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My Year in Tanzania as a Support and Integration Engineer

Posted by on September 9, 2013 in General IT
The Gods Must Be Crazy "Sometimes they hear a thundering sound when there are no clouds. They assume the gods have eaten too much and their tummies are rumbling." - from the 1980 cult movie The Gods Must Be Crazy Working on a project in Africa is a very interesting and challenging task. Though the people, at least in Tanzania, are very positive and gentle, they spend their lives in a different dimension, which would not be understandable to a western man. The mantra that best describes their perspective on life is Hakuna Matata – Take It Easy! Regardless to what is happening, they always take a rest, and say Hakuna Matata. Never mind if half of the country has no access to the Internet, or expensive equipment is stuck in customs for seven months and they are losing the money as a result of it.
Perhaps the relaxing sound of waves and cool breeze from the Indian Ocean made their mentality cool, optimistic and carefree. One more thing to know about the locals—when you are going to a business meeting in Tanzania and want to bring a gift—don’t bring a watch because it will be 100% useless. They’ll use it as a nice piece of jewelry, but they won’t use it as a tool for time measuring. Time in Tanzania flies in a different way, and their hour does not contain 60 minutes as a regular hour does in the rest of the world. But let's come back to our story. So, what was I doing in Tanzania? Well, I worked as part of a team with a mission to integrate ECI equipment (see photo above) in the Vodacom network. We were building a wired network infrastructure, and assisting the Tanzanians to escape from satellite network restraints and move to a better, faster world. To achieve this complicated task, we were supported by two teams. One was the South African team from Mobax, a very professional and effective team with decades of experience and a heavy mix of British and German accents. They were like rangers! Nothing would stop them from completing a task, but don’t forget to fill them with some fuel— they are totally uncreative and boring when they are sober ;). The second team was a local one. Their job was to build the infrastructure and install the equipment. And, well...they were always located outside the coverage area making it impossible for the satellite footprint to track their location. They, I suppose, succeeded to confirm Einstein’s theory of relativity…why? Because time, geographical location, and progression from point A to point B was a very relative concept to them. The work itself brought a lot of experience and satisfaction. The year my colleagues and I spent in Tanzania changed the voice quality of cellphone conversation and decreased the Internet delays from 600 milliseconds to 200. The network stability and consistency changed dramatically as well, in despite of regular power problems all over the country. The network outages decreased, as ECI ventured to demand, in their insolence, a generator for each and every site. And believe it or not, ECI even succeeded to bring a lot of spare parts to ensure that failures of any kind would not result in outages around the country. Although my boat sailed to the quiet Mediterranean beaches (dealing with SysAid customers is a breeze compared to the eruptions in network operations), I’m still missing the unpredictable storms of the Indian Ocean, and I look forward to my next visit.
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SysAid 9.1 Beta Keeps Rocking Onwards

Posted by on September 2, 2013 in SysAid
So far, 90 companies have upgraded to SysAid 9.1 Beta:
  • 11 Pro
  • 25 Pro Plus
  • 54 Enterprise/Full
SysAid Beta 9.1 Here’s what was happening at the beginning of the Beta Season. Today we're delivering a new Release Candidate, so if you're feeling left out – please join our Pathfinder Program now and stay in the know, while truly making an impact on the final release! Just ask our amazing and devoted Community powerhouses, like @techguy, @karlson, @MichaelZ, @jasoncherkas, @larronni, @5.7FSN, and all the rest. I personally want to thank you all for everything you put us through ;). We still have a full month before the final release, and we are working with a dedicated team of developers to fix as many issues as we can to bring you the best release to date.

Category-Driven Templates

This is one of the more anticipated features our On-Premise customers, who have been waiting patiently and certainly won't be disappointed. Basically, for those who don't know, this is where SysAid allows you to create dynamic forms and match them to different types of service records. Admins love it because the form is designed specifically to the issue that the end user is having. The end user loves it because once an issue is pinpointed through the categories (in the End-User Portal), the rest of the form is basically filled out dynamically, so there won’t be much else to do besides clicking the Submit button.

