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Five Ways to Increase Operational Efficiency with Alert Management

By Christel Mes

Assessing IT Systems Management
The current state of IT systems management across the enterprise is a combination of automated and manual processes. Companies are doing their best with this arrangement, but they realize that they could be doing better. When events occur that can impact the business, many companies rely on manual procedures and mass notifications to identify and notify employees who can resolve the issues. If the appropriate employee is found but isn't on site, he or she needs the systems and tools to work effectively from a remote location. Without them, time is lost, critical events may remain unresolved, and companies risk failing to fulfill their service-level agreements, including the provision of satisfactory service back to the business. There is a way to improve IT systems management without disrupting existing processes.

Improving IT Systems Management
An alert management platform empowers companies to target actionable information from IT applications and systems automatically to the employee who can resolve the issue - escalating as necessary. Effective alert management provides the tools to access internal systems and address events from a mobile workbench as well as resolve issues from any web-enabled mobile device such as the BlackBerry or iPhone. Process acceleration and service improvements can help resolve incidents an average of 40 percent faster, saving up to millions of dollars annually.

Five Ways to Increase Operational Efficiency with Alert Management
There are five ways that implementing alert management can immediately increase operational effectiveness across the enterprise, including process and efficiency improvements in incident, service, and change management, while significantly reducing costs:

  1. The foundation of alert management is information request management, which automates the delivery and escalation of actionable information based on pre-determined roles, responsibilities, attributes, and contact information.
  2. An alert management system automatically locates and contacts the person best suited to address each incident, on the device they prefer, and escalates if necessary. Through actionable information delivery, users benefit from real-time, targeted delivery of service support information and IT services.
  3. Enabling remote action gives IT staff the same range of options and access from a smart mobile device as from an on-site console, allowing them to receive information, take action, and resolve issues from anywhere at anytime.
  4. An alert management platform consolidates and accurately targets alerts across the global enterprise by integrating with myriad proprietary and third-party service delivery and service support applications.
  5. Accountability and auditing are the final contributions of alert management. By tracking two-way communication, the system provides visibility into IT staff notifications, response times, actions, and resolution times. A clear and concise IT audit trail is a strategic advantage for any company.

One of the five largest global providers of employment and professional services reduced the cost of business-impacting events by using alert management to send role-specific, targeted alerts and automate escalation processes. This capability has eliminated dispatch time and reduced the time to respond by over 50 percent for $2.2 million in savings.

Information Request Management
Every IT system distributes notification of IT service delivery or service support data, usually as mass emails, which overwhelm IT employees with data on events that can be unrelated to their roles or assignments. Alerts that proactively warn staff of an outage or incident can help resolve problems before business is affected, but an avalanche of irrelevant notifications often buries urgent alerts.

The foundation of effective alert management is information request management, which is the process of determining what information goes to which people based on their attributes. Staff and managers use a self-service web portal where they enter specific information pertaining to their roles, responsibilities, and skills, as well as contact, scheduling, and on-call information, rather than a static management system or manual spreadsheets. Information request management allows managers and staff to provide detailed contact information, so the system knows on which type of device a user is most likely to respond on any given day, and exactly when they're available, taking into account vacation and rotation schedules.

Information request management also delivers visibility to business users by enabling them to subscribe to alerts about events that impact their areas of the business. Help desk calls can be substantially reduced by proactively sending these users information about an outage or delay that may affect them before they discover it themselves. Fewer help desk calls lower the cost of IT and allow staff to refocus on customer-related issues.

A global telecommunications provider saved over $1 million in the first year of Alert management implementation by consolidating 50 redundant notification systems, which significantly reduced costs and improved operational effectiveness. The new system automated and simplified the dispatch, assignment, and alerting process by targeting information to employees who were most capable or likely to resolve an issue. The company also reallocated technical staff, resulting in another $350,000 in additional efficiencies.

Automating the Delivery of Actionable Information
Without information request management, many companies first learn about service problems from calls to the help desk. Then service management staff relies on a spreadsheet to find the correct person to resolve the incident; they use another spreadsheet for escalations. This process is inefficient, often causing delays in the resolution process.

Based on pre-determined roles, responsibilities, skills, and contact information, an alert management system will automatically locate and contact the person best suited to address each incident on the device they prefer, and then escalate automatically if necessary.

Automated escalation depends on actionable information delivery, or the guarantee that the correct information will reach the right user. In an escalation process, after the system exhausts all of the communication options its first choice has entered into the self-service web portal, it automatically finds the next best person to resolve the issue. Automating incident assignment and real-time alert targeting eliminate staffing errors and work redundancy, increasing operational efficiency.

