The New ScanStar is Here!

ScanStar Android

By Dick Stark

Last week we visited a local DOD customer where we were wrapping up a FootPrints/Client Management implementation. The customer asked about ScanStar and before we left asked for a quote. We didn’t even have to sell! Here’s why:

  • They knew that every new asset comes with a barcode and wanted a better way to receive assets. Saving time and improving accuracy is an important benefit. (Statistically, a typical typist will make one mistake in 300 keystrokes. The chance of a scanner mis-reading a bar code symbol is somewhere between one in a million and one in four trillion. The increased efficiency that barcode scanning allows is the reason why ScanStar has such a high ROI.)
  • The customer also needed a better way to reconcile what he thought they had with what he actually had. And they have lots of non-discoverable assets. (Currently they use their own proprietary system to track assets.)
  • The customer also wanted a way to inventory assets by location and track movement.

Enter ScanStar: an excellent fit to their needs. RightStar has years of barcode scanning experience starting in 2005 with MagicWand. ScanStar began shipping in 2011, replacing MagicWand and supporting FootPrints, Remedyforce, and Remedy.

Now, thanks to the hard work of our development team, new ScanStar for Androids and iPhones is available. No need for a purpose build scanner, although there are several Android based purpose-built scanners which do work well in a more industrial environment. New ScanStar is wifi based meaning that the scans and updates are all performed in real-time. New ScanStar supports Remedy, Remedyforce, FootPrints AND Jira and Insight. With new ScanStar there is no need for our ScanStar application to run on a server. Instead, the entire application runs on the mobile phone.

We still offer classic ScanStar, for DOD secure environments. There a purpose-built scanner without wifi or a camera can be used throughout the day to create and update items and then be returned to the office for synchronization when necessary. These scanners have a mobile operating system and can run custom scanning applications like ScanStar, which provide the benefits previously discussed.

The best news: ScanStar for Jira and InSight will soon be added to the Atlassian Marketplace where they will be exposed to more than 40,000 Jira Service Desk customers. Also all ScanStar products will be available on Google Plays and Apple’s App Store giving exposure to millions.

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FootPrints 12: Four Years Later

By Dick Stark

Footprints v12 2018

Just over four years ago RightStar hosted its first FootPrints 12 webinar with much fanfare and excitement. FootPrints 12 remains a solid BMC ITSM product offering with plenty of customer success stories. Last week I visited a brand new RightStar FootPrints retail customer, were we are off to a good start. The new account selected FootPrints after looking at many other competitors and made the decision in large part because it is a good value and very easy to use.

 It is no secret that FootPrints (FP) is #3 at BMC behind Remedyforce and Remedy, but according to BMC Sr. Product Management, FP is a profitable business unit, with no end of life plans in sight. It’s important to point out that just like BMC, RightStar’s FP business unit also continues to be profitable. RightStar provides consulting, implementation L1 Support and Remote Administration.

We are nearing completion of a medium sized FootPrints implementation for the government. The job is going so well that another group is very interested. What keeps FootPrints “in the game?”

Visuals/Views. First, v12 is not an upgrade to old FootPrints, it is a brand-new product. And it sure looks good. Overall appearance and colors are customizable by user and department. Multiple portals are now supported, e.g., IT, HR, and Facilities. The modernistic design consists of tiles, tabs, and bread crumbs. Additionally, there are plenty of attractive icons, e.g., Service Catalog IT items and non-IT requests like a hot or cold thermometer. (A blue thermometer means that you need to submit a facility request to turn up the heat—you get the idea.)

End-User Experience. What really jumps out, is that the BMC designers understand the importance of user adoption. RightStar’s experience with more than 800 deployments in 14 years is that the implementation of the toolset is the easy part. What’s difficult is getting clients to fully buy-into the changes that accompany a new process redesign and toolset roll out. Because of the emphasis on the end-user experience, the value of v12 to the client organization becomes obvious and real.

