Another year has passed and we are happy to introduce a new version of the ALVAO system, ALVAO 8.2. It contains a range of new features, and here we select some of the most interesting ones.
ALVAO as an open platform
One of the main changes is that the whole ALVAO platform is now more open in order to support our Enterprise customers. This allows ALVAO to be used for various agendas within the whole organization. It is also easier to automatize agendas within IT. This sets the stage not only for your own development, but of course also for partner solutions. This technology is also available and useful for SMB customers.
New customer-customizable WebService
The new WebService plays a pivotal role in this respect, as it allows an easy extension of the functions of applications both in the console and in WebApp. It supports the following three main extensions.
The first is the possibility to add your custom commands into the menu above a request (i.e., a ticket), both in WebApp and in the console.
This can contain various functions written in C# Microsoft .NET, which can carry out an almost any operation in ALVAO or another system. For instance, they can create a document in a Microsoft Sharepoint repository. They can also make adjustments in the linked requests.
The second extension is automatic events linked to creation or change of a request (OnTicketCreated and OnTicketChanged). Here it is also possible to have nearly any kind of programmed operations. Pre-integrated support for the easy sending of custom notifications is also available.
The third extension is the possibility to add custom tabs into the detail of a request, allowing for instance:
• displaying a map to make it easier to find a damaged device
• displaying detailed information about the approval workflow
• displaying information from another linked system such as ERP (Microsoft DX, SAP etc.)
The platform for creating custom forms has also been improved. It is possible to easily display the current news and articles from the knowledge base (KB), similarly as they are shown in system forms. Custom forms can furthermore be easily localized into the requester’s language. Authorizations for creating custom fields have also been improved.
Furthermore, it is now possible to hide system links in the main menu and the menu below the user’s icon. There it is possible to add custom links (buttons) that can now also be easily localized.
Company e-shop – Standard HW/SW Request Forms
The Standard HW/SW Request Forms module has been significantly expanded and working in it is becoming closer and closer to standard online e-shops. Now it is possible to request for several devices simultaneously, enter the desired number of pieces and subsequently calculate the total price of the required devices. It is also possible to select which employee the device is intended for; this function that is especially useful when the device is being requested by a supervisor. Settings allow the grouping of devices by category and the display of any property of an object.
Innovated user Views and Profiles
Previously, the user had a large number of views, many of which were only seldom used. The new version allows the user to remove unused views and create an easy-to-navigate set of tabs.
The view settings are only saved via the Save view settings command. The settings of individual views can be restored to the last saved state by using the Restore view settings command. It is now possible to Unpin a view. Attached views are displayed standardly in the tab ribbon, removed views are only available from the drop-down menu. The Settings backup tab now has a new „Restore default settings“ button, which will restore the settings of tables and other options in applications to their default state – as when the application was started.
It is possible to define a default setting for views for all consoles, depending on whether the user is the requester or part of the solving team. This is also related to the new @me variable, which represents the currently logged in user and is used in these default views. The system administrator can newly alter/configure the profile of several users simultaneously. In the default configuration, standard users (i.e., users without solving roles in services) can only see the My Requests view. Certain columns were removed to improve the navigation in this view. Standard users will also see the Service Catalogue as their default page.
ALVAO completed the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) audit
The ALVAO Asset Management often handles sensitive information about company property and it was necessary to implement certain precautions which will lead to greater security and auditability of the system. Based on the implementation of these precautions, ALVAO Asset Management complied with the requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley audit and thus joined the ranks of other important systems with this property.
The most important precaution in this area is the audit of authorizations. All authorizations can be audited in ALVAO Asset Management based on SOX. The whole system then allows the auditing of user membership in groups. Reports from this log can be sent by email via Microsoft Reporting Services.
Another change lies in the area of logging into applications. Several changes were implemented to increase security. One innovation is the possibility to login in various situations, both within a domain (Single Sign-On) and outside of it. It is also newly possible to login as another user after authorization in the system.
What’s new in ALVAO Asset Management
Today, any device can be a computer
Perhaps the greater change is opening up the system to the concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) in the future. Newly, a computer can contain any device. At the same time, the property „Type of Computer“, which complicated a range of activities in the system, was removed. Now we have unique templates for all devices containing a computer. This allows you to have unique properties, icons on these devices and to store licenses and installations. This significantly helps navigation in records and allows license auditing over arbitrary devices. You can easily differentiate between physical servers from virtual ones and computers from notebooks and tablets. Properties related to notebooks no longer need to be stored on servers and vice versa.
