ITSM tools enable employees at Argonne National Laboratory — including Stu Hannay, CIO and senior director of the Business Information Services Directorate — to more easily make reservations to use the campus’s electric vehicle chargers, among other services.

Oct 20 2022

ITSM Increases Efficiency for Federal Agency Services

IT service management tools keep workflows running smoothly.

Technology leaders at Argonne National Laboratory have been looking for a more efficient and effective way to make the wheels turn smoothly and meet user requests both complex and simple.

“About four years ago, we looked at how we were delivering all operational services to the lab,” says Stu Hannay, CIO and senior director of the lab’s Business Information Services Directorate.

“We started to look at it from a customer point of view, looking at whether we could make it easier for people to find what they wanted and make requests more easily,” he says. To get there, the technology team turned to IT service management.

ITSM refers to the planning, delivery and support of technology services. As a means of lightening the load on in-house IT staff, this approach can support “the tasks and workflows for processes including incident, request, problem, change, service level, knowledge and configuration management,” according to Gartner analysts.

ITSM offers a strategic approach to IT management, defining the roles and responsibilities of every individual and department with regard to IT services. “It allows for increased productivity, lower costs and improved end-user satisfaction,” according to ServiceNow, a provider of ITSM solutions.

For federal agencies, ITSM can speed service delivery while easing the workload on overstretched IT teams.

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How Can ITSM Improve Coordination?

Federal agencies increasingly are turning to ITSM in their efforts to coordinate services and gain better insight into multiple IT processes.

U.S. Transcom, for example, recently purchased $14 million in ITSM enterprise support for cybersecurity, network operations and maintenance, IT planning, system integration, software management and more.

The Air Force, meanwhile, is leveraging ServiceNow’s ITSM offering to help improve quality of life for service members, as well as to optimize workflows, enhance security and enable operational effectiveness.

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Argonne National Laboratory has a large physical campus with a population of 3,500 researchers and engineers, plus another 5,000 visitors every year. That means a multitude of workflows involving people who may not always be familiar with standard processes.

“There are a lot of things they want to get to when they’re here, be it getting on the wireless network or obtaining credentials,” Hannay says, “as well as non-IT things, like understanding if there’s a commuter bus available or looking to get some help on a publication.”

The lab uses ServiceNow to simplify the workflows for all those requests. “We started with basic ticket tracking, then expanded that to include, on the IT side, things like technical change management and managing contracts through service-level agreements,” he says.

How ITSM Is Helping Improve Customer Service

Within the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ginnie Mae, which provides low-cost financing for federal housing programs, is using ITSM tools to improve customer service management.

The agency uses ServiceNow’s ITSM Module to submit, assign, track and close change requests for both infrastructure and applications. “This module lets us record changes applicable to application and system access; platform configuration; and incident, problem and knowledge management,” says Ginnie Mae Chief Technology Architect Dan Boling.

ITSM “also simplifies some of the routine requests by use of a catalog and reduces administrative complexity via use of defined workflows,” Boling says. “We also use this module to create agency-specific workflows to track audit and remediation activities.”

Ginnie Mae also uses ServiceNow’s Customer Service Management module to centralize the services and information provided to customers. “Disparate work teams and subject matter experts are brought together in CSM to create, triage and work customer cases,” says Laticia Jefferson, Ginnie Mae’s director of customer experience

“This has provided uniform tracking and reporting, as well as a seamless path to resolution for customers,” Jefferson says. “CSM offers real-time metrics that are used to alert teams to potential problems and efficiently resolve recurring issues.”

How ITSM Is Generating Practical Outcomes and Results

Federal agencies report a range of practical impacts from their ITSM deployments.

At Argonne, ITSM helps track and manage some 4,500 requests that come in each month based on a service catalog that includes more than 200 IT and non-IT services.

“Some of those are at a fairly high level; for example, you need to talk somebody in HR. Some are more specific, like a new machine or a password reset,” Hannay says.

By using ITSM, “it stops requests from falling through the cracks,” he says. “Without something like service management, some requests got lost. We now have an easy way to triage requests so that we are not only making sure that we get things done, but that we get the most important things done first.”

ITSM gives the laboratory leadership an effective means of managing requests and a greater level of visibility into service processes.

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“Before this was in place, people would call an individual, if they happened to know who that individual was. So, we might have multiple requests coming to multiple individuals. From a management point of view, it was very hard to manage,” he says. ITSM “gives us a holistic picture of what’s coming into the organization.”

At Ginnie Mae, the ServiceNow ITSM module helps IT leaders monitor the cost of service consumption across the enterprise. “The visibility of resource allocations aids us in future budgeting,” as well as in determining where service use can be optimized, Boling says.

Overall, ITSM has “vastly improved our ability to manage change across the enterprise,” says Ron Espedido, an information assurance manager for the agency.

Having the capacity to create workflows “streamlines our review and approval process. We can precisely monitor service-level agreements, staff and support team engagement, and identify inefficiencies as tickets are updated at each step in the process,” he says.

Managers also benefit from being able to view work performed, “which helps in their decision-making,” he says, “ITSM also enables us to obtain and deliver information during IT audits.”

Source: ServiceNow, “Design better experiences, for better outcomes in government,” 2021

Determine if ITSM Is Worth the Investment

A number of best practices can ensure agencies make the best use of their ITSM investment. It starts with being clear about the objectives.

At Argonne, “the approach is really about driving a sense of customer focus,” Hannay says. “The customer just wants a lock fixed or a password changed, and now the departments are really thinking about those processes.

“We have a group that focuses on what we call business transformation, looking at things from a customer view, doing process mapping and laying out a roadmap to make improvements. ITSM helps to highlight where there are better ways of doing things.”

Boling says making thoughtful use of the features embedded within ITSM helps to generate ROI. He encourages agencies to establish governance, change and configuration policies, procedures, and processes up front as they move to adopt ITSM. Then, with the fundamentals in place, they can think of ITSM “as a tool to automate and streamline delivery,” he says.

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When shifting to an IT service management model, it’s important to have a point person to manage service delivery overall.

“Most IT organizations have someone looking at tickets, making sure people are hitting their service-level agreements and their customers are happy. In some of the other groups, that role doesn’t exist. They’ve been used to being very inwardly focused,” Hannay says.

“It’s helpful to make the service delivery manager a formal role, somebody who’s responsible for understanding how tickets are flowing, understanding where the processes are working from the customer’s point of view,” he says.

Finally, in seeking to leverage the capabilities of ITSM across both IT and non-IT functions, it’s helpful to minimize the tech talk and focus instead on the tangible benefits.

“When we went outside IT, it was important not to talk about it as ITSM, and instead just to talk about the customer experience,” Hannay says. “When we said it was ITSM, folks’ eyes glazed over, but once they realized we were really talking about keeping a customer happy, that’s a different way to look at things.”

Photo credit: Bob Stefko

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