How to Navigate Reporting Roadblocks by Extending Cireson Analytics

The Service Manager Data Warehouse is a powerful tool but can be complex to work with and comes with a big footprint. We’ve worked with customers that wanted to drop their Data Warehouse but run into major reporting challenges retaining and reporting on data from work item class extensions. There are several ways you could approach this, and the solution we came up with was to create a new database for these extended properties to compliment Cireson AnalyticsThis example is high level, but hopefully gives you some ideas on how SCSM and Cireson products can be extended to suit your organization’s unique needs. 

 

High Level Overview   

The first step in this process is to create a new database (AnalyticsExtension in this case). To achieve this, you can either: 

A) SQL Query CREATE DATABASE AnalyticsExtension; 

B) Open SQL Server Management Studio(SSMS) > Right Click Databases > New Database 

 

Give the Database a name and then leave everything else as default. 

The Second Step is to create a table in the new database. As mentioned previously there are two methods for achieving this.  

A) SQL Query >  

B) Using SSMS > Expand AnalyticsExtension > RC Tables > New > Table 

 

Now that you have the new Database (AnalyticsExtension) and Table (WorkItem) the next step in this process is to fill the database with data from the ServiceManager DB. Before we populate the data, lets talk about what the goal is with our next two steps. We are planning to create an SQL Server Agent job per class. So, Incidents will have a dedicated job that performs two steps. Step 1 will bring in new Incidents from the ServiceManager database, and the Step 2 will update existing Incidents in our WorkItem table based on their last modified date. 

A) In SSMS > SQL Server Agent > RC Jobs > New Job 

 

B) Give you new Job a title such as “Company Incident Job” 

C) Select the steps tab 

D) Give your Step 1 a name “Insert New Incidents” 

E) Insert a query you have written to Copy all Incidents from ServiceManager DB to AnalyticsExtension DB 

F) Select the Advanced Tab and make sure to select the proper “On Success Action” 

 

G) Next, repeat the process of d through f to create Step 2 for “Update Incidents” 

 

Reporting 

Now if you were to do a very quick query joining the CiresonAnalytics DB against the newly created AnalyticsExtension DB you would have all the class extensions displaying. 

You are now ready to create a Cireson Dashboard or PowerBI report to display your specific fields.  

Conclusion 

If you have ever thought about breaking up with the Service Manager Data Warehouse for one reason or another, consider adding Cireson Analytics instead! The roadblock tends to be critical data points and finding a way to surface those in alternative solutions. The above was a simple real-world solution to use in tandem with the Cireson Analytics Database. If your organization wants to move to alternative reporting solutions but have one or two requirements holding you back, getting there might be easier than you think! 

Feel free to reach out to us at team@cireson.com if you have any questions!

Building SCSM Dashboards with Cireson Analytics

Introduction

Believe it or not, digital dashboards have been around since as early as the 1980’s But it wasn’t until the late 1990’s and the Internet boom that Microsoft prompted the concept of digital dashboards, and since then they have become an important part of business performance management. Dashboards track, analyze, and display data gathered from information systems, and then visually show the overall health of a business in real time.

Cireson Analytics ft. the Dashboard Designer

With the power of Cireson’s Analytics app for the Analyst Portal you are not limited to displaying data from a single source (Microsoft Service Manager). Cireson Analytics includes a dashboard designer that allows you to integrate different SQL data sources that you may have in your organization to help capture and centralize all of your business data visually in a single dashboard.

Creating a Dashboard with Cireson Analytics

I’ve wrote this blog to show you that in a few simple steps you can create a meaningful dashboard within the Cireson Portal for SCSM in no time at all. I will be building a dashboard for the CIO and management teams of my organization, which will be displaying the following data:

  • Sales Data
  • SCSM Analyst Data
  • SCCM Client Health
  • SCOM Top Alerts

Before we begin, let’s setup the data sources that we will be using. Let’s head over to the Cireson Portal and go to the Admin Settings > Data Source Settings page. Here you can see I have already added my three data sources to help build out my dashboard, based on the key IT business data that I want to visualise in a single pane of glass.

SCSM Portal Admin Settings

Here is the configuration of my SalesDB. If you’re creating a new data source, first give it a name, then choose the ‘Provider Name’, followed by entering in the connection string.

SalesDB Configuration

Now that we have the data sources created I will jump over to the Navigation Settings page and create a new page called CIO Dashboard and set the security for this page so only members of my directors AD group will have view access to this page.

Navigation Settings in SCSM

Clicking on the newly created CIO Dashboard icon in the left-hand ribbon will allow you to choose the layout style you wish to use.

Dashboard Layouts

Dashboard layout options

For this dashboard I have chosen the below style:

Dashboards for SCSM

We will now start by adding a SQL Chart Widget to display the sales date. This data is coming from a SQL server hosting my company’s sales database. By clicking on CONTENT you will see ten different widgets appear. These widgets can display data based on the results of the following:

  • Save search
  • SQL query
  • OData

I will be choosing the ‘SQL Chart Widget’:

Dashboards for SCSM

Now that the widget is presented on my dashboard I have the ability to move this widget to any of the spaces within my chosen style by clicking on the arrows button. Clicking on the cog button allows you to configure the widget to display the relevant information.

SCSM Dashboard Customizations

I am going to be using a SQL query that I have already created within SQL Server Management Studio. By clicking on Create New Query a new window will pop up, allowing me to paste my query into the SQL Query field. I will then choose the Data Source to run the query against SalesDB, followed by selecting the Category Field, Value Field and Chart Type that I wish the results to be visualized as.

Edit dashboard queries for SCSM

And here is the result of that widget 😊

SCSM Dashboard Widget Results

I will continue to build out by CIO dashboard with data using three different SQL data sources.

  • Cireson ServiceManagement DB
  • Microsoft Configuration Manager D
  • Microsoft Operations Manager DB

Here is an overview of the remaining widgets that I have published to this dashboard:
SCSM – Active Incidents by Engineers, is a ‘Chart Widget’ based on an Incident Search created within the portal.
SCCM – Client Health, is a ‘SQL Chart Widget’ which is using a SQL query to display the client’s heath status for each device within SCCM.
SCOM – Top 10 Alerts, is a ‘SQL Chart Widget’ which is using a SQL query to pullback the top 10 current SCOM alerts.

As you can see within the settings of my widgets I have checked the Display Selected Item Details box.

SCSM Display Selected Item Details

This option allows your chart to become more interactive and useful by giving you the ability to drill through the data presented in the dashboard, allowing you to gain more insight around the data you are seeing, and allows quick access to these items.

SCSM Dashboard

Here is what the completed dashboard looks like:

SCSM Sales Dashboard

Conclusion

Creating dashboards that visualize key information about your business and infrastructure in single pane of glass, that can display anything from sales date to key infrastructure data, is a must-have for any CIO or manager within your organization.

Learn more about Cireson Analytics and how to design your own dashboards here, including how to easily start a 30-day free trial.

Analytics

Dashboards and Reports for SCSM

Cireson Analytics works in conjunction with the Cireson Portal for Service Manager (SCSM) to put valuable data at your fingertips with custom dashboards and reports. Managers can keep an eye on key performance indicators, track how their team is performing, and identify hot spots and trends in data for actionable insight. IT team members can track their own productivity with custom Incident Management, Change Management, and Service Request fulfillment dashboards. Maintain and leverage a historical database of Service Manger Work Item data for up to 10 years, to improve processes and enhance your Cireson Portal.

Features

  • Create powerful and intuitive custom dashboards and reports
  • Leverage out-of-the-box charts and graphs for KPI visibility
  • Dashboards include Work Item details, status and date information, affected and assigned user information, and more
  • Add dashboards for custom data sources, including databases outside of Service Manager
  • Select time-period filters for all charts using date ranges
  • Real-time and historical dashboards provide the information you need to make informed decisions
  • Optimized for speed and performance with a separate Analytics database, reducing the storage requirements for you Service Manager and Service Manager databases
  • Accessible through all modern browsers

Live Demo: See Our SCSM Apps in Action

See how easy it is to maximize your SCSM investment with Cireson apps. Schedule a demo with one of our ITIL-certified System Center experts.

