Six Key ERM and IT Trends for 2015 October 28, 2014 No Comments

Danish physicist Neils Bohr is credited with saying “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” And indeed, prognostications are often proven wrong, particularly regarding technology, sometimes absurdly so: for example, Businessweek magazine’s prediction that the paperless office was just a few years away—made in 1975.

2015 IT predictions and trendsBut sometimes, predictions prove surprisingly prescient. Such is the case with Eric Knorr’s article, 9 trends for 2014 and beyond, published in InfoWorld in November 2013. The piece remains as fresh and relevant today as it was a year ago. Here’s a look at some of those predictions and how they fit with another trend: the growing interest  in extending the service catalog beyond IT across the enterprise, using an enterprise request management (ERM) strategy.

Cloud is the new hardware. “All big industry shifts have been driven by new computing platforms, from the PC to client-server to the Internet.”

While corporate data centers are unlikely to disappear anytime soon, cloud computing is clearly an attractive option for many types of applications, and many (if not most) new software implementations. The typical IT infrastructure in most large organizations for the foreseeable future will be a mix of on-premises hardware and hybrid clouds—a mix of private and public cloud resources.

Ideally, IT organizations will act as brokers of cloud services, using an ERM portal to present cloud options to business application developers along with information on costs and capabilities, enabling developers to select from approved (and secure) options the services that best fit their needs.

Systems of engagement lead the way. “Where the cloud shines is in powering ‘systems of engagement’: customer-facing Web and mobile applications.”

Business needs—as well as expectation from employees for consumer-like interfaces to business applications and data—are changing rapidly. But expensive, time-consuming “rip and replace” implementations are not the only option for adapting to changing needs and improving business processes.

Using ERM tools to provide intuitive, web/mobile access to core legacy management and control applications–i.e., using modern systems of engagement to access in-place systems of record–enables organizations to improve business processes, reduce costs, and improve the user experience without the significant time and cost of implementing new enterprise applications. Improvements can be seen in 30-90 days and at a modest cost.

Big data gets ahead of itself. What matters is smart data.

By centralizing requests for services, enterprises can more easily be smart about predicting demand, understanding the true costs of services, and measuring actual fulfillment times—that is, service level experiences (SLEs) rather than just service level agreements (SLAs).  Services requested, whether discrete or bundled, can be tracked back to a service portfolio and tied to real allocated costs (infrastructure, supplies, and/or people) in any department.  Without the demand data portion of this equation (via an ERM solution), cost-efficient capacity management is just a guessing game.

Cloud integration moves to the fore.  Close. What matters is enterprise service integration. Point-to-point data integrations are inherently unstable and impossible to maintain at scale. Using tools that embrace open standards and Web services enable organizations to integrate applications and data at the service level instead, providing scalability and manageability.

Identity is the new security. As high-profile corporate data breaches continue to make the news, from Target and Home Depot to iCloud and Snapchat, enterprises continue to beef up data security measures. But too often, security processes are optimized within corporate silos, e.g., HR is using HR security best practices, facilities manages physical access, etc.. Such an approach may (or may not) be effective,  but it is almost certainly not efficient.

Utilizing an ERM approach to data security improves both risk management and process efficiency.  By cutting out manual efforts and redundant data entry, it reduces the risk of data errors while improving productivity—providing superior protection for both digital and physical assets while reducing costs.

In terms of service request management, the ERM approach enables services and information to be presented based on each user’s identity (log in). So, for example, any user may be able to request a reset for a forgotten email password, but only managers can request pay rate changes for employees—and only for the employees in their specific department.

Knorr provides more predictions, regarding memory, Javascript, PaaS, and his final trend: “Developers continue to rule…With so many different platforms to write for—and with even data center infrastructure becoming programmable—there simply aren’t enough developers to write all that code.”

Unquestionably, developers will continue to be in high demand. But for back-end process automation, ERM offers at least a partial alternative: empowering business users with tools that enable them to map their own process workflows, test, modify, deploy, and clone them—all with minimal technical assistance. Developers aren’t completely removed from the enterprise service catalog build-out, but their efforts can be geometrically leveraged by giving business process owners with graphical tools to create service items and fulfillment workflow processes.

