About the Author

Marcel Shaw

4 Ways RFID Can Help You Meet ITAM Objectives

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Five Reasons Software License Optimization Is Needed for the Data Center

Technology backgroundEarly in my career, I supported software that was primarily used by law firms.

The software was a document management solution which provided lawyers the ability to quickly access documents related to legal issues. Some of the software’s most impressive features included intelligent search capabilities, powerful reporting tools, and version control for thousands of documents on a single network.

As you can imagine, these capabilities boosted the efficiency of legal departments and law firms around the world. Legal experts could enjoy digitizing legal documents with automated billing capabilities.

Software license optimization

However, the software alone would be useless for anyone who needed legal representation. I am amazed by how many organizations still do not employ or contract with licensing optimization solutions including software license experts for data center software license management.

When organizations need legal expertise, they hire legal experts and purchase software tools to support their legal efforts, or they contract with external legal experts and solutions. Accountants are hired or subcontracted by organizations when calculating their taxes. Software companies who audit their customers employ software license experts along with software tools to meet their objectives, or they subcontract to a third party company that has the expertise and the software tools.

Software audits are on the rise because they can be a significant revenue stream for a software vendor. Many software vendors can make up for missed quotas or lower software sales by performing software audits. This means that as long as there are organizations that are non-compliant with their license agreements, software vendors will continue performing software audits.

In a gated Gartner report published May 28, 2014. Gartner claimed: “Tracking license entitlement has become a priority for many organizations as a means to alleviate the anxiety caused by annual software vendor audit. Gartner has seen an exponential increase in the number of contracts it has received from customers looking to purchase an SLOE tool during the past nine months. We don’t expect this trend to slow down…”

Why is software license optimization needed for the data center?

It is not practical to rely on IT managers without software licensing expertise to manage software licenses in the data center.

This would be like asking an accountant with very little legal expertise to represent the organization in a lawsuit claiming misappropriated funds. Although an accountant could provide the information required to defend against such an accusation, the accountant does not have expertise with legal process, legal negotiation, and most importantly knowledge of applicable laws.

Every organization should consider implementing a software license optimization solution in the data center for the following reasons:

1. Complex license variations

Software licenses can be based on multiple factors such as the physical server, the number of processors, or the number of users; however, licensing becomes much more complicated when using virtual servers, cluster or fail-over solutions, and storage arrays.

IDC predicts that “Software License Complexity will Indirectly Cost Organizations an Average of 25 percent of their Software License Budgets in 2016.”

marcel

Software vendors selling into the data center tend to have multiple license variations for their product offerings. For example, terminology such as Power Value Units (PVU), Resource Value Units (RVU), and Core Factor Table, are just some examples of language used in software licensing contracts to define software entitlement. Furthermore, complex statements in software license contracts can be confusing when conditions or exceptions are added to the license definition. Currently, there are software vendors that have up to 5,000 active license variations for their software solutions, leaving many IT managers guessing about how they should apply the licenses they purchased.

2. License vendors make changes which can affect licensing

Software licenses can be affected by changes to the environment, configuration changes, or software updates.

marcel2

IT managers are often tasked with understanding how these updates or changes impact current license agreements, in addition to managing the software solution. Without licensing experience or expertise, this can be a gamble for the organization, which could result in a large bill after a software audit.

3. Technology alone is not able to correctly calculate most server licensing

Many organizations try to manage software licenses in the data center using software licensing tools provided by their software vendor or a third party. The problem is that these tools alone are not sufficient for most IT managers with limited licensing knowledge and experience. The complexity of software licenses for software in the data center requires those that manage licenses have a proficient understanding about the licenses they are attempting to manage.

4. Market expertise required – having the right people with the right knowledge

A proficient software optimization solution for the data center should include people with expertise to support the solution. Software licensing tools alone without the software license experts would be like providing a legal software solution to the organization without an attorney.

