Cloud Approach to IT Service Desk and Incident Management Bring Analysis, Lower-Costs and Self-Help Benefits to Two Remedyforce Users
Cloud Approach to IT Service Desk and IncidentManagement Bring Analysis, Lower-Costs and Self-HelpBenefits to Two Remedyforce UsersTranscript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast on how SaaS delivery and BMC Software’s “truth indata” architecture deliver big payoffs for IT support at Comverge and Design Within Reach.Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: BMC Software Join Danielle Bailey and Alec Davis at Dreamforce 2012 Sept. 18-21 in San Francisco.Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and yourelistening to BrieﬁngsDirectToday we present a sponsored podcast discussion on how two companies are extending their use of cloud computing by taking on IT service desk and incident management functions as a service. We will see how a common data architecture and fast delivery beneﬁts combine to improve the efﬁciency, cost, and result of IT support of end users. Our examples are intelligent energy-management solutions provider Comvergeand how it’s extended its use of Salesforce.com into a self-service enabled service deskcapability using BMC’s Remedyforce. [Disclosure: BMC Software is a sponsor ofBrieﬁngsDirect podcasts.]Well also hear the story of how modern furniture and accessories purveyor, Design WithinReach, has made its IT support more responsive even at a global scale via cloud-based incident-management capabilities.Stay with us now to learn more about improving the business of delivering IT services, and inmoving IT support and change management from a cost center to a proactive IT knowledgeasset.Here to share their story on creating the services that empower end users to increasingly solvetheir own IT issues, is Danielle Bailey, IT Manager at Comverge in Norcross, Georgia. WelcomeDanielle.Danielle Bailey: Thank you so much for having me.
Gardner: We are also here with Alec Davis, the Senior System Analyst at Design Within Reach. Hes in San Francisco, but the company is based in Stamford, Connecticut. Welcome to BrieﬁngsDirect, Alec. Alec Davis: Thank you, very much. Thanks for having me. Gardner: Danielle, when your company started looking atimproving your helpdesk solutions and your IT support, I have to assume that -- like a lot ofcompanies -- you had some signiﬁcant pain and cost when it comes to providing that support,particularly as you change systems and move through the maturation and evolution of IT.Could you describe for me some of the problems were that you really wanted to solve, that youwant to improve?Pain pointsBailey: We had three pretty big pain points that we wanted to address, as we moved forward. The ﬁrst was cost. As our company was growing pretty quickly, we were having some growing pains with our ﬁnancials as far as being able to justify some of the IT expense that we had. The current solution that we had actually charged by person, because there was a micro-agent involved, and so as we grew as a company, that expense continued to grow, even though it wasn’t providing us the same return on investment (ROI) per person to justify that.So we had a little over $55,000 a year expense with our prior software-as-a-service (SaaS)solution, and so we wanted to be able to reduce that, bring it back more in line with the actualsize of our IT group, so that it ﬁt a little bit better into our budget.One of the reasons we went with Remedyforce is that rather than charging us by the end user, thelicense fees were by the helpdesk agent, which would allow us to stay within the scope of whatour size of our IT team was.The second big issue that we had was that a lot of our end users were remote. We have ﬁeldtechnicians who go out each day and install meters on homes, and they don’t carry laptops, andthe micro-agent required laptops for them to be able to log tickets.We wanted to be able to use something that would allow us to give our ﬁeld techs the ability tolog tickets on a mobile application, like their iPhones that we have for them to use. So it wasimportant that whatever we went forward with had that aspect, and Remedyforce did have that.The third issue was that we were Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) compliant and we needed to make surethat whatever solution we chose would allow us to track change management, to go through