Predicting the future is hard. But forward-thinking CIOs and business executives are focused on using ERM and other innovative approaches to create the future, rather than worrying about predicting it.

Next Steps

What’s New on Kinetic Community – October 2014 October 21, 2014 No Comments

Kinetic Community is the information and interaction hub for users of Kinetic Data software. It’s the place to find and discuss product documentation, videos, presentations, training class materials, downloads, example service items, task handlers, bundles, bridges and more–as well as presentations and training materials from the 2014 Kinetic Enthusiasts Group (KEG) event.

Kinetic Community
Here is what’s new on the site since our last blog update:

Kinetic Request Answers All Retrieve  (October 14, 2014)

Retrieves a specific submission’s answers. This is useful for inside subtrees/routines because it allows you, after this handler is run, to have the equivalent of the @answers references available.

Kinetic Request Base Submission Retrieve  (October 13, 2014)

Returns an XML string of the base submission (KS_SRV_CustomerSurvey_base) name and value pairs. This is useful for inside subtrees/routines because it allows you, after this handler is run, to have the equivalent of the old @base references available. Note that values here are referenced by their names of the base form, not the “friendly” names defined in the dataset.

Kinetic Request Submission Dataset Retrieve (October 13, 2014)

Returns an XML string of the dataset name and value pairs. This is useful for inside subtrees because it allows you, after this handler is run, to have the equivalent of the @dataset references available.

Utility JSON to Results (October 13, 2014)

This handler is useful for converting JSON array declarations to XML strings. At right is an example of the type of conversion from JSON to XML.

how to use bridging to do a people search

People Search Using Bridges

Using a Bridge Search to Populate Questions using a YUI Table  (October 10, 2014)

This solution describes how to use bridging to do a people search, populating fields on the service item using a bridge request based on criteria the user provides. If there is more than one response to the search, a table is displayed for the user to select the correct individual from. This table uses a version of YUI tables.

Using a Bridge Search to Populate Questions using a Mobile Friendly Table  (October 10, 2014)

This solution describes how to use bridging to do a people search, populating fields on the service item using a bridge request based on criteria the user provides. If there is more than one response to the search, a table is displayed for the user to select the correct individual from. This table uses a mobile friendly version of datatables called FooTables.

Chef node bootstrapChef Node Bootstrap (October 8, 2014)

This handler bootstraps a node in chef by using an external ruby instance to call chef. Before uploading this handler, make sure to include a chef repository containing a knife.rb file on the task engine server, either in the resources directory of the handler file or in a directory that the handler can access on the server.

How to Leverage Subtrees/Routines for Approval Delegation  (October 8, 2014)

This solution describes how to use a subtree (routine in Task 4) recursively to process approval delegation (re-assigning of the approval). The subtree/routine built here is an individual approval flow that could then be called by a group approval process if necessary.

Calculating the Cost of a Requested Service Item (September 26, 2014)

How to calculate the cost of a service item

How to Calculate the Cost of a Service Item

At times Service Items require the calculation of a total cost based upon the items selected. Ordering computer accessories is an example of this scenario. The user can select from several different computer accessories, each of which has an associated cost.

New Task Handler Page on Kinetic Community (September 23, 2014)

Browse and download existing Kinetic Task Handlers to use out of the box or customize them. All Kinetic Task Handlers are validated by Kinetic Data Task experts.

Pardot Prospect Create Handler (September 19, 2014)

This handler uses the Pardot REST API to create a new prospect. To configure the info values, you’ll need your email, password, and a user key. This key can be found in your account settings under the description of API User Key. After configuring the handler, all the information can then be used to send and API call to Pardot to create a new prospect.

To learn more, check out all recent updates and resource additions on Kinetic Community.

Using Kinetic Task with the Internet of Things October 13, 2014 No Comments

Kinetic Task is a proven, powerful workflow automation tool used by some of the world’s largest enterprises. From simple approvals to complex employee onboarding processes, Kinetic Task enables agile process management in an often rigid world.