Cireson Analytics Revealed for Optimized Service Management Performance, Monitoring, and Analysis

Today, Cireson announces the availability of Cireson Analytics, that latest solution that allows users to access valuable data through vibrant charts and responsive graphs.

Working in conjunction with the Cireson Portal for Service Manager, managers can keep an eye on key performance indicators, track how their team is performing, and identify hot spots and trends in data for actionable insight. IT team members can also track their own productivity with custom Incident Management, Change Management, and Service Request fulfillment dashboards. Exciting features include:

  • Create powerful, intuitive dashboards and reports
  • Out-of-the-box charts, graphs, and KPIs
  • Maintain a historical record of work items
  • Add dashboards for custom data sources
  • Define custom time-period filters for all charts
  • Real-time and historical dashboards
  • Speed and performance optimizations
  • Accessible through all browsers

Commenting on the release of this new tool, Co-Founder Paul Sutton explains, “We wanted to give people access to the most modern, intuitive, and insightful analytics solution possible for their service management needs. After listening to our customers, and understanding community demand, we set out and succeeded in creating something that will add true value to every IT department.”

Click here for more information about Cireson Analytics, or to join the upcoming webinar featuring a live demo, register here.

How Left-Brained ITSM Experts Can Upskill for 2022

Change is sweeping the business climate, affecting how most companies source, create and deliver services, and how they engage with stakeholders. But IT Service Management (ITSM), which underpins nearly every aspect of organizations, is under more pressure. How ITSM professionals deliver value depends on the technology they introduce and manage, and also the dynamic of innovation they bring to the table.

“Technical skills’ shelf life is shortening,” said Gartner Research Vice President Jeffrey Hewitt at Gartner’s IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference. “As the I&O function is asked to provide more business justification for what they do, organizations are looking for I&O new hires to have business backgrounds rather than strictly technical degrees.”

To do it all well, hard and soft skills are required. It’s the combination that can be challenging for a discipline based largely on left-brained thinking. But it’s not impossible. There is plenty of advice to go around, and it starts with an understanding of hard skills and the balancing act required in ITSM today.

Hard Skills Expected in ITSM

 Most organizations are seeking ways to reduce costs and operate more efficiently. That’s not new. But business in 2022 and beyond will likely involve more data to aid decisions and implement changes—and more technology to make them possible. It’s going to be important to understand:

  • Automation: how and when to use it.
  • Analytics: how to ask the right questions to support analytics, gather relevant data and create instructive reports.
  • Business: how departments function, including sales, accounting, procurement, operations, customer service, etc.
  • Change management: what is involved in small and large-scale change, and how IT can best support (or lead) it.
  • Customer service: best practices for problem solving and improving experience.
  • Planning: how and why incremental improvements may be more beneficial.
  • Management: how to assign tasks, allocate resources, oversee projects, delegate and direct time and energy.

There is always pressure to learn the next big tool, bell and whistle. But it is likely more constructive to thing holistically about the business. Are there onboarding tasks that can be automated or repetitive help desk questions that could be deflected? It’s best to focus where you see congestion holding up the business—and where you see opportunity for a technology solution to provide relief.

Soft Skills That Support Execution

The hard skills mentioned aren’t likely to be a surprise. They play a role in responsibilities touched by most in ITSM roles. But what might be surprising is the degree to which soft skills help you deliver, particularly when it comes to innovation. Being able to reinvent, simplify, create efficiencies in a progressive way, or explore new possibilities requires imagination and teamwork, fueled by soft skills. Here are a few you’re likely to use. A lot.