To make it easier to change the types of objects, we have programmed the possibility to make them via bulk changes, again significantly expediting your work. At the same time, if you’re changing the type of an object, the object will automatically be unified with the template.
Support of date-type properties
The new version allows the creation of date-type properties. These properties can then be processed in the date format, and the system will behave similarly as in the case of system properties: „Warranty expiration“, „STK valid until“, „Purchase date“, „Date of next service check“, „Date of inventory“ etc.
In the properties tab, the bottom tabs were replaced by views, which makes it easier to adjust and expand them. As far as properties go, the performance of property displaying for properties that are inherited in the object tree was also optimized.
Improved work with objects
The original tabs „All“ and „Computers“ were replaced by standard views in the table (note: tabs above the table). All tools are now available in both new views, simplifying controls and working with objects. The user-defined „Administrator tools“ can also be used for all types of objects. When moving computers, the system supports moving including sets, which prevents potential user-based errors.
Software Asset Management – SAM
In the license management area, customers will be pleased to hear that we log all changes carried out on a license, which together with logging of the assignment of licenses offers complete control over what happens with the licenses. When removed, licenses are only marked as removed; they still remain in the database.
The automatic license assignment function has also been improved – in the new version it is possible to decide which group of computers these licenses can automatically be assigned to.
Support for SaaS records and cloud licenses
Support for CAL licenses and licenses which do not require product installation, such as Microsoft Office 365, has also been improved. These new licenses can now simply be assigned to a specific user or computer and will no longer report a missing installation or redundant license.
Optimization of the speed of dynamically audited views
The „Overview of licenses and installations“ window has been significantly optimized; this window displays all licenses and products and also dynamically shows which computers or persons have these licenses been assigned or illegally installed.
Optimized dialogs concerning measurements on databases above 100GB improved up to tenfold. This makes it easy to keep your licenses and installations in order and manageable, even in large organizations. The new „detect immediately“ function has also been added, allowing you to immediately check the state of an installation.
Electronic Handover Forms
ALVAO 8.2 contains the new ALVAO Electronic Handover Forms module, which allows electronic sending and confirmation of handover protocols. A technician can select whether he/she wants the given protocol to be confirmed electronically or physically (in writing). If he/she chooses the former, then the approval process will start and notify users of unconfirmed protocols in specified intervals. If a user does not react, the matter is escalated. This function allows each user to have a list of all confirmed handover protocols on the intranet, allowing easier navigation also in the future.
At the same time, it is now possible to have several numerical sequences for handover protocols. Protocol previews are now opened in Microsoft Word and then saved in the database as PDF files. This increases the trustworthiness of the archive of handover protocols while ensuring that the saved protocols are identical to the printed ones.
Improvement of Active Directory and MS SCCM integration
The new version offers improved Active Directory integration. For instance, if a computer is renamed in Active Directory but retains its GUID, it will automatically be renamed in AM without requiring a technician to confirm this change. The Connector in Microsoft SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager) has also been improved – it now lists information about serial numbers of screens (monitors), allowing the identification of the unapproved movement of screens.
Support for easier reporting
A8.2 can open the analytical sheet in excel directly from the console application; the sheet is automatically copied to the user’s profile and connected to the analytical database. If a user makes changes in the analyses, then these will be retained while also retaining the original sheet and analyses which are part of the distribution. This connection to the analytical database will ensure that the operating environment remains responsive and does not slow down.
New views for the creation of reports and queries for databases were also created. At the same time, we optimized and extended the documentation for current views. This allows you to use standard SQL instead of the Internal Query Language. The documentation also includes examples of SQL queries.
The area of licenses saw an expansion of logging, as was mentioned earlier. Now objects have improved logging, where removing an entry in the Object log will not actually remove the object, only hide it. Automatically generated records can also no longer be edited. Records such as Notes can only be adjusted by the author of the given note.
Similarly, the configuration of settings/authorizations for objects has been improved. The meaning of the right to „Insert objects“ was changed to „Create arbitrary objects“. Furthermore, the authorization to „Move“ was changed and in the new version it is possible to move objects without requiring an authorization to „Insert arbitrary objects“.
Support for working with HW in the field
It is now possible to easily move property to another location when traveling. Applications for barcode and QR readers make it easier to find a device and subsequently move it to a new location.
What’s new in ALVAO Service Desk
100% overview of new events and messages
Perhaps the greatest change in ALVAO Service Desk is the marking of unread messages, both in the log and the list of requests. This makes it easy to see which request is associated with a new message that you haven’t seen yet. Of course, the bold font also reacts to all events in the request. This function can be activated for all requests or only over requests which you are currently solving.