.NET Agent

SysAid's new .NET Agent for Windows is being heavily tested with version 9.1. Lior, our R&D Team Leader, opened a forum topic just for this issue. As Lior explains: "We invested months into this project and I can assure you that the .NET Agent contains the same feature set as the old Agent. However, using a more advanced technology improves stability and brings better memory management, security management, error handling, and more. Plus we have plans to add more features in future releases." Thank you SysAider @zhazell who took the time to install the new Agent and tell us: “I love the new installer/agent! Multi-Monitor support is huge for us here!!” We also think the multi-monitor support is awesome :). All feedback (good and bad) is very much appreciated.

What Will Be in the Release Candidate?

  • 24 fixed bugs. Top 3 are:
    • Remote Control cannot be started in encrypted mode
    • Agent does not work properly on non-English OS
    • (In some cases) The following error appears when running the 9.1 upgrade patch: "Could not find SysAid installation"
  • 2 Feature Requests, which were opened when the Beta began:
    • (FR#13212) Increase breadcrumbs font-size
    • (FR# 13182) Add DISMISS ALL option (replacing Delete All) to new Announcements section. In practice, this does the following:
      • Deletes all instant messages in the feed
      • Hides all the news in the feed
      • Removes all SysAid announcements in the feed
Please feel free to snoop around the Community Beta Forum. We’d love to hear from you!
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The Challenges of Modernising ITIL: The AXELOS Chronicles

Posted by on August 27, 2013 in ITIL

AXELOS ITSM Chronicles

Continuing our series of looking at the changes going on in the ITSM area, I want to examine perhaps some of the issues facing the newly formed company to take the ITIL and Project Management Best Practices into the future.

Fact File:

  • Nov 2012: Tendering Process for the Best Management Practice Portfolio announced. Formerly owned by the UK Government Cabinet Office, but widely adopted in organisations globally for IT Service Management and Project/Programme Management Best Practices.
  • April 2013: Tendering Process completed and a joint venture between the Cabinet Office and Capita Announced.
  • July 2013: Joint Venture becomes AXELOS, and appoints CEO Peter Hepworth as they get ready to be fully operational Jan 2014.
  • July 2013: AXELOS runs first workshop with Project & Programme Management and IT Service Management community representative

 


That Was the Past, What’s the Future?

There is some interesting stuff emerging from AXELOS in the wake of the newest updates from the workshops, earlier this month, looking at modernising the approach, amongst other things.

This has particular resonance for me—now I do not consider myself particularly long in the tooth but it is a sobering thought that I have worked for 21 years and shockingly I theoretically have the same amount of years ahead of me. Depressing thought.

Now I try to put myself back in my 23 year old shoes when I first started work – learning about technology, grasping concepts perhaps more rapidly than older counterparts, full of enthusiasm for the journey ahead.

In a way, that is how I feel about some of the new directions of ITIL.

Keep It Simple

I have never seen a more compelling argument for this old adage. As I look back through engagements, I have found that the best successes came from sitting down and really talking to people.

And now, as ITIL finds itself being applied to (gasp) departments other than IT departments, organisations find that they have to talk to people in plain, simple language for the non-technical to understand.

Committing a Cardinal Sin?

Before you get too excited, allow me to slip back into [/old cynic mode] —way back when I travelled to work on the back of a pterodactyl, I worked with a ticket management system that allowed an operations help desk raise trouble tickets, which sometimes (if you were lucky) was linked to alerts that the operations folk monitored.

Does any of that sound familiar now that my dinosaur has been replaced with a turbo diesel Audi?

If I raise a call with service desk now, as a grumpy old consumer—I am often given a reference number for my call.

If I resort to logging my issue online, I am sent an email with my reference, and to be perfectly honest with all of you, dear readers, as a consumer I could not care one jot if the issue I raised was a request, incident, problem or however else you want to describe it.

So you can maybe understand my surprise when I was not once, but twice roundly taken to task by committing the apparent cardinal sin of referring to a service request record as a ticket.

Heavens, I even used to include in my presentations to clients a slide called The Anatomy of a Ticket where I showed them the various fields and all that good stuff you find in a… record.

For all the years I worked on customer transition and transformation projects from one service management tool to another, I can honestly say I never had anyone pull me up and question my use of terminology.

I honestly do recognise the need for calling things by their right name, I really do, but as we have to react to more of a business view of how we provide services, perhaps a little latitude is called for.

How Do We Make Words Cool?

Well, let’s not get carried away here—we are talking about IT Service Management and stuff we have to negotiate every day.

