Janet Holling as she puts it, found her 'IT calling' when she discovered IT service management in the mid-2000s. She was hired as a process consultant in 2011 to define, manage and deliver a service improvement program at health insurer, Bupa.
Just over a year ago, Holling was selected to build a service management team, part of a new production services group inside Bupa's restructured IT division, which had a new focus on providing customer service, not just delivering technology.
During a presentation at the CIO Summit in Melbourne last month, Holling revealed her team's successes and failures during a large-scale ITSM deployment. She even described how the group wrote and performed a pantomime to illustrate the service management lifecycle. But more on that later.
In the early stages, Holling assembled a team of 10 service management staff and ownership of Bupa's ITSM tool provided by ServiceNow.
"My accountability is to own, deliver and improve Bupa's operational processes. And that's where the fun begins. With this role, I inherited six functions, and as a result of the restructure, three functions were introduced to my team.
"I inherited five staff and recruited five more. A collision of fabulous service management practitioners came to Bupa -- people who give a damn about providing good service to their customers," Holling said.
"Everything we do, every question we ask, every issue that arises, every incident, every decision we have to make is based on one question: what does the customer want feel, or experience or expect, and how best do we deliver that or die trying?"
Bupa has a strong governance framework -- managed by a committee -- which reviews and prioritises information systems process improvements to ensure they are aligned with the organisation's strategic objectives.
"I like to think of it as a little bit of bang under our buck, great process and service management needs great governance. There is little benefit in managing services well if there isn't any substance or structure around it," Holling said.
Holling and a project team implemented the ServiceNow ITSM platform -- under a software-as-service arrangement -- within 10 weeks.
"With the team ready to roll, the time was right to review our practices and processes. We commenced a discovery and analysis on the current state process to determine the gap between our current and future desired state," Holling said.
The team also assessed the configuration of the ITSM tool to ensure it wouldn't be too expensive to customise it to meet the organisation's processes improvement needs.
However, the team did make a few mistakes.
At go live, they hadn't integrated the ITSM platform with Microsoft Active Directory, which made workflow completely manual.
"Every record raised goes to the service desk with a default priority of '4'. Service desk staff assess the priority, allocate to the appropriate team -- assuming that all the information to fulfil the request had been captured -- at first level. If not, a lot of toing and froing went on -- not exactly expediting request fulfilment times for the customer," said Holling.
"We stood up a CMDB (configuration management database) manually, instead of having a structured approach. This resulted in a 'wishy washy' database that wasn't used to any great effect and had no auto-discovery component."
These mistakes were due to a lack of understanding around platform capability, said Holling.
I had no idea until I took ownership 12 months ago, how many modules we had out of the box that we weren't using or even talking about, and they were included in our license cost," she said.
"The employee self-service portal and service catalogue was deemed out of scope. We weren't using knowledge or asset management, [the ITSM software] had a governance and risk compliance module [which wasn't being used]," she said.
"So our discovery and analysis was completed. We now understood what had to be done and the processes and tools base to turn current state into future state," Holling said.
Explaining the improvements to staff
In April this year, Holling and her team travelled to Bupa offices in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney to explain the process changes to colleagues.
"We were reminding people of the who, what and why of service management, followed by deep dive sessions in the afternoon explaining the changes we were making and why we were making them," she said.
The Bupa team also wrote and acted out a pantomime -- featuring a broken down washing machine -- to describe the end-to-end service management lifecycle.
A customer enters and Laundromat, the machine breaks down, the customer calls the help desk, the service agent repairs the machine and gets it going.
In the meantime, factory staff look into why these parts keep breaking, they discover that they are breaking in many machines, they test and replace the broken parts, and the machines are again operating as normal.
"In that 15 minute play -- including props and costumes -- we explained incident, workaround, problem, change release, reporting, operational readiness and quality.
"The pantomime even included my release manager Mr Luke Williams appearing as the laundromat customer in wig and frock and lipstick because every pantomime has a cross dresser right?" Holling said.
Around 145 people attended the laundromat and deep dive sessions. IS teams were the primary audience but the team did have 10 people from our business units attend.
Over a few days, the team had communicated the changes it was making to its processes, and how the ITSM software has been tweaked to support it all in a "fun and entertaining way," said Holling.
"We did some really terrible acting but we have seen engagement into the team grow as a result. We were invited by a business team to do an encore performance."
The end result?
In just over one year, the team has uplifted its incident, change and release practices through process review and a conscious focus on removing as much bureaucracy as possible, Holling said.
"We have moved activities out of release management and into a change cycle. One example is delivering certain defect fixes to the customer quicker -- this used to take 6 weeks, we now do it in 6 days."
There are also new support team hotlines and a stronger incident management practice that is well understood, working effectively and best of all, loved by the internal audit team, Holling said.
"We have also introduced a strong problem management practice, identified the underlying cause of 36 major problems so far this year, removing the risk of recurrence of 471 related business impact incidents."
Around two months ago, Bupa went live with its "real CMDB." An auto discovery function is populating 145,000 configuration items and is running weekly.
"This time the CMDB is providing us with information that is valuable -- we can plan, schedule and complete risk assessments with confidence," Holling said.
The service management team kicked off its employee self service portal project -- with an underlying service catalogue -- in early October.
Initially, 45 IS service requests have been presented to customers through the portal, allowing them to track and log the lifecycle of their requests.
"We are happy with where we are going -- we have matured the practice, demonstrated benefit, and feel like we have got ITSM under control," Holling said.
Follow Byron Connolly on Twitter:@ByronConnolly