Blog

How ServiceNow’s ‘Virtual Agent’ can assist your organisation: Part 4

How ServiceNow’s ‘Virtual Agent’ can assist your organisation: Part 4

This blog entry is part of a four-part blog series on how ServiceNow’s Virtual Agent can assist your organisation.

See Part 1 HERE

See Part 2 HERE

See Part 3 HERE

Part 4: Experiences Matter

Through this blog series I have spoken about, through Virtual Agent, it is easier to empower users, create more opportunities for contactless resolution and create better operational insights and accuracy.

This is to achieve an end goal.

This end goal is to achieve a better service experience for users and customers. Virtual Agent really drives this home by focusing on the elements mentioned throughout this blog series. This is largely due to the Virtual Agent’s ability to evolve as your employees and organisation does. It allows a user’s or customer’s experience to be front and centre, as it provides the opportunity to improve consistently, even if there is staff turnover.

This is done by bringing across the knowledge from previous employees to the current and future employees as a sort of synthetic genetic history (through the Virtual Agent's flows). Although in theory, staff turnover should happen less as agents can refocus on more engaging work due to the virtual agent taking over most of the daily mundane work. These blog entries have largely been focused on positives and the next point has only been touched upon previously, but a Virtual Agent is there to offer another option, not replace completely, for users to interact with the service desk. The key point there is that it is an option.

Offering Options

These articles have been centred around the reasons why Virtual Agent is a useful addition to your organisation and how it can dramatically improve the service experience, but Virtual Agent should never replace all other avenues that users can use to access the information or raise issues.

Some users know where to look, so forcing them to use the Virtual Agent would frustrate them. Not only that, sometimes it is an emergency, so being forced to go down the Virtual Agent path will just delay something that should not be delayed.

It is important not to forget the fact that accessibility is also important, so offering a phone helpline may also be helpful for users with poor eyesight or bad internet connections. In addition to this, there are some queries that are just so specific that doing anything other than chatting to a person will not be efficient or beneficial.

As a result, a Virtual Agent should not replace all other options as an attempted cost cutting measure or in an attempt to be “cutting edge”.

It may be tempting thought as your Virtual Agent matures that you consider outright replace certain options, but this should not be done without ensuring there are other clear options for your user base and that the service experience is not negatively impacted as a result.

Evolving Your Business

When you begin your Virtual Agent journey though, it may not solve the issue alone, but can gather more information before handing it off to a person via web chat or otherwise, which ensures the service desk can focus their efforts on more complex issues or necessary contact.

An example of this is serving the users better who need to user a different resolution method, such as a phone call. When a Virtual Agent becomes a more prominent element within you organisation however, there will be time for people to work on other more, previous considered “only if time persists” projects.

This is important for several reasons, but largely because it opens agent’s time to be able to work on a variety of other initiatives in the organisation. They can up-skill and learn skills to provide newer and more useful services to their customers. Service agents can strive to become more user experience focused and become experts in understanding how to help customers, as opposed to regurgitating the same information day in and day out.

Your business will be able to review new initiatives to either become more profitable, by being able to focus on what you currently offer or expanding and investigating options that previously seemed untenable due to resourcing constraints. Chat bots and Virtual Agents tend to be over-hyped, but using it correctly can be a huge benefit to your organisation.

Even if the Virtual Agent only helps in evolving your business only slightly, some of that hype is warranted as that may be enough to bring your organisation to the next level.

Summary

Over the past couple of months, this blog series has largely been focused on positives, but with every positive and idealistic plan in mind, it is important to have a dose of realism, which this blog entry focused on.

That’s not to say Virtual Agent is not a worthwhile endeavor, quite the contrary, but starting a journey with only the positives in mind can be potentially damaging to your organisation. In summary, in the first blog entry we focused on the concept of empowerment. Not only empowering users, but also service agents and the organisation as a whole.

This was further highlighted in the second entry when we focused on the user and service agent level by discussing the concept of contactless resolution. From a user perspective, this was being able to raise issues out of hours and solve it on their own when is convenient for them, without staying on hold whilst they are asked to turn their machine off and on again.

From an agent’s perspective, contactless resolution allowing service agents to work on different projects and stop working on mundane tasks day in and day out and now being able to focus on service experience. Then focusing on empowerment on an organisational level, as discussed in the third blog entry as a virtual agent assists with improving operational insights and accuracy. This meant using newly gathered and accurate data to improve the experience even further and potentially solve more issues proactively.

Finally, this article highlighted the fact that even though Virtual Agent has all these benefits, this is a journey that needs to properly be planned for and not used as the singular point of entry for a user or customer. This journey can be made easier by people who have helped other organisations down this journey, as they can bring their experiences and suggestions in the best way to introduce it slowly and effectively.

Without making this sound like a sales pitch, this is often where consultants come in to play and can recommend a good starting point to start this journey and equip your service agents for the future. Regardless however, I hope this blog series has been informative and has ensured that your customers and users are more a focal point than ever. Thanks for reading!

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this four-part series. If you have not already, take a read of the earlier parts and see what you missed!

If not, reach out to us at JDS Australia if you want to begin your virtual agent journey. In doing so, we hope that we can assist in empowering your people, allowing a higher rate of contactless resolution, improving operational insights and accuracy and ensuring that that experience of your users, matter.

Posted by Cameron Chambers in Blog, ServiceNow
How ServiceNow’s ‘Virtual Agent’ can assist your organisation: Part 3

How ServiceNow’s ‘Virtual Agent’ can assist your organisation: Part 3

This blog entry is part of a four-part blog series on how ServiceNow’s Virtual Agent can assist your organisation.

Part 3: Operational Insight & Accuracy

Every day that a service desk is operational, it creates data, both useful and not so useful.

As time continues though it can become quite overwhelming and the data that was once useful can be poisoned with data that makes it less useful. People tend to have different opinions, differing working styles and language quirks that is amplified when there is staff turnover.

As a result, the data they create is only as insightful as its consistency when dealing with a large amount of it.

Accuracy

Data accuracy and data in general is one of the most common issues in any organisation.