What’s impressive is that RightStar has plenty of v11 and v 12 success stories. Here are a few:

  •  A 1000 store retailer with 100 seats of FP. RightStar hosts both FPSC and BCM. FP supports both IT and customer support.
  •  A large well know fast food organization uses 100 seats of FPSC. They have lots of unique workspaces including gift card ordering, Facilities, and billing disputes.
  •  A fast-growing hospital now has more than 700 FPSC seats supporting all the IT needs of more than 20,000 employees.
  •  A utility has a large investment in ScanStar using barcode scanning for inventory and several check-in/check-out opportunities.
  •  A private label food processor with more than 450 seats has several non-IT workspaces including HR and Capital Expenditure.
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Report from BMC Exchange Chicago: Chatbots in the House

Dr Lyle Unger

By Special Contributor George Payne, RightStar Senior Consultant

The renovated Morgan Manufacturing Company was once again the site for this year’s Chicago BMC Exchange. The company manufactured tools and components used in the production of electricity. Also, to come: witnessing their ironic convergence.

Earlier this year I worked on a government project to introduce Virtual Chat (a combination of virtual agent and live chat; predecessor to Cognitive Service Management) to their customer-facing service offerings. Part of the project involved the prospect of learning Artificial Intelligence Markup Language (AIML) to assist with enabling the virtual agent to answer more of the Level 0 questions. OOTB, you can Ask Jenn: “Who is Batman?” and she’ll give you a snappy response, but if you ask, “Who is Robin?” she politely offers to do a Google Search for you. The Batman bit was AIML that ships with Virtual Chat. We learned that even a simple, high-impact subject like “password reset” was going to require extensive work and “AI” seemed like a lot of back end coding. In addition, this simulated agent was not smart enough to carry on a conversation or build a solution out of all the answers the user provided. This clearly wasn’t going to be Siri, Alexa or Watson.

When I heard that Dr. Lyle Ungar, international expert in AI and machine learning, was the keynote speaker at this year’s BMC Exchange in Chicago, I was pumped. I could see Cognitive Service Management (CSM) as a huge selling point for BMC and the Remedy Suite. Seven minutes into his presentation, the former electrical component manufacturing facility had an electrical failure. Isn’t THAT ironic! However, in just those seven minutes, several takeaways confirmed my thoughts about AI:

  1. It’s a lot of work.
  2. Pick out the top two or three high impact issues and work on those.
  3. A company should engage an expert to get them started but then finish the work themselves.

In the semi-darkness of the skylight lit room, Dr. Ungar explained that unlike limited human faculties, computers are great at memorization and can repeat memorized material flawlessly; forwards or backwards! Google trained their software to recognize house numbers and reached 95% accuracy quickly, considering human accuracy was at 98%. After several years and millions of dollars, Google achieved 98.1% accuracy—a huge accomplishment.

AI for a computer is a narrow band of ability, not what we think of as “intelligence” or IQ. With great effort, a computer can be programmed to play checkers, chess, bridge and even Go. But just because it knows how to play one game, that doesn’t mean that it can “learn” to play others by itself. Clearly, we’re safe from the science fiction that brought us Skynet and Global Thermonuclear War! The real power comes in the “Machine Learning” and “Predictive Analytics.” When the computer knows more about you than you realize, it has a much better chance of understanding inquiry and making a much more accurate answer to grab your attention. Mark Zuckerberg was not the first person to realize that!

This year’s Exchange had 5 tracks, and although initially conflicted, I chose the ITSM track. Unlike ITSM tracks I have followed in the past, this one was different. They weren’t talking about Incident Management and Change Management. They’ve shifted their focus to the three Core Components of BMC Helix: Cognitive, Cloud, and Container. There was even a live demo of a completely containerized installation of a fully baked Remedy ARSystem with ITSM Suite in just over 90 seconds.

One of the BMC fellows asked an intriguing question of Dr. Ungar that piqued my curiosity. I found out that he was Daren Goeson, the BMC Product Manager for Digital Workplace. I attended both of his lectures and got some valuable one-on-one time with him. Imagine what could happen if IBM’s Watson were to consume all the questions in your Service Request Management system and use that knowledge to carry on a more coherent conversation with your customer…that’s what Chatbot does! He said internally they refer to that as “chattifying” your service catalog and it’s all done with the Innovation Suite.

By the end of the day, my head was spinning from all the new things BMC is putting out to sustain and increase their share of the ITSM market!

