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Experian credits incident management tool for IT efficiency

When Experian deployed xMatters, the IT landscape was very different. But the incident management tool's adaptability kept it useful through shifts in tech trends.

Experian's incident response process has changed drastically, with the rise of enterprise DevOps and site reliability engineering in recent years. But one of the credit bureau's tools has adapted to all the shifting trends.

Experian sought incident management tools to replace homegrown software it used to manage IT notifications in 2015. Much was different then -- from the company's overall size to its application development, deployment and management workflows. Since then, the mix of IT management tools at the company has also changed to include AIOps, IT automation and IT monitoring software from ServiceNow, Dynatrace and Splunk.

"Four years ago, all incident management tools were significantly less mature," said Jonathan Hayes, vice president of global IT services at Experian, based in Costa Mesa, Calif. "But xMatters was already showing us a roadmap that would meet our needs."

When Experian began to use ServiceNow to automate its IT management workflows, xMatters' integration wasn't very deep. But it grew to a point that dissuaded Experian from evaluating other notification and incident management tools, including those from ServiceNow itself. Now, when monitoring and analytics tools by Dynatrace and Splunk trigger alerts, xMatters automatically triggers workflows and creates service tickets in ServiceNow.

Experian's IT infrastructure has grown exponentially and changed drastically since it first installed xMatters. It now manages petabytes of data storage and uses Red Hat OpenShift, containers and microservices instead of VMs -- all of which integrate with xMatters. Experian's IT staff head count hasn't grown significantly, even though the IT infrastructure and yearly company revenue have, Hayes said.

Experian's incident management practices have also changed along with the software it uses. In the past, manual checklists and manually triggered snapshots of IT environments for analysis were standard practices. Now, the company's global IT operations staff receives notifications according to on-call shift and area of expertise, which include detailed information about IT issues, without manual intervention.

XMatters' features have also evolved to include detailed measurements of incident response workflows, including how long it took for IT pros to respond to and resolve incidents, which is useful for post-incident review and remediation to reduce future incidents, Hayes said.

"XMatters has been reliable, works as advertised and has been able to evolve with us, despite a highly competitive [incident management] market," Hayes said. "Suppliers are always leapfrogging each other. But, generally, if xMatters isn't first with a feature, they follow up in a couple months at most."

XMatters' enterprise list prices fall between those of competitors Opsgenie, now owned by Atlassian, and PagerDuty, at $59 per user, per month.

xMatters Flow Designer
XMatters added visual workflow design tools to its incident management tools this week.

XMatters adds workflow design tools, plans expanded BI integrations

Suppliers are always leapfrogging each other. But, generally, if xMatters isn't first with a feature, they follow up in a couple months at most.
Jonathan HayesVice president of global IT services, Experian

XMatters emerged from a legacy enterprise IT landscape where integrations with various third-party IT management vendors at scale was paramount, and there's always pressure for it to keep up as new tools emerge. It must also keep up with competitors such as Atlassian and PagerDuty, which have each taken steps to loop business stakeholders into incident management processes. PagerDuty has also added data analytics to improve incident response.

Experian's Hayes would like to see xMatters improve its integrations with business intelligence and reporting tools, such as Microsoft Power BI and Tableau, for those purposes. This is on the roadmap for xMatters, said Doug Peete, chief product officer for the company, based in San Ramon, Calif.

A feature released earlier this month, Flow Designer, will play a key part in that integration. Flow Designer is a visual tool that IT pros can use to build incident management workflows without having to edit JavaScript code, as they had to do previously.

Hayes' team at Experian has been able to maintain xMatters code and do some of their own integrations with xMatters APIs, but welcomes the addition of Flow Designer.

"We'll understand better when we do our integrations how we can use the best of xMatters' capabilities," he said. "For example, log analysis historically could've been better -- understanding from logs which systems made calls, where and how."

XMatters does not intend to incorporate its own data analytics algorithms into its product, but Hayes said enhancements to the integrations between xMatters and third-party data analytics tools will suffice for Experian's AIOps and business intelligence needs.

Meanwhile, PagerDuty's successful initial public offering this month has some analysts predicting consolidation in the market for IT service management and IT incident management tools. That consolidation has already begun, with mergers between Atlassian and Opsgenie and Splunk and VictorOps in 2018.

"ServiceNow is already capable of covering most incident management features and may soon either achieve parity with stand-alone systems or buy the IP [intellectual property] to get there," said Charles Betz, analyst at Forrester Research. "Companies like xMatters are in a niche market that we expect to be absorbed elsewhere."

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