Community Open Floor: Using Analytics Archiver, Migrations and INNOVATE 2022

After previews and anticipatory discussion, Cireson Portal for Service Manager v11.5, which includes Analytics Archiver, released and is currently available for download. During Community Open Floor, we discussed detail around its functionality and use.

Analytics Archiver in Your Environment and Navigating Migrations

Analytics Archiver is automatically on when downloading, but you have the option of turning it off and opting out until you’re ready to work with it. It runs with the cache builder to retrieve data, and the best recommendation on grooming is to plan ahead, maintain settings and err on the side of a slow progression.

We talked about best practices and things to consider when bringing the analytics database into a new environment, including avoiding a work item collision during a migration.

FYI: the archiver scoops up and updates / amends the work item archive record instead of overwriting, so you will see the old history and new entries in a full audit.

Knowing what the business wants is a pivotal part of planning a migration strategy, but once you have that information, many customers recommended the Cireson Lifecycle Management app for ease of execution

Pro tip: if it’s complicated or you’re trying to figure out a certain approach, you don’t have to go at it alone. Consider Cireson Professional Services to manage LMA-based migrations, so that you can do it right and do it once—and be sure the environment you build is in line with Microsoft practices.

Migrating with management packs has been a noted helpful hack. Have you tried this?

INNOVATE 2022 is Coming Up…Have You Registered Yet?

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that inspiration and opportunity can come from anything or anywhere. Though you’ll learn practical ways to think about and apply innovation at INNOVATE 2022, we got our first out-of-the-box idea courtesy of Product Manager Adam Dzyacky, who rigged light bulbs in his office using PowerShell to notify him of assigned tasks.

How might you use PowerShell to your advantage?

You’ll get plenty of ideas about this and other technologies at our upcoming virtual conference. INNOVATE session topics and full agenda have been announced, but during Open Floor we got to hear customer feedback about last year’s event, including its value as a Service Manager refresher, Service Manager’s role as a foundation and Cireson products, which enable a complete solution.

Recommended: visit the lounge after each session, because interesting conversations carry over there. It’s a good opportunity to learn, hear opinions and get new ideas. Register now!

Bonus: heard about an open source management pack for Systems Center Operations Manager (SCOM) in the Cireson Community? It discovers certificates in your environment and alerts you of upcoming expirations. If you bring the management pack into Service Manager, you can see them in the portal and find them in “global search.” Check it out!

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!

Cireson Portal for Service Manager v11.5 and Analytics Archiver

If you’ve spent any amount of time in Microsoft System Center Service Manager (SCSM), you have no doubt interacted with Service Manager’s “grooming” settings. These settings define the amount of time a closed “work item” remains in SCSM before it’s groomed out, never to be seen again. In fact, the only way to retrieve historical “work item” information is to either:

  • Keep “data retention” settings abnormally high to avoid grooming for as long as possible. You may need to do this to:
    1. Help auditors quickly view “work items” while meeting auditing requirements.
    2. Allow analysts to quickly look up old “work items” and find specific “comments,” “file attachments” or “resolution details.”
    3. Both of these situations come with a performance tradeoff. Similar to Microsoft Systems Center Operations Manager (SCOM), the more data you keep, the slower the system performs. People can find what they need, but they will have to sacrifice speed to locate data. The less data you keep, the faster the system runs. But you may be tapped on the shoulder and asked, “Why can’t I find IR875432?”
  • Write SQL queries against the Microsoft Service Manager Data Warehouse or Cireson Analytics:
    • The SCSM Data Warehouse comes with its own administrative overhead: it is sensitive to changes and doesn’t let you back out “management pack” changes. It doesn’t keep “action logs,” “comments” or “file attachments.”
    • Cireson Analytics deploys alongside the portal. In contrast, data is regularly available for querying, it is possible to back out of all “management pack” changes, and it keeps “comments” but doesn’t keep “file attachments.”