With the release of Kinetic Task 4.0 this fall, we wanted to expand the reach of application integration while making it easier to use for both process authors and administrators. This means that triggering processes from Salesforce.com or JIRA or ServiceNow is as easy as triggering a process from our own Kinetic Request service request portal application. The same open architecture that has always powered our task handlers for outbound connectors is now also available inbound from nearly any triggering application. This opens up a world of new opportunities.

Automatic and Kinetic Task for the Internet of Things IoTWhile enterprise application integration is interesting, finding other automation opportunities in everyday life is a fun way to push the application. One company doing some really interesting things in the Internet of things (IoT) realm is Automatic. Automatic makes a hardware device that plugs into your car’s data port (available on most cars since the 1996 model year). With their iOS and Android app, you can now learn much more about how your car functions and your driving habits including gas mileage, sudden acceleration and braking, and more.

Like many companies recently, Automatic has realized that allowing others tools to interact with their product enables uses of the product developers never even thought of when designing it. One strategy that works well in conjunction with Kinetic Task is using webhooks. Webhooks are built into many modern web-based applications. Essentially, they push some data to a URL you configure based on an event within the system (such as a record being saved or updated, a car ignition switch turning on/off, a light switch being toggled, etc.).

Kinetic Task 4.0 allows you to push data to it in a generic way via webhooks. The documentation for the URL you should use and more can be found here on Kinetic Community.

Automatic then has a couple of different ways to trigger webhooks:

  1. IFTTT: You enable triggers (such as Automatic). You can then publish via one of their connectors. Some of the services they push to offer webhooks functionality which, in turn, could push to Kinetic Task.
  2. Automatic API (in Alpha): You can sign up for developer access directly to the Automatic developer tools including their webhooks API. Currently, only iOS is supported for webhooks.

We’ll be giving away five Automatic devices at this year’s BMC Engage conference in Orlando this week (October 13-16, 2014). If you’re in town, please stop by and say hello and sign up to win and can’t wait to see what you come up with!

If you haven’t tried out Kinetic Task, you can download it today.

For extra credit, find out what other IoT applications have event based triggers you can connect to. A few we’ve wanted to explore are the SmartThings home automation system, the iRobot Roomba cleaning system, and Nest.

Virtual War Rooms: Collaborating to Solve Big Problems Fast October 8, 2014 No Comments

How can organizations solve complex enterprise problems as quickly as possible? Timeliness is essential to minimize lost revenue and productivity, and in some cases even damage to the corporate brand image.

Resolving urgent, multi-vendor, mission-critical types of problems requires collaboration. But coordinating the input and effort of employees—along with, in some situations,  partners,  suppliers, consultants or others outside the organization—who work remotely, are traveling, or are based in other cities (or countries) is challenging.

While there are a range of online collaboration tools (for functions like project management, voice/Web conferencing, and file sharing) on the market, most aren’t designed for in-the-moment, team-based problem solving. Nor are they focused on the most critical type of problem management from a business value perspective: restoring a service or operation as quickly as possible.

Usig virtual war room software for problem collaboration

A new white paper, Virtual War Rooms: Resolving Enterprise Problems with Collaboration Tools describes the current collaboration technology landscape; situations requiring real-time collaborative problem resolution; and the capabilities needed in an online tool to provide effective and efficient enterprise problem management.

Lost Productivity is Very Expensive

For critical business services in large organizations, every minute of downtime equates to lost productivity, which can be measured in real financial terms. When orders can’t be processed, products can’t be shipped, employees can”t answer phone calls or emails, a production line shuts down, or any other situation where people are unable to do their jobs due to a technology issue—the business loses money. For example, Gartner has calculated that the average cost of network downtime across industries is $5,600 per minute.

Solving Big Problems Require  Collaboration

Large enterprise problems can take many forms, including customer issues (e.g., a shipment fails to arrive on time); a public relations or social media crisis; business impacts from natural disasters; and information security breaches. But a not uncommon (and expensive if not fixed quickly) category is key enterprise systems going down, such as ERP, ITSM, supply chain, factory control, or email.

When such a system stops functioning, rapid problem resolution and system restoration is vital to minimize the expense, disruption, and interruption of vital operational processes. Identifying the source of the problem, correcting, and restoring service often involves communication and coordination of efforts between IT, business function or unit managers, and external consultants or vendors.

