The Visualization of IT

Dashboards are not just about communicating strategy, but also allows business leaders monitor and adjust the execution of their strategy and to deliver insights to all stakeholders within their organization.

In today’s world of Xbox and PlayStation games, 3D and now 4D movies, we have become accustomed to seeing information in a visual format. This need for more visual information is bleeding into the business world. In the IT space, visualization is often times seen in a report or dashboard format, graphics that represent the status of a particular element of a business, or other items such as security vulnerabilities.

Dashboards also help organizations communicate strategy and/or their business status. We see companies like Adobe (formally Omniture), Google Analytics, and even Salesforce.com introduce dashboards to help organizations see the benefit of their activities and investment.

Dashboards are not just about communicating strategy, but also allows business leaders monitor and adjust the execution of their strategy and to deliver insights to all stakeholders within their organization. Dashboards, in the simplest terms, are a collection of different reports all in one page or view. These reports can contain high level summary of information rather than details like a simple SQL report would provide.

Many times reports contain either too much or too little information for different roles to complete their tasks. Dashboards can build in a way that will allow IT decision makers the ability to create custom focused output. The executive user may see a high level graph of department productivity, while the IT manager could see the specifics by employee, and the department employee would see their specific details for the month. This allows each person to see the level of detail that they need in order to get their job done and meet their goals. They are not overloaded by too much detail nor are they limited by a lack of information.

The dashboard method of reviewing details and viewing the status of operations provides a significant opportunity to make your business more efficient and quick to respond to issues and opportunities. This allows your business to operate more effectively and service your clients better. Through the use of business intelligence you can provide a leg up to your business and resources.

I would love to hear from our readers as to your opinion on visual dashboards and whether your organization uses products with that capabilities.

Hybrid Cloud: A Win-Win in Service Desk Software Delivery?

I was saddened to learn that Stephen R. Covey passed away on July 16, 2012, due to complications from a bicycle accident suffered in April. He was 79. Whenever I hear Dr. Covey’s name, I immediately think of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. First published in 1989, this book has sold more than 25 million copies in 38 languages and was named by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential business management books.

Chances are some of the seven habits espoused by Dr. Covey will strike a familiar chord: 1) Be Proactive; 2) Begin with the End in Mind; 3) Put First Things First; 4) Think Win-Win; 5) Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood; 6) Synergize; and 7) Sharpen the Saw.

Personally, I’ve always been intrigued by the potential of the fourth habit, Think Win-Win, and its application in personal and family relationships as well as in business collaboration. Rather than having it either “my way” or “your way,” the most successful outcomes are those that mutually benefit the parties concerned.

Frequently however, arriving at those mutually beneficial outcomes requires a third alternative. In contrast to a compromise where both parties concede something in order to obtain an agreement, striving for a third alternative can transcend to something above and beyond what either party originally envisioned.

The Alternative of the Hybrid Cloud

When it comes to implementing your service desk and the mechanism by which your service desk software solution is delivered, this “third alternative” way of thinking can also apply. You can read more about it in the whitepaper Choose the Service Desk Delivery Model that Makes Sense – Cloud, On-Premise, Hybrid.

As the title implies, no single software delivery model fits all, and each comes with its own advantages, disadvantages, and conflicting concerns. For example, cost concerns are often a primary driver for choosing a cloud or SaaS model. With LANDesk Service Desk as a Service (SDaaS), you subscribe to a service rather than take ownership of a license. You benefit from a simple, predictable subscription pricing model that controls ongoing management costs while providing flexibility in how you consume the service.

With the LANDesk Service Desk on-premise option, all aspects of the implementation such as performance, availability, and maintenance are under your control, as are full QA, staging, and test development. For organizations that operate in industries with strict legislation and compliance requirements where security and the handling, location, and redundancy of data are key issues, the on-premise model may be best.

But what about a third alternative? The option of a hybrid model opens numerous possibilities to run applications where they fit in the corporate infrastructure. One such scenario is using LANDesk Service Desk as a Service and federating on-premise data sources to a CMDB in the cloud. Another example is having a service desk SaaS implementation in the cloud linked to an on-premise service desk implementation for business-critical activities. In these instances, you can leverage the LANDesk management automation platform to orchestrate all of your on-premise tools and technologies that talk to the service desk in the cloud.

In the end, you should be in a position to balance the benefits of cloud-based accessibility and premise-managed security. You should be able to optimize the configuration of your service desk by leveraging the cloud, your existing on-premise infrastructure, or taking advantage of both via a hybrid approach. It’s important to look beyond the financial returns to the underlying benefits of each model and evaluate what makes the most sense for your organization.

