BMC Helix ITSM Review

It provides a way to rapidly develop and deploy a number of small, but important applications.

What is most valuable?

With so many cool features available in BMC's own applications like ITSM, it's easy to overlook the platform features that enable them. ARS really shines when it's workflow directly supports critical business processes. And it's this workflow - how easily its translated from business process, how quickly it can be developed, and how fast it can be deployed and used - that I consider it's most valuable feature to the business. It has all of the other features you'd expect in a robust enterprise platform (architectural scalability, flexibility to adapt to Windows/Unix shops, tons of UI widgets, a variety of DB options, cloud offerings, etc.) but it's workflow engine is what makes it a great platform for pretty much any business need.

How has it helped my organization?

As a platform it provides a way to rapidly develop and deploy a number of small, but important applications. One example of this is how call center quality is evaluated and measured - we use Remedy to track, grade, and ultimately development improvements to the processes, ultimately benefiting the customer.

What needs improvement?

There are two areas where I think improvements could be made; web support of custom applications and upgrades. BMC provides a couple of modern web interfaces with SmartIT and MyIT, but these are limited to fronting their own (ITSM) applications. Having a modern web layer for custom applications running on the ARS platform would help a lot (indeed there are several very large technology companies who do this for themselves, but having a BMC solution would simplify the DevOps process and associated infrastructure). Upgrading to a new ARS version in a complex environment remains a challenge. It's not that any one part is hard (and BMC has the ability to offer a zero-down-time option), but it's often a manual, long, and time-consuming process. Managing multiple tasks and handling them as part of the installation would simplify things).

For how long have I used the solution?

We've been using the Remedy Action Request System (ARS) platform by BMC Software, running 100% custom applications (not ITSM). The larger, primary system is running ARS v8.1 and we're in the process of upgrading to ARS v9.1. There's also a smaller system running an older version that's being phased out.

Personally, I've been developing business solutions with the ARS platform for over 20 years. The last couple of environments I've been working have some applications over 10 years old.

What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

We had no issues deploying it.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

There have been no issues with its stability.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

BMC has done a good job of keeping ahead of enterprise growth and continues to offer new features that make administration, scaling, and performance tuning all easier to manage.

How are customer service and technical support?

Fair/Good - In environments as complex as ours, the basic needs are pretty much taken care-of in-house. The issues we generally face are complex and deep within the technology, and these always take a bit of time to bring the vendor up to speed. (To be fair, BMC offers higher support tiers, providing a more bespoke support experience, but I haven't had the opportunity to experience this tier.)

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

The platform was in place prior to my arrival.

What was our ROI?

That's more of a question for leadership, but I think that it needs to be compared against custom platforms and evaluated from a total-cost of ownership perspective. There's hard evidence that, while licensing sounds expensive, having the development staff focus on core business process automation rather than low-level platform development/maintenance is a worthwhile trade-off and is a bigger benefit to the business (assuming you treat the AR System platform as such).

What other advice do I have?

Pretty darn good, but nothing's perfect. Know your business, their processes, and how they use other tools - seriously. "Implementation" often is interpreted as focusing on just a software installation, like running setup.exe and watching the blue status bar make it's way to 100%. Frankly the software install is so well defined that it should be automated - and it typically only represents 20-30% of an overall deployment. 80% of an implementation should be spent analyzing, configuring, and testing the various configurations and integrations required by your unique business. Don't forget the training and knowledge transfer! Vendor teams can help (a lot) in guiding you through this, but they don't know your business like you and your customers.

Make sure you think about, and understand the differences between what BMC calls the brand, "Remedy", their application suite, " Remedy IT Service Management", and the platform, "AR System". Calling something "Remedy" without this understanding leads to a lot of confusion.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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author avatarJeevan Chaukar

I agree with majority of the points mentioned by Joe.
But I do have some difference of opinion.

Deployment Issues:
Just to be clear, there can be different types of deployments. One is the first big bang deployment - when you roll out the whole application as it is provided by BMC (we generally refer to this as OOTB = Out Of The Box deployment). This generally is smooth.

However, once installed, almost always every organization needs to configure and customize it to a varying extent. It is during the customization, people run into issues related to deployment.

One major problem is that BMC Remedy ARS development platform has very limited version management capability (you can check related articles in BMC communities).

By itself this is not a big problem.

But it becomes a big problem when you have very aggressive - so called AGILE (it is not real agile but just the related people think they are doing "agile") - methodology of development of new features. In such case you are always in this situation:

Release 0 is already deployed in Production.
Release 1 is in testing phase.
Release 2 is in development phase.
Release 3 is in design phase.

Each release overlaps with the other.

In this situation, all the environments on which BMC Remedy applications are deployed can not remain in sync. When you hit issue in one of the above releases, it becomes very hard to follow software configuration management and migrate Remedy workflows (i.e. objects such as Active Links, Filters, Forms and so on) between environments without causing side issues.

In conventional programming language like Java or C++, you can work on multiple code lines simultaneously and yet be able to build packages suitable to each release due to code branching/merging type facilities in standard tools like VSS, SVN, PVCS etc.

This can't be done using ARS platform (or it can be done but that is surely much convoluted way - I have taken 1-2 such implementations through but it was quite a pain to make it successful)

If one can maintain a somewhat less aggressive release cycle where all items of a given release are totally closed before touching scope of next release, Remedy can pretty much work in very stable and flawless manner - it is necessary in Remedy projects to not have your environments widely out of sync with each other (e.g. Development, Testing, Pre-production and Production).