Ultima (Dec/Jan 2024) Release Overview

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Step into the realm of incident management excellence with our Ultima release, where every incident becomes a quest and every resolution a triumph. This release ensures your incident management processes and service intelligence capabilities come together with the precision of a well-crafted RPG adventure. Get ready to level up and conquer incidents with features worthy of the Ultima legacy!

This release includes an inventory of powerful new tools. Take advantage of service tiers to categorize services based on criticality and revamped forms and scenarios to elevate your messaging game. Also not to be missed is the option to repeat escalations for unanswered group notifications and repeating incident tasks to ensure nothing gets forgotten in the response process. Additionally, we're excited to present a refreshed mobile app experience to easily access information and manage your processes on the go.

Before you scroll down to see all the improvements included in this release, here are some important dates:

  • Non-production environment access: Tuesday, December 12
  • Production environment access: Tuesday, January 16 (enabled between 10:00-10:30am Pacific)

Incident response and service intelligence

The xMatters service reliability platform embeds services directly into its incident management capabilities to supercharge your response to digital service interruptions and continually provide value to your customers. This release, gain greater situational awareness about the criticality of the services in your architecture, use incident properties more effectively, and reduce toil by configuring tasks to repeat until an incident is resolved.

Service tiers

Estimated availability: Non-production Jan. 10; Production Jan. 16

Not all services are created equal—they can vary in their complexity, criticality, and contribution to core business operations. Visibility into the relative importance of the services in your architecture is essential for optimizing your incident management processes, enabling you to prioritize resources, attention, and efforts based on the criticality of each service.

Introducing service tiers

In this release, we've introduced a new 'metals' classification system to the Services Catalog that you can use to categorize your technical and application services into the following four tiers:

  • 1 - Platinum
  • 2 - Gold
  • 3 - Silver
  • 4 - Bronze

For example, you might use the highest platinum tier to classify applications such as customer-facing web stores or technical databases and APIs that underpin your business or are relied on by multiple applications in your system. At the other end of the spectrum, the bronze tier may include non-critical applications used for internal training or static, technical analysis tools that won't block releases.

Assign service tiers

Ultimately, how you choose to assign tiers to the services in your catalog depends on how your organization evaluates their criticality. You can select a tier when adding a new service to the catalog or when editing the details of an existing service:

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View service tiers

Understanding the tiers or criticality levels of services can be invaluable to your incident response process. By examining the tiers of applications impacted by an incident, you can more effectively assess its severity. Additionally, pinpointing platinum-tier applications with dependencies on impacted bronze-tier services enables proactive measures to prevent potential disruptions before they escalate.

We've strategically added service tier information to key locations in the web user interface:

  • Service Catalog A new 'Tier' column enables you to review the tiers of all your services at a glance.
  • Service details page View a service's tier along with its other details, dependencies, and recent changes.
  • Service info card Click any service in a dependencies map or an incident to view its tier along with other important information.

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Filter services by tier and type

You can now take advantage of new 'Tier' and 'Type' filters to quickly identify services of a particular tier or type—or both! For example, you could view all platinum services, all applications, or all platinum applications.

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Updated incident properties

In our Tetris release, we introduced the concept of incident properties to capture essential information for different incident types. We continue to build out incident properties this release, with the following enhancements:

  • Definable order Use the drag handles on the Incident Properties tab of an incident type to arrange properties in the order you want them to appear in the Incident Console and Initiate Incident step. (Availability: Non-production Dec. 15; Production Jan. 16)

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  • Editable values You can now edit incident property values for an incident directly from the Incident Console. Any changes to incident property values are recorded in the incident timeline, along with who made the change. (Availability: Non-production Dec. 15; Production Jan. 16)

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  • View property values across incidents Add incident properties as columns to the Incidents list to compare property values across all incidents. (Estimated availability: Non-production Jan. 4; Production Jan. 16)

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  • Filter by incident properties Add incident properties as filters to the Incidents list to narrow the list to those incidents with specific property values. (Estimated availability: Non-production Jan. 4; Production Jan. 16)

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  • Regex validation Optionally validate property values using predefined regular expression patterns or your own custom pattern. (Availability: Non-production Dec. 15; Production Jan. 16)

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Enhanced incident tasks

Over our last couple of releases, we introduced a Tasks section to the Incident Console and the ability to predefine lists of tasks ahead of time of incidents.