Communication: The Foundation of Soft Skills

It’s how we exchange ideas and information, express ourselves and understand the world around us. So why is there so much confusion? It could stem from siloed information and teams, lack of information or inability to see other perspectives. Regardless, there are ways to improve communication from where you sit in IT.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Are you getting one side of a story? Who else might need to be roped in to create a complete picture?
  • Listen for the problem being mentioned but also hear what might not be voiced. There is likely valuable information here that will help you gain trust, gain consensus, gain buy-in.
  • Empathy goes a long way to diffusing tension—anyone working a help desk knows this. Sometimes just acknowledging that you understand a situation, idea or opinion can help you move through an obstacle. It should at least create the dynamic that you’re both on the same side of a conflict, working together.
  • Explain the business and technical benefit behind a recommendation.
  • Explain why – you’re likely interfacing with people who either understand technology or business or both, but if they understand the rationale behind a recommendation (and how it affects them), you’re more likely to achieve your goal. Explaining why is often the key to moving forward.
  • Engage across the organization and discuss ideas, problems and solutions with people skilled in technology—and those who aren’t. Relationships you develop support buy-in, adoption, etc.

 Communication touches just about everything you do. The situations described above are just a few you’re likely to encounter, but they give you a place to start when it comes to skill development. It’ll be much easier to update a process or encourage adoption of new software when your audience understands why the change is necessary, or how it improves their world and the company at large.

You have the power to help them gain that understanding.

 Collaborate to Solve Problems

You’re no stranger to problem-solving, you work in ITSM! But you’re likely to be working with different teams in IT and other departments to support the business more proactively than in the past. You’re also more likely to be engaged in business decisions and new developments from the get-go. Your input may be vital in planning led by another group, for example.

Here’s where the art of finding middle ground, information recon and communication strategies mentioned above can support how you contribute and successfully achieve goals in group work.

You might find that being in more collaborative situations, learning quickly and crossing-training disciplines helps you upskill faster for the current and future ITSM landscape.

Creativity and an Open Mind

Given that you’ll be working with technology that reinvents processes (automation) or tells a multifaceted story, depending on how you organize data (analytics), there is great demand for having an open mind. Which can be challenging when you’re used to fixing what is broken, not reinventing.

But that’s also where things get exciting. You can lighten your workload, simplify how systems—and people—work. Or you can create something cool by exercising a little creativity. Here’s one example of how you can approach automation in a different way, using Microsoft System Center Service Manager.

Sure, music, art and reading develop creativity, but you can also approach this more practically. To think different-ly, a good place to start is by listing tasks you really dislike doing. These could be the best ones to explore how to automate.

What’s most important is that you’re willing to consider options. And that will support your IT career, regardless of the job you hold.

Cireson Learning offers additional ways to sharpen skills for Microsoft Service Manager and Cireson Apps according to ITIL and ITSM best practices. Check it out!

Cireson Q4 2021 Customer Update Webinar: Focus on Customer Experience

We’re coming off of a year of exciting product, service and support developments at Cireson, which is setting the stage for greater focus and cohesion around customer experience in 2022. Here’s a snapshot of the enhancements and plans discussed during our Q4 2021 Customer Update Webinar.

Cireson Q4 Quarterly Customer Update Webinar

New Staff Discipline: Customer Experience Management

Cireson’s always been customer-focused, but we’re putting more muscle behind this mission with a new position focused on customer experience. Customer Experience Manager Steve Wright is dedicated to expanding your knowledge and helping you get greater value from Cireson offerings. He is accessible to customers globally and will connect you to answers, solutions and the right people. Watch for outreach regarding ongoing communication and opportunities for interaction via:

  • Cireson Learning: free training courses for Microsoft Service Manager and Cireson Apps
  • SCSM Master Class: a deeper dive into Service Manager, covering databases, customization, APIs, custom pages, etc.
  • Cireson Community, specifically Community Open Floor group and meetups: opportunities to connect with the Cireson team and subject matter experts, get feedback and learn from peers, with support team-led conversations, demos and practical use cases

Steve will be part of project kickoff and completion, support and maintenance renewals and check-in calls.