Software optimization solutions require people with expertise in many areas. For example, Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle have unique licensing models with many variations that are constantly modified or updated. Software optimization providers typically employ software license specialists for each vendor to keep up with changes or updates. These specialists provide valuable insight and recommendations to help their customers stay compliant with their software license agreements.

5. Software audit protection

The biggest value provided by software optimization solutions is that they will fight on your behalf if you are audited. Companies that provide software optimization solutions typically employ experts that have worked as software auditors in the past. Not only are these people familiar with software licenses, they are familiar with the software audit process.

Many organizations wait until an audit request before they seek out software license experts. Unfortunately, these experts will not be able to help the organization avoid penalties if they are, or have been non-compliant with their license contracts; however, these experts can negotiate or your behalf and are often successful in reducing penalties or fines demanded by the software vendor.

When software vendors are aware that an organization employs ITAM best practices, they tend to audit them less. In a study, Express Metrics claims: “Respondents whose organizations have implemented IT asset management (ITAM) tools report a 32 percent lower audit rate within the last two years than organizations with no such tools.”

Conclusion

It is important that organizations have a software optimization solution for the data center. Be sure to choose a solution that employs software license experts, preferably with software auditing experience. Avoid employing a company that is currently providing software audit services to software vendors. This is a conflict of interest.

Employing a software auditor to help you fix your software licensing problem would be like calling the police instead of a taxi for a ride home if you had too much to drink. Although the police might give you a ride home, they also might give you a ticket, or take you to jail. Those software license solutions that also do software audits could report you to the software vendor, something that is often required by their agreements with the software vendors they support.

Organizations that do not partner with software license solutions and experts should budget for unknown expenses. Why? Because these organizations will probably be out of compliance with software license agreements and as a result, they will pay the price.

What’s the Difference Between ITIL and ITSM?

GettyImages-185895150Many years ago, I worked as an IT support analyst helping companies with a software product that managed their documents on the network.

When customers called for help, I used a software program to open an incident that described the issue, the identity of the caller, and the date and time the incident was opened. The IT department I worked for supported our organization and our customers with all their IT needs. This included helping customers with IT issues, creating knowledge articles, and providing assets to employees so they could do their jobs.

For those supporting IT, you often hear terms such as “ITIL” and “ITSM” when discussing IT service management. So what’s the difference between ITIL and ITSM?

ITIL

In the 1980s, IT Service Management best practices emerged as most organizations were migrating or planning to migrate to digital technology.

IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) refers to a group of documents that provide a framework and best practices for building an IT Service Management (ITSM) solution. Organizations supporting an IT infrastructure can increase efficiency while reducing service management costs if they follow recommended ITIL processes.

In addition to best practices, ITIL provides common terminology, such as “Incident,” “Problem,” “Change,” “Configuration Item (CI),””Knowledge,” and “Configuration Management Database (CMDB),” all of which are examples of terms used by those who support IT. Education that focuses on ITIL best practices is available for people who wish to gain a better understanding of ITIL. Furthermore, ITIL certifications can be valuable to have on a resume.

ITSM

IT Service Management (ITSM) is sometimes mistaken as a software solution. In reality, ITSM is about process, people, and technology. Software is one component of an ITSM solution.

  • IT Service Management is a strategic approach for designing, delivering, managing, and improving the way information technology (IT) is used within an organization. The goal of IT Service Management is to ensure that the right processes, people, and technology are in place so that the organization can meet its business goals.

ITSM software tools usually come with several components such as a database, business objects (u, groups, roles, etc.), and a process engine. These software solutions that support ITSM are typically designed to align with ITIL best practice recommendations.

Organizations such as Pink Elephant provide ITIL certification services for ITSM software providers. They evaluate ITSM software solutions to verify they follow ITIL best practices. It is important to choose ITSM tools that are ITIL certified if your organization plans to implement ITIL best practices.

