Adoption of a cloud-based service management system has helped Queensland's peak motoring body RACQ streamline its internal support and DevOps processes by dramatically boosting self-service participation and delivering real-time reporting to the business.
The project eventuated after Suncorp withdrew from its long-term joint venture with RACQ, pushing the company into a period of considerable restructuring. Over several years, the new entity’s IT team grew from 65 staff to more than 220, putting it under new cost and efficiency pressures.
Also creating pressure, according to executive manager for operational services Craig McDougall, was the lack of visibility into the IT organisation’s operations by the approximately 2500 internal staff.
“From the customer’s perspective, things they requested and issues they raised would disappear into a black hole,” he told iTnews.
“Sometimes they would get resolved, sometimes they would not get resolved, and they might never hear a thing about it again.”
Although IT staff were working attentively to handle all incoming requests, he said, the lack of external visibility gave internal customers no indication of what outcome to expect, or when.
Many employees would try to game the existing system by resubmitting trouble tickets, or tying up staff time by calling over and over again in an attempt to get their jobs pushed to the head of the queue.
The need to repeatedly revisit the same tickets led to ongoing efficiency issues and a less-than-ideal reputation within the business when staff couldn’t set realistic expectations or meet the demands of customers.
Aiming to fix this, the team implemented a self-service environment that would allow internal customers to lodge tickets online and follow them through their entire lifecycle.
Adoption of the ServiceNow service management platform drove a number of process changes that significantly improved internal customers’ perception of the service.
IT staff now publish an update for staff at each step in the resolution process, and an update email is sent upon ticket completion asking staff to review the process and therefore wrap up the issue.
The new environment helped shift much of the burden for change management onto customers, who found themselves far better enabled to lodge, follow, and change work orders – through a web portal and, eventually, a mobile app.
Rapid recognition of their newfound capabilities led to a surge in usage: where the previous system was handling around 45 self-service enquiries per month, the new portal is managing around 3000 jobs monthly.
“You can imagine the pressure that took off the front-line service desk,” McDougall said, noting that improved efficiencies had seen what used to be a team of 21 support consultants reduced to just 10 staff after extensive retraining and reassignment.
“It changed the whole conversation we were able to have with our customers.
"Our former system had limited ability for customers to see what was going on – and although we had done a few things and customised the system over time to improve it, the new system was chalk and cheese. We’ve been able to put [control] back into customers’ hands.”
This has also delivered benefits for the organisation’s emerging DevOps capabilities. The team is now managing 500 changes to internal systems per month, compared to the previous 100.
Much of that increase comes from the registration of changes that would previously have been made anyway, but left undocumented because the change approval process was “too hard to enter data, and too hard to get approval".
"So the technical teams just did the changes, and we had all sorts of unauthorised changes going in the environment," McDougall said.
The new environment not only facilitated the easier approval and better management of those changes, but it has improved visibility so that supervisors can monitor changes in real time using Gantt charts projected on big-screen monitors, he said.
Improved operational data is also being massaged for delivery to business supervisors, with online dashboards available to trace key metrics and changes put on a calendar to assist during planning meetings with stakeholders.
“We’ve changed from providing a lot of paper-based reports to looking at online dashboards in real time,” McDougall said. “Because we’ve improved the experience so much, there is now a reliance on it.”
The IT department’s success with ServiceNow spawned enquiries from other parts of the business; the project "pretty quickly grew beyond IT". Just days after the project was complete one member of the IT team built a work-request system for the RACQ legal department.
“At some stage it just takes on a life of its own, and people realise that they really should be using it. It didn’t take PowerPoints, pushing or a big sell," McDougall said.
"The more general customers cottoned onto ServiceNow by accessing the portal themselves, and just becoming part of the journey. I think any of our customers would now speak highly of the system, and what we’ve done with our transformation.”