approval workﬂows, and to allow our management to have insight into what changes were beingmade as they went forward, and to be able to interact and collaborate on those changes.So that was the third reason we chose Remedyforce. It has the change management in there, butit also has the Salesforce.com Chatter interface that we are able to use to make sure thatmanagers can follow some of the incidents and see as we go through if we have any changes thatwe can quickly work with them to explain what we may need and that they can contribute to thatconversation.Those were the three biggest things that we were kind of looking at when we were deciding whatto move forward with.Gardner: Alec, does this sound familiar or were there some other concerns that you had in yourparticular company that you wanted to address?Different storiesDavis: We have kind of a different story. A couple of years ago we made a huge corporate move from San Francisco to Stamford, Connecticut. At that move we saw that it was an opportunity to look at our network infrastructure and examine what hardware we needed and whether we could move to the cloud. So Remedyforce was part of a bigger project. We were moving toward Salesforce and we also moved toward Google Apps for corporate email. We wanted to reduce a lot of the hardware we had, so that we didn’t have to move it across the country.We were also looking for something that could be up and running before that move, so wewouldnt have any downtime.We quickly signed up with Google, and that went well. And then we moved into Salesforce.com.At Dreamforce 2010, Remedyforce was announced, and I was there and I was really excitedabout the product. I was familiar with BMC’s previous tools, as well as some of the other ITstaff, so we quickly jumped on it.But as part of that move, something else kind of changed about our IT group. We did grow a bitsmaller, but we were also more spread out. We used to all be in one location. Now, were in SanFrancisco, Stamford, and also Texas. So we needed something that was easily accessible to usall. We didn’t necessarily want to have to use a virtual private network (VPN) to get onto asystem, to interact with our incidents.And we also liked the idea of a portal for our customers. Our customers are really just internalcustomers, our employees. We liked the idea of them being able to log in and see the status of anincident that they have reported.
Were also really big on change management. We manage our own homegrown enterpriseresource planning (ERP) system. So we do lots of changes to that system and ﬁx bugs as well.And when we add something new, we need approval of different heads of different departments,depending on what that feature is changing.So we are big on change management, and prior to that we were just using really fancy MicrosoftWord documents to get approvals that were either signed via email or printed out and speciﬁcallysigned. We like the idea of change management in Remedyforce and having the improvedapproval process.Gardner: Danielle, let’s learn a little bit more about your company, Comverge. Tell us what itdoes, what your business is, but then also a little bit about your IT support situation in terms ofnumbers of users and their distribution around the world?Bailey: Comverge is a green energy company. We try to help reduce peak load for utilitycompanies. For example, when folks are coming home and starting to wash clothes, turn on theair-conditioning and things like that, the energy use for those utilities spikes.Hardware and softwareWe provide software and hardware that allows us to cycle air-conditioning compressors on andoff, so that we reduce that peak. And by reducing that peak we are able to help utility companiesto meet their own energy needs, rather than buying power from other utilities or building newpower plants.We have been in business for about 25 years. We originally started out as part of ScientiﬁcAtlanta, but they have taken on new companies across the country to integrate new technologyinto what we offer.We are now nationwide. We provide services to utilities in the Northeast, from Pennsylvania, andthen all the way down to Florida, and then all the way west to California, and then to Texas, NewMexico, and different areas in-between. And we’ve recently opened new ofﬁces in South Africa,providing the same energy services to them.Comverge tries to make sure that the energy that were able to help provide by reducing that loadis green. It’s renewable. It’s something we can continue to do. It just helps to reduce cost as wellas to save the environment from some of the pollution that may happen from new energyproduction.In a nutshell, Comverge is a leading provider of intelligent energy management solutions forresidential and commercial and industrial customers. We deliver the insight and controls thatenables energy providers and consumers to optimize their power usage through the industry’sonly proven comprehensive set of technology services and information management solution.
