Process Improvement: Building for Tomorrow

September 29, 2008

As demands for Information Technology services continue to grow on campus, University Technology Services (UTS) is constantly looking for ways to improve our services while becoming more efficient at delivering them.

To accomplish those goals, UTS is engaged in an extensive processes improvement initiative. When embarking on any process improvement project, it is critical to select a proven framework providing the guidance as well as the flexibility to implement within the unique business requirements and culture of the organization. The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) provides this framework incorporating and referencing other complementary standard frameworks. ITIL shifts the focus of IT toward aligning with the business strategy of the institution. This begins with the first principle of service strategy. The objective is to define and create services based on business outcomes, not technology. By prioritizing and focusing on effectively delivering what customers want and need, there is a secondary effect of improving operational efficiency.

Another transformation is to instill a methodology and culture throughout the organization toward continual service improvement (CSI). CSI challenges organizations to understand and measure strengths and weaknesses of all existing services - taking proactive corrective steps when services fail to meet customer needs. The approach of actively seeking improvement continues throughout the entire lifecycle of a service.

A recent review of service performance data and customer discussions revealed a large volume of downtime and unanswered support requests. With IT workload increasing, a higher demand for new services, the need for expanded hours and staff levels steady, how can we keep current, much less address performance and backlog issues?

The answer is a set of organizational processes called service management, which focus on using services to demonstrate clear value to customers. Service management has been used by many successful IT organizations, and is already beginning to show great results at Emory.

As a first step to identify service improvement areas, UTS examined our methods for delivering services and defined three critical process for improvement. The results were dramatic:

  • The Change Management process stabilized the environment: 94 percent of changes implemented successfully and overall downtime decreased by 32 percent.

  • The Incident Management process decreased the number of outstanding customer requests from 1,565 to 255.

  • The Service Level Management process defined specific goals for addressing reported issues and met or exceeded the goals for 98.8 percent of all requests.

The next challenge is to maintain and improve in the above areas as well as build upon this success across other functions and departments. Information technology is no longer optional to the University; it is a critical strategic advantage with increasing reliance and growth.

Again, how can we meet the demands with current staffing and budget levels? In order for UTS to help Emory achieve our goals in the Strategic Plan outlined by President Wagner, we must improve operational efficiency, creating capacity to meet the needs of the University. One method to increase available capacity is through process improvement - driving down the amount of time required to maintain current services thereby facilitating the delivery of new services.

In 2008, UTS will develop a multiyear plan and prioritize the process improvement areas based upon the needs of the division and our business partners. Implementing ITIL is about more than evaluating and revising processes; it is about change: changing the culture toward services versus technology; changing to align with the business strategy; changing and improving the way IT works with customers; and changing focus to meet the goals and vision of Emory.

-- Karen Jenkins, Director of UTS Client Technology Services