Hornbill's Supportworks ITSM Enterprise has grown from being an IT helpdesk application into an ITSM (IT service management) and business process management (BPM) platform that adheres to the rigorous ITIL v3 management framework. Arif Mohamed looks at what it has to offer.
Supportworks competes with products from the likes of BMC, CA, IBM and HP. However, Hornbill has shown significant innovation, updating its offering with mobile features, and even allowing IT service professionals to access Twitter and Facebook chatter to detect IT problems that are being discussed by frustrated employees.
Supportworks ITSM Enterprise overview
The latest major release of Supportworks also has new "customer-centric" features, such as customer self-service, and the ability to allow employees to contact the service desk using their preferred communication method. Analysts view these factors as the product's major strength, along with its open architecture.
Supportworks ITSM Enterprise is at the top end of the product family, which also includes helpdesk application Supportworks Essentials, and Supportworks ITSM Foundations, which is designed to help organisations transition from a helpdesk to a service desk.
Supportworks is a modular system with templates for most common help/service desk and ITSM processes, and is built on Hornbill's Enterprise Support Platform. This primarily uses C++ and web services APIs to run Hornbill's modules and integrate with third-party business applications and databases.
About 750 organisations use Supportworks, ranging from those with 1,000 employees right up to 10,000.
Software with a human touch
Version 3.0 of Supportworks came out in April 2010, with 3.2 released in April 2011. It follows version 2.0 which came out in mid-2009 and was a major overhaul of the first version, according to Hornbill product manager, James Ainsworth. He says that a lot of the changes in v2 were driven by ITIL v2, with v3 doubling the range of processes included in the product, in line with ITIL v3.
Consequently, Supportworks ITSM Enterprise has modules that cover ITIL processes such as incident, problem and change management, as well as more advanced processes such as financial management.
However, Pat Bolger, technology director at Hornbill, said: "We saw a bit of an issue with the ITIL Framework which was designed from a focus on the infrastructure and technology, which we consider to be an inside-out way out of looking at things. We introduced 'human touch' features that focused on things like customer satisfaction and experience, and usability for service desk personnel who are, for example, logging calls."
The usability features include intuitive drop-down menus and templates, and the ability to select multiple users who have similar types of helpdesk problems, and responding to them as a group. To further aid usability, the application comes with a suite of design tools so that users can make extensions to their database and design their own forms.
Advanced mobile features
Bolger says Supportworks ITSM Enterprise is continually improving its mobile features. These are primarily aimed at mobile analysts who are moving around multiple sites, managing problems and performing changes. However, Hornbill is also extending its customer self-service tools for Android and other mobile users, as well as Apple iPads.
"With version 3.2 of Supportworks, we have made continual improvements, particularly in terms of 'human touch', to make it easier to use for people who use the product day in, day out," said Ainsworth. "We also continue to help users improve their business processes by making the product as flexible as possible and easy to use."
Analyst view: Martin Gandar, associate senior analyst, Ovum
Hornbill Supportworks is a service management toolset aimed at enabling organisations of all sizes to consistently deliver IT and non-IT support processes and the services they support.
Its flagship ITSM offering, Supportworks ITSM Enterprise, supports all of the core ITIL v3 processes. Ovum particularly likes the three-level availability of its ITSM solution (relative to customer needs and maturity) and Hornbill's "human touch" approach to engendering real customer focus within the service desk.
Among the strengths of Supportworks 3.2 is its ability to integrate social media into the product. It "listens" to the chatter on Twitter, and if people are talking about IT services and highlighting issues, it can grab that and turn it into "twickets" - a tweeted support ticket. The system can also work out who the common customers are and automate the process of responding to them.
Supportworks ITSM Enterprise is designed to be quite easy to use and not over-complicated, and it ticks all the boxes in terms of features. Hornbill has made it more proactive in terms of helping users, with more workflows and a better interface. Its modern architecture enables it to be integrated easily with other applications and databases.
The main solution omission, relative to the highly competitive ITSM tools market, is the lack of a SaaS delivery option. However, Hornbill currently offers a subscription-based, externally managed, on-premise offering and will introduce its SaaS option later in 2011.
Also, in terms of ITIL v3 adoption, there are areas that Hornbill and others need to look at in terms of improving the financial management side. A lot of suppliers look at service life management in terms of retiring services after their life, but they should try to look at the lifecycle of an organisation's assets and better utilisation of capital, better planning and the risks and implications of the process. The financial management side is an area where Hornbill may be able to differentiate its offering.
Case study: Toyota Motorsport
In 2008, manufacturer Toyota Motorsport replaced its BMC Remedy ITSM suite with Hornbill Supportworks ITSM Enterprise v2.1.
It is currently using v3.2, which has been upgraded to support ITIL v3 processes, and has 15 members of staff using it to support the organisation. Previously there were 45 users, but Toyota Motorsport reduced its staff when it ended its contract with Formula 1.
IT staff at all levels use the application, including the IT manager, service desk staff, configurations manager, and a dozen Level 2 analysts. On a daily basis, the organisation uses the incident management, problem management, change management and configuration management processes.
Toyota Motorsport also uses the self-service feature, which allows its customers to log and update IT calls themselves, access their mobile phone usage details, and utilise asset management tools, electronically signing for equipment and viewing all of their assets.
Supportworks collects data from Toyota Motorsport's HR database, Active Directory, Vodafone mobile calls database, and from the Novell asset lifecycle management system.
The Supportworks application server runs in a virtualised environment under VMware ESX Server, with the hardware - which has just 1GB of RAM - also housing a MySQL database.
Toyota customised the user interface, adding its own branding to the self-service portal, while removing and adding certain fields and functionality for users in the IT team, who have their own individual IT support dashboard.
According to Per Nordqvist, service delivery manager at Toyota Motorsport, the organisation implemented the system in just six weeks, with an additional five days of consulting services from Hornbill. He adds that BMC Remedy would have required six months of professional consulting services and three or four times the resources to upgrade for it to offer the same capability.
Nordqvist says the Supportworks implementation enabled the business to cut its maintenance costs by 80%. It also reduced its hardware footprint and database requirements by a further 90% compared with the previous system.
The service desk application has improved IT response rates, halving the IT department's response time despite logging an increased number of calls. In addition, the reporting functionality of the suite has enabled Toyota Motorsport to make significant cost savings through improved decision-making and asset management, with managers able to create their own reports rather than rely on consultants.
Nordqvist notes that v3.2 of Supportworks has a number of improvements in terms of usability. For example, in task management, the system has included support for incidents.
However, he adds that one feature that would improve this process is the ability to create tasks in a change request and distribute the work between employees. "Often you need support from different people in the IT team. It would also be nice to have better sequencing of the tasks and to be able to run parallel tasks," says Nordqvist.
Another improvement is in the way that users can navigate in finding a specific process, such as a change process. "There is a better understanding and overview of the complete process and where you are located in the process of a specific call."
One feature that Toyota Motorsport is considering implementing is the Knowledgebase module, to replace a Microsoft SharePoint-based system that stores IT documentation.
- Supplier: Hornbill, founded in 1995.
- Product: Supportworks ITSM 3.2
- Category: IT service management/business process automation
- Architecture: Supportworks is a modular and templated system, built on Hornbill's Enterprise Support Platform which is based on C++ and web services.
- Main Features: ITIL v3 compatible (ITIL Processes supported: incident management, problem management, change management, release management, service asset and configuration management, Service level management, service portfolio management, service catalogue management, financial management, knowledge management and request fulfilment.)
- Customer self-service