Vanguard (Mar/Apr 2024) Release Overview

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Climb aboard as we blast off into the cosmos with Vanguard, where we’re packing more features into instances than you can jam laser beams into a spaceship. Not in the business of interstellar altercations? We get it — no matter what critical incident zone your teams face, we’re sure your enemies will see stars once you’re equipped with everything from this release.

With Vanguard, you can:

  • Create playbooks that automatically add relevant task lists to the Incident Console
  • Upload, manage, and attach files from within xMatters with the new Document Library
  • Gain an instant understanding of the potential business impact of an incident
  • Discover an easier way to define standard holidays or create custom ones for your sites
  • Explore a refreshed Incidents tab in the iOS and Android mobile apps

... and so much more! Venture on for details.

Availability

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

  • Non-production environment access: Tuesday, March 26
  • Production environment access: Tuesday, April 23 (enabled between 10:00-10:30am Pacific)

Though we aim to include as many features in each release as we can, it's possible that not everything in the release will be available at the same time. If that's the case for a specific feature, we'll include a note about availability in its write up below.

Sneak peeks

As a special bonus, we'll also give you a sneak peek at some enhancements we're working on for a future release:

Incident response & service intelligence

By defining best practices and recommended actions for incident response, the xMatters service reliability platform supercharges your response to digital service interruptions and your ability to provide value to your customers.

In this release, we're adding playbooks so your teams have immediate access to the procedures and checklists they need to resolve incidents as quickly as possible, a document library that lets you manage important files for quick and easy attachment to incidents, and more ways to quickly evaluate the potential business impact of an incident and improve your situational awareness during resolution. We've even found a few ways to enhance the usability of the Incident Console to help streamline your incident management process.

Playbooks

Availability: Non-production release April 23; production release May 7 (Base and Advanced customers)

It's difficult enough for incident commanders and resolver teams to mitigate and resolve incidents while juggling multiple screens, checklists, stakeholders, and all kinds of different processes. Incident playbooks in xMatters give you a way to codify and maintain your processes and set the table for your incident teams to focus on resolving incidents rather than constant context switching.

When an incident is initiated, xMatters compares the incident's severity and impacted services with the playbooks you've configured. If the incident matches the playbook's conditions, xMatters automatically adds one or more task lists to ensure the incident team has the steps and milestones to resolve the incident quickly and correctly.

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Playbooks offer a straightforward way to maintain and understand a standard set of tasks that all incidents should run through. For example, every incident that you confront may require you to assign a scribe, identify the incident commander, and assess the severity and impacted services as first steps. To ensure these tasks are always completed, you could create a "Global Playbook" that is automatically applied to all incidents.

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For major incidents, you might want to remind resolvers of how often stakeholders should be updated or when important decisions must be made—such as recommending failover—using a "Major Incident Playbook". You could also create service-specific playbooks that provide resolvers with links to monitors or tools that can help assess the problem, or the exact steps required to roll back to a stable version of the service.

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By using playbooks for simple scenarios and Flow Designer for more advanced, automated use cases, you'll ensure that your incident processes are easy to follow, and that your teams can resolve incidents faster and more consistently.

And this is just the beginning! We're working to expand playbooks to include other key elements, such as automations, resolvers, stakeholders, documents, and more.

Document Library

Availability: Vanguard release (Starter, Base, & Advanced customers)

If you need to frequently reference the same files when sending incident notifications, having to locate and upload them from your computer can be a waste of valuable response time. This is why we’ve created the Document Library, where you can easily add, organize, and attach files to incidents, all from within xMatters.

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You can add documents to the library by uploading or adding them directly from an incident. Then, customize the name and description so you can quickly find them later. For easy organization, we’re also including filters to help you find documents by their owner, or by the name of the person who uploaded or last modified them. 

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Effortlessly organize your documents with a variety of sorting options at your fingertips. Arrange them alphabetically by name, categorize by size, or filter by owner, uploader, last modifier, and file type. Take command of your incident documentation, ensuring a tailored and efficient approach to suit your specific needs. 

Highlighting business impact

Availability: Vanguard release

Knowing which services are impacted during an incident is vital for resolvers trying to identify the root cause or just to better understand the scope of the problem. But when you're faced with a long list of unorganized services in the heat of an incident, it can be hard to tell which ones to focus on.