7 Habits of Highly Effective IT Organizations

Last week sadly saw the death of Dr. Stephen Covey, celebrated author and founder of the global consulting and training organization FranklinCovey. I was introduced to his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in a business class when it was initially published back in 1989. The book has since gone on to become one of the best-selling and influential self help books of all time.

Listening to what your end user customers actually need will enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty by driving more positive relationships.

If you’ve never heard about this book, 7 Habits is a guide to how an individual can improve both themselves and the environment around them. While the book is focused on the individual, as the IT world (IT service desks, customer service desks, development, etc.) shifts attention more toward a people orientated approach, I think these points are also relevant for IT organizations to embrace. Lots of these points may seem quite obvious, but it’s very easy to forget them as we go about our daily work. Dr. Covey introduces the concept of the “paradigm shift,” a change in perception or a re-framing of how the world operates taking you through how to be more proactive, and less reactive. Does that sound familiar to those of you in the IT world?

See what you think:

Habit 1: Be Proactive. Control your environment. Don’t be reactive to outside forces. Take responsibility, make choices and accept the consequences so that you are proactive and not reactive. If things go wrong, look at your own action and how we can improve in the future.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind. Determine your end goals so that you know what you are working toward. This will enable you to concentrate on relevant activities and avoid distractions. For the IT world, think of the outcomes you or your end user customers are trying to achieve? That will help IT teams make more effective decisions about what change to implement, what software is most appropriate or how much storage capacity is really required, and so on.

Habit 3: Put First Things First. Organize and prioritize activities towards the goals you outlined in Habit 2 based on importance rather than urgency and then execute. For example, there is a tendency in the IT world to be metric mad without thinking about what is actually needed to reach a final outcome. By knowing the desired outcome, you can narrow down the relevant metrics that you actually need to report on.

Habit 4: Think Win-Win. Achievement is dependent on a co-operative approach with others so aim for solutions that are mutually beneficial. When you think win-win, you are better able to resolve conflict. It is impossible for an IT organization to achieve greatness without co-operation between teams – development, project management, security, data centers the service desk, so communicate and negotiate for example when a change is going to take place. In that way as Dr. Covey wrote, “All parties feel good about the decision and feel committed to the action plan.”

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. Listen to other people in order to create a more respectful environment and better solve problems. This is one that IT and particularly the service desk often struggles with as it’s all about effective communication. Listening to what your end user customers actually need (through regular contact, satisfaction surveys as well as reporting metrics) and as Covey describes it “diagnosing before you prescribe” will enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty by driving more positive relationships.

Habit 6: Synergize. Use teamwork to achieve goals that could not be achieved by one person working alone. To get the best performance out of the team encourage meaningful contributions and end goals. Be creative negotiators that build strong relationships through co-operation and trust with others. Think about ways of how you can use the combined strengths of an IT team. This may not for example necessarily be about everyone working together on one project but this could manifest in other ways. For example, the introduction of a knowledge base where staff can share their insights, expertise or resolutions for use within a team will only make that team stronger and faster in their response to issues and challenges than they would be as individuals. Similar integration of tools such as systems management with service desk will enable teams to have clear visibility for more accurate decision making.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw. This one is about self-renewal. To be most effective with the 7 habits long-term, it’s necessary to balance and renew your resources, energy and health. Covey talks about the four parts; the spiritual, the mental, the physical and the social/emotional which should all need feeding. Keeping IT staff happy, motivated and engaged so that they don’t leave further down the line is a key concern particularly on the service desk side of things. Encouraging staff and enabling them to develop should be a key focus whether that is through reward structures, stimulating work environments, career development or use of social IT to encourage positive social interactions. Sometimes everyone is working so hard, it’s easy to forget this one but look at the many studies that show satisfied employees lead to satisfied customers.

Dr. Covey believed that good leaders and communicators never accepted the status quo, are looking to constantly improve and challenge themselves and never say “We are good enough” I hope that you can see the parallels to what a good IT Service Desk, CIO office, PMO office or the IT organization as a whole should be striving for.

Gartner CEO Survey 2012: Profitability

 

In today’s economy, business leaders are focused on increasing profitability so they can put money in the bank. Cash, after all, is good! IT organizations are always asked how they can increase efficiency, do more with fewer resources, and help the overall organization increase profitability. So how does IT do this?

When thinking about current IT pains like slow systems, expensive break/fix work, time to recover from power failures, and the like, IT organizations need to map the impact of these problems to profit.  How many more customers could the business serve with faster systems?  How much profit would this generate?  Could there be a reduction in spending on fixing down systems with proactive maintenance?  How much of these savings would drop to net earnings?  By thinking in terms of results to the business, it becomes easier to prioritize those IT initiatives that actually drive profit in the business.

