As the weather warms up, SysAid 6.0 gets ready to fly the R&D nest, and we have lots of exciting news to share with you this April.
But first, it's been a long road to Release 6.0 since our R&D team began work in October last year. Asaf Volshtein, Head of SysAid R&D, offers a unique inside perspective into the key stages of development behind Release 6.0.
They're not the only ones working hard this last month. Over 1,400 SysAiders volunteered to test the new Release 6.0
Beta - a new SysAid Pathfinder record! The quality of the feedback received so far has been invaluable, and I extend my thanks to you all for helping to deliver our vision for the new SysAid 6.0.
Within the wider SysAid vision, you might be interested to know that we allocate a large window in our five year SysAid R&D roadmap for SysAider feature requests. Release 6.0 is a perfect example of this. Your community posts offered new R&D angles for Release 6.0 features (LDAP refreshes and SR Printouts for example), and also provided the 'wind in our sails' by ensuring that planned development progressed in alignment with your needs.
On the topic of records, the turnout for last month's Introduction to Release 6.0 Webinar was immense, with nearly 1000 participants on the day. The level of involvement was so high that we ran an hour over the allocated time in our final Q&A session! Due to popular demand, we have also posted a free online Webinar recording of our last session.
The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), is an international framework of best practices for IT management and service quality, released by the UK Office of Government Commerce (formerly CCTA).
ITIL's That Simple
SysAid was established in 2003 on core ITIL principles which have since provided the foundation for all future SysAid Research and Development designs. Over the years, we have continued to develop in accordance with ITIL methodology, and remain dedicated to bringing ITIL best practices to your IT environment.
While ITIL can be complex to interpret and implement, our trademark SysAid simplicity and ease-of-use has been built into all SysAid ITIL modules. This means that you will continue to experience the same fully customizable and intuitive SysAid interface, and smooth integration with your existing SysAid modules. All ITIL modules come with pre-defined templates or basic start-up tools to help you get you up and running, so you can enjoy ITIL's wide-reaching and comprehensive range of proven management solutions in next to no time.
In fact, by deploying the SysAid Helpdesk, you've already started using ITIL. The SysAid Helpdesk is based on key ITIL Incident Management concepts, which we expanded via the SysAid CMDB Module as a practical extension of ITIL Configuration Management. In this latest SysAid Release 6.0 however, we have succeeded in capturing both ITIL Change Management and Problem Management best practice processes within a fully-integrated and intuitive SysAid ITIL Package.
ITIL Problem Management
In ITIL, Problem Management refers to the process of analyzing root incident causes and proactively handling problem areas to minimize incident recurrence and business impact (as opposed to fire-fighting).
In a logical extension of the SysAid Helpdesk, SysAid's ITIL Problem Management offers a wider approach to managing SR Incidents, including the ability to group isolated SRs into related problem themes, and a knowledgebase of known errors and work-around methods. The module is designed to help you improve your IT service levels and proactively eradicate root problem causes in your organization.
ITIL Change Management
ITIL literature also provides a best practice process framework and approval workflow for implementing effective organizational change and minimizing the risk of business exposure and service disruption.
SysAid's ITIL Change Management holds an unlimited number of change processes and allows you to customize options to suit any change scenario in your organization. Automate workflow approval processes with ITIL's proven chain of approval to help you manage and control your change activities. Apply pre-defined change templates, perform multi-level risk assessments and authorizations with a full audit trail, set secure notes, tasks and permissions for multiple stakeholders and more.
ITIL In Action
You might be applying an upgrade to the internet firewall in your organization for example. SysAid's ITIL Change Management Module offers a best-practice process framework for managing all your change-related activities, such as analyzing costs and resources, coordinating an external specialist, carrying out risk assessments and devising a roll back plan. You could even coordinate scheduled internet downtime, obtain business approval, document changes and update your Asset Management and CMDB modules - all from within SysAid.