At the end of last year, I sat in on a very interesting pitch at the itSMF UK 2012 Conference by Aale Roos, about Unlearning ITIL.

In truth we are not unlearning anything, but rather working more closely across an entire business to try and talk a similar language.

Some of the emerging themes coming out of AXELOS talk about being more in tune with the business—and ultimately it is purse-keepers of a business that shed the big bucks to buy a service management tool.

The Old/New Faces of The New Order

Perhaps I am unfairly focussing on age as I sit exactly half way between a life half worked, and a life full-lived. Instead perhaps I should look at the depth of experience that was involved in the initial workshops – contributors, practitioners and even a young penguin!

But they all had one thing in common—they wanted to work together to help bring some changes to the perhaps old, tired and grumpy ITIL.

The terminology is important—it helps us all work from a common level of understanding.

But let’s apply some common sense now—after all best practices are just common sense, written down.

There used to be a lot of whimsical chatter about the falling of Castle ITIL, and I think some of the old guard are going to find it hard to let go to the initial principles. It is completely understandable, but maybe it is time for a new guard to take over, in a world where the exact terminology as per the exact page in the book is perhaps less important than the actual business problems that needs fixing.

Onwards then, to the next chapter of the AXELOS Chronicles.


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Signs It’s Time to Upgrade Your Free Asset Management Software

Posted by on August 21, 2013 in Asset Management

Signs It's Time to Upgrade Your Free Asset Management Software

Whether you’re a small startup with limited funds or an established company just trying to test different software, many businesses make the initial decision to use free asset management software. Free software is cost efficient, handles the basic needs of many companies, and allows you to experience the benefits of asset management without going all in.

However, there will eventually come a time when free asset management software will no longer suffice. As your business grows and expands, so will your IT needs. In order to make sure your asset management software will be able to support your needs, here are some signs to let you know when you’ve outgrown your free software.


1. You need frequent technical support

Most free software vendors’ offer limited support through community forums or access to a FAQ section. This might be sufficient for startup companies that are bootstrapping, but larger sized companies with multiple needs tend to run into a lot more technical issues that need to be resolved quickly and subsequently require access to phone and email support 24/7.

Consider the amount of time and resources used to figure out how to solve technical issues on your own. That time could be much better used for completing projects or other high priority tasks. With 24/7 support, issues can be resolved immediately.

2. You have a high number of users

If your company is growing rapidly, you will need software that can accommodate all of the users and their devices (especially if your company does BYOD). Free software will limit the amount of end users and assets that can be used.

When the amount of users allowed is capped, so is the opportunity for growth. If the number of employees you have is constantly growing and you are even considering going internationally, lift restrictions and upgrade to a paid asset management software.

3. You want a more customized experience

In general, any type of free software will only allow basic customization if any at all. To create a sense of unity and to establish the company brand, having a customized layout (logo, colors, UI) will help further your company’s identity and setup things in accordance to your specific needs.

4. You want more bang for your buck

Investing a little bit of money into paid asset management software will go a long way. By no means we think free software isn’t good. However, free software works great when there’s no sense of urgency and you just want to test out software without committing to a 30 day trial or a subscription plan.

Free asset management software imposes limits such as the inability to print certain reports and get complete analytics, limited remote access, and less integration. When you upgrade to paid software, you’re able to enjoy the entire capabilities asset management tools offer such as password services, setting up tasks and projects, and being able to completely manage all of the assets in your network.

It’s easy to be tempted by the allure of the word FREE, but free asset management won’t suffice forever. When free software won’t cut it anymore, step up to a paid plan and get the most of your asset inventory tool.

Asset Management is just one of the many features supported by SysAid’s Service Desk Software. By upgrading your free edition to SysAid’s Basic, Full or Enterprise editions, you get all the essentials for IT service management in one service desk, including a robust Help Desk, Asset Management, Knowledge Base, Remote Control, ITIL Change and Problem Management, advanced customization, SLA, and more.

Can’t decide which edition is best for you? Click here to see SysAid’s feature comparison matrix.