With that said, it’s time to talk about one of our most anticipated features now available in v11.5 on the “latest” branch: “analytics archiver.” It gives you the ability to download “file attachments,” view “comments,” interrogate the “action log,” and overall take Service Manager performance to new levels of excellence.

Analytics Archiver

With the latest round of enhancements for Analytics, you can now improve Service Manager performance, save and retrieve everything listed above for analysts and auditors alike—without writing a single line of SQL. And you can do it all with a single checkbox during setup.

Cireson Analytics SettingsBut if you’d rather wait, you can always head over to the portal’s “settings” page, flip to “true,” and then restart “cache builder” when you’re ready.

Enable Cireson Analytics Archiver

That’s it! Just continue to work in the portal as you have previously, and we will take care of the rest. Now when “work items” get groomed out of Service Manager, they’ll be waiting in “analytics” along with their respective:

  • File Attachments
  • Action Log
  • History
  • End User + Analyst comments

When you navigate to a “work item” in the portal, we’ll first check to see if it’s available for editing. If it’s not, we’ll pull it from “analytics” for you. For example, let’s say I went to an old “incident” link for IR3637. Whether it comes from a fellow employee or from Operations Manager we can see:

Incident was Closed, Archived, and cannot be edited
Cireson portal invalid certificate screenshotView the Action Log
Cireson portal action logView the entire History

Cireson portal ticket historyThe best thing about all of this is that you no longer need to understand the nuance of whether a “work item” has been groomed. Just go to the “work item” page to access everything you want—whenever you need it.

Cireson Analytics helped you report faster than ever.

With Cireson Analytics Archiver, you can have a living data warehouse seen through the lens of the portal!

Download Cireson Portal for SCSM v11.5 now!

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.

Community Open Floor: INNOVATE 2022 Details and v11.6 Feature Demo

We talked about INNOVATE 2022-related questions during this Cireson Community Open Floor meetup, since we are less than a week away from the event. Customer experience of Analytics Archiver was also discussed, along with Cireson Portal for Service Manager v11.6 features and a quick demo to see them in action.

You’ve no doubt heard a lot about Cireson’s INNOVATE 2022 virtual conference, but here is a quick snapshot of details that you might need now.

Microsoft Service Management for the Hybrid World

Where to register: Cireson’s INNOVATE website

 Sessions:

  • Reporting Without SQL: Enable Your Workforce with Data using SCSM and Power BI
  • Managing a Service Desk Remotely
  • Demystifying Artificial Intelligence​ and Its Use Cases
  • Can You Integrate It…? Yes You Can!
  • Consistency is Key: Consuming Data & Connecting Systems with PowerShell
  • Leveraging Power Automate in SCSM
  • Luby’s Case Study: Service Desk via M365

Topics this year include challenges and opportunities in collaboration, interoperability and artificial intelligence—key elements in supporting a hybrid workforce and navigating hybrid (on prem + cloud-based) environments. Cireson is finding ways to increase your productivity by bringing more Microsoft platforms into your environments.

Whether you attend live or register to gain access to presentation content, look for post-event emails with session recording links and other follow-up content.

We do recommend planning sessions you want to attend live, because conversation moves into lounges after each session. You can ask questions, get ideas, brainstorm and chat about your environment and the future of certain technologies during lounge time.

Lounges are a feature many customers liked from last year’s INNOVATE, but we want to know your thoughts and opinions about this year’s event. Engage with us and let us know!

Demo: Analytics Archiver, Preserved IIS Settings, Adding Activities to Parallel Activities

You can see ticket details in Cireson’s Analytics Archiver, but what if you just need to create a view with a preview of the resolution or service request notes for a high volume of tickets (the kind of thing that is handy during an audit)?

Justin Workman, senior support engineer at Cireson, showed us a workaround, along preserved IIS settings and the ability to add an activity to an in progress parallel activity. This was done to prevent disruption to workflows, which can happen if an activity is added in the wrong status. But now once an activity completes, the rest of the activities will complete as well.

