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Published on March 1st, 2010


Cost savings AND improved service – achieving the impossible at Tamworth

Find out how Tamworth Borough Council has used industry standards and flexible service management to make across the board improvements.

Tamworth Borough Council’s ICT department has built up an enviable track record over the last few years.

Realising increased savings year on year, not least through a conservative approach to headcount, the department has nevertheless managed to significantly increase its performance.

Behind this success lies the energy that the team, and assistant director of ICT Nicki Burton, have invested into shaping some very effective working processes, supported by Sunrise Software’s web based IT service management platform Sostenuto.

The fully centralised service desk provides support for 450 staff across headquarters and eighteen remote sites, as well as 30 elected members working from their homes.  As one of the early BS 15000 accredited organisations, the Council has now converted its accreditation to the ISO/IEC 20000 global standard for IT service management.

From BS 15000 to ISO/IEC 20000

Tamworth Borough Council was accredited against BS 15000 – the British standard for service management – in 2004.  “After attending an awareness day, this felt like the right standard for us,” says Burton. “Its benefits seemed to outweigh those of others such as ISO 9000 and Charter Mark.”

After carrying out a gap analysis to determine what would be required, and basing a new strategic direction on these findings, the project team invited BSI (British Standards Institute) to visit the Council for an initial assessment.  The entire assessment process took three months.  More recently, following an 18 month migration period, Tamworth has achieved accreditation for ISO/IEC 20000, which has superseded the BS 15000 standard.

Burton and her team have opted for six-monthly visits from BSI, which helps keep them closely aligned with the standard’s requirements. “At their last visit the BSI inspectors commented that the ISO/IEC 20000 standard had truly become ‘business as usual’.”

ITIL aligned

“Being ITIL aligned, Sostenuto enables us to track a full incident lifecycle as well as deliver a significantly more effective change management service.  It has provided us with an ideal platform to meet our ISO 20000 obligations.”

Following a procurement process involving the evaluation of different ITSM software solutions, based on ISO/IEC 20000 criteria, Tamworth selected Sostenuto in 2008.

“After carrying out some site visits, talking to partner councils, and seeing various demonstrations, it became apparent that of the products evaluated, Sostenuto was the most cost effective and provided our specified functionality” says Burton.

“Good change management capabilities were important for us and I have to say, this was one of Sostenuto’s strong points.  Being ITIL aligned, Sostenuto enables us to track a full incident lifecycle as well as deliver a significantly more effective change management service.  It has provided us with an ideal platform to meet our ISO 20000 obligations.”

Risk assessment is also an area that the standard puts a lot of emphasis on, and Tamworth has configured the change management module to capture risk-related information as well.

“This way we can understand service and functionality impact as part of the overall assessment of the change,” adds Burton. “This allows decisions to be made more effectively during Change Advisory Board meetings.”

Tamworth has also set up Sostenuto to underpin its ISO/IEC 27001 accreditation for information security.  This allows for security incidents to be logged and reported on.

Burton has allocated resources to manage the development of Sostenuto in line with evolving requirements. “The system now looks completely different from the way it looked when we started out.  This is testament to the software’s flexibility and configuration-friendly architecture.”

New processes

As a relatively small team, Tamworth ICT took a down to earth approach to the standard, as Burton explains.  “We began by looking at how existing processes fit BS 15000 at the time, and any new processes had to demonstrate appropriateness.  Being a small team, we have grouped together some of the functions defined in the standard to make it fit with our existing structure.”

“We used to be good at logging calls but not so good at closing them and informing users.  Now our approach is a lot more proactive and we work to agreed response times.  For example, we are able to see the ten top calls thanks to our reports, and if any of these are training related, such as ‘how to set up tables in word’ for example, then we organise resolutions which can include self-help documentation or sign-post to training.”

Communication with internal customers has improved massively, thanks to regular awareness training sessions and service reviews. “We operate pilot groups which enables us to test new initiatives and encourage feedback to ensure things are right before corporate roll-out,” says Burton.

“We also set up regular meetings with suppliers, in order to review their performance.  Thanks to the reports on third party incidents produced in Sostenuto, we are able to manage service issues.  This way we make sure we are getting the best possible value.”

The Council has submitted its ICT function to benchmarking through the years, through the Society of Information Technology Management (SOCITM), and more recently through the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).  It also guages its performance using online user surveys and random sampling by the service desk, which have shown excellent results.

As well as happier customers, Tamworth ICT has achieved year on year savings, thanks to better supplier management, and the negotiation of contracts based on performance.

These outstanding results, published to the management team and elected members via a performance dashboard, have provided a huge boost to the department’s profile.

The future

Burton and her team are planning to continue building on Sostenuto.  “The relationship we have with Sunrise feels more like a partnership than a client / supplier dynamic.  They have always responded to our feedback 100 per cent, and gone out of their way to support us in our ISO 20000 undertaking.”

The team is currently piloting self service interface Chameleon and incorporating software asset management with ISO/IEC 20000. Both initiatives will bolster its continued drive for better performance and bigger efficiencies.

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One Response to Cost savings AND improved service – achieving the impossible at Tamworth

  1. I’m a help desk agent and I was at work the other day when a cusomer called to complain about the sound card in his computer. He said, “the right channel is comming out of the left speaker and vice versa” so I told him to switch the speakers and he felt so stupid he hung up on me! Humor is good so laugh. Anyone else have a good one?

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