New White Paper: How much money can you save with a Collaborative Workflow tool?

When you work with a product day in day out for many years, you gain a deep understanding of exactly how that product adds value to an organisation's processes. We've been working with our collaborative workflow tool, AppTracker, for over ten years now. We've been involved in many projects and have seen a multitude of approaches to managing applications, both with and without workflow tools. We therefore have a good understanding of how workflow tools can help organisations to save time and money.

We wanted to share this knowledge in a format which is useful for anyone considering investing in a workflow tool. We have therefore written a white paper which explores the journey an application takes from its initial request, via packaging, QA, UAT and deployment to live, and finally to retirement. What value is added by utilising a workflow tool? How much time and money can you save? Read the white paper to find answers to these questions.

Download the white paper

See what you can save with our new ROI Calculator

We've been working hard to build a tool which allows anyone to quickly work out how much time and money they can save by using AppTracker as their go-to Application Management and Migration solution. We've been very realistic with the sort of efficiencies that the tool adds to a typical organisation, and this should be clear in the numbers you'll see in the calculator. However when you start to add all these up the return on investment is very compelling. Take a look for yourself here:

AppTracker ROI Calculator

Take a sneak peek at our new Dashboard...

When we started out with AppTracker we were only tracking applications through their lifecycle. We're now hooking into multiple systems and tracking users, so the current dashboard can be limited.

We're therefore very keen to build a completely new dashboard which is user-centric and highly configurable. We've made some good progress so thought it would be useful to share what we've built so far.

The key features of the new dashboard will be:

  • A selection of predefined charts/graphs/gauges known as widgets which can be snapped into the dashboard
  • Widgets can be moved, re-sized and removed as required
  • Each widget can be filtered so it only shows data from a specific region/office/department (for an example take a look at the screenshot below where we have the four App Testing results widgets for the four regions in our demo organisation)
  • Dashboard layouts are saved for each user
  • Pre-configured dashboards for different roles in the organisation will be available so the "Applications Team Lead" will see a different default dashboard to the "Programme Manager"

We are hoping to release this in Q2 2015.

Here's a beta screenshot. Feedback is always welcome.

What will a Windows 10 migration look like?

Here at AppTracker HQ we've been heavily involved in many Windows 7 migrations, and even though we're now approaching the one year anniversary of the end of extended support for Windows XP, we are still helping customers move away from this OS. Customers who are paying Microsoft for extended XP support will be receiving a hefty invoice in April 2015 if they want to continue getting hotfixes. We're helping organisations who are in this position as they really don't want to justify that invoice to the CFO.

We were discussing this recently and the subject of Windows 7 support came up. There was some confusion over what Windows 7 mainstream support and extended support means, and when they expire, so I looked it up:

Windows 7 mainstream support expired on the 13th January 2015. That means we're not getting any new features in Windows 7 going forward.

Windows 7 extended support expires on 14th January 2020. This means that we've got around 5 years of security patches and hotfixes left on Windows 7. So there's no panic in terms of moving away from Windows 7.

As we're in the business of application management we talk to a lot of organisations about their plans for future OS migrations. It seems that some organisation are already planning their Windows 10 migrations even though we don't currently have an RTM date for this OS. It'll be interesting to see how applications running happily on Windows 7 will be affected by a move to this new OS. The general consensus is that most will "just work" without any remediation, which will massively reduce the amount of application repackaging and testing required for migrations to Windows 10. Does that mean we can just upgrade our existing Windows 7/8/8.1 machines in place to Windows 10? Possibly, but I suspect a more pragmatic approach should be considered :

  1. Understand your business: What applications are people actually using? There are lots of great software inventory tools out there which handle usage metrics. Use one of these to get an understanding of which users are using which applications.
  2. Rationalise: Take this opportunity to consolidate your application estate so that you're not deploying six versions of Adobe Reader to new machines. You don't need to address the existing machines with multiple versions, but have a plan to ensure that new builds will receive the "standard" version of software.
  3. Testing is king: Undertake a testing programme whereby you ensure that each application which is used by the business successfully installs, functions and uninstalls from your new shiny Windows 10 build. This is what we'd typically call "UAT". 
  4. Remediate: Fix any apps which don't work on your Windows 10 build. Deploy those fixes out to the existing estate.
  5. Core build: Test that your Windows 7/8/8.1 core build upgrades to Windows 10 OK.
  6. Migration day: Those in-place upgrades to Windows 10 can now be started.