Summary

IT support departments that only provide Incident Management are often referred to as a Help Desk or ticketing solution. IT support organizations that follow the majority of ITIL best practices are typically referred to as a Service Desk solution. Although some ITIL recommendations might not be practical for every organization, when building an IT Service Management solution, ITIL best practices are a good place to start.

For organizations that are building or expanding their IT service management offerings, it is important to understand the difference between ITIL and ITSM. Furthermore, because ITIL and ITSM are constantly changing, it is critical to keep up with the latest technology. Be sure to subscribe to news feeds and forums that discuss ITSM technology in order to stay informed about the latest technology updates and trends regarding ITIL and ITSM.

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Emergence of the Chief Data Officer (CDO): How ITSM Will Be Affected

Highly Detailed Business PeopleWithin an IT organization, there are many different functions. I have attended meetings with a CIO and the different entities from the IT department. These meetings often become contentious as people fight for resources to support their objectives.

For example, those tasked with securing the network might want more control by taking away access from end users, while IT support raises concerns about increases to call volumes if the new security policies are applied.

Furthermore, resources and budgets are limited, making it difficult to support every project that each IT group requests to meet their objectives. However, decisions need to be made.

With limited budgets, some projects are funded and some are not. Unfortunately, many executives continue to make decisions based on intuition instead of readily available data. This can endanger the future of an entire organization.

In a gated report, Gartner predicts that “through 2020, over 95 percent of business leaders will continue to make decisions using intuition, instead of probability distributions, and will significantly underestimate risks as a result.”

To understand how dangerous intuition can be to an organization, one only has to look at the evolution of Netflix over the past 10 years. Netflix has crushed corporate giants based on a strategic decision that took them in a different direction over all of their competition.

What did Netflix know about the future? They understood how technology would one day be used to deliver entertainment to every home based on trends and analytics. Large competitors ignored the analysts and the data. The “intuition,” that people would not abandon the local store experience was an error in judgment that was not supported by the data. The data not only showed a decline in store rentals, it showed future increased bandwidth offerings to every home, and a cultural change (Gen Z) fueled by mobility and social media. The data indicated what customers wanted, what future customers would want, and the technology that would deliver.

CDO Responsibilities

Today, organizations are not only realizing the value of their data, they are also starting to treat their data as a company asset. Hence, the emergence of the Chief Data Officer (CDO).

The new CDO executive role will be charged with exploring how the data can be used for the benefit of the organization. The CDO will apply market and industry knowledge with a “technical” understanding of the organization’s data.

Gartner claims that “the race to drive competitive advantage and improved efficiency through better use of information assets is leading to a sharp rise in the number of chief data officers (CDOs). As a result, Gartner predicts that 90 percent of large companies will have a CDO role by the end of 2019.”

Although the responsibility of the CDO could vary across different companies and government agencies, we can expect the role to include data governance, data analytics, and data technology.

Data governance includes standards and processes to ensure consistency, accuracy, security, and availability, while data analytics is about interpreting the data using business intelligence tools and reporting. The data technology refers to software and hardware tools as well as IT’s architecture and integration capabilities. Tools and architecture need to be in line with the business strategy; all of which will fall under the responsibility of the CDO.

How does the CDO impact IT Service Management?

IT Service Management organizations are responsible for supporting IT throughout the entire organization. We can expect that the CDO will play a large role in how the IT Service Management organization is structured, integrated, and executed. Data provided by ITSM tools will be vital to the CDO role with regards to data governance. Analytics and metrics provided by ITSM tools will help the CDO determine any risks to the organization as new tools, processes, and policies are applied from the IT department.

The data provided from the ITSM tools will also be valuable to the organization when defining IT strategy and architecture. Data provided from ITSM reports can help the organization choose the right software and supporting hardware tools that support the business strategy.

For example, imagine if you were trying to determine if your organization wanted to use tablets to support one of the business units. A pilot program is created with a team using the tablets and a team using traditional PCs. ITSM reports will provide data that includes how much time was required to support both teams.

