Enterprise service management (ESM) vendor Cherwell is positioning its platform as a way to enable IT to become a trusted advisor to business, rather than being the traditional servant. Cherwell argues that its approach to ESM, which aligns service management with DevOps, and also promotes the role of the ‘citizen developer' through its no code capabilities, makes this possible.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for effective service management in the enterprise, with businesses having to rethink processes for distributed work and servicing customers with rapidly changing expectations. Being able to build out new processes quickly, whilst maintaining control and security, are vital in companies that want to be able to respond in an agile way to rapidly changing markets.
The recent acquisition of Cherwell by Ivanti builds on this narrative, as the two companies will now seek to provide end-to-end service and asset management, from IT to lines of business, and from every endpoint to the IoT edge, once the deal closes in March.
These are just some of the themes that are going to be tackled at Cherwell's CLEAR 2021 event this week. We got the chance to speak with Pierre Aeschlimann, Director, Solution Strategist at Cherwell in EMEA, ahead of the event kickoff to get a better understanding of some of the challenges and opportunities facing enterprise buyers in 2021, as well to hear how Cherwell is positioning itself as it enters the new year.
Aeschlimann explained that CLEAR 2021 will focus on three core topics that are front of mind for buyers at the moment. Firstly, the constant improvement of operational efficiency - not just for IT, but all lines of business (which is clearly achieved through improvements in service management). Secondly, Cherwell is focusing on how it can deliver better services to employees through collaboration, portals, automation, amongst other things. And finally, how can IT drive the productivity and revenue generation of the business?
It's no code, not low code
As noted above, there are a variety of topics Cherwell is planning to address this week, as its platform caters to a wide variety of use cases. However, in my mind, there are two distinct features of the Cherwell platform that make it stand out - no code development and the alignment of ITSM and DevOps. Both of these points go hand in hand, in a way, as they enable speed to delivery and greater agility for the business.
Starting with the no-code aspect, Aeschlimann was keen to make the point that this should not be confused with low-code. He said:
The first thing to note is that it's not low code, it's no code. There is a big difference here because everything you do on the Cherwell platform, whether it be building widgets, building portals, building forms, building workflows, building integrations - whatever - it is completely graphically driven. There is no single place where you need to code something.
And then it is not just a no code platform. We have this platform there, but it is provided with some out of the box Enterprise Service Management content that accelerates the start. You don't have to reinvent something from scratch and build it on the platform.
This is compelling for buyers that are thinking about how they can rapidly transform a variety of service elements across their business - as Cherwell enables its customers to reuse components throughout their respective companies, built upon the foundation of an ESM platform. For example, if you've got an onboarding process that is exemplary within HR, you can simply copy, past and modify that same process to use for onboarding distributors or vendors.
Process work is difficult and service design isn't easy, so the ability to allow users to highlight successes and deploy them in other areas of the business, without the need for lengthy requests to IT or development is appealing.
Aeschlimann notes that the benefits of this no code approach include an improved time to market, a reduction in cost (as you don't need an army of developers enabling the work for you), and improved efficiency. Process owners aren't having to write specifications which are then handed over to the development team, which then when released may need further iterations in order to fully meet the user need - this whole process is stripped away.
However, Cherwell and Aeschlimann don't want buyers to think that this no code approach means ungoverned chaos across the enterprise. The platform provides frameworks for users to work within and for changes to be easily reversed. Aeschlimann explained:
You cannot run in uncontrolled chaos. First of all there are some guardrails in the platform - there are things you cannot do, because otherwise you would kill a common service or another application. And there is a good way of keeping track of who does what.
But we need to take the fear away from customers because the way that the platform is built, building something, publishing it, or rolling it back if you need to, is so simple that you're never going to enter into a situation of crisis or conflict. Rollback is done by the press of a button, so there is a comfort and security there that helps to avoid fear of chaos.
A symbiotic relationship
The second key differentiator, in my view, of the Cherwell approach to service management is the way in which the platform allows companies to align ITSM (or service management more broadly) and DevOps. Cherwell describes this as a ‘symbiotic relationship' that historically has been fragmented by two differing cultures and a lack of insight over both sides of the fence, as it were.
By aligning both ITSM and DevOps, giving both teams the information that they need from the other side, enterprises can move at pace to improve process work across the business and deliver services more efficiently. Aeschlimann explained:
There are different cultures. If you look at it on the ITSM side, they are process driven people, rigid type of organisations. On the Dev side it's agile, speed, etc. Two different cultures. We don't want to force one culture on another, because it won't work. So the idea here is to bring these two cultures together by providing insights and controls that will, on the one side, provide benefits to the IT people to get a better understanding of what's happening in the dev world. But also provide the dev world with ways of eliminating all the hurdles they had to communicate with the ITSM side.
So, for example, if you tell a dev person to fill out a form to prepare the change request for this application that you just developed, they won't like this. If you could have all that automated, then the dev person is satisfied and the IT person is satisfied, because the change is properly documented and you're compliant. For the ITSM people it's about getting an understanding of what's happening in dev - all the dev cycles, all the planning, all the commits, all the deployments - and how they relate back to the live infrastructure they're responsible to monitor and guarantee availability. And find some trends there maybe.
This creates the possibility of having a larger view of the entire value stream that they're controlling or they're working in.
There's a lot here that is compelling and after my conversation with Aeschlimann I was left with the understanding that Cherwell really ‘gets' the role of IT in a modern business. This isn't about provisioning services when requested to do so, this is about adopting a role that allows the business to flex and create where it needs to, whilst making the backend environments as seamless and automated as possible. The aim is to bring ESM to life in a way that has been difficult in the past, for many companies. Aeschlimann sums it up nicely by saying:
This is about IT not just being the servant of the business, but being an advisor. Showcase what you have done and showcase what you're capable of doing to the rest of the enterprise, so that they understand that if they want to digitise a process it can be done in just two or three days. IT should be a business within the business and promote its services.