Amherst College: A Journey to Higher Level IT Service Management
Colleges and universities face the same challenges other industries face when it comes to managing IT services, they need to provide excellent customer service with the best technology while working with shrinking budgets and resources.
Hello, everyone. I’m Kiersten Hoffman with Samanage and I’d like to welcome you to today’s presentation, “The Amherst College Journey to Higher Level IT Service Management.” A few logistics to quickly go over: If you have any questions during the webinar, please enter them into the “questions” box in GoTo Webinar controls on the right; we will address as many questions as time allows at the end. If we don’t address your question on the webinar, we will follow up with you after the presentation. Following today’s presentation, an on-demand version of this webinar will be shared with you via email.
Before I introduce Luis, I wanted to give a brief introduction of Samanage. Samanage is enterprise service desk software that helps get work done by managing all service relationships in the company. Samanage is instantly deployed via a true cloud, SaaS based model. There is no hardware or software installation required, and no maintenance ever on your site. Samanage is multi-tenant meaning we stay laser focused on a single, always new instance of software that lets customers enjoy the fastest time to value and unmatched user experience. With that, I am pleased to introduce our speaker for today, Luis Hernandez.
Luis is the director of IT Support Services at Amherst College. He previously worked for Ringling College of Art and Design where he was the Director of Operations and Strategic Initiatives for IT. Previous positions include data systems engineer for NASA in the Kennedy Space Center and web development team lead for Univision Communications. During his career, he has overseen four transitions of ITSM systems so he has a lot of great insight into this process. Welcome, Luis. Let’s get started with you sharing a little bit about Amherst.
Amherst College is located in Amherst, Massachusetts with 1,800 students and more than 200 faculty members. Our campus spans 1,000 acres, is home to over a dozen teaching and research laboratories, and an NSF-funded computational cluster with over 124 processors. Right now it looks just like you see in the picture. Having arrived from Sarasota, Florida and not experienced a single Winter in the New England, it’s all new to me so I’m enjoying it and by virtue annoying the locals who are anxious for spring to arrive.
So let’s talk a little about our Journey to new ITSM
Started Day One (literally)- June 1. My team, IT Support Services, had started evaluating products in May 2014, before my arrival, and kept me up-to-date via email before I officially began working for the College. We needed a new solution by August, before the start of classes. It is highly important not to disrupt clients (students, faculty, and staff) once classes are in session, so we chose early August, before classes started. Prior to Samanage, Amherst was using RequestTracker, also known as “RT”. We had to migrate from: 8 years of old terminology, processes, and habits; feeling of being “trapped” with the old system. Some staff members didn’t see a way out because we were so vested in RT and even had internal development of the product. We also had to work with staff members who were hesitant of the change. To say the least, even through the interview process for my position, I knew this was going to be an interesting challenge.
IT needs at Amherst College:
- we needed a modern, scalable product;
- we needed to break out of outdated processes and habits.
- Needs of the campus:
- campus members prefer an aesthetically pleasing product;
- clients want to easily track requests;
- everyone wants responsiveness while using the product.
- We also needed a full ITSM solution for incident management and asset management:
- for incident management we needed a solution that:
- would allow us to categorize incoming requests and map them to our existing service catalog;
- would help us define and determine a clear state of each request (open, resolved, closed, work in progress, pending client response);
- would allow us to continuously improve our processes by providing raw data that helps us determine how well we are delivering services.
- for asset management, although the transition is not yet complete, we needed a solution that:
- could help us easily migrate from a custom-built asset management system that is not scalable and is no longer maintained;
- could help us track our assets much better than we are today (location, status of asset [checked out, returned, retired]), etc;
- could help us track all IT-based assets.
There were a few things we needed to keep in mind as we geared towards the evaluation of a product:
- Who needed to be part of the selection process?
- Who were the key stakeholders?
- How would we select the products to evaluate?
Who at Amherst College was part of selection process? Advancement Operations, Frost Library, and Information Technology. The key influencers were Advancement Operations, Frost Library, and Information Technology – the same people who will need to use the system on a daily basis! It was extremely important for us to include everyone who used the previous system. We wanted to make sure all stakeholders had buy-in to the process and the final product selected. Advancement Operations, the Library, and IT never analyzed incident management solutions together. Instead, they were rolled into the existing system, RT, as the needs came up. The opportunity to select a new product together allowed us to select a product that fit all of our needs across divisions. An interesting side effect of going through the process together is that it brought the departments much closer together. We now work very closely on matters that relate to Samanage and ITSM, and share ideas on how we handle similar processes in each area. We in IT have adopted processes from Advancement Operations, and they have adopted some of our processes as well. It’s been a mutually beneficial relationship that was allowed to flourish because of this project.