This can be due to several reasons, but there are some ways that inaccurate data that gets in the system can be avoided. When entering data repeatedly, it can be mundane, boring and although not done purposely, accidents can be and will be made. Not only this, individuals will normally only enter the information they want to or need to, so some insights that would be useful to know or capture simply won’t be. In making that more and more information mandatory however, it may even cause more mistakes as it is more work that does not appear immediately valuable to the people who enter it.

These are just some of the things that could be alleviated in a few different ways if required.

Virtual agents can assist in doing this entry without error, without complaints and because it will just do the same thing over and over, the mistakes will occur when done manually should not occur. This makes the resulting data more accurate. It is not only that however, it is something as simple as if someone has been worked on and has been resolved without contact.

You can track this, and the record will close once the conversation has closed with the virtual agent. In day to day work, you may be working on something that has been resolved, but you then go to lunch and forget to close the record, causing SLAs to breach and information to be forgotten. Once again, another possible data point that is compromised.

As a result, the way we attempt to resolve requests without contact needs to evolve, as the added complexity in certain issues of today’s world are not answerable with the previous methods described.

Insights

Accurate data and information is all well and good, but what is the point if it does not offer any real insight in how to improve your processes and business? This is likely because a lot of the information that is commonly captured is done only for contractual reasons.

Agents are not focused on improving service, because trying to capture this information and making it meaningful is a long and drawn out process This is often simply because everyone thinks differently and may enter the same different information differently.

Having a virtual agent alongside the journey though can assist in making this information consistent and capturing more information along the process in a logical matter as standard. Let’s think about the example of a few employees who are having issues connecting to the VPN.

In the various calls that had been made regarding VPN issues this week, Sam, Roger and Cameron have all been resolving these in different ways, but it has all been down to the singular issue. Sam has been saying it is because people are using their wrong username to connect to the VPN. Roger has been saying that people are attempting to use their email address to use the VPN. Cameron has been saying that people are not using their windows login username to use the VPN. If you read this on face value, they all appear similar, but requires someone that understands the issue to understand it it is all related to the same key issue.

Let’s just say now that these phone calls have now become a virtual agent flow that Sam, Roger and Cameron have designed with their years of experience on the service desk. They have created a flow talking about common VPN connectivity issues and listing off possible solutions in a logical step by step and conditional manner. In this flow, they also asking after each troubleshooting step if it helped or not. As the next person who has VPN connectivity issues continues along the process, they too have an issue that relates to the above scenario.

Now the virtual agent is answering it and provides the solution and tracks that a misunderstanding in what username should be used as a login method is extremely common and easily reported against. This is the case as the wording is consistent now. As a result of this, Sam decides that before people even request VPN access, he would highlight what format the username should be. In the meantime, Roger and Cameron are looking at what other common support issues they can resolve through the virtual agent and now have a more complex skill set then they did before through this design and continual improvement process.

This issue went through a few steps to get to this point but now is being proactively resolved by Sam highlighting the username format. As a summary, these steps were:

1. Reactive resolution: Numerous people called the service desk talking about service desk issues and spoke to Cameron, Sam and Roger about VPN connectivity issues.
2. Contactless resolution: The service desk realized this coming up and spoke about it in their daily standup, so Cameron, Sam and Roger created a virtual agent troubleshooting flow, capturing when this issue has been resolved.
3. Proactive resolution: Sam notifies users before requesting VPN access they need to enter a specific username and no more support calls are raised, minus the few that do not read the necessary steps correctly.

As issues progress towards the proactive resolution stage, the NPS and CSAT scores of the service desk improves, as less and less people need to wait in a queue to have their issue resolved or wait until they are answered from an email. This scenario, although may seem as a best case and overly convenient for the sake of a blog entry, is surprisingly a common situation that people find themselves in and can be brought across different less conveniently written scenarios. Even if the proactive resolution stage does not occur and the contactless resolution only occurs in half the scenarios, it is still a net improvement of never attempting to solve the issue. Out of the box, ServiceNow’s virtual agent can hook into its powerful survey application, so understanding what the service experience is easy to gauge as the weeks continue.

 

In the long run however, that should be a focus for the organisation as virtual agent assists in improving the service experience and as it should be highlighted, this matters.

In the fourth and final part of this four-part blog series, we will discuss just that, how service experience matters.

In the meantime, check out this great Virtual Agent demo from ServiceNow.

Posted by Cameron Chambers in Blog, ServiceNow
How ServiceNow’s ‘Virtual Agent’ can assist your organisation: Part 2

How ServiceNow’s ‘Virtual Agent’ can assist your organisation: Part 2

This blog entry is part of a four-part blog series on how ServiceNow’s Virtual Agent can assist your organisation.

Part 2: Contactless Resolution

Contactless resolution, no contact resolution and zero contact resolution are three ideas that are similar in concept, but are all trying to get essentially the same result.

This concept is not new at all, despite it getting more recent attention. Searching for zero contact resolution in my search engine, brings up a link to something created in 2008 discussing this very topic.

What this concept means and how it can be made a reality though has evolved and will continue to evolve as time continues as the technology to support this evolves.

What Does This Mean?

Contactless resolution means being able to resolve something without contacting a person. In other words, getting a result from self-service and without requiring involvement from another person.

This is different to proactive resolution, which is the ideal scenario and realistically this is something built upon years of experience and data. There will always be issues and requests that cannot be proactively resolved though, as people will always have questions and issues that cannot be predicted or have not been raised before.

Historically this was done through expecting a user to find a knowledge article and using the information from that knowledge article to solve their issue. Before that and outside of anything IT related, you could think of the opening times posted on the window of a local café as a method of contactless resolution.

You could go into a building to ask the opening time from a person, but in terms of contactless resolution this would mean reading a poster outside of it to get the same result.

However, as we as a species become more advance, so do our questions and issues.

As a result, the way we attempt to resolve requests without contact needs to evolve, as the added complexity in certain issues of today’s world are not answerable with the previous methods described.

Virtual Agent

This is where virtual agents come in.

