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Big Data Leader Chooses ITinvolve

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

While one hears an awful lot of noise around the term “big data” these days, there is a company called PROS (NYSE: PRO), that has rapidly become a world leader in business-to-business pricing and revenue management software.  PROS is a software company that knows how to harness the power of big data and its unique product is giving major companies around the world an edge in pricing and sales effectiveness.

PROS understands that information is power in the hands of the right people at the right time.  That’s one of the reasons it chose ITinvolve’s innovative collaborative IT management solution to help manage its SaaS-based cloud services. PROS has deployed both ITinvolve for Social Knowledge Management™ and ITinvolve for Service Management™ to improve service delivery and help understand the impact of changes in its cloud environment.

Here’s what John Salch, PROS Vice President for Technology and Platforms, liked about our approach to social knowledge management.  “ITinvolve offers a unique online tool that gives our teams access to a single source of federated knowledge to understand critical relationships and dependencies between physical and virtual devices, applications, policies, business services and people for our SaaS-based cloud solutions.”

ITinvolve solutions are used to launch PROS SaaS services from back room development to frontline customer interactions. Salch continues by saying ITinvolve helps “cloud operations, customer and infrastructure support, and development groups improve decision-making processes, reduce risk, and increase our overall management effectiveness and performance.”

So far, the ITinvolve solution is working well according to Christine Lambden, Senior Governance Analyst, thanks in no small part to capabilities of the product and the support that ITinvolve provides.  Here’s what Christine had to say about PROS’ experience. “Over the last year,” she explained, “we’ve seen the ITinvolve product evolve based on our feedback as customers and ITinvolve’s responsiveness is amazing. We can run our request, incident and change management using this tool and we weren’t forced to change our processes at all. The application has adapted to us, mostly through custom templates, but sometimes through conversation with our implementation consultant. The product is good and the people are very, very good.”

As an innovative provider of IT service management and social knowledge capabilities, it’s important to us at ITinvolve that our customers get the most value they can—as quickly as they can—from our product.  So it is great to hear that PROS is achieving its goals of delivering more effective IT management across all major functions.  That’s what we expect for 100% of our customers, and that’s what we’re delivering today.

You can see for yourself how ITinvolve solutions such as ITinvolve for Social Knowledge Management and ITinvolve for Service Management can save your IT team time and money while minimizing errors and boosting productivity. Go to our ITinvolve website resources section and download some of our use case scenarios and learn more.  Or, check out one of our recent archived webinars to hear straight from another one of our customers, like Jalasoft, how ITinvolve works in a highly complex environment.

Matthew Selheimer,
Vice President Marketing

Lessons from TaxAudit’s experience with ITinvolve

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Last week we posted a guest blog from one of our customers, Matt Estes of TaxAudit, the nation’s largest audit defense organization with over three million customers.  Matt was kind enough to share his experiences with ITinvolve after about 6 months of implementation.   I want to focus on TaxAudit’s experience with ITinvolve in order to expand on the truly innovative nature of our solution.

As Matt noted in his blog, “Any significant change to an organization takes time to implement as people absorb the new information and processes, then adapt their work habits to fit the new model.”  Those of us who work in IT, know that IT has a collaborative culture.  IT team members rely on the expertise and knowledge of their peers to plan new initiatives, resolve complex issues, and more.  But until ITinvolve brought its social IT collaboration solution to market, this collaboration could only be accomplished in an ad hoc fashion using instant messaging, email, conference calls and the like.  While those methods do have value, they don’t proactively engage all the right stakeholders the way ITinvolve does.  And they don’t preserve knowledge and expertise shared during the collaboration for re-use later.

One of the most significant advantages of implementing ITinvolve comes from its ability to empower IT stakeholders. In fact, we have a recent whitepaper that explains how ITinvolve actually helps to rebalance the  over-emphasis on process and technology in the people-process-technology equation.

