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Found 5 results

  1. Exactly Why do ITSM Vendors Lead with ITIL? I was inspired to write this article on the back of a question asked on the Back2ITSM community by William Goddard which was... I think the answer to the question is obvious, but we can explore it by looking at the role of a vendor in a niche industry.  Firstly, and most obviously I think, vendors do not choose to lead with ITIL, Pink Verify or anything else. The buying public chooses, and vendors simply make and sell what they are asked for.  The problem with niche markets like the ITSM space is there are different parties, with different agendas, and for the most part they are in conflict with each other. The Customer Organisation – needs improved efficiency and better ROI on its investments. They don’t care how it is done, and often don’t know what they need to do either. The command from above is ‘get it done’ and they want demonstrable results, measured essentially in reduced costs/increased business value. The Buying Customer – for the sake of this example, is the IT department and/or the people directly responsible for running IT Service within the organisation.  They are under pressure to succeed by showing business value, with a backdrop of serious completion from consumerisation of IT, BYOD and cloud providers.  They’re following an IT strategy, which often doesn’t dovetail with a business strategy. They don’t really know what to do and things move so quickly they are looking for help and guidance, so often tune into the next ‘silver bullet’ that has traction and early success. The ITSM Influencers – the people who guide the industry; experts, authors, pundits, bloggers, consultants, analysts, training and certification organisations…independent trusted advisors. The Vendors – the people who have deliver the tools that balance the needs and wants of the customer with ever-changing requirements, to deliver efficiency and lasting value that justifies the significant expense of their ITSM investments. With the definitions out of the way, let me explain some of the behaviours I’ve witnessed, and forgive me if I hit a nerve or two along the way.  Let’s start with the Organisations.  They are absolutely right - IT is expensive, often inefficient, and more often than not, struggles to demonstrate business value. Over the last 15 years, whilst ITIL has enjoyed prime-time, technology has changed radically, and the security that surrounds it is placing a larger burden on IT. Don’t get me wrong, security and privacy concerns should be taking centre stage, but there’s a cost, and the greater the demand for better protection, the higher that cost will be.   Security teams now carry more weight than any other IT group, and that’s the biggest change that I’ve observed in the last 20 years.   Once you are past the organisational governance and procurement, let us talk about The Buying Customer. Customers ask for ITIL, so vendors create solutions around it, and many lead with it.  Vendors are in the business of selling products, so market forces of supply and demand are what apply here, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  If customers consistently asked for a service desk tool that included a IoT coffee maker, trust me, vendors will start to provide it.  If we accept this notion, then we have the answer to the question “Why Does a Vendor Lead with ITIL”.  Perhaps a more interesting question is “Why DO Vendors Lead with ITIL?” The ITSM Influencers – If buying customers need help, and if influencers in the ITSM community say, “you need to be doing ITIL”, then customers will ask vendors for ITIL?  It’s somewhat ironic then, when influencers berate vendors for leading with this.  It should be remembered that Influencers have a commercial agenda too.  It amuses me when industry pundits say “Vendors should sell solutions to problems and not sell product features.” The implication being “vendors just want to sell products, so shouldn’t be trusted. Instead, you should listen to us, and buy some consulting, education, certification, or get our help during your product selection process, because we’re independent and can be trusted.” If I sound cynical, perhaps I am, but I’m just pointing out that it’s not only vendors that have products and services to sell. Influencers work with vendors too, because vendors have sustainable revenue sources and are often “less good” at talking the talk. Just pick your favourite expert or industry pundit and google them - the odds are good you will find a video, blog or white paper content written by them for a vendor. On to the Vendors then – it is true, vendors are in the business of selling products/licenses/subscriptions.  I make no bones about it, because that’s what vendors do. It’s usually honest and transparent – money for software that delivers productivity.  But the assertion that a vendor is not interested in helping customers succeed, is nonsense. With a SaaS, pay-as-you-go business model, that viewpoint is ridiculous.   I can’t speak for other vendors, but our motivation is to help customers be successful. Our efforts are often hampered by complex procurement, regulatory controls and 200 page RFI/RFP documents that make it as difficult as possible for vendors to comply, meet requirements, and also deliver real value. Isn’t it time for influencers and the community at large to stop referring to vendors as the “Dark Side” to justify “independent” services prior to vendor selection. To simply trade and exist, vendors have to: Make products to meet requirements that customers cannot fully quantify Navigate regulatory and governance requirements in a landscape that’s constantly changing  Deliver consulting, training and education to customers - free of charge - during sales cycles, pre-sales, pilot projects Keep up with the latest “shiny things” because customers continuously ask for them. Answer the same questions, in the same RFPs – yes that happens…often – and submit a response that’s contractually binding. Differentiate with products/features against ‘unknown’ competition.  