Effective systems management can help IT organizations reduce the time it takes to fix problems, implement preventive measures to increase system up time and availability, to patch systems when vulnerabilities and performance issues have been identified, or identify the endpoints that need to be cycled out before user productivity has been impacted.

We believe that all of these items and many more are important to helping IT organization add to the organizations bottom line. Both our Systems and Security product lines and Service Desk products help IT organizations build value within the organization by automating and optimizing manual IT processes, resulting in higher profitability for the organization.

Keeping the organization’s bottom line in mind is one way to keep IT relevant and help get our organization the tools you need to succeed.

Sexy Core Management Chalk Talk Video

OK, maybe core management is sexy to those in IT. But we had a great time producing this chalk talk video with Doug Knight, Vice President of Systems Engineering. This core management chalk talk describes how our light infrastructure helps simplify managing, securing and supporting a distributed network environment.

In this chalk talk Doug talks about the following:

  • Going server-less on your subnets
  • Get mobile – let them wander, we’ll still manage and secure your users
  • Go under the covers with how things like software distribution, OS migrations and patching are easier to manage
  • Fake a PXE with a PXE Proxy for easier OS installs, updates and migrations
  • Watch it all happen in less than 13 minutes and see various scenarios where LANDesk can reduce costs and help you make the user the intelligent endpoint in your business.

Watch this very informative about one of LANDesk’s extremely effective technologies for managing distributed business environments. And then let us know what you think.

 

An Interview with ITIL Girl

When our CEO, Steve Daly, wrote the first entry for the LANDesk blog, he said that “helping you be successful…is what we’re about at LANDesk.

Our goal for this blog is to be a showcase for sharing stories about how we have been helping people make their IT operations run better, smoother and more efficiently. But it is also about bringing to you the insight of a wide range of people, all over the globe, who are passionately committed to the same goal. Some will be CIOs. Some will be well known analysts. Some will be…anonymous IT operations staff people.

ITIL Girl is passionate enough to chronicle her day to day experiences working on the front lines of IT operations and clever enough to remain anonymous.

When someone is passionate enough to set up a twitter account (@ITILgirl) and blog to chronicle her day to day experiences working on the front lines of IT operations (and clever enough to remain anonymous), then that person has a voice and perspective that we thought we should share with you. We think you’ll find her thoughts as insightful as we did.

LD: Did you begin your career wanting to be on the operational IT staff?

ITILgirl: I decided in my teens that I wanted to be in IT. I’d love to work with networks and servers, as that’s where my initial interests lay – but I’m grateful for the support role I have at the moment. I might tweet a lot about bad experiences with project managers and external support staff, but I am generally content supporting and developing. I can’t ever imagine myself in management with any responsibility for people, but I’d love to see how far I can go in a technical role.

LD: As a front line IT person, what is the one thing you would tell senior management and industry thought leaders about the way ITIL actually works as opposed to the theory?

ITILgirl: I actually wrote about this very candidly for a piece of personal work recently.

I feel that the exams are treated as a chore more than anything else, and I know plenty of people that crammed the night before the exam and passed. After that, the system seems to be treated with general apathy and regarded as something of a blocker – too much paperwork, too many meetings, not enough agile deployment and progress. I would say that Incident Management and Service Continuity Management are probably treated with the most respect, while Change Management is something that most people will attempt to circumvent and avoid.

Sorry, one more thing: don’t ever underestimate or neglect your Service Desk.

LD: What is the best thing about being an operation staff person? Or tell us about an occasion where you really made a difference for a client?

ITILgirl: The best part is the little things, like getting thank-you emails from my customers and their managers for well-implemented projects or particularly speedy incident resolution. I print them out and save them for appraisals. Sometimes I even take them home and show my parents, but sadly I’m too old to have things stuck in pride of place on the fridge.

LD: What is the main challenge you face?

ITILgirl: Third parties, by far, are the biggest challenge I face on a daily basis. It’s by no means the fault of the individuals I speak to, but most likely the way their service is managed. I know that the companies I speak to operate with ITSM, because they use familiar words and structures, but probably don’t understand the importance of SLAs and business relationship management. There’s one company that, based on experience, I have decided to always phone about incidents so that they aren’t given the opportunity to ignore my emails for up to 48 hours. I suppose technology doesn’t always equal progress.

LD: Why did you begin to blog and tweet about your experiences? What has the reaction been from the ITIL community?

