IBM SmartCloud Control Desk Review

Centralized solution to efficiently take care of customer service calls


What is our primary use case?

Our primary use is for our customers to submit a service request if there is something wrong with the services that we are providing to them. They report an issue or a change request so we know that they want something more out of our services. We then check what they need and offer solutions. If they accept, we then proceed and upgrade the service. But mainly it is used for requests. If something isn't working as it should then our teams resolve the issue.

The second use is the IT asset management, as we are using all sorts of programs, such as Microsoft Dynamics. We import the IT assets into our Control Desk and the IT guys manage them there. They move to different locations or to different users and all the changes go through the integration and back to Microsoft Dynamics.

What is most valuable?

Previously, there were only emails and phone calls and it was chaotic. You didn't know which issue to resolve - you went as you liked. You chose which mail to resolve and then you forgot about it when a call came through. Now, what I like about the Control Desk is that everything is centralized. You have all the requests in one place, you know which ones are for whom and who is working on them. So you have one big package and nothing is lost. So you know what to do and what's your plan for the future.

What needs improvement?

Because I have been working with SmartCloud Control Desk on a daily basis for eight years, I don't have any issues. I mainly hear our end users who do complain about some things, one of which is the user interface. The 7.611 version, for the users, and even, in my opinion, is not as pretty as it was. They went with simpler colors, but only blue and white. In the previous versions, you had those little icons and you knew what to click and where the configuration and administration are. Now you have to read the menus.

In the software or middleware forms I don't see any complaints, it works as it should. But again, users mainly complain about the user interface, the GUI. It has too much information and it's more complicated than it should be. Maybe it is a different architecture because I know that the self-service center is in Java and it's different from the others, including the applications in Maximo. Other than this, I would not say it needs anything new.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using IBM SmartCloud Control Desk for about eight years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability is good. I think that we had one problem with the database once, but overall the stability is good because we also have the Maximo asset management installations. What I've found out during these years is that it's mainly not the Maximo, or any particular program's fault if it crashes. It's mainly because of the integrations with other systems. Then, if there is too much overhead or something, the server might dump errors and then it has to be restarted or taken care of it. But overall, the middleware is very stable. I don't have problems. It's good software and also the DB tool which we use is very good. So, I don't think there should be a problem.

We work with a whole package of IBM products.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

In terms of scalability, it is scalable. We have multiple installations. We use SmartCloud for our company and we also implement it for our customers. In the beginning, we had only one installation and our customers reported issues through our system. We have about 70 employees in our company. Our biggest customer has around a thousand employees, then they go down to 600, 500, 400, and 200. So we're not a big player worldwide, we are a very small fish. But they want their own software so they can manage their own requests in the company. Our next step was to extend the Control Desk so we installed it on our premises. They use it for their own service requests within the company, and the ones that are relevant to us that they want to send us they use the integration with the Control Desk environment. They send the service request from their Control Desk to our Control Desk. We resolve it and then push it back to their system. So, let's say there are around 2,000 end users, max.

How are customer service and technical support?

If we have big problems that we cannot resolve very quickly by ourselves we open a PMR or a case - now it's called "a case" on the IBM support platform, and then we resolve the issue together.

The support is very good.

In the beginning, you have to set parameters and establish which environment you're in and send logs to them to begin the work. Some are resolved very quickly. Some need a little bit of time. There aren't any issues. There are more issues from our side because we are a very small team. Then, when you have a lot of cases to open and you also have the regular things to do, you tend to forget about the PMRs and then the support has to alert you. "Please send us something, we haven't heard from you," which they are very good at.

In short, the support is very good. They are very up to date and if we are late they send you an email that states, "Please send us something. It's been a while." I have nothing bad to say about them.

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

We are still using SmartCloud Control Desk on a daily basis. This is because we wanted to have a single platform that all the requests come from so that every day is the same. Now, you come to work, open the Control Desk, see what you have to work on and what's open from the previous day's work as well as the new calls coming in.

Previously in the company, they tried to implement one tool but it didn't work. They didn't even go into production. We have the first level support engineers that pick up the phone and were told what is wrong and they tried to resolve it. If they couldn't, they tried to find out who in the company would be the best guy to do it or the customers already knew who was working in a particular environment and called directly. That is how we did it previously.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is rather easy. Maybe, if you go into the more complex installations or if you would like more clustering and more servers, then it's a little bit harder. But overall, it's quite an easy installation. The administration is simple, too.

You can easily do the deployment in one day if you have a simple installation. We have a lot of environments, so if I deploy in the simplest environment, it is already configured and you can do it in one day, no problem. If you start with all the out-of-the-box functionalities, with no customization and just plain Maximo installation, you can start to use it in one day.

What about the implementation team?

We do the implementation ourselves. I don't install on the Linux platforms. But then from the other platform I do the complete installation and configuration. I do the installation of the middleware of the application and also the first configuration and all the similar configurations. I have some colleagues that are specific, who work on the integrations between Maximo and other systems and applications, but the basic deployment is my responsibility.

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

When using SmartCloud Control Desk I think you buy a license. We have the concurrent licensing fee in the Control Desk and then you have to renew every year or every four years when you extend the subscription and support. So the expenses are for the platforms, the memory, and all the storage. But from the IBM perspective, there is only concurrent licensing for the Control Desk. There are no additional costs for features.

What other advice do I have?

I often heard when we implemented the Control Desk that people were a little suspicious if it was going to work. We explained to them that it will be good for them because, on the one hand, it keeps tabs on people who claim to be working but are actually not and on the other hand, you have guys who are overwhelmed or overworked and this is a good environment to say, "I cannot do this right now. I have five requests waiting for me. Please wait or raise the emergency level and I will do it." People are scared because they think that someone will look under their fingers and say, "You did only five requests now, what have you been doing with all your hours?" But it's not like this, at least not in our case. It's good to have all the tasks and requests that you have to do in a centralized location. So I can say that it is a good thing that we have the Control Desk.

I would recommend SmartCloud Control Desk. I like working with it. Maybe I am already an old guy working with it, but I would recommend it because it's good for me. I don't see any issues with the product. But people know that there are a lot of products on the market. Yet, for me, it's good.

On a scale from one to ten, one is the worst, ten is the best, I would rate SmartCloud Control Desk an eight. That's because I would like them to work on the user interface. People want more colors and everything to be mobile. I do see that IBM is working more with mobile now, but overall the user experience, as opposed to the system and databases, could be improved. It does work as it should and it's good, but they should invest more in the user interfaces to be less data-oriented and more appealing for the user.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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