Using Virtual War Rooms to Coordinate Action

Online project management tools are generally designed for administering long-term endeavors. Solving large, urgent enterprise problems requires a different type of tool, one designed to enable teams to quickly formulate and execute action plans. Such a “virtual war room” tool should:

  • Enable internal and experts to quickly get up to speed on what’s known and what’s been done.
  • Allow tasks to be assigned and tracked.
  • Permit documents, images and other vital information to be uploaded and shared.
  • Provide real-time communication from any connected device, anywhere.
  • Maintain a record of communications and activities for later audit, diagnosis or training purposes.

Ideally, the tool should also be easy to implement, and even more importantly, intuitive to use: there’s no time to train anyone on use of the software when the enterprise is in a crisis situation or dealing with a mission-critical system outage.

Implementing a virtual war room tool enables organizations to make better, faster decisions in difficult circumstances; restore vital services or resolve other significant problems more quickly; and minimize the costs of lost productivity, revenue,  or opportunities. Download the white paper Virtual War Rooms: Resolving Enterprise Problems with Collaboration Tools to learn more.

IT Priorities: Forget Cost-Cutting, Improve Business Processes September 30, 2014 No Comments

Okay, “forget cost cutting” may be a bit strong (costs always matter!), but—according to recent research from McKinsey, reducing costs is no longer the top priority for IT organizations.

As Joe McKendrick reported, writing about the study in InformationWeek, “’improving the effectiveness of business processes’ is the top-ranked IT concern at organizations, up from 47% in 2011 to 61 percent today. Reducing IT costs has dropped in priority, from 44 percent to 31 percent.

Improving business processes now top IT priority

Image credit: ralphbijker on Flickr via everystockphoto

The good news in the study, along with reduced focus on cost-cutting, is that IT budgets are generally on the rise. The bad news is that expectations are being set higher, and IT leaders themselves are often their own harshest critics.

The study predicts that infrastructure costs will decline as a proportion of IT budgets due to greater use of cloud computing, and that over the next few years, “the most acute needs for IT talent are in analytics, joint business and IT expertise (i.e., enterprise architects), and mobile and online skills.”

So how can IT leaders successfully address these new priorities, while keeping costs under control? Here are three key initiatives to consider:

1) Implement enterprise request management (ERM) to help manage cloud services provisioning. As noted here previously, the ERM approach—which combines an intuitive, centralized portal interface for requesting any type of enterprise service or resource with a back-end process automation engine—closely parallels Forrester’s recommendations for provisioning cloud services to developers. “IT infrastructure and operations  specialists can take control of cloud management, but need to first change their focus and then prove their value, implementing the right tools and processes to take the cloud management burden off developers.”

2) Leverage interface engine and workflow automation software to create online interfaces to legacy management systems. Forrester refers to this as building mobile / Web-based “systems of engagement” that integrate with core, in-place “systems of record.” Business users get transparent anytime / anywhere / any-device access to the information they need, even if that data resides in different enterprise or departmental management applications or databases. IT keeps costs under control by extending the value of systems in which the organization has already invested considerable expense and training.

3) Empower business process owners to automate and optimize their own task workflows. Giving business managers graphical tools to automate, test, refine, and deploy their own automated processes, with minimal IT assistance, benefits both those managers (greater control, faster service creation) and IT (reduced development time, increased responsiveness to business needs).

Finally, don’t wait for big projects to be completed before making improvements. Look for opportunities to make incremental improvements today. Business needs expand and change far too quickly to put off process enhancements while making decisions about or implementing major new systems.

In some cases, using the systems-of-engagement-atop-systems-of-record approach will extend the life of core in-place systems. In other situations, making the considerable investment of time and dollars to implement new management-and-control systems may be the best path.

But in either case, use tools that support common communication protocols (API’s, Web Services, SOAP, REST, etc.)—and therefore will work with the core enterprise software you have in place today, as well as whatever you may have in place tomorrow—to automate, accelerate, and improve business processes now. Moving the business forward is always a top priority.

Next steps: