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August 26, 2015

Analyse This: Time and Space Travel in Service Management

Paul Cash, MD at Fruition Partners UK, explores the emerging market of End User IT Analytics.

By Vinod

In the ideal world every incident that arrives at the service desk, whether logged by telephone, self-service, email, telepathy or carrier pigeon, will be resolved at first touch and with a 100% closure rate.

Sadly, we don’t live in that world, so every opportunity to increase resolution rate and to decrease the number of calls to the service desk should be seized with both hands. Recently, sophisticated service management professionals have been investigating and investing in End User IT Analytics (EUITA).

This is not a term that is very widely recognised and as yet, there is not a great deal of formal research available on the technologies. It is however an emerging market, and some robust solutions are already available that can make a huge change to the way that companies view end user support. This is becoming particularly valuable at a time when IT can no longer wholly control the IT environment thanks to trends such as the consumerisation of IT and BYOD.

How does EUITA work? In theory it is cunningly simple. A tiny agent is slipped onto each end user device, it then reports back to a central database server whatever happens on the device including web applications, software and hardware changes, application executions, input/output etc.

Of course, this is something of an over-simplification – the tricky bit is making the agent absolutely tiny, using up very little bandwidth, very little CPU and no disk space, so that all the work is done in memory.

The really clever bit is how IT departments and IT service management staff can then use that data once it has been collected. EUITA can be used to look for patterns of behaviour, patterns of application execution or installation, particular binaries, viruses or security breaches. Fundamentally, service managers can analyse almost everything that is happening on every end-user device.

How does this work in practice with the service desk?
Take a scenario that is quite common and quite simple – an end user telephones the service desk and logs a call that a particular application is running slowly. The user doesn’t know of anything that has changed on their equipment that would have caused the issue, but the performance problem has appeared only within the last two days. The service desk logs the call and looks up the desktop PC that this user is associated with and without having to look at the PC itself, can bring up the data, via EUITA, for that specific device.

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The advanced capabilities of the analytics can then be used to look at everything that has happened on that PC over the past few weeks using a timeline and a graphical representation of data. In our example scenario, this pinpoints the fact that two days ago an automatic update was made to the PC that has caused the core application to run slower.

In this case, the straightforward and simple fix is to upgrade the memory on that PC to give all applications plenty of room. The upgrade is scheduled and the incident is closed…simple!

Pre-empt and predict problems
Looking more closely at EUITA, this capability can even be taken much further. The analytics can be used to slice and dice the information in order to draw out more detailed conclusions and to pre-empt and predict further problems occurring in future. For example, from the data collected in the above scenario, the service management team can look for and identify all other PCs in the organisation that are:

– Used by people who can use that core application
– Have the same automatic change applied
– Have the same configuration as the original end user

They can therefore pick out all of the PCs that are likely to experience the same issue. As a result, the team can schedule similar simple changes to those PCs and head off many additional calls to the service desk – saving time and ensuring that end-users are kept happy.

Boosting return on investment
This is a simple example of how EUITA can not only save resource but also improve customer satisfaction with IT. Furthermore, EUITA can also ensure that investments in both hardware and software are maximised, helping the CIO and IT department to demonstrate their worth to the wider business and ensure that every penny spent of the budget results in value. EUITA can support this approach through improved and accurate performance monitoring.

For instance, many companies procure and pay for services that will refresh all of their PCs on a set yearly cycle. Through the data gleaned from EUITA, performance monitoring can be carried out every day, year-round; identifying those PCs that truly do need replacing and those that are currently performing to standard. This allows the business to make targeted investments, rather than completely and needlessly replacing every PC on a regular basis.

Through employing EUITA, the service management function can change its role from that of a reactive help-desk role, and focus instead on becoming a proactive support that predicts and pre-empts problems, enabling better resource planning for the future and happier service users.

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