 

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Jira: It’s All About Customer Value

By Dick Stark

As a DevOps consultancy and Atlassian Solution Provider, our sales mantra is “It’s all about customer value.” You see, many Atlassian customers start out with a server running Jira under a developer’s desk, Soon, someone else adds Bitbucket. Then Confluence sprouts up somewhere. Many credit card swipes later Atlassian is branching out and before you know it, Atlassian is everywhere: developers, corporate IT, product managers, and even HR.  With no one in charge, and little administration, Jira starts to slow down. Suddenly, the Jira admin, who also manages many other tools, starts hiding under the same desk as the Jira server….

This Atlassian customer scenario is typical of many real-life situations where Jira grows without good controls and processes, and becomes mission critical, until it reaches a tipping point. This is the point where RightStar jumps in. After a quick discussion we determine that the prospect needs to “slow down to speed up,” and we offer an Atlassian Assessment and Advisory to assess the current use of Atlassian tools, identify opportunities, and apply best practices. Our Atlassian assessment methodology which is carried out in four main steps:

  1. Determine the current state (As-Is) process and tools situation.
  2. Determine the desired future state (To-Be) process and tool enhancements situation.
  3. Define improvement actions to go from the As-Is to the desired To-Be situation.
  4. Create a roadmap highlighting measurable steps of execution for attaining the To-Be state.

RightStar’s assessment process begins with on-site interviews with key stakeholders and participants. Then following the interviews, RightStar compiles a draft document and a reach back session to ensure the accuracy and value of the advisory document.

Included in the document is a listing and ranking of clearly defined milestones or Minimum Value Products (MVPs) which are used as guideposts to drive or enhance the current situation. An example of a Must Have MVP is to synch the Atlassian toolset with key processes for doing business.

Advisory Service Quick Wins

The assessment also reports on Quick Wins along with longer term recommendations and a level of effort or work breakdown structure for moving forward. Examples of quick wins are shown above.

In summary, what do organizations expect from mission critical tools such as Jira? First, the tools must be integral to their business needs. Second, they must always be available, and third, good reporting and governance must prevail. RightStar’s mission is to be our customers’ expert advisor and return value back to the organization. An excellent advisory assessment delivers that value as long as the customer is able to quickly realize the results and outcomes they want to achieve.

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Back to School with BMC Chatbots

chatbot powered by watson

School may be out for the summer, but RightStar and BMC will be busy working with an existing RightStar and BMC Remedy university customer to set up a student portal, powered by BMC’s Cognitive Service Management (CSM). Both RightStar and BMC will  begin next week an implementation that the students will start using by the time they arrive in late August.

CSM encompasses predicative intelligence, virtual agents, and a digital workplace Chatbot. Built on top of the Remedy Innovation Suite and Digital Workflow, a customer can connect with either a live or virtual agent using any type of messaging such as chat or voice. The beauty of the Innovation Suite is that it allows developers or customers to incorporate cognitive services into complex custom processes and workflows. IBM’s Watson is the “brains” behind the scenes. The objective: provide a rapid and excellent response, with an impressive ROI, by removing the human interaction.

Chatbot functionality typically includes:

  • 24 x7 chatbot agent technical support through a mobile device.
  • Email account setup.
  • Reset passwords.
  • Register wireless devices.
  • Search and retrieve knowledge articles.

Additionally, RightStar and BMC will help build knowledge articles consisting of subjects such a Blackboard login and general questions; how to setup IPTV in the residential halls; first time login instructions; how to get a parking pass; and various other questions.

Benefits include:

Reduced cost. By allowing students to interact with a Chatbot on a mobile device, organizations can reduce the number of incoming calls to the technical support staff. This means that the technical support staff can refocus their time and energy to handling more complex issues. Chatbots also reduce the support cost required to answer common, relatively simple questions that may be resolved using a virtual agent

Improved first contact resolution. Given that many students call the help desk with common, and relatively simple questions, a cognitive solution allows answers to those questions for users immediately, without having to transfer the users to representatives or require students to wait on the phone for service.

I’m impressed with the enthusiasm our prospects have shown so far and am very excited about Chatbots and look forward to a successful implementation.

