Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Add Fields to CIs and Changes

UI ExtensionOrganizations can save themselves a lot of frustration, time and money when they do not try to register the technical attributes of their configuration items in their CMDB (see Afraid of the CMDB?). It is better to leave this data in the system management tools that automatically discover it. A link from the CI records to the corresponding records in the system management tools is enough to give specialists direct access to the most up-to-date technical information about the CIs.

The information that cannot be discovered automatically, but which is necessary for the support of the organization's ITSM processes, should be registered in the CMDB. This includes information like the support team that is responsible for a CI, the supplier from which the CI was acquired, its warranty expiration date, etc. ITRP already provides the necessary fields for this out of the (completely imaginary) box.

But there may still be some special fields that organizations want to add for certain types of CIs. We have just expanded the UI Extension functionality to make this possible. While we were at it, we also made it possible to add fields to specific types of changes.

To make additional fields available for CIs, start by defining these fields in a UI extension. Select the "Product" option to indicate that the UI extension is intended to be applied to products.

UI extension categories
Next, select the UI extension that you just created in the products that represent the types of CI for which the fields are intended. When a new or existing CI that is linked to one of these products is opened, the fields will be available.

UI extension in CI
To add fields to changes, select the "Change Template" option in the UI extension. After that you can link the UI extension to the change templates that represent the types of changes for which the fields should be available.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Accessing the Change Requirements

PreviewMore and more, organizations are using UI extensions to ask their users to define their requirements by filling out some required fields. That can dramatically improve the efficiency with which standard service requests get processed.

When a standard service request triggers a workflow, the specialists will not work on the original requests, however. They will receive tasks. To make it easy for them to get to the change requirements, they no longer need to first open the change in which the workflow is managed. They can now open the request directly from the task. And because the change requirements are often defined in the custom fields of a UI extension, the UI extension has been added to the preview of requests.

Configuration items field on the Request form
For change managers, we have also made it a little easier. When they open a change, the Relations section is already expanded so they can immediately access the related requests and problems.

Relations section of Change form expanded by default

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Improved UI Extensions Presentation

UI ExtensionAnother improvement of the UI Extension functionality has been released. This one significantly improves the presentation of the fields that organizations have added to their requests.

In the past, the additional fields were presented in the Notes section of the requests.

UI extension in the Notes section
Going forward they are presented in their own section, which is formatted just like the rest of the request.

UI extension in View mode
In Edit mode, the formatting of the UI extension fields is now also consistent with the rest of the Request form.

UI extension in Edit mode
This does not just make the information look better. If that was the only benefit, we would not have spent 2 months of development effort on this enhancement. This actually provides some valuable benefits:
  • The section titles, field labels and field options are displayed in the user's preferred language,
  • Dates are displayed in the date format associated with the user's language preference, and
  • Dates and times are displayed in the user's timezone.

These preferences are now also taken into account in Self Service. The same goes for when a Change Summary PDF file is generated for the approvers of a change that includes a request with a UI extension.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Impressions from the 2014 CAB

CABThis year's customer advisory board meeting was again a great success. The customers attending this 2-day event gathered on a quiet island in Italy. There they explained how their specific business environment caused them to configure ITRP in a specific way.

2014 ITRP CAB location
Providing the context for their requirements opened the door for interesting discussions and idea sharing. Two of ITRP's developers were present to make sure that the needs are understood correctly. They contributed directly in discussions concerning features that could be extended to deliver even more value.

2014 ITRP CAB presentations
The result of this year's CAB meeting is a number of themes, such as workflow automation, collaboration with other providers, and support for non-IT departments like HR and Facility Management. For each of these themes we identified a few features that could deliver significant incremental benefit. This list of new features dictates the focus of our development efforts in 2015.

2014 ITRP CAB wine tasting
2014 ITRP CAB cartingWe also looked further into the future and found some interesting themes for our long-term goals. These require more research and may become really exciting a few years from now.

The customers at this year's CAB were selected to represent a diverse set of organizations. This ensures that we take into account the needs of large global enterprises, external service providers, as well as organizations that use ITRP beyond the IT department. There was a surprising consensus among the participants on the features that they believe will bring the most benefit. So, thanks to the active participation of the CAB members, the direction has been set for our 2015 development efforts.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Performance Tuning

PerformanceThe releases of the past two weekends were focused on making the ITRP service even faster. Don't get too excited, though. We are talking about milliseconds here.

Performance tuning is something we dive into whenever we see that response times of a certain type of transaction are creeping up. This time it was primarily the lookup of Organization records that prompted our investigations.

