A pretty common question I get is - "What kinds of skills do I need to customize/extend Service Manager?" Here is a comprehensive answer…

 

It has been our goal from the very beginning to design the product so that it is easy to extend and customize Service Manager. In fact, our goal for the most common customizations is "no coding required". You can use wizards, forms, drag/drop kinds of experiences in the consoles to do most of the customizations you need. You can also use tools that you are familiar with already in other cases like Report Builder, Excel, Business Intelligence Design Studio, etc. We also wanted to make sure that we didn't compromise the power of the platform in any way. If you do know how to code, you can leverage the full power of .Net in Service Manager.

 

Main Console Customizations

First of all, you can also do a lot of customizations in the main console using wizards and forms:

  • views and view folders – create new views, customize view layout (add/remove/reorder columns, group by, sort, etc.) (example)
  • templates
  • groups & queues
  • console tasks
  • notification templates (example) – it's useful to know a little bit of HTML if you want to make your notifications look fancy, but it's not required
  • notification subscriptions
  • incident, change, activity, and problem workflow configuration
  • lists – add, remove, rename items in different drop downs on forms (example)
  • user roles
  • run as accounts

 

Self-Service Portal Customizations

There are a few things you can easily change in the self-service portal by following some simple instructions in the documentation:

  • IT contact information
  • add/remove some of the action buttons
  • change the branding logos
  • place the self-service portal/IT analyst portal web parts on a SharePoint site where you can further customize the look and feel around the web parts (more info)

 

Service Manager Authoring Tool

The Service Manager authoring tool (Beta 2 should be released this week by the way) is designed to be used by IT professionals with no coding required. The idea is to just use designers, wizards, forms, to provide all the information necessary to extend the product in the following ways:

 

  • customizing forms (video)
  • creating workflows (video)
  • creating new simple custom forms (not until the RTM version of the authoring console)
  • extending the model/schema - adding new classes of things to manage, extending the classes provided by Microsoft/partners

 

Having knowledge of PowerShell, VBScript, or Jscript can give you a lot of flexibility when creating workflows, but it is not necessary, especially as we expand out the library of Windows Workflow Foundation activities in the toolbox. It's also useful to have an understanding of modeling concepts in Service Manager/Operations Manager.

Creating Custom Reports

If you want to write custom reports for Service Manager, you can use either the Report Builder or Business Intelligence Design Studio tools provided by SQL Server. You can create some basic reports by using wizards and drag/drop/configure experiences. We will be posting a lot of examples of T-SQL queries here on the blog so all you have to do is copy/paste to get more complicated reports created. If you have basic knowledge of T-SQL and SQL Server Reporting Services it can definitely help here. Also – one of our partners Bay Dynamics has a solution already in market called 'IT Analytics' that puts cubes on top of the Service Manager data warehouse that makes it easy for you to drag/drop your way to pivot tables and charts (datasheet, presentation, video). (advanced example)

Management Pack Editing

In some more advanced customization scenarios you may need to create/edit some XML. Management packs are written in XML. We try to abstract away the editing of XML using the consoles to do the work for you, but we don't have tools to cover every aspect of management pack editing yet. In some cases you may need to tweak some XML in an existing management pack and in some cases you may want to create a management pack from scratch in an XML editor. There are lots of examples of how to create MP XML here on the blog, but the easiest way to start is by taking a look at some of the management packs that Microsoft has shipped by taking a look at this blog post: Hacking Management Pack XML Like a Pro

Creating Advanced Custom Forms, Task Handlers, Connectors, View Types, Workflow Activities, and Much, Much More

The great thing about the System Center Service Manager platform is that it is built on the Microsoft .Net Framework. You can harness the full power of .Net to customize and extend Service Manager in many interesting ways provided you have some coding skills. You'll need knowledge of C#, VB.Net, or another supported managed code language in most cases. You'll also need some knowledge of XAML for creating forms (example) and overview views (example). If you are going to do CSV data imports (example), you'll need to have a basic understanding of XML as well.