Aldon Stresses Importance of End Users with Updated Help Desk
March 18, 2009 Alex Woodie
Aldon recently launched a new version of its help desk solution that should better connect an organization’s IT help desk with its end users. With Community Manager version 9, Aldon has worked on supporting ITIL version 3, the recently released set of IT standards that focuses much more on end users. As a result, Community Manager will enable end users to browse a catalog of available services, such as resetting a password, and then execute that service automatically through the portal.
Community Manager is a Windows-based help desk application that allows users to submit requests to their IT department, such as bug reports and change requests. It also gives IT administrators tools to handle those requests, including a workflow approval system. The software is an integrated component of Aldon’s Application Lifecycle Manager (ALM) suite, and therefore works directly with Aldon’s change management solution for IBM i, called Lifecycle Manager (IBM i Edition), or LM(i).
One of the big enhancements with Community Manager version 9 is support for ITIL version 3, which was first published less than a year ago. According to Dan Magid, who now heads Aldon’s strategic product planning division, the main difference between ITIL version 2 and ITIL version 3 is the recognition that IT processes don’t always begin in the IT department.
“Version 2 is really focused on improving the internal IT procedures and processes that make IT more responsive,” Magid says. “What we found, though, was that a big piece of the equation was left out, which was the end users. So version 3 is all about extending the envelope of business process automation improvement to include the users. ITIL standards now include the idea that IT is supposed to support the business and its objectives. That’s really the change.”
Recognizing a wider sphere of influence is helpful in all sorts of situations, particularly when there are debates about what to do and how to go forward. “There may be a process where the end user department has to decide if this is something they really want to ask for. They may ask ‘How important is this to us? Why do we want this? And how does it support our business?’ So there may be a whole bunch of conversations that go on around that. It’s important for IT to understand what’s in the mind of the end users.”
IT pros shouldn’t dismiss the change in approach as becoming more “touchy feely” or somehow challenging their authority and expertise when it comes to making the computers and the networks run. Instead, look at this as the latest step in blowing apart the myth that IT is there for IT’s sake. It’s not. It’s there only to help the business run. Explicitly stating this in ITIL–which is becoming the standard playbook for how professional IT organizations are run–is common sense.
From Magid’s viewpoint, ITIL v3 is a little late to the party. “ITIL is finally catching up to what we’ve been doing for a long time, which is to say that change doesn’t start when IT finds out that the user wants something, or wants to do something. IT doesn’t start when IT says, ‘Yes, we’re going to do this process,’ which is really where most traditional application lifecycle management tools had started.
“What our objective has been for the last few years is to push that back to the end users,” he says. “What we really need to understand is, what is it that the business is trying to accomplish, and how can IT support that? In order to do that, we need to keep track of everything that occurs from the time that the users find out they want something.”
The good news for IT pros is that the user- and business-centric viewpoint of how IT change should flow will gradually bring more automation to the help desk. To that end, Aldon CM version 9 contains a mapping of the ITIL services that can be easily exposed to end users through a portal. That means that much of the manual work for procedures, such as changing a password, can be eliminated. Instead, CM version 9 provides automatic service programs to accomplish these tasks, with SOA-based integration with line of business applications.
“It’s a very simple way for them to say, ‘Here’s what I need from you,’ rather than having some convoluted process of getting to IT,” Magid says. “They simply look at the catalog of IT services that are available through the portal, click on the link for whatever it is they’re interested in doing, then have that get into the process.”
Aldon CM 9 also brings new reports and reporting capabilities, such as support for chart drill-downs, designed to help organizations understand what’s going on at the help desk. One of the new reports is the “N query” report, which allows users to customize queries with numerical parameters, and create reports such as “The Top 5 Issues in February.” Also included is a new “Age in Status” report, which shows how long any specific issue has existed in a particular status. The “Project Totals” dashboard report shows managers how things are going across multiple reports.
One happy CM user is Londen Insurance, a life insurance company based in Phoenix, Arizona. As an AS/400 shop, Londen Insurance augmented the core change management capabilities of LMi environment with Aldon’s CM product about three years ago, and has since come to rely on Aldon CM as “the hub” of its IT shop.
“Aldon Community Manager is not just our service desk. It’s our application development manager, infrastructure monitor, and asset tracker,” says Carol Berger, vice president of IT for Londen Insurance. “With Aldon, we actually wow our auditors when it comes to compliance documentation. And as an IT Team our productivity is up and errors are down.
Aldon CM 9 runs on Windows servers, and is available now. Pricing for Aldon CM begins at $2500 for a single seat. Volume discounts for multiple seats apply. For more information, visit www.aldon.com.
Pricing for Aldon CM has been updated.