Dec 01 2020

How ITSM Helps Agencies Cope with Telework

IT service management tools have enabled agencies to better respond to IT service requests.

Earlier this year, as the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic unfolded, the federal government shifted in a massive way to offer expanded telework tools for users. Hundreds of thousands of employees began working from home, and many still are.

An October survey of 300 C-level federal government executives, conducted for contractor SAIC by research firm Market Connections, found that 41 percent of respondents expect to telework an average three days a week post-pandemic, and another 41 percent expect to telework four or five days a week. This is compared with an average of two days of weekly telework prior to the pandemic.

The shift to telework has brought lots of changes in user behavior — and has caused IT teams to shift how they respond to users’ requests and new challenges. Agencies have found that IT service management tools have helped them handle these shifts.

ITSM helps IT teams and help desks by assisting them in prioritizing projects so that they can create the best operating conditions for agency mission staff. There are a wide range of services that fall under the rubric of ITSM, including service or help desks, IT asset management tools, incident management and change and release management. ITSM gives IT staffers a greater level of insight into their environments so that they can more efficiently address IT issues that emerge.

How the VA Uses ITSM in Telework Environments

After the pandemic confined many federal workers to their homes, the Department of Veterans Affairs had to quickly pivot to handle a remote workforce. The department’s IT team saw a substantial uptick in incidents and service requests from employees needing assistance.

Every Monday morning, the IT staff received thousands of calls just about password resets, says Greg Rankin, director of the service management office for Veterans Affairs. Wait times for help stretched as long as 20 to 40 minutes.

Before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the VA had built a self-service tool for password reset and personal identity verification exemption to bypass the IT service desk. The IT team pushed that self-service tool out to users, cutting password reset time to about five minutes, Rankin says.

The streamlined process was already in place, but the VA’s IT service management program identified the sudden spike requiring widespread use of it.

“COVID sped the need for those things up,” Rankin says.

MORE FROM FEDTECH: How can a ServiceNow approach help your agency?

Oak Ridge Uses ITSM to Respond to IT Tickets

Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee sent 70 percent of its workforce home to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. The agency’s average call time for IT assistance jumped “tenfold” from what it was prior to that, says Kris Torgerson, the lab’s IT services division director.

Overnight, Torgerson and his team had to manage dozens of employees’ at-home networks — including the additional traffic on those networks from other family members working from home, school-age kids connecting to virtual classrooms or teenagers playing video games.

“You have an interesting introduction of challenges, ” Torgerson says.

During that first month of remote work, he saw the highest number of incident tickets he has seen in his career, he says, and most of those calls involved password resets. With the help of ITSM, the lab was able to pinpoint the demand and deploy a development team to build a solution.

Now, Torgerson says, “I’m freeing up resources to focus on bigger problems.”

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