Although the CDO will pull data from various places within the organization, ITSM reports will be essential for the CDO when determining strategy regarding IT. Even when IT objectives are met with the desired software tools, they are not sustainable if they are too expensive to support.

Summary

Data provided from an ITSM software solution is critical for the CDO to properly do his/her job. Without accurate ITSM data, the CDO will need to make assumptions about supporting costs and risks when implementing new technologies, processes, policies, security, and architecture.

The new CDO role will have a direct impact on IT service management organizations because the decisions regarding ITSM tools, ITSM structure, and ITSM processes will need to be aligned with all IT entities and with the overall business strategy which will be governed by the CDO.

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5 Future Technologies That Will Impact ITSM

bossUnlike any other industry, technology advances and changes at such a rapid pace that current IT solutions are rendered out-of-date in a very short period of time.

Organizations that want to stay competitive and efficient need to understand future technologies that could impact their current solutions.

For IT service management (ITSM) professionals, be sure to pay attention to the following five technologies that will impact ITSM solutions in the near future:

1. IoT

As more and more non-traditional IT devices connect to the network, we will see an impact to ITSM solutions in two key areas: CMDB and ITAM.

To properly support IoT, ITSM tools and processes need to build integration into IoT APIs.

Access to network systems or applications is typically provided using Identity and Access Management (IAM). Traditional IAM solutions would be overwhelmed with the relationship and access requirements required by IoT. Therefore, the Identity of Things (IDoT)—an extension of IAM—applies a unique identifier (UID) to IoT devices, allowing you to control relationships and access between IoT and other entities inside and outside of your organization.

According to Gartner, “IT asset management (ITAM) and software asset management (SAM) systems have traditionally managed IT and software assets of all types. The IDoT will assume some functional characteristics of ITAM and SAM within or integrated with IAM architecture, or be linked to ITAM as attribute stores.”

If IT organizations are not able to properly track IoT devices along with their configuration, they will be unable to secure those devices. ITAM will be critical for tracking everything that is expected to connect to network systems.

2. Compliance and securityboss2

It goes without saying that security has become the number one priority in most organizations. However, not many organizations have integrated their security and IT service management processes.

ITIL security management defines best practices for planning, controlling, analyzing, and maintaining security policies in order to protect sensitive data.

IT organizations should plan and design processes that integrate security management into their change management process. IT managers should expect to have more integration capabilities for their ITSM tools and their security tools over the next several years.

3. Security broker authentication

We continue to see IT solutions move to the cloud, which means that many organizations will implement a cloud access security broker for authentication. boss3

Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASBs) can be on-premises or cloud-based. CASBs apply and enforce security policies prior to allowing access to cloud resources.

Gartner says, “By 2018, 50 percent of enterprises with more than 1,000 users will use cloud access security broker products to monitor and manage their use of SaaS and other forms of public cloud.”

We can expect that it will be the responsibility of IT service management to support those who have difficulty accessing the organization’s cloud solutions.

4. Predictive analysis

It is important to understand current network service impact and costs in order to make informed decisions regarding ITSM. This is accomplished when data and historical metrics are analyzed from multiple data points in order to predict future behaviors or to understand unknown events.

Predictive Analysis helps IT service organizations distribute workloads based on data that has been extracted and analyzed from multiple data sources.

Most ITSM software solution providers are adding predictive analytics capabilities to their service management solution; however, these capabilities are not useful if the IT organization does not have the expertise to understand the data provided. It will be important for IT organizations to employ a data scientist to take full advantage of all the data and performance metrics that IT service management tools will soon deliver.

5. Virtual realityboss4

It might be a few years before virtual reality (VR) solutions work their way into the business environment; however, don’t count VR out too quickly. Knowledge management continues to be a challenge for many organizations. It would not be surprising to see VR technology used for training purposes in the very near future.

