As part of a drive to use resources more effectively on behalf of citizens, the Council has turned to Supportworks, firstly to satisfy an urgent need for a support desk system and secondly to realise a visionary ITSM approach.
England’s second largest local authority, Essex County Council, is the overarching local government body for Essex, an administrative area east of London. In collaboration with 12 district and borough councils, two unitary authorities, and about 300 town and parish councils, it provides vital services to a varied population of around 1.4m over an area of 1,300 square miles. An in-house Information Services function supports a user base of around 8,000 employees, plus some external entities. The team looks after servers, networks, websites and applications, sometimes in partnership with external suppliers.
The Council’s vision statement says: “If we are to meet [our] challenges we need new thinking and innovation to ensure we can use our resources in the best possible way for the people of Essex.” Efficient use of IT is essential for any organisation needing to improve resource usage, and Hornbill’s Supportworks helps the Council achieve that.
The Information Services (IS) function adopted Hornbill’s Supportworks in 2009 when the Council brought support in-house following a period of outsourcing. Supportworks was implemented rapidly to meet an urgent need: the team first engaged with Hornbill in April and had an effective service desk system by the end of June. Supportworks was initially used for basic support functions such as logging incidents. However, after a couple of years the Council decided to invest in formalising and implementing a full range of ITIL processes in order to improve customer service and efficiency. Additional functionality within Supportworks was switched on to support this transformation.
The service desk team remain the heaviest users of Supportworks, but support analysts also make increasingly proactive use of it in resolving issues. Various other systems are integrated with Supportworks. For example, there is a feed from a software asset management tool into a Configuration Management Database (CMDB) within Supportworks, giving information about assets such as laptops – what software is licensed, who logged in when and so on. Supportworks gives analysts all the information they need to resolve an issue effectively, readily accessible in one place.
Most of the benefits Essex County Council has realised from using Supportworks arise from having all the information about IT assets and activities in one place, linked together to facilitate service provision. For example, if there is a major incident it is easy to review all related problems; when a customer rings in, the analyst can immediately see any previous issues.
Provides built-in support for ITIL
After the service desk had used Supportworks for a couple of years at a basic level, Council management decided to embed ITIL into the organisation. In systems terms, this was achieved mainly by turning on ITIL processes that are already built into Supportworks. At the same time, the team configured Hornbill’s built-in reporting capability to generate hundreds of individual reports for everyone from IS management to business users.
Supports a wide range of users and requirements
As well as the service desk, all support analysts now use the system for purposes such as searching asset information or customer records, or proactively logging problems. The self-service portal, too, is now used by a range of endusers, from social workers to project managers. The team consulted representative end-users to make the portal as user-friendly as possible, ensuring that business rather than IT terminology is used. A member of the Council’s web team redesigned the front page and Supportworks was configured to work the way users wanted.
The Service Management team has been able to add controls over who is able to update which environment. Supportworks security profiles make it possible to manage administrative capabilities on a per-analyst basis ensuring consistent relationships between the development, test and production environments. Supportworks’ Change Management functionality gives a full history of infrastructure changes so that audit questions about authorisations and controls can be swiftly answered.
Enables major service improvements for better resource usage
Supportworks facilitates the Council’s drive for continual improvement. Since the re-implementation of Supportworks in 2013, first-time resolution of incidents has improved from 53% to 63%; fulfilment of service requests within target time has improved from 64% to 89%. As well as user consultation forums, there is a Service Improvement Review Forum (SIRF) where anyone from IS can suggest improvements to processes or applications; these proposals are managed in Supportworks via a specific process designed and implemented by the Council. If an IS employee identifies that a particular request – such as access to guest Wi-Fi – recurs frequently, they can suggest adding it to the online catalogue. Items previously managed as incidents or non-standard service requests can then become standard service requests, with predefined processes that enable them to be dealt with more efficiently.
Supports non-IT functions
There are plans to extend the use of Supportworks beyond Information Services. The first project will enable centralisation of business support for various teams within the Council – activities like booking rooms or travel will be done via Supportworks’ self-service portal. Enquiries, as well as service requests, will be logged and analysed within Supportworks to shape the new process and enable process improvement. Hornbill consultancy has been instrumental in scoping and building this new service. A second project will see Supportworks used to manage incidents and service requests in connection with the Council’s payroll.
Both these new applications will run on the existing Supportworks system, minimising support and management overheads. The number of Supportworks licences is expected to increase from 92 to around 600.
At a glance
Essex County Council
Supportworks ITSM Enterprise
Fast initial implementation, followed by enablement of additional features to support ITIL processes.
- Enables better use of resources, supporting the Council’s vision of prosperity through innovation
- With ITIL introduction, first time fix rate for incidents increased from 53% to 63%; standard service requests delivered in target time increased from 64% to 89%
- Enables continual process improvement
- Supports a wide range of users and requirements
– including non-IT requirements such as Business Support Services
- Facilitates stronger governance and better audit trails
- Additional ITIL processes were enabled by switching on Supportworks functionality