The new version has a range of new features related to ease of navigation in communication. To this end, messages in the log have a single-row preview of the message text. Images in the attachments can be previewed without needing to open a new window, and the number of displayed recipients and attachments is reduced for not opened messages.
And this is merely a list of the most interesting changes regarding the ease of navigation in the log and communications.
Stopping the SLA and measuring the waiting time
Another very interesting change is support for SLA monitoring. It is now possible to setup the system in a way allowing SLA to be stopped. Several customers asked for this option due to experiencing frequent problems with the concurrency of requesters. This automatically extends the agreed due date as per the SLA by the „Time of waiting for requesters“. The time of waiting for requesters is calculated automatically after each event which is marked as „awaiting response“. When the requester performs an action, the due date will automatically be adjusted until the request is resolved. The system then behaves similarly as a chess clock and exactly measures who waited for whom and how long.
Current target + Internal target = road to fulfilling the SLA
The „Next action“ field, which showed which action should be carried out by the solver to fulfill the SLA, is now called „Current target“. It is now possible to also set an „Internal target“ and its due date. This is useful especially for partial due dates or due dates that are related to process steps, such as „Processing a solution proposal“ or „Ordering a replacement device“, „Picking up warrantied HW“ etc. This allows the sorting of requests also based on this due date and also helps users keep track of what needs to be done. Internal due dates can also be associated with notifications.
For requests, it is possible to see how much time in operating hours is left until the given due date (reaction, resolution, internal target) and an icon which signalizes an upcoming due date and whether the request is stopped.
In relation to the due dates, the item „Required due date“ was replaced by a Custom item. This was an item where the requester could write down their own required due date.
ALVAO Microsoft Outlook Add-in
The ALVAO Microsoft Outlook Add-in has been expanded by new functions which simplify working in the Service Desk and allow users to easily send emails, create events in the calendar, plan meetings or create a task. The distribution of the application to stations was also improved, for instance by Group Policy (GPO) whereas the settings are newly saved in registers and when installing via GPO these settings can be arbitrarily changed – for instance it is possible to directly define the URL for ALVAO WebService. This makes distribution to stations easier and will also make upgrades simpler.
Request templates and Periodic requests
Periodic Requests are another new feature in the area of work organization. This can be found in the „templates“, which can be configured to perform regular automatic creation of requests. It is even possible to directly set which solver will receive the request after it is created. This allows the planning of prophylactic checks or recurring tasks. Monitoring is also simplified by the fact that automatically created requests come with links to „comes before – follows after“.
Write a new request
Easy creation of new requests is of paramount importance. In ALVAO 8.2, we went in the direction of unifying entries in the console and in WebApp. Newly, requests are entered via a web form which underwent significant innovation. Furthermore, selection and searching of services via automatic fill-in was improved. There is also a number of other improvements which you praised when entering from the console.
Further development of HTML support
More dialogs have been converted to HTML formatting; it can be said that there’s now only very few places left where HTML is not allowed. This also comes with a unified improved HTML editor. HTML formatting is newly available also when writing Notes and Events. The same applies to the following dialogs: Solve, Due date, Reopen, Return to operator, Move to another service, Transfer to solver, Sent for approval, Approve and Reject; all of these are now entered in HTML format. Furthermore, also the notifications from these messages are sent in HTML format. The forms themselves also allow the use of HTML formatting when entering the text. It is newly possible to set a default script, for instance to make sure it complies with company conventions.
This brings us to the wide area of so-called „notifications“. We have made a range of improvements in terms of easier navigation and understanding. Certain notifications have been canceled – in cases where they were not desired. For instance, the solver will not receive a notification if a service changed but the solver did not change, and all operators will not be notified if a request was immediately assigned to a solver. Furthermore, members of the solving team can now view and adjust the list of notification subscribers for requests.
Easier creation of links between requests
Links between requests make it significantly easier to work with requests, and that is why we also made significant innovations in this area. Changes of links (addition/removal/adjustment) are newly entered in the request log. This makes it possible to allow adjustments of links to arbitrary members of the solving team. When creating links between requests, automatic fill-in is active and takes into account the name of the request.
Improved searching and knowledge base
Searching is one of the most frequent scenarios of use. This applies to both searching information in requests and in the KB. Now, searching in the KB is based on full-text technology, which is newly a necessary prerequisite for high-quality and quick searching also among requests. The editing of articles in the KB has also been improved. Browsing the KB is improved by filtering based on the service where the article is located.