In January, Comverge delivered two new products, the Intel P910 PCU that includes capabilitiesto support dynamic pricing programs, and Intel Open Source Applications for the iPhone. TheiPhone is very important to us. Our ﬁeld technicians are using it at residential and commercialinstallations, and we just want to make sure that we continue with that innovation.Gardner: And how many IT end users are you supporting at this point?Bailey: About 600, and those are in South Africa, as well as all around the U.S.Gardner: And so you are delivering your support through the same infrastructure, the sameapplications delivery across the globe?Bailey: That’s right, because it is web-based, everybody can access it. Its great.Gardner: And whats the new experience in terms of performance on that?Bailey: As far as the end users, theyve all been really happy with it. We transitioned in April toRemedyforce from our old SaaS system, but the users say that Remedyforce is a lot easier forthem to use, as far as putting in ticket and for them to see updates whenever our technicians writenotes or anything on the tickets. Its a lot easier for them to share with others whenever they haveto change what we are working on. Join Danielle Bailey and Alec Davis at Dreamforce 2012 Sept. 18-21 in San Francisco.Core businessGardner: And it seems that your core business is involved with getting more data andinformation and making that useable in terms of management of energy resources. I suppose thesame effect is being employed here at the IT level.Is there something about the information that you are able to glean from your interactions, fromthese tickets, and from your IT workforce that you are then bring back into how you provide ITbetter, to make it either proactive or building a better knowledge base asset?Bailey: We are. We just implemented Remedyforce in April. So we are still building ourknowledge base. We didn’t have that capability previously. So we are able to use some of thetickets that we have come in as we process and update those and control and close those. We areable to build articles that our technicians can use going forward.I have recently switched my ERP analyst, but because I was able to pull some of that informationout of Remedyforce, where I had my prior ERP analyst, it actually helped me to train this newperson on some of the things they can do to troubleshoot and resolve problems.
We are also able to use the automated reporting out of Remedyforce so that I can schedulereports on our tickets, see how many we have open, and for what categories and things like that,and take that to our executive management. Theyre able to see our resource needs, see where wemay have bottlenecks, and help us make decisions that help our IT group move faster and moreefﬁciently.Gardner: Alec at Design Within Reach, help us better understand your company, what it does,and then also some of the requirements that are unique to your organization, when it comes to ITsupport.Davis: Design Within Reach is a modern furniture retailer. Weve been around for 12 years,starting in San Francisco. We have a website that has the majority of our sales. We also have“studios” that are better described as showrooms. We have usually about ﬁve reps in thosestudios, and we have about 50 studios around the U.S. and Canada.So those [reps] are our users that we support. Weve become a very mobile company in the lastcouple of years. A lot of our sales reps are using iPads. One of the requirements weve had is tobe able to interact with corporate in a mobile fashion. Our sales reps walk around the showroomand work with our customers and they don’t necessarily want to be tied to a desk or tied to adesktop. So that is deﬁnitely a requirement for us.Our IT staff is small. We have an IT group, information technologies, and we also have ourinformation systems, which is our development side. In IT we have about six people and in ourIS department we also have about six people. We have kind of a tiered system. Tickets come infrom our employees, and our helpdesk will triage those incidences and then raise them up to atiered system to our development side, if needed, or to our network team.We do have also some contractors and developers. As I mentioned before, we have our own ERPsystem. We do a lot of the development in house, so we don’t have to outsource it. Its importantfor those contractors to be able to get into Remedyforce and work the change management wehave into the requirement, and also in some cases look at incidences to look how bugs arehappening in our ERP environment.Self-help improvementGardner: Given that you have a fairly concentrated group that is accomplishing signiﬁcantamount of work, is there anything about the Remedyforce approach thats given you self-helpimprovement? How have you been able to empower those end users to ﬁnd the resources theyneed, to keep you fairly lean and mean when it comes to IT?Davis: Well, we have put most of the onus on our IT department to know how to resolve anissue, and we did have a lot of transition with new employees during our move. So building aknowledge base with on-boarding new IT people is also very important. Again, were a small
team and we support a larger internal customer base, so we need them to start and have theanswers pretty quickly.Time is money, and we have our sales reps out there that are selling to our large customer base. Iftheres an issue with the reporting, we need to be able to respond to it quickly.Gardner: And the conventional wisdom is that helpdesks are still costly, and the view has beenthat it’s a cost center. Is there anything about how you have done things that you think ischanging that perception? Is it becoming more of a proactive approach, and is there a way ofdeﬁning IT support more as a collaborative interaction rather than just a necessary evil?Davis: Well, essentially the reporting has helped us to isolate larger issues, and to also identifyemployees that put a lot of incidents in. With the reporting, which is very ﬂexible, and withreporting for management, requirements can change. With the Remedyforce reporting, I canchange those existing reports, create new ones, or add new value to those reports.Mainly you see how many tickets are coming in. We can show management how many incidentswe are handling on a daily basis, weekly, monthly, and so forth. But I use it mainly to identifywhere are the larger issues. Managing an ERP system is a large task, and I like to see what issuesare happening and where can we work to ﬁx those bugs. I work directly with the developers, so Ilike to be as proactive as I can to ﬁx those bugs.And we are very spread out and very mobile, so we like the ﬂexibility to be able to get intoRemedyforce without VPN or traditional methods.Gardner: It sounds as if you are gaining almost a business intelligence (BI) insight as to whatsgoing on with your IT operations through the perceptions and needs of your end users. I assumethat is allowing you to be more proactive, rather than simply trying to ﬁreﬁght all the time?Davis: Absolutely. And I didnt answer your second question about collaborating. Collaborationis becoming very important to us. We did roll out Salesforce.com Chatter to most of ourcompany, and we are seeing the beneﬁts in our sales team especially. We are trying to use Chatterand Remedyforce together to collaborate on issues. As I said, we are spread out, and our ITgroup has different skill sets.Depending on what the issue is, we talk back and forth about how to resolve it, and thats soimportant, because you do build up knowledge, but the core of our knowledge is in every one ofour employees. Its very important that we can connect quickly and collaborate in a moreefﬁcient way than we used to have.Support scrumGardner: Thats interesting. So it sounds as if its almost a “support scrum,” as opposed to adevelopment scrum effect, is that fair?