What ITinvolve has delivered is a next generation solution that is designed to harness the collective knowledge and experience of the organization, and proactively engage the right experts to plan changes, resolve incidents, and more.  So while IT is, in fact, collaborative, there is a period of adjustment that ITinvolve customers go through as they finally have a solution that empowers the people in their organization and facilitates collaboration to get work done.  Here is how it works:

  • Divide and Conquer – The ITinvolve solution overcome limitations of traditional mechanistic approaches to IT information discovery through a unique way to capture key knowledge across the IT environment.  We accomplish this through a crowd-sourcing and peer review process that encourages knowledge and expertise sharing among IT staff. No other solution captures human knowledge like ITinvolve.
  • Feed and Engage – ITinvolve facilitates new ways of engagement that break down traditional barriers to communication and collaboration among IT teams and stakeholders.  We use social media style techniques that users are familiar with, and virtual collaboration channels that filter out the noise and clutter enabling IT teams to concentrate on what they care about the most.
  • Assign and Trust – Unlike any other solution, ITinvolve fosters accountability for knowledge, so that individuals take on responsibilities to contribute, update and collaborate that go way beyond traditional IT processes and systems. Using ITinvolve, they actually earn their peers trust through their participation in capturing knowledge and sharing their expertise.
  • Make it Second Nature – ITinvolve incorporates social media techniques and approaches that feel natural and intuitive to IT team members which accelerates the value from the solution.  In fact, a recent customer said that they’ve learned more about their environment in a few weeks with ITinvolve than in the prior years they have worked at their company.  The way ITinvolve work is both easy and feels right to those who use it.
  • Reinforce and Reward – The ITinvolve solution also provides the reporting and tracking capabilities for executives and IT managers to recognize and reward collaborative behavior among IT staff and stakeholders.

As Matt Estes from TaxAudi points out, adapting your organization to use the ITInvolve solution takes some adjustment, but the investment is well worth it. If you haven’t read it yet, I would encourage you to read his blog and then take a closer look at ITinvolve yourself.  Check out our website resources section to download some of our use case scenarios, as well as view one of our recent archived webinars to hear straight from another of our customers, Jalasoft, how ITinvolve works in their highly complex environment.

Matthew Selheimer,
Vice President Marketing

Guest Blog: Social Collaboration in Action

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Like many mid-size companies, TaxAudit.com constantly searches for new ways to leverage limited resources to produce competitive advantage. In analyzing our IT operations, we found a complex and highly fragmented information infrastructure, with details about our environment and changes to it spread across many systems including documents on our network drives, our help desk management system, unstructured wikis, and email – just to name a few. In addition, we had a manual and error prone change management process that relied heavily on email and document attachments for approval “workflow” and lacked effective controls to help ensure that changes were taking place in compliance with policies. Against this backdrop, we had difficulty quickly understanding the current state of our environment or the changes to it. To do so often meant going back through email or to the source system itself to determine the current configuration, which proved cumbersome and often resulted in missed connections to other impacted items when we were contemplating a change. We needed a better way to view and understand our technical environment.

After reviewing a number of CMDB tools, we happened across ITinvolve. One of our concerns with the big CMDB tools – in addition to cost and heavy resource requirements – was a pervasive opinion that ongoing management of these tools required a disproportionate commitment of employee time and that the employees who were responsible for managing the CMDB information seemed to be perpetually behind as they scrambled to keep the CMDB in sync with reality.  What we found intriguing about ITinvolve was their application of social networking concepts to help the system become somewhat self-managing, with knowledgeable subject matter experts following the items they know about and commenting when they saw something that didn’t look right. By decentralizing the knowledge management function, ITinvolve gave us the hope of better information with less management effort.

We worked with ITinvolve to determine how their solution would fit within our organization and how it might help us. We chose to implement their software in the fall of 2012 and have been pleased with what it has done for us so far. Realizing the level of effort involved in bringing so much disparate information together into one place, we tried to temper our expectations regarding rate of adoption and new data aggregation. Internally, I thought it would take six months to get key aspects of the software ingrained into our day-to-day operations, with a full year before it was fully institutionalized. So far, those expectations have been accurate.

