Gloucestershire College of Arts and Technology (Gloscat) faces a task that is familiar to many IT services professionals
Chessington 19th June 2006
- Massive expansion of IT supported by Sunrise Enterprise
- Average calls per day increase from 50 up to 150 as complexity and range of products grow
- IT and non-IT departments centralise processes with Enterprise
James Billingham is Director of IT at Gloucestershire College of Arts and Technology (Gloscat) and he has seen the scope of his role grow in the last year in line with the expansion of IT. The introduction of new equipment such as digital cameras, active boards and networked photocopiers have added more pressure to a function already experiencing major growth.
When James Billingham joined in 1998, the college had already purchased the Sunrise Professional product in 1997 but had not yet implemented it fully. Support at this time was in need of attention as users were dealt with more on an adhoc basis and user satisfaction was low. Even basic service desk requirements were not performed, such as logging of all calls. Billingham’s first goal, aside from establishing the college’s network infrastructure, was to work on the culture of the support staff by teaching them the importance of following logging procedures. The timing could not have been better, for even as Billingham’s management ideas were taking hold, the volume of calls was starting to rise dramatically as staff got their hands on the new network technology. The team learned some painful lessons during this early period, with the number of user complaints spiking as the volume of calls began to crank up.
For the purpose of understanding the enormity of the task that Billingham and his team have faced, consider that the team of 20 (there were ten when Billingham joined) handle calls from approximately 1,200 staff and 2,500 PCs. These staff act as a funnel for enquiries from 25,000 enrolled students who are on a mixture of full and part time courses. Overall, there are 127 teaching sites, nine of which are networked, and a plethora of smaller remote sites also to support. When combined with the expanded responsibilities of the support function, the number of calls handled each day has jumped from 50 to 150 since 1998.
Aside from Billingham’s ideas and a lot of hard work, the college does credit the introduction of Sunrise’s Enterprise service desk product, which they began using in earnest in 1999/2000, as helping to professionalise support and help cope with the growth.
Gloscat uses Sunrise Enterprise to manage all calls to the service desk from start to finish. The thorough tracking of calls through Sunrise Enterprise allows Billingham to justify expenditure and manage limited resources effectively. The user satisfaction that once blighted the efforts of the support team is now a credit, with a ‘drastic improvement’ being reported.
“Enterprise has helped the department to improve customer care by recording every job request, therefore ensuring that no details are forgotten. The recent introduction of InternetDesk, Enterprise’s web-based module which offers self logging to users, has also relieved the need for heavy telephone presence and customer queues,” says Billingham.
With the major fire fighting work handled, Billingham and the team have been able to move onto new challenges, namely deciding the strategic direction of the facility and becoming more adept at dealing with supplier contracts. Cost effectiveness has pushed itself to the fore of thinking, with the rate of expansion running in the opposite direction to funding, which is becoming increasingly tight.
Cost justification has improved since Enterprise was introduced, as Billingham is able to use the thorough tracking of calls to justify his expenditure and manage his resources.
The Enterprise product has also helped to change the structure of support itself and take away many of the time consuming tasks involved in IT support. The first line operators use the full client version of Enterprise, while analysts on the second line use the web client version to affect changes. Lecturers and students can log calls directly onto the system via InternetDesk and this is now responsible for deflecting 160 calls per month from the front line team.
Billingham’s aim is to work smarter as a way of counteracting the fall in funding, and part of this strategy includes a greater emphasis on asset management.
In terms of assets, all IT equipment procurement and installation is now tracked by Enterprise, and all purchases must be approved by Billingham or an authorised member of staff. This enables him to improve efficiencies by standardising on equipment – an example being the decision to use only HP printers, with the volume meaning that better prices can be negotiated for with suppliers.
Another example of working smarter is making use of SMS to remotely upgrade all its machines to XP this summer. “XP will give yet even more stability for college PC platform and help in reducing fault calls and improving time for development and projects,” details Billingham.
User training is also being addressed to help tackle the costing issue.
“A strong induction process helps establish the ability of new staff to understand systems, which reduces the need for support and, if support is required, staff are taught exactly how to request it using self help facilities. The flexible use of learning gateway to train existing college employees is also helping to reduce help desk requests,” explains Billingham.
Another long-term aim for James Billingham and his team is to reduce call closure times to an average less than seven days. “We have almost reached our target of seven days, which represents an average improvement of one day saved off the fix time every 6 months. If the trend continues it would be nice to think the average call closure time will get to below one day in another three years or sooner,” says Billingham.
Meeting these figures will involve the use of improved reporting, by highlighting service gaps and identifying where training requirements are. Adept at using Crystal Reports and drawing the right data from Enterprise’s reports, Billingham is combining this intelligence not just to affect positive changes, but also to elevate the profile of the department by offering solid proof of the quality of work being handled. Billingham here details the importance of having a good reputation and image. “A supportive, easily identifiable team is important to give the customer confidence in the professionalism of the team, and a good image helps to secure the resources to maintain excellent service levels.”
The reports from Enterprise offer James Billingham open calls status on each day and from this, he draws up a quarterly report that shows peak demand times and allows him to allocate resources accordingly. For example, he has been able to justify reducing evening cover thanks to an evening calls report showing very little service demand at that time. He currently runs a very lean service, with very little contingency on staff, so the ability to plan effectively and avoid the use of temporary staff is paramount.
Centralisation and creative applications
Gloscat’s use of Enterprise is a good example of centralisation and other types of applications that the software can serve. The system is used by:
- IT support
- Web development
- Marketing – as well as tracking jobs, marketing uses Enterprise to log all the details of new brochure requests
- Estates – this department was added to the system in September 2004. Each morning the caretakers pick up pages printed from Enterprise detailing their jobs for the day, as this reduces requirement for staff with IT skills. These requests are closed by an operator when the tasks have been completed.
For all these departments, the benefits of using Enterprise are that jobs can be viewed from any location and cannot get lost. By including all working information on Enterprise, assessments of staffing and work load requirements are always intelligently managed.
Of his experiences with Sunrise, Billingham says that Enterprise stability means that he has had to consult the supplier very rarely. On the occasions when support has been needed, Billingham says that the experience has been positive.
Billingham is currently concentrating on the massive task of preparing for a change of premises in 2007, a move that makes the task of ensuring efficient asset tracking even more essential. “The strengths of a system like Enterprise will help in the mammoth task of collating any problems associated with the move and ensuring all issues are tracked and resolved quickly,” concludes Billingham.
For more information on Enterprise or Sostenuto, Sunrise’s other product offering, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8391 9000.