ITILgirl: I began tweeting when I started revising for my ITIL Foundation exam. I felt that it’s easier to learn when you show an interest in something. I met some cool people. About two years later, finding that people were interested in my comments, I decided to make a separate Twitter account with a blog to match. I take great care to keep it as anonymous as possible while still hopefully being helpful.

The initial reaction was a lot of good-natured sighing and eye-rolling about the name I chose! However, I found that there aren’t a large amount of people like me in front-line technical roles that have any enthusiasm for ITIL, and I’m so glad that I might be helping people understand things from my point of view, and other people like me.

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The opinions expressed in this post are those of ITILgirl and do not necessarily represent those of LANDesk.

Gartner CEO Survey 2012: Customer Experience

Last week, I did not write a blog article as I took a much needed vacation and spent it with my family swimming in the freezing cold waters of Bear Lake here in Utah and riding in a 60K mountain bike race in Cedar City, Utah. (My legs are still feeling the results of that). So after getting exhausted and needing a vacation from my vacation, it’s time to talk about customer experience.

A customer experience is an interaction between an organization and a customer as perceived through a customer’s conscious and subconscious mind. It is a blend of an organization’s rational performance, the senses stimulated and the emotions evoked and intuitively measured against customer expectations across all moments of contact. Many companies have lost that magic customer touch, and need to find ways to get back to focusing on their customers. According to the survey, CEOs are concerned about whether or not their customers are getting a good experience.

When IT organizations focus on more customer centric activities, you are ultimately creating a better customer experience for the customer.

When it comes to improving the overall customer experience, IT can play a pivotal role. For example, a call center for an online commerce company, such as EBay, Overstock, or Backcountry needs to ensure that their call center agents are available 24/7/365. If an IT organization cannot complete software migrations, patch updates and other systems management tasks quickly and efficiently, it will restrict their ability to provide the right tools to their agents and increases the vulnerabilities to each of the agents’ endpoints such as mobile devices, desktops, thin clients or virtual desktops. When IT organizations focus on more customer centric activities (such as a new call system, or web-help portal, online chat, etc), you are ultimately creating a better customer experience for the customer.  In addition, IT organizations can also look at the experience they create for their own internal customers.

Whether you’re looking to improve an internal or external customer experience, here are four things to keep in mind:

  • A customer experience is not just about a rational experience
  • More than 50 percent of a customer experience is subconscious, or how a customer feels.
  • A customer experience is not just about the ‘what,’ but also about the ‘how.’
  • A customer experience is about how a customer consciously and subconsciously sees his or her experience

The benefit of a company the size of LANDesk is that we are smaller enough to focus on our customers ‘experience, yet large enough to add innovation to our products. You will see over the next 6-8 months several new innovations that will help IT organization present the value of system management to their executive team, while implementing ways to allow your organization to focus your organizations customer experience.

Stay tuned for more updates.

 

LANDesk Data Analytics = Love

Managing the diversity of IT assets is complicated. LANDesk Data Analytics is our universal language of love to solve this problem.

Love is the universal language. Every person on the earth, no matter what their language, ethnicity, or personal hardware configuration understands what it means to love or be loved. A show of affection, a smile, an act of kindness is all universally understood because it doesn’t take words to communicate. The next time you’re in New York, go to JFK Airport and give the next traveler off an international flight a smile and warm hug. I would be willing to bet you would bring a smile to that person’s face.

A few years ago my wife went to Italy and purchased a popular Italian t-shirt from a street vendor. It’s a plain t-shirt with the phrase, “I want to you well” across the front. She saw several people wearing this shirt with the “cool” American words on it.

This phrase is the literal English translation from the Italian phrase “ti voglio bene” which means, I love you (in a friendship or family way). I’m not sure if you caught the meaning or not but I think we can agree that much was lost in the translation.

Now look around your IT environment and notice all of the different vendors represented. Each hardware and software vendor has data that is unique to their own product. In addition, each of those products may be purchased by differing IT VARs with their codes, numbers, etc. The diversity of technology today can bring IT Asset Management into a state of chaos. It’s like trying to manage the United Nations slow-pitch softball team. Try explaining to the Ugandan delegates how to turn two!

At LANDesk, we we understand how complicated it can be to manage the diversity of IT Assets. LANDesk Data Analytics is our universal language of love to solve this problem. With Data Translation and normalization, vendor data is captured at the point of purchase and aggregated to provide visibility and effective management without a lot of effort. So if you purchase Dell laptops from CDW and Lexmark printers from Insight, data analytics will do all the translating. The result: automated data collection, EULA/ software license normalization, third party device inventory, and executive reporting. These tools are guaranteed to warm the hearts of IT Managers and CIO’s everywhere.

