Data Center Management Systems

Problem Management and Reporting System - Technical Overview


The Challenge - Customer Service
Most organizations understand that in today's environment Customer Service is the make or break factor for most companies.  The best corporations are not only committed to providing the best customer service to their external customers, but also have adopted the same philosophy for their internal customers as well.  Total commitment to customer service excellence has a positive impact that ripples through an entire organization and can influence how managers, departments, work groups, and individuals view their peers, and directly affects how they work together.

Customer Service depends on people, organization and infrastructure, availability of information on products, vendors, maintenance suppliers and customers, and readily available appropriate solutions for customer problems, questions and requests.

Another key component of Customer Service is measurement.  Measurement for comparing the actual quality and quantity of the work provided, for evaluating the success of the service, and to highlight areas of success to allow effective adjustments and changes to procedures and the infrastructure.

IT Customer Service has more opportunities to have a positive impact on more internal and external customers, than perhaps any other organization within the corporation.

Maximizing Customer Satisfaction
Customer Service satisfaction is about people.  It is critical to help your customer service staff be successful by supplying effective training, providing truly effective problem management tools, and then measuring and rewarding their successes.

A truly effective system for managing Customer Service will: Minimize effort; Manage customer callback times; Escalate problems when they need attention;  Automatically log problems whenever possible;  Automatically assign problems; Provide the ability to measure the quality and quantity of the service;  Allow your people to quickly discover and respond to trends and to focus on areas having increased problems;  Provide quick access to the information that will allow the customer service people to quickly resolve the problem or route it to the appropriate technician;  Manage and track all steps of a problem's life cycle;  Allow all support people and technicians to have access to the Problem Management System whether they're on-site, at a remote site, or at home.

Customers are seldom very forgiving when evaluating customer service.  Reliability and availability of the service are key requirements.  One or two bad experiences will effect the way a customer views the service for a long time. Forget to call a customer back a few times, lose track of one of their problems or have them get frequent busy signals when they attempt to use the service and they will quickly lose confidence in the service.  Problems like these tend to feed on each other.  For example, occasionally forget to call customers back with a resolution or lose one of their problems and they will tie up your phones and people by frequently checking on their problems.

Meeting Customer expectations and maximizing customer satisfaction isn't necessarily difficult.  Here are some things that make a difference.

Identifying the issues
Providing superior customer service requires that many issues be understood and addressed. If your company is experiencing problems in one or more of the following areas, it may be time to consider enhancing your current Customer Service support system:
To address these issues you must be willing to commit to a comprehensive software implementation process, which could best be addressed by an automated software solution. There are two basic approaches to solving production turnover problems: The first is to develop a software solution in-house. The second is to purchase a vendor supplied software solution.

Evaluating Problem Management Software
A company certainly can take on developing or enhancing existing in house software to more effectively address some of the issues outlined above.  Given the importance of the customer service function a strong case can be made for investing in the sophistication, reliability, immediate availability and upward compatibility of a vendor supplied solution specifically designed to manage this process.

In looking at vendor supplied software solutions for problem management there are several factors to consider:

The in-house approach will cost the salary of a experienced Programmer/Analyst devoted to this project for perhaps one man-year (or  more!).  Your problems (and the costs associated with them) will not be addressed until the project is completed.  The developer, assuming continues to be employed by your company, would also be required to provide ongoing support and enhancements for the in-house system for an indefinite period of time.

The second alternate is to purchase existing software.  Since there are several such products on the market, your personnel would be required to evaluate and select the one which most meets your needs.  The purchase of the software could cost between $10,000 and $200,000.  Most software vendors also require a yearly maintenance charge of between 15 and 22 percent of the cost of the product.  With either approach, your personnel would need to be trained on how to use the system.  One day of training is usually sufficient.

Staff expertise
The developer of an in-house system would require strong technical programming skills and an in-depth knowledge of current problem management process models and their limitations.  Experience in working with automated problem management systems is highly desirable.  In purchasing a software package, you will need someone on your staff to act as administrator.  This person will be responsible for product installation/implementation, user training and ongoing support.  This person should have a working knowledge of JCL and utilities, and a thorough understanding of your problem management procedures.

The in-house development of a problem management system will most likely prove to be too time-consuming and expensive to be a practical solution.  In addition, it causes you to rely too heavily on the developer for ongoing support. Unless this person can be dedicated indefinitely to the system, it is unlikely to be enhanced as your requirements evolve.  Should the developer leave the company, you are faced with the temporary loss of support while a replacement is hired and trained.  The better solution is to acquire an existing software package which can meet your problem management needs.  The package can be installed immediately and can be ready to use in 1 to 3 weeks, depending on your specific requirements and implementation schedule. The software vendor is then responsible for maintenance, support and enhancements. You should seek out a vendor with a proven track record of providing quality, innovative software and responsive support services.  It is crucial that the vendor is dedicated to ongoing enhancements to the product, so that it will continue serve your needs in the future as the Information Technology world changes.

PM/RS - Problem Management and Reporting System

PM/RS History
PM/RS was designed and developed by the DCMS development staff with the help of several corporations interested in addressing their real problem management problems. Since its original inception in 1983, PM/RS has been continually enhanced to support an ever expanding variety of environments and user requirements. The focus in recent years has been to increase automation and easy-of-use for both the typical user and the PM/RS Administrator.