Another likely scenario is upgrading user workstations from Vista to Windows 7. SysAid's ITIL Change Management module automates the step-by-step workflow and chain of approval, which usually includes checking compatibility of existing hardware and software with Windows 7, ensuring proper licensing, arranging alternative workstations, acceptance testing and user training. You could also set automatic change templates for future upgrades.
In both cases, SysAid's ITIL Change Management module enhances efficiency and coordination of required change processes using ITIL best practice methodology, to ensure smooth transition with minimal impact to services and operations.
Ready to find out more?
We reveal the secrets of SysAid ITIL in our upcoming free Webinar: Introduction to ITIL Package on April 22nd, 2009. Join us for an in-depth demonstration of SysAid ITIL CMDB, Problem Management and Change Management, and learn how ITIL best practices can transform your IT environment. Spaces are filling up fast! Register now
Behind The Scenes of Release 6.0
It's little wonder that the hallways of SysAid resembled an intergalactic battleship scene between colliding developers armed with coffee cups this winter. Faced with implementing the biggest infrastructure change in the history of SysAid, a new ITIL environment and across-the-board developments in all SysAid modules, this is one round-the-clock release the R&D team won't forget. Asaf Volshtein, Head of SysAid R&D, offers a glimpse into the world of R&D and the 6 month road to Release 6.0.
Key 6.0 Differences
From the R&D perspective, there were a few things that really stood out about Release 6.0. Firstly, in terms of infrastructure, the new ITIL Change Management module represents the biggest change to SysAid since its establishment in 2003. Secondly, we needed to implement a whole new sub tab design, with colors to indicate tab enabling and disabling in line with ITIL process logic. Thirdly, a greater degree of collaboration between developers was required, especially since the ITIL environment needed to be finalized before developers could begin integrating their related features. Finally, as development had been scheduled in all SysAid modules, overall we were faced with more time, resource and coordination challenges than ever before.
New 6.0 Technology
One of the highlights of Release 6.0 is the new SNMP technology, which now allows agentless scanning and reporting for a wider range of devices. We also kept bigger customers in mind by developing a remote agent so that remote-based networks are now able to install only one agent per server or network to collect information from all remote devices. We also have plans to use the SysAid Lab in collaboration with our SysAiders to build a future community database of OIDs and other important device information for automatic population of individual user databases.
Planning for Release 6.0 started back in September 2008 (around the same time SysAid 5.6.09 was being finalized for November release). In a series of top-level design meetings with Oded Moshe, Director of Product Management, new fixes, features and modules were discussed and Release 6.0 build specifications were drawn up. As usual, the list outweighed my team's resources at the time, but I knew from past experience that it was better to have more work on our plate than less, given that the team tends to work better under pressure. With tight overall delivery timelines, features were sorted according to priorities and a strict development schedule was finalized. Knowing that we had quite a large project on our hands with the new ITIL Package, we started work on the new infrastructure right away in October.
With the new ITIL infrastructure underway, planned features and fixes were assigned developers in December 2008. As the build specifications covered mainly top level designs, there was still a lot of ground work to be done. Developing Release 6.0 turned out to be quite a dynamic process, passing through several iterative loops at a time. There were times for example when, in the process of 'doing', we stumbled on better approaches to developing a feature, which set us on an entirely new direction. At other times, we encountered technical constraints which required workarounds or revisions to initial design specifications with Oded. Sometimes we had a choice of alternative ways to proceed, and found the community to be a great source of feedback. In the case of User Import LDAP for example, we opened a community post to find out from SysAiders themselves about the most useful design approach for their needs, which helped to bring the functionality to its current form today. During the whole process, we kept in mind SysAid's simplicity and ease of integration, and were very careful to reinforce this in the build of all new features and modules.