This is clearly over-simplified, but it gives you an idea of how to approach a migration to Windows 10. 

We're always wondering how AppTracker will be able to help with future migrations, especially as we're over the pain of moving away from XP. We believe the key is with adding context to applications by taking data feeds from multiple systems (AD, HR, Property Services, Software Inventory etc). Our planning and readiness reports can then answer questions like:

"Can I start my in-place upgrades to Windows 10 for the Finance team in Leeds on Monday?"

"Which applications should I be UATing this week to give allow me to migrate the New York office next month?"

Now we just need Windows 10 to go RTM!

Perpetual migration machines

Boyle's self-flowing flask, a perpetual motion machine

We've been talking to a number of big organisations recently about Application Management. From those we've spoken to there is a big drive towards centralising the planning and management of application management at the moment. IT departments are struggling with the application-based demands of the business and they need to get a handle on this fast. 

What has changed recently to make this fundamental to today's world? There has been a shift in focus towards an application-centric workplace. I'm not just talking about mobile devices here, I'm taking about all devices. I'm not suggested that this is breaking news - It's been talked about for years, but it can take time for the large organisations to catch up, and I suspect that's what's happening here.

The most interesting point to be revealed from these conversations is this: The very large organisations don't go through the typical BAU -> Migration -> BAU cycle. They're just too big. They have to apply an approach which is closer to Painting the Forth Bridge whereby the process takes so long that by time you have finished you need to start again. And this got me thinking; unlike the perpetual motion machine like Boyle's (pictured above) the perpetual migration machines really do exist.

AppTracker saves the day...

Whilst training a public sector customer on AppTracker today we had an interesting moment where the customer asked if they could export the data from AppTracker into Excel. We answered saying yes any grid can be directly exported to Excel, but asked why they wanted to do this. It turned out that this person’s function involved looking at each department’s users, then looking at the applications they require, then building an Excel spreadsheet to capture this information and plan the migration.

We showed them that they could produce this exact pivot table in AppTracker, then simply export it to Excel if further manipulation was required. The customer couldn’t believe their eyes – They had spent days manually producing these table up until now. The icing on the cake was when we showed them that they could manually manipulate this data in Excel to fix any errors in the User/App mappings, then re-import this corrected data straight into AppTracker. 

I've recreated the table using dummy data to show you the sort of data they need. This can be generated in less than a minute. So powerful!

Whats new in AppTracker 4.0?

img.png

We're hosting a webinar on the 19th Feb to go over these features in more detail. Register here

We're really excited to announce the release of AppTracker 4.0. There has been a huge amount of effort in developing the Migration Planning Toolkit to enable project managers to better plan and manage their migrations. With last year's focus on connecting to the outside world, we are now able to provide answers to questions such as "When can I migrate the Finance team?"

This work has lead to the final release of the AppTracker Application Prioritisation (AAP) report where the tool recommends which applications should be packaged in which order, allowing organisations to start the deployment phase of their migration earlier.  

In AppTracker 4.0 we've focused a lot more on communication with the users. The email templates have been greatly updated and its now possible to send ten custom emails to users during the migration process. This fits in with all the T-minus planning reporting were continuing to work on.

Also added to this release are Blueprint FiltersRequested by Who Report and as a much requested bonus; the ability to Save Data Mining Reports for future use.

AppTracker Application Prioritisation (AAP) 

Connections to Active Directory, Centrix, Systrack and Liquidware Labs as well as the ability to import geographical information from property services has allowed us to be able to answer questions such as "How many applications does the Finance department in Leeds use? Are those applications ready for deployment now? Will they be ready for migration in April?"

Because we're now able to provide a lot more context around our data we can drill down into our migrations and look at which users are ready from an application readiness perspective with:

  • User Application Readiness Report
  • Blueprint Application Readiness Report
  • Deployment Unit Application Readiness Report

The really exciting development is that the AAP report shows you which of your applications to package first, allowing you to start the deployment phase of your migration earlier.

