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SMAX Codeless Platform for ITSM/ESM: what difference does it make?

Micro Focus Expert
Micro Focus Expert
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As the ITSM (IT Service Management) landscape is now expanding beyond the traditional realm of IT to become ESM (Enterprise Service Management), as illustrated by the recent Forrester ESM Wave, the nature of the platforms enabling that ITSM->ESM expansion is becoming more important than ever because of the ramifications to the organizations relying on them. 

Before jumping in the heart of the topic, let’s look holistically at the landscape of ITSM/ESM platforms and their characteristics. 

A number of platforms constitute the ITSM landscape, as defined by Gartner in their regular Magic Quadrant. From that landscape, it is clear that the majority of the platforms, at least in terms of current market share – are of the same nature: a general-purpose development platform (the development language varies depending on the age of the platform), offered on-premise or on SaaS, offering a number of standard modules (ITSM and ITOM) and that can be easily expanded by means of an associated development environment. Notable examples of such platforms are the ServiceNow, Remedy, CA Service Manager, and Micro Focus Service Manager.

This is a convenient way of customizing existing applications or processes, or of developing new applications, and IT organizations have long enjoyed (some still are) the ease of customization and extension of such platforms, however, the overall cost of such platforms is now recognized as being a growing issue for the customers using such platforms, more specifically:

  • The time to deploy a new solution
  • The time and cost to upgrade a customized solution

While those attributes can be accepted by customers of the chronologically older platforms (HPE/MF Service Manager, CA Service Manager and BMC Remedy), it is striking that more recent platforms like ServiceNow suffer from the exact same issues in terms of the cost of deployment and version upgrade, as I hear from their customers often irritated by the running cost of operations, despite being SaaS.

This cost issue has therefore led those platform vendors to add a layer of “codeless” to reduce the amount of coding required for most common process customization work. This is historically what HPE initiated with Process Designer in Service Manager, soon copied by BMC in Remedy and later by ServiceNow.

While this type of initiative has been met with some level of success, it is worth noting that this overlay is not watertight, both by design (customers of such platforms are used to code extension) and because of technical limitations (it is very difficult to have an airtight codeless front end on a platform designed to be “codefull”. As a consequence, it is now generally accepted that this overlay of codeless has not changed substantially the big picture in terms of cost of ownership for those traditional platforms. 

This state of affairs on ITSM platforms is what led HPE at the time, now Micro Focus, to design a new generation of ITSM platform based on this business outcome: provide the best total cost of ownership (TCO) of an ITSM platform in the industry by:

  • dramatically reducing the initial time and cost needed to put a solution into operation
  • dramatically reducing the ongoing operations costs
  • eliminating the upgrade costs

This ruthless TCO business driver is what led to the selection of a number of technical choices to deliver on those business imperatives, which are the pillars of the product now called Micro Focus SMAX, short for Service Management Automation X:

  • A 100% Codeless platform with no code allowed, so that we could guarantee complete seamless version upgrade, even to the extent of being “versionless” when offered in SaaS.
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning as the core of the platform
  • The ability to run anywhere in terms of computing infrastructure, private, public or managed cloud with comparable operating benefits

This article focuses on the first element, the Codeless platform. Look for following articles on the other key characteristics of the SMAX platform.

So, what do we mean by Codeless in this context?

A Service Management application is the combination of 3 elements:

  1. A process workflow describing the logic of the application, illustrated by state/flow diagram with rules and actions associated to the transition between states
  2. A set of input/output forms to enter or display information to the users of the app
  3. A supporting data model.

The SMA Studio is a development toolkit addressing those 3 elements in a way that is visual, metadata-driven and without any kind of code, as illustrated by the following picture. For more details on Studio, you can refer to a previous blog or go to its documentation.studio.png


Figure 1: SMA Studio

As we delivered our initial versions of the SMAX platform (and its predecessor, Service Anywhere), we quickly gained adoption from customers seduced by its economics: not only is the license price competitive, but deployment time has now sunk to a couple of months for typical enterprise projects (compared to the typical 6-18 months for traditional platforms), and upgrade has now become an instant operation. Moreover, instead of having IT or LOB organizations consume their budget on JavaScript development for any small modification or large upgrade projects, they could now concentrate on process transformation and automation and adopt new features coming with new versions on an ongoing basis (typically on a quarterly basis). 

As a conclusion, with the new generation of Service Management platform that SMAX represents, the choice is now clear:

  • If customers favor extensive customization over out-of-the box, and the cost of ongoing development and upgrades is not an issue, then it is probably a good idea to stick to existing traditional service management platforms
  • If customers want to experience a dramatically lower time to deploy a solution and get rid of the upgrade costs, then choosing SMAX with its fully codeless approach is the way to go.

As usual, feel free to let me know your comments, and talk to you in another coming article.

Jacques Conand
Product Management Director, Service Management
Micro Focus

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About the Author
Jacques Conand is the Product Management Director of Service Management Automation (SMA) suite, the new Service Management offering from Micro Focus, as well as the Configuration Management Solution (CMDB + Discovery).
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