CA Service Desk Manager Review

CA is seen as an experienced, reliable partner. The product suffers from poor design decisions and implementation in some areas.


Valuable Features

The important part for me is not related to any of the features the product offers as such as it doesn't offer anything some other product wouldn't offer. What I find comforting is that CA has been around for decades and therefore it is seen as a reliable partner, so companies buy their software even when there would be possibly better alternatives available. If I'd have to name one feature that makes it a viable option for some, I'd say it is the on-site installation instead of having your possibly sensitive data in the cloud.

Improvements to My Organization

I've worked as an employee and as an independent consultant for a number clients so I can't really speak to how this product has improved my organization. Usually, the organizations that decided to buy CA's service management solution had a very poor incident/request/change management system and process implemented, and this is what they got the product for. For some customers, it was way overkill when they would've been better off with some other commercial or open source solution. For some customers, it was scalable and robust enough to take the load the customer's use required.

Room for Improvement

The product has traditionally lacked the tools to support data migration from development to QA and then to production. CA has made a tool for this on the latest release but I haven't laid my hands on it yet. Also, data manipulation outside the UI - the parts that aren't modifiable through the UI by default and where the effort to enable it would be disproportional to the gained benefit - really lacks support from CA. They do ship tools that can achieve this but they're clunky, counterintuitive and prone to errors. Additionally, they bypass all the checks the system has in place for ensuring data integrity. Therefore, no, I'm not a big fan of those, and I've written my own tools to handle the data manipulation in a way that all the checks are made. Luckily, CA provides a couple of APIs for this. Also, the UI is a bit outdated and, while CA is working on bringing it to this century, they're still far away from it. The good part is it's pretty much just good old HTML and JavaScript, with just a hint of syntactic sugar from CA and you're golden.

The product has potential and if your business is flexible enough so that you can adjust the way of working to what the product offers out of the box, then it might be a good solution. However, I'm cutting down the score because of bad design decisions and outright bad implementation on some specific areas. Also, customizing the product to your needs beyond the basic UI changes means you'll have to hire either CA's professional services or an external consultant. Luckily, that's what pays my salary, so I'm not complaining too loudly. CA does offer training for this but they don't tell you the juicy bits. You'll have to reverse engineer and hack your way around to get to them.

Use of Solution

I've worked with the product since 2008.

Deployment Issues

Deployment is more or less point-and-click.

Stability Issues

Stability is usually ok, but sometimes you encounter issues that are sporadic and you have no way of reproducing those. Therefore, in the end, you just learn to live with them and find either a workaround or a quick-and-dirty fix that will hide the issue until it resurfaces. Since version r12.7, there has been fault tolerancy and high availability features built into the product, but it could've been done better. Officially the load balancer only supports F5 load balancers. However, with the price tag they have, I don't see too many medium or even large organizations going with that. They cook up their own solution, trading off some of the capabilities that make the system fault tolerant or HA in the first place.

Customer Service and Technical Support

Customer Service:

Customer service is fine and their customer service manager actually follows through if you give them not-so-positive feedback on the case review you get after every case is closed.

Technical Support:

Tech support is very courteous and it has some of the sharpest minds I've seen in CS that just enjoy the first line support and they really know the product inside out. Then there's a bunch of adequately competent people who can get you past the first line and you'll get your case handled even when it takes a bit more explaining.

Previous Solutions

Apart from the user perspective, I have no experience in the design and implementation of alternative products beyond the basic installation.

Initial Setup

The initial setup is pretty much next-next-next-next-ok, if you just need to get it running to play with it. After you start thinking about security or fault tolerance and scalability, it becomes more complex. However, just to evaluate it a blunt tool from the shed will be enough to ram it in and get it running.

Implementation Team

This is not relevant, as I'm working as an independent consultant doing the implementations. But if you want my advice, for the design, try to get someone who knows the product but is not in CA's pocket already. That way, you'll get honest opinions and options given to you. For the implementation, it doesn't matter, as long as the designer is supporting the implementation phase, has some stake in it and is technically able to do it in case the implementation team lacks the skills.

Pricing, Setup Cost and Licensing

I'll say this: This is not cheap. However, with the rather hefty price tag, you do get the support from CA and for the alternative commercial products designed for same scale use, the price is still competitive.

Other Advice

Contact CA and get a 30-day trial license. You'll get to see the product and play around it. It will not be enough to implement any custom features you want apart from the very basic ones, but at least you can get a feel of it. Additionally, you could hire a consultant to evaluate the suitability for your business, assuming you have the service management processes mapped out already. If you have no established processes and you can implement whatever process the tool can support, then you're good to go and it's only a matter of comparing the prices.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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1 Comment
Marcos L. DomingosReal UserTOP 5LEADERBOARD

The CA Service Desk Manager can natively integrate with CA Service Catalog and CA Unifed Self-Service. However, it is necessary to improve the users experience through a single ticket number, associating the offers with the request and incident areas, creating a Shared Services Center.

19 September 18
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