Cireson Outlook Console Add-In for Service Manager 2012 Review


For those busy IT Managers who don’t have enough time to read the full blog article…

If you use SCSM 2012, purchase the Cireson Outlook Add-In. It’s one of the best third-party add-ons I’ve found to help with the day-to-day management of work items. Watch their video to see why. This is a true “killer” app.

Read on for the reasons why I like it so much on my Windows 8.1 Office 2013 32-bit desktop.

Face it, the Microsoft-based workforce lives and breathes in their Outlook client during day-to-day work. Any time we need to leave Outlook, it slows down our productivity. Cireson appears to have solved this problem for my Help Desk team. Now they can manage work items right from their inbox.

Some of the great things about this add-in:

  • It’s faster than the both the native SCSM 2012 portal and thick client. Not just a little faster, but “smoking fast” faster.
  • Installation takes minutes and setup is painless.
  • Allows you to manage your email inbox like a ticket queue. You can assign, create, or manage work items.
  • Supremely more intuitive than the native forms within the SCSM console.
  • Required fields within SCSM work item forms are much easier to recognize.

While the product is awesome, it’s not perfect, but these minor issues don’t distract from the overall awesome awesomeness.

  • Doesn’t like Office 2013 64-bit. I’m working with Cireson on a solution.
  • I still can’t teleport using the product. Very disappointing.

Features I’d love to see down the road (other than teleporting):

  • Ability to “Right Click” via the console.
  • Keep the “My Active Workitems” sort order after closing

Now for some way cool screen shots…

Figure 1 – All of the options when you right click on an email

Figure 2 – Here’s the Ribbon Bar options for Create

Figure 3 – The Ribbon Bar Edit Features

Figure 4 – What you get when you Edit – Really like the ability to just list incidents assigned to me

Figure 5 – Create Incident Form – Note the bold red boxes and the Tasks selection at the top left corner. No right task pane required to RESOLVE an incident.

Drop me a line in the comments if you have any questions.

DS

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SCSM 2012 Console Optimization Trick

Attended a really cool Service Manager Customer LyncUp! with Travis Wright today. You can learn more about it here – http://blogs.technet.com/b/servicemanager/archive/2012/10/25/service-manager-customer-lyncup.aspx

If you’re an SCSM geek, I strongly encourage attending these.

While there were some great discussions about various SCSM topics, the one thing I took away today was a tip provided by Travis to optimize the SCSM thick client.

Don’t maximize the desktop application.

Seems there’s a WPF bug. Simply restore it and then stretch the window to grab the amount of screen space you need.

I was pretty surprised at how much this sped up my console. Give it a try.

 

DS

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Windows Surface Pro and Direct Access Hit a Home Run

 

Our company has a very mobile Sales team who travel most of the United States and part of Mexico. Their success, as is much of our company, is tied to an agile response to Sales opportunities and customer relations. While laptops and Cisco Any-Connect did meet their needs, both were clunky and Cisco Any-Connect accounted for over 600-service desk incidents in 2012. Our traders and IT staff also detested Cisco Any-Connect and the required token key, although using their smart phones to obtain a key did alleviate having to carry around that annoying RSA dongle.

Simply, we needed to mobilize their “at the office” desktop experience and make traveling transparent to their technology. Direct Access delivers this!

We took two routes – 1) iPad using Citrix Receiver 2) Windows 8 Surface Pro or Windows 7 laptop using Direct Access

After internal IT testing, we selected Windows Server 2012 Direct Access and Windows 8 Surface Pros for some of our Sales staff and senior Portfolio Managers. We started with our “early adopters” and then let technology envy do the rest (we have a very competitive group of users and when someone sees that they are falling behind because their peer has better technology, they want it). Our users immediately told us how much more they liked Direct Access but, as expected, were struggling with Windows 8 (really missed the Start button). We overcame this challenge with some one-on-one training and a one-page reference sheet (search and you’ll find plenty of examples). They quickly became comfortable the OS and overlooked the nuances after experiencing the mobility of the new VPN and tablet. For those users who wanted to stay with their Windows 7 laptops, we added DA to their system. That alone improved the mobile user experience. Eventually, all our mobile users were very pleased with this experience and this positive response continues.