Best practice: you must install Cireson Analytics when downloading v11.5 to prevent problems, including an inability to open tickets. However, you can then turn analytics off if you aren’t ready to use it. Keep in mind that it will take time to populate, so give yourself a buffer and make a plan to reduce data retention settings.

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!

Community Open Floor: Creating Efficiency with Learning, Short Cuts, Advice and Planning

Productive, active conversation is happening in the Community Open Floor Discussion Group, particularly from newly joined members and others seeking help. Welcome to all, and thanks to those who are lending advice, ideas and support.

“Analytics and Auditing” Tool: It’s Coming!

Anticipation is building for the release of the “analytics and auditing” tool. Expected in the upcoming V11.5.1 release, archiving attachments promise to vastly reduce data retention settings while enabling efficient ticket searching. Many customers see value for:

  • Situations when one needs to consistently reference or search for older tickets (a few years old) and data retention settings are straining to accommodate
  • Being able to find an old ticket and report on a trend within any year range

Best practice: when it’s time to reduce data retention settings, do it slowly to avoid overloading grooming. Otherwise, you might have to set up a manual process to get by. Progress gradually to avoid system stress (like applying gradual acceleration to avoid flooding a car engine).

  • Use two variables as a guide: the number of tickets in your system and the cores for SQL (how fast it will run). Look at ticket count, evaluate how many items you’re grooming currently, double it and check to see how servers handle the increase. Keep repeating until you find a good flow.

How might you best track tickets in this scenario? We talked about the possibility of using a dashboard to track daily ticket volume, volume over time, tickets coming in vs. tickets being groomed (an indicator of how well the system is running). You might find these metrics helpful to pinpoint repetitive activity and plan for automation. It would be another way to add an ROI metric.

Need a Use Case to Sell the Boss on Innovative Projects You’d Like to Pursue?

Do you need a use case to explore cool projects you want to do (or get the boss on board) with artificial intelligence or other technologies/processes? Perhaps we’ll have new ideas and ammo on hand at INNOVATE 2022. Look for upcoming announcements and invites. In the meantime, what topics, ideas and concepts do you want to learn more about at INNOVATE? Let us know in the Community Open Floor Discussion Group.

Key takeaway: Innovation doesn’t need to be a massive effort. Sometimes small changes can bring big results over time.

Learning Management System: Use it for Quick Brush Ups Anytime!

You might think you need to set hours aside to dive into Cireson Learning, but many are finding different ways to approach and apply the sessions. Courses cover ITSM and ITIL best practices, including Microsoft System Center Service Manager configuration, administration and overall use. They also include practical guidance for using Cireson apps in reporting, security and interaction with System Center components.

Management Admin II Chris McKee introduced a new staff member to SCSM via Cireson Learning modules–now he’s a very proficient user. Chris still uses the modules himself for gut checks.

“The training is amazing. I honestly recommend Cireson Learning to anybody, even if they’re an experienced Service Manager user, because it’s a great refresher and reference guide,” he said. “I use it to remember specifics, often when I’m working on something. I appreciate being able to quickly double check.”

Speaking of ways to improve knowledge and efficiency…

Side note and pro tip: user snippets in VS code is a gamechanger if you are doing a lot of custom JavaScript work. They act as a short cut to supply code for repetitive references, like registering work item tasks. It’s just one way to practice efficiency.

Have you created any short cuts, or is there one you’d like to see? Let’s talk about it.

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!

Best Practices for Working with Microsoft System Center Service Manager

IT administrators can do a lot with Microsoft System Center Service Manager (SCSM) to improve its functionality out-of-the box. You can get a head start by following these best practices that help maximize your investment and increase productivity.

Infrastructure and Planning Your Production Environment

Let’s start at the beginning: planning your production environment. There are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Two SCSM management servers are ideal, even in small environments. Only one management server (the primary) processes workflows, so it should contain most server resources, including CPU, RAM, IOPS, etc. The second management server will connect to all consoles and host a self-service portal.
  2. Beef up SQL. SCSM contains a Configuration Management Database (CMDB) among others, and it needs memory:
    1. Local storage: use fast disks in a RAID 10 configuration
    2. SAN-attached storage: get tier 1 resources
  3. Choose the correct SQL collation during configuration. Use “Latin1_General_100_CI_AS” for both active SCSM databases.

