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June 25, 2012updated 19 Aug 2016 9:28am

Project watch: self-service in the public sector

I recently went to a roundtable with two public sector organisations - Buckinghamshire County Council and Merton Borough Council - to discuss how IT service management and IT service managers themselves can help to make the service desk more efficient.

By Jason Stamper Blog

Case study A: London Borough of Merton

The London Borough of Merton is a UK public sector organisation serving local residents across nearly 15 square miles of southwest London. The council is the largest employer in the area with over 5,000 staff. Merton offers a broad range of services covering health and social care, housing, advice and benefits, leisure, environment and planning. Its mission is to become renowned as ‘a great place to live and call home, where citizens are also neighbours and take responsibility for improving their own lives and neighbourhoods, supported by good value local services.’

The project:

The organisation is part-way through a significant transformation programme aimed at becoming leaner and more responsive. With telephone support being the primary channel for logging service issues at busy periods, end-users often experienced long waiting times. Consequently, a key driver for a move to Supportworks ITSM Enterprise v3 from service management player Hornbill was to reduce the volume of calls into the service desk by encouraging end-users to use the Supportworks Customer Portal.

The Customer Portal within Supportworks ITSM Enterprise enables customers to submit incidents, request loan equipment, track the progress of incident calls and view FAQs and quick tips that may help them diagnose and resolve issues themselves.

"We are at the first stage of moving this forward," Angela Wint, IT customer support services manager at Merton told me. "We started using [Hornbill] internally and the next phase is to start handling service requests through the portal. We want fewer touches by IT, if you will, so requests can go straight through to the team that needs to solve them."

In the UK, the Code of Connection (CoCo) is a mandatory set of requirements that must be demonstrated before local authorities in England and Wales can connect to the Government Secure Intranet (GSI). "Being compliant with the Code of Connections can of course slow down some of the things we are trying to do," says Wint. "But it’s obviously on the agenda, it’s part of the vision, the question is how to get to it. How do we bring it in, in a positive way?"

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What about the consumerisation of IT and the whole bring your own device (BYOD) trend? "I think we need to keep up with that whole shift and complement it," says Wint. "We need to see how we can factor that into IT strategy. The issue you have is that people can go to PC World and get a better computer than they have on their desk. Ultimately we need to engage more with the business to ensure we deliver what the business wants from IT systems."


So how did the move to a more customer-facing service portal affect the service management function? Wint says the organisation exceeded its own projections for getting a minimum of 50% of end users using the portal within a year. The organisation also saw a 20% reduction in calls to the service desk, and it was able to centralise first-line support to over 2,400 desktops.

However, as Wint says, call volume is not the only metric to track. "Calls and waiting times have gone down but you also need to remember that sometimes some of those turn into a call-back instead," she says. "A call back is still a call. So we are looking at the type of call, who is logging them, whether there are regular groups with issues and so on. We need to look at calls from an end-to-end transaction basis."

Case study B: Buckinghamshire County Council

Buckinghamshire County Council is the upper-tier local authority for the non-metropolitan county of Buckinghamshire (its area of control does not include Milton Keynes, which is a unitary authority). It currently consists of 57 councillors and it has around 6,000 staff.

The project:

The Council implemented a self-service desk management system from Hornbill. Its 6,000 users were subsequently able to request finance and HR forms such as P60s or training courses without having to go through the council’s IT support.

"We basically wanted – needed – to do more with less," says the council’s service change manager Jean Gamester. "As we get leaner the concepts will evolve and there will be a change in focus, but in any event we believe business partnering must be part of the strategy. We don’t just want to roll out ‘stuff’ – we want the business to be engaged with us and our enhanced service management."

To ensure that the business was on-board with the changes to the service desk that were underway, the council’s IT team kicked off a user group that would feed back into the IT team as the project progressed, making suggestions for possible improvements.

The benefits:

Following the implementation of Hornbill’s IT Systems Management software, 29% of customer requests now come in via the customer service portal, and the council says it has driven down call volumes in ICT by 16%, while escalated requests have fallen by 45%.

"You need to keep monitoring things though," says Gamester. "You need to look not just at call times but metrics like abandoned calls, call-backs. We had a scheme to try and increase first-time fixes and at the same time to have staff handle different types of call. We found we had asked people to do two things at once, and it slowed them down enormously. By relaxing first-time fix and improving knowledge transference we once again started to beat our own targets."

"Analytics are clearly very important," commented Hornbill’s chief marketing officer, Peter Summers. "We can do trend analysis and increasingly are looking at monitoring from an end-to-end transaction basis. With multi-channel integrations and pressure to help organisations become leaner, being able to demonstrate the value of ITSM [IT service management] projects is vital."



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