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Everything You Need to Know About SysAid 9.1 Beta

Posted by on August 19, 2013 in SysAid
SysAid Beta 9.1 Happy Beta testing to all our dear Pathfinders who have been enthusiastic and thorough, helping us ensure the official release is even better. I have summed up the highlights of the 9.1 Beta testing, but if you want more in depth information or to post your own comment, please visit the Beta Issue Forum on our Community. And, of course, if you want to become one of our elite Beta Testers, we welcome you with open arms to join the league of SysAid Pathfinder here. You will get an exclusive look at SysAid new Release 9.1 and be the first to test all its new features!

What People Are Saying about the New UI

So far, Pathfinders have given the following positive reviews about the new UI:
  • “More professional…The top menu allows for quick one-click navigation to most pages.”
  • “Everything is faster, more overview, very successful.”
  • “A large plus and a smiley for column auto scaling!”
  • “Very happy about the new Category <> Template relationship. This will help to assign Special templates to different requests.”
And some critiques:
  • Pop-up windows should open wider so users can scroll down and read all the information/ to reach the buttons.
  • In the Customize List on select pages, the check box spacing needs a more defined break between menus and lists.

Patch Management Update

Big thanks to @Tech-Guy for bringing up the issue of Patch Management, which is not included in this release. No worries though because Patch Management will be here in just a couple of months!  SysAid would like to officially inform you that the Patch Management module will be released this November 2013.

Top 3 Bugs

Shout-out to one of our top Pathfinders @ Karlson for being so thorough and discovering the first 2 bugs on this list! We are aware of these bugs now thanks to our Pathfinders, and we will fix them in the upcoming Release Candidate.
  1. Category selection field on New CI form: There is a bug that does not allow the user to select a sub-category when creating a new CI (the values are in the list but will not be accepted).
  2. Knowledge Base article not displayed when selected: There’s a bug when a user selects an item in the new Knowledge Base, the item is not displayed.
  3. Error message when upgrading: *Resolved! While there was a bug in the upgrade installation file, we have resolved the bug with a manual repair fixed in the next build. If anyone encounters the same issue, please contact us at beta@sysaid.com.

The Known Issues

Here’s a list of Known Issues and some temporary workarounds to minimize interference:
  • #13129: Can’t select category when adding new article in the Knowledge Base. Workaround: Switch to old view and then add new article.
  • #13084: Service records with “assign_to=none” does not automatically assign to the admin who is editing the SR. Workaround: Manually assign the admin.
  • #13074: SysAid Agent version 8.5 and below that is installed on Windows 8 will not be upgraded to the new .NET Agent due to a .NET Framework issue. Workaround: Uninstall the old Agent and install the .NET Agent manually.
  • #13158: When you select an article in the new Knowledge Base from the sub-menu column, the article is not displayed. Workaround: Switch to old view of the KB.

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Mobile Expense Management: How to Do It Right

Posted by on August 15, 2013 in BYOD

Mobile Expense Management

Managing mobile costs is a challenge for organizations of all sizes. Trends such as BYOD might be leading to a reduction in work device expenses, but operational expenses, software and security costs will be growing. The situation becomes more complex when estimating a budget to cover these costs becomes a long process that requires the collection of data across all departments and management levels.

While it often seems easy to think that the benefits that come along with BYOD are justifiable, BYOD involves many different costs that in the long run, can hurt your business if they become excessive or disproportionate. Mobile expense management is certainly a hot topic. However, the question is, how do you manage these expenses correctly?


Analyze Current Usage

You must have a benchmark or estimate of what the current mobile usage of your company is before you can begin to manage it. In today’s global economy where it’s common for businesses to have offices in several different countries, tracking company-wide mobile use can be difficult. Certain carriers are distinct to specific countries which makes unification an issue. There are a few different options to help in this situation:

  • Find one carrier: Although it may be difficult, you can look for one carrier that services every area your company has offices in.
  • Using one framework for multiple carriers: Instead of restricting the company to one carrier, you can attempt to handle all of the different carriers while maintaining a unified framework.
  • Using multiple carriers: The final option would be to manage all of the different carriers and just keep them separate.

Consolidating all of the company usage can be difficult, but it’s a necessary step in order to manage all of the mobile expenses being incurred.

Budget Based on Departmental Needs/Use

Certain departments will have different mobile device needs and usage. For example, the sales team will mainly use their mobile phones to make calls, send emails, and in some cases text message. The IT department will probably use their phones for emails and to monitor support tickets. It would not make sense to allocate the same amount of talking minutes to the sales team as you would to the IT support department.