Although SCSM is scalable, you’ll want to plan for growth—and potential future investment. For example, in the absence of a web-based analyst portal, analysts will use the locally-installed console. As your team grows, consider adding more SCSM Management Servers behind a load balancer to connect consoles.

Create a Development Environment

It may be tempting to “cowboy” development in production. It’s not a good idea in general, but it can be particularly troublesome in SCSM because system recovery is complicated. And that would greatly affect IT Service Management across the board.

A development environment spares you such pain and helps you execute a broad range of ITSM lifestyle functions, including:

  • Process changes
  • Configuration changes
  • Custom CI and WI extensions
  • Custom CI and WI class
  • Workflows
  • Automation
  • Form customizations

You don’t need to mirror the production environment; you could set up:

  • A single VM (4gb memory, 2 CPU, 40gb+ hdd) running SQL and SCSM, which is below Microsoft’s minimum recommendations but just fine for developing and testing
  • A separate QA environment, so that you could progress changes from Dev to QA to Production–all using ITIL-based Change Management

Take Control of Management Packs

Management Packs store almost all configurations, including list enumerations, views, queues, etc. To prevent interdependency and unruliness, try:

  • Setting up a naming convention for management packs:
    • Organization Name – Class or Modules – Type of content
    • Example: Cireson – Incident – List
  • Creating more management packs that store specific content. This prevents dependency and allows for more granularity when migrating content from Dev -> QA -> Prod
  • Sealing custom class extension MPs created for your new environment before importing and backing up the sealed MP, unsealed MP and sealing key
  • Creating unsealed MPs ahead of time using PowerShell or the SCSM authoring tool. Don’t create them from the Console. The Console generates a guide to name the Management Pack file, which makes it practically impossible to keep them organized when exporting
  • Don’t put anything in the built-in, out-of-the-box unsealed MPs

 Security Isn’t Simple, But There Are Ways to Simplify It

Configuring security roles for analysts and end users can get complicated. Especially when you consider that security is based on most-user privilege: if an analyst is a member of more than one security role, they will have the combination of all rights (as opposed to least-user privilege where they would only have the minimum of the combined).

The application of “security scopes” (queues and groups) to “work items “(WIs) and “configuration items” (CIs) requires SCSM workflow, which adds to the workflow server workload. With this in mind, here are some tips when planning SCSM security:

  • Maintain a small number of roles: create analyst user roles based on “advanced operator” (instead of incident resolved, service request analyst, etc.)
  • Only use queues to scope “work items” if there is a specific reason to use them: applying queues requires a workflow. The more you have, the longer it could take for a security measure to apply to the work item. It may make sense, however, when dealing with sensitive information WIs (like in HR)
  • Keep CIs and “catalog items” simple as well

Test Process with New Connectors Before Deleting Anything

All objects imported by a connector (AD, SCCM, etc.) will be deleted if the connector is deleted. So, if you are replacing a connector with an updated version, create the new connector and run the import before deleting the old connector (the same resource records will merge). This way you won’t lose anything.

When planning connectors:

  • Use LDAP filters when creating AD connectors and bringing in a type of machine to computers
  • Target users and groups directly if they are in specific OUs. This is preferable to hitting the root of the domain (it’s fine if you need multiple connectors). You’ll be able to cut down on unnecessary user and group objects in the CMDB, like mailbox and service accounts
  • Only bring in Windows computer objects from a clean source, like configuration manager or operations manager–not AD. Configuration manager brings in more and higher-quality data. We don’t recommend bringing in computers from active directory unless you have a specific set of machines not included in configuration manager (such as MacOS machines, or mobile devices)

 Enumeration Lists: Routing and Reporting

Enumeration lists enable efficient routing of “work items” and accurate reporting of WIs and CIs. When planning your lists, remember to:

  • Think strategically about creating enum values before shelling them out:
    • Shoot for 5-8 values per level on enum lists: analysts are more likely to select incorrect values if you include more than this amount
    • Plan for all top-level entries to be by department if SCSM might expand beyond IT. Even if such a change won’t occur for a time, it is very difficult to expand enumeration lists to other departments after established. It is far easier to act proactively
    • Avoid similarly named or overlapping values. Example: “phone” vs. “mobile phone.” If someone is logging a record for an iPhone and they see ‘Phone’ first, they might unintentionally select it. It would be better to use “desk phone” and “mobile phone,” or just a single value, “phone”)
  • Remove all OOB unsealed enumeration values, including incident tier queue tier 1. Next, add your own enumeration values to custom management packs in an organized manner. For example, one unsealed MP per class or per module

 Custom Work Item and Configuration Item Views

You’ll likely engage with “work item” and “configuration item” views a lot in the SCSM Console. Admins spend a lot of time creating custom “work item” views for analyst groups, so you’ll want to:

  • Use the smallest available type projection (the joining of multiple classes via relationships) to drastically decrease load times. Don’t be afraid to create a custom type projection
  • Plan your view structure with expansion beyond IT in mind and create root view folders based on department

 Don’t Make Reporting an Afterthought, SCSM Data Can Fuel Great Reports

It’s easy to get caught up in work and neglect reporting needs. But SCSM contains a gold mine of data that can be used to create meaningful reports. Here’s an idea to help you prepare: when setting up enumeration lists pay attention to classification (incident) and area (SR, CR, MA, etc.). These fields are key for trend analysis reporting.

We just launched a new analytics and archiving tool that is a dramatic improvement over SCSM’s data warehouse. You can hear more about it in Cireson’s Q1 webinar.

Maintain Efficiency using Notifications

The faster you know about a request or issue, the quicker you can resolve the issue, fulfill the request or plan when to address it. When setting up notifications, remember to:

  • Test notification subscriptions in the Dev environment first. If you don’t have one, set the notification channel to localhost during setup and use a local SMTP server when creating / testing notifications in production (to avoid spamming a userbase)
  • Be careful about the number of notifications you create, because each notification subscription comprises a workflow (and you only have one server to process them)
  • Use AD distribution groups in subscriptions rather than individual users. They are easier to maintain

Notification activity is another feature just launched in the console app, which greatly simplifies notification use and execution. Find out more!

Simplify Processes and Increase Sophistication with Workflows and Automation

Workflows and automation create efficiency, and they can really help you refocus on more complex work. You can automate in the SCSM Console by partnering SCSM with System Center Orchestrator (SCO). SCO is a highly recommended automation engine that integrates with all System Center solutions, including configuration manager and operations manager. Automating ITSM processes is highly recommended, but you’ll want to keep these suggestions in mind:

  • Consider ROI when deciding what processes to automate—and what doesn’t need to be automated. A process that occurs once per quarter that takes ten minutes to accomplish does not necessarily benefit from automation
  • SCSM offers a limited workflow builder in the console (or you can create workflows using the authoring tool) but consider these options for simplified workflows only. For more complex automation, use SCO. You can use runbook automation activities in your WI workflows or trigger-based monitor activities in orchestrator runbooks. Orchestrator will allow you to keep the load off the SCSM workflow server and help you maintain maximum performance
  • If you are going to begin introducing automation, a development environment (for both SCSM and SCO) is critical. You need the space to create and test automated processes to limit risk to the production environment

We hope that these tips and suggestions will help you maximize the value of SCSM in your ITSM environment. It’s a valuable cost-effective, scalable solution if you take the time to understand it and learn its capabilities. We’d love to help. Talk to us in the Cireson Community.

This blog has been updated from its original 2018 version, Tips from the Trenches: SCSM Best Practices from 5+ Years of Experience & Expertise. Need additional help with problems like this? Talk to us!