 

Email Templates

During the lifecycle of a migration project, it is often necessary to communicate with the users and tell them exactly what is happening and what the next steps are. Whether it's a "Welcome to the project", "Five days to go", "Migration day" or "Satisfaction Survey" email, it's important to be able to use any of the information held in the AppTracker to get that message across. AppTracker now has the ability to send customisable emails (using templates) directly from the User Migration module. All you need to do is select the users, right-click and select which email template you want to send out. 

The HTML formatted email templates can be branded and designed in any way you chose. Information from any field in AppTracker, including which applications are used by each user can be added by simply including a simple formatted token. Emails can now also link back to questionnaires so further knowledge may be gathered throughout the migration process.

Blueprint Filters

As we delve further into the data available to AppTracker through imports, connections and manual updates we often come up against the challenge of finding what's common to two areas. For example we might want to see what applications or users are associated with a specific blueprint such as all the apps in the Leeds office or all the apps used by Finance.

What happens when we want to see applications that are common to both, i.e show me all the applications associated with the Leeds and the Finance blueprints. This is where we want to start drilling down into our blueprint data. Although this was possible in previous versions of AppTracker it was never very intuitive.

We are proud to announce the addition of the Blueprint Filters in both the User and Application modules

Clicking on the Filter By Blueprints filter bar will show the above options. It's now possible to select a number of blueprints representing different collections and show "All Apps that are common to the selected Blueprints" or "Show Apps that are in each of the selected Blueprints". Lets talk about the distinction, as this quite a confusing concept

Show all Apps that are common: For example if you selected one Department i.e. Finance and one Location i.e. Leeds you would see all of apps used by the Finance Department in Leeds.

Show Apps that are in each Blueprint: For example we could select the Marketing and the Sales blueprints to see which applications are used by both these departments.

Requested By Who Report

The Requested by Who Report has been a requirement of many of our customers. When collecting Application to User mapping data you might often find yourself in the position of asking "Just who uses these applications, where are they located and why do they use them". This report lets you quickly answer that question.

Select an application or number of applications and click on the Reports button. Select "Request by Who?"

This will give you a report like this:

It's pretty useful as it is, but if you want to drill down further, you can select to include blueprints. In the next example I select this option, re-run the report and then filter to just see Department blueprints. Be careful if you're producing a report on more than one app here as you will potentially be returning a huge amount of data.

Now we can either export that data to Excel, CSV etc or we can pivot right here in the grid by clicking on the Pivot button. This allows us to create a quick report on the number of people in each department actually use this application:

Saving Data Mining Reports

One of the main feature requests over the past few months has been the ability to save Data Mining Reports for future use. This is especially useful for reports that are used on a daily or weekly basis where a large number of fields are required.

Now when you open a Data Mining Report in either the Application, User Migration or Deployment Unit modules you will see the following addition to the options:

Once you have selected the fields you wish to report on, click the Save Report Button and you will get the following dialog:

Type in the report name and click Save Report. Now whenever you wish to re-run the report you can just click on the "Select Saved Report" button, chose the report you wish to run and then click "Run Report". If you wish to delete a saved report then just click on the "Select Saved Report" button and click the "X" next to the report you wish to remove.

This very simple addition should save some people a significant amount of time over the next few weeks.

That completes this blog post covering the new features in AppTracker 4.0. We're always interested in feedback so please feel free to post a comment or get in touch.

250,000 users migrations being managed by AppTracker!

AppTracker is now being used as the go-to user migration tool for many organisations. Our customers range in size from 500 users right up to 130,000 users at a high street bank. As such we are happy to announce that AppTracker is now managing the migrations of over 250,000 users!

Our customers love the functionality AppTracker brings to the table when it comes to planning and managing migrations. When combined with our powerful API it provides unprecedented levels of inter-operability with existing systems. Your imagination is the only limit when it comes to task automation in AppTracker!

AppTracker at AppManageEvent 2014

We're pleased to announce that we will be attending the AppManageEvent in Utrecht this year as one of the sponsors. Were looking forward to presenting AppTracker at one of the sessions and showing some of the pretty cool things we can do with the API and automation scripts.