Product Development: We Welcome Your Input

2021 Product Feature Recap

A multitude of new features and enhancements were added to the Cireson Portal for SCSM in 2021, including:

  • Cloud Connector
  • Asset management
  • More data to report on from Analytics
  • Global search
  • Configuration Item creation
  • Cache Builder management
  • Advanced Request Offerings mapping
  • Color coding for Calendar Widget
  • Microsoft Teams integration, enabling surfacing Manual and Review Activities in chat

Prepare for 2022

As we look forward to 2022, we want you to be in the best possible shape. There are three major events happening next year, and you can prepare by taking these steps:

  • Move to Microsoft Edge browser now. Microsoft has announced that Internet Explorer support will end on June 15, 2022. In line with this news, Cireson will focus Service Manager portal development on Microsoft Edge.
  • Upgrade SCSM to 2016 and beyond. Microsoft Extended support for System Center 2012 & 2012 R2 (and in turn Service Manager 2012 & 2012 R2 stack) ends on July 12, 2022. We’d be happy to help with upgrades. If you’re currently using SCSM 2016 and above, you are supported.
  • Stay tuned for System Center 2022. System Center 2022, the next release of Service Manager, is launching in the coming months. Cireson will bring you news, guidance and resources as they unfold.

Cireson Development for 2022: Plans for Roadmap

Persist your environment settings throughout upgrades

Soon you’ll be able to preserve all IIS  configuration settings and spend less time fine-tuning in the portal after an upgrade, making it faster to upgrade and deploy new versions.

Analytics: High Performance and Data Availability

Early this year, we released analytics updates that brought class extensions and action logs in to work items. This gave you new and creative ways to report on all data, while granting you the opportunity to lower Service Manager data retention settings. This way you keep less data in the operational database, producing a leaner, faster Service Manager environment.

But we also know you may keep your data retention settings high, because:

  • You want to search and find an Incident’s Resolution from a couple years ago
  • You need to find some Comments on the Action Log of a Change Request from last year
  • You have auditing requirements that force you to keep a lot of data so someone can review Closed Work

What’s true in all of these cases, however, is that once data is groomed out of Service Manager, you have to turn to reports or querying the Service Manager Dataware or Cireson Analytics.

This is why we are working on a way to view those very same groomed work items (with all of their relationships, file attachments, action logs, etc.) in the portal, without writing a single SQL query or report to retrieve them—and most importantly, without sacrificing Service Manager performance. Soon, you’ll be able to configure all time new lows for your data retention settings and return everything right in the portal.

On Deck for Q1 2022

Custom Grids: Stay tuned for more support of custom actions within custom grids in Q1 2022, including the ability to assign, add comments, acknowledge and work with parent-child relationships from grid views.

Global Search Exits Beta Status: we’re still not done, but your input and feedback from the Cireson Community has helped global search evolve for prime time.

Microsoft Power Platform integrations: we’re evaluating opportunities, including Microsoft Dataverse integrations that would bring work into the M365 cloud, enable reporting in the cloud and integration opportunities with PowerAutomate in your 365 tenant. We’re also interested in your thoughts on what your ideal PowerAutomate connector within Service Manager would look like. We want to hear your opinion, so get in touch with us!

Beyond Q1 2022

The watchlist notifications: the ability to trigger PowerShell activity outside the context of a work item, like a scheduled job.

Have any thoughts, comments or suggestions? Product Manager Adam Dzacky is all ears and wants to talk. You can message him in the Cireson Community or via email at adam.dzacky@cireson.com.

Professional Services: Lean on our Expertise to Support System Center Operations

It’s not just internal structure that’s shifting to better support customers, our buildable service offering is expanding, says Cireson’s Director of Professional Services Marcus Bauer. Now, in addition to the standard S&M program, you can choose between The Cireson Plus program and our newest offering, Managed Service Provider (MSP).

MSP adds operational assistance to everything you receive with Cireson Plus. It allows Cireson subject matter experts to operate your platform, perfect for companies that lack skill sets of dedicated talent.

In addition to Cireson Community engagement, practical workshops and discussion characteristic of Open Floor meetups, Global Service Delivery Manager and Senior Consultant Geoff Ross will be regularly sharing Tales from the Trenches, full of advice, insights and use cases.

Tales from the Trenches

Geoff has learned over time that with the right skills, time and patience, there’s nothing you can’t do with Service Manager and the Cireson Apps. “Anything is possible,” he says. “The only limits are your imagination.”

