Customer Service & Support Articles

ManageEngine ServiceDesk – Independent Analyst Review by Eval Source

by Keean Persaud
Published on 29 March 2012

Review Methodology

This review constitutes an analysis based on a product demonstration and software review by qualified system software experts at Eval-Source. The demonstration Eval-Source received from the vendor was based on its own custom vendor script, designed to validate and/or disprove vendors' claims. The script was specifically prepared to identify functionalities and form an impartial analysis and software review for Help Desk Software with Asset Management.

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Business Problems Addressed

The rise of help desk or incident reporting for managed service providers, helpdesk for IT and helpdesk for customer service has caused smaller organizations the necessity to track and trace all incidents and customer interactions for customer support to compete with larger firms. These solutions were not readily available and have become mainstream. These solutions were not easy to implement nor was it economical for smaller corporations to incur.

The support and customer service software market has rapidly changed and many new vendors are entering the space which has caused competition and has reduced the pricing and availability of these solutions. The consumers in this space have benefitted from SaaS delivery models causing an easier entry for smaller organizations.

Smaller organizations often have the same problems of larger organizations but on a smaller scale. These software solutions solve the problems of helpdesk, customer service and IT service management incident reporting and combines many requirements for organizations to track their incidents and events. Services such as IT delivery are very difficult to track and quantify so even smaller organizations can leverage and monitor IT services and customer event tracking. These solutions now provide additional functionalities that combine multiple areas of service delivery that will benefit organizations to capture these metrics to provide optimum support.

The capture and visibility offered by these solutions can quantify hard to measure metrics which provides organizations with quantifiable data and controls internal and external compliances of customer service policies, service level agreements and IT service delivery capabilities that organizations may not have been aware of. These new metrics and tight integrated controls will allow organizations to plan accordingly and expropriate the proper IT budget allocations and capacity planning.

Controlling spending and providing the information to plan accordingly for resources, for network hardware and software capacity spending and tracking customer service response are major areas where ServiceDesk Plus will benefit organizations.

Target Market

The helpdesk/IT and customer support markets is quite large with a few traditionally large software vendors. Very large enterprises were often the only ones that have adopted this type of software due to the cost and resources to implement and license. ManageEngine has brought this technology to the SMB market and consequently, targets all sizes of companies.

The varied sizes and applications of each company have dictated a diverse compilation of verticals that ManageEngine Help/Service Desk has amassed. The correct edition of Help/Service Desk Plus (HSP) is dictated by edition and not functional areas within the software thereby allowing optimal usability within the edition.

ManageEngine HelpDesk has brought this functionality to small businesses. The ITIL basis and best practices can now be adopted by smaller organizations without much of the overhead that is normally associated with this type of support software. Certain verticals that the Customer Service and HelpDesk software verticals targeted are Automobile, Aviation, Energy, Power, Entertainment, Media, Publishing, Government/NGO, IT Services and Solutions/Consulting, Legal/Judiciary, Manufacturing/Engineering, Telecom, Banking/Finance, Educational Institutions, Military Defense, Web hosting/ISP/IP, Healthcare/Pharmaceutical and others.

The ME HelpDesk and IT Service software has rapidly amassed 38, 000 customers in a short time with competitors such as Numara Footprints, Service Now, BMC Remedy, Sys Aid, CA and Landesk. The Customer Service and HelpDesk software is offered as both a SaaS and on-premise solution and is available for Windows and Linux operating systems. It is supported in over 180 countries and is sold directly or through resellers.

Pricing Model

There are three editions of ServiceDesk Plus: Standard, Professional and Enterprise and is available as a SaaS option or as an on-premise solution.

Editor's Note** : On March 5, 2014, ManageEngine changed its pricing plan, offering for free the Standard edition of ServiceDesk Plus. More info:** http://www.getapp.com/blog/zoho-offers-servicedesk-for-free/.

Figure 1 describes the base services and the edition options offered by HSP.

Below, illustrates the pricing structures for both the on-premise and SaaS versions of HSP.

