Throughout much of the pandemic, Shellharbour City Council struggled to support its work-from-home employees with their legacy on-premises service management platform. However, while moving to the latest cloud version seemed like a good fix, it wouldn't eliminate a growing dissatisfaction with the solution's inherent level of complexity. And once the council saw the upgrade costs, they decided it was time to see what else was on offer.
Marcos Baez joined the council's technology help desk in 2002. Today, he's their Manager of Information Communication Technology, running two teams comprising eight staff. The Desktop and Devices team looks after the council's help and service desks and end-user computing, and provides first-level support to the information solutions team. The other team manages the council's technology infrastructure.
Baez says that the role of their service management platform is critical. "It underpins the way the organisation delivers services to all the council, our ratepayers, community members, etc. And our staff are heavily reliant on technology to provide customer services.
"As it was, we had challenges around visibility. I was struggling to see what we did and how effective we were. We were trying to create monthly and quarterly reports which had to be massaged every single time. It was a massive overhead to do that. And the reports weren't accurate — which is probably the most important thing.
"To keep delivering the level of service the organisation expects and deserves, we needed an ITSM tool that would provide visibility, granular reporting, dashboards, and real-time information. And a major requirement of a new system was that it had to be accessible anywhere, and at any time — so it had to be cloud-based. Our customers only care that every time they log on, it's going to work and provide a consistent experience.
"We also wanted a system that didn't require us to take continual care of it; that's the responsibility of the vendor. But we didn't have an unlimited budget either."
As a part of local government, Shellharbour City Council must follow a strict procurement process that includes obtaining multiple quotes and undertaking due diligence.
Baez says they evaluated four solutions before choosing 4me. "4me was affordable, fit for purpose, and ultimately value for money. Their roadmap and their vision aligned with our approach."
4me is a SaaS service management platform with a combined ITSM, ESM and SIAM framework in one, enabling internal departments and external partners to work together seamlessly. It features free weekly upgrades with no forced annual upgrades (saving on annual project costs) and offers an affordable, inclusive, consumption-based pricing model. Importantly, for local government, it complies with all local regulations and is hosted in Australia.
Baez and the council were sold.
"When we chose 4me we knew we weren't just buying a service management platform, but investing in a partnership. Fusion5 not only understood our business requirements but delivered a successful solution that ticked all our boxes."
Fusion5 and the Shellharbour City Council team identified seventy services that needed to be managed and reported on. "This was a real eye-opener to us," says Baez. "Seeing what we supported helped qualify what we do because this is how we justify our existence. We didn't have visibility of these services before implementing 4me."
Baez was initially keen for Fusion5 to take control of the implementation process, but after the first kick-off meeting, he realised that his team had to take ownership. "We needed to understand how the platform worked, so we could translate how the council operates into processes. In effect, we needed to collaborate and build it from the ground up. And our effort paid off.
"The time we put into it helped us build a customer-focused solution — not an IT-focused one. We needed to design it with our end-users in mind. For example, we wanted to encourage our customers to use the portal to log requests, so we put a lot of thought into that — and it made a real difference."
Baez spent so much time on the community portal that he became a top-ranked user, and he and the team used the ideas gained to improve the solution further. "We were really impressed," he says. "The entire team absolutely love it. I've never seen them so excited about any IT system, as they've been with 4me." In fact, the widespread enthusiasm for the new portal resulted in an unprecedented 140 council staff (including senior management) attending the optional training.
Fusion5 completed the implementation in just five weeks.
For Baez, the litmus test of a good project is when your IT team can take leave on go-live week. "I believe that if a project has been delivered and you've done everything right, it shouldn't matter who is available that week. You've already put in the time. If you feel keeping everyone on hand is essential just in case, you're not ready."
And Baez says his faith was justified from the outset, saying, "in less than a week, it's already changed the way we operate."
"One massive change that we implemented," says Baez, "was that you can no longer email the help desk. We turned on the help desk email auto-responder referring customers to the new portal and provided a link. And it worked. We got perhaps four emails in the first week, compared with our normal fifty. Removing email has had minimal negative impact, even positive feedback. Our volume of phone calls went down as well. It's been a transformational change."
The council now averages 70% of all service desk requests going through the self-service portal. Baez says that before 4me, they would have been lucky to reach 20% (let alone accurately capture improvement metrics). And he can see it's taking an average of three days to complete requests, so he can compare it to the performance of other teams and see where the pain points are.
At go-live time, all council staff were working from home due to lockdown and were happily using the Google-style search function to find the service they needed support for. However, Baez says an increasing number of support requests have been withdrawn as users have become more self-sufficient and adept at searching out answers in 4me.
Real-time reporting and dashboards are easy to set up and monitor, so Baez's team always knows the status of all service requests. Support tickets are assigned an impact status of P1 through to P4 to determine prioritisation. "It's a standard approach," says Baez. "While 4me allows you to send requests directly to the appropriate team, we pass everything through the service desk, and they triage and allocate. Only our requests for changes (for our corporate systems) bypass the service desk and automatically go straight to that team and sit in their queue until assigned. So it's very flexible."
The seventy service offerings all relate directly to specific software or functions. "This allows us to take a more granular approach to reporting, troubleshooting, and being able to prioritise the service requests as they come through," says Baez. "I can now get details right down to a product level and pinpoint issues precisely, which is a significant improvement."
All of which means Baez and his team now have the capacity to tackle other value-added projects for the organisation.
Baez says the next step in their journey is leveraging 4me's automation capabilities for tasks and changes, and utilising features like project and asset management. And he's excited to take the next step.
"We haven't even scratched the surface of 4me. Next up is improving the way we operate. There's so much potential; we're just getting started. I can see huge benefits from both a customer and an IT resourcing perspective!"
"When we chose 4me we knew we weren't just buying a service management platform, but investing in a partnership," says Baez. "Fusion5 not only understood our business requirements but delivered a successful solution that ticked all our boxes."
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