Friday, June 19, 2009

Winning the Quality War: HP Customers Offer Case Studies on Managing Application Performance

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast recorded at the Hewlett-Packard Software Universe 2009 Conference in Las Vegas the week of June 15, 2009.

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Podcast.com. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to a special BriefingsDirect podcast series coming to you on location from the Hewlett-Packard Software Universe 2009 Conference in Las Vegas. We’re here in the week of June 15, 2009 to explore the major enterprise software and solutions trends and innovations that are making news across the global HP ecology of customers, partners and developers.

I'm Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and I'll be your host throughout this special series of HP Sponsored Software Universe live discussions.

Now, please join me for our latest discussion, a series of user discussions on quality assurance issues. Our first HP customer case study comes from FICO. We are joined by Matt Dixon, senior manager of tools and processes, whose department undertook a service management improvement award for operational efficiency and integrity. Welcome to the show Matt.

Matt Dixon: Thanks, Dana. I’m glad to be here.

FICO's service-management approach

Gardner: Tell me a little bit about how you use the development of a service management portfolio approach to your remediation and changes that take place vis-à-vis your helpdesk. It sounds like an awful lot of changes for a large company?

Dixon: Yes. We did go through a lot of changes, but they were changes that we definitely needed to go through to be able to do more with less, which is important in this environment.

The IT service management (ITSM) project that we undertook allows us to centralize all of our incidents, changes, and configuration items (CIs) into a one centralized tool. Before, we had all these disparate tools that were out there and had to go to different tools and spreadsheets to find information about servers, network gear, or those types of things.

Now, we’ve consolidated it into one tool which helps our users and operations folks to be able to go to one spot, one source of truth, to be able to easily reassign incidents, migrate from an incident to a change, and see what’s going to be impacted through the configuration management database (CMDB).

Gardner: Perhaps you can help our listeners better understand what FICO does and then what sort of helpdesk and operational staff structure they have?

Dixon: FICO, formerly known as Fair Isaac, is a software analytics company. We help financial institutions make decisions and we’re primarily known for FICO scores. If you apply for a loan, half of the times you get a FICO score. We’re about 2,300 employees. Our IT staff is about 230. We’re a global company, and our helpdesk is located in India. It’s 24x7 and they are FICO employees -- so that’s important to know.

Gardner: Tell me about the problem set you’re trying to address directly with your IT service management approach?

Dixon: We had two primary objectives we were trying to meet with our ITSM project. The first was to replace our antiquated tool sets. As I said before, we had disparate tools that were

They're very important definitely in today’s economy, and through the completion of our project we've been able to consolidate tools to increase those efficiencies and to be able to do more with less.

all over the place and were not integrated. Some were developed internally, and the development team had left. So, we’re no longer able to keep up with the process maturity that we wanted to do, because the tools could not support the process improvements that we wanted.

In addition to that, we have a lot of sensitive data -- from all the different credit data that we have to medical data to insurance data. So, we go through a vast number of audits per year, both internal and external, and we identified some gaps with our ITSM's previous solution. We undertook this project to close those gaps, so we could meet those audit requirements.

Gardner: I suppose in today’s economy, making sure your operations are efficient, making sure that these changes don’t disrupt, and maintaining the applications in terms of performance are pretty important?

Dixon: They're very important definitely in today’s economy, and through the completion of our project we've been able to consolidate tools to increase those efficiencies and to be able to do more with less.

Gardner: As you transition from identifying your problems and knowing what you wanted, how did you come about a solution?

Request for proposal

Dixon: We sent a request for proposal (RFP) to four different companies to ask them how they would help us address the gaps that our previous tool sets had identified. Throughout that process, we kept a scorecard, and HP was chosen, primarily for three reasons.

Number one, we felt that the integration capabilities within HP, both currently and the future roadmaps, were better than the other solution sets. Number two, we thought that universal configuration management database (UCMDB), through its federation, offered a more complete solution than other CMDB solutions that were identified. The third one was our partnerships and existing relationships with HP, which we relied upon during the implementation of our ITSM solution.