As a side note, in almost all cases, when a vendor is in a competitive situation, and the customer will not disclose who we are competing against, we can generally guess. By the second round of demos, we’re asked for the “shiny thing” that was in another product – so we usually know who we’re up against Take the blame.  Despite the buying process, independent consultants, implementation process or the day-to-day management of the solution, if it fails, the product is blamed. Everyone else washes their hands of it and moves on to the next project. Long after the ITIL foundation training is done, when the consultant is gone, and the people who implemented your solution have moved on, as a vendor, we will still be there, supporting you, and doing what we can to help you succeed. I rarely see an RFP that spells out the business problems that need to be solved. More often than not, it’s a shopping list of features/functionality, often derived from the bits people liked about their existing solution, topped with generic ITSM requirements based on a commonly used template. If customers would just explain the business problems they’re trying to solve, vendors would be in a better position to help.      Vendors sell what customers ask for. Customers ask for the latest silver bullets that the industry pundits are promoting. Customers are told that vendors have an agenda and only want to sell their products, you need independent advice…and round and round we go… The Hornbill Promotion Bit: I am proud to say as a vendor we do not lead with ITIL. We have to fit within the ITIL box, but we will never allow innovation to be stifled by ITIL dogma.  We lead with technology innovations that improve the way our customers work. We listen to concepts and blue sky thinking, but we base our products on practical, tangible things you can touch, see and use every day. With pay-as-you-go, no contractual tie-in arrangements, the balance of power has shifted to the customer.  Vendors want customers to succeed, quite simply because their revenue and long-term sustainability depends on your continued success. In the age of on-premise software, with large up-front costs and long term contracts, the vendor had the edge, and customers had to “sweat the asset” and “justify the spend”. Today, if the vendor doesn’t deliver value, customers can walk away.  If you’re a SaaS customer, and you need help, just reach out to your vendor, I guarantee they’ll be highly motivated to do everything they can to support you.
  2. SPOTLIGHT: To Microsoft System Center Service Manager and Back Again People will tell you “there is no such thing as a free lunch" and this story is such a great example of that.  Paul and the team at Vinci PLC have been on a bit of a Service Management journey over the last three or so years, having previously used our Supportworks on-premise solution and then moving to Microsoft System Centre Service Manager, and all for the right reasons of course, I remember them being very gracious and having good business reasons for doing so. I am delighted to say that we are lucky enough to once again have the custom of Vinci PLC and Paul has been kind enough to allow me to share their story.  VINCI companies in the UK turn over in the region of £2 billion per annum and employ circa 9000 employees. This represents 6% of VINCI’s €38.7 billion turnover and 30% of VINCI’s European turnover outside France. VINCI employs around 185,000 people in 100 countries around the world. Like many other organisations Vinci are on a fairly aggressive Digital Transformation Program where Hornbill's Platform is helping VINCI realise an overall Enterprise Service Management strategy. I asked Paul some questions and this is what he told me.  Can you give me a brief background of who you are and what your role is at Vinci? What Service Desk tool was in place at Vinci before you deployed Hornbill Service Manager? and what were your reasons to change? What other service desk tools have you used in the past? How does Hornbill Service Manager compare in your opinion? What other solutions did you consider/shortlist before choosing Hornbill Service Manager?  What was your first impression of Hornbill Service Manager? What was your impression of Hornbill as a company during the selection, procurement and implementation process? Since rolling out Hornbill Service Manager, how has it gone since you went live? Can you pick out three things that you love about Hornbill? If you had a magic wand, what is the one thing you would change about Hornbill right now? Is there anything else you would like to mention in relation to Hornbill? In my own opinion, Microsoft System Center Service Manager is not a bad product, its quite comprehensive but it does come at a cost, and up until recently the costs were primarily just the invisible cost of ownership.  The big problem though is the strategic reason for its existence. Microsoft are a great company and much of their success beyond their desktop application portfolio is built on a broad partner eco-system. Microsoft are not in the niche player business, but they offer niche products essentially through their partner network.  If such a product just worked out of the box there would be no "skin in the game" for the partner eco system, so you can think of SCSM as a toolkit rather than a finished product, and as a toolkit, its specifically designed to create a revenue stream opportunity for Microsofts partner ecosystem either through implementation/customization services or providing add-ons that round the solution out.  Of course the marketing of the product would not make that immediately apparent which is a trap very easily fallen into. As a niche player, Hornbill offers something quite different; our solution is complete out of the box. It's not a product. It's a service we provide, and as a result our partner ecosystem works differently too. Our partners' revenue opportunities come from adding value, by delivering support and services that focus on helping you get your processes, reporting and strategy all going in the right direction. Thanks again to Paul for sharing your service management story with us.  