A knowledge article and a poster on a window are all well and good for simple questions and queries, but it does not really evolve as the query evolve. It is a static bit of information. Also, these sources can be information overload (a bit like these blog entries some would say), so are not effective for complex questions. Imagine if you will that you are having printer issues. Historically, you would have searched in search engine with your printer make and issue and browsed around 10 websites, until you realise you do not have the permissions on your machine to be able to resolve this issue alone. Either that, or you will call the service desk, only for them to provide you a knowledge article with a step by step guide that they developed using the official website as a guide. Both “may” work but cannot evolve as your situation evolves without continual contact.

Let’s look at it from a ServiceNow virtual agent point of view.

Fortunately, your organisation has made the effort of saying what printers are assigned to what person and locations in your ServiceNow instance. You browse to your Service Portal and decide to “try” the virtual agent experience. You tell the virtual agent that the printer will not turn on and that takes you to the virtual agent topic related to printer issues. The virtual agent confirms you are working from a certain location with you and then understands that the printer you are having issues with is from a certain manufacturer (as your configuration management database is up to date and your user record says you are working from that location).

In doing this, it can provide step by step trouble shooting issues specific to that printer within a matter of seconds, simply from you typing your initial query and confirming your location. You try a few different steps and then get asked if it was able to solve your issue. It does not, however provides another solution that does. The virtual agent asks if the new recommendation helped and by saying yes, you record this information that then can be reported against to improve the virtual agent in the future.

All in all, this saves you the time of waiting on the phone waiting to talk to IT support, trying to find a website on your own and saves the service desk agent time. A simple sign may help with the opening hours of a business, but won’t help in deciphering complex issues, empowering users to solve their own issues and tracking what the common solutions are to issues to potentially proactively solve them in the future.

However, what does this mean for the service agent now that a “robot” has stolen “their job”.

Service Agent Concerns

One of the most common concerns when looking into virtual agents is how it may impact your service agents’ daily activities. It may not directly impact them, but they may feel as though that their day to day activities will change or they will simply be made redundant.

Yes, their day to day activities will change, but organisations can use this newly procured time to put their service agents to work in improving the virtual agent experience, improving their overall service experience and more importantly improving their business with this newly found time.

Service agents are just that, agents and individuals in place to provide a service to their customers. What can happen that instead of taking the same phone call day in and day out can therefore be exchanged with improving their applications to perform better and creating new services for their end users.

This will improve employee satisfaction and as a result, the retention of employees as it provides a more fulfilling job experience.

Their jobs will not be filled with mundane tasks that require data entry for the sake of data entry, Operational insights will also be more accurate to provide an even better service to their end users as it is no longer manually entered.

Although contactless resolution appears like a negative to the service agents without investigating it, it becomes a positive when it is implemented.

 

This is what really highlights the potential results you can get with a Virtual Agent at all levels of the business.

In the third part of this four-part blog series, we will discuss operational insights and accuracy.

In the meantime, check out this great Virtual Agent demo from ServiceNow.

Posted by Cameron Chambers in Blog, ServiceNow
How ServiceNow’s ‘Virtual Agent’ can assist your organisation: Part 1

How ServiceNow’s ‘Virtual Agent’ can assist your organisation: Part 1

 

This blog entry is part of a four-part blog series on how ServiceNow’s Virtual Agent can assist your organisation.

 

If you talk to someone about the present state of the IT industry, artificial intelligence, virtual agent and chatbots are topics that commonly surface in one way or another.

From forcibly having to “deal” with it while trying to raise a support query from your internet provider to something less prominent to having a popup in the bottom right part of your screen asking if there is anything they can help with.  These concepts have become front and centre in the drive to provide a better customer experience to users.

They are often get implemented with the best intentions, but when not implemented with the right strategy can turn a previously acceptable user experience, to a frustrating one where you are constantly getting distracted by notifications.

  • Is implementing a virtual agent the right thing to do?
  • Will it really provide a better experience for users?
  • Will it improve satisfaction for all members of my organisation and my customers?

In a word, yes.  This blog series will discuss four main topics that should be front and centre when talking and thinking about virtual agents for your organisation, as well as some small bits of wisdom to take on your journey.

We at JDS Australia would love to help you on this journey, and fortunately ServiceNow has a great Virtual Agent out of the box that you can utilise.

Part 1: Empowering People

When Virtual Agent comes up in conversation, the concept of empowerment comes up but normally only focusing on the end user.

In reality though, Virtual Agents help empower both sides of the coin.

What does this mean though?

How can virtual agents empower both end users, service agents and the organisation and their customers at large?

The End Users

To start, let’s start with a thought experiment.

You and everyone else reading this article is an end user somewhere.  Whether for your internet service provider, mobile provider or even as a patron of your favourite fast food chain, you have experience as an end user and will have seen an evolution in how this is done.  In your head, what do you consider a good experience? What do you consider a negative one?  What do you think would help that experience?  Fast food chains introduced self-service terminals where you can order without talking to someone and various telecommunication organisations introduced Virtual Agents, both with varying levels of success.   Now think about the place that you work or the customers that you serve.  What is something you answer day in, and day out based on a question that is commonly asked?

Frankly speaking, Virtual Agents have a bad habit of being introduced and forced onto users, whereas really it can be introduced to empower users, by offering them options and saving time.  If we investigate the last question in our thought experiment, the joke answer is “have you turned it on and off again”. It may be seen as a joke, but yes, it sometimes helps (despite our reluctance to do it before calling).

In a more complex example, what about access and permissions to an external system?  The most common response is to call up IT or ask your friendly IT support team to do it off the record, but what happens if you could do it yourself?

Various systems and applications offer a range of web services that you can hook into with ServiceNow via an integration.  Through these integrations and details you may find on a user record, you could simply automate it.  Where does Virtual Agent play into this though?  Before getting access to a system or understanding permissions, there are often a variety of questions based on the application you are speaking about.  The Virtual Agent can ask these questions first and respond based on the answers provided.  It may not necessarily remove all human interaction to make the request possible (such as requiring approvals), but it will handle the questions that need to be asked that may cancel a request before it is even raised.  Saving the time of the end user, as they no longer need to make time for a phone call and saving the time of the service agent, as they no longer have to spend the time to have the conversation, which includes the time to get back into the groove of what they were working on.  This gives the end user the feeling as they solved their own issue and provides them with the confidence to try to solve this issue first without calling the help desk.