Figure 2 Pricing On-Premise and SaaS

Solution Analysis

Functional Area

The ManageEngine HelpDesk/ServiceDesk solution combines ITIL methodology and practices for IT service delivery and service desk functionality to offer a solution that serves multiple support channel requirements. The ITIL methodologies ensure industry best practices and the services desk capabilities ensure automation of standard help desk, customer service and ticketing tasks.

The three functional areas of the HelpDesk and ServiceDesk are ITIL capabilities, Helpdesk and Asset management. The solution analysis will cover these three areas and functionality in each area. The three editions of the HSP are Standard, Professional and Enterprise.

The differentiation for the different editions is as follows:

  • Standard Edition includes helpdesk functionality
  • Professional Edition includes standard + asset management
  • Enterprise Edition includes Professional + ITIL

Highlighted below in figure 3 are the functional areas and features within each category of the solution.

Figure 3

  • Helpdesk Management - The Standard Edition of Helpdesk HSP is equipped with the standard helpdesk functionality and due to features such as SLA, user survey, mobile help and the self-service portal has created differentiation within the support space. Often helpdesk software for SMB does not offer this level of functionality and granularity within it. Since this is HSP entry level solution it has allowed smaller businesses to adopt the software and cater it to multiple uses that were not originally thought of.

The helpdesk functionalities and features of the HelpDesk category of the solution has many individual processes, tasks, workflows and tool capacities that are useful for organizations to automate, track and optimize common helpdesk features. Ticket dispatching allows organizations to reduce customer queuing times by two methods namely round robin based on load balancing by workloads and skill categorization. Tickets are distributed to the correct rep based on complexity and technicians can be assigned by skill level of the technician. This is often used for organizations that do tech support and different problems require technicians with different security, access and complexity.

As similar to MS Office business rules can be created for incidents to be assigned. These criteria can be set up by alerts, cascades and exceptions. Notifications can be sent to technicians based on urgency, cascading rules based on workflows can have levels of complexities and decision trees to assign incidents or apply the rules to incoming requests so that conditions and exceptions can be handled automatically by the software thus reducing user interaction.

Another way that HelpDesk simplifies operations is the software can use emails to create tickets. The application parses the email so that tickets can be created based on keywords and automatically assigns tickets to ease help desk administration duties. To further aid administration woes a knowledge base can be created and accessed through the web interface through a self-service portal. Customers can access best practices and common issues to solve problems before a ticket is created. This may act as a content repository for the organization to post manuals, PDF's and other downloadable information that can be handled by through the self-serve portal. Items may be classified into categories, keywords or specific model numbers, operating systems etc.

Organizations can archive older solutions and incidents which are readily available through the application. Universal search can be used as an archive call to access information readily.

In order for organizations to increase customer service effectiveness companies need to quantify measurements and establish meaningful KPI's so that they may improve. Tools such as user surveys which can be used to validate and audit current practices to improve consumer satisfaction. Monitoring through help desks reports and notifications can easily identify the organization's compliance to service level agreements for both internal and external customers is an additional tool that organizations can use to constitute levels of service by vendor or customer.

Larger organizations can easily configure the software for multi-site usage. Organizations may have different operational hours, staff and procedures all from different locations. The software can treat each entity separately and administered the correct technician for each incident by geography, complexity, rules and or exceptions all from a single source. Technicians can handle service requests from their mobile devices either through iPhone or Android and access all the functionalities as the web-based version.

  • Asset Management - Usually for medium sized businesses, asset management was part of a larger suite that used to be included within a large enterprise solution. The Standard edition of HSP has brought asset management to the medium and smaller market without a significant investment and without the cumbersome implementation of larger enterprise software where asset management is included.