In addition to new Flow Designer steps to automatically add task lists or add new tasks to incidents, this release includes the ability to configure 'repeating' tasks, as well as a host of usability updates.

Repeating tasks

Estimated availability: Non-production Jan. 9; Production late January

During an incident, certain tasks need to repeat at defined intervals, such as delivering regular updates to stakeholders or customers. To mitigate the risk of tasks falling through the cracks in the heat of an incident, and to alleviate some of the toil and cognitive load from your resolvers, we've introduced a new 'Repeating' due date option.

This allows tasks to be set on a repeating schedule at specified intervals, ensuring they are recurrently addressed until the incident is resolved.

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Incident task usability improvements

Availability: Now in xMatters

We've added the following improvements to incident tasks to enhance your overall user experience:

  • Streamlined task list management – Take advantage of multi-select to delete multiple task lists simultaneously.

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  • Assignee-centric task views – Filter tasks in the Incident Console by assignee for a focused display of responsibilities, tailored to you or other specified users.

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  • Enhanced editing experience – Identify which task you're editing by seeing it shaded and marked with a blue bar in the Incident Console or task list.

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Incident attachments

Availability: Non-production Jan.16; Production Jan. 16

To resolve incidents quickly, it's critical to share important context with resolvers and stakeholders. While xMatters already provides various tools like incident notes, properties, and tasks for this purpose, the addition of an 'Attachments' section in the Incident Console aims to enhance this process even further.

This new feature allows you to seamlessly share pertinent documents during an incident. By simply dragging and dropping files directly onto the attachments section, you can make incident-specific information readily available for resolvers to view or download.

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Improved incident response from chat (Slack)

Availability: December 12

You can now add comments to your responses and open URL redirects directly in Slack. This streamlined process enhances your xMatters notification experience by eliminating frequent app switching, boosting efficiency, and keeping you focused on resolution tasks in a seamlessly integrated workflow.

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Filter incidents by impacted service on mobile

Availability: Now in Android & iOS

The Incidents list in our mobile apps now supports an 'Impacted Services' filter. This enables you to narrow the list of incidents on your mobile device by pinpointing just those incidents affecting specific services you're concerned about.

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Groups and on-call management

As with our last several releases, we continue to focus on redesigning and optimizing the group experience across xMatters. In this release, we introduce new, highly requested 'repeat escalations' behavior for on-call groups, add some great usability improvements, and provide new 'not' conditions for defining dynamic group membership.

Repeat escalations

Availability: Non-production Dec. 12; Production Jan. 16

Occasionally, situations can arise that hinder a team from responding to an alert, causing notifications to reach the end of the escalation path without a response. In these cases, it's crucial for managers to have a mechanism for finding an available team member to respond to the alert. To address this need, we've introduced a new 'repeat escalations' feature to on-call group shifts.

How it works

With this feature, you can now initiate a repeat of the shift escalation path from the beginning, following a customizable wait time. You can also define how many times to repeat the escalations, providing an extra layer of certainty that critical events receive attention even in challenging circumstances.

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Preview repeat escalations

To help group admins clearly visualize how repeating escalations operate for a shift, we're adding the ability to 'Preview' the full escalation path, including any configured repeat escalations.

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On-call group usability improvements

Estimated availability: Production Jan. 16

We've added the following suite of usability improvements to help you better take advantage of the power of on-call groups:

  • See more shifts and their schedules – You can now more effectively review your shift configuration and schedules. We've increased the number of shifts displayed in the Shifts list and moved the shift summary to a designated 'Schedule' column in the table. (Availability: Late Jan/early Feb)

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  • View members' devices The members list now includes a 'Devices' column to let you see the status of users' devices and quickly identify users without active devices or with no devices at all.

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  • Filter members without devices We've also added a 'Devices' filter to help you gain further insight into users' devices, particularly the device types they might not have.

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  • Modify shifts on the calendar – We've reinstated drag-and-drop shift modifications to the group calendar. We're happy to announce that once again you can reschedule shifts by dragging them to a different day or time on the calendar, pull the bottom of a shift to extend it, and drag on the calendar to create a new shift.

