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Understanding System Center Service Manager

System Center Service Manager (SCSM) 2010 is a long-awaited addition to the System Center family. SCSM 2010 is over five years in the making—something Microsoft built as an entire tool and released as a beta only to be pulled back, completely redone, and rereleased as a completely new and improved product. SCSM 2010 is a help desk and change-control management tool that rolls up information collected in other System Center products and provides IT staff the ability to track, manage, and report on information from all of the various System Center components. The System Center Service Manager 2010 console, shown in Figure 1.12, is the focal point of the key management capabilities built in to SCSM.

Figure 1.12

Figure 1.12 System Center Service Manager console.

Business Solutions Addressed by System Center Service Manager

System Center Service Manager 2010 consolidates reports from client, server, physical, and virtual environments into a single reporting repository. SCSM allows an organization to leverage its investment in one System Center product into other System Center products. With the need to have formalized structure in change management, incident management, and reporting, SCSM leverages ITIL practices and procedures for an organization. Even being ITIL based, organizations that don't have a formal management practice can begin developing one based on the built-in processes in SCSM 2010.

Also important to organizations is managing and maintaining change-control processes so that network administrators don't patch or update systems in the middle of the day and accidentally bring down servers in the process. Or, as updates are needed on servers, rather than doing them one at a time, a maintenance window can be created where all updates are applied to a system at the same time. This managed change-control and maintenance process is something that SCSM 2010 helps to maintain and manage.

SCSM 2010 improves the integration between existing investments in System Center products, including inventory information, error reports, reporting details, and the like rolled up to SCSM for centralized information access and report generation.

Major Features of System Center Service Manager

System Center Service Manager is a very extensive product covering information reporting and management; some of the major features in the product are as follows:

  • Incident management—Incident management is probably better known as a "help desk"; however, beyond just taking in problem reports and processing the problem reports from users, SCSM ties into the System Center Operations Manager product so that errors and events coming off servers and workstations automatically trigger incident events in SCSM. Additionally, users can submit problem tickets or incidents whether through a console screen or by submitting the request via email or even text message that enters the incident management system where help desk or IT staff can provide support and assistance. The incident management system in SCSM, as shown in Figure 1.13, provides the ability to have problems or incidents easily submitted to the organization's IT support personnel.
    Figure 1.13

    Figure 1.13 Incident management within SCSM.

  • Change control—Built in to SCSM 2010 is a change-control monitoring and management system. Change control leverages a workflow process where a change request is submitted, and a workflow routes the change request to key personnel who need to review and approve the change to be performed. Beyond just a workflow approval process, SCSM 2010 tracks that change control, logs the change, monitors and manages the change, and keeps a running record of the change so that if problems occur in the future on the system, the information about all historical updates and changes are tracked and available for the administrators to see.
  • Consolidated reporting—SCSM 2010 collects information from other Microsoft System Center products as well as creates connectors and links to the databases in other System Center products for consolidated reporting. Rather than having each individual database store isolated information, data from multiple sources can be viewed and analyzed to help make decisions about the operation, maintenance, and support of the environment.
  • Self-service access—Rather than simply a help desk submission system, the self-service access feature in SCSM 2010 allows a user to search the knowledge base to see if anyone else in the organization has had the same problem and, if so, what the fix was to the problem. Many users would rather fix a problem themselves if the fix is known and works, and as such, SCSM tracks the problem tickets and solutions of previous fixes on systems and databases. The problems and solutions can be queried by the IT staff or by end users to share the knowledge and experiences of previous service requests.

Background on System Center Service Manager

System Center Service Manager 2010 is the first version of this product released to the public; however, internally, this product has been five years in the making. The product effectively had its version 1.0 release several years ago as a SharePoint-based tool, which was called System Center Service Desk at the time that Microsoft released it in beta to a limited number of organizations. Although the feedback was very positive on the feature sets, because it was based on SharePoint (2003 at the time), the product did not fit into the mold of other System Center products at the time, such as the robust management consoles found in System Center Configuration Manager or Operations Manager.

Microsoft went back to the drawing board and released a new version of System Center Service Manager, this time with the same management interface found in other System Center products. This release, probably dubbed v2.0 of the product, was limited to just help desk–type incident management and reporting at a time when all other management tools in the industry had evolved to support more than just trouble tickets, but to really address fully formed ITIL-based change-control and incident management systems.

Not ready yet for release, Microsoft spent another couple of years adding more functions to the Service Manager product to get it at par with what other service management tools on the marketplace included. With the release of System Center Service Manager 2010, the product is probably like a v3.0 or v4.0 of the product, with years of development, redevelopment, and updates before its formal debut.

What to Expect in the System Center Service Manager Chapters

In this book, three chapters are dedicated to the System Center Service Manager 2010 product. These chapters are as follows:

  • Chapter 14, "Service Manager 2010 Design, Planning, and Implementation"—This chapter covers the architectural design, server placement, and planning of the deployment of System Center Service Manager 2010 in the enterprise. The chapter addresses where to place management console servers as well as self-service portals for users to access, submit, and get responses back from the SCSM system. This chapter also covers the integration of SCSM 2010 into other System Center products as well as the integration of SCSM into Active Directory.
  • Chapter 15, "Using Service Manager 2010 for Incident Tracking and Help Desk Support"—Chapter 15 drills down into incident tracking and help desk support features in SCSM 2010 on how to configure the tracking system as well as how IT personnel and users interact with the tracking and incident management system. This chapter also covers the self-service features and capabilities built in to System Center Service Manager 2010.
  • Chapter 16, "Using Service Manager 2010 Change-Control Management"—Chapter 16 details the change management control process where information comes in from System Center Operations Manager as well as from users and administrators to be managed and processed. This includes the workflow process, the integration of the workflow into day-to-day systems management, and the scheduled maintenance and update process key to a managed change-control system.

System Center Service Manager 2010 brings together the various System Center products into a single tool that helps IT organizations manage problems or incidents in their environment. Jump to Chapters 14 through 16 of this book for specific information and deployment and configuration guidance on how SCSM can be best leveraged in your enterprise.

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