When I accepted his offer, the first thing our CIO said to me (Scott) was, “What do you think of our Help Desk website?” Recognizing that he likely didn’t think it was stellar, but wanting to support my new team, I stammered, “We can certainly improve it.” He replied, “I think it stinks, and we should redo it.” I said we would, but that I didn’t want to invest in it until we redesigned the underlying processes and software using the ITIL framework; then, the website would be easy.
The website is only the “tip of the iceberg” with so much underlying it to make self-service provisioning work. My boss has teased me two or three times over the past three years about not having the new website. In September it became a successful reality because of John’s blood, sweat and tears.
IT Service Management using the ITIL framework has been our primary process redesign effort over the past three years. While the team had previously dabbled in ITIL principles and training, this time we had the support of our most senior leaders in IS. For very little money, we engaged a consultant that helped us catalog our services and do an RFP for a new ticketing and request fulfillment system. Like many organizations, our people, processes and systems had been in place for many years. The change required leaders to do things differently, including being rigorous with management of staff performance when resistance hit. We still have a long way to go before our Configuration Management Database (CMDB) is complete and all of our services are catalogued, but we have made the first step. Along with the new service management software, we are live with these ITIL processes: Event and Incident Management, Problem Management, Change Management, Service Asset and Configuration Management (SACM), Service Catalog Management and Knowledge Management.
Initially, we (John and team) didn’t plan on going live with all of these processes. When we first discussed implementing, we knew our 15-year-old Service Management tool would need to be replaced to support these processes. As we worked with our consultant and selected the software we would implement, we internally referred to this as the project that would “replace the Service Desk software.” We came to understand the effects are much greater.
Documenting our future state challenged our acceptance of implementing fewer ITIL processes. Whereas before we thought of things as only problems or changes, we now thought of five explicit types of issues. We wanted as few incidents as possible, so we needed to implement Event Management to help us be proactive. We wouldn’t implement Incident Management without Problem Management — too many issues would recur. We wouldn’t implement SACM without Change Management, because the CMDB wouldn’t stay up-to-date. While these terms were new to us, the work was not — but it was done reactively, by multiple people in multiple groups, not using best practices or common processes, and without understanding the organizational significance.
As the project matured, we gained a better understanding of the complexity and interdependency of these processes and of our organization. The new software would not affect the day-to-day work of just 600 IS staff, but four-times that; many of whom worked outside of IS and/or outside of our company. While our part of the organization had taken some ITIL workshops, more than 85 percent of IS staff would need to be trained not only on the software, but also on the concepts and language on which it was built and configured. In order to achieve success, our methodology and taxonomy would have to be accepted, not just by our Process Owners or our groups’ users, but all of IS.
Creation of the new Service Desk site, built within the tool, added another perspective. At our organization, the Service Desk supports over 85,000 employees, researchers, and affiliates. This support is provided to people who are taking care of patients (or those who take care of the people taking care of patients) at a time where that goal is compromised by information technology.
We needed to build a tool that was secure, but accessible from within or outside the network (i.e., did not require VPN). We wanted to empower and encourage people to resolve their issues quickly by finding proven solutions for themselves through our Knowledge Base, in a way that made them feel comfortable contacting us if they needed further assistance. We wanted people to be able to receive updates on their issues when it’s convenient for them. This all should be built in such a manner that supports our ITIL processes and procedures, without a need to educate users.
Knowing that our go-live was in September, in mid-summer I (Scott) asked my leaders about how the new Help/Service Desk website was coming. They said they were ready and that they needed about $10,000 to pay the consultant for design. I was happy that the cost wasn’t high, but I was skeptical that it would get done and be satisfactory for my boss given the timeframe. I just figured we’d use the old website and roll out the new one when ready. I checked in again right before my vacation in late August, when they said they had a meeting with our CIO and would make any adjustments he wanted. I thought he’d have suggestions that would delay us, but to my pleasant surprise, our CIO was delighted with the site and only requested a few minor changes. So after three years of process redesign and system implementation, the Service Desk website was completed in a month at a low cost. It was a gamble to put my boss off for that period of time, but I believe we did it right.
John Moquin is ITSM Program Manager at Partners HealthCare in Boston. Scott MacLean is Partners’ Deputy CIO.