Clarity SM Review

The change module provides controls, visualization, and auditability. The suite has grown too large.


What is most valuable?

The core SDM component (the ticketing system) is the most valuable to me. It is reliable and covers the basic ITSM process stack very well (I,R,P,C). I am an IT consultant specializing in ITSM tools. The CA system has proven to be reliable and trustworthy. It can be scaled to meet the ITSM needs of the largest global enterprises. The change module is particularly robust. It provides controls, visualization, and auditability.

How has it helped my organization?

The system becomes a centralized place for ITSM data and process automation for the enterprise. For example, a monitoring system generates an alert on a production server (the SDM system will integrate with any monitoring tool on the planet). The alert can generate a ticket in SDM. The server is listed as a CI in SDM, so the resolvers know where the trouble is. The Change Impact Analyzer will highlight how that server interacts with and impacts other systems in the environment) so you can see if this will cause a downstream problem. The Asset Portfolio Manager component of the system will have the purchase, warranty and service agreements for that specific server. The knowledge base can have articles describing how to deal with that particular alert, or possible specific steps that should be taken on the system in question. If this has happened often with this server lately, a problem ticket can be opened. The incidents related to that CI can be attached to the problem record, so the problem manager can get a full view of what has been going on, etc. And on down the merry ITIL path.

I’ve implemented, configured and managed this system for hundreds of clients. I trust it. CA is not perfect, but this system is one of their most reliable products.

What needs improvement?

The suite has grown too large, and has been pulled together from a series of acquisitions. For example, the Service Catalog, the process automation engine (IT PAM), and the Asset Portfolio Manager are all separate systems attached through integration. The good news is CA does not charge a la carte, so you get all of this stuff included in the concurrent user license. The bad news is this can be a delicate web of integration, which can be finicky.

The CA Service Management Suite is comprised of several components. All of them were acquired individually by CA over the past 20 years and integrated into the original system. The core of the suite is CA Service Desk Manager (“SDM”), which is a ticketing system that is excellent and scalable for Request Management, Incident Management, Change Management and Problem Management. This is the bread-and-butter of the CA Service Management suite. It is heavily used around the world and very reliable. A+ ☺

CA typically does a great job of incorporating acquisitions into their existing products over time. For example, the Knowledge base and CMDB used to be separate products, connected to the core Service Desk through an integration. However, today they have been fully incorporated into core SDM. Logging into SDM, you would never know that the KB and CMDB were once completely separate products. This adds KB and CMDB to the list of excellent, scalable and reliable functions of the CA Service Management Suite. A+ ☺

However, the industry is driving us all rapidly forward.

The Service Catalog, IT Process Automation Manager, Unified Self Service, Xflow and CA Business Intelligence are all separate applications connected to SDM via integration. Even though you are purchasing this as one suite under a per-concurrent user model, it is actually a bunch of applications integrated together. C-.

This adds complexity to the system and creates an urban sprawl of servers. This sprawl, in turn, creates challenges with patching, upgrades and daily operations. You’ve got to be smart about virtualizing it, SSO, etc. C-.

Consequently, my point is that CA has room for improvement here.

I hope this helps. I am a big fan of CA Service Management and highly recommend it. However, like the rest of us in life, we all have room to improve.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using CA Service Management for 20 years (since 1997).

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Stability issues are a function of changes in the CA system. If you heavily modify it, and do not pay close attention to the internal integration between components (SDM, SC, APM, IT PAM), there can be issues. The system also prefers some head room on resources. So you need to give it more HDD, CPU and memory than your IT team will think is necessary (not a horrible amount, but this is not something you can run successfully with the minimum resource requirement).

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We have not had scalability issues. This system is capable of scaling to the largest enterprises. Conversely, it is overkill for small companies.

How are customer service and technical support?

Support is good. The CA support team could be larger, but overall the support is responsive and effective.

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

I have consulted with many systems (Remedy, HEAT, Service Center, Tivoli, ServiceNow, Assyst, etc.). Each has their strengths and weaknesses.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup can be complex, especially if you want to track and notify on a variety of granular controls. The system is cool, in that it can do this stuff. However, the vendor oversells how easy it is and the training from CA is terrible.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Licensing from CA is straightforward. The system is licensed by concurrent user. The rule of thumb for named users to concurrent users is 3/1. When you buy this system new, the licensing is amazingly simple. No add-ons. Just one license and you get everything. The challenge with CA licensing occurs over the long term. CA routinely changes the suite components every 5 years (or so), forcing existing customers to pay a license upgrade fee for access to the new components.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I have consulted with many systems (Remedy, HEAT, Service Center, Tivoli, ServiceNow, Assyst, etc.). Each has their strengths and weaknesses.

What other advice do I have?

If you are going to DIY this implementation, I recommend thorough planning with your IT team. Be sure you have the right engineers, and that they have at least attended the CA SM Admin course (4- or 5-day class). I mentioned earlier that CA training is not the best; however, this course is a necessity if you are going to self-implement. This is not a weekend project. Take it seriously; plan 8-2 weeks for yourself from the moment you build the VMs to the go-live date.

**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: We are an MSP that runs CA Service Management internally for our own IT needs as well as for our customers.
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