  3. SPOTLIGHT: Leica Microsystems Unifies Global Service Management with Hornbill One of the best things about my job is getting the opportunity to work with great companies who are doing interesting things, and at Hornbill I am really blessed to have such a pro-active community of customers that are willing to share and be part of the Hornbill community.  I have recently been working on some integration ideas with Keith Bage over at Leica Microsystems to help them support some automation needs around their very large SAP deployment – that’s still ongoing so don’t have much to say about that just now, but in the mean time I asked Keith if he would be kind enough to give us some insights in to how they are using Hornbill within their organisation globally, this is what he had to say.  Can you give me a brief background of who you are and what your role is at Leica? What Service Desk tool was in place at Leica before you deployed  Hornbill Service Manager?  What were the business drivers and reasons for implementing a new solution? What was your first impression of Hornbill Service Manager? What other solutions did you consider/shortlist before choosing Hornbill Service Manager?   What was your impression of Hornbill during the  selection process?  What would you consider your biggest personal success coming out of the project?  Since you went live with Hornbill Service Manager, how has it gone? Can you highlight three things that you love about Hornbill?  If you had a magic wand, what is the one thing you would change about Hornbill right now? Is there anything else you would like to mention in relation to Hornbill?  Keith and the team at Leica are very progressive and have truly embraced the continuous delivery approach we have adopted.  I know that Keith is presently looking at some interesting IT automation initiatives so hopefully he might have a little more to share with us in the near future. Thank you Keith for allowing me to share your story. 
  4. INTEGRATION: Hornbill iBridge - Connecting the Cloud Following on from my previous post Not All Integrations/Automations Are Made Equal I want to share with you how we tackled the problem of esoteric and unmaintainable integrations for our customers.  I felt very strongly that non-technical business process users could easily use these integrations without the need to have a deep technical understanding of APIs, coding and authentication schemes. Hornbill has the ideal canvas in its business process tool, its an intuitive, graphical canvas that allows you to draw diagrams of your business process so Hornbill can orchestrate the flow for automated and human tasks. Expanding this capability to also be able to orchestrate automated tasks on other systems seemed like the next logical step for us to take.  Now as a general rule there are real technical challenges when trying to integrate with other systems. I am not going to go into too much detail here but I would like to highlight the key points. Most API’s now days on modern systems use HTTP as a transport for their API’s, this is a good thing.  However, this is also a very flexible, so while some use JSON as a payload, others use XML, some XML implementations are relatively simple and others are just ridiculously over-complicated for no good reason. (Yes Microsoft, you should be better than this).   Modern software systems like to call their APIs RESTFul which is supposed to be a simple alternative to things like XML-RPC and SOAP.  But every implementation is different, some use custom HTTP Verbs, others try to fit their business logic into some pre-defined standard verbs.  The bottom line is, every RESTful API is created with slightly different philosophical design approach. Interoperability is where things go very wrong.  Yes, XML, HTTP, SOAP, JSON are all “standards” but they are foundational standards, none of them tell you how to represent data for a given system, primarily because every system is different so these things have to be “glued together” Stateless or Stateful, yes this is yet another layer of complexity.  Some consider it to be more secure to establish and maintain a state (log in, keep session and log out when done) while others advocate stateless, for example using tokens or API keys. Authentication is probably the single biggest headache when building integrations, its security so by nature its complicated. There are many competing standards, which are also complicated, some examples are OAuth1, OAuth2, SAML, WS-Security, API Keys, Basic, Digest and a whole range of product-specific schemes too. Even worse, things like OAuth and SAML often require three phase authentication processes which need you to interact with the services own UI when trying to connect and authenticate. If you have ever tried to integrate with something yourself you will recognise some of these difficulties for sure. In order to solve these problems for our customers, we started by trying to understand what problems our customers have when trying to do this. We looked at the use cases for integration and we looked at many systems that have API’s to enable integration, we looked at tools that can integrate with other things and we looked at tools in the cloud that are specifically designed to integrate one thing with another thing.  