Tea service

When IT departments adopt service management as a framework to run their operations, they are encouraged to consider business users as customers.

But that does not always translate into good customer service. This is precisely the realization that hit world-famous tea maker R Twining & Co (which brands itself as Twinings).

A long-time user of service management tools from Axios Systems, the company’s IT department recently decided it needed to hone that customer focus. Part of the change involved implementing an automated customer feedback add-on for Axios’s Assyst platform, which quickly proved that a renewed focus on the customer was overdue.

“The feedback we got was that we were providing a satisfactory technical service,” explains Leigh Heritage, Twinings’ service delivery manager. “But our problems lay in customer connect.”

One critical hindrance in this regard was that the Assyst system required its own user directory that would often fall out of date. That would mean IT support staff would try to contact users with incorrect phone numbers, or perhaps even visit the wrong building.

That was fixed by installing an LDAP gateway, built on Microsoft’s Active Directory, that synchronises the IT department’s central contact repository with the Assyst service management directory. If the former is changed, the latter updates automatically. The problems disappeared over night, says Heritage.

Other benefits of the company’s service management drive include an improved change management capability.

System and software changes were previously addressed using a paperbased process; project managers hoping to implement changes in live systems would fill out a form that would be approved by a change advisory board (CAB), consisting of the leaders of all the various IT teams.

Implementing the change management functions of the Assyst system made this process more sophisticated. By building an electronic repository for change requests, ad hoc changes could be compared against longer-term, strategic projects.

“For instance, if someone wants to improve a piece of ERP [enterprise resource planning] functionality,” explains Heritage, “the CAB can now look at the scheduled upgrade cycle, and assess whether that change should be undertaken now or as part of the next major upgrade”. This helps to tie tactical IT decision making to overarching strategy, he adds.

On the horizon are more sophisticated change management tools and requirements management functionality, both of which use the Assyst configuration management database (CMDB) to assess the impact of technical changes.

Most importantly, though, this service management drive has built the IT department a reputation for operational excellence.

“Not only does the business now get IT involved when they are planning new projects,” says Heritage, “but they also ask to borrow our project managers for their own projects”.

And that, as far as customer satisfaction goes, is quite an endorsement.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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