Several customers now have hundreds of organizations registered in their account. In such environments using a dropdown menu for the selection of an organization does not work very well. That is why every field in which an organization can be selected (such as the Supplier field of a CI, or the Customer field of an SLA) has now been replaced by a suggest box.

Selecting an organization
Simply enter a few characters of an organization's name and you will find the one you are looking for. If only a few organizations are registered in your account, you can press the down-arrow key to see them listed for selection.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Faster Task Template Selection

Task templateIn the past, when you were adding a task to a change, you could populate the task's fields by selecting a task template in the Template field. Below you can see what that used to look like.

Subject and Template fields
What we were told, however, is that it could take a while for a change manager to find the correct task template when there are hundreds to choose from. So what did we do? We removed the Template field.

Subject or Template field
Now when you add a task, you can enter a few key words to find the template you are looking for.

Subject or Template suggest field
We have given you the same speed and ease of use within change templates. There you can also use the power of suggest fields to quickly add the correct task templates for your standard workflow.

Task template selection in change template
This allows change managers to work more smoothly, even when their organization has registered thousands of task templates to streamline the change management process.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

SaaS or Not Saas - Why You Should Care

CloudThe other day I came across a Forrester report with the intriguing title Beware Of The SaaS Trap (membership or payment required). It calls out the common practice of rebranding legacy software offerings as SaaS solutions.

The point Forrester is making is that SaaS in name only won’t deliver the same benefits and may end up costing you more.

Most market leaders in the ITSM, CRM and ERP space are simply hosting their old software and are now calling it a SaaS, cloud or on-demand solution. Their evangelism has helped create awareness, which is one of the reasons why SaaS is now commonly preferred over an on-premise installation. As a true SaaS vendor, this has made our life a little easier.

Do read Forrester’s report. It will tell you how you can figure out if the solution you are considering is the real deal. Being able to start quickly without customization, no upfront payments, enabling secure collaboration with other organizations, and always having the latest version are just some of the benefits that organizations can take advantage of when they avoid the misleading marketing rhetoric.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Instructions for Support Specialists

Request TemplateHere's a new feature that you can use to bring more consistency and efficiency to the way support specialists handle specific types of requests. The new Instructions field of request templates can be used to provide them with step-by-step instructions.

Request template with instructions
Unlike the registration hints, which are only available immediately after a template has been applied, the instructions remain visible. So when a specialist picks up the request, there's no need to look them up. They are proactively provided right there in the request.

Request with instructions
End-users cannot see these instructions. If your company uses ITRP to collaborate with other organizations, then they are not able to see these instructions either.

Think about how this can be used within your organization to improve the request fulfilment and incident management processes. You may include instructions to help new specialists become productive during their first day on the job. You may also add them to help experienced specialists complete complex requests that they do not work on every day.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Multiple Approvers

TaskApproval tasks are included in automated workflows to obtain digital sign off on changes from the necessary approvers. A new feature has just been added that dramatically increases the flexibility of an organization's approval process.

Approval task assignment - BeforeThis is what the Assignment section of an approval task used to look like:

Approval task assignment - After
And here's what it looks like today:

Can you spot the difference?

It may not look like much, but this small button will make a lot of change managers very happy. When you click on the Add button, you can add another approver.

Approval task assignment with multiple approversThis person could, for example, act as a backup in case the primary approver is not available.

Once two or more approvers have been selected, the Required approvals field becomes available. In this field you can specify how many people need to have provided their approval before the status of the approval task gets updated to "Approved". This can be especially useful when a larger group needs to provide approval. Such approval groups can be maintained easily as approval task templates.

Approval task template for CAB approval
When an approver or change manager opens an approval task, it is easy to see the progress that has been made.

Approval task in View mode
Note also the link to the change summary PDF file. This link varies depending on the approver who is looking at the task. It makes it a little easier for the approver to find the change summary that was generated specifically for him/her.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Meeting Germany's Data Protection Requirements

Data PrivacyAs a SaaS provider with users around the globe, privacy and security get the highest priority with every release. Earlier this month we announced the Safe Harbor certification of the ITRP service to meet the requirements of the European Union's Directive on Data Protection as well as the Swiss Federal Act on Data Protection.

BundesdatenschutzgesetzGermany, however, has even stricter data protection legislation. Their Federal Data Protection Act (that is the Bundesdatenschutzgesetz, better known as BDSG) requires service providers to take specific actions in case of a security breach. An addendum was recently signed between the ITRP Institute and Amazon Web Services, the provider of the infrastructure on which the ITRP service is hosted. This addendum has made it possible for ITRP to meet Europe's strictest privacy laws.