What does this mean for the service desk agent though?  If they are not on the phone with end users, how does this empower them?  Doesn’t that make their job redundant?

The Service Agents

In a word, no.

In fact, having the various service agents involved to in the investigation of how they can better serve the end users is more important than ever.  These are the people who now can spend more time on more complex questions and fulfilling the manual requests when needed and know what is best when serving the end user.  The Virtual Agent empowers these users even more than the end users, as now they can be involved in the development and continual improvement of the Virtual Agent.  This provides the service agents the power to be directly involved in the improvement of their services to the end users but using their experience to ask the questions they need to, to get a better outcome.

That is the main opportunity for Virtual Agent when the service desk agent is directly involved.  They can help in improving the questions and topics that a Virtual Agent asks the end user, so they get the information that they need to resolve the query first time as they continually improve it.  That is what is important to note and the reason why service agents do not simply become redundant.  Implementing a Virtual Agent is not a one and done, it’s a continual process to ensure that as your understanding of your newly empowered end users improves, so the mean time to resolve tickets improves.  Up to the point that this no longer even becomes a metric for some requests, as through asking the correct questions, these issues can be resolved without even contacting the service desk.  This is a concept known as contact-less resolution and will be spoken about in more depth in the next part of this blog series.

So if the end users now feel empowered, as they are now able to solve more issues in their own time, out of hours and without picking up their phone and service agents now can focus on improving these experiences and can spend more time on more complex tasks, what does this mean for the organisation as a whole?

The Organisation

The organisation itself also is empowered as a result of this.  People now feel a sense of autonomy as they are not necessarily required to spend their work hours doing what they use to, as the Virtual Agent assists in alleviating some of the needs around this. The organisation can bring forth new initiatives to improve their service further.  The organisation can direct users down the path they need them too to achieve their goals… but the change on the organisational level is not so much about empowerment, but how the operational insights can move your organisation forward.  That topic however, will be discussed in a later part of our blog series.

What is the end goal when it comes to implementing a Virtual Agent?

How can this can be taken even further?

In the next part of this blog series, we'll cover contact-less resolution.

In the meantime, check out this great Virtual Agent demo from ServiceNow!

Posted by Cameron Chambers in Blog, ServiceNow
How Field Service Management can help your customers

How Field Service Management can help your customers

The Challenge

Field agents are typically the face of most organisations, yet for many businesses, those resources and their day-to-day duties have been overlooked when it comes to workflow optimisation.

Customer service centres and help desks are rarely aligned with the technicians responsible for addressing issues in the field, which can result in multiple calls, emails and at times, tickets or customer records being produced for a single incident or request.

This lack of process cohesiveness can hamper the productivity of those in the field, as well as negatively impacting your the customer satisfaction rating of your business.

The Solution

The ServiceNow Field Service Management (FSM) application helps organisations manage work tasks performed on location, with criteria such as skills, availability and geography (among others) able to be referenced when attempting to match an agent with an actionable task.

The application's dynamic scheduling capabilities optimise the assignment process, while its intuitive workflows and user-friendly design ensures it can easily operate alongside your ITSM and CSM functions.

The Field Service Management Workflow

With its connection to the ServiceNow business and service management modules, the Field Service Management application provides a single, connected platform.

Integration Options

Looking to create a work order request from a customer service case?

Integrating Field Service Management with ServiceNow's Customer Service Management (CSM) offering can do just that!

The ability to better manage deployments in the field can be done seamlessly with a Project Portfolio Management (PPM) integration.

FSM also provides highly configurable integrations for functions such as:

  • Workforce Management
  • Parts and inventory
  • Work order creation (from an external system)
  • Quoting
  • Cost and invoicing

Mobility

One of the most reported challenges flagged by field users is (yep, you guessed it) mobile connectivity.

Even without an internet connection, users are still able to plan, work on and complete tasks.

Check out the video below to see how!

 

Conclusion

To learn more about how JDS can start your Field Service Management journey, contact our team today on 1300 780 432, or email contactus@jds.net.au.

Our team on the case

Ensure IT works

Cameron Chambers

Senior Consultant

At JDS Australia, our ServiceNow team thrives on a foundation of communication, collaboration and a holistic approach to solution design & platform architecture.

My passion for the ServiceNow platform and experience in both Enterprise Service Delivery & IT Operations ensures that the customer experience is prioritised throughout every engagement.

We are focused on:

– ServiceNow integration
– Platform implementation & enhancement
– OOTB compliance and the reduction of technical debt
– Application development & innovation
– Automation & continuous service improvement
– Accelerated performance testing
– Enhancing the end user & customer experiences

Our team is engaged across all major ServiceNow product lines, specialising in:

– Customer Service Management (CSM)
– IT Service Delivery (ITSM)
– IT Business Management (ITBM)
– Human Resource Service Delivery (HRSD)
– Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC)
– IT Operations Management (ITOM)

Posted by Cameron Chambers in Blog, ServiceNow
How Contract Management Can Help Your Customers

How Contract Management Can Help Your Customers

 

Contract Management

In the ServiceNow platform, contracts contain detailed information such as contract number, start and end dates, active status, terms and conditions statements, documents, renewal information, and financial terms.

Contract Management is active by default for all ITSM subscribers and was initially seen as a means of managing the following:

  • Software licensing
  • Certificates and their expiration
  • Asset fleet management

Contract Management and its usability continues to grow, with many organisations citing it as a solution for both IT and non-IT contracts, including:

  • Employee contracts, probation agreements, super annuation / 401K (HRSD)
  • Customer warranty and rental agreements (CSM)
  • Vendor and partnership documents (ITBM & VRM)

Value Propositions

By choosing to utilize the Contract Management application, your organization will be able to:

  • Reduce risk by utilizing a contract lifecycle management (CLM) solution.
  • Enhance your asset management capabilities by linking contracts to your CMDB.
  • Leverage a single platform to manage contracts both within and outside of your service management ecosystem
  • Improve operational efficiency via document and signature digitization

Improve End User Satisfaction

  • Submit contracts via both the Desktop and mobile interfaces
  • Expedite your signatory process by integrating with Adobe Sign
  • Reduce physical storage requirements by housing your contracts within ServiceNow
  • Create repeatable processes thru workflow automation and the use of contract template documents

Configure eSignature Capability

One of the many perks of managing your organization’s contracts through the ServiceNow platform, is its ability to seamlessly integrate with enterprise-grade eSignature products, specifically, DocuSign and Adobe Sign.