Knowing how different departments use mobile devices is also beneficial for keeping costs down. Enrolling every device in contracts that include full features could be a tremendous misuse of the company budget if the employees aren’t using them all.

Mobile device contracts do not scale down every month according to your usage. If your company signs up for unlimited text messaging and employees only send 100 texts a month, the company will still be billed at the unlimited rate. This can result in thousands of lost dollars.

Establish a Line Between Business and Personal Use

One of the reasons BYOD became popular is because companies recognized employees were often using company provided devices for personal use. The problem this created was that companies ended up footing the bill for employees to make unauthorized personal calls with company equipment.

While this still occurs today, BYOD has helped because employees use their personal devices for business. In order to better manage mobile expenses, companies have to make sure that they are only paying for mobile devices being used for business. Thankfully, this once difficult task has been made much easier with a Mobile Device Management Software.

MDM software allows companies to see how each employee is using their devices. If the monthly billing is unusually high one month, companies can look into how each device was used throughout the month and determine which employee is causing the issue.

Weigh costs vs. benefits

Overall mobile device usage has risen substantially year after year. However, this shouldn’t automatically be used as an excuse to increase the mobile device budget. Companies should analyze the costs being incurred by mobile devices and the benefits being gained as a result. This can be done by monitoring overall productivity, sales, and other measurable factors that might be affected by mobile device usage (positively or negatively).


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SysAid 9.1 On-Premise Beta is Here!

Posted by on August 12, 2013 in SysAid
SysAid Service Desk 9.1 On-Premise Beta The excitement level here at SysAid is increasing because we just started the beta season for SysAid 9.1 On-Premise! Beta season is great, as this is the time when we bring out all our hard work and share it with our most enthusiastic and involved users. the SysAid Pathfinders. The SysAid Pathfinder Program enables you to check out beta versions before the full On- Premise edition is released, take part in roundtables so you can share your input and feedback, and even receive fun gifts (last release our Pathfinders received a cool solar mobile charger). It is easy to register and take part in the program. Simply fill in the short form here, and you will receive information immediately about the current beta and all future ones too.

What Happens During Beta Season?

Our designated beta team is here to take care of any bug or issue that comes up during the season. Anyone who installs the new beta, whether in a test environment or a production environment, gets priority when reporting issues regarding the new release. We try our best to solve all the issues before the full release, which is scheduled for October 1st.

Where Should You Leave Your Feedback?

Our beta forum has vibrant discussions regarding all the new features, so be sure to take part in the discussion and have your voice and opinion heard. Fact: SysAid has developed many features based on Pathfinder feedback! We are here—reading, listening and responding. You can also email the beta team at beta@sysaid.com with any issue or problem you might have. Additional updates throughout the beta season can be found on our social media channels, especially Facebook and Twitter (@sysaid), so be sure to follow us for full updates.

What Are You Waiting For?

If you haven't joined the Pathfinder Program yet, do so now and download SysAid 9.1 Beta. If you are a Pathfinder and for some reason (maybe you changed email address) you haven't received the links to download, please contact us at beta@sysaid.com and let us know. From all of us at SysAid—Happy Beta Season :).
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The Magical Mystery Tour of Metrics – The Real Power Inside ITSM Reporting

Posted by on August 6, 2013 in Service Desk

The Power inside ITSM reporting

Back in my previous life, I would work occasionally with a mythical figure who could do magic—The Reporting Guy.

Here was a person who could pull all kinds of details from the ITSM solution and come up with the most incredible spreadsheets, pivot tables and slide decks imaginable.

There were colours, graphs, numbers that changed magically if you changed something else—all by the flick of a magic wand (or probably an Excel macro).

Of course there were the kinds of calculations you would expect to see in a normal ITSM solution, such as the numbers of incidents and service requests, including those resolved within their Service Level Agreement (SLA) time.

But the Reporting Guy had the ability to pull all kinds of facts and figures and manipulate them to do all kinds of things—a pied piper of spreadsheets, if you will.


Of course I am being perhaps a little facetious, because often in larger projects and deployments, teams work independently of each other and occasionally cross paths.

So while my erstwhile numerically-minded colleague could macro numbers to death, from my perspective at the time, so long as the tool captured that core data for it to be pulled out and acted on, then all was well.