We're making it easier to identify whether an incident affects your organization's technical or application services by categorizing impacted services according to type in the Impacted Services section of the Incident Console. Within each service type, we've also sorted the services by their tier to draw attention to the most important applications or technical services being impacted.

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In your incident’s service dependencies map, select the 'Show Potentially Impacted Services' option to automatically expand the map and highlight potentially impacted application service in red. ‘Application’ type services are flagged as ‘potentially impacted’ by this incident if they are connected to any of the currently impacted services in other incidents. 

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Finally, we’ve updated our incident steps in Flow Designer to include more specific details about impacted services. In your notifications to users and stakeholders, you can now separate impacted services by type. You can also identify the highest service tier of each service type. For example, if the highest tier for impacted technical services is ‘Bronze’, and the highest tier for impacted applications is ‘Platinum’, you can make the decision to focus on applications while resolving the incident.

Incident Console usability improvements

We built the Incident Console to be your go-to command center for incident management, but that doesn't mean we've finished! We're constantly looking to make it even better by incorporating your feedback, and this release includes the following enhancements to support your incident resolution processes.

Sort task lists by due date

Availability: Now in xMatters

Enhance your ability to create comprehensive lists of tasks to be completed during different incident types or use cases by sorting them using the 'Due Date' column as you're building them out. You can clearly see the order in which resolution teams need to tackle the tasks and determine whether anything is missing.

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Incident properties in Post-Incident Reports

Availability: Now in xMatters

Post-Incident Reports now allow you to view and edit the values of incident properties during a postmortem for a more thorough analysis and understanding of the incident.

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Incidents list auto-refresh

Availability: Now in xMatters

The Incidents list now includes an Auto Refresh option, which is especially useful if you're displaying the list on a screen—such as in an operations center—and you want to see the most recent incidents without having to manually refresh the list. 

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On the other hand, if you're scrolling to look at older incidents, you may want to disable the auto refresh so you're not taken back to the top of the list each time it refreshes.

New Timeline entries

Availability: Now in xMatters

The Incident Console's Timeline is a vital chronological record of how an incident is progressing, who’s involved, and what’s been done. For this release, we’re updating the Timeline to provide additional context during incident resolution and post-incident review process.

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For tasks that originated from a task list, that information now is captured and displayed so you can better understand why a task has been set. And, to bring greater awareness to tasks with a specific due date, a new entry is added to the Timeline whenever a task becomes overdue.

Inactive users and groups

Availability: Now in xMatters

When working an active incident, you need to know when a resolver or stakeholder isn't available to receive communications or updates. With this in mind, we've updated the way inactive users and groups are represented in the Incident Console and the Timeline to ensure that it's easier to tell who's not available at all.

We've applied the same treatment for incident commanders, resolvers, and stakeholders who have had their user profiles deleted, so it's immediately obvious whether someone's departure has left a vital role unfilled.

Groups & on-call management

In this release, we continue to build on our already solid foundation of on-call scheduling options and capabilities by making it easier to modify shifts using drag-and-drop adjustments, and letting users set up their own reminders of upcoming on-call shifts. We also have advance previews of some in-progress features that we just couldn't wait to share!

On-call reminders

Availability: Vanguard release

On-call reminders aren't just for the mobile apps anymore! Due to popular demand, you can now set up reminders for your on-call shifts in the web user interface.

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Just navigate to the Schedule tab on your user profile page, and select On-Call Reminders from the Calendar Settings drop-down menu. Choose whether you want to be notified for all of your on-call shifts, or just the shifts where you're a primary or secondary resource. Then choose to be reminded via push or email (or both!), and set when you want to receive the reminders. You can create up to six reminders, so make sure you're never caught off guard by an on-call shift again!

Modifying shifts with ease

Availability: Vanguard release

We’re welcoming back an old feature with a brand-new design: the drag, drop, and resize shift functionality for on-call groups! To make it easier to adjust the timings of your shifts, you can now click and drag the edges, or move the entire shift in 30-minute increments from the daily or weekly calendar view.

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If you make a mistake, don’t worry! The ‘Undo’ option allows you to easily revert your changes so you can focus on fine-tuning your schedule.

