Tech Spotlight: Using Your ITSM System for Facility Management

May 6, 2021
Tech Spotlight: Using Your ITSM System for Facility Management Effective IT Asset Management During COVID-19 | Essentials for Productivity, Security, and Resilience

Facility management encompasses a wide range of services that ensure the functionality, comfort, safety, and efficiency of your work environment. In general, facility management enables a productive workplace by bringing disparate systems together. While an IT service desk agent ensures the operability of an employee’s desktop technology, for example, a facility manager handles all the other components needed to support those systems. A Network Operations Center (NOC) monitors the servers and routers in a data center, as another example, while a facility manager ensures the server room has adequate ventilation, temperature controls, and air handling.

Large companies maintain secure server rooms, data centers, and complex infrastructures. IT assets take on many different forms including servers, routers, switches, load-balancers, firewalls, and an increasingly wide variety of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. While these assets support the daily needs of your employees, your facility management team supports the needs of these assets themselves. The sheer amount of cabling and racked hardware puts a tremendous responsibility in the hands of your facility management team, in addition to many other tasks that cross beyond the boundaries of IT:

  • As futuristic as it sounds, facility teams have been using the Internet of Things (IoT) technology for years. In fact, if your building has any equipment sensors that detect security breaches, fires, and water leaks that connect to a software notification system, you are already using IoT.
  • Connected device usage is growing, especially in the energy sector. Florida Power & Light (FP&L) Company, for example, uses thousands of networked devices to service its rapidly growing customer base.
  • Remote monitoring and control systems enable facilities teams to manage buildings with minimal physical contact, which is a great option during the COVID-19 era.
  • Predicting what capital improvements need to happen now and which ones can be deferred is crucial during these financially stressful times. Facility teams need to know what maintenance tasks are coming due, and how to make a convincing case to the CFO or budget holders.
  • Digital security is a foundation of modern business operations, and that includes the points of physical entry. Coordinating access control, alerting, and monitoring systems is another responsibility of your facility manager.

IT personnel get digital networks and systems up and running, but it is the job of the facility manager to provide the framework. IT managers do not decide where to set up a server room or how many printers should be installed on the fifth floor. The facility team creates the facility infrastructure diagram that your IT team follows to set up and maintain assets. From there, it is a collaborative effort that allows the digital and physical workplace to operate in harmony.

In this month’s Tech Spotlight, we discuss the four pillars of the “well-architected framework” that was used to develop Serviceaide’s ChangeGear IT Service Management (ITSM) platform: user-friendly, intelligent, flexible, and automated. When an ITSM system is designed with these four elements in mind, it makes it straightforward to extend these services to other departments—such as Facilities—within your organization.

USER-FRIENDLY — Allow employees and/or customers to easily submit service requests

User-friendly products are typically more successful than those with complex, convoluted interfaces that are difficult to use. The goal of a user-friendly product is to provide a good user experience (or “UX”). This may look different depending on the group for whom the product is designed. For example, your Service Management system will have a much different interface than a user-friendly children’s game. However, the rules of UX design apply to both types of software. Even if a program has many advanced features, it is still possible to make it user-friendly by designing a simple, clean, and intuitive interface.

The best Service Management applications make it quick and easy to manage operational services, assets, buildings, and the equipment required to control them. Expanding your investment in ChangeGear makes it easier to track and resolve issues across multiple assets. As a matter of fact, you can do it as easy as 1-2-3 by (1) Creating a Facilities ticket, (2) Publishing the Facilities Ticket, and (3) Watching for the first ticket to be submitted. This means making it simpler to manage a wide range of devices and services connected to your company’s infrastructure. Additionally, your Service Management software cannot be focused on technology alone but must also cater to the needs of the people who use that technology. This means there needs to be proper training, tracking, logging, and reporting. But, by leveraging your existing investment, this is all less time-consuming and equally less expensive than managing multiple platforms.

Different software packages range widely in their scope and ease of customization. If your company has specific needs, you may want to opt for software that is designed exclusively for Facilities Management. But in most cases, ChangeGear allows you to configure a full-service Facilities Management solution with out-of-the-box capabilities and avoid the high cost of a second system or the added costs most other Service Management solutions require for customization to deliver the same capabilities.