It’s important to note that we are a Windows environment (SharePoint workflows, server, Win7 desktop, and MS SQL databases) using third-party applications and proprietary .NET solutions. Everything that worked in Windows 7 worked in Windows 8. We don’t experience many of the non-Microsoft pain points.

While the Citrix iPad solution worked well and delivered a reliable product, the user experience was so different they eventually stopped using iPads for business processes (other than email). Our users also disliked the additional “clicks” to obtain the final business information from the Citrix-published applications. We continue to support this option, but it’s not nearly as enterprise effective as DA and the windows-based devices.

Security is always an issue for us and removing the RSA key requirement for VPN didn’t increase our exposure. You can’t log in to our network with Direct Access without an active AD account. Your device also has to be in a special AD OU and you have to log in at least once at the office to receive a certificate. Only devices we issued and control can access our network after the company’s approval. Any device with a Citrix Receiver app, valid RSA key, and valid AD account can remote in. This increases network exposure. Simply, none-AD objects can access your network.

Here’s other reasons why the Surface Pro and Direct Access work better than the iPad Citrix solution:

  • Identical user experience anywhere when connected. Wi-fi, network cable, whatever.
  • Drive mapping works immediately when connected. We were pleasantly surprised by how much this was desired by our user base.
  • Single sign-on process to access their work environment when traveling.
  • Excellent n-tier application performance.
  • Full Microsoft Office experience.
  • Internet Explorer 10 is faster.
  • DA allows for two-way connectivity. We can now ensure our remote users receive SCCM 2012 patching and software deployments remotely.
  • Remote desktop support with Dameware or TeamViewer is much easier.
  • You can still use Cisco Anyconnect as a backup VPN solution.
  • DA client is part of the Windows 8 CAL and cheaper than the Citrix solution.
  • While the costs of a Surface Pro and ancillary equipment is more costly than an iPad (+$300-ish), it is cheaper than our standard laptop with docking station (-$600).

What we don’t like about the Surface Pro but liked about the iPad:

  • Battery life (4-hours for the Pro but over 10 for the iPad).
  • Lack of internal network connectivity (Verizon, for example).
  • We had to reimage each of our Surface Pros with Windows 8 Enterprise. We do this for all our systems anyway, using SCCM 2012, but still wanted to raise this as an issue for other teams.

Things you need to remember:

  • This is IPv6 and while we haven’t experienced any communication issues with IPv6, it is different. Research it and understand the differences.
  • Server 2012 Direct Access is ready for prime time while Server 2008 isn’t.
  • Windows 8 DA is much easier to install than Windows 7.
  • High-availability or Business Continuity for DA is painful, but achievable.
  • Learn to use IE 10 compatibility mode. We overcame all of our issues using this or F12.
  • Direct Access only works on certain versions of Windows 7 Ultimate or Enterprise and Windows 8 Enterprise (You’ll have to reimage your Surface Pros)
  • There are plenty of Direct Access and IPv6 troubleshooting sites, but here is a good one. Also, here’s one specifically for Windows 7. Our issues almost always point to a time problem with the Surface Pro or laptop time being greater than 5-minutes off.

Our mobile staff is more nimble, capable, and spend much less time on the phone with my help desk staff, which means their devoting more time to the job and not to the technology.

 

Home run!

 

DS

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Citrix – Changing the Default Program – File Association Script

 

When installing Office on our Citrix farm in support of our Great Plains deployment, it changed the XML file association rendering our Billing invoice XML presentation process useless. Our Back Office staff notified us that all of their XML-based invoices were opening in Notepad.