It is only when you lift yourself away from just looking at the tool that you realise why Service Reporting deserves to be a process in itself, and needs some operational AND strategic consideration.

You come to realise that the ITSM Reporting Guy was just pulling out the bare bones of the data—sometimes the easiest things to manage, but not necessarily the right things.

Why is Reporting Important?

We measure to derive value, an understanding of efficiency (or otherwise), and to satisfy ourselves and stakeholders that we are doing the right things, and doing them well.

Everybody measures something, and most ITSM tools offer abilities to dashboard results so you can see at a glance what is open, closed, when, where, how, who—well you get the idea.

But an important concept to grasp is that we should measure performance in a meaningful way.

By that I do not mean a stick with which to clobber a team, but as a means of improving and increasing the efficiency of the teams that are providing a service.

So Give Me the Definitive List of Metrics…

This is often a common request on various forums—as if there is one standard list that fits every range of outcomes for every business, right off the bat.

Well of course, the ITIL books give those considered to be best practice at the end of the process sections, and they are called best practice for a reason.

It is as good a starting point as any, but it is just that.

As part of Continual Service Improvement, you should be reviewing that list and if you have developed other, maybe more sophisticated metrics, then move away from that starting point.

I Don’t Want to Have to Think About This, Just Gimme!

Sigh, tough!

You have to take a long hard look at the reasons why this information is important.

If we look at a Service Desk, and how efficiently they process Incidents and Requests coming in, they can use those figures to drive a variety of conversations with the business to improve their service.

But what about the business view?

The numbers only represent a small part of their sphere of interest in control.

How much is it costing the business for each request or incident?

Suddenly we are taking a broader look at the service end to end—not just whether an end user is satisfied they got their new smartphone in time, or their email service back.

Look at My Beautiful Slide Deck...Pretty Colours...

I am being facetious again, of course, but with a serious purpose—forget about facts, figures and numbers for a minute and consider this.

  • If you had to stand up and explain all those pretty pictures in clear terms of positives and perhaps more importantly the negatives, could you?
  • If you give a service owner or business stakeholder bad news, does anything constructive happen with those stats and reports?
  • If you got hit by a bus and no-one was around to do the reports at the end of the month, would anyone notice?

When used properly, the results of your reporting feeds into the continuing lifecycle of your solution.

They need to be more than just a pretty deck, and key stakeholders need to be accountable if the pictures do not look as pretty.

And much like my point above, you cannot avoid having to attach some thought and rationale behind your reports.

For example, I looked over some figures recently where there was a jump in the numbers of incidents in one particular month compared to others, and a dramatic fall-away in others.

To explain this I have to look at the bigger picture - the client was an educational establishment where incidents would spike as a new intake of students came in to the premises, and maybe another spike after Christmas when students came back with new toys (laptops, smartphones) as presents.

The numbers would dwindle over the summer vacation period as most students would return home for the holidays.

Always look to the context behind the reports.

Food for Thought

Perhaps some other options to consider, as you build your pet list of metrics:

  1. Think about the overall goal the service and/or the business is trying to achieve and use that as the basis for the report.
  2. Next consider the operational factors around that goal and external influences around that operation.
  3. Then look at a number of measurements that will help you answer the questions, and move your organisation towards meeting that business goal.

Please share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook where we are always listening.

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Introducing SysAid Cloud Release 9.1 with Brand-New UI

Posted by on July 31, 2013 in SysAid
SysAid Service Desk Cloud Release 9.1 So you are a SysAid Cloud customer, and you are used to getting new features every few weeks, but this is more than just a bunch of new features—it is a whole new experience! If you are an On-Premise customer, don’t worry, we are launching the Beta on Aug 11th that will include the new UI plus many more features we have added since 9.0.533. So stay tuned.... For me, this release is one of the most exciting releases in the past few years. Every release that introduces new features is always exciting, but there is something special about this one. First the planning of this release spanned over a long time—much longer than previous releases and included a lot of research as you probably read in Maurice’s blog post a few weeks ago, but most importantly in this release, we focused on the experience of working with SysAid. 9.1 has been available as a Release Preview as of June 30th, and since then a large amount of you Cloud customers have asked to be upgraded to this new exciting release. Well the time has come that the rest of you join the party!