Gardner: And so, were there several products that you actually put in place to accomplish your goals?

Dixon: We chose two primary products from HP. One was Service Manager where we log all of our changes and incidents, and then the second one was the UCMDB, and we integrated those two products, so that the CIs flow into Service Manager and that information flows out of Service Manager back into UCMDB.

Gardner: How long have you had this in place, and what sort of metrics or success and/or payback have you had?

Dixon: We started our implementation last summer, in July of 2008. We went live with Incident in August. We went live with Change Management in October. And, we went live in January with Configuration Management. It was kind of a phased rollout. We started last July, and the project wrapped up in January of 2009.

From the payback perspective, we’ve seen a variety of different paybacks. Number one, now we’ve been able to meet and surpass audit requirements.

Now, we can report on first-call resolution. We can report on a meantime to recover. We can report on all the important information the business is asking for.

That was our number one objective -- make sure that those audits go much faster, that we can gather the information quicker, and that we can meet and surpass audit requirements. We’ve been able to do that.

Number two, we’ve improved efficiencies and we’ve done that through templates, not having to double-enter data because of disparate tools. Now, we have one tool, and that information tracks within all the tools. You don’t have to double-enter data.

The third one is that we've improved visibility through notifications and reporting. Our previous toolset didn’t have a lot of reporting abilities and no notification options. Now, we can report on first-call resolution. We can report on a meantime to recover. We can report on all the important information the business is asking for.

The last one is that we have more enforcement or buy-in of our processes. Our number of changes logged, has gone up by 21 percent. It’s easier to log a change. We have different change processes and workflows that we’ve been able to develop. So, people buy into the process. We’ve seen a 21 percent increase in the number of changes logged from our previous toolset.

Gardner: You’ve got this information in one place, where you can analyze it and feel comfortable that all the changes are being managed, and nothing is falling off the side or in between the cracks. Is there something you can now do additionally with this data in this common, managed repository that you couldn’t do before? Or, were there adds or improvement in terms of moving to a variety of different systems or approaches?

Dixon: We have a lot of plans for the future, things that we’ve identified that we can do. Some of the immediate impacts we’ve seen are our major problem channels -- which CIs have the most incidents logged against them. We identify CIs in incidents. We identify CIs in changes. Now, we can run reports and say, "Which CIs are changing the most? Which CIs are breaking the most?" And, we can work on resolving those issues.

Then, we’ve continually improved the process. We have a mature tool with lot of integrations. We’ve been able to pull all this information together. So, we’re setting up roadmaps, both internally and in partnership with HP, to continually improve our process and tools.

Gardner: Well, great. We've been talking about a case study with a user FICO, and how they’ve implemented ITSM projects. Thanks, Matt.

Dixon: Thanks, Dana. I appreciate it.

Gevity opts for PPM solutions

Gardner: Our second customer use case discussion today comes from Gevity, part of TriNet. We’re here to discuss how portfolio and project management (PPM) solutions have helped them. We’re here with Vito Melfi. He is the vice president of IT operations. Welcome.

Vito Melfi: Thank you.

Gardner: Tell us a little bit about how PPM solutions became important for you?

Melfi: Well, in Gevity, we had, as most other companies do, a whole portfolio of applications and a lot of resources. The desire on Gevity’s part to become a very transparent IT organization was difficult to do, not knowing where your resources are, how you are using them, and how to re-prioritize applications within our company priorities.

The application of portfolio management became very critical, as well as strategic. Today, we have the ability to see across our resource base. We use the time-tracking system, and we can produce portfolio documents monthly. Our client base can see what’s out there as a priority, what’s in queue, and, if we have to change things, we can do so with great flexibility.

Gardner: Now, Gevity does a lot of application support for a number of companies in their HR function. So, applications are very important. Tell us more about how your company operates?

