IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview with Rajesh Ganesan, ManageEngine – Union of Service Desk and Other Business ServicesNovember 8, 2013 No Comments
In the discussion below, Rajesh Ganesan from ManageEngine talks about the move to help IT provide more value by fusing the IT service desk with the tools needed to create business applications and services for their end users.
- Q. The ServiceDesk Plus On-Demand team just stuck an app dev tool inside its help desk. What motivated that decision?
A. The primary motivation is to provide more value to IT admins and technicians. In most organizations, the non-IT business units assume all their IT requirements, and problems are to be addressed by the IT team unconditionally, regardless of what processes, hardware and software the organization currently is using. And the most prominent of those requirements is creating on-the-fly apps for data collection, analysis and reporting specific to a given business unit.
However, IT teams are typically considered a cost-center — rather than a profit-center — by management, so the teams operate under a lot of constraints and resort to tweaking or customizing existing infrastructure, particularly software. These tweaking and customization projects often involve implementing inefficient and insecure extensions to existing software or developing standalone and immature software. And that’s just not the IT team’s core expertise.
Letting IT teams build such custom apps and seamlessly integrate those apps with existing apps and data provides a significant productivity boost both for IT teams and business units alike.
- Q. What challenges are organizations facing when it comes to application development today? Is it just the volume of requests for new business services? Or has something changed in terms of the application lifecycle, either in development or in production?
A. On-the-fly apps are generated by an app creation process that is quite different from the traditional application development process used to build enterprise software applications. On-the-fly apps are mostly input-form and reporting-view apps, similar to MS Access apps, or building extensions to existing enterprise applications. An on-the-fly app might be used to implement a region-specific travel policy for the organization, or run a parallel sales promotion campaign as an experiment outside the official process, or conduct an ad-hoc survey and generate reports.
As those examples suggest, it’s critical that on-the-fly apps integrate smoothly with existing enterprise applications and their databases. But the organizations and IT teams building these apps face many challenges at many levels, including:
- * Lack of expertise in extending or integrating with the existing enterprise applications, which are typically massive and complex
- * Quick turnaround times for the rollout of the apps, interfering with a typical development cycle
- * Competing priorities – combined with lack of expertise and quick turnaround times – lead to inefficient and ineffective apps
- * Security-related challenges such as ensuring the apps do not compromise the access control, integrity and the information security posture of the organization
So this is a very different problem compared to traditional enterprise application development and implementation. But it’s also becoming mandatory for organizations to build on-the-fly apps to increase productivity and efficiency, stay ahead of competition and directly generate profits.
- Q. What’s the advantage of tying application development to a service desk?
A. Next to a communication tool like email, the service desk is typically the most-used enterprise software application by all users in the organization. The IT admins and technicians live by service desk, and end users make use of the self-service portal to consume IT services. Service desk enforces better organization of things like defined user roles, user groups, authentication, and access control. Service desk also enforces effective process implementation in terms of built-in work flows, notifications, reporting and audit. It also integrates seamlessly with other infrastructure components like directory services.
On-the-fly apps need to reference information about users, IT and non-IT assets, contracts and information from other enterprise application databases. The service desk can expose all of that data securely and on a need-to-know basis to each app.
The above factors make the service desk software ideally suited to supporting on-the-fly app creation. It’s really a matter of leverage. The service desk simply has the necessary capabilities in terms of information access organization and automation and enablement of end-user consumption through a self-service portal. In addition, the IT team can stay more productive because they continue to only deal with configuring and managing their one critical application, yet govern the creation and use of business-critical, on-the-fly apps from one central place.
- Q. Who’s developing business apps and services in organizations today? Application developers, other IT team members or business users? And how has that group changed over time?
A. Unless an organization specializes in software development, having application developers is probably a luxury it cannot afford. The buck is always passed to the IT team members who have to juggle app development with other priorities while also having to understand the business needs to build the right app.
The app creation alternatives are typically MS Excel macros, MS Access, or most recently, online app creation tools that let anyone build apps without much programming expertise. These alternatives can be effective in organizations with less mature IT processes and can relieve IT from building business apps, but such disparate and isolated apps could lead to the compromise of information security in larger enterprises.
Where the CIO and the IT organization are responsible for information security and meeting various regulatory and proprietary compliance mandates, the best option is to let designated users from other business units build apps and allow end users to consume them, all in a controlled manner from a central place like the service desk software.
Rajesh Ganesan is director of product management, enterprise security and SaaS solutions, at ManageEngine, a division of Zoho Corp. Rajesh has been with Zoho for over 17 years developing software products in various domains including telecommunications, network management and IT security. He has built many successful products at ManageEngine, currently focusing on delivering enterprise IT management solutions as SaaS. He can be reached on LinkedIn and Twitter.
APPLICATION INTEGRATION, CLOUD COMPUTING, DATA and ANALYTICS , Fresh Ink, SECURITY