Research and Markets believes that the industry will see over 60 percent growth every year for the next five years, transforming it from a fringe technology enjoyed by the techy few into a major medium for gaming, entertainment, and business.

VR could soon be a component of knowledge management if the technology is retrofitted and accessible via an ITSM self-service portal.

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3 Discovery Mistakes to Avoid When Building an ITAM Solution

SearchSome time ago, I watched as a house was completely built and then completely dismantled because of a mistake made in the foundation.

IT discovery is an important foundation for IT asset management (ITAM) solutions, much like the foundation of a house is crucial before you can add the walls, roof, windows, electrical, and plumbing.

If your discovery information is inaccurate, you will be unable to rely on the reports that are produced.

In an article published by Computer Weekly, almost 66 percent of IT managers admit to not having a completely accurate record of their IT assets.

To ensure accuracy for your ITAM solution, avoid the following mistakes that are often made when implementing IT asset discovery.

1. Don’t confuse an audit with discovery

Gartner defines discovery as follows:

IT asset management (ITAM) entails collecting inventory, financial and contractual data to manage the IT asset throughout its life cycle. ITAM depends on robust processes, with tools to automate manual processes. Capturing and integrating autodiscovery/inventory, financial and contractual data in a central repository for all IT assets enables the functions to effectively manage vendors and a software and hardware asset portfolio from requisition through retirement, thus monitoring the asset’s performance throughout its life cycle.

IT asset discovery is an ongoing process that should be automated, whereas an audit is a one-time event.

For example, if you send a tech to document all PCs in the organization, you will have an inventory database that has a very short life before it becomes out-of-date and unreliable. Unless this process is repeated on a regular basis, it is simply an audit.

When ITAM discovery tools are deployed onto the network, your asset inventory will stay current. Discovery tools not only take inventory of devices connected to the network, but they also account for devices not connected to the network.

ITAM discovery tools can alert IT asset managers to changes in a timely manner.

Furthermore, IT assets that do not report into the ITAM solution can be flagged as missing, which is an important requirement from a security perspective.

2. Avoid discovering assets that are not relevant to your objectives

Avoid complicating the ITAM solution by attempting to do too much up front.

An asset management solution needs to mature. Asset processes will probably be altered and perfected over time. If the ITAM solution is too complicated, chances are it will fail.

Make sure the organization know the answers to the following questions:

  • Why do we need ITAM?
  • What IT assets need to be tracked?
  • How often do IT assets need to report back to the ITAM solution before they are flagged?
  • What information will be required in the ITAM reports and dashboards?

Without a clear understanding of your ITAM objectives, it will be difficult to define what should be discovered and monitored.

For example, if the organization’s objective is to track software licenses, then it makes sense to discover software and the hardware that is hosting the software.

It would not make sense to include switches, printers, and routers in the discovery process at this stage of your project. Be sure to allow your ITAM solution to be perfected and to mature before expanding the ITAM solution to include additional IT assets such as switches, routers, and printers.

If you keep the solution simple in the beginning, you will increase the chances for success.

A simple, successful ITAM solution can be matured and expanded into a larger and more reliable ITAM solution than a larger,  unreliable ITAM solution that requires constant troubleshooting and changes.

3. Don’t architect discovery until you know what type of reports are required

Reports and dashboards that are created from an ITAM solution are critical for success.

ITAM evangelist Patricia Adams wrote: “…by having an understanding of the benefits that a complete end-to-end solution can provide, CIOs, CFOs and chief security officers (CSOs) will be better able to address the issues they are facing (many unknowingly) within their particular organization.”

When you have a clear understanding of the type of reports needed for the ITAM solution, you will be much more focused when defining what IT asset information needs to be discovered.

Additionally, with accurate and relevant report data, you will be able to implement Business Value Dashboards (BVD).

BVDs enable the IT department to display technical information from the ITAM reports in a format that even non-IT managers can understand.

