How One Successful Consultancy Leverages Workato in a Robust ITSM Toolchain

Praecipio uses Workato to integrate its JIRA - based ITSM workflow.

 

In the world of consulting, Praecipio Consulting has quickly made a name for itself. Specializing in the Atlassian suite of products — including JIRA — they consult on Agile SDLC, DevOps, ITSM, and many other areas to ensure client success and provide a solid ROI. Founded in 2006, the company has rapidly evolved from a startup into an established consulting firm, experiencing hyper growth and setting an all time NPS of 65; the industry average is 31. In 2016, Atlassian awarded them the Atlassian Innovation Award for their work with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The firm also develops add-ons for the Atlassian Marketplace, in addition to being a Workato Consulting Partner.

Praecipio Consulting is distinct for applying kaizen, the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement, to its internal operations. The firm seeks to continually improve its own processes to more efficiently and effectively deliver client solutions.

But the company also prides itself on its holistic approach to problem-solving. “We’re a process-first consulting company,” explains Jack Harding, a Senior Consultant at the firm. He explains that, whereas many consultancies are primarily operators, implementing client requirements at face value, Praecipio Consulting seeks to fully understand the reasoning behind the requirements before advising on and implementing a solution.


Creating a Robust ITSM Toolkit with JIRA ServiceDesk

To deliver services and support to its Managed Services clients, Praecipio Consulting relies on an IT Service Management (ITSM) process with many moving parts. But the core tool supporting that process is JIRA Service Desk (JSD). “It’s perfect for use in an ITSM environment,” Harding says. “It has a lot of really powerful features right out of the box, but it’s also highly configurable and extensible through add-ons and partner technologies.” In addition to using JIRA Service Desk internally, Praecipio Consulting also advises many of its clients on implementing and configuring the tool to fit their ITSM processes.

.@Praecipio wanted to build the best Incident Management process they could using Atlassian tools. Click To Tweet

In order to demonstrate the power of JSD as a complete ITSM solution, Praecipio Consulting delivers workshops across the country that focus on the opportunities for integration and automation with JIRA Service Desk. “We wanted to show how the Atlassian products combined with other technologies can be used to augment JSD,” says Harding, who was responsible for building out the workshop environment. “I was asked to build the best Incident Management process I could using the Atlassian toolset and our partner technologies,” he explains. The workshop toolchain continues to evolve over time; currently, it includes JIRA, Confluence, BitBucket, HipChat, StatusPage, xMatters, Splunk, Puppet, BigPanda, and Riada’s Insight platform.

Streamlining Incident Management Between xMatters, Big Panda, and JIRA

The goal of Incident Management is to restore service as quickly as possible; depending on the severity, the costs associated with a major incident can be exorbitant. In fact, the industry average cost is $7900 per minute of unplanned downtime. “It’s all about mean time to resolution (MTTR),” Harding says. “You want to restore service as quickly as possible.”

In a well-oiled Incident Management workflow, making sense of the data from alert systems is crucial. So is communication: the right people must quickly be informed about what’s wrong and how to fix it. Harding explains that, to resolve incidents quickly, data must flow from system to system automatically—and accurately. “You have to ensure that there’s one system of record and that it’s entirely accurate,” he continues. “If you update an issue in JIRA, the update must be replicated to StatusPage, in the relevant HipChat room, in BigPanda, and so on. Everyone must be on the same page, regardless of the system they’re looking at.”

At their workshops, Praecipio Consulting’s ITSM workflows begin with an event—such as a server crashing—which triggers alerts from Pingdom and NewRelic. Those alerts all flow into BigPanda, an alert correlation engine. Harding explains, “BigPanda makes sense of all the alert noise in an environment by picking up on patterns and shared characteristics.”

Unplanned downtime costs $7900 per minute on average. @praecipio helped their customers avoid that. Click To Tweet

Upon creation in JIRA, the incidents are automatically tied to the affected IT asset in Insight, the appropriate individuals receive xMatters notifications, and the workflow also updates StatusPage to provide visibility to a larger audience. A HipChat room provides a venue for communicating about potential incident solutions, and after the incident is resolved, the workflow leverages Confluence to perform an incident retrospective for organizational learning.

Connecting the ITSM Dots with Workato

But getting these apps to work together sounds easier than it actually is. Harding explains that, though many systems have native JIRA connectors, they don’t always handle edge cases well. “There were scenarios where I needed the integration to do something the out-of-box connector just couldn’t do,” he says. “In many cases, it would have required development that I didn’t have the time or resources to do.”

Once Harding realized the integration quandary that he faced, he immediately turned to Workato. “As soon as I started working on this project, Michael Kuhl—a principal here at the firm – recommended Workato,” he says. “He knew what I was trying to do and assured me I’d be able to make it work.” The Workato platform allowed Harding to address even the trickiest use cases, without troubling the Praecipio Consulting DevOps team or learning how to code himself.

Using Workato also affords greater flexibility. “From an ITOps perspective, if an integration is written in Python or JavaScript, and something breaks, only developers can fix it,” says Harding. As an example, he cites an integration he encountered in a client engagement last year. “Because it was hard-coded and managed by a 3rd party vendor, the client had no visibility into the actual integration,” he explains.

In contrast, Workato enables a wider pool of people to respond to and implement fixes if there’s ever a problem with an integration.“With Workato, DevOps has visibility into the integration recipes—but so do IT and business users,” he says. It also means that iterative design happens more rapidly; with more eyes watching over an integration, there are more people dreaming up improvements.

While formulating this toolchain workshop, Harding leveraged Workato heavily to integrate the systems in the exact ways he needed them to connect. He created a Workato recipe to facilitate a specific notification solution between JIRA and xMatters. He also used a recipe to pipe alert data into custom fields in JIRA and another to create an incident retrospective in Confluence, automatically linking the retrospective to the original JIRA issue. “In the first iteration of the workshop,” Harding says, “[…] Workato was the glue that held it all together.”

The greatest benefit of using Workato? A significantly improved ITSM environment with better integration and more automation. By using Workato, Harding says, organizations are able to avoid a myriad of problems. To begin with, ITSM teams can automate a significant amount of manual work, as they no longer have to enter data into multiple systems as an issue progresses. With immediate synchronization, users no longer have to check multiple systems to get truly accurate updates on an incident. If this synchronization doesn’t exist, Harding continues, “[…] there can be a lot of confusion, and many more potential points of failure.”

“Workato allows organizations to be quick and nimble in implementing solutions, and then see the ROI sooner.” Harding estimates that he wrote the initial recipes in less than 48 hours. As the solution took shape, he explains, he benefitted from Workato’s Daily Expert Hours. “They were extremely customer-centric,” says Harding. “They saved me a lot of time and frustration.”

A shorter build time translated into direct savings for Praecipio Consulting. “I was working on this in addition to my regular client work,” Harding points out. “Workato enabled me to get the functionality I needed without bothering the development team or spending tons of time trying to learn how to code it myself.” The accelerated timeline came as a pleasant surprise. “I knew right away that Workato would be helpful, but once I started using it, I realized that I could use it for so much more than I had originally expected. It just works—really well.”

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