Davis: Thats fair, yeah.Gardner: Danielle, similar question. How has the perception of IT support been shifting foryou? Is there a shift afoot there at Comverge around the perception that IT support is a costcenter?Bailey: Yes, we have been able to show where IT is actually starting to save money for the restof the company by increasing efﬁciency and productivity for some of our groups. There are someof the development works that we are able to do by being able to track and change processes forfolks, making them more efﬁcient.For example, one of the issues that we had was that we were tasked with trying to reduce ourtelecom expense. We were able to go through and log all of the different telecom lines andaccounts. We had to trace them down and see where they were being used and where they maynot be used anymore. We worked with some folks within the team to reduce a lot of the lines thatwe didn’t need anymore. We have been moving over to digital, but we still had a lot of analoglines.Before, we didn’t have a way to really track those particular assets to ﬁgure out who theybelonged to and what their use was. Just being able to have that asset tracking and to workthrough each of those as a group, we were able to produce a lot.The ﬁrst quarter of the year we reduced our telecom expense over $50,000 a year and we arecontinuing with that effort.Gardner: It sounds as if youre able to codify best practices, instantiate them into other areas,and then gain quite a bit of efﬁciency in the process.Bailey: Exactly, as well as being able to track and recognize what some of the assets are, and beable to end the lifespan of those that we no longer need.Gardner: Is there something about having a common repository, or conﬁguration managementdatabase (CMDB) in this case that you think is extensible? Is there a way of not only gatheringmore information in terms of knowledge, but then applying it in other ways?Bailey: With the knowledge base that were building, were able to let a lot of users begin to self-help. We have a pretty small IT team. We have only two people on what we call helpdesksupport. Then we have 2 network team members, and we have about 10 people on ourinformation services team, where we do development for the software and data services.Support staffSo our IT support team is really small, but by being able to track assets that we have, manageproblems that we have, and maintain the trends for those, were able to better utilize an external
company that we have. There are only about three people on that team as well, to make ourprocesses a little bit more efﬁcient.Were able to reach out to them when we need to by assigning tickets to them. Theyre able to login without being inside of our corporate network. Theyre able to track and complete issues forus, and were able to keep all of that knowledge going forward. If we have a similar issue again,were able to go back, review that, and ﬁx the problem.Its been a lot of help for us to just start building that knowledge repository. Whereas before, ifsomeone left the company, you would lose years and years of knowledge because there was noplace that it was documented.Gardner: I think we can even look to IT as being a bit of a pioneer here. Is there a way of takingthis model, and maybe even the very tools that you are using, and bringing that to other forms ofsupport within your organization? Perhaps its HR support. It might even be extending beyondthe boundaries of the organization to your actual customers, rather than your internal employees.Any thoughts about how what youve been doing and learning might apply to other types ofsupport functions within your overall organization?Bailey: Were actually still in our infancy with this, because we just implemented it in April. Butwe have multiple call centers that actually provide support to our utility and for residentialcustomers who go through a separate ticketing system thats part of software that we have had,thats actually going away.Were talking about now replacing that call center ticketing system with Remedyforce, so that weall use the same ticketing system and we are able to maintain that information in one place.Because Remedyforce also ties into Salesforce.com, wed be able to track some of our residentialand utility customers in the Salesforce side as well, so that if the salesperson is aware that thereis an issue going on with their utility, they can follow the information as it applies to that contact.Then, theyre able to also reach out directly to the utility and make sure that things get handledthe way they need to be handled according to contracts or relationships. So its certainlysomething we are hoping to expand on.We are also planning to use, and have already started using, Remedyforce for our HR group.When we have new hires or terminations, theyre able to able to put in IT support tickets for that.Were able to build templates for each individual, so that as we receive notiﬁcation that someonehas been terminated, we can immediately remove them from the system too. HR has that accessto put in those tickets and build those requests, and that helps maintain our SOX compliance.
