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ITSM Housing Association Case Study: Citizen Housing

24 Nov 2016
ITSM Housing Association Case Study: Citizen Housing

Citizen Housing regenerates its service desk with Sunrise's  IT Service Management

Citizen Housing is one of the West Midlands largest not-for-profit social housing businesses. Providing more than 30,000 high-quality homes to tenants, leaseholders and shared owners across the region, including Birmingham, Coventry, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, Citizen Housing is dedicated to creating an environment where people can be proud to work and live. Established in 1998, Citizen Housing has grown through acquisition and strategic partnerships and currently has more than 1000 employees.

Core to the Citizen Housing ethos is the commitment to collaboration, building communities and encouraging positive working practices to better serve their customers. Offering more than just basic landlord services, the organisation’s vision is to listen to individuals and proactively implement ethical practices to provide guidance and support to staff and customers.


Bringing the outside in

Citizen Housing had previously outsourced its IT Service Desk to a third party who provided both the staff and the technology to manage incoming queries. With the end of the contract approaching, Citizen Housing were looking for an alternative way to deliver superior service and support levels to staff and customers. For John Griffith, Application Support at Citizen Housing, the time had come to change the way queries were being logged and managed by the support team. The outsourced service was not delivering the levels of customer satisfaction required and Citizen’s small IT team of application specialists and project managers were determined that the poor service their colleagues were receiving would be reversed. The business recognised the need to kick-start the review process.
After a series of internal discussions and analysis of the requirements the business had, John and the team decided to bring the service desk back into the organisation.

John says: “We had been contracting out the support desk to external providers for several years but it just wasn’t delivering what we needed as a business. If issues arose, a lot of it was fixed via remote controlling onto staff devices, but the timeliness of the response was poor and lacklustre. Ultimately, it was an impersonal service and didn’t fit with our brand. We made the decision to insource the service desk, which meant formally splitting the IT team into a projects team and a service desk and expanding the department by employing more third line technicians and staff.” 

No time like the present

The process of selecting and deploying an IT Service Management (ITSM) solution began in July 2014, with Citizen Housing identifying six providers via a series of industry events and subsequently organising a series of half-day demos with each potential supplier. After each session, the IT team would score the solution and provider against a pre-agreed set of criteria until they had whittled the list down to the top three, who were then asked to complete the formal tender process. With marks being awarded for the solution’s functionality, cost, added benefits and support, Sunrise Software’s ITSM solution was chosen as being the right fit for Citizen Housing's business. “Flexibility, scalability, customisation and speed of implementation were paramount to us. As a company, we have experienced continued growth, something we hope to maintain, and we wanted a product that could grow alongside us as we evolve as a service desk and as an IT department. Sunrise ITSM met all these criteria and so much more. We were presented with a solution that enabled us to improve and alter the way in which we logged and managed queries through to resolution, with a clean and simple user interface that staff could quickly and easily get to grips with” comments John.

The ability to get the service desk up and running effectively and quickly became even more important when it was identified that, once the solution was selected, they had just one month to get it set-up, configured, train the five new members of staff who’d be working on the service desk and rolled out to the business.

John adds: “The implementation went phenomenally well and I can’t praise the support we received from Sunrise enough. We were working to a tight timeframe but it didn’t seem to faze them. We got one environment built, which would ultimately be the one that would go live, ran the testing whilst I concurrently wrote the training guides and got the system deployed. It was chaos, but it was brilliant.” 

Initially, the new system went live with the key modules that Citizen Housing required to get the service desk up and running by the deadline. These included Incident Management, in which John and the team did some specific configurations and added a new sub category into the incident classification section, contacts, items, third party contracts, SLA management and Knowledge Bank. Since then, Citizen Housing has added Problem and Change Management, conducted some additional work around third party contracts, and is looking at the orders process as well as bringing its Asset Management capabilities into the portal instead of tracking
via Excel spreadsheets. 

Changing the perception of the service desk

The quality of service from the outsourced service desk had received poor feedback from employees. For John, it was paramount that when the service desk returned ‘in-house’ this perception would be emphatically changed for the good. “In staff surveys we were receiving an approval rating of just 47% when we had the external, outsourced service desk. But since the implementation of our internal capability, this score has risen to the mid-90’s, which was our aim from the outset. At the end of the day, the staff know us and we know the staff. We understand better than any external provider what the implications and issues facing our colleagues are because we live and work with the business. We deal with it all the time. In addition, the solution has delivered tremendous cost savings to us as a  business. It has been more cost effective for us to purchase the Sunrise ITSM product and hire five new members of staff than it was to outsource the service desk function to a third party.”

Thanks to the flexibility of the Sunrise ITSM solution, Citizen can provide access to the system to other areas of the business to support the launch of new services, whilst maintaining a high quality of service. This included the launch of a new housing system in 2015, in which the team implementing the project were given limited access to the ITSM solution. Any support calls that came in via email, phone or the online portal in relation to the project could be logged via the service desk and the team working on the project could pick up the tickets, resolve them or assign to other people, without gaining unwarranted access to the rest of the system.

“As a department, there is now a much better visibility of the service desk function across a much wider subset of the business. By using some of the standard SQL and Service Desk Institute (SDI) reports, which comes with the product we have now developed a suite of automated reports that are generated each month and can be shared with the Director and senior management team, so they have visibility and awareness of all our KPI’s. Compared to the reports we used to get from the external provider, where you could barely get a list of closed tickets from them, the Sunrise ITSM reporting has been a revelation. To have the ability to drill down into the core data that is making up the performance figures is brilliant. It’s all right there in Sunrise and it is so much easier to manage when it is in one central portal.”


Levelling Up

Sometimes there is nothing that can motivate a team more than a little competition and with Sunrise ITSM’s inbuilt gamification module, John is taking full advantage of the team’s competitive nature to provide superior and accelerated service to colleagues. “Alongside the management and monitoring reports that we run, we also like to do some more fun reports for the team. They are all very competitive and like to know how they are doing against their colleagues in terms of number of calls logged and closed. Since we’ve been able to provide a monthly rankings table, I swear they are working quicker!” quips John. As a part of the continued evolution of Sunrise ITSM within Citizen, John and the team are looking to do a full relaunch of the self-service portal and encourage a higher user adoption of the tool by ensuring that some queries can only be logged via that communication channel. In the past 12 months, the business has seen a real shift in how queries are raised, with many employees moving away from phoning the service desk to logging calls via email and the portal.
“On average we received approximately 1000 support calls a month, and with the shift to logging these calls moving to email and the online portal, it has freed up the team from time on the telephone so that they can actively progress and close queries.” As well as the planned relaunch of the self-service portal, Citizen are also looking at which other departments would benefit from access to the ITSM solution.

John concludes: “The results from the deployment of Sunrise ITSM speak for themselves. Not only have the satisfaction survey results and engagement levels gone up, but the business has a greater awareness of what we are doing and we are no longer the department that people avoid."

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