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:

How to Improve Enterprise Data Security AND Increase Efficiency September 23, 2014 No Comments

From serious breaches of customer data at Target, Home Depot and other major retailers to leaked private celebrity photos, data security issues seem to be everywhere in the news.

The circumstances and causes behind each intrusion vary. But the costs to business are substantial and nearly always include lost sales, legal expenses, and reduced customer confidence.

Improve data security and process efficiency with ERMAs the malicious exploits become more sophisticated, enterprises must constantly reassess their tools, policies and processes to keep sensitive information secure. In some instances, security improvements require significant new investments. But often, access—both digital and physical—can be made more secure while efficiency is simultaneously improved.

Frequently, organizations optimize security based on best practices within each functional area. This may (or may not) be effective, but from the perspective of the enterprise, it’s clearly not efficient.

A new white paper explains how enterprise request management (ERM) provides a a better approach to securing access, both to facilities and systems. An ERM strategy combines a single, centralized web portal for requesting any type of enterprise service with a workflow automation engine that orchestrates approvals, scheduling and fulfillment by communicating with and between in-place enterprise and department management and control systems.

In the ERM approach, all of information needed to arrange for specific security clearances for a new employee, contractor, or project team, is entered (and validated) only once. All back-end tasks (e.g., conducting background checks, setting up a corporate email account, printing a security badge) are automated per pre-defined rules and workflows.

The result is more accurate information, reduction or elimination of manual tasks, and reduced risk of any aspect of the secure access process being missed. Security and efficiency are both enhanced.

Download the new white paper, Safe and Sound: How Enterprise Request Management Improves Process Efficiency While Reducing Security Risks, to get the complete story.

Four Ways CIOs Can Embrace Consumerization 2.0 and Help the Business September 16, 2014 No Comments

Consumerization is the most sweeping change in IT in the past 20 years. Millennial workers, who’ve grown up with mobile phones, social networks and ecommerce sites are bringing their personal technology to work—and not just asking IT to adapt, but increasingly working around it.

As Frank Palermo notes in his InformationWeek article, Hey CIOs, Stop Saying ‘No’ To Consumer Tech, “According to Gartner, in 2012-2013, 64% of enterprises said mobility projects forged ahead without the full involvement of IT.” Employees are bringing their own mobile devices to the office, storing company data with consumer online services like DropBox, and in some cases developing custom cloud-based apps, even in heavily regulated industries which have resisted these trends until recently.

How CIOs can embrace consumerization 2.0Of course, consumerization 2.0 and its manifestations do not mean the end of IT as a vital function. Recent high-profile data breaches such as those at Target and Home Depot serve as bracing reminders that it’s imperative to keep corporate data secure, and that requires management by IT professionals.

Contending that “Security and other new challenges arising from the consumerization movement mean that CIOs need to make sure that services are secured, tested, reliable, and integrated into the enterprise application stack,” Palermo outlines four best practices CIOs can use to “establish themselves as a formidable business partners, avoid shadow IT, and, most important, remain relevant.”

Design for mobile first. Considering that smartphones and tablets now account for more than half of all Internet access, that’s not a bad strategy. At the very least, mobile access should be taken into consideration in the early stages of designing any new business applications.

One valuable approach is to design what Forrester Research calls smart process apps, or SPAs. The technology advisory firm defines these as “a new category of business application software designed to support processes that are people-intensive, highly variable, loosely structured, and subject to frequent change. Smart process apps fill the gap between systems of record and systems of engagement by automating both structured and unstructured work activities in support of collaborative processes.”

By narrowing what is truly needed by your users due to the restrictions of screen size, application designers are forced to simplify what are often complex user experiences.  This simplicity is often what consumers crave and is seldom found in enterprise applications.   These core processes can then often be translated to desktop interfaces leading to a cleaner, more flexible approach.

Leverage the cloud. As noted here previously, “Business application developers working within large enterprises want to build applications in the cloud. But they would prefer to spend their time coding and testing, not managing cloud infrastructure.” Users, too, often favor cloud applications for functions like file storage, collaboration, and project management.

IT needs to provide users either with safe ways to utilize commercial services or with company-approved alternatives that protect vital data. Whether providing cloud services and applications to developers or users, IT can use an enterprise request management (ERM) approach to provide users with a single, intuitive portal through which they can compare and request those services and apps based on their capabilities, costs, and other information.

Protect and secure mobile devices. Interest in using personal mobile devices at work (BYOD) skyrocketed starting in late 2011. Many IT groups initially resisted this movement, but as remote management tools improved and the potential for cost savings became apparent—not to mention strong preferences on the part of employees to utilize their personal smartphones over company-supplied Blackberrys—they began working to accommodate these devices rather than shun them.

Though security concerns remain, the use of training and awareness-building, combined with improved tools for securing devices and their data, have increased business and IT acceptance of BYOD. Generally, organizations that have embraced BYOD have reduced their mobile access and hardware costs, improved flexibility, and make their employees happy.

Be social. Palermo recommends enterprises use internal social discussion tools such as Yammer “that invite all levels of the organization, without hierarchy, to exchange ideas or voice concerns.”

Facebook and Twitter aside, social capabilities can also be built into business tools and applications for functions such as discussing business metrics and collaboratively resolving enterprise-level problems.

Though consumerization adds challenges and complexity to the roles of the CIO and IT staff, it also provides new opportunities to respond to user needs and even proactively offer new capabilities that are an extension of cloud, mobile and social technologies.

Next Steps