Given that, it’s not surprising Geoff most enjoys helping customers break beyond the limitations of out-of-box features and customize to meet unique requirements. Catch one such example in his demo of a custom request offering for a bespoke request process. Geoff created a more user-friendly experience, implementing custom relations in a no code manner using Cireson Add-Ins.

Launched earlier this year, Add-Ins are free pre-built custom relation packages that you can download, store in your portal and toggle on and off as you need. There are currently nine Add-Ins available for download, with more no code solutions on the way, including support for activity history, custom dashboard widgets and filtering.

Have any ideas or suggestions of Add-Ins you’d like to see? Jump over to the Community and let us know.

This recap touched on highlights of Cireson’s 2021 Q4 Quarterly Customer Webinar. We will be holding regular quarterly webinars in 2022, so you’ll hear more about these developments. Until then, keep in touch with us in the Community and don’t hesitate to reach out directly anytime!

5 Cireson Portal Features You Might Not Be Using and Should

There’s always something new to discover in Cireson’s Community Open Floor meetings, especially from fellow customers. That’s why we recently walked through 5 little-known Cireson Portal features that can make your life easier today. Here’s what we covered…

RA and MA Completion Pages: Protect Parent Work Item  

Use approval and completion pages instead of activity node in the context of the parent Work Item. 

Typically, if you are on an activities page and you click on RA, it takes you to RA in the context of the parent work item. This is fine for analysts who have administrative rights, but if you’re sending RAs to non-analysts, you might not want them to have access to the parent. That’s why we created an approval page, where RAs can be approved and rejected without risk to the parent.

Here’s the workaround: change the RA approval template.

  1. Go to: admin> notification > templates > template you want to change > template design > extract code
  2. Go to: activities > edit and change the URL in the notification activity to https://<portalserver>/ReviewActivity/Approval/<workitemid>
  3. Once you’ve changed the link, drop it back into the template.
  4. Create a new service request; you will receive a notification that will take you to an approval page instead.

 

Ultimately, you can use approval page for activities when you don’t want them going to the parent. Once you’ve edited the template and replaced the link, the notification link you receive will take you to a neutral approval page.

Manual activity completion page

You can follow the same process when it comes to manual activity (MA) completion pages.

Typically, when you go to activities and click on MA, it takes you to the MA page in the context of the parent. If completers are outside of IT and you don’t want them engaging in the context of the parent, you can also replace the MA link in the template.

The process is the same as the process mentioned above, only paste this URL in the notification activity: https://<portal server>/ManualActivity/Complete/<work item id>

It’s possible to jump from the approval page to the parent work item to conduct approvals, only to be unable to return to the approval page. What can you do? A possible workaround is to create a task from the parent work item that directs you to the completion page, and/or add a link to the approval page.

Header and Footer Scripts: Update All Portal Pages with Greater Control

When you need a fast way to update every page with a common third-party link or embed tag (like Google Analytics or a CRM), instead of cluttering up custom JavaScript, try updating head and body page tags with header and footer scripts.

Header and footer scripts, which can be found in admin settings, can help you update every page—including the login page—and allows you to run additional custom JavaScript on every page that loads in the portal. You have more control over where the element loads on the page with this method.

Note: header and footer scripts do need to be wrapped in script tags.

Idea: use scripts in the portal’s custom event triggers.

Cachebuilder Maintenance: Sync to the Service Catalog

You might have felt stuck, not being about to immediately see changes made to request offerings. Generally, you would have to wait, particularly if you have a lot of users or scoping, until the cachebuilder rebuilds to see any changes reflected.

This would require restarting the cachebuilder service, a scenario that is cumbersome if you have a lot of users in your environment, or if you have user scoping. It could take 30 or more minutes to rebuild scoping. And if you restart the cachebuilder in the middle of the day while working on request offerings, intervals are reset. Jobs that cycle on 24-hour intervals would kick off in the middle of the day—all of which disrupt projects. How can this be remedied?