Melfi: We’re a professional employment organization (PEO). We deliver payroll services, benefits and workers’ comp services, and a host of other HR services. We’re essentially an HR service company for hire. We believe that we can provide these capabilities better as a service provider than most companies can provide trying to build this type of technology capability on their own.

Gardner: When you began looking into PPM, complexity of control probably was a number one concern for you?

Melfi: Absolutely. Complexity in an organization can be paramount if you don’t have good control over your resources and over your applications. At Gevity, we had a lot of people trying very hard to get control and get their arms around those things.

The technology that HP provides to PPM really is the enabler for us to figure out our whole portfolio requirement. The communication that comes back to our functional areas

Better internal customer service is always paramount to us. By being able to do more with less, obviously we can take our funding and look into different areas of investment.

and to our client base has been very well received. It's something that we’ve found to be very valuable to us. Then, with taking that through to the quality center and service center, the integration of the three has been just a big benefit to us.

Gardner: What would you say is the solution that this combination of products actually provides for you?

Melfi: The solution that we get out of our service center application is to be able to turn around the incidents that we have. We’ve been able to resolve first call incidents in a 70-80% first call close. This was our ratio with 10 people a couple of years ago, and it’s still our ratio with 7 people doing it. Our service level has maintained okay, and actually improved a bit, and our employee base has gone down. This is particularly important to us as we go forward with our parent company, TriNet, because now we’re going to be merging east- and west-coast operations.

Gardner: So, it’s greater visibility and greater control. How does that translate into returns on either investment in dollars and cents or in the way you can provide service and reliability to your users?

Melfi: It translates in a couple of ways. Better internal customer service is always paramount to us. By being able to do more with less, obviously we can take our funding and look into different areas of investment. Not having to invest in adding people to scale our services creates opportunity for us elsewhere in the organization.

Gardner: Okay. I wonder if there are any lessons that you might have for other folks who are looking at PPM? And, expanding on that, what would you do differently?

Melfi: We knew this, but it really comes to bear when you’re actually doing an implementation of your toolset, the key to success is having good processes. If you have those processes in place, the implementation of the toolset is a natural transition for you.

If you don’t have good processes in place, the tool itself will help, but you're going to have to take a step backwards and understand how these three things interact -- two, or three, or how many you’re implementing. So it’s not a silver bullet. It’s not going to come and automate everything for you. The key is to have a really a good grasp on what you do and how you do it and what your end game is, and then use the tools to your advantage.

Gardner: We’ve been talking about the use of PPM solutions with Vito Melfi. He is the vice president of IT operations at Gevity. Thanks.

Melfi: Thank you.

JetBlue revs up test cycle

Gardner: Our third customer today comes from an HP Software & Solutions Awards of Excellence winner, JetBlue Airways. We’re here with Sagi Varghese, manager of quality assurance at JetBlue. Welcome.

Sagi Varghese: Hi. How are you?

Gardner: Good. Tell us about the problems that you faced, as you tried to make your applications the best they could be?

Varghese: About two years ago, our team picked up the testing for our online booking site, which is hosted in-house. At that time, we had various issues with the stability of the site as well as the capability of the site. Being a value-add customer, we wanted to be able to offer our customer features beyond what came in a canned product offered by our business partner. We wanted to be able to offer additional services.

Over the last two years, we added a lot of features on top of our generic products -- integration with ancillary services like cars, hotels, and things that -- and we did those at a very fast pace. A lot of these enhancements had to be rolled out in a very short time frame.

Almost two years ago, all of the testing was manual and one of the first steps was to adopt a methodology, so that we could bring some structure and process around the testing techniques that we’re using. The next step was to partner with HP. We worked very closely with HP, not only on the functional aspects of the application, but also on the performance aspects of the application.

A typical end-to-end test cycle would take five to six people over several weeks to completely test a new solution or a new release of the application. We made a business case to automate the testing effort or the regression testing, as we call it, or the repeated testing, if you’d like, for want of the simple term. We made a business case to automate that using HP’s Quick Test Pro product and we were able to complete the automation in less than four weeks. That became the starting point.