If you successfully show BVDs to non-IT management and executives, the value of the IT department—along with the ITAM project—will show executives a value versus a cost to the organization. BVDs make it easy for executives to make informed decisions regarding IT acquisitions, which ultimately save the organization money.

Conclusion

IT asset discovery is a foundation to an ITAM solution. Without clear ITAM objectives, it will be difficult to define what is needed for reports and dashboards. As a result, discovery tools will probably discover too much or too little.

Without a good discovery solution, the ITAM data will be unreliable, thereby costing the organization money to either fix it or start over.

Be sure to avoid these common mistakes by defining ITAM objectives and by keeping the ITAM solution simple while allowing it to mature. Otherwise, you could burden your IT employees with unnecessary tasks or overwhelm them with too much information that is not relevant to your ITAM objectives.

Check out our FREE report on why LANDESK was named ITAM Champion by Info-Tech!

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How to Integrate a CMDB With IT Asset Management (ITAM)

When I meet with organizations that are looking for an asset management solution, I am often asked whether the configuration management database (CMDB) can be used for tracking IT assets using ITAM best practices.

The issue that arises when implementing a CMDB with an ITAM solution is the belief that there is a feature overlap when using both solutions. For example, an IT asset located in the asset management database could also be a configuration item (CI) in the CMDB, so how do you avoid duplicating an asset in both databases?

Let’s use an analogy by looking at how airlines manage their flights and their equipment and planes.

Imagine booking a flight from New York to London. The flight you are looking for is identified by the flight number 192. In the airline’s database, flight 192 from NY to London consists of a plane, crew, gate, gate agents, and ground crew.
Airlines also maintain another database that tracks their equipment and planes. The database that tracks aircraft contains information such as capacity, purchase/contract information, and performance data along with historical maintenance records.

Let’s imagine that a Boeing 777 identified as B777-1421 is assigned to flight 192; however, a problem has been found on B777-1421. After an equipment change request, the airline removes B777-1421 from service, and replaces it with a plane identified as B777-1502. 2Even though a different aircraft (ID: 1502) will be used to support flight 192, the flight number does not change. Managing a CMDB with IT asset management is similar to managing the flight database with an equipment/plane inventory database.

In most cases, a CI is a combination of IT assets, such as an email server which consists of hardware and software. Let’s use an example of an email CI named EMAIL-SRV that is using a physical server named SRV01.

3SRV01 is an older server with a slower processor and less memory. A change request is issued to replace SRV01 with newer server named SRV02.

4

After replacing the server, the email CI is then updated with the new server’s information and configuration; however, the name of the CI, EMAIL-SRV would not be changed.

5With seamless integration between a CMDB and the IT asset management database, the IT asset can be directly linked to the CI located in the CMDB instead of being recreated. This is similar to how airlines link equipment/planes to their flight database.

CMDB vs ITAM: Why do you need both solutions?

Even though many properties of a CI are similar to those of an IT asset, the lifecycle process for each is much different.

6
CIs are IT assets that affect business processes. CIs are usually associated with ITIL processes such as problem, change, and release management.

Configuration management objectives look at IT assets from an operational and support perspective. Asset availability and stability impact an organization’s day-to-day operations, so assets need to be documented along with their configuration and service offerings.

An IT asset is part of the organization’s IT asset inventory and usually contains information associated with contracts, cost centers, lifecycle status, and location.

 

Asset management processes will assign, unassigned, or re-assigned IT assets to end-users or to CIs so that assets are not misplaced or lost. 7

ITAM objectives focus on managing an IT asset’s overall cost, including ownership, associated contracts with asset lifecycle, warranty, and refresh information. ITAM focuses on IT assets from an organization’s financial perspective.

Summary

To efficiently manage IT assets, separate the IT assets from the CIs. Implement ITAM best practices for the IT asset management database using automated ITAM processes. Be sure to use a solution that has a strong integration between the CMDB and the IT asset management database so that asset information can be shared between the two solutions.