Cachebuilder maintenance provides a fix, allowing you to:

  • Update the request offering
  • Sync the service catalog and test
  • Refresh the page and see the prompt

It’s not necessary to restart cachebuilder, you just need to sync the service catalog. The same caveat exists with enums: sync enums into the database, but you still need to recycle the application pool in order for them to show up and be functional in the portal.

Custom Pages

Custom pages can be used in the portal to display any type of content. It gives admins flexibility to create and not be constrained by the existing dashboards or OOB home pages.

To create a custom page you need two things, a view and a viewPanel.

  1. To create a view, go into CustomSpace/views and copy the example view to a new file and rename it. The url of the view in the portal will be <portalserver>/view/thisFileName
  2. To create the viewPanel, go into CustomSpace/views/viewPanels and copy one of the existing viewPanels.  In the video, I used html-example.  Adjust the Id of the viewPanel to match the filename, and…
  3. Go back to the view definition in CustomSpace/views and make sure the view is referencing your custom viewPanel
  4. Navigate to <portalserver>/view/<your custom view name>

Calendar Widgets

Need to see SCSM data reflected on a calendar?  Calendar widgets give you the flexibility to extend existing calendars in the portal or define your own. An example would be: ScheduledStartDate on a CR or MA, or Expiration Date on a Contract or similar data point.  

The calendar widgets allow you to display data on a calendar instead of chart or graph, and they are available for SQL or Odata.

SQL calendar

  1. Pick service management – select calendar – select an existing query or create new – enter title as displayed in work item. The display name should contain the ID in most environments
  2. Start date: use “scheduled start” as the start date and “scheduled end” as the end date
  3. Check work items
  4. Choose event color based on your SQL result

Odata calendar

  1. Start with platform/API – select the class you want to display – filter on current language
  2. The source ID in platform tables is the work item ID: use this for the title
  3. Use a custom URL to direct to work item edit. If you are viewing other data or have custom CIs you can edit the URL and change it to whatever you’d like
  4. Choose event color based on your result

We cover Cireson Portal and SCSM hacks, along with your insights and questions in biweekly Community Open Floor sessions, and we’d love for you to join us! Register now!

SCSM Data Warehouse. Do I Need One? 

When I’m designing a Microsoft System Center Service Manager Solution (SCSM) for customers and we get to the topic of reporting, questions inevitably arise about data warehouse. Is it needed?

The main concern that customers have is the number of resources a data warehouse consumes.  Microsoft recommends at least two but more often three servers to support:

  • Management server
  • SQL database
  • Reporting Services

And this is for just for data warehouse alone. If this seems a bit excessive, then you would be right.

Microsoft Reporting Out-of-the Box Challenges

Microsoft’s solution for reporting from SCSM looks like this:

  • Use a rationalized database (data warehouse).
  • Use Extract, Transform and Load jobs (ETL) to maintain data in the warehouse database.
  • Then, using SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS), or OLAP Data Cubes, allow administrators to retrieve reports.

This is standard practice for data warehouse solutions. The ETL jobs are traditionally done in SQL and scheduled as SQL jobs. Not so in the case of SCSM.

Within SCSM architecture, the ETL jobs are handled by the data warehouse management server and the ETL jobs are services that run outside SQL. As such, there is some application overhead that must be worked into the code. This is preferable to leveraging SQL jobs in the SQL implementation housing the data, which introduces additional computation time and effort requiring more resources.

The reason this solution may feel obtuse is that it was originally designed to consolidate all three into a single data warehouse for reporting:

  • Microsoft System Center Service Manager (SCSM)
  • Microsoft System Center Operations Manager (SCOM)
  • Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM)

 However, most organisations tend to report out of the respective solutions rather than the single one. The result, regardless of path chosen, is that the SCSM data warehouse has a very large administrative overhead for producing reports.

Cireson addressed most customer reporting requirements and SCSM gaps with the release of Cireson Dashboards and Analytics in the Cireson SCSM Analyst Portal. For some time now, Cireson has been developing for the Analytics offering integrated into Cireson’s Analyst Portal and the Team product suite.

Introducing the Data Warehouse Replacement: Cireson Analyst Portal

 Starting with Cireson Analyst Portal V11.2.0, the action log for Work Items is now synchronised with the Analytics database, and it can be leveraged via the Cireson Analyst Portal using simple SQL queries, such as these. Now report authors have the full range of data expected in the original data warehouse solution without the need for the extra servers or SSRS Report Builder.

 In addition, any class extension added to a class is automatically synced into the Analytics database for easy reporting, leaving no data behind. This addresses one of the longest standing administrative pain points: losing data if you drop a class extension. You won’t: analytics are retained.

As the ETL jobs used by the Cireson Analytics app are built within SQL as SQL Agent Jobs, the processing effort is significantly less. Fewer resources are needed to provide the same solution as the out-of-the box data warehouse.

So Why Would You Stay with the Out-of-the Box Solution? 

 At this stage, there are no OLAP cubes supported in the Cireson solution, and some organisations like to be able to slice this data in Excel Pivot Tables.

I’ve heard organisations say that they do not wish to lose historical data by turning off the data warehouse solution. However, when the data warehouse and ETL services are turned off and the management server is removed, the data contained in the data warehouse does not disappear. It can be joined with Cireson Analytics data via Power BI or simple SQ and reported across both databases. This way, organisations get the best of both worlds.

Finally, I think it is important to mention that the only other piece of data that could be derived from data warehouse alone is the Entity Change Log (ECL). It allows you to write reports about when items change value, allowing you to gather metrics on how long an item remained in a given status, or the duration between changed values, etc.

Conclusion 

Unless you have very specific reporting requirements that only the SCSM Data Warehouse can provide, or if you want to aggregate all SCSM data into a single data warehouse, then it’s time to make the shift and regain some computing resources—and money—for your organisation.

Schedule a demo to see Cireson Analyst Portal in action.  

Cireson Portal for SCSM –  v11.2

v11.2 of the Cireson Portal has arrived, and with it we’re continuing to address feature requests from the community around Cireson Analytics and Global Search.

Cireson Analytics

Some long standing questions on reporting have been, “What about Comments?” and “What about the Action Log?” Without the ability to report on these things, you may end up keeping your Data Retention settings set rather high in Service Manager so you could easily lookup an old Work Item and it’s Action Log. But keeping Data Retention settings high will eventually impact SCSM performance leaving you to have to choose between accessibility or performance. That’s why with the latest enhancements for Cireson Analytics, we’re bringing in Action Logs and all of your Class Extensions. This gives you the ability to report on anything, while granting the opportunity to lower Data Retention settings.

But I’m sure the very first question is, “How can I build a query that reconstructs the Action Log timeline?” Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! The following query, along with any questions you have are here in the Community, ready for copy and paste + discussion. Just head on over!

Moving into the topic of Class Extensions…It’s worth highlighting again: not only are all of these extensions now syncing into Analytics, but we’re also giving you infinite second chances with the extensions you choose to create. For example, let’s say you decide this afternoon to extend the Incident class with a new property. A day goes by and now that property exists in the Analytics DB to report against. A couple weeks from now, you decide that you no longer need that Class Extension. If you were to drop the Management Pack from Service Manager that contains the Class Extension, the data in that field is now forever lost…unless you have the new version of Analytics!

This update for Analytics gives you the means to drop Class Extensions from Service Manager and yet retain the data within Analytics for reporting. Because after all, your process may change. Your reporting may change. But now you’ll never have to have second thoughts about dropping unused Class Extensions!

 

Global Search – Scoping

When it comes to rolling out Global Search organization-wide, something we’ve heard is the need to right-size who can search what. Just because End Users are allowed to access Catalog Items doesn’t necessarily mean they should be able to search for them. With v11.2 you can now tailor Global Search Classes to decide who is allowed to search for what. Just head into any class you’ve previously configured to search and choose who is allowed to see it.

Work Items, Comments, Windows Updates, SCOM Inventory, Azure Inventory – now you can control it all from a single search.

Questions? Comments? Whatever it is, keep the feedback coming!