INTELLIGENT — Consolidate similar incidents into one “parent” incident

An intelligent ITSM solution automatically groups similar incidents together in the form of “parents and children.” When multiple people submit similar requests or reports similar issues, these requests can be linked together to form relationships. The first ticket is usually considered the “parent,” while all following requests are called “children”. These child requests are independent requests and can come from different departments, teams, or outside of your organization. The beauty of an intelligent Service Management solution is that these related requests can all be managed as a group with bulk updates, notifications, and resolutions. This means that you solve for one and you solve for all.

For a Facilities team, this could mean that multiple tickets are submitted regarding a light being out in the parking lot or a broken window being noticed in one of the buildings. The Intelligent Service Management systems can identify these similarities and link the tickets together, simplifying the process of assessing the impact and resolving the issue. Suppose, for example, a network outage results in multiple similar incidents being reported from different users. An intelligent solution, like ChangeGear IT Service Manager, can automatically link these together as “parent and children”. In this way, the activities that occur to the parent incident are automatically recorded under all the child incidents and the related service desk interactions (if there are any). Child requests are linked to their so-called parent requests in such a way that guarantees the parent request cannot be closed before all the child requests have been closed. An intelligent system also knows to automatically close all child incidents when their parent incident is closed. So once the light is replaced, the Facilities manager only has to update the parent and everyone else is updated automatically.

FLEXIBLE — Readily adapt to changes in both environment and usability requirements

An important capability for businesses to thrive and grow—and even survive—is their ability to react and adapt to change. This includes addressing customer and employee needs, expanding into new markets, and utilizing the latest and greatest technologies. A flexible (scalable) software architecture is essential for your business to grow because it can adapt to changes in both environment and usability without requiring any code changes. It is also free of rigid structures that might otherwise obstruct its functional evolution and growth.

All computer programs have some level of structure and composition, which together defines the architecture of a software application. Composition describes the modules within a program, while the structure dictates how these modules communicate and interact with each other. The structure may be engineered from the beginning or grown organically over time. A systematic and engineered approach, like the one used in ChangeGear IT Service Manager, promotes a more flexible architecture that allows your ITSM system to scale and extend into other departments as your business grows.

A flexible architecture is a key enabler for continuous deployment beyond your IT organization. Being able to upgrade or customize only the necessary parts of your ITSM system simplifies and optimizes your deployment approach. For example, you may decide to customize the form fields and labels for your Human Resources department first—because that department is used by everyone in your entire organization, and they can assist with training employees on how to use a self-service portal to submit requests and find information. Once HR is successfully deployed, you might move onto to Facilities and other departments. The best solutions mitigate risks related to deployment by implementing a flexible core architecture that allows seamless extensions and upgrades.

AUTOMATED — Complete service requests and close incidents without unnecessary human interaction

ITSM automation is one way that organizations can streamline processes to reduce the cost of technical and business services while improving organizational productivity by eliminating redundancy and mundane tasks. By automating ITSM functions, organizations can improve the quality of service and customer experience through proper prioritization and governance.

One of the most frequently automated ITSM functions is service requests. Automation helps properly categorize requests, solicit approvals, escalate late approvals, and even complete requests automatically. Suppose, for example, a monitoring tool identifies a fire door that is left unsecured. If you are using a platform like ChangeGear, this event would automatically trigger a service request to be opened, send a notification to the on-call facilities team member, and log the event (and the steps taken to resolve it) for compliance purposes. Should you expand your Service Management even further, you could integrate with other solutions and add even more value to the organization. Imagine a server room’s HVAC unit fails on Saturday in the middle of the hottest day of the year. Instead of waiting for the servers to start overheating and damaging valuable hardware, Facilities could get alerted by a solution like Tripwire that is monitoring the HVAC system’s performance. Tripwire triggers an alert that activates an automated ticket creation and emergency workflow to initiate emails and text messages to the Facilities team, IT department, and potentially the contracted vendor supporting the system. All of this is done without any delays waiting for people to read, decide, and act.

Like the IT department, the Facilities team is also required to know, manage, track, and report on regular and recurring demands on their time and resources. If it makes sense for IT to leverage Service Management solutions to make them more efficient, it makes just as much sense for Facilities teams to reap the same benefits from the same solutions.

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