Five Tips for Improving the ITSM End-User Experience

five tips -1I often use public transportation services. Sometimes I have a good opinion of the service provider and sometimes I do not. I develop my opinion of service offerings based on the experience I have when I use the services offerings. For example, if I travel on a train that is dirty and doesn’t smell very good, then I am likely to judge the service offerings in a poor light. As a passenger, I am expecting to arrive at my destination so I am not going to develop my opinion of the services based on whether or not I arrive. Instead, I develop my opinion on the overall experience I had while traveling to my destination. If I have a poor experience, I will probably try to find another way to get to my destination even if it takes longer and costs more money.

When providing IT services to end-users, it is important to understand that end-users expect that IT services will be delivered much like I expected my train to arrive at its destination. Therefore, end-users will judge the quality of IT services based on their experience while using IT support. For example, imagine a process is published offering a way to request a laptop through a self-service portal. If the interface is difficult to navigate, or if the automated process fails to deliver the asset in the time it was promised, then you might find your end-users searching for other ways to fulfill their asset requests.

Unhappy end-users reflects poorly on the IT department. Without the support of the end-users, your ITSM solution will not be successful.

  • Do you know what makes end-users happy or unhappy?

When designing your ITSM solution, use the following steps to identify and document what makes end-users happy or unhappy, then design your ITSM processes and interface in such a way that end-users will have a positive experience:

  1. What makes end-users unhappy?
  2. How does IT make end-users happy?
  3. Design your ITSM solution to improve the end-user experience

What makes end-users unhappy?

five tips - 2When the IT department doesn’t notify end-users about projects that impacts end-users

  • End-users don’t want to be surprised by changes to the interface or changes to ITSM processes without prior knowledge. To ensure end-users buy in to new IT service offerings, be sure to include them in the design processes so they can provide feedback from their perspective.

IT analysts over commit and under deliver

  • Proper expectations need to be set for the end-users. If a callback to the end-user is promised by 5:00 PM, then be sure to call them back. If analysts are over committing, they might have too much on their plate. When assigning tasks to your analysts, be sure to monitor their follow-up. If analysts are not following up in a timely manner, monitor their workloads. Poor follow-up should never be acceptable. Remove analysts that consistently demonstrate poor follow-up capabilities.

We don’t make easy answers readily available

  • Knowledge is extremely important when providing IT services. It can take a lot of time for an analyst to troubleshoot an issue. Avoid duplicating troubleshooting efforts by providing up-to-date knowledge for your analysts. As methods for resolving an issue are discovered, document and publish those methods. When possible, publish methods for resolving an issue to the end-users. If they can fix the issue by following directions from a knowledge article, they will not have to call the help desk.

End-Users don’t like to wait on the phone

  • Long hold times frustrate end-users that call for IT support. It is important that the IT department understand peak call times, then develop methods to handle large call volumes during those times. Provide additional staffing during peak times if needed or build a process that facilitates a call-back from the analyst to the end-user when call volume is high so that end-users do not have to wait on the phone for a long period of time. The longer the wait time, the unhappier the end-user.

We treat end-users like end-users, not customers

  • The customer is always right mentality used by sales operations should be the mentality of the IT service Dept. ITIL calls the end-user a customer which is how they should be treated by the IT analysts. Encourage and positively reinforce good customer service provided by analysts.

How does IT make end-users happy?

five tips - 3Keep end-users informed and involved with IT projects

  • If end-users will be impacted by an IT project, involve them in the design and testing phase of the project. End-users are happy when they are heard. Furthermore, they will be more likely to support the IT project when it goes into production.

Apply Service Level Agreements

  • Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) provide a way for IT to set expectations for the end-user. SLA’s also provide a way for IT to monitor how well it is providing support for the end-users.