In almost all cases there was a common theme, things get VERY technical VERY quickly, and almost exclusively there was the “get out of jail free” coding environment that one would need to use a lot!  There is no escaping the need for “glue code” when connecting systems together, when transforming messages and data from one system or another, the only real practical way is to use code, which left us with a dilemma, we either relax our “No Code in the BPM” policy and make our customers responsible for creating the glue code, or we take on the responsibility of creating the glue code ourselves so our customers don’t have to….  Care to guess which path we took...? Enter “Hornbill iBridge” (meaning Hornbill Integration Bridge), and it does pretty much what it says on the tin, it’s the bridge between our very powerful BPM tool and a large (and ever growing) number of pre-canned integrations ready to use.  The iBridge is a containing execution environment that hosts and runs our glue code, each and every integration has been built and tested by us.  Under the hood there is an integration development environment that allows us to rapidly build and test integrations.  The iBridge requires that integrations are exposed to the BPM in a business-friendly and non-technical way, and finally, the iBridge solves the problem of authentication. KeySafe is a new security feature of the Hornbill Platform that allows a complete de-coupling of security credentials and business process design. Imaginatively named based on the fact it’s a “Safe” place to store digital “Keys”. In essence, you can setup your credentials to the various systems you want to integrate with in KeySafe, giving each credential a name, within this environment you can do whatever two-phase or three phase authentication process is required by the service you are connected to, and once authenticated the credentials are safely locked away, encrypted, secure and safe. These keys can later be used within the BPM environment without ever exposing the details of the credentials.  KeySafe+iBrdige even handles the complications of refresh tokens completely automatically, logging every security even for full audit purposes. The Hornbill iBridge was introduced at our recent customer event Hornbill Insights 17 and because of our “Priced for Life” policy and commitment to customer loyalty, all existing customers get full access to the iBridge for free for as long as they remain a subscribing customer.  We have also opened up a community forum to take requests for new integrations which we have committed to build as we are keen to expand our integration portfolio.  As of right now we have over 400 built and tested integrations with 30 of the most common authentication scheme variations fully implemented and tested ready to use by our customers.  Here is our sticker portfolio of systems we have pre-built integrations for. You might have noticed from the above stickers, we have also committed to integrate with any system without commercial or competitive prejudice so we have even built integrations with competitive products including Jira, Servicenow, BMC, Freshservice, ZenDesk and Salesforce.  We have even built an integration with Hornbill so one Hornbill Customer can easily integrate with another Hornbill Customer instance if required.  One of the more exciting things our customers have reported is our integration into infrastructure and Tier 1 cloud solutions like Office365, Azure and Amazon Cloud making it possible for organisations using these services to automate provisioning of users, accounts and servers. Now these are big claims and I can understand why you might think that too, we have all heard this before, its never that easy right - well the best way I can think of convincing you is to show you some short videos so you can see for yourself how easy we have made this very complicated task, you can integrate with things in a few minutes without any technical expertise - watch and see for yourself... Integrate with Twitter Integrate with Slack Integrate with Trello Integrate with Servicenow Integrate with Microsoft Azure, Salesforce and Hornbill Integrate with Twillo SMS and Microsoft Azure We have only just got started with integration, we have a lot more to come so watch this space.  In my next article, I will be talking about our integration with Microsoft System Center Orchestrator for behind the firewall IT automation.    