Both DocuSign and Adobe Sign have collaborated with ServiceNow to create Integration Spokes for their respective products.

The pre-packaged workflows, roles and connectors make the initial configuration of these products a streamlined and enjoyable experience, with the added benefit of both vendors providing technical support if required.

 

Conclusion

To learn more about how JDS can optimize your customer's contract lifecycle management, contact our team today on 1300 780 432, or email contactus@jds.net.au.

Our team on the case

Ensure IT works

Cameron Chambers

Senior Consultant

At JDS Australia, our ServiceNow team thrives on a foundation of communication, collaboration and a holistic approach to solution design & platform architecture.

My passion for the ServiceNow platform and experience in both Enterprise Service Delivery & IT Operations ensures that the customer experience is prioritised throughout every engagement.

We are focused on:

– ServiceNow integration
– Platform implementation & enhancement
– OOTB compliance and the reduction of technical debt
– Application development & innovation
– Automation & continuous service improvement
– Accelerated performance testing
– Enhancing the end user & customer experiences

Our team is engaged across all major ServiceNow product lines, specialising in:

– Customer Service Management (CSM)
– IT Service Delivery (ITSM)
– IT Business Management (ITBM)
– Human Resource Service Delivery (HRSD)
– Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC)
– IT Operations Management (ITOM)

Posted by Cameron Chambers in Blog, ServiceNow
Manipulating Service Portal Widgets Without Modifying Them

Manipulating Service Portal Widgets Without Modifying Them

 

It’s common for organisations to want something a little bit more than what is on offer by ServiceNow in its service portal, but without breaking any core functionality. In this article, we’ll look at how you can manipulate an existing out-of-the-box widget WITHOUT modifying it.

One option is to clone the widget and change it but that causes your cloned version to become locked in time, so it won’t benefit from any enhancements or bug-fixes applied to the original widget by ServiceNow as versions upgrade.

A better approach is to embed the original widget INSIDE another widget and make your modifications there. In this way, you get the best of both worlds. Any changes to the widget will be automatically inherited, while you can change the behaviour of that widget at ease.

This article assumes you are confident in developing custom widgets. If you need more information on what service portal widgets are and how they work, please refer to:

Here’s how it can be done (with this code sample provided at the bottom of the article)

First, notice we’re using the sp-widget directive to embed an OOB widget, but we’re going to use an angular data object (essentially a variable) to hold the name of that widget. This gives us the flexibility to add HTML/Angular before and after the widget.

We populate this angular object in the server script. This gives us the ability to set any properties the widget might be expecting. In this case, we’re going to use the ServiceNow catalogue item widget (v2)

Now, in our client script, we can refer to data in BOTH our widget and the OOB widget, something that is extremely handy!

Finally, in this example, we’re interested to add some extra functionality when the original OOB widget is submitted. Looking at the client script for the OOB widget, we can see that ServiceNow are using broadcast events to transmit (emit) various actions. This is what we’ll intercept.

As you can see there are several events we could intercept and augment, like when a submission fails. Once we know what we’re looking for we can simply listen in the background, waiting for that event to occur.

Once that event fires, we can then choose to do something in addition to what the OOB widget is doing using both client and server code in our custom widget (and importantly, acting on information gathered by the OOB widget itself).

$scope.server.get allows us to send an action the server where it is processed and the response is returned.

In this way, we can manipulate an out-of-the-box widget provided by ServiceNow without modifying or cloning it.

Please find example XML here: sp_widget example

Posted by Sam Lindsay in Blog, ServiceNow
Virtual Agent Is Your Friend

Virtual Agent Is Your Friend

Don’t underestimate the importance of user satisfaction

If there’s one defining characteristic of the social media revolution it’s “make life easy.”

Why did Facebook win out over MySpace? Facebook made it easy to connect, easy to post, easy to find people, easy to interact.

Amazon, Google, Twitter and Facebook have spent the last decade refining their technology to lower the barrier-to-entry for users, making their web applications highly accessible. Have you ever wondered why Google only shows the first ten entries for each search when it could show twenty, fifty or a hundred? Google found that 10 results returned in 0.4 sec, while 30 results took 0.9 sec, but that extra half a second lead to a loss of 20% of their traffic because users were impatient. User satisfaction is the golden rule of online services and so 10 results per page is now standard across all search engines regardless even though now days the difference is probably much less.

When it comes to ServiceNow, organisations should focus on user satisfaction as a way of increasing productivity. ServiceNow allows organisations to treat both their internal staff and their customers with respect, offering services that are snappy, intelligent and well designed. To this end, ServiceNow has developed a number of offerings including Virtual Agent.

What is Virtual Agent?

To say Virtual Agent is a chat-bot is disingenuous. Virtual Agent is a channel for users to quickly and easy get answers to their questions. It is a state-of-the-art system that leverages Natural Language Understanding (NLU) and a complex, decision-based response engine to meet a user’s expectations without wasting their time.

The Natural Language Understanding machine learning engine used by ServiceNow is trained to understand conversational chats using Wikipedia and The Washington Post, and can be enhanced with organisational specific words and phrases. Natural Language Understanding is the gateway for users to reach a catalogue of prebuilt workflows that resolve common issues.

The Virtual Agent Designer allows for sophisticated workflows with complex decision-making. Not only does this reduce the burden on first-level support it drastically reduces the resolution time for common issues, raising the satisfaction of users with the services provided by your organisation.