The asset management module of HelpDesk enables organizations to track all of their IT assets. The old way of building the assets within an organization of inputting each asset manually has been simplified by HSP. There are two ways that HelpDesk use to discover devices and assets on the network. The discovery and adding of assets can be initiated through a network scan or a Windows domain scan. ServiceDesk Plus has a networking scanning option that allows you to scan any workstation (Linux, MAC, Solaris etc.) or IP devices (ex. printer, router etc.). New devices that are added onto the network can be rescanned and automatically updated through the software. If the asset such as a new computer is added the additional accessories can be scanned to include the new devices. Remote offices can be included in the asset discovery so multiple locations can be included and easily managed. Automatic scanning can be set up which can easily updated without user intervention and automatically updates the digital assets. Multisite remote control is included within the asset management module. Remote control can be assumed by the controlling agent and fix the asset. Adoption of these two methods for asset management creation significantly reduces the time for companies to get up and running on their asset management functionality.

For software in this range of market the remote desktop control adds another perspective to this solution. This functionality also lends itself to software asset management. The asset management feature allows organizations to not only track all digital software licences but can also organize and prioritize software licences throughout the organization. By drilling into specific software within the network administrators can manage usage of software licences, keep track of licence expiry dates, what is being used - for efficiency purposes and the like. Cascading rules can be applied to software licences and flash graphs can be used to compare digital assets. The same type of criteria and business rules apply to the contract management feature where the software can manage all the service level agreements within the organization. This includes quality of service (QoS), uptime capabilities, delivery capabilities and other contract stipulations that need to be monitored from a contract perspective. As functionality in this space continues to expand HelpDesk/ServiceDesk plus offers purchase order management. By including PO management into the ServiceDesk application allows organizations to manage their procurement assets for digital and licenses in a central place.

- ITIL Ready - Smaller organizations that lack structure and resources may capitalize on the ITIL functionality that is included within HSP. Organizations that are looking for governance and compliance this solution has built in ITIL functionalities that are inherent in the workflow rules and include best practices. For smaller organizations the ITIL component of the solution provides structure, procedural adherence, governance and compliance to unstructured organizations. For larger organizations where possible complications may occur from minute changes the change management module caters for the organization to manage and have auditing capabilities should a rollback be required or mistakes can easily be identified and corrected.

The change management component contains workflows that allow customers to initiate change requests, can be used as a change management implementation tool and approvals can instantly be responded to by the change advisory board due to the alert mechanisms, once configured. The change management module encompasses a feature that is not often included into this type of software without additional options - this feature is change Planning and Impact Analysis by severity and complexities. Organizations can use this tool to measure the impact of a change on their network, create rollout plans and back out plans. Change plans include four levels of prioritization options which are standard, minor, major and significant. Another use for the change manager is post-implementation reviews. This can capture glitches, track changes, track KPI effectiveness and monitor change history. This is also used as a tool to evaluate the post-mortems on projects and changes. Organizations can prioritize the impact and significance by running what if scenarios with these tools. By having the impact information available companies can schedule when a change can occur with the least customer disruption.

For solutions of this size, workflows are an intricate part of the solution for effectiveness and also contribute an important part of organizational procedure to smaller companies. These workflows, used within the software for incident management and problem management, ensure that aspect of problems are addressed. This ensures there are no loose ends and encourages accountability to raise customer service levels. The incident and problem management have several aspects that the workflow defines of which includes problem detection, problem logging, categorization, prioritization, investigation and diagnosis, solution and closure. With such detailed steps throughout a procedure managers can identify bottlenecks, escalate incidents, approve permissions and monitor the overall effectiveness of the incident's solution from start to finish. Larger companies that deal with more incidents can define rules to automatically balance workloads; severity, prioritization and expertise are aspects that can be automated through the rule management for both incidents and problem resolutions.

Organizations can create a service catalog to simplify operations and tasks. IT or customer service departments can create a menu of services that are available of common problems whether it is to request a change, adding a new device to the network such as a laptop and other common tasks that customer service or IT would be involved in. The benefits of this feature reduce time of the overall incident, improve customer experience and can create an understanding of service trends requested. Companies can organize requests by defining what groups see what services are available and provides one source for consistent service delivery.