To give us a foundation, we first imported key information that we could gather electronically into ITinvolve, such as server and workstation names, users, phone numbers, applications, etc. We were able to pull this information from sources such as our inventory management system, Active Directory, spreadsheets, and other similar items. With these lists in the system, we started establishing the relationships between various items. As expected, this was the most time consuming aspect of the process and is something that will be ongoing for a number of months as we balance the daily IT workload against the effort to update this information. At ITinvolve’s prompting, we avoided a “boil the ocean” approach, where we tried to model everything all at once. Instead, we started small, with important aspects of our production environment, modeling the relationships between key servers, networks, and applications so we could understand how that looked. Over time, the team has become fairly adept at modeling new information and making or suggesting changes to what we have modeled so far. The goal is to have ITinvolve  be the “one version of the truth” with respect to modeling relevant details of our current environment and we are well on our way to achieving that objective.

We also leveraged ITinvolve’s Change Management function from the start. This gave us two things. First, it provided a robust audit trail of all changes that we implemented along with a centralized, automated approval process that minimized miscommunication about who should approve a given Change and whether a Change had been properly approved or not. Second, the Change process helped us build out the ITinvolve model, as we asked users to establish relationships between objects that were involved with their Changes. Using this technique, we have been able to incrementally add to the ITinvolve model of our environment as we make changes, while also obtaining user involvement and, ultimately, buy-in to the new way of working.

Any significant change to an organization takes time to implement as people absorb the new information and processes, then adapt their work habits to fit the new model. The ITinvolve implementation has certainly presented challenges to our company as the employees and management worked to figure out the best ways to leverage the solution. However, with the constant support of ITinvolve’s excellent team and the perpetual encouragement of our team, we have made it through the various stages of the Valley of Despair adoption curve and are on our way to a more structured, more accurate, and more productive IT operation – with ITinvolve at the center.

Matt Estes
Director of Strategic Initiatives, TaxAudit
TaxAudit_logo

Why customers choose ITinvolve: Rainmaker finds immediate, innovative value to improve change management

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

One interesting new customer of ITinvolve is the SaaS-based solution provider called Rainmaker.  Like their name implies, this Atlanta based company offers a truly innovative service that helps rental apartments, hotels and resorts optimize their profitability through sophisticated, but easy to use, “revenue management” and pricing applications.

Ranked by Inc. magazine among America’s top 5,000 fastest growing privately held companies, Rainmaker’s customers include housing companies such as Avalon Bay Communities, Equity Residential, Gables Residential, Post Properties, Mid-America Apartment Communities and more.  Its Gaming/Hospitality clients include popular casinos and hotels such as Atlantis, The Palm Dubai, Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts International, Omni Hotels & Resorts, Wynn Las Vegas and many others.

When we first met Steve Cover, Vice President of Technology at Rainmaker, he was looking for a solution that could help make change management easier for his team of IT and service support staff. A close look at us convinced him he had found a like-minded innovator in ITinvolve.

“We were immediately drawn to ITinvolve because they could do so much more than just provide a change tracking system,” Cover told us. “ITinvolve gives us unprecedented visibility into what our systems and software look like so we can better understand the impact of changes before executing them and more effectively manage those changes to avoid risks to our business.”

He especially liked our emphasis on people, not just process and technology.  And that we can deliver a simple but effective way to capture all of the knowledge that’s in everyone’s heads, centralize that information and make it accessible for everyone to use in collaboration across the organization.

“I have not seen another IT management offering that brings it all together from the people and process perspective the way ITinvolve does,” he said. One of our recent downloadable white papers explains how ITinvolve rebalances the people part of the people/process/technology equation for service management – be sure to check it out if you haven’t seen it already.

When asked if there was anything surprising or unexpected about ITinvolve, Cover went on to say he was surprised at how fast Rainmaker was able to get up and running with the ITinvolve solution and start seeing results. “In just two days, we deployed the solution and modeled a relatively complex product and the infrastructure behind that product. ITinvolve is enabling us to better manage our internal infrastructure and that is benefiting our customers with improved service stability and performance already.”

If you are looking for that same kind of immediate and innovative value, I encourage you to give ITinvolve a no-risk try and visit our website resources section to download some of our use case scenarios.   And, finally, be sure to view one of our recent archived webinars to hear straight from another of our customers, Jalasoft, how ITinvolve works in their highly complex environment.