Synergy and beneﬁtsGardner: I should think too that when you combine your data around whats going on for youremployees with whats going on with your customers, theres going to be some synergies there,and some other analysis beneﬁts that will extend to how you might start deﬁning new productsand services in the market, and how you would implement them.Bailey: Yes, were hoping so. Were still having those conversations and trying to ﬁnd out wherewe can just bring truth into our data. If we can bring everything together so that we have insightand reporting, and all of the master data is in one place -- or at least tied together in one place --theres deﬁnitely going to be synergy and efﬁciency and more “truth” in our information.Gardner: Alec, how might you be able to extend what you have been doing with Remedyforceinto other service support, call center, or ticketing activities?Davis: Information is very important to us, very important to myself. I like to see what ishappening in organizations from a support standpoint. We haven’t really pushed outRemedyforce to a lot of other departments outside of HR, who of course is helping us with on-boarding the new employees and off-boarding as well.But all of our internal support teams, our operations team that support our sales teams, somepeople in ﬁnance, and of course HR, are all using Salesforce cases.So we have all of our customer information. We have all of our vendor information. That wouldbe the IT vendors, but were also a retail company, so our product retailers are in there too.Weve also moved it out to our distribution center. They have the support team there. Weve alsostarted bringing in all of our shipping carriers and all the vendors that they work with. So wehave all of our data in one place.We can see where a lot of issues are arising, and we can be more proactive with those vendorswith those issues that we are seeing.Its great to have all of our data, all of our customer information, all of our vendor information, inone location. I don’t like to have all these disparate systems where you have your data spreadout. I love having them in one location. Its very helpful. We can run lots of reports to help usidentify what’s happening in our company.Gardner: Im afraid well have to leave it there. Weve been talking about how two companiesare extending their use of cloud computing by taking on IT service desk and incidentmanagement functions as a service. And we have seen how they have used BMC Software’sRemedyforce to improve the business of delivering IT services and business services -- and tomove IT support and change management from a cost center to more of a proactive knowledgeasset.
Id like to thank our guests, Danielle Bailey, IT Manager at Comverge. Thank you so much,Danielle.Bailey: Thank you for having me.Gardner: And Alec Davis, Senior Systems Analyst at Design Within Reach. Thank you somuch, Alec.Davis: You’re welcome. Its been my pleasure.Gardner: And this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. I would like tothank our listeners too for joining, and don’t forget to come back next time. Join Danielle Bailey and Alec Davis at Dreamforce 2012 Sept. 18-21 in San Francisco.Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: BMC SoftwareTranscript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast on how SaaS delivery and BMC Software’s “truth indata” architecture deliver big payoffs for IT support at Comverge and Design Within Reach.Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2012. All rights reserved.You may also be interested in: • Ocean Observatories Initiative: Cloud and Big Data Come Together to Give Scientists Unprecedented Access to Essential Climate Information • Where Cloud Computing Ultimately Takes Us: Hybrid Services Delivery of Essential Information Across All Types of Apps • For Steria, Cloud Not So Much a Technology as a Catalyst to Responsive and Agile Business • Cloud-Powered Services Deliver New Revenue and Core Business Agility for SMB Travel Insurance Provider Seven Corners • Ducati Races Ahead with Private Cloud and a Virtualization Rate Approaching 100 Percent