Technical Analysis

Quick Glance Specifications

| Web browser optimization | Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Firefox | | OS required | Windows, Linux | | DB Required | Multiple databases MySQL 4.1.18, MSSQL 2000, 2005, 2008 | | API's provided | REST API and servlet | | Security practice included | Business continuity, Redundancy |

ServiceDesk Plus can integrate with many different enterprise systems , namely desktop management software, active directory monitoring, network management and network monitoring tools. Due to the dual capabilities of having the solution hosted on premise or through a SaaS model the cloud model is a fully multi-tenanted solution. The average customer implementation typically ranges from five to seven days depending on size of the installation. Most customers of ServiceDesk Plus fall into this category based on previous customers. To speed implementation times ServiceDesk Plus uses their own internal tools to migrate data and setup configurations. Most of this is aided by the import of files through network discovery, asset discovery, agent scanning and like which are built-in to the application. ServiceDesk plus allows you to import users and their information from Active directory and LDAP with a simple easy to use interface. It also includes authentication and single sign-on for users without making any changes to schema of AD or LDAP. Additionally, HSP can integrate to other ManageEngine products that seamlessly integrate such as OpManager and the like thereby creating a master IT network and infrastructure management platform all from one vendor.

ServiceDesk Plus has many options for the user to configure the ideal settings specifically for their environments. This may include changing the databases, agent configuration, asset discovery, change management activities and customizing views for individual users. ServiceDesk Plus uses the sysOID to uniquely identify the routers, switches, printers and access point in the network. Most of the popular device sysOID are already included in ServiceDesk Plus database and when an unknown sysOID device is not recognized it appears as OID's with unknown type. You can configure the product type and the product, so that the machines when rescanned will be categorized under these products. Assets can both devices and digital can imported via CSV files. Data created within the system is created in XML and data files which can also be exported. Integration with texts (SMS) services and email are available and can be easily converted to automatic requests through the parser which is included within the application.

Concluding Remarks

ServiceDesk Plus offers a multitude of features and function s for this type of application. Typically this type of software was not available to smaller and medium sized organizations however; the SaaS model and pricing has revolutionized this space. ServiceDesk Plus is a deep ITIL, service/help desk, ticket management and change management tool. It is very scalable ranging from small installations to enterprise versions while the pricing offers a good bang for the buck. The various versions of the software include Standard, Professional and Enterprise with corresponding functionality for levels of service. Due to the SaaS model delivery ServiceDesk Plus can be implemented very quickly usually within a week depending on company size (based on past customer performance and installations) and can be both installed as on-premise or SaaS solution.

Within the help/service, IT and customer service space it is not a common feature for customization as most of these systems have the required functionality. The ManageEngine HSP provides the capabilities to configure workflows, approvals, alerts which strengthens its position within the space. When combing with the other components from the ManageEngine suite forms a complete infrastructure IT platform to manage your business and from one vendor, without the cost and headache of implementing the enterprise version of each software such as ITIL with change management, Service/Helpdesk and Asset Management. The edition approach solves this problem and selecting the correct edition your organization can have the functionalities that are required. Since HSP is available as SaaS no software installation is required which decreases project length, time and save money to gain the functionality without implementation pains.

With some of the functionalities such as integrate to existing telephony infrastructure organizations will not have to reconfigure or scrap and replace existing equipment.

Virtualization services are available from the vendors as an out of the box integration and delivery within the discovery environments. Free sandbox and thirty day trials are available for organization to assess if ServiceDesk plus is the correct customer service, helpdesk, ITIL and change management solution. By combining all three of these essential functions into one solution an organization would be well served to capitalize on the complete and deep functionality which will greatly simplify administration and increase productivity especially for smaller organizations. A very customizable application from both the vendor side and the customer side offer a nice combination for organizations to customize the look and feel of the solution to cater to specific organizational goals.

A quick rundown of features included in the application are:

  • Convert emails and texts to instant Helpdesk and Service tickets requests
  • Can merge like incidents and Parent/child requests to single ticket
  • Can customize views
  • Automatic ticket closures
  • Define and regulate compliance
  • Integrate with existing telephony options
  • Integration with iPhone and PDA's
  • Scheduled imports from Active directory
  • No client software required
  • Scalable from small to enterprise users and organizations
  • Enterprise search is available throughout especially in FAQ and Knowledgebase

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