But the real genius behind Virtual Agent is it can be run from ANYWHERE

A common problem experienced by organisations with ServiceNow is managing multiple corporate websites. The ServiceNow self-service portal can be seen by some users as yet another corporate web instance and a bridge too far, reducing the adoption of self-service. To combat this, ServiceNow allows its Virtual Agent to be deployed ANYWHERE. As an example, it’s on this WordPress page! Go ahead, give it a try. As soon as you click on “chat”, you’re interacting with the JDSAustraliaDemo1 instance of ServiceNow!

By allowing the Virtual Agent to run from anywhere, customers can incorporate ServiceNow functionality into their other websites, giving users easy access to the services and offerings available through ServiceNow.

Keep your users happy. Start using Virtual Agent.

Posted by Jillian Hunter in Blog, ServiceNow
Introducing the LoadRunner family for 2020

Introducing the LoadRunner family for 2020

Micro Focus LoadRunner has long been the industry standard and leading solution for performance testing solution with LoadRunner (for On-Premise), Performance Center (for Enterprise) and StormRunner Load (For Cloud). As we move into 2020, Micro Focus has standardised their solutions under the LoadRunner banner and re-architected some of the solutions. Meet the new family:

LoadRunner Professional which was earlier called LoadRunner. An On-Premise solution for small teams conducting performance tests.
LoadRunner Enterprise which was earlier called Performance Center. Primarily aimed at enterprise deployments for multiple performance tests to be done in collaboration.
LoadRunner Cloud which was earlier called StormRunner Load. A cloud based scalable solution for performance testing.

DevWeb renamed from TruWeb is now a fully supported Vugen Protocol.

 

Feature Highlights for 2020

LoadRunner Professional 2020

  • Improved Protocol support in DevWeb, TruClient, Web Services and SAP – Web
  • Modernized Controller Online Graphs

LoadRunner Enterprise 2020

  • Support for Elastic Cloud based load generators
  • SSO Authentication
  • ALM Database decoupling

LoadRunner Cloud 2019.12

  • New analysis module enhancements
  • Pause scheduling during a load test run
  • Goal oriented mode enhancements
  • Support for DevWeb scripts
  • Automatic syncs of GIT scripts
  • Enhanced Azure DevOps integration
  • New public API operations

 

LoadRunner 2019.12

With the LoadRunner Cloud team embracing a continuous delivery approach the version number will be named based on the year and month that the update is delivered. This version release is 2019.12 (December 2019). With planned quarterly product updates and releases, the next update is expected on 2020.02 (February 2020).

The latest release adds features to the runtime view for the tests and improving the DevOps integration while also formalising DevWeb (earlier known as TruWeb) as a supported protocol.

A brief summary is provided below:

 

A few of the most interesting and visual changes are

  • Transaction response time breakdown metrics are now available in the real-time dashboards

  • Azure DevOps Integration

LoadRunner Cloud now integrates into your Azure DevOps pipelines and provides summary report for quick view while a detailed report is also available to analyze. When using the LoadRunner Cloud integration with Azure DevOps, upon completion of a task you can view a new artifact that is published on the Summary tab and a brief report on the LoadRunner Cloud tab.

 

JDS consultants have more than 15+ years of experience working with LoadRunner, and Platinum partners of Micro Focus in Australia. Added to our strong experience in DevOps lifecycle management, JDS has the edge when it comes to performance testing that is unmatched by other performance testers. If you are in the process of introducing a new system or application, make sure you schedule a performance test with JDS.

Conclusion

Contact our Micro Focus & DevOps team today on 1300 780 432 or at DevOps@jds.net.au.

Our team on the case

Work smarter, not harder

Pradeep Ramdas

Consultant

Pradeep Ramdas is an experienced Technical Consultant for the JDS DevOps practice.  Pradeep has over 13 years experience, specialising in performance testing and engineering,  including experience with Atlassian Jira, AppDynamics and Splunk.

Other Micro Focus stories

Posted by Jillian Hunter in Blog, Micro Focus, News
Using Common Functions in the Service Catalog

Using Common Functions in the Service Catalog

ServiceNow’s service portal offers a lot of flexibility for customers wanting to offer complex and sophisticated offerings to their users. Catalog client scripts can run on load, on change and on submit, but often there’s a need for a common library of functions to be shared by these scripts (so they’re maintained in just one place and produce consistent results).

For example, in this case, if the start date, end date or the SAP position changes, the same script needs to run to calculate who the approvers are for a particular request.

Rather than having three separate versions of the same script, we want to be able to store our logic in one place. Here’s how we can do it.

 

Isolate Script

Although the latest versions of ServiceNow (London, Madrid, etc) allow for scripts to be isolated or not, giving ServiceNow admins either the option of protecting (isolating) their scripts or accessing broader libraries, in practice, this can be a little frustrating to implement, so in our example, we’ll use an alternative method to introduce external javascript libraries.

 

UI Scripts

UI scripts, like the one listed below, are very powerful, but they’re also very broad, being applied EVERYWHERE and ALWAYS, so we’ll tread lightly and simply add a function that sets up the DOM for access from our client scripts.

As you can see, we now have some variables we can reference to give us access to the document object, the window object and the angular object from anywhere within ServiceNow.

In theory, we could attach our SAP position changes script here and it would be accessible but it would also be loaded on EVERY page ServiceNow ever loads, which is not good. What we want is a global function accessible only from WITHIN our catalog item, so we’ll put this in an ON LOAD script using our new myWindow object.

The format we’re using is…

myWindow.functionName = function(){

console.log('this is an example')

};

This function can then be called from ANYWHERE within our catalog item (on change or on submit). Also, notice the semi-colon at the end of the window function. Don’t forget this as it is important as we’re altering an object.

Now, though, any time we want to call that common function, we can do so with a single line of code.

 

Following this approach makes maintenance of the logic used by the approval process easy to find and alter going forward.

Conclusion

To learn more about how JDS can optimize the performance of ServiceNow, contact our team today on 1300 780 432, or email contactus@jds.net.au.

Our team on the case

Document as you go.

Peter Cawdron

Consultant

Length of Time at JDS

5 years

Skills

ServiceNow, Loadrunner, HP BSM, Splunk.

