Project Management Institute

Service, please

BY DAVID ESSEX

TECHNOLOGY INVESTMENTS SHOULD SUPPORT—NOT SUBVERT—BUSINESS GOALS.

It may have started out years ago as a simple way to manage help desks. But IT service management (ITSM) software is now empowering project managers to get a better handle on how to optimize an increasingly complex array of IT resources. What's more, it brings a rigor to IT projects and helps project managers align their efforts with the organization's business goals.

I recently tried two prominent ITSM tools: ChangeGear Enterprise from SunView Software and Footprints 9 from Numara Software. Both perform many of the same functions, most of which map closely to processes prescribed in the IT infrastructure library (ITIL). Developed by the British government in the late 1980s, ITIL has spread around the world to become a standard for managing IT services and the underlying infrastructure that supports them.

Both ChangeGear and Footprints have a configuration management database (CMDB). A standardized repository, it stores information on all IT assets—or configuration items (CIs)—that support business goals and services, tracking their relationships to each other. Importantly, there can also be CIs for the “owners” of the physical assets and for the relationships between CIs. The CMDB is the core of the ITIL framework and often pulls its data from existing databases or builds it fresh by scanning the network to “discover” installed hardware and software.

After the CMDB, the change management module is arguably the most important. It takes change requests from customers and routes them through a rigorous approval process complete with audit trails that aid in compliance. Changes are also checked against the CMDB to assess their impact and prevent, for example, a retailer's IT department from scheduling maintenance on an e-commerce server on the first day of a sale.

But users of both programs will spend most of their time in modules that automate the modern IT service desk. This includes rather mundane projects like responding to a harried worker's frantic request for copier toner or getting someone's WiFi card to work. Requests are logged and tracked while the software helps to manage the process to discover their root causes. Workflow “intelligence” ensures, for example, that service-desk tickets are never closed out without a record showing a problem was resolved.

Self-service portals, another feature common to both products, provide customers with do-it-yourself fixes stored in a manager-approved knowledge base. Users can submit and track service requests, too.

CHANGEGEAR ENTERPRISE

SunView Software touts its software's ease of use and end-to-end integration, saying ChangeGear Enterprise effectively ties customers to IT departments and the back-office systems that manage their transactions.

A change-management module lets decision-makers clearly assign roles and access levels to team members, helping them focus on tasks that fall within the defined scope, and doing so in coordination with each other. An auditing feature tracks all changes, which can be helpful for rollbacks and post mortems as well as for documenting compliance under Sarbanes-Oxley and similar regulations. Users can also bring a URL that identifies their Microsoft Project server into this module to show the work breakdown structure of the project team tasked with implementing the change.

FOOTPRINTS 9

When reading the Footprints literature, you might be excited to see the word “project” mentioned all the time. But to Numara, a project is an application, workspace or ITIL process. That's not to say Footprints has nothing explicitly for project managers. Its calendaring function is integrated with Microsoft Outlook and can pass for rudimentary scheduling. And responding to customer requests, the company is considering integration with Microsoft Project and SharePoint.

Promoted as “ITIL for the real world,” Footprints 9 runs entirely from a browser and, thanks to its Web interface, is easier to install than ChangeGear. And because every screen is highly configurable, you aren't stuck with what comes out of the box.

Yet despite the quicker startup, I found Footprints 9 to be ultimately less user-friendly than ChangeGear Enterprise, with a more dated appearance and a forms-based interface that non-technical users might find daunting without extensive training. It also lacks the optional desktop client software ChangeGear offers.

Version 9, released last November, added a service catalog and access via mobile devices.

IT'S A TIE

Footprints is more explicit in its incorporation of ITIL terminology and processes, although ChangeGear is no slouch in hitting all of the framework's high points.

The strengths and weaknesses of the two are evenly balanced. Once you get past ChangeGear's setup, it is easier to use, though it has fewer features than Footprints and is more expensive. True, price comparisons are tricky with volume-discounted licenses, but both products seem overpriced to me.

Still, either of these ITIL programs would make a nice addition to your project management toolkit. They both provide an extra layer of resource management to ensure IT projects are on time, within budget and well-regulated in support of business goals—and that every one of them makes the best use of IT assets. PM

Either of these IT Infrastructure Library programs would make a nice addition to your project management toolkit.

David E. Essex is a Peterborough, New Hampshire, USA-based freelance journalist specializing in IT.

QUICKFACTS

CHANGEGEAR ENTERPRISE

Requires: Windows Server 2003 or XP SP2, IIS 5 or higher, .NET SP1 or higher, Microsoft SQL Server 2005 or later and MSDE, 1-GHz Pentium 4 or higher CPU, 1 GB RAM, 500 MB hard disk space. Windows XP SP1 required for desktop client.

Price: Starts at US$28,000 for five to 10 users, volume discounts available; basic Professional edition starts under US$10,000

At-a-Glance Review (5imagess is best)

Ease of Use: imagesimagesimagesimages

Feature Richness: imagesimagesimagesimages

Performance and Reliability: imagesimagesimagesimages

Project Management Support: imagesimagesimages

Value: imagesimages

www.sunviewsoftware.com

FOOTPRINTS 9

Requires: Linux, Unix, or Windows server, Oracle, MySQL or Microsoft SQL database, Web browser, 1- or 2.4-GHz CPU depending on operating system, 1 GB RAM, 1 GB NTFS-format hard disk space.

Price: Starts at US$12,995 for server (includes five-agent start pack, unlimited customer access), volume discounts available

At-a-Glance Review (5imagess is best)

Ease of Use: imagesimagesimages

Feature Richness: imagesimagesimagesimagesimages

Performance and Reliability: imagesimagesimagesimages

Project Management Support: imagesimagesimages

Value: imagesimagesimages

www.numarasoftware.com

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

PM NETWORK MARCH 2009 WWW.PMI.ORG

Advertisement

Advertisement

Related Content

Advertisement