Create multiple ways to ask for assistance

  • Provide multiple ways for the end-user to open an incident or make a request. Providing multiple access points for opening incidents or making requests can alleviate long wait times for telephone support; especially during peak hours.

Provide help through a knowledge base with up-to-date relevant information

  • Today’s end-user knows how to find answers to their questions using a smartphone and Google search. If IT provides answers to commonly asked questions by publishing a knowledge database to the end-users, calls into the support center will decrease. Over-all wait times will decrease while end-users will feel empowered as they are able to solve issues themselves.


five tips - 4End-Users want respect

  • Although IT questions and requests might seem elementary to an analyst, they are not elementary for the end-user. Analysts need to avoid talking in a condescending way to the end-user. For example, “you should know that,” or “didn’t you go to training?” are statements that should never be uttered by an IT analyst. When end-users get respect, they will probably give respect to IT and appreciate all that the IT department does for them.

Design your ITSM solution to improve the end-user experience

  1. Build a self-service landing page – Publish services through a self-service catalog then automate request fulfillment processes where possible. Build approvals and authorizations into the automated self-service processes.
  2. Provide Multiple Ways to Open Incidents and Make Requests – Today’s end-users access the internet in a variety of ways. Be sure to provide a way for them to open incidents and to make requests from multiple access points. For example, not only should end-users be able to make a request for an asset by calling IT services, they should be able to make the same request using their mobile device or personal computer. I have also seen organizations that have IT services provide a “one-stop-shop” where employees can physically go to an office to report an issue or to make an IT request
  3. Look for Ways to Modernize Your Interface – Much like music and furniture, an IT interface can quickly become outdated. Be sure to use software solutions that have a modern, easy-to-use interface. Today’s software solutions need to be easy-to-use across all platforms. A good ITSM interface will change very little when going from a PC browser to a mobile app or browser. Today’s end-users want consistency.
  4. Never believe your processes are perfect – ITSM in not a destination, it is a journey. Never stop measuring and improving ITSM processes. End-users have little patience for redundant tasks that do not make any sense. Keep in communication with end-users and analysts to find areas where a processes can be improved to make them easier, faster, and more reliable.
  5. New technology is your friend – Stay current with the ITSM community by subscribing to ITSM magazines or online forums. New technology that can help you improve IT support will help you reduce your IT costs. Recently, I looked at some new ITSM technology that uses a screenshot to search a knowledge database.

Summary

If your ITSM software solution is not providing you with the latest technology available, or if it cannot be integrated with the latest technology features available, it’s probably time to look for another ITSM solution. To create a positive end-user experience, build an interface that is easy to navigate, provide processes that are quick and efficient, maintain an up-to-date knowledge database, and schedule re-occurring meetings with IT services and a focus group of end-users for the purpose of re-evaluating and improving your current IT services and their processes.

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

Originally posted at marcelshaw.com

Tracking Bigfoot and Missing IT Assets: A Tale of Poor Discovery Techniques

Squatch(1)One dark cold night, three men are quietly sitting deep in the woods, somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains. They listen intently to every noise, then from a distance they hear a sound that could resemble the creature they are seeking—Bigfoot. One of the men jumps up, takes a deep breath, and with all his strength lets out a sickening howl that sounds like he is part screaming and part singing. Meanwhile, at a campsite a couple of miles away, a group of young adults are sitting around a campfire. They hear what sounds like a man screaming in the distance.

Three Keys to an Efficient ITSM Self-service Portal

Self-Service-Portal-3-971x576Traveling can be quite stressful, especially when visiting unfamiliar places. Many years ago, when I rented a car, I would ask for a map and directions. Even though I had a map, I always seemed to get lost in unfamiliar places. Sometimes I misunderstood the directions I was provided, and sometimes I was given poor directions.

GPS technology simplifies the process of getting you to your destination because it has the ability to pinpoint your location. With GPS technology, it is almost impossible to get lost, even in the most unfamiliar places.