Management Capabilities of System Center Service Manager

RockPaperMany people who are new to Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 Service Manager are surprised to learn that there is more than one management interface, namely the Service Manager Console. Some more experienced people would tell you that there are three management interfaces to Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 Service Manager. We’ll discuss those shortly. In reality, there are more than three management interfaces. But many people don’t know about more than one or three.

If you were to ask someone who uses Service Manager what the capabilities and services are that are offered by Service Manager, you would likely get different answers depending on their perspective and familiarity with Service Manager. Their recommendations and advice for best practices with using Service Manager — something as fundamental as the rules of the game of Service Manager — would be influenced by their awareness of the different management interfaces. Even, something so basic as how many management interfaces Service Manager offers.

In order to have a winning strategy with Service Manager, you should know that there isn’t just one Service Manager management interface. To make well-educated purchasing, design and implementation decisions with respect to Service Manager, you should know that there are more than the three obvious management interfaces. Consider an analogy depicted in a conversation I had with a friend.

“Rock!” I cried.

She glared at me and said flatly, “Paper wraps rocks. I win.”

“Another round?” I implored.

She agreed.

“Lizard! Lizard eats paper. I win,” I exclaimed.

Her tone was scathing. “What are you talking about?”

“Rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock,” I said matter-of-factly.

With vehemence dripping from her lips, she insisted, “It’s just rock, paper, scissors. There are only three!”

Sure, my friend was yelling about the rules of a classic children’s game while I was having fun with a twist on the game you might have seen on CBS’ “Big Bang Theory” called Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock — but her insistence on tradition made me recognize how limiting it can be when someone is not aware of some of the more powerful capabilities of a technology.

Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 Service Manager’s has three management interfaces besides the email and phone interfaces used to submit tickets. The Service Manager interface triumvirate includes the Service Manager Console, Portal and Shell.

These three interfaces existed before R2 in the SP1 and original 2012 version, and even earlier. But, many people aren’t very familiar with them all and think there is just the console. Here’s a brief overview of the three integrated aspects of the Service Manager system.

Service Manager Console

At first, most administrators typically use the Service Manager Console, a graphical interface. It has the customary System Center three-pane interface with the navigation pane on the left, the work pane in the middle and the task pane on the right.

Like most other components in the System Center suite, the Service Manager Console’s navigation pane provides several workspaces to organize the functionality of Service Manager. This lets administrators focus on the tools they need for a particular task at hand. The Work Items workspace provides day-to-day access to:

  • Activity Management
  • Change Management
  • Incident Management
  • Problem Management
  • Release Management
  • Service Request Fulfillment

One of the many configuration elements in the library workspace is the service catalog, which includes request and service offerings. Both kinds of offerings can be configured to allow users of the Service Manager Portal to interact with the platform without needing to install or access the Service Manager Console.

Service Manager Portal

The second Service Manager interface is the SharePoint-based Service Manager Portal. This web-based portal can be accessed from any Web browser. Users simply need to go to a URL such as https://scsm.contoso.com/SMPortal. The URLs may be part the browser favorites for every user in the organization and could also be a link in the organization’s regular SharePoint portal(s).

This Service Manager Self-Service Portal allows end users to log new service requests, change requests and incident reports. Help desk personnel can follow up through the Service Manager Console and end users can track the progress and resolution on their tickets through the same Service Manager Portal from which they were initiated. With careful design of request and service offerings, the Service Manager Portal can provide an effective platform for most users to interact with the help desk and other IT support personnel.

The SharePoint platform on which the Service Manager Portal is based allows rich opportunities for customization, including organizational branding. For the ambitious, that portal can be customized to include additional interactivity. There are also third-party add-ons to System Center Service Manager that can further enhance the Service Manager Portal experience. There is a third-party product called the Cireson Platform that can be used by analysts and administrators as well. Cireson offers several free apps in its free community stream such as Service Desk Ticker, Auto Close (of tickets after a certain number of days), Action Log Notify, Time Tracker, Remote Manage, Notify Analyst Free and Advanced Send Email.

Service Manager Shell

Besides the Service Manager console and Web portal, there is a third management interface, the Service Manager Shell. Based on Windows PowerShell, the Service Manager Shell includes over 100 commands (1 function, 31 aliases and 90 cmdlets) that are specific to Service Manager administration.

These Service Manager Shell commands allow for the management of the work items of Service Manager and the functionality equivalent to that offered in the Service Manager console’s administration, library, and configuration items workspaces. There are additional shell commands available for managing the Service Manager Data Warehouse and Reporting. The Service Manager Shell allows automation of any of the work item, configuration item, and Service Manager infrastructure administration.

Although, the installation of the System Center administration tools includes a shortcut to the Service Manager Shell with Service Manager console installation, there are other ways to access the tremendous power and versatility of the Service Manager Shell. The Windows PowerShell Integrated Scripting Environment (ISE) can include the Service Manager Shell tools by issuing the command:

Import-Module ‘C:\Program Files\Microsoft System Center 2012 R2\Service Manager\PowerShell\System.Center.Service.Manager.psd1’

Rather than running this command interactively, this import command could be included in a PowerShell profile so that the System Center Service Manager shell commands are always available. Another recommendation is to use a PowerShell remoting session to connect from the convenience of a help desk, analyst, or administrator workstation into one of the Service Manager servers, import the aforementioned module, and then import that module from the remote session so that the Service Manager Shell commands can be initiated from the administrative workstation. PowerShell Web Access could be used to extend the reach of these commands to an analyst’s phone or tablet. No matter what way these tools are accessed, as long as they have been imported into the current PowerShell session, the following command can be used to list the 122 commands:

Get-Command -Module System.Center.Service.Manager

Show-Command, Get-Help, and Get-Help -ShowWindow can all be used to provide additional information on the use of these commands. Additional details are available on online via Microsoft TechNet. Scripts of commonly used command sequences could be composed and saved for quick interactive use. Such scripts could also be included in Microsoft Azure Automation workflows. Scripts can also be wrapped in System Center Orchestrator runbooks so that they can be included in Service Manager workflows. Such runbooks could be synchronized via a Service Manager connector with Orchestrator, included in the Activity Management section of Service Manager, then wrapped into work item templates or bundled into the service offerings published to the Service Manager Portal.

With the three management interfaces — Console, Portal and Shell — Microsoft’s System Center Service Manager can provide customizable and effective opportunities for the service management of on-premises, private cloud, and public cloud (e.g. Azure) computing and software resources and systems.

As with Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock, your own PowerShell scripts, Orchestrator runbooks, and third-party products like those from Cireson, can be used to extend the management capabilities of System Center Service Manager.

Related Courses
Administering System Center 2012 Configuration Manager (M10747)
Deploying System Center 2012 Configuration Manager (M10748)
IT Service Management with System Center Service Manager (M10965)

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