  5. Innovation: Why does Innovation matter? Around seven years ago I took a long hard look at our business, our products and the Service Desk tools market. I was trying to make sense of why it was progressively getting more difficult to differentiate.  This was a time when there were 100’s of helpdesk and Service Desk tools a customer could choose from, functional requirements were being defined by ITIL rather than customer needs. The infamous “PinkVerify” tools list had expanded from just a few to over 50 vendors and Gartner even retired their IT Service Desk Magic Quadrant citing “lack of innovation” in the industry – so what was happening? Well the behaviour of the customer changed considerably and to understand why we need to look back a little further. IT organisations were looking to become “ITIL Compatible” or “ITIL Certified”, IT teams were looking for new ways to succeed within their organisations.  The “industry pundits” had done a great job a convincing everyone that ITIL was the magic pill that would solve all the problems that IT were facing. The idea was by adopting ITIL, IT would become less of a reactive “fix it when it breaks” cost centre and more strategically aligned with (and therefore more valuable to) the needs of the business.  However, the reality with what was happening was quite different; Innovation in the consumer space had really taken off – for example, your average person could walk into a computer store, buy a laser printer for not much more than the cost of a weekly shop, take it home plug it in and start printing. Yet at work, the same experience would require lots of paperwork and bureaucratic cost justifications and would require a cost sign-off of ten times as much money to get the printer three weeks later.  As executives started to experience this, they were rightly starting to question the value that IT was bringing to the table.  Another great example of this happening was the initial explosion of BYOD (remember that little nugget), where execs and managers would buy their own iPad or Notebook and use it at work, simply because it was easier than trying to go through IT and the by now established security police. IT still had a value so it could not just be outsourced (although lots of organisations tried that too) but no one really knew what ITs value was and so the need for IT to prove itself was created.  It is hard for a function that has previously not had to justify itself to suddenly have to demonstrate business value, and for executives it is hard to give direction to IT when it's them who are questioning the value of IT in the first place, so something was needed to fill the void – enter ITIL… It’s a framework, its best practice, its proven and it has been around 20 years, every podcast, pundit and consultant is saying ITIL is the answer and so the direction from the execs down was “Just do ITIL” – and so they did…and the industry created ITIL consulting, training services and vendors created ITIL products to meet that demand. Of course, history now tells us that the dogma surrounding ITIL ultimately made the situation a lot worse and not better, and when it went wrong and everyone who previously was pro-ITIL was suddenly seeking to disassociate themselves with it, but that outcome is what ultimately killed innovation in the industry, that’s what led Gartner to scrap the MQ for Service Desk tools in 2011. So what really happened?  Well I am describing this from a vendor perspective; the truth is we lost the ability to innovate. In fact, innovation transformed into “how many ITIL processes can I get certified on PinkVerify." The truth is products were being defined by what the PinkVerify (and other benchmark type reports including the Gartner MQ) set out, and that was almost exclusively NOT what customers actually needed.  Customers had stopped driving innovation because instead of asking for what they actually needed,  their RFI’s and RFP’s were pushed out asking about what ITIL processes your tool supports. To compete in this landscape and win business, vendors behaviour changed too. Instead of differentiating by innovation, vendors would focus on getting more processes into their products and making them more "ITIL compatible". It stopped mattering that there was no innovation because customers stopped demanding it, they wanted ITIL and that was that.  Of course, when customers got their ITIL compatible tool and sent everyone on their ITIL foundation training they could tell their bosses that they are now “doing ITIL” and for a short time there was congratulations and jubilation for all concerned – that was until the same execs with the same consumer experience were not seeing any value improvement from IT. In fact all they were seeing was a big investment in ITIL and nothing really changed – no ROI. And to make things worse, by this time, while IT was being misled by the dogma of the industry movement that surrounded ITIL, the next wave of innovation had taken hold and was in full flow, once again threatening IT – THE CLOUD (that’s a whole other article). So back to the question “Why does innovation matter?” The truth is that as consumers, we rarely know what we need until someone has shown it to us. Who knew that we all needed smartphones? But when we see something that can change our work or personal lives for the better, we know it is what we need. Innovation is the thing that makes this happen. For me and for Hornbill, I looked at where we were and what the industry was doing, and I decided to change things and set a course to transform Hornbill to put innovation in front of everything we do, which meant taking some pretty big and uncomfortable steps.  For a start, we set out plans for a brand-new product that facilitated rapid innovation by enabling continuous deployment so we could push features daily. I changed our organisation by removing old-ways of thinking and behaviours and re-structured to underpin this new approach.  I stopped our organisation being led by the tune of industry reports and benchmarks like PinkVerify or being put into the nicely contained box that the Gartner MQ would impose on our thinking.  Instead I switched our entire focus on what the customer needs to succeed, what can we do to make things better for our customers and the innovation we could drive on behalf of our customers. Now, our product roadmap is defined only by that thinking. The truth is, to innovate you need to be prepared to do things that not everyone agrees with.  You also need to be prepared to put yourself on the line and to lead and not be led, and you absolutely should to be prepared to fail every now and then too. Of course, to lead you have to have something to say. You need to have good ideas, and in the case of a company like Hornbill, you also need to have extraordinary people to execute on those ideas.  Innovation is important because innovation is simply another manifestation of leadership, and its only leadership that takes people forwards. If leadership is important, then so is innovation.    
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