Workplace Passion

I enjoy working with the new AngularJS portal in ServiceNow.

Our ServiceNow stories

Posted by Jillian Hunter in Blog, Micro Focus, News
Finding Exoplanets with Splunk

Finding Exoplanets with Splunk

Splunk is a software platform designed to search, analyze and visualize machine-generated data, making sense of what, to most of us, looks like chaos.

Ordinarily, the machine data used by Splunk is gathered from websites, applications, servers, network equipment, sensors, IoT (internet-of-things) devices, etc, but there’s no limit to the complexity of data Splunk can consume.

Splunk specializes in Big Data, so why not use it to search the biggest data of all and find exoplanets?

What is an exoplanet?

An exoplanet is a planet in orbit around another star.

The first confirmed exoplanet was discovered in 1995 orbiting the star 51 Pegasi, which makes this an exciting new, emerging field of astronomy. Since then, Earth-based and space-based telescopes such as Kepler have been used to detect thousands of planets around other stars.

At first, the only planets we found were super-hot Jupiters, enormous gas giants orbiting close to their host stars. As techniques have been refined, thousands of exoplanets have been discovered at all sizes and out to distances comparable with planets in our own solar system. We have even discovered exomoons!

 

How do you find an exoplanet?

Imagine standing on stage at a rock concert, peering toward the back of the auditorium, staring straight at one of the spotlights. Now, try to figure out when a mosquito flies past that blinding light. In essence, that’s what telescopes like NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) are doing.

The dip in starlight intensity can be just a fraction of a percent, but it’s enough to signal that a planet is transiting the star.

Transits have been observed for hundreds of years in one form or another, but only recently has this idea been applied outside our solar system.

Australia has a long history of human exploration, starting some 60,000 years ago. In 1769 after (the then) Lieutenant James Cook sailed to Tahiti to observe the transit of Venus across the face of the our closest star, the Sun, he was ordered to begin a new search for the Great Southern Land which we know as Australia. Cook’s observation of the transit of Venus used largely the same technique as NASA’s Hubble, Kepler and TESS space telescopes but on a much simpler scale.

Our ability to monitor planetary transits has improved considerably since the 1700s.

NASA’s TESS orbiting telescope can cover an area 400 times as broad as NASA’s Kepler space telescope and is capable of monitoring a wider range of star types than Kepler, so we are on the verge of finding tens of thousands of exoplanets, some of which may contain life!

How can we use Splunk to find an exoplanet?

 Science thrives on open data.

All the raw information captured by both Earth-based and space-based telescopes like TESS are publicly available, but there’s a mountain of data to sift through and it’s difficult to spot needles in this celestial haystack, making this an ideal problem for Splunk to solve.

While playing with this over Christmas, I used the NASA Exoplanet Archive, and specifically the PhotoMetric data containing 642 light curves to look for exoplanets. I used wget in Linux to retrieve the raw data as text files, but it is possible to retrieve this data via web services.

MAST, the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes, has made available a web API that allows up to 500,000 records to be retrieved at a time using JSON format, making the data even more accessible to Splunk.

Some examples of API queries that can be run against the MAST are:

The raw data for a given observation appears as:

Information from the various telescopes does differ in format and structure, but it’s all stored in text files that can be interrogated by Splunk.

Values like the name of the star (in this case, Gliese 436) are identified in the header, while dates are stored either using HJD (Heliocentric Julian Dates) or BJD (Barycentric Julian Dates) centering on the Sun (with a difference of only 4 seconds between them).

Some observatories will use MJD which is the Modified Julian Date (being the Julian Date minus 2,400,000.5 which equates to November 17, 1858). Sounds complicated, but MJD is an attempt to simplify date calculations.

Think of HJD, BJD and MJD like UTC but for the entire solar system.

One of the challenges faced in gathering this data is that the column metadata is split over three lines, with the title, the data type and the measurement unit all appearing on separate lines.

The actual data captured by the telescope doesn’t start being displayed until line 138 (and this changes from file to file as various telescopes and observation sets have different amounts of associated metadata).

In this example, our columns are…

  • HJD - which is expressed as days, with the values beyond the decimal point being the fraction of that day when the observation occurred
  • Normalized Flux - which is the apparent brightness of the star
  • Normalized Flux Uncertainty - capturing any potential anomalies detected during the collection process that might cast doubt on the result (so long as this is insignificant it can be ignored).

Heliocentric Julian Dates (HJD) are measured from noon (instead of midnight) on 1 January 4713 BC and are represented by numbers into the millions, like 2,455,059.6261813 where the integer is the days elapsed since then, while the decimal fraction is the portion of the day. With a ratio of 0.00001 to 0.864 seconds, multiplying the fraction by 86400 will give us the seconds elapsed since noon on any given Julian Day. Confused? Well, your computer won’t be as it loves working in decimals and fractions, so although this system may seem counterintuitive, it makes date calculations simple math.

We can reverse engineer Epoch dates and regular dates from HJD/BJD, giving Splunk something to work with other than obscure heliocentric dates.

  • As Julian Dates start at noon rather than midnight, all our calculations are shifted by half a day to align with Epoch (Unix time)
  • The Julian date for the start of Epoch on CE 1970 January 1st 00:00:00.0 UT is 2440587.500000
  • Any-Julian-Date-minus-Epoch = 2455059.6261813 - 2440587.5 = 14472.12618
  • Epoch-Day = floor(Any-Julian-Date-minus-Epoch) * milliseconds-in-a-day = 14472 * 86400000 = 1250380800000
  • Epoch-Time = floor((Any-Julian-Date-minus-Epoch – floor(Any-Julian-Date-minus-Epoch)) * milliseconds-in-a-day = floor(0. 6261813 * 86400000) = 10902064
  • Observation-Epoch-Day-Time = Epoch-Day + Epoch-Time = 1250380800000 + 10902064 = 1250391702064

That might seem a little convoluted, but we now have a way of translating astronomical date/times into something Splunk can understand.

I added a bunch of date calculations like this to my props.conf file so dates would appear more naturally within Splunk.