Here’s the script we used to correct the default association program:

 

Assoc .xml=xmlfile

Ftype xmlfile=”C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\IEXPLORE.EXE” –nohome

 

Good luck,

DS

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SCSM 2012 SP1 Cumulative Update (CU) 2 Installation Fails on Action _Installhealthserviceperfcountersforpatching

Received this little surprise installing SCSM 2012 CU2:

An error occurred while executing custom action:  _Installhealthserviceperfcountersforpatching”

The setup log contains:

InstallCounters: LoadPerfCounterTextStrings() failed . Error Code: 0×80070002. momv3 “C:\Program Files\Microsoft System Center\Service Manager 2010\MOMConnectorCounters.ini” InstallPerfCountersHelper: pcCounterInstaller->InstallCounters() for the default counters failed. Error Code: 0×80070002. MOMConnector InstallPerfCountersLib: InstallHealthServicePerfCounters() failed . Error Code: 0×80070002. InstallPerfCountersLib: Retry Count : . InstallHSPerfCounters: Failed to install agent perf counters. Error Code: 0×80070002.

Note – We upgraded our SCSM 2010 environment in-place. Thus, the folder path.

Turns out, we were missing a registry key in PROD.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\MOMConnector

Found it and exported it from DEV and all is good.

DS

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SCSM 2012 Doesn’t Like Employees Changing Managers

Discovered a nasty bug in Service Manager 2012 after one of our Developers moved to a new manager. While AD managed the change and modified his manager accordingly, SCSM stopped associating his Review Activities (RA) with the new or old manager name. It displayed a blank entry and the manager would never see the approval email.

We deployed a service offering where code deployers request access to production servers (Add User to Local Admin runbook) and, after managers approval, the access is granted for a specific period. At the end of that period, the user is automatically removed. The user token taken from the portal is added to the Service Request (SR) and the RA automatically associates the user’s manager as the approving authority.

When the user moved to another group, SCSM 2012 lost the association to the new and old manager.

My team (Will S. took ownership and hit a home run for us) opened a ticket with MS Premier Support and below is the solution Ruth provided (Good job Ruth!).

Issue:

When one user submitted a service request with a review activity including “Line Manager Should review” the “Reviewers” field was populated but the manager name for this user was blank.  This would stall the RA until you manually updated the manager field, thus delaying what should be an automated process.

Cause:

Ultimately, it was found that this user’s manager had changed at some point since the initial import into Service Manager and the previous manager relationship was not removed. The user appeared to have 2 managers, which when the Line Manager was added, Service Manager tried to add both, and eventually neither were added.

Resolution:

To resolve this issue, you obtain the relationship type and then the relationship instance from the Service Manager database.

/** Change username to the impacted user**/

select R.RelationshipId, R.IsDeleted, BMEuser.DisplayName as username, BMEmgr.DisplayName as manager

from BaseManagedEntity BMEuser

join Relationship R

on R.TargetEntityId=BMEuser.BaseManagedEntityId

join BaseManagedEntity BMEmgr

on R.SourceEntityId=BMEmgr.BaseManagedEntityId

where R.RelationshipTypeId=’4A807C65-6A1F-15B2-BDF3-E967E58C254A’ /**This is the Employee Has Manager relationship GUID used by SCSM 2012**//

and BMEuser.Name like ‘%username%’

If there is more than one manager entry, use the RelationshipID for the invalid manager in the below Powershell removal command.

Get-screlationshipinstance -id “E20E4F3D-6CBC-93CF-CE51-C57059226CD3″ | remove-screlationshipinstance -confirm

Future RA’s should reflect the correct manager’s name.

DS

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Ask.com Toolbar – Really Oracle?

Ask.com Toolbar - Really Oracle?

Oh, yes, I’ll be glad to install the Ask.Com toolbar. It’ll be especially helpful while the  internet invents another advanced search technology.

It’ll look great next to my Yahoo, AOL, and Bing toolbars.

Seriously, didn’t we leave toolbars with the dial-up era?

It’s bad enough I have to install Java.  Sigh.

Happy “Burn Out” Thursday!

DS

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