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Organization Agility with Jira Service Desk

Atlassian Approach to ITSM

I attended a local itSMF meet-up last week that focused not just on ITIL, but on DevOps concepts like organizational agility, collaboration, experimentation, and flexibility. DevOps is a discipline that is all about speed, faster time to market, real sense of urgency, “modernizing IT,” and doing more with less. Culture, tools, and vision now must all be managed alongside legacy ITIL processes of service design and service operation. At the center of the DevOps movement is Atlassian with its suite of software development and collaboration products, including Jira Service Desk (JSD), which was designed for agile teams from the onset.

When RightStar began as an Atlassian partner three years ago, JSD was really positioned as an ITSM tool for Jira customers already using Jira Software. Since then Atlassian has achieved Pink certification for four modules: Request Fulfillment, and Incident, Problem, and Change Management. But, since then, RightStar has received orders from new customers that purchased JSD as a new ITSM tool. These organizations realized the value that JSD brings independent of Jira Software. What makes JSD work so well when competing with the likes of ServiceNow? Plenty. Here is my list:

  • Focus on Agility. An important component of Agile is communication. JSD with its HipChat ecosystem, allows agents to “swarm” a problem to provide a quick fix.
  • StatusPage keeps customers informed 24/7 about the status of critical services they depend upon.
  • Modern use interface that lets customers submit requests, or
  • Add Confluence to get an integrated knowledge base.
  • Available in a SaaS or on-premise options.
  • Only Salesforce has more third party applications available than Atlassian’s Marketplace which has more than 700 different apps for JSD alone.
  • RightStar’s ScanStar for Jira offers barcode scanning compatible with Insight, Atlassian’s CMDB.
  • Scalability to support very large enterprises. A current government account has grown to more than 90,000 Jira users in just five years.
  • Minimal support costs. That same agency supports JSD with a team of just five consultants.
  • Good value. Atlassian advertises that a large enterprise could save enough to buy a small island by moving from ServiceNow to JSD.
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Report from BMC Exchange Federal 2018

Panel Discussion 2018 BMC Federal Exchange

BMC’s annual Federal user group conference, Exchange, was held last Wednesday at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, DC.  Attendance was up this year with approximately 590 customers, partners, and BMC employees in attendance I was part of a Digital Transformation panel discussion that included General Steve Smith (Ret.) US Army, Colonel Robert Quinker (Ret.) Army National Guard, and Kaschit Pandya, Deputy ACIO, IRS. Here is a short Exchange 2018 update.

LTG Alan Lynn, former Director, DISA opened the session with a discussion of DOD moving to the cloud. Since DISA is the current DOD cloud provider, he discussed the importance of cost reduction as DISA starts to square off against large emerging DOD cloud providers like AWS.  (If the CIA can move to the cloud, then so can the DOD). The second cloud driver is standardization. General Lynn stated that the DOD has more than 30,000 different apps, not all of which will migrate well. A cloud migration will eliminate lots of lower impact apps and consolidate many others.

Next up was Dave Wennergren, Managing Director, Deloitte, and former Army CIO. Dave presented his “Top 10 List,” of tech issues that are the focus of government in the months ahead. Any guess about #1?  “Change happens,” said Dave, “and we in government run the risk of being left behind.” Dave’s parting advice: Have a plan, move with speed, engage customers throughout the process, move into the future boldly, and communicate relentlessly.

Dan Streetman, BMC Senior VP, Worldwide Strategic Sales and Operations “parachuted in” (you had to be there) and talked about the digitalization of government. Using BMC’s FY 2019 tagline of Optimize, Transform, and Create, he cited several examples of government done well, like real time earthquake information from the US Geological Survey, SSA’s use of big data to make life saving information available to researchers, and radically improving GPS to aide the warfighter. He also gave several specific BMC customers, DLA with its Digital Workplace initiative, DISA’s STIG server compliance spin up from days to minutes thanks to BMC SecOps, and the Federal Reserve Board’s move from Remedy on-premise to Remedy as a Service (formerly Remedy OnDemand).

The final keynote speaker was Kathryn Haun, a former DOJ prosecutor, and Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, and Cybersecurity expert. She discussed her role in prosecuting Dark Web cybercriminals including the rogue DEA and Secret Service agents involved in the shutting down of the Silk Road website. (This story will soon to be a major motion picture). Kathryn also detailed the computer science behind blockchain and her predictions for the future—it’s going to be huge. She said that in 10 years, 10% of the world’s GDP will be on blockchain.

Overall a great day for BMC and its Federal customers!

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