[exoplanets]

SHOULD_LINEMERGE = false

LINE_BREAKER = ([\r\n]+)

EVAL-exo_observation_epoch = ((FLOOR(exo_HJD - 2440587.5) * 86400000) + FLOOR(((exo_HJD - 2440587.5) - FLOOR(exo_HJD - 2440587.5))  *  86400000))

EVAL-exo_observation_date = (strftime(((FLOOR(exo_HJD - 2440587.5) * 86400000) + FLOOR(((exo_HJD - 2440587.5) - FLOOR(exo_HJD - 2440587.5))  *  86400000)) / 1000,"%d/%m/%Y %H:%M:%S.%3N"))

EVAL-_time = strptime((strftime(((FLOOR(exo_HJD - 2440587.5) * 86400000) + FLOOR(((exo_HJD - 2440587.5) - FLOOR(exo_HJD - 2440587.5))  *  86400000)) / 1000,"%d/%m/%Y %H:%M:%S.%3N")),"%d/%m/%Y %H:%M:%S.%3N")

Once date conversions are in place, we can start crafting queries that map the relative flux of a star and allow us to observe exoplanets in another solar system.

Let’s look at a star with the unassuming ID 0300059.

sourcetype=exoplanets host="0300059"

| rex field=_raw "\s+(?P<exo_HJD>24\d+.\d+)\s+(?P<exo_flux>[-]?\d+.\d+)\s+(?P<exo_flux_uncertainty>[-]?\d+.\d+)" | timechart span=1s avg(exo_flux)

And there it is… an exoplanet blotting out a small fraction of starlight as it passes between us and its host star!

What about us?

While curating the Twitter account @RealScientists, Dr. Jessie Christiansen made the point that we only see planets transit stars like this if they’re orbiting on the same plane we’re observing. She also pointed out that “if you were an alien civilization looking at our solar system, and you were lined up just right, every 365 days you would see a (very tiny! 0.01%!!) dip in the brightness that would last for 10 hours or so. That would be Earth!”

There have even been direct observations of planets in orbit around stars, looking down from above (or up from beneath depending on your vantage point). With the next generation of space telescopes, like the James Webb, we’ll be able to see these in greater detail.

 

Image credit: NASA exoplanet exploration

Next steps

From here, the sky’s the limit—quite literally.

Now we’ve brought data into Splunk we can begin to examine trends over time.

Astronomy is BIG DATA in all caps. The Square Kilometer Array (SKA), which comes on line in 2020, will create more data each day than is produced on the Internet in a year!

Astronomical data is the biggest of the Big Data sets and that poses a problem for scientists. There’s so much data it is impossible to mine it all thoroughly. This has led to the emergence of citizen science, where regular people can contribute to scientific discoveries using tools like Splunk.

Most stars have multiple planets, so some complex math is required to distinguish between them, looking at the frequency, magnitude and duration of their transits to identify them individually. Over the course of billions of years, the motion of planets around a star fall into a pattern known as orbital resonance, which is something that can be predicted and tested by Splunk to distinguish between planets and even be used to predict undetected planets!

Then there’s the tantalizing possibility of exomoons orbiting exoplanets. These moons would appear as a slight dip in the transit line (similar to what’s seen above at the end of the exoplanet’s transit). But confirming the existence of an exomoon relies on repeated observations, clearly distinguished from the motion of other planets around that star. Once isolated, the transit lines should show a dip in different locations for different transits (revealing how the exomoon is swinging out to the side of the planet and increasing the amount of light being blocked at that point).

Given its strength with modelling data, predictive analytics and machine learning, Splunk is an ideal platform to support the search for exoplanets.

Find out more

If you’d like to learn more about how Splunk can help your organization reach for the stars, contact one of our account managers.

Our team on the case

Document as you go.

Peter Cawdron

Consultant

Length of Time at JDS

5 years

Skills

ServiceNow, Loadrunner, HP BSM, Splunk.

Workplace Passion

I enjoy working with the new AngularJS portal in ServiceNow.

Our Splunk stories

Posted by Jillian Hunter in Blog, Micro Focus, News
ServiceNow Archiving

ServiceNow Archiving

Picture this: you've had ServiceNow in your organisation for a couple of years, and you’re starting to notice the number of older records accrue, perhaps to the point where performance isn’t what it used to be. Not all of us have the processing power of the Matrix to handle everything at once!

Forgotten records are not isolated problems for businesses, but it’s an easy issue to address especially if you want to improve instance speeds and efficiency. Unlike overflowing filing cabinets in your office, the impact is easily missed until problems arise. Now is as good a time as ever to embrace the bright start of the new year, and consider refreshing your data to improve system performance.

ServiceNow can help with the System Archiving application. This allows you to configure archival and disposal rules specific to your business recordkeeping.

Archiving

Archiving data simply moves data to an archive table using rules configured to meet your retention requirements. These rules automatically run, ensuring data refresh is ongoing.  

In the example below, a SME business has over 5000 incident records and they’re keen to automate archive incidents which are inactive and closed over a year ago.

 

The key point to remember is to not archive records which are likely to be required for reporting. While archived records can be restored to their original tables, they are not designed to be reported on nor are they optimised for searching.

Disposal

Now our SME has archival rules, their next step would be to review the disposal rules. As with hard copies, no one wants records sitting in archive for all eternity. That’s a lot of filing cabinets!

Ideally, our SME would work closely with record managers and data owners to come to an agreement on when records can safely be disposed of. For example, it could be agreed that 2 years after the archival date of an incident record, it can safely be disposed. Government regulations are often 5 to 7 years for sensitive data, and when that date rolls around, disposal rules can automatically rid you of the load.

Conclusion

Is 2019 the year you consider the automated refresh of ServiceNow records for your business? JDS can work with you to review your ongoing needs and help determine safe archival and disposal rules that suit.

Conclusion

It doesn't need to be complicated! Reach out to us and we can help you.

Our team on the case

Nicole Harvey

Nicole Harvey

Length of Time at JDS

Since July 2018

Skills

Workplace Solutions

 

Workplace Passion

 

Our ServiceNow stories

Posted by Jillian Hunter in Blog, Micro Focus, News