Internal QA Phase
Still preoccupied with the previous Release 5.6.09, it wasn't until January 2009 that our QA team was able to start testing the store of new Release 6.0 fixes and features. The QA process is generally the same for all new releases. Initially, fixes and features are compared to original specifications to verify design matches (or misses). Functionality is then tested in the context of databases, full installations, upgrade installations and more. Backwards compatibility and sanity checks are also run to ensure that previous system functionality is not affected. Interestingly enough, we use SysAid to track new fixes and features and automatically notify each other of status changes. Now that we have the new ITIL package modules, we have even bigger plans to synchronize our existing SysAid Helpdesk with the Change Management and Problem Management modules. This will allow SysAid to automatically group related SR incidents raised by SysAiders into known fixes and features, and send out automatic notifications to all parties regarding development status changes.
Release 6.0 Beta
As the March 24th deadline for the Beta Release drew nearer, the pace (and pressure) certainly picked up! Our goal was to have all scheduled fixes and features implemented and tested before the Beta Release, for our SysAid Pathfinders to open the second phase of testing and development. And I'm pleased to see that we made it on time.
It's worth highlighting that no new feature requests or bugs are added at this stage. Our primary concern is to refine system stability, functionality and fix critical issues resulting from the new fixes and features that are reported by our SysAid Pathfinders and QA team. We often get requests to add just one more fix or feature, and while it's tempting for us to keep perfecting our latest Release, it's important to draw the line in the sand somewhere - or face a never ending beta phase. As I like to tell my team at this point, the train has moved on, and all other fixes and feature requests will have to catch the next train!
The road ahead...
Hearing the great feedback we've received so far from Release 6.0 Beta has been very rewarding, but there's no time to rest in SysAid R&D! Release 6.5 planning is already underway, and the list of scheduled features grows by the day. The new SNMP community database is just a taste of things to come, and we're looking forward to all the exciting new features we'll be able to incorporate into this next version.
SysAid IT Success Story
Life's Good with SysAid
SysAid hits the widescreen in LG Electronics Canada Headquarters and wins all-round thumbs up, reports IT Specialist Robin Yu
With LG Headquarters located in Korea and New Jersey, tracking IT requests halfway around the Pacific and back again was all in a day's work for IT Support (ITS) administrators in LG Electronics Canada.
Over time, supporting both their local and international ITS user base grew increasingly difficult with ITS' open support system for external requests. High volumes of phone calls and emails soon created a web of electronic and paper trails, obscuring escalations and driving up inefficiencies and costs associated with ITS operations.
That's when IT Specialist Robin Yu commenced the search for a better Helpdesk solution - and found SysAid in October 2008. Just six months later, Robin reports that SysAid built a solid reputation among end users, administrators and managers alike at LG Electronics.
LG Insiders Discover the 'Lifesaver Key'
End users have given SysAid's simplicity of use the thumbs up, with adoption rates of over 75% in the first few months of deploying SysAid, and set to rise further with planned ITS training. In turn, administrators have experienced a dramatic reduction in the number of follow-up calls and emails, owing to improved end user transparency through SysAid's automatic service request notifications. 'In fact, both our administrators and end users have dubbed SysAid's F11 quick launch button as the 'Lifesaver Key'!'
Gradually phasing out its open support system, ITS now employs SysAid's 'one-stop' Helpdesk repository for all service request-related information and automatic escalation rules to help manage their 7200 service requests received per month. Third-level categories also help to accurately re-route Service Requests, while SysAid's remote control feature maximizes ITS administrator capacity and resources. 'SysAid has clearly improved collaboration and information sharing between the ITS team, leading to reduced response and resolution times, especially in urgent cases.'
Managers' Dashboard Indicates Bright Future Ahead
SysAid has not gone unnoticed at LG Management headquarters either. Since deploying SysAid, LG managers have refined KPIs and reporting statistics and successfully implemented new ITS measurement tools. 'Our managers love the SysAid Manager's Dashboard, especially the report auto-generation. They even have the Dashboard graphs on a 16-inch screen in their offices!' And there's even talk of potential plans to roll out SysAid in other LG Electronics divisions around the world in the future.