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  • Edit escalations from group overview – You can now edit escalations for the currently on-call shift directly from the group Overview by clicking the name of the shift. This saves time if you need to make quick edits to the current shift for unforeseen schedule changes. (Availability: Non-production Dec. 12; Production Jan. 16)

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Dynamic groups 'not' criteria

Availability: Now in xMatters

Dynamic groups now support new 'does not contain' and 'does not equal' conditions. You can use these conditions to further refine group membership by excluding whole or partial matches of text strings.

This is helpful, for example, for excluding users who are in unaffected locations or departments, rather than having to create a broad set of criteria for your dynamic group to cover the exclusion.

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Messaging

Messaging is a key part of our platform, and every release includes improvements representing the feedback we get from our customers and the best practices we observe. For Ultima, we're officially releasing our redesigned messaging forms and scenarios and make an important update to how xMatters handles 'empty' notifications.

Redesigned send message forms and scenarios

Availability: Non-production: Forms available now, Scenarios Jan/Feb; Production: Vanguard Release (contact support to opt-in sooner)

As we revealed in a sneak peek last release, we've made significant updates to our messaging forms and scenarios so they're more efficient and user-friendly, providing senders with better control over their messaging processes. Here's what's new:

Improved screen real estate

  • Clicking on a form or scenario opens it in a convenient side panel, optimizing screen usage.
  • You can view the messaging list and the selected form or scenario simultaneously, allowing quick previews so you can easily find the form or scenario you're looking to use.
  • Text properties are now wider than before, improving readability.

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  • Any scenario you select from the list will be indicated by a marker and bold title, so you'll always be sure of exactly which message you've opened.

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Site recipient search for forms

  • One of our most requested features: a unified Recipients selector that you can now use to search for sites, just like your other recipient types.

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  • If you prefer the map view, you can access it in the 'Advanced' Recipients selector.

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  • For clustered sites, simply click a cluster to reveal a list of grouped sites for easy selection.

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  • To include sites in the Recipients selector, add the Site Recipients section to the form layout; sites won't appear unless you choose to include them.
  • Conversely, if you only want to target sites, add the Site Recipients section to the form layout and hide the recipients section; message senders can then exclusively select sites as recipients.

Requiring recipients & updated counts

  • You can now optionally configure a form or scenario to require senders to provide recipients when sending the message.

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  • Updated selected recipient counts and estimates of the number of people who may be notified help message senders understand the scope of their message, ensuring they target the intended audience. For example, did you really want to notify a thousand people by selecting that site?

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  • The ability to quickly 'Remove all' recipients using the Advanced recipient selector.

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Improved validation

  • Improved validation for required properties, and clearer identification of where properties missing values are located on the form.

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Scheduled message time zones

  • Given the streamlined design of the messaging side panel, it made sense to us to incorporate the 'Schedule Message' option directly into the Send button. This is because you're either sending the message immediately or scheduling it to send at a later time.

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  • When scheduling a message, you can choose the time zone for its delivery. This is helpful when you're scheduling messaging intended for users in a different time zone than your own.

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Changes to 'empty' notification handling

Availability: Non-production Dec. 13; Production Jan.16

Messages that don't contain any content, particularly in the case of SMS, are prone to being flagged as spam by delivery service providers. This not only leads to recipient frustration and missed notification, but also increases the risk of providers categorizing all your messages as spam.

To prevent this, any SMS, email, fax, or voice notifications considered empty will be designated as failures and the targeted device will not be notified.

Mobile updates

In addition to the new impacted services filter for incidents described above, this release includes some seriously impressive mobile updates. Most notably, we've redesigned and unified the navigation experience across our Android and iOS apps.

Redesigned mobile experience

Availability: January 16

We're excited to unveil that the xMatters app has a new look! After extensive customer consultation, our mobile app redesign adopts best practices to surface features that matter the most to our customers. Most notably, we've unified the navigation experience of the Android and iOS apps and aligned them with the web user interface to bring you a consistent experience across the xMatters platform.

Highlights of the redesign include:

  • Unified bottom & side navigation – The Android and iOS apps now both have a bottom navigation menu with the most used features and a side menu with options you'll recognize from the web user interface, such as 'Users' and 'Groups'.

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  • In-app notifications – We're pleased to, well, announce the addition of an 'Announcements' section to give you a better view into the status of your mobile app. For example, we'll let you know if your app has an identified issue, which will remove the guesswork if your app experiences unexpected behavior.
  • Updated and customizable Accounts screen - We've given the accounts screen a facelift and included a new color picker to customize the appearance of each of your account icons.