It involved using a test automation framework that worked with the Quick Test Pro product, and our testing cycles reduced about 70 percent. As time progressed, and we added more features into our online Website, we also became more mature in the utilization of the tool and added more test scripts into our automated bucket, rather than manual. We went from 250 test cases to about 750 test cases that we run today, a lot of them overnight, in less than two days.

Gardner: At JetBlue, of course you’re in a very competitive field, the airline business. Therefore, all of your applications need to perform well. If your customers don’t get what they want in one or two clicks, you’re going to lose them. Tell me a little bit about the solution approach to making your applications better. Is it something that your testing did alone? What did you look for from a more holistic solutions perspective?

Varghese: One of the things that we were looking at was that customer experience. We were working with a product that was offered by a business partner or a vendor

Today, we are turning them around in less than two days, which means we can deliver more features to the market more often and realize the value.

and we were allowed customizations on top of that. We were largely dependent on the business partners, because they host our reservations site. So, we're kind of dependent on them for the performance of the application. We were able to work with them using HP’s LoadRunner product to optimize the performance of the site.

Gardner: You mentioned a few paybacks in putting together better quality assurance. What sort of utilization did you get in some of the tools that you had in place, even though you were going from manual to a more automated approach?

Varghese: About two years ago, even though we had the tools, we had very limited use. We ran a few ad-hoc, automated scripts every now and then. Since we adopted this framework a little over a year ago, we have 100 percent utilization of the tool. We don’t have enough licenses today. We definitely are in dire need of getting more licenses.

Last year, every person on my team went to advanced training. Everybody on the team can execute the 700 scripts pretty much overnight, if they had to. We could run them all parallel. We have 100 percent utilization of the tool and we’re in need for more licenses. I wish we had that capability, and we will in the future.

Gardner: So you’ve been able to cut your testing costs. You have seen better utilization of the tools you have in place and higher demand for more. How does it translate into what you've been able to accomplish in terms of your post-production quality of applications?

Varghese: Historically, when we had manual test cases, delivering a new release or a functionality on our Website involved perhaps three to four months of effort, simply because it took us several weeks to go through one cycle of testing. Today, we are turning them around in less than two days, which means we can deliver more features to the market more often and realize the value.

If you have heard, at JetBlue we have been offering even more leg-room features. This year, we have launched three or four products in the first quarter alone. We’ve been able to do that because of the quick turnaround time offered by the test automation capability.

Gardner: And not only do you reduce the time, what about the rate of failure?

Varghese: The rate of failure has reduced greatly. We brought post-production failures down by about 80 percent or so. Previously, in the interest of time, we would compromise on quality and you wouldn't necessarily do an end-to-end test. Today we have that, I wouldn’t say a luxury, but the ability to run an end-to-end test in less than two days. So, we’re able to pretty much test all of the facets of an application, even if that particular module is not affected.

Gardner: Congratulations on winning the award. This is a great testament that you took this particular solution set and did very good things with it.

Varghese: Absolutely. Thank you very much. Thank you for having us.

Gardner: We've been talking with Sagi Varghese, manager of quality assurance at JetBlue, a winner today of HP Software & Solutions Awards of Excellence.

Thanks for joining us for this special BriefingsDirect podcast, coming to you on location from the Hewlett-Packard Software Universe 2009 Conference in Las Vegas.

Also look for full transcripts of all of our Software Universe live podcasts on the BriefingsDirect.com blog network. Just search the web for BriefingsDirect. The conference content is also available at www.hp.com, just search on the HP site under Software Universe Live 2009.

I'm Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host for this series of HP sponsored Software Universe Live Discussions. Thanks for listening and come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Podcast.com. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast recorded at the Hewlett-Packard Software Universe 2009 Conference in Las Vegas during the week of June 15, 2009. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2009. All rights reserved.