So where’s the love?

Give us a call and we’ll show you the love!

True End-to-End Mobility

As most of you know, the Wavelink team recently joined forces with LANDesk to provide true end-to-end mobility solutions. The good news is the same Wavelink  brand that you have come to know and trust will be continued, but now with even more value. We’re in a fantastic position to provide solutions for our customers mobile, and non-mobile, ecosystems and we couldn’t be more excited about what this means for the future.

For many years, our Partners and customers have depended on Wavelink to provide a set of solutions that enable them to keep their wireless networks and devices running in an optimal manner. Now, with the addition of LANDesk, our Partners and customers will be able to do even more. From the Board Room to the Back Room, we will have you covered.

I look forward to working with our new LANDesk family, and the many exciting opportunities that will come from this relationship. I truly feel that our Partners and customers will reap the benefits of the integration, and I’m excited to see them play out over the coming months!

How Many Service Desk Reports Do You Need?

In most cases, you don’t need 500 Service Desk reports. In most cases you might just need five or six.

As an ITSM vendor, we often get organizations approach us with an interest in purchasing and using our Service Desk product to help drive their IT support and IT service management. This is a good thing. We are always happy to talk to potential future customers, and we love seeing the difference out products can make.

But there’s one question which always comes up which is guaranteed to make my polite helpful face slip very slightly. That question is: How many reports do you provide?”

It’s not an unreasonable question, but it’s a telling one that gives away more about the background of the asker than anything the answer itself can give. That question usually indicates that there is an expectation that all information can only be obtained through ‘reports’, and that the more that are provided, the better the solution must be. These are two flawed assumptions.

Let me explain.

Once upon a time, software products were fixed and limited. You needed a new blue button that made the coffee? No problem, we write a specification and wait for Engineering to produce a future release with a blue button that makes coffee. And if the coffee it makes is luke warm, and with cream and no chocolate sprinkles on top, then hey, that’s what it is. At least you have a blue button right?

And those products in the ITSM arena would typically be shipped with a set of “reports.” That’s where the first part of the question comes from. The software engineers know there will always be a table in the database holding blue button coffee requests, so a “report” can be coded that shows the total number of cups dispensed over time. Back in those days, the only way to get the information you needed out of a service desk or help desk product would be to run a report as a freestanding view of information. So, in that mindset, clearly the solution that comes with 5,000 prebuilt reports is more likely to give you the information you really need than a solution with 50, right? So an arms race developed, with vendors competing to see who could ship product with the most prebuilt reports across the largest conceivable range of subjects.

Here in LANDesk land, our customers tend to be overflowing with information, yet often only run a small set of reports. How can that be? Well, you need to understand a bit about LANDesk Service Desk and a bit about the concepts behind our reporting.

Let’s start with the four types of information-delivery.

  1. Awareness. Information that is presented to you, in context, in small, subtle ways keeps you informed and appraised on things happening that may affect you. Maybe its emails, RSS feeds, or Twitter. It’s the pop-ups that says, “I know you are in the Paris office, and you need to be aware that SAP access in Paris is currently slow.” You read it, process it, and move on.
  2. Information. Whether in IT or elsewhere in the business, when you approach the Service Desk you should be able to see what you need to see. Dashboards, lists, counts, charts, dials. If you look at a request you should be able to see all incidents raised by that user, all changes planned for request, and all problems relating to that service. You need the information to make human decisions about what to do next. And yes, you can print them, email them, save them, and distribute them. But they are dynamic and in front of the right people.
  3. Reporting. Now we come to the original question. I regard that word reports as referring to documents. Formally produced, calculated, formatted, branded, and printable documents containing data from your service desk and other sources. You have to ‘run’ them. Back on the bad old days these were often the only way of getting information. However, these days a modern solution should present your operational information to you as you work. So we increasingly see that the number of cases where a formally produced document is required are reducing. You don’t need 500 reports. In most cases you might just need five or six.
  4. Management Information. It’s about capturing key business metrics from multiple sources both inside the service desk and across the business. Those metrics are captured and calculated and stored and warehoused and used for tracking progress towards goals against time. Almost like GPS for IT Service. For example, it’s management information that lets you see how as your roll out of Windows7 you started to see a reduction the number of major incidents, an increase customer satisfaction, and an increase in employee productivity. It’s reports that deliver meaning over time that are important.

So, there you have it. Four different types of information delivery, and hopefully a good explanation of why many successfully ITSM practitioners tend to run a surprisingly small number of reports, yet are totally immersed in valuable information.