Sneak peek: Live call routing

Availability: April/May 2024

No matter how carefully you plan and automate your incident response, there will be times when an incident goes sideways and the only way to solve the problem is to get someone who knows how to fix it on the phone right now. Then again, maybe calling in is just routine for your organization, such as when the first tier of support in your call center processes requests via email, phone, or chat, and when a situation escalates or they just need a specific type of help, they call into a dedicated line to immediately connect with the right SME.

Whatever your use case, xMatters makes it possible for you to connect users to the appropriate on-call team by having them call in and choose the group they want to talk to using the same on-call group structures and user devices you've already configured. Each live call routing phone number you set up lets anyone in your organization call in and choose from up to eight on-call groups. 

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When someone calls into the live call routing number and chooses an on-call group, xMatters identifies the list of voice devices for users that are on call at that time, and calls them one-by-one in the appropriate escalation order. When a group member accepts the call, they're automatically connected to the person who made the original call. For anyone in need of help, this means no unwieldy call trees, no conference bridges, no message forms, and no logging in—just connecting to exactly the right assistance they need, live and in-person.

Sneak peek: Shareable calendars

Availability: Wonder Boy

Ever feel like you need to maintain your schedule in too many places? If you've been looking for an easy way to combine your on-call schedule in xMatters with your personal or corporate app, then you'll be happy to know we're working on exactly that.

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When you share a calendar from xMatters, you can download an ICS file (a standard exportable calendar format) and import it into whatever app you use to manage your other appointments. Alternately, you can connect directly to your xMatters schedule using a live calendar link. Whenever your xMatters schedule changes—be it a new shift rotation, updated escalations, or a temporary absence—the linked application will automatically update to include the changes so your schedule is always up-to-date.

Automation & integrations

For this release's updates to our automation and integration platforms, we focused our efforts on improving access to incident tasks and properties from within Flow Designer, expanding our library of built-in steps, and recertifying some of our most popular integrations.

Flow Designer

Flow Designer is our all-inclusive, drag-and-drop visual workflow builder that lets users integrate their tools and build incident resolution workflows easily, no matter their technical experience level. In this release, we continue to add features and enhancements that will allow you to get the most out of your toolchain.

Add a task to an incident

Availability: Now in xMatters

The Add Task to Incident step allows you to automatically add a task to an incident at any point in your resolution process so you can assist teams at every stage. Status, due date, and assignee information allow resolvers to keep track of what needs to be done during the incident.

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You can use outputs from other steps to populate the fields, specify when the task should be completed, and add it to the Incident Console for other resolvers to see.

Incident properties in Get Incident and Update Incident steps

Availability: Vanguard release

We’ve added Incident Properties functionality to Flow Designer! When you initiate an incident, you can now choose its incident type on the Initiate Incident form and add properties associated with that incident type.

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In our Get Incident and Update Incident steps, you can retrieve or update incident properties, making it easier to sync values between systems or update values in your workflow.

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Incident properties are attributes of incidents with the same incident type, and adding Flow Designer functionality for this feature makes it faster and more efficient to view and update these attributes, allowing for a better incident response.

ServiceNow: Update Record step

Availability: Vanguard release

Enhance the adaptability and efficiency of your ServiceNow workflows with the new Update Record step in Flow Designer. You can now update any record type in ServiceNow, not just incidents!

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Incorporate the Update Record step into your flows to streamline and automate a wide variety of processes, such as updating a Problem or modifying the status of a Change Request. 

Fusion Risk Management: Create or Update Incident step

Availability: Vanguard release

You can now use the Fusion Risk Management Create or Update Incident step in your flows to help keep up-to-date records of risk events in Fusion Risk Management.

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The Create or Update Incident step takes the incident ID and checks if there’s a corresponding incident in Fusion Risk Management. If there’s already an incident, it’s automatically updated with information from your flow. If there isn't an incident, it creates a new one in Fusion Risk Management and passes its information back to Flow Designer to be used further downstream in the flow.

ServiceNow Washington DC certification

If you're using the latest version of ServiceNow, then you'll be happy to hear that version 5.8.3 of the xMatters application for ServiceNow is certified with San Diego, Tokyo, Utah, Vancouver, and now Washington DC!

