Three Ways IT Departments Can Use Resources More Efficiently

IT departments in all sectors are under a lot of pressure to use resources more efficiently, and that’s especially true now as many businesses and organizations are feeling the impacts of the global pandemic. Here are three ways that organizations in all sectors can use IT resources as cost-effectively as possible.

1. Manage all IT work on a single platform.

In most organizations, IT service requests are managed with one software platform and projects are managed with another. Bringing IT Service Management (ITSM) and Project Portfolio Management (PPM) together within a single, unified platform can improve IT efficiency in many ways.

When resources are limited, IT employees often wear several hats. Few organizations have the luxury of maintaining separate staff for project work and fulfilling service requests. If employees have to use separate systems for tracking projects and service tickets, it’s hard to know which tasks they’re responsible for at any given time — and navigating between multiple systems and updating each one individually can be cumbersome. As a result, employees spend too much time on administration instead of their core responsibilities.

Having a single platform benefits IT leaders as well as employees. Managing IT incidents and projects in one location gives leaders an easy way to see the impact of both project and support tasks on IT resources. This helps leaders plan more effectively, enabling more efficient delivery of technology services.

Benefits of PPM and ESM Together

Texas Woman’s University (TWU) came to TeamDynamix to update an aging legacy system. “We needed a solution for project management and ITSM as well,” said Heather Davis, manager of IT training and development.

As TWU Technology discovered in its evaluation, TDX provides an integrated ITSM platform to extend beyond IT to support facilities, admission, marketing, and HR. This one platform can expand and interact with PPM and resource management to meet both current and future university needs.

“One benefit of a centralized solution is it provides a holistic picture. With the ability to tie service usage to project and support requests, we can better manage prioritization and workload,” said Lena McLain, Sr. Applications Developer at TWU Technology. “ESM helps us align with the university’s strategic plan and goals while maintaining excellent service through the ITIL framework in ITSM.”

At Covenant HealthCare, CIO Frank Fear recognized the value in having a combined ESM/PPM strategy, “As the CIO, I have IT resources, and I need to assess their capacity,” he said. “I look at what capacity they have to work on projects, work on change requests, and work on support requests. At the 40,000-foot level, having a comprehensive project management solution that also operates with the service management platform, allows me visibility for insight into those areas, and allows me to plan for project-based work based on the capacity to handle support requests and change requests.”

According to Fear, like many other businesses and organizations Covenant is becoming a digital business that provides healthcare, “Our customers need our support, so the demand is escalating and it’s only going to increase.”

Driving that increase, in part, for Covenant and hospital-based organizations nationwide, is the post-EHR (electronic health record) operation environment, “Just a small number of years ago, a relatively small percentage of patient care organizations in the United States had digital health records, so naturally, the first step was to implement EHRs… We’re now over 90-percent fully electronic in our processes. So now, we need to learn how to work differently, and we need to leverage information technology to help create those process and performance changes,” Fear said.

2. Embrace self-service.

Many IT departments end up answering the same questions over and over again. This is very time-consuming, and it’s a waste of staff labor. Having users consult a self-service portal before contacting IT with their questions can reduce the number of inbound service requests by up to 70 percent, our internal data suggests.

Creating a self-service portal requires building a knowledge base of IT support articles. While this requires an up-front investment of time, it can pay off tremendously down the road.

Here’s how this works: Every time you have an incident, you document what the problem was, what the person was doing when the problem occurred, what technology they were using and how you resolved the problem. Then, you post this information online, so the next time somebody has that same problem, they can find the solution for themselves. We’ve seen organizations go from a handful of articles to thousands in just three or four months.

One of the best ways to develop a solid knowledge base for self-service is through the use of  Knowledge-Centered Service® (KCS).

The principals of KCS stipulate that the creation and maintenance of knowledge must be fully integrated into the most important support operations.

Here are a few reasons why Knowledge-Centered Service can be so powerful:

  • Helps to continually lower inbound call volume.
  • Increases customer satisfaction.
  • Provides customers with the answers they need now.
  • Crowdsourcing knowledge helps maintain accurate content.
  • Offers opportunities for professional development and career progression.

By adopting KCS, you can not only improve customer satisfaction but dramatically reduce the per-incident cost incurred by IT (from about $22 for a level 1 support call to $2 for self-service); and reduce the volume of issues and requests coming to the help desk, allowing IT to reallocate technicians to higher priority tasks and projects.

The Impact of Self-Service and KCS

The University of South Dakota (USD) struggled with knowledge residing in silos across various departments as well as poor communication, leading to inefficiencies when delivering service.

Katharina Wymar, head of Project Management, said “We lacked that one platform, that one mindset that allowed us to share knowledge.”

That’s when they turned to the solution of a knowledge base so that all of their information could be in a single, easily accessible location.

After building out their knowledge base and implementing KCS they quickly saw an 18% reduction in time logged to service tickets, and after six months there were 31,000 users, 262,000 page views, and 5,000 knowledge articles being included in the base.

Based on USD’s experience Wymar shared these keys to successfully implementing KCS for your IT service management (ITSM) platform:  

  • Look for executive sponsorship. “This project is going to take time to work through, and our CIO was our biggest supporter,” Wymar says.  
  • Find the right solution for your organization and get trained.  
  • Set your KCS processes and develop a communications plan to keep everyone engaged.  
  • Celebrate success. Reward both the quality and usage of articles. “Make sure you’re recognizing the right behaviors,” Cottrell advises. Don’t turn it into just a numbers game. Encourage people to contribute their knowledge, and reward them for their article edit requests, article usage, and the quality of their articles. Recognize team members as they move up in responsibility.

3. Develop an effective change management process.

About 80 percent of unplanned downtime is accidentally caused by IT staff themselves, according to research from the IT Process Institute. For instance, a technician might be trying to update a switch, but it accidentally brings the entire network down. The problem resolution that ensues consumes valuable IT time, and it might have been avoided through better change management.

Improving change management involves developing an effective process for thinking through the potential impact of making an IT change, then deciding on a course of action that will cause the least amount of disruption. Effective change management can help prevent unforeseen complications, so your IT team spends less time resolving issues.

By adopting these three key strategies, your IT department can deploy staff time and budgets more judiciously, leading to more effective use of IT resources.

Change Management in Action

For organizations undergoing rapid growth with limited IT resources, change management should be a priority. At Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) they were struggling with unforeseen issues after each technology-related change. Using TeamDynamix for their ITSM, they were able to build out a comprehensive and well-thought-out change management strategy to address their issues.  

“We set up a special form within the system called a change form, and whenever a production change is pending, we have the technical lead fill out that form,” Geri Hein, project manager within the university’s IT division, said. For larger changes, the change form is routed to a change control team that consists of Hein, a business analyst, the managers of the university’s IT infrastructure and database groups, and the IT director. 

This process has increased communication within the IT service management team and helped with troubleshooting problems. 

Now, whenever a change is coming, the key people who need to be aware are automatically notified in advance, so they can weigh in if they foresee any risks or dependencies in order to ensure a smooth transition. Changes are linked automatically to the ticket calendar feature within TeamDynamix, so IT staff can easily see which changes were made on which days. 

“If there’s a problem, we can go to the calendar and determine whether it was related to a particular change or not,” Hein says. “There have been a few instances where our infrastructure team made changes that we didn’t think would cause problems with our ERP system, but they did. [Because of the change management process] we were able to track it back to the right source and easily resolve the issue.” 

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2019 and has been updated with new information.

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