A large healthcare organization saved $3 million in budgeted operating expenses over five years by consolidating and targeting thousands of alerts to mobile IT staff daily. Alert management allows the organization to handle incident management issues and change requests from their mobile devices, providing two-way, real-time interaction with their enterprise management solutions. Now IT Support can give its staff access to internal systems from any web-enabled mobile device, including a mobile workbench in real-time from their BlackBerry, iPhone, or any other Smartphone.

Enabling Remote Action
Mobility is essential in today's enterprise landscape as over 70 percent of the workforce is mobile at some point. In contrast to paging and mass emails, alert management gives IT staff the same range of options and access from a mobile workbench as from an on-site console. Resolving issues from a mobile device is not the most desirable option, but it is necessary at times to prevent business impact.

An alert management platform provides mobile access from any web-enabled mobile phone to any IT monitoring, help, or knowledge-based application. Mobile technicians can accept or escalate an event, browse system health and status, modify data, and work in internal applications to resolve an issue.

Enabling remote access and resolution, in combination with automatically targeted notification, delivers significant time savings. For example, change management requests can be approved or rejected while in a meeting, issues can be resolved before business impact, and systems can be checked at any time, from any location.

A U.S.-based global online brokerage firm is realizing $1.2 million per year in budgeted savings by automating support ticket dispatch. The company has enhanced its ability to target personnel and accelerate incident resolution by enabling real-time interaction with BMC Remedy ITSM7 through a mobile gateway, and can now receive and access ticket details, instantly update ticket information, and resolve incidents from mobile devices. The company also is seeing a 20 percent efficiency gain from 26 full-time employees, for close to $500,000 per year in savings.

Integrating with Service Delivery and Support
Many IT organizations have attempted to solve service delivery and support communication problems by developing in-house software, which can result in incompatible and unconnected notification systems. When several notification systems for different service applications are working at once, duplicate alerts are often sent to several people or groups at the same time and result in personnel working in parallel, wasting resources and delaying resolutions. In addition, maintaining and upgrading these proprietary notification systems can be difficult and expensive as they do not easily integrate with new technologies or scale as an organization grows.

An effective alert management platform integrates with service delivery and service support applications in a complex IT environment to consolidate and target alerts, enabling the most efficient communication between applications and their operators. Companies can use an alert management platform to consolidate their notification systems, which is critical in a global enterprise.

A large grocery chain had to manually call each of its stores to alert them when a food or drug recall occurred - and over 100 took place from January to March 2009 alone. Automating this process by implementing an alert management platform accelerated resolution by over 70 percent, saving the company an estimated $8 million. The additional accountability provided was also critical, as there is now an audit trail of all of the actions the grocer and its employees take to protect their customers. This documentation significantly lowers the company's legal risk and exposure.

Accountability and Auditing
In traditional notification and event assignment methods, it is difficult to know how many calls are made or to whom an event is assigned, how many employees reply when assigned an event, or when someone has taken ownership of an event, how long he or she has worked on it, or the results. The lack of an audit trail makes it difficult to track individual or group performance or the efficiency of event resolution in general. The ability to identify where and when a breakdown in communication occurs could help to avoid those disruptions in the future.

Alert management simplifies the auditing and analysis process. Two-way communication with personnel is tracked, so when a user owns an event - or chooses to ignore or escalate - the data is recorded. Auditing the lifecycle of an event through resolution is essential. This view into the IT organization is an objective way to evaluate and optimize performance, as well as improve productivity and operational efficiency.

Transforming IT
Effective alert management can transform an IT organization to respond to and resolve incidents faster, handle global problems from anywhere in the world, and be an agile and important asset to the business. Alert management has the ability to fill a critical gap in how organizations pass information and communicate with their customers.


About the Author
Since joining AlarmPoint in 2007, Christel Mes has focused on corporate marketing functions, strategically positioning AlarmPoint's brand, products, employees, and customers as market and thought leaders. Mes plays a key role in building demand generation strategy; alliance, channel, and customer relationships; corporate vision and execution as well as public relations. Prior to AlarmPoint, Mes worked with technology startups in Silicon Valley with her focus ranging from product marketing, business development, and sales support to lead generation, social media, and strategy planning. For more information, go to the AlarmPoint blog, Take 2 with Troy or email cmes@alarmpoint.com.


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