This step allows German organizations, as well as multinationals with operations in Germany, to demonstrate that they provide adequate protection for the personal data they store in the ITRP service.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Enhanced Notes

NoteYou probably noticed that each note is now accompanied by the picture of its author. That allows users to find the notes of a specific person more quickly.

Notes added to request
But did you already see the little icons in the header of some notes?

You may encounter the following two icons from time to time:
Mail iconan envelope indicates that the note was added via email
System iconthis symbol means that the note was added automatically by ITRP

These icons add a little extra context to help tell the story of a request.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Internal Notes

Internal noteIt is important that all stakeholders (especially the requesters) can track the progress of their requests. When specialists add notes to requests, this really helps. Their notes indicate that the requests are being worked on. There may be some information, however, that is important for the proper completion of a request, but which should not be shared with everyone.

Adding a note to a request
You are now able to add notes to requests that are visible only to colleagues within your support organization. End users are not able to see these internal notes in Self Service. Likewise, specialists who work for the external customers or external service providers of your support organization are also not be able to see these internal notes, even though they are using ITRP's full UI.

Adding an internal note to a request
Internal notes are tagged with a small icon of a lock in the header.

Reviewing notes and internal notes in requests
Attachments that are added to an internal note are protected by the same access restrictions as the internal note itself.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Managers from Other Accounts

PersonCompanies with IT departments in multiple countries typically have one ITRP account for each IT department. In such environments, the end users of each country are registered in the ITRP account of their local IT department. The manager of each person also gets registered in ITRP to facilitate the change approval process.

But what if someone's manager is employed in another country? This is quite common in large corporations. To accommodate that situation, you can now select a person from another account in the Manager field.

Selecting a manager from another ITRP account
This new feature is restricted, however. The Person record that you are linking to a manager must be stored in an account that has a trust relation with the account in which the manager's Person record is stored. In addition, you need to have access to both accounts.

Although this is only a minor enhancement, it enables an effective approval workflow within large multinationals.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Safe Harbor Certified

Data PrivacyOrganizations with operations in the European Union and Switzerland need to be able to demonstrate that they provide adequate protection for the personal data that they store in the ITRP service. This is a requirement from the European Union's Directive on Data Protection and the Swiss Federal Act on Data Protection.

U.S.-EU Safe Harbor FrameworkSuch organizations can rely on us to adhere to the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework developed by the U.S. Department of Commerce in coordination with the European Commission, as well as the U.S.-Swiss Safe Harbor Framework that was developed by the same U.S. Department of Commerce in coordination with the Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner of Switzerland.

You can verify the certification status of the ITRP Institute by going to the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor List and the U.S.-Swiss Safe Harbor list. More details can be found in our enhanced privacy policy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

ITSM Tool Vendors a Little Out of Touch?

Industry Analyst ReportIndustry analyst The ITSM Review did something really clever recently to find out whether ITSM tool vendors are aligned with their customers. To find out, they asked 19 different tool vendors how customizable their ITSM software is. Then they asked customers how they would rate their ability to customize these 19 different ITSM products.

The ITSM Review logoThe results are really interesting. You can read through them by going to the ITSM Tools Universe Preview: How aligned are ITSM tool vendors to their customers? People also left some great comments there that are worth reading.

Of course we are happy to see that ITRP came out on top. It means that the effort we put into listening to our customers, especially at the annual customer advisory board meeting, is paying off.

Most of you are already aware that our philosophy is different from other ITSM tool vendors. We don’t just tell customers that they can customize everything. Instead we make sure that, as much as possible, the product supports multinational enterprises out-of-the-box. Where necessary, we have made sure that ITRP can be customized and that our customers do not need to rely on consultants to do this for them.

Following this survey we added some extra features to increase ITRP’s flexibility (see last month's posts). And you will be pleased to hear that we are already working on a few more options to extend ITRP's configuration capabilities even further.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Give Your UI Extensions a Title

UI ExtensionAnother small improvement has been added to the UI Extensions functionality. This improvement makes it possible to give each UI extension a title. The Title field is located just below the Name field on the UI Extension form.

Empty UI extension Title field
The Title field can be left empty. In such cases, the section header that is visible above the UI extension when it is included in a request will have the title "UI Extension".

UI extension without a title
It can be helpful, however, for the people who work with such requests to specify a more meaningful title.

UI extension Title field with a value
The title can then be used to convey the purpose of the UI extension.

UI extension without a title
If you find it difficult to decide on a useful title for each UI extension, you can always consider using more generic titles like "Additional Information" or "Details".

After you have given a UI extension a title, you can translate it into the languages that your organization supports by going to the Translations section of Settings console.