This update prioritizes compatibility with the Washington DC release and addresses several minor bugs, but does not introduce any changes to functionality. 

Jira Data Center certification

The xMatters app has successfully attained certification for Jira Data Center, marking an annual validation. Importantly, the process required no alterations to functionality, though we did generate a new version of the app for the certification to incorporate the updated xMatters branding.

Messaging

The xMatters messaging capabilities allow users to quickly populate predefined forms or scenarios and send notifications to recipients on any device they choose. In this release, we're making significant upgrades to the overall usability of the entire Messaging interface.

Redesigned send message forms and scenarios

Availability: Vanguard release (or optionally now in xMatters)

We've been teasing this over recent months, but Vanguard marks the official release of some significant updates to our Messaging interface—finally!

You'll find the new interface more efficient and user-friendly, giving you better control over your messaging processes and providing a seamless experience whether you're sending messages from forms or using scenarios.

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For a full description of everything that's included in the redesign of the messaging interface, see the preview from the Ultima Release Overview or access this article to explore the changes in depth.

Reporting & analytics

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're revamping and renaming the Workflows Audit report to provide more information and improve the user experience.

System Audit report

We first introduced the Workflows Audit report in the Tetris release and expanded its capabilities even further in Ultima, giving you a complete record of any and all changes made to your workflows. The report is an indispensable tool for troubleshooting workflows and their components, but what if you could attain that kind of transparency into changes made to other things in xMatters?

Well, we liked the Workflows Audit report so much, we decided to use it as the foundation for some new and updated reports that cover changes across your instance. In fact, we're renaming the Workflows Audit report to System Audit report to reflect its enhanced capabilities and adding a couple of shiny new user audits along with the name change.

  • Audit of added, removed, and updated users: Capture all the information you need about when a user was added or deleted, when their profile information was updated, and whether their roles and permissions changed.
  • Changed filter: Looking for a quick view into recent changes for a specific record? The new Changed filter lets you limit the report to only the types of change you want to audit.

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Over the coming months, more audit records will arrive in the revamped report, starting with further details for users and devices. These additions will make it even easier to find what changed, when it changed, and who changed it. 

Other product updates

We're always looking for ways to add extra value and features, and we hope you find these additions useful!

Updated holidays management

Availability: Vanguard release

If your sites or groups schedule specific shifts around holidays or certain dates that are important to your organization, you’ll be excited to know that we’ve redesigned and consolidated our Holidays page. It’s now simpler to add, manage, and configure the holidays your teams observe. Additionally, we’re combining custom, company, and site holidays into a single page, so you can manage everything in one place.

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When setting holidays, you can pick from our list of standard holidays, or create custom holidays in our new side panel with specific recurrence settings (for example, a one-time holiday, or a date only your organization observes).

Adding holidays to your sites is also now easier. From the ‘Edit Site’ panel on the Sites page, simply select the holidays the individual site uses from a list of configured holidays for the country it’s located in.

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Mobile updates

Just because we added the ability to set on-call reminders to the user interface doesn't mean we're dropping support for it from our mobile apps—quite the opposite! For the mobile apps in Vanguard, we're increasing the number of on-call reminders you can configure, upgrading the ability to manage incidents and tasks, and adding a way for users to receive important information about xMatters updates.

Multiple on-call reminders

You can now set multiple on-call reminders in the xMatters mobile app. You'll always know when you're on call (and get plenty of warning!) by configuring up to six on-call reminders via email or mobile device.

Updated incidents & tasks

Tasks are a powerful way to keep your incident resolution processes on track and ensure the right people are working on the right things. We've added task support to the mobile apps' Incidents tab so you can see the tasks assigned to an incident, the details of each task, and update the status of tasks, even while you're on the go.

In-app announcements

While we recommend always using the most up-to-date version of the xMatters app to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible, we understand that checking for updates can sometimes fall off the list of immediate priorities. To ensure you don't experience downtime while using our apps, we've added an in-app notification area to let you know about any critical information—like whether you're using a version of the app that might not be supported after a specific date.

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 soaring high. Detailed information and instructions for using these new features will be available in our online documentation.

We hope you enjoy Vanguard in all its glory! We'll see you again very soon for our Wonder Boy 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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