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Large device optimization

Availability: Now in Android & iOS

Enjoy an improved experience on iPads, tablets, and larger phones! We've moved responses to the bottom of the screen so it's easier to respond with one hand.

Real-time notification testing

Availability: Now in Android & iOS

Now when you run tests to troubleshoot notifications on your Android or iOS mobile app, we'll send you a real notification instead of just a preview of what the notification will look like.

Automation

Another focus this release was continuing to grow our impressive list of pre-built workflows, providing support for automating incident task creation and task list use, and enabling flows to dynamically include external meeting links in alert notifications.

Flow Designer

Flow Designer is the user interface for our integration platform. Its goal is to provide an all-inclusive visual canvas that allows users of any technical ability across the enterprise to integrate and create incident resolution workflows with ease.

New and updated workflows (and triggers, too!)

HaloITSM

Availability: Now in xMatters

We've added a new low-code HaloITSM workflow that you can install directly from within xMatters:

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The workflow sends actionable alerts to on-call resources when xMatters gets a signal from HaloITSM. Responders can initiate an incident with the click of a button, and you can build on the flow to perform automated resolution tasks.

You can also take advantage of the new HaloITSM Incidents trigger (available on the Triggers tab of the Flow Designer palette) to build your own custom signal handlers in any new or existing workflow:

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New and updated steps

Automatically add a task to an incident

Availability: Non-production Jan. 9; Production late January

We've also added an Add Task to Incident step to Flow Designer that you can use in your flows to add a new task to an incident in xMatters.

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Automatically add a task list to an incident

Estimated availability: Non-production Dec. 12; Production Jan. 16

We've added a new Add Task List to Incident step to Flow Designer. Include this step in your flows to automatically add one or more task lists to an incident in xMatters as part of your workflow processes.

To configure this step, simply identify the incident by its Incident ID, and one or more task lists by their names (separated with commas).

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Automatically add a task to an incident

Availability: Non-production Jan. 9; Production Jan. 16

We've also added an Add Task to Incident step to Flow Designer that you can use in your flows to add a new task to an incident in xMatters.

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Automatically create, update, and add actions to tickets in HaloITSM

Availability: Now in xMatters

As part of our work on the HaloITSM workflow, we've added the following new steps that you can use to take action in HaloITSM as part of your flows:

  • Create Ticket Create a new ticket in HaloITSM including information from the alert or previous steps in the flow.
  • Update Ticket Update an existing ticket in HaloITSM as new information becomes available.
  • Add Action Add the outcome of an action to an existing ticket in HaloITSM.

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Dynamically set meeting URLs for external conference bridges

Estimated availability: Production Jan. 16

Enhance your processes by integrating Microsoft Teams and Zoom meetings into your workflows, ensuring that their Join URLs are reflected in notifications generated by the Create Alert Using a Form step.

We've updated the Create Alert Using a Form step to accept input values in the 'Meeting URL' field for external conference bridges. This empowers you to tailor your notifications to external collaboration tools, offering a more comprehensive and adaptable solution for your communication needs.

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Reporting

The reporting capabilities of xMatters give you greater visibility and insight across your business to help identify opportunities for continuous improvement and more effective incident response. In this release, we further enhance the compliance auditing and troubleshooting capabilities of our reporting platform with additional enhancements to the Workflows Audit Report introduced last release.

Workflows Audit Report enhancements

Estimated availability: January 2

Our Workflows Audit Report is a powerful tool for troubleshooting unexpected issues with your workflows and their components. In this release, we continued to enhance the report with two new filters and a new column to help you find the information you're looking for in a stream of audit records.

New filters:

  • Name Narrow the list by selecting the name of the workflow, custom step, or HTTP trigger you're interested in.

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  • Changed By View changes made by specific users.

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New column:

  • Interface See if the changes were made via the web user interface or the xMatters REST API.

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Learn more

These are the main features for this release but be aware that there are several other small changes and enhancements we're delivering to keep xMatters looking sharp. Detailed information and instructions for using these new features will be available in our online documentation.

We hope you enjoy this release! We'll see you again very soon for our Vanguard release...

The information in this article is the intellectual property of xMatters, an Everbridge Company, and is intended only for use with xMatters products by xMatters customers and their employees. Further, this intellectual property is proprietary and must not be reused or resold.

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