For many years IT Service Management (ITSM) has been seen as a non-productive cost that is a necessary business evil. According to Noel Bruton, a UK-based, independent consultant, there can be as much as one support staff for every 83 users in small-medium enterprises, rising to a (still substantial) one for every 183 users in larger companies.

And then there’s the time taken to resolve a call. According to Bruton, about 60 percent of all incoming calls are fixed during the initial telephone call – on average, around four minutes long – but if the call goes to second line support, that averages 37 minutes of actual human effort per call. Depending on call quantities, salary and service level, this means the costs of a single support call can be anything from £2 to £20. And these are relatively conservative estimates. Multiply this by several thousand calls a month or year – depending on the company size – and the costs look frightening.

It is clear, then, that anything an ITSM application can do to streamline the helpdesk process and increase the efficiency of each support staff member, will be measurable via the bottom line. Yet, despite this obvious point, the helpdesk or ITSM application world has been largely static over the past 10 or even 20 years. However, this changed with the introduction of Sunrise’s Sostenuto ITSM product 18 months ago, in that it announced the arrival of a new breed of helpdesk product, being a pure, browser-based application that was both quick to learn and easy to use, and naturally streamlined the service desk operations by its approach to helpdesk tasks.

Revised in v2.0, Sunrise is more web-services based to improve elements such as integrated e-mail it even supports mobile workers, thanks to its support for PDAs. This, in turn, creates a far more flexible range of deployment options, as well as a single interface for all users and no overhead on the user’s PC. This flexibility is an important element in that, to date, helpdesk systems have been very rigid in format, so it was very much a case of the business applying itself to the software, rather than the other way around.

Architecturally, Sostenuto ITSM is based on an n-tier architecture using the Java/CORBA Object Web model. The argument is that an n-tier architecture lends itself well to moving the complexity of the system to the middle tiers and has several advantages over traditional two-tier, client-server architectures, such as scalability and easier maintenance.

The architecture – essentially a framework – lends itself well to what Sunrise has done with Sostenuto ITSM v2.0, which is to allow the user to configure the software to fit their business. What this flexibility means is that users are able to go beyond traditional helpdesk routines and integrate their ITSM firmly within their business. This, in turn, helps to make ITSM a productivity tool for the business, rather than an unnecessary evil – a business expense.

The product is based around a secure A-Z lifecycle for any task or service request, with a series of operations impacting upon that service request/task which may or may not change the state (key milestones throughout the lifecycle) at any point during that lifecycle. Underlying business rules control what actually happens at each point along the way, the workflow dictating just what the user actually sees and does (managing their input and what screens they see and use) while the underlying elements remain largely transparent to them. In other words, it might be complicated below the surface, but above – from the users’ perspective – it’s all about simply driving a browser-based interface. For example, screen navigation is controlled via the actual workflows within the company, creating rules that can react to events and programmed schedules and lifecycles that model the Services within an organisation.

An integrated business rules engine enables Sostenuto to react to events and programme schedules so that field updates, operations and notifications can be performed automatically when a rule is triggered.

Importantly, the browser-based architecture is secure in use, in that SSL encryption is used for all transactions and data transmission across the network. Security levels can be set at a global, group or account level and amended as often as required, so you can determine exactly what information individuals can view and control the operations they perform.

OUR VERDICT

Sostenuto ITSM v2.0 meets all the classic requirements of any enterprise software: it's robust, scalable and secure, based around a low-maintenance "thin client" architecture but, at the same time, it also reinvents the helpdesk/ITSM application model and not before time too.