Wednesday, January 21, 2015


AvailabilityLooking back at 2014, we can only conclude that it was another stellar year for the ITRP service.

One vital accomplishment was last year's overall availability of 99.996%. There were 3 short outages with a total outage duration of 20 minutes. This highlights the resilience and self-healing ability of the service's infrastructure.

Also impressive are the 40 new releases that were transferred to production over the past 12 months. These releases added numerous useful features to the service. It is important to note here that not a single one of these releases caused any downtime. The release management process, which depends heavily on our maintenance of the unit tests, as well as the integration tests, clearly performed effectively. The key to this is probably that the unit tests are maintained by other people (i.e. the development team) than the integration tests (which are the responsibility of the product management team).

And then there were the organizations that completed their migration to ITRP. To cope with the demand without compromising the quality of service, we decided to suspend the ability for new customers to sign up online. Organizations that want to start using the service, now need to get access through one of the ITRP partner companies. The ITRP partners are in the best position (geographically and from a language point of view) to support our customers. They give us at the ITRP Institute the ability to focus most of our attention on further extending the capabilities of the service.

Looking ahead, though, we can already see that more needs to be done to maintain the exceptional levels of service and support that ITRP is becoming known for. The number of new customers that have signed up so far in 2015 will require us to add another member to our team soon. Another ITSM superstar will therefore join us in a few months to help us handle the growth.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Time Spent Today

Time spentSeveral organizations require their support specialists to track their time in ITRP. These organizations checked the Track support effort box in the Settings console.

Track support effort setting
This ensures that users are prompted to fill in their time, for example, when they complete a request.

Time spent field
When actual time spent data was analyzed, however, it showed that people have a tendency to underestimate their time by as much as 60%. To give people a good reference when they are filling out their time spent throughout the day, a small indicator has been added to the toolbar.

Time spent today indicatorThis indicator displays the total amount of time that the user has spent on requests, problems and tasks so far today. Every day at midnight (in the user's time zone), this indicator starts counting again from 0:00.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Reducing Administrative Overhead

RequestWherever we can, we try to minimize the amount of administration required from support specialists. We don't just do that to make the support specialists happy, though. It saves organizations real money when their people can work more efficiently.

Request categoriesRecently we found a way to make it a little easier to complete requests of the category 'Complaint', 'Compliment' or 'Other'.

Since these types of requests are not related to a specific service, they do not get considered during the problem management reviews for any of the services (i.e. they will not show up in a problem manager's Requests for Problem Identification view). Instead, such requests are typically reviewed on a periodic basis by the service desk manager with the objective to identify support improvement opportunities.

Completion reason field
That means that the Completion reason field is not needed for these requests to identify potential problems. In turn, that means that there is no reason to ask support specialists to select a completion reason when they complete such requests. So, from now on, the Completion reason field will no longer become visible when a request of the category 'Complaint', 'Compliment' or 'Other' is set to the status 'Completed'.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Add Test Results to Approval Tasks

AttachmentOrganizations that include a user acceptance testing step in their application change management workflow are now able to let their customers attach the test results to their approval tasks. This works for approvers who use Self Service, as well as for those who work in ITRP as a support specialist.

Approval task with attachment
Files can even be added using email. When an approver replies to the email notification from ITRP and attaches the files to this reply, these files get added as attachments to the approval task.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Problem Creation Date

ProblemA small improvement has been made for people who are working with problems. When a problem is opened in View mode, they will notice the Created field.

Created field of a problem
This allows everyone to see when the problem was initially registered, without having to look it up in the audit trail.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Search for FAQs and Standard Requests

SearchThe Search bar has been added to Self Service. End users can use it to search through all the FAQs and standard requests that are available to them.

Search bar in Self Service
What makes this search capability special is that it takes into account the user's language preference. If, for example, your organization supports both English and Spanish, and the user's language preference is set to Spanish, then the user's searches look through the Spanish translations of the FAQs and standard requests.

Each query also goes through the user's requests. This may be of special importance to key contacts, who are now able to search through all the requests from their organization.

Search results in Self Service
For managers, the search results even include the approval tasks that have been assigned to them.

What ends up at the top of the search results depends. Requests are listed at the top if the search was executed from the My Requests tab or the All Requests tab. Similarly, approval tasks show up on top when the search was initiated from the My Approvals tab. In all other cases, the greatest relevance gets attributed to the request templates that make up the FAQs and standard requests.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Drag and Drop Attachments

AttachmentGive this a try: Drag a file to a request and drop it onto the Note field. The file gets uploaded as an attachment. You can also do this with multiple files, as you can see in the video below.

Did you notice how the background color changes once the files are dragged to a position where they can be dropped? And did you see that, after the files were dropped, the darker background color behind the file names moves from left to right to indicate the progress of their upload?

This drag and drop feature is available wherever you can attach files, i.e. also in problems, changes, SLAs, CIs, contracts, etc. End users can also make use of this feature in Self Service.

Many people have asked for this feature, so we know it will be popular. Before you get too excited, however, it is important to point out this drag and drop capability is only available in Internet Explorer 10 (or higher), Chrome, Firefox and Safari. Users who are still on IE8 or IE9 will need to upgrade to a more current browser before they will be able to experience the joys of drag and drop.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Maintaining Relations with the REST API

Export APIThe REST API of the ITRP service has been extended to make it possible for developers to maintain the one-to-many as well as the many-to-many links between records.

Since it has recently become possible to link multiple CIs to a request, we can use that feature to provide some examples.

The following cURL call can be used to add a configuration item to a request:

curl -u "token:x" -X POST ""

And here's how the API can be used to remove that same CI again:

curl -u "token:x" -X DELETE ""

Removing all CIs from the request is even simpler:

curl -u "token:x" -X DELETE ""

In the above examples, token represents a user's ITRP API token. You can find your API token in the "Personal Information" section of the Settings console.

Take a look at the Change Log of the ITRP Developer documentation to look at all the possibilities that have been added.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Linking Multiple CIs to a Request

RequestYes, that's right. Now you can link more than one configuration item to a request. If, for example, there are a few PCs that need to be moved or there are some servers that need to be patched, you can link these configuration items to a single request.

When you open a request, you will notice the Add button next to the Configuration items field.

Configuration items field on the Request form
Clicking on this button makes it possible to add another CI.

A request with multiple CIs
Rather than clicking on the Add button, it may be easier to simply drag and drop the necessary CIs from the Service Hierarchy Browser that is available to the right of the request. An additional field will then be added automatically for each additional CI.

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.