Matthew Selheimer,
Vice President Marketing

Expect your ISV to provide a business service

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Business owners expect IT professionals to deliver business services designed to meet their needs. These services generally include:

  • Defined processes to complete the service
  • Deliver data to the user to make decisions
  • Infrastructure to support the service
  • The communication backbone to complete the service

We believe that you should expect the same comprehensive solution from your service desk provider.

For example, as IT professionals perform their daily operational tasks, an effective solution would combine the understanding of important relationships and dependencies, with the actual steps to perform a process (say, propose a change) within a communication framework that facilitates not only communication but effective collaboration around the task.

Next add intelligence to the process whereby detailed analysis is presented to the IT professional surrounding the potential impact of a change, and that analysis is then automatically delivered to the right people who have a stake in the issue at hand.

Thus, IT professional are equipped with a single solution that combines knowledge with intelligent analysis and automatically delivers that information to the right people within a communication framework that ensure consistent context. The result is an IT organization that collaborates more efficiently, resolves issues faster, and delivers business services more effectively while increasing quality and customer satisfaction.  This is the solution we have created with ITinvolve for Service Management.

Logan

A (Small and Medium) Business Service Management Conundrum

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

For a number of years, many large enterprises have wrestled with implementing a service management strategy that integrates relevant data resident in a configuration management database (CMDB) with an understanding of business services as derived from / by IT service dependency mapping tools in order to streamline problem, incident, and change management processes.

The benefits provided to IT professionals in obtaining insight from a service view of their IT environment is critical when managing changes or solving incidents/problems. Thus, significant effort and expenditures have been spent on obtaining those views. However, for the less than enterprise sized IT environments, the cost required to obtain an IT service view has been too high both in terms of tool cost as well as in terms of resource allocation. Currently available solutions were simply not designed for their needs.

There is a gap between the commoditized approval/resolution tracking functionality provided by most service desk tools and the full blown service desk/CMDB/ auto discovery and dependency mapping features resident in very large deployments

I believe ITinvolve is the solution for these the medium sized IT environments. We provide a very easy to implement solution that captures the human knowledge resident in the minds of the IT professionals utilizing a truly collaborative methodology. Combined with robust impact analysis, the ability for users and groups to create customized service views, and reporting scalable to the device or CI level, the result is a truly revolutionary solution. In many ways, it far exceeds what current vendors provide in that it is built on knowledge that has been socialized and verified by the right people within the community.

Some CEO thoughts on the new Gartner ITSSM Magic Quadrant

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Last week Gartner released their “kinda annual” magic quadrant for the service desk market.  I say “kinda annual” as they skipped the prior year citing there was really nothing new to report. This year, the big news was that there still was nothing new to report. Gartner concluded there were literally no innovators and no leaders in their report. For those interested in the source document, it is titled “Magic Quadrant for IT Service  Support Management Tool” issued August 20, 2012 numbered G00231576.

I agree with Gartner’s conclusions that IT service desk tools themselves are no longer sufficient for maintaining business productivity. I believe the reason is service desk venders have not spent cycles on innovation due to the lack of perceived return on the innovation investment.

I’ll take social collaboration as one example of service desk venders asserting they have innovated where there really is none. Virtually all service desk tools claim they have social collaboration, but in reality their definition of social collaboration means opening a ticket via an IM session or chat rooms around a particular topic. That is not social collaboration. That’s a joke.

Collaboration innovation means:

  • A subscribe/unsubscribe capability to allow you to follow the items you care about
  • Automatic notification of only the items you care about
  • A methodology where all stakeholders are looking at items in the same context
  • Enabling virtual processes creation with common content and context
  • A simple methodology to retain knowledge and associate it with a particular item in your IT environment such that the information is not lost in a knowledge base black hole

Social collaboration needs to be in the fabric of a service management solution, not an “add on” check box. At ITinvolve, we understand what it means to innovate. Check out our service management capabilities and see how we are innovating.

Logan Wray

CEO, ITinvolve

The Future of IT Operations – Principle 4: Enable IT individuals and teams to collaborate in context

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

This is part five of  a six part series from our CEO – Logan Wray

Principle 4: Enable IT individuals and teams to collaborate in context

Much is being made of the social media revolution we are experiencing in the workplace these days, making it difficult to separate fact from hype. We heard that IT professionals don’t necessarily need more chatter in their IM or email in-box. Instead, they want to collaborate and exchange information in the context of a specific issue at hand. They told us how important it is to cut out all the extraneous noise so each team member can follow and participate in a discussion thread related to a specific problem important to that individual and his/her role.