Do you have a SysAid IT Success Story in your organization?
We'd love to hear it, and perhaps even feature your organization in our next newsletter. Share your story with us at Marketing Communications.
SysAid Star Performers
In a new SysAid record, three bright SysAiders score 100% results in the last SysAid Certification Program.
Milestones for Successful Implementation, SysAid IT and Measurement Tools, Customization and Troubleshooting were just some of the topics up for discussion for 24 dedicated SysAiders who participated in our online SysAid Certification Training sessions last February.
Introducing our newly-certified SysAid Gurus who passed with 100% flying colors, and their SysAid Certification Course favorites...
Randy Wade, Lowell Area Schools Technology, USA 'Hands-on experience without even being there. The open sandbox was awesome compared to a standard exam or Q & A style test. It's much easier to learn when you can actually play with it. The Customization module was my personal favorite. Since graduating from the SysAid Certification program, I have used that knowledge immensely to spice up the look and feel of our SysAid, especially our emails.'
Nick Warren, Cambridge Education Group, UK 'Learning about the ways to make better use of SysAid - particularly relating to Customization and Automation. We have so much room to improve in our current implementation as we're still using SysAid in a most basic fashion. The breadth covered by the course has given me the confidence to move forward with my plans to improve our use of SysAid and make it become our mission critical workload management tool. I'm also looking forward to the range of new features and functions coming along with SysAid 6.x'
David Harker, Cambridge Education Group, UK 'The session provided on Customization of the SysAid interface. There was clearly a lot of technical skill displayed by the trainers. The course was demonstrated clearly and concisely, and the last Q&A session with the various members of the SysAid team was particularly informative.'
Maximize your SysAid this May!
Time's running out to sign up for our next SysAid Certification Program starting May 4th, 2009. In this unique learning opportunity, we offer insider tips and techniques on how to fully optimize your SysAid in the context of the new SysAid Release 6.0 features. Get more details
SysAider of the Month Spotlight
Financial Forecast with Pete Lee
Life as an IT Consultant in Deluxe Corp, North America's leading check provider and multi-national financial advisory service is a juggling act on the best of days. Throw in 8,000 users, 10,000 cross-continental assets and six different platforms, not to mention budget constraints and government and auditors knocking on your door - and you'll have a day in the life of March SysAider of the Month, Pete Lee. But it's an eye on the future and a robust IT philosophy that keeps our Veteran SysAider on the sunnier side of IT.
IT Technical Consultant
Deluxe Corp, USA
How long have you been in IT?
40 years. It started as a hobby and then became my job!
What do you like best about being in IT?
Watching a user's eyes light up when you see they finally understand the purpose of a computer, application, or whatever you just explained to them.
How did you first discover SysAid?
While doing a web search for Asset Management software. It was SysAid's price, flexibility and ease-of-use that really stood out for me in the end.
What were the main IT issues in your department prior to deploying SysAid?
Keeping track of assets as they moved around was by far the biggest challenge for us. SysAid has not only increased the accuracy of our asset counting, but also forced us to correct other areas of accounting and categorizing assets.
Your IT assets are indeed spread out all over the world! How did you find deploying SysAid in such an environment?
The deployment of the code was actually very simple. The biggest challenge was having to enter the user information, ensuring that we had an accurate inventory, and keeping it accurate. Our main question was whether to use a Mac Address or a Random ID. Either way we had issues due to wireless NIC's or a TA swapping out hard drives. While each solution brought its own challenges, we achieved a satisfactory result in the end.
Which platforms do you currently use, and what was your experience of setting up SysAid across multiple platforms?
Windows (from '95 to Vista), Macintosh, Unix, Linux, AIX and Solaris. With the fantastic assistance from Ilient support - setting up was not a problem at all!
