Bar, customers are encouraged to bring their devices in to learn more about how they operate, how to resolve basic issues, and to see what other technology is available. This interaction eliminates the wall that exists between a typical help desk and customers because both parties are face-to-face and the entire experience has a more personal touch. An Enterprise Genius Bar brings the same model into the workplace. The modernized enterprise help desk has already been successfully implemented by SAP, and many more forward-thinking companies are planning on adapting the concept. Even companies that have not fully adapted the Genius Bar model are at least taking some cues from the idea. Here are a few Genius Bar inspired improvements and techniques that IT departments are making.

1: Employee education

One of the biggest complaints amongst help desk staff is that too much of their time is spent helping company employees fix basic issues that they should be able to resolve on their own, such as not being able to log in, restoring deleted files from the recycle bin, or slow internet speeds. Instead of immediately changing an employee password, restoring deleted files remotely, or restarting the router, help desks are realizing that it’s more beneficial to explain to employees why and how these issues arise. Through educating employees on common problems, the amount of service calls is reduced and the often overworked help desk staff can focus on more crucial issues.

2: Providing customer service

Since the IT department is a part of the company (unless the department is outsourced), customer service isn’t a top priority for some technical support members. However, Apple’s approach places a strict focus on providing top notch customer service and CIOs are taking this into consideration. Some examples of better customer service in IT departments include faster response time to newly opened tickets, updating employees while issues are being resolved, and following up after tickets are closed.

3: Let employees play

The rise of BYOD and the consumerization of IT have both played a role in the variety of mobile devices available for business use. Device manufacturers and app developers are all making products for the tech savvy business person to be more productive and more efficient. With all of these options, employees have to find out what’s the best fit for their position and company. Instead of relying on retail stores to give this advice, IT departments are taking this task on and letting employees know which products will fit their specific needs. SAP’s Mobile Solutions Center is a perfect example of this. Employees can visit the kiosks in the workplace and get hands on experience with different apps and devices. The experience can be taken even further through the ability to actually rent devices to test them out as well. Renting devices can be done easily as long as you have software to manage mobile devices and a tool to manage software inventory.

4: Be inviting

If you don’t have a technical support issue, there’s no reason to contact the IT department, right? Wrong! As Apple’s Genius Bar has proven, providing a welcoming environment encourages customers (or employees in this case) to come by even if something isn’t necessarily broken. This has several benefits, the most important of which, is promoting preventative maintenance. All too often, people wait until their devices get a virus or completely stop working to check up on it. This makes repairs more difficult and time consuming. When employees feel comfortable just stopping by and learning from the support staff, they will be more likely to update their software or get their laptops looked at to make sure they aren’t at risk for any type of malware.

5: Hire well-rounded staff

Just having the technological know-how is no longer sufficient enough for help desk staff. According to Mike Burgio, VP of Managed Services Operations at Inergex, “You can't look for people who are only very good from a technology standpoint. You need people who are also very good from a customer service and personality standpoint.” CIOs are looking for help desk people who have the ability to talk on the phone, be personable, and generally have a likeable attitude. In addition to this, support staff also has to be able to fix more devices than ever before. Employees are now equipped with a variety of Android, Windows, Apple, and Blackberry devices, which are all built differently. Pre-BYOD, the help desk was limited to only having to fix a few different types of devices, but that has drastically changed within the past decade. IT departments are evolving to adapt to a more tech savvy workforce. By integrating the practices of the Apple Genius Bar, companies can have a one stop solution for all of their IT support needs.
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Movember: SysAid Helps Change the Face of Men’s Health

Posted by on November 4, 2013 in SysAid

Movember at SysAid

Have you heard of Movember? It's a month-long event that takes place annually during the month of November that involves growing mustaches, in order to raise awareness for prostate cancer and other male cancer initiatives. Call it a campaign, a fundraiser, whatever you want. The point is to get people talking, so more men will get checked, and hopefully prevent serious long-term illness or even death.

SysAid wants to participate and help raise both awareness and money! Last week, all SysAid employees were notified that if they grow their mustaches during the month, SysAid will donate $25.00 per person to the Cancer Society. Personally, I won’t be able to grow my mustache (thank goodness ;) but I do hope all my male colleagues will feel the peer pressure and humanitarianism, and stop shaving their upper lips!


Help Increase Our Donation

We want to raise even more money…so we’re opening up the offer to all SysAid customers around the world. Anyone who grows their 'stache and sends us a photo of themselves at the end of Movember, with SysAid running on a screen in the background (so we know you really are a customer), we will donate to the Cancer Society $25.00 in your name as well.

Photos should be posted directly to our Facebook page, or tweeted to us @sysaid (use the hashtag #movember). If you are extremely shy, you may also email the photos to community@sysaid.com, and we’ll be sure to make the donations.

Please - don't even think twice, grow those mustaches today!


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