Were really keen on seeing just how the focus of the event is going to change this year with the rebranding away from solely concentrating on application packaging and moving into the complete application management workspace. I think there are going to be some great ideas coming out of the conference which will help is to drive the future direction of AppTracker.

Some of the key items Ill be looking out for during the conference will be:

  • App licensing
  • Automation
  • Usage management

Some areas of concern that have come from recent XP to Windows 7 migrations are understanding the actual scope of your environment, your license status and what resources are needed to manage the application estate effectively

Welcome to AppManageEvent!

Organized by PDS for the 9th year, "PackagingEvent" has evolved into "AppManagEvent" and will continue to bring you all the latest updates and tech information around Application Management. The 2014 edition will be hosted in the SuperNova, Jaarbeurs Utrecht on Thursday Oct. 9 and Friday Oct. 10. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates or simply register now to secure your seat! 

New AppTracker Reports & Analysis

Four new reports have been added to AppTracker

  1. Packaging Impact Analysis
  2. User-Apps Readiness Report
  3. Blueprint-App Readiness Report
  4. Deployment Unit Apps Readiness Report

To access these reports, just select the users you wish to report on and the Click Reports as shown below:

New Reports

It's been an extremely busy four months with AppTracker. The User Migration module is really coming on in leaps and bounds with the new Application Readiness reports. It's now possible to answer the question:

"which applications do I have to package first in order to  provide the most amount of users ready for migration?"

These new reports put the project manager firmly in control of the user migration schedule and allow them to concentrate on the logistics of delivering the solution. It was a real eye opener to be able to go into a project the other day, analyse the data and tell the client that if they packaged the top 40 applications then 60% of their 14,000 user base could be migrated from an application perspective.

Packaging Impact Analysis

This is the highlight of AppTracker’s latest features. This report allows you see your current state of readiness (the blue bars) and your predicted state of readiness if you let AppTracker pick the applications to package first. 

Packaging Impact Analysis

By using the interactive gauges it's possible to see the effect your packaging effort will have on the overall user migration readiness. To then be able to break that data down into Blueprints (i.e. by department or geographical area) and confidently say that the Finance department will be in a position to be migrated in September is very powerful indeed.

Impact Analysis Guages

These new reports can be accessed from the Reports menu in the User Migration and Deployment Unit sections of AppTracker.

User Apps Readiness Report

This is an update to the previous User Apps Readiness Report but it now has a new layout and better ‘What If’ options so you can see the impact of packaging specific apps or whole processed of apps on your estate. 

User Apps Readiness

Blueprint Apps Readiness Report

Get individual Readiness of your users on a Blueprint level, see which Blueprints are closest to being ready.

Blueprint Apps Readiness

Deployment Unit Apps Readiness Report

Get individual Readiness of your users on a Deployment Unit, see which DU’s are closest to being ready.

Deployment Unit Apps Readiness



New AppTracker Interactive User Guide

It’s been a long time coming but the AppTracker User Guide is here. 

www.apptrackercloud.com/help

This guide will be regularly updated with more topics, reports, FAQs and tips. Its simple layout allows you to browse topics on the right hand side. Clicking the topic will open the article in the bottom window. The top window holds a demo version of AppTracker where you can follow the instructions from the article and try them out in AppTracker for yourself.

User Guide

Bonus

For AppTracker customers with the latest update, a ‘?’ help icon has been added to the top right of AppTracker. Clicking this icon will open the User Guide in a new window and it will also load your instance of AppTracker in the top window so you can use your own login and run reports on your own data.

Help Icon on Tool Bar


API & PowerShell

It has long been a goal of us here to allow AppTracker to be used as a platform, our API is a big step towards that goal. Using our API developers and scripters can build extensions to AppTracker bespoke to their business requirements.

AppTracker’s API is a soap based web service that can be accessed from PowerShell, Excel and traditional desktop applications. The API uses AppTracker’s role based security and every call is checked and validated.

Example Scenarios:

  • Custom Reports – Create in-depth excel reports with colours, conditions, charts and more.
  • Automate Tasks – Documentation, group membership, copy files and folders etc.
  • AD Integration – Add users to groups, create users in AT from AD group membership.

