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10/22/2009
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Rolling Review: PMG Service Catalog Suite

The Web 2.0 service catalog is built for IT and business users.

The PMG Service Catalog Suite uses a Web 2.0 platform to deliver Ajax-based dynamic menus that make it easy to navigate and select items without a lot of clicks. And unlike some competitors, PMG ties business process management into the tool by including capabilities, such as approval processes, that go beyond simply ordering services. The PMG Service Catalog Suite also provides a full scope of IT service management process disciplines, such as provisioning and configuration management, though these weren't reviewed.

The downside: While you don't have to use all the features of this suite, you will have to pay for the full package. Price as tested is $100,000.

Self Service

The PMG Service Catalog platform places much of the request/ordering process in the hands of users by providing visibility into the status of requests and the ability to tweak them as needed. While IT will be a big consumer of the Service Catalog, other parts of the organization can use this tool to automate any business process, workflow, or request that requires multiple levels of approval, steps, or actions to complete. For example, a business unit that hires a new employee might request a BlackBerry, and that request has to flow through telecom, IT, accounting, and other departments. Requests can be centrally managed and tracked against service agreements.

Another smart feature is the ability to bundle services. Using the new-hire example, users can tie together requests like phone and laptop provisioning into a single service.

While PMG can integrate into many service desk and ERP applications, it also can act as a standalone app, which provides a lot of deployment flexibility. Within the reporting page, for example, you can monitor key performance indicators and service-level agreements and examine the profitability of services, useful if you're a fee-for-service provider or deal with chargebacks. In addition, PMG has hooks into the major enterprise management vendors for coordinating with a configuration management database and will operate in a federated environment.

While PMG says it will be adding more support for other IT systems, the biggest barrier for organizations will be around workflow. Often, there's a gap between the desire to automate requests and the maturity of the process that needs to be automated.

Rolling Review
IT SERVICE CATALOG PRODUCTS
Business value
We're testing service catalog products for ease of use, administration, and integration; how well the product facilitates tracking status; and overall costs.
Reviewed so far
CA Service Catalog
Offers great flexibility and ease of use, but it's limited to Windows and suffers from Java's quirks.

Service-Now
Suite eases many aspects of IT service management and the scalable SaaS model will suit many companies' needs--but you'll have to decide if you need all the "extras" provided.

PMG Service Catalog Suite
A flexible, Web 2.0 interface and all the bells and whistles you would want in a service catalog offering.

For instance, if your organization's process to provision a new server is "Go ask Joe, he'll take care of it," you're not ready for a service catalog.

On the bright side, PMG can be a catalyst to document the request process in a way that doesn't produce dusty binders that are rarely referenced. For organizations with mature processes, or ones that are looking to automate parallel processing involving both people and systems, PMG may be a dream come true.

When we logged into PMG as an admin, we could control the overall layout via an integrated content management system, without the need for any coding. The workflow design is done via a Visio-like interface, with hundreds of actions embedded within the application. The software integrates with Active Directory to provide for user- and role-based security.

PMG provides a lot of deployment flexibility. We tested the multitenant software-as-a-service version, but the company also offers a hosted version that runs on dedicated hardware, as well as a version companies can run on their own premises. Licensing for the premises software is based on the number of CPUs running the application and either named or concurrent users. An express edition also is available that lets organizations create a catalog with a limited number of services.

PMG's suite has a strong alignment toward being a business service catalog, similar to competitors Service-Now and NewScale. By contrast, DigitalFuel's and Oblicore's catalogs focus on IT operations. We're impressed with PMG's ability to replace many of the very IT-centric runbook automation capabilities while at the same time elevating incorporating business process management functions that go beyond IT systems.

Michael Biddick is CTO at a federal systems integrator.

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