Service Desk ITSM Feature Add-Ons

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In order to offer a comprehensive ITSM platform, it must include an intuitive service catalog and self-service interface as well as full support for incident, request, problem, change, configuration, and knowledge management workflows. But even if it was designed to be all encompassing with a multitude of customizable options, requests for unique add-ons are inevitable. Certainly, the demo may initially wow clients with dozens of features their previous ITSM tool did not offer, but subsequent conversations with engineers and managers often lead to additional feature inquiries. Understandably, the IT personnel who’ve worked with a prior system on a daily basis may not want to give up a particular element that they’ve become accustomed to no matter how thoroughly enhanced by the new system’s multiple components. When this happens, it’s time for the internal development team to get creative.

In most instances, this additional tier of customization can be achieved using management tools designed by the corresponding software developer whether that be ServiceNowBMC, or ABS partner Serena; however, in other instances, the tools themselves would require extensive coding adjustments in order to accomplish the desired enhancements. Rather than defer to its partner, those tasks are handled in-house by ABS engineers using third-party management systems and incorporated into the overall ABS Service Manager platform.

ABS Database Analyst Brian Nunziato explains. “Depending on data access, functionality, and integration requirements the ABS development team is often called to leverage back-end solutions through SQL server and coding. In such instances, we’re essentially trying to replicate these features by whatever means will enable access to the data to satisfy client needs.”

A recent example involved developing an email notification of on-hold service request tasks or incidents whose follow-up date had arrived. First, the development team added a new field to the ticket form for “On Hold Follow-up Date” which the IT professional could flag by selecting a date from the drop down calendar after placing the incident or service request on hold. The owner of this issue would then receive a follow-up email on that date notifying him or her of its continued on-hold status. The ABS team built a process within SQL Server to scan the data for follow-up dates each morning and to send an email reminder for tickets due that particular day, specifically for those tickets with a follow-up date of the current day. Included in the email was the ticket number in the subject line along with a brief reminder statement that the ticket has reached its follow up date and should be reviewed. To bolster that feature, the owner had the option either to set a new follow-up date if they wish another reminder or contact the end-user and resolve the issue. Apart from the inherent value of keeping all open incidents linked to ongoing problems or service requests caused by backordered devices remaining on the service desk’s radar, this feature is extremely worthwhile when the end user is unreachable for long durations. If they’re on vacation or another extended absence, the engineer or IT professional can select their anticipated return date for the follow up reminder.

Less frequently, a new feature add-on may be prompted by the ABS operational team requesting automation of internal processes which may require an unorthodox solution to address the challenge.  Necessity is said to be the mother of invention and that certainly holds true for ABS. The development team implemented Serena’s LDAP user synchronization tool to automatically retrieve user records from a client’s Active Directory Services and import them into ABS Service Manager.  Automating this process relieved service desk agents of having to manually enter sometimes thousands of users into Service Manager.  Additionally, the service desk rapidly received changes in user status as a result of a termination which in turn automatically disabled that user in ABS Service Manager.  Although theoretically flawless in its conception, the initial stages of the project revealed formatting or data quality issues commonly plaguing the client’s Active Directory implementation.  These issues would cause errors in import or in ABS Service Manager thus preventing a successful synchronization.  As a result, the ABS development team needed to build external data validation and maintenance jobs in SQL Server to regularly scan imported records, reformat or otherwise correct bad data coming into the system, issue email alerts to ABS staff when specific fields didn’t meet requirements (such as obsolete or missing manager names for users), and where possible automatically update fields with specific default values if omitted.  This creatively constructed solution ultimately established automated Active Directory synchronizations with all ABS clients directly into Service Manager.

Sometimes new feature add-ons are accomplished using a combination of tools. Recently, an ABS software developer designed a web form that automated the HR employee termination process. Once completed, the form initiated one parent incident and, based on the options selected, generated up to 13 child incidents that were auto routed to specific groups for processing. In other words, the HR department didn’t need to send multiple emails to terminate network access, alert building security, retrieve assets, notify payroll, etc. Assuming for enterprise-sized clients that those tasks aren’t handled by one individual but dispersed to several departments, replicating that effort is not only time consuming but inefficient considering human error (i.e. omitting one step in the offboarding process) has more chances of being introduced with each iteration. The ABS DBA used a blend of Serena Business Mashup management tool for the form structure and also created code in SQL server that ran every minute auto scanning child tickets for an HR request and linking them to their parent ticket.

From a client management perspective, it makes absolutely no difference whether the development team implements a new feature using the built in management tools or SQL server. As long as the enhanced ITSM platform achieves all of the functionality clients had envisioned, they are pleased with the results.