PM/RS Design
PM/RS is a TSO/ISPF-based system designed to manage any number of problems, requests and questions for medium to large-scale Data Processing installations.  The PM/RS programs are written in COBOL and Assembler and use a VSAM data base.  All phases of the problem management process, from automatic problem information capture and recording, customer incident call recording thru automated assignment, resolution and problem close, can be managed by PM/RS.  Problem are typically grouped and tracked by severity and impact.  Tracking and escalation detected timer expirations (such as a customer callback time approaching) is communicated to the owner of the problem and the help desk.

PM/RS provides a very comprehensive solution to problem management.  PM/RS's design enables you to easily manage your entire corporations help desk environment. It can easily be used to capture and manage problems that occur on other platforms, such as VSE and Client Server environments.  PM/RS is not labor intensive to manage.  Once PM/RS has been configured to your environment, only changes to your requirements would re-envolve the system administrator.

PM/RS Integration with other DCMS products
When DCMS Change Control System (CCS) is also installed, batch and on-line last change information is obtained real-time from CCS.  For the affected problem job and/or program, PM/RS shows the person who made the last change, the change's date, time and the change request identifier.  With the use of a single PF key, the referenced CCS request can be displayed in its entirety. The CCS-PM/RS combination also provides a management report which displays the success rates of those making production changes.

PM/RS Overview/Outline of major features

How easy?
DCMS provides a 60 day free trial, so you are able to easily see how PM/RS can perform and meet your needs.  A sample data base is included on the distribution tape.  Immediately after installing the demo/trial system, you can use the on-line functions of PM/RS to see sample historical data, issue queries, create reports, print predefined reports, etc. Our customization manual will step you thru the procedures required to define your companies infrastructure to PM/RS.  You will learn first-hand how easy it is to setup and use PM/RS.

How long?
After unloading the PM/RS software and demo/trial data base from the distribution tape, you are guided thru an on-line system generation dialog.  The entire process can be accomplished in a half an hour, after which you are ready to begin your evaluation.

Staff requirements
The product installation and system generation requires someone with some technical skills. Typically this activity is performed by a Systems Programmer or an Operations Analyst.  The evaluator should have an understanding of the problem management issues and requirements.

How easy?
PM/RS is distributed with pre-loaded tables typically only requiring slight modification.  DCMS also supplies utilities to quickly load tables that cannot be pre-loaded.  If your site's requirements are typical, implementation can be as simple as updating a few tables and turning the system on.

How long?
The length of time required to implement PM/RS can vary, depending on your site's unique configuration requirements, the relative skills of those working on the project and the amount of time they can dedicate to the effort.  PM/RS typically can been fully implemented in as little as one week.

Staff requirements
Once PM/RS has been implemented PM/RS administration duties are minimal.  However, to provide adequate coverage during sick days, vacations and should a trained Administrator leaves the company DCMS recommends that two individuals from your company be trained as PM/RS Administrators.

DCMS is now offering onsite turnkey implementation services.  PM/RS typically takes us one week to implement.  Implementation includes planning, installation, customization and training.

PM/RS includes the following manuals.
Administrator Guide - Topics include functional overview, installation, customization, security and table requirements.

Training Guide - A presentation of the on-line tutorial screens and sample screens from the on-line functions.

User Guide - A presentation of the on-line tutorial screens and sample screens from the on-line functions.

The following training classes are available:
PM/RS User Training - A 4 hour class in which the PM/RS features, operating environment and on-line functions are explained.

PM/RS Administrator Training - 8 hours of instruction covering PM/RS internals, tables, security and utilities.

The DCMS support line is available 7 days/week, 24 hours/day.

DASD for software libraries: 25 cylinders DASD for VSAM data base: OS/390 or z/OS

Products are licensed (Perpetual and Renewable) on a per processor basis.  Multiple processor and DCMS product discounts are available.  Pricing is tiered based on Processor Software Group.  Annual maintenance for perpetual licenses (after the first year) is calculated at a rate of 15% of the current license fee.

Q: Does PM/RS automatically log batch and on-line failures?
A: Yes.  PM/RS can automatically log Batch, JCL, CICS, Network, Remote Server, Etc. failures by detecting messages for these events and communicating relevant information to the PM/RS monitor (a started task), which in turn records the problem.   You can also communicate with the PM/RS monitor directly from a batch or on-line program to report any unusual or abnormal conditions.

Q: Can anyone add a new problem?
A: PM/RS can be setup so that anyone can add or only select individuals can add problems.  This is true for the other protected functions as well:  deleting, closing, updating and viewing.

Q: Do all the tables have to be completed before a problem can be added?
A: No, while adding a problem, you can enter a question mark (?) in most required fields to list the acceptable entries already defined in the corresponding table.  If you don't see the one you need, you can issue the command to add it, select it from the list and continue with the rest of the problem.

Q: Can we archive problems that have reached a certain age to keep our disk space requirements reasonable.
A: Yes, a utility can be scheduled to run that will periodically move problems to tape cased on problem type and date.  A PM/RS utility allows problems to be quickly retrieved from the archive should they be needed.

Q: Some of our potential PM/RS users are not always logged on to TSO.  Can PM/RS notify these users of their problems through our E-MAIL system?
A: Yes, if your E-MAIL system permits the entry of messages through a batch utility.  PM/RS can be configured to execute a JOB each time a problem is added or updated.  The JOB (an ISPF skeleton library member) can be setup to use the utility to add an E-MAIL message directed to the problem assignee.

Q: Can the PM/RS screens be customized?
A: Yes.  As an example, if you would prefer that 'Reporter Location' should be called 'Reporter Building', you need only change the corresponding ISPF panels.  ISPF panels are PDS members which are almost screen image, so the change is easy.

For additional information, contact your DCMS Representative at (800)998-3848 or