We evaluated 25 products in total, including Zendesk, BMC Footprints, Freshdesk, CA Nimsoft Service Desk, TeamDynamix, and Samanage. The final candidates were TeamDynamix and Samanage.
Why did Amherst College choose Samanage? Ease of implementation: we needed a product that didn’t require months of planning and training, or a large team of developers on our campus. Community support: we wanted to work with a company that is committed to their product, strives to resolve issues with absolute attentiveness, and fosters a community of clients across many industries, with academia being one of them. Finally, cost was another factor to consider.
The fun began on July 1, when we began official work in the sandbox. On July 15, we had a fully configured instance of Samanage that was ready for initial deployment. From July 15 to Aug 3 we offered training, training, training, and more training internal to IT, Advancement Operations, and Frost Library. We customized the training for each division, as each division uses Samanage in slightly different ways. On Aug 5, we released our instance of Samanage to the community as AskIT. Putting together requirements of all departments (talk about the needs and use cases for IT web services, library services, and advancement operations.) As we were selecting a product in June, we were also meeting with each division to create a “map” of their workflows, type of requests they receive, and how they interact with each other so we could create processes for ticket workflows regardless of the final product chosen. This was similar to creating a Service Catalog, but not the same. Through the process, we learned that Advancement Operations wanted to use Samanage for project tracking, and the Web Services Group in IT also wanted to use Samanage for project tracking. Although Samanage is not a Project Management tool, it is flexible enough that it allowed us to use it for some level of project tracking. In December, the Library also started using Samanage for tracking some of their projects. The Library and IT work closely to support computer laboratories within the Library, so staff members in IT and the Library can easily exchange tickets as needed to resolve issues and to alert each other of potential problems. This shows the group divisions that we implemented in Samanage. We even have multiple groups for each division within IT.
We are able to define our business hours as well as scheduled time off. I have also added the snow days when we know we have one since that affects the SLT notices. You can create separate business hours if like us, you use Samanage in separate business units. Just prior to launch, Samanage added the capability for us to create custom states and tie them to SLAs. This allowed us to highly configure our instance of Samanage to meet our needs. We have over 20 categories and over 200 subcategories. Yes, this can be confusing for the customer so we are working with Samanage on improving the presentation to on the customer portal while retaining the full service catalog. This is how we have customized Samanage to serve for project tracking. We created a category named Parked, and each IT division uses a distinct subcategory to track their projects. You can see a list of incidents that are actually projects that Web Services tracks. And, a sample project with the communication thread.
Here are some of the things we have been able to do after our launch of Samanage:
- We completely mapped the Service Catalog to our Categories and Subcategories.
- We can clearly show data of how the request tracking system is used and areas in which we need to improve.
- We can easily track tickets and receive alerts when SLTs are breached.
- We respond so much quicker to requests because the system is easy to use, provides reminders and feedback, and each ticket is accounted.
Going forward, Amherst College plans to continue to enhance reports, and work very closely with the Samanage Community to help improve the product. Within 1 year, migrate from custom-built asset system to Samange. Within 1-3 years, begin using Change Management, track Problems, and Releases.
Here are some of the lessons we learned through the process, and lessons I have learned with other transitions. Each institution is different, so the implementation sequence will need to be customized for your own institution. Samanage is an instrumental partner and provides assistance and guidance whenever we request it. They provide information based on best practices, but also take into account our own needs and timeframe. Within your own institution, you may have different needs such as the ones we have with Advancement Operations, IT, and Frost Library. Be careful about recommendations from industry experts about “absolute needs”, such as the need to have a Service Catalog before you deploy a new ITSM solution. Do what makes sense for your institution as you can always customize a system later: listen to your clients, listen to your colleagues, and form a working group of people who can help you move forward with informed decisions. Talk. Talk to your solution provider. Hopefully they will be as open and accessible as Samanage and will be your partner as you move forward with your ITSM implementation. I have seen the other side with other implementations in my career. The support and community structure from Samanage was one of the major reasons we chose them for our implementation and it has paid off many times since we launched just over five months ago.
Thank you, Luis. While I know many of our attendees in higher education can relate to your story, a lot of your journey is true in all industries because at the end of the day it’s about providing a better service management experience for customers. So thank you for sharing. This concludes our webinar today. For more information on the points Luis talked about today, we invite you to visit us at samanage.com. Here you’ll can read more customer stories like Luis’s, and even dig in with a free 14-day trial to see if Samanage might be right for you. Once again, thank you Luis, and thank you, everyone, for joining us. Enjoy the rest of your day.