  • SCCM Integration – Create packages and collections in SCCM from AppTracker
  • Capture Events – App Raised , Processes Changed, UAT’s signed off etc.

 

PowerShell Module

To make accessing the API even easier we have created a PowerShell module of over 90 Cmdlets!

Example Cmdlets:

  • Get-ATAllApplications
  • Add-ATNewApplication
  • Add-ATApplicationDependencies
  • Save-ATApplication
  • Search-ATApplicationsByProcess
  • Get-UserMigrationsRequestingAnApplication
  • Get-ATAllUserMigrations
  • Save-ATUserMigration
  • Get-ATUserMigrationDataMiningReport
  • Get-ATApplicationDataMiningReport
  • Search-ATDeploymentUnitsByDateRange

Welcome Lloyds

We are pleased to welcome Lloyds Banking Group as users of AppTracker. 

Lloyds Banking Group are a financial services group with more than 30 million customers in the UK, and a foothold in every community. We are familiar on almost every high street and among more than a million businesses through our strong heritage of Lloyds Bank, Halifax, Bank of Scotland, TSB, Scottish Widows, and other brands. 

Notification Center

AppTracker has always supported the idea of notifications either via email or directly inside the application itself. The in-app notifications work much like Outlook’s popup for new email and just as in Outlook if you miss the notification it’s gone.


To address this we have added a Notification Center to AppTracker; this holds the last 50 messages received by the application. These can be viewed by clicking the  icon in the upper right corner of the screen.

Notification Popup

To subscribe to the various different notifications in AppTracker you simple click the “My Settings” tab and pick from the list of available notifications.

e.g. Notify we when :

  • A new application is raised
  • An application is assigned to me
  • An application is moved to complete
  • A UAT is signed off

Notification Center

Notification Center


Questionnaire Introduction

Questionnaires in AppTracker are dynamic forms that you get to design an build according to your needs. This is part one of a three part series exploring Questionnaires. I'll talk about where they are used, how to building a questionnaire and reporting on them. In this introduction video I show how a tradition QA form in Word can be converted to a Questionnaire form in AppTracker. Future posts will cover modelling more complex forms and reporting.

Managing Your Change History

AppTracker goes a long way to record all changes to an Application or Migration over its life. These can be changes to its basic properties such as name, vendor, version or it can be adding UAT's note, discovery information etc. All these changes are recorded with the before and after values as well as by who and when. This level of history drives a lot of AppTracker's internal reporting and is exposed to you so that you can generate your own custom reports. At the end of this video I create a simple ad-hoc report that shows all the changes to the applications in the Finance department over the previous two weeks, what type of changes were made and who made them.

Application Dependencies

An important part of the packaging and deployment process is tracking application dependencies. We need to not only know if a specific application is ready but also if all of its dependencies are ready too. We need to know what impact changing an application version might have and what needs to be retested. We need to find problems in our chain such as a application being a dependency of itself or having a dependency that is cancelled. All of this information can be mined from AppTracker using the dependencies tab and grid filters.

When looking at a specific application we need to be able to see:

  • What dependencies does this application have
  • What other applications have this application as a dependency 
  • The full chain of all sub-dependencies, not simply the first level 
  • Where in the chain does this application sit

Application Dependencies

When looking at our portfolio as a whole we need to see:

  • Which applications have dependencies
  • Which applications are used as dependencies

Application Dependencies


Welcome Investec

We are pleased to welcome Investec as users of AppTracker
 
Investec provide a diverse range of financial products and services to a niche client base in three principal markets, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Australia, as well as certain other geographies.
Investec’s strategic goals are motivated by the desire to develop an efficient and integrated business on an international scale through the active pursuit of clearly established core competencies in the group’s principal business areas.

Welcome Direct Line Group

We are pleased to welcome Direct Line Group as users of AppTracker
 
Direct line Group is a retail general insurer with market positions in the UK and businesses in Italy and Germany. They have a UK personal motor market share of 19% and UK home insurance market share 18%
 
Direct Line Group sell and underwrite personal and SME business insurance over the phone, online and through brokers. Their primary businesses include: Direct Line, Churchill, Privilege, Green Flag, NIG, Tracker, and Brand Partners such as Prudential and RBS/NatWest