Some Background on Release 9.1

Let me tell you a bit about this new release: We kept in mind new design approaches and trends that have been introduced to the world in the past few years via various new services (mainly social) and software that became part of our day-to-day living. A lot of the effort was put into planning a smooth upgrade for all of our existing customers—we took apart our whole menu structure that grew and grew over time and put it back together in a more structured way with simple logic. Once you get the hang of the logic (and you will very quickly), you won’t be looking for functions or settings anymore, they will be in the first place you naturally would expect them to be!

So What’s New?

SysAid Service Desk 9.1 screenshot of new menu Our 4 main categories: Service Desk, Assets, Analytics and Tools cover all the functions and modules and you can quickly access any function you need on a daily basis within upto 2 clicks! This is extremely important for you as we know that the majority of you spend most of your day within SysAid. That is also why we put a lot of effort on designing a clean, carefully measured workspace with just enough borders, spacing, and balanced amount of elements on the screen—so you get a great experience working with our software. We also created a settings section, where we took all the settings in SysAid and put them together in a section of their own. This allows you to easily navigate through the settings based on the various topics. We went another step forward and again took apart all the settings that appeared in tabs, and laid them out in a simple structure that can be easily accessed. We know most of you are used to finding asset settings under Assets and service desk settings under Service Desk, etc...so we went back to the main menu and created quick links to bring you even faster to the settings you seek! Both ways lead you to the same settings of course—we just wanted to make sure you have a smooth upgrade :). We added a third menu section for the special menu items like My Settings, the About page, and more. Besides the menus, we also created a new experience in the way you communicate with each other. Service Desk notificationsI am sure you are all familiar with the notification method that has become so common these days on smartphones and social networks, which let you know your attention is needed in a non-intrusive way. Similarly, we created an announcement icon with a number indicating the amount of unread announcements. This small icon is your communication center—it brings together IT news that you publish to your teams, instant messages you write to each other, and instant messages from SysAid about your Service Records (if you have this option enabled). You will also be able to get product updates and announcements in this section from time to time.

Additional Information

For those of you who need help getting familiar with the new UI, we prepared an orientation table that maps every item in the previous UI and where to find it in the new UI. To start, I invite you to watch the recording of our July webinar that guides you through all the new exciting stuff! [embed=videolink]{"video":"https://www.youtube.com/embed/HcBcFoV0JGM?rel=0","width":"560","height":"300"}[/embed] For further details on Release 9.1, please see: Just a last note to mention that besides all the things I mentioned above, you will also find more fine tuning we did on various screens to fit into the new User Interface. And this is just the beginning—we have much more planned in the near future!
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Touch-Tone Phone Menus: Helping or Hindering Hopeless Humans

Posted by on July 29, 2013 in General IT

Touch-Tone Phone Menus: Helping or Hindering Hopeless Humans

In the modern world, technology operates in a neutral space where it can be used to fulfill a variety of potentialities. This is not something unique to modern technological advancements—people have often commented how the two greatest orators of the 20th century were Adolf Hitler and Martin Luther King. Their talents were equal, what separated them was how they chose to direct and harness these talents.


Well here in the 21st century, technology is king and as much as we mere mortals often find ourselves gazing with awe upon the newest fad—be it a website, a smartphone or a service— that doesn't mean that it is benefiting us in a meaningful way. Obviously the potentiality for technology to be harmful is vast and I do not need to highlight the dangers of war and the deadly role technology can play in that arena. For me, I often find interest in those technologies that were maybe once helpful but due to lack of forward momentum have become a weight around our virtual necks.

A great example of this are touch-tone phone menus. Their ubiquity is only matched by the pained expressions universally displayed by those who have to suffer long minutes waiting to hear which number will generate a real person on the end of line, any person, even the wrong person!

As someone who likes to keep up with the lesser news stories of the day, I was therefore greatly heartened that someone had taken the proverbial digital bull by the horns in a brave effort to save us all a lot of time. A retired IT manager (and fellow Brit) by the name of Nigel Clarke has launched a website listing the call center menu sequences for accessing thousands of services. He discovered that some automated menus have nearly 80 options, which can leave people waiting for up to 6 minutes, even without the customary delay due to lack of available humans!

In a statement that would be a most fitting epitaph for any of us who are fed up of tech being used in the wrong way, he stated, "I'm not against the system, but I am against bad design."

My sentiments exactly, I tip my hat to you sir....

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