A major university’s ICT service desk uses Supportworks to optimise its performance so that it can overcome resource limitations to provide the high service levels expected by students and staff. The team has discovered some innovative additional uses for the platform.
With more than 26,000 students from 118 countries and over 7,000 members of staff, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading and largest universities. A member of the Russell Group, it has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.
The University was voted No. 1 in the Times Higher Education Student Experience Awards, 2014-15 and rated 69th in the world in the 2014 QS World University Rankings. It is in the top 10 UK research-intensive universities (2008 Research Assessment Exercise).
Students and academic staff today rely heavily on information and communications technology (ICT) systems for their work, and provision of excellent ICT support is a mark of a university’s excellence.
At the University of Sheffield, the user population – as well as its expectations – is growing: staff numbers have increased from 5,500 in 2010 to 7,250 in 2014 – an increase of around 30%.
Supportworks helps the University’s IT support function deal with increasing demand without a proportionate increase in ICT resources. The central ICT support team originally chose Supportworks in 2005 to replace a legacy call logging system. Supportworks was selected for its simplicity of design combined with sophisticated functionality, and those advantages have proved their worth
After adopting Supportworks in 2005, the University’s ICT support team noticed immediate performance improvements resulting primarily from better use of information, accessible via a simple, intuitive user interface. Since then, ever more imaginative use of the application has delivered further benefits and helped the University lead the field in this increasingly important aspect of customer service. Despite the increase in the user population and – particularly – in its expectations about service levels, the number of people staffing the desk at any one time remains constant at three, and the overall team size has increased only slightly.
Controlling business processes
The team has taken advantage of Supportworks’ ability to control and manage business processes. An example is the student equipment support service, which maintains students’ own laptops and other devices. This involves a complex process of tracking the equipment’s location and condition as it moves around; the tracking is now all performed within Supportworks.
At the end of the process the owner has to be notified that the equipment is ready for collection – something that used to be problematic as phone calls were not a reliable way of contacting students; now the software automatically sends a text message when the process is complete.
The team has also used Supportworks’ process capabilities to fine-tune its own way of working. For example, there are automatic checks that calls are logged correctly, so that the team can now be confident it has complete and consistent information about each call.
Performance reporting and trend spotting
The reporting function within Supportworks helps managers and team members alike to spot trends. Peaks and troughs in call patterns indicate which systems require support at which times, so that the team can plan proactively to ensure that the right resources are available.
The team continuously improves its processes and use of Supportworks, refining performance monitoring to ensure continued compliance with SLAs despite a growing workload. For example, one change has helped the team to see whether a call has been fully resolved from the customer’s perspective – this has led to a further increase in customer satisfaction (measured by analysis of customer feedback).
The team has publicised Supportworks’ reporting (and other) capabilities to other departments within the University, which has resulted in a stream of requests for additional reports. In most cases, this is information that will be used to improve various services across the University.
Originally used to support central ICT functions and administration, Supportworks has been rolled out to other ICT staff within departments and faculties. For example, the support team responsible for the University’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) uses it to manage calls, the finance team to support its SAP system, and the HR system for a helpdesk function. Each department has its own support desk numbers and mailboxes even though they share a single instance of Supportworks.
Versatile development platform
As well as using Supportworks, the team is also using Hornbill’s development platform, and its API, to create its own custom systems to automate and improve its internal processes that are beyond the scope of the service desk.
Some of these new systems are interfaces to other systems, such as the University’s remote assistance solution, but others are standalone solutions. One example is a system for managing non-academic training or staff and postgraduate students. This system was developed in less than a month as an interim solution to replace a legacy system that was out of support. However, it works so well that there is no need to replace it – and it’s proved to be one of the University’s most reliable systems.
If you would like further information or to discuss in more depth how the University of Sheffield use Supportworks please contact Anna Brunsden, Hornbill Community Manager in the first instance: [email protected]
At a glance
University of Sheffield
Initially used by central ICT service desk but now extended to ICT and non-ICT staff in other functions.
- Streamlining and automating processes enables high standards of service with limited resources – around 80% of calls are resolved by first-line support.
- Process control features ensure efficient, reliable workflows and make the status of jobs and location of items visible.
- Flexible reporting helps management and team to plan resource usage and meet targets.
- Clarity as to whether calls are resolved from customers’ perspective has helped the team to increase customer satisfaction.
- Supportworks’ functionality meets the needs of other support functions across the organisation.
- Hornbill development capabilities have enabled the team to build powerful new functionality quickly.