The future of IT operations will be shaped by In-context collaboration that leverages familiar social media-style formats but is focused on specific channels of communication around the things they care about.

While everyone agrees about the benefits of collaboration, IT professionals need a more practical means to collaborate with each other virtually. They don’t have time to sit on the phone for hours in mind-numbing reviews of changes or struggle with locating the right people to bring together to address an incident or problem. They need to be automatically notified when a change, incident or issue affects something in their area of responsibility.

The future of IT operations will be shaped by In-context collaboration that leverages familiar social media-style formats but is focused on specific channels of communication around the things they care about. This is the only effective way to help ensure all the right people are effectively communicating in the specific context of the issue, without extraneous noise or chatter. Giving each stakeholder the ability to review related information, including in-context comments from all participants combined with relevant analysis and visualization, would go a long way to streamlining decisions, and helping responders resolve incidents and make decisions more quickly and effectively.

Just as important, these collaborative engagements with other stakeholders need to be recorded and captured for reference in the future so that collective knowledge builds over time and lessons learned through first-hand experience can be shared with others down the line so they never have to be re-learned.

Stay tuned for Principle 5: Access to the collective knowledge of people is a fundamental imperative for operational success

The Future of IT Operations – Principle 3: Present intelligent and relevant analysis to stakeholders automatically

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

This is part four of  a six part series from our CEO – Logan Wray

Principle 3: Present intelligent and relevant analysis to stakeholders automatically

Current service desk tools simply do not have the analytic functionality needed to present information required by IT professionals to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively today. What is needed is a way to take the collective knowledge of individuals and data sources involved, analyze the relationships and dependencies related to a specific issue, and then provide the relevant information to the IT operations users to help them make better decisions.

Service management tools need to stop making IT users spend valuable time searching for information among multiple sources, and then forcing them to spend even more effort to sort out and analyze key information once they’ve found it. Rather, the tool itself should help each IT professional analyze key relationships and dependencies and then automatically present this information to stakeholders.

By presenting users with key information through a concept that we call Active Knowledge Delivery, appropriate stakeholders are automatically alerted to the potential impact of incidents or changes and brought into the discussion, helping them resolve operational tasks with unprecedented speed. This kind of capability—one that IT professionals could only dream of until now— would be able to bring the analysis and knowledge necessary to improve the performance of operational tasks to the right people at the right time, in the context of their specific role or job.

Stay tuned for Principle 4: Enable IT individuals and teams to collaborate in context

The Future of IT Operations – Principle 1: Capture all kinds of knowledge for better understanding

Friday, August 24th, 2012

This is part two of  a six part series from our CEO – Logan Wray

Principle 1: Capture all kinds of knowledge for better understanding

In conversations with hundreds of IT professionals, we heard that IT team members working in complex environments needed a better understanding of critical dependencies and relationships when responding to incidents, resolving problems and making changes. Too often the knowledge supplied by current service management tools was fragmented, incomplete, out of date and simply not trustworthy.

The IT Ops professional now and in the future needs easier access to knowledge (both structured and unstructured information) without having to spend hours searching for it.

We also discovered that every team member possesses sources of information and expertise about managing his or her particular realm that serve them well as an individual but are not always shared or available to the wider team. Whether its access to a CMDB or special database, detailed VISIO diagrams of a particular application or service, or simply a sharp memory in recalling a relevant incident from the past, IT professionals use a wide range of knowledge to accomplish tasks and solve problems every day—much of it outside of the scope of their existing service management tools.

Therefore, the IT Ops professional now and in the future needs easier access to knowledge (both structured and unstructured information) without having to spend hours searching for it. This knowledge should not be required to conform to any one particular source, nor should it depend on purely auto-discovered content. IT professionals need a kit where they are provided the right information fast, tapping into all kinds of sources, so they can leverage the key information best suited to the issue at hand.

Stay tuned for Principle 2: Find better ways to see the IT environment and how it relates to others