How does IT for the financial services industry differ from other industries?
We're subject to much more government regulation and auditing.
What advice would you give to other financial services organizations wishing to deploy SysAid?
Understand all the features that you are getting, and make sure you choose a system that's powerful enough to run the software (as the speed of the system gives you the ability to make different queries). It's also important to realize that the data you gather from SysAid is used by almost everyone else in the company, from Accounting to HR to Security.
What do you think the main IT challenges facing your industry will be in the coming years?
I think the hardest thing will be keeping up with software changes within a very limited budget. SysAid can help us meet this, as it gives us many ways to look at the same software and hardware. It's also very useful for future planning, as it allows us to query different scenarios and understand how many systems will be affected by a planned change.
What is your IT philosophy in a nutshell?
It can be summed up in a few ways: (1) I don't believe we need an IT department, we just need IT functionality in every department (2) In IT, we're here to teach users how to efficiently use the tools and guide them, not dictate rules to them (3) Microsoft created 'Shares' to share data, and not 'Hides' to restrict data (4) If person is doing their job, they should never see a security warning stopping them (5) I like to remember that if it weren't for our customers, we wouldn't have a job.
And on a lighter note, how would you describe yourself in a few words?
Passionate, optimistic, sarcastic and fun-loving.
Are you destined for the Spotlight?
If you've contributed to SysAid in a noteworthy or interesting way, then we'd like to hear from you. You could be the next SysAider of the Month enjoying sensational SysAid prizes and more. Apply now
Know Your Knowledgebase
Add this useful tip to your local SysAid Knowledgebase
First a definition for SNMP: Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) is used in network management systems in order to manage your network devices.
SNMP exposes management data in the form of variables on the managed systems, which describe the system configuration. These variables can then be queried (and sometimes set) by managing applications (in our case SysAid).
SNMP Community Strings: An SNMP community string is a text string that acts as a password. It is used to authenticate messages that are sent between the management station and the device (the SNMP agent). The community string is included in every packet that is transmitted between the SNMP manager and the SNMP agent.
In order for the management station to be able to properly discover and manage devices, the following conditions need to occur...
A Tip for Defining Mandatory Fields per Status (6.0)
From Sarah Lahav, Head of SysAid Customer Service and Support
With the SysAid 6.0 General Release now just around the corner, there are so many fantastic new features I would like to share with you. I have to admit that it was very hard to narrow the tip down to just one this month!
This April, I'll start with our new Helpdesk feature for defining mandatory SR fields per Status.
Prior to Release 6.0, it was not possible to limit the connection between mandatory fields and SR status. This meant that in the past, defining a mandatory field (e.g. solution required to close SR) automatically applied across all SR status changes, regardless of whether the SR was at the relevant stage or not (i.e. changing SR status from New to Open also required the solution field to be populated).
In Release 6.0 however, you will be able to define and limit mandatory fields to relevant SR statuses only. Now for example, if you wish to prevent administrators from being able to close a SR without a solution, you will be able to define the solution field as mandatory and limit it to apply only at the point where the SR status is changed to Closed.
This feature is available under the Customized Form icon:
And there's more handy Release 6.0 hints on the way!
SysAid Poll of the Month: What's your tech innovation style?
Do you jump at the chance to try the latest tech gadget or Web 2.0 innovations? Are your twitter threads, iPhone or Blackberry Storm already gathering dust? Or do you prefer to hang back instead and see what others have to say before taking the plunge? Maybe deep down you're a skeptic who thinks 'Not another passing fad'?
While we work with technology every day, we all approach new consumer tech innovations in different ways. In the spirit of the new SysAid Release 6.0, we'd like to hear more about yours.
The Early birds caught the worm last month! 6am-10am was voted IT prime time by 39% of the SysAid Community. As the day progresses, it seems we observe an overall IT brain drain, with 8% of SysAiders still preferring to burn the candle at the other end.