Although it has thousands of employees at 2,600 locations across the U.S., few people outside its industry have heard of the Houston-based Service Corporation International. But when its services are needed, the funeral, cremation and cemetery services company has a special responsibility to its grieving customers.
“If the telephones are down or a computer can’t be accessed or if there’s a saturation of bandwidth so a location can’t use our point-of-sale equipment, you’re giving that bereaved person more stress and not giving them the service that they deserve,” explains Thomas Smith, director of telecommunications, IT support and special projects for SCI.
With so much at stake, SCI relies on IT service management to help it handle more than 250,000 internal incident reports annually, including password resets, hardware installation and support. And ITSM is critical to supporting its IT and software infrastructure.
The company upgraded to a cloud-based IT service manager from Ivanti about five years ago. The tool helps IT keep everything running at the organization, and gives the company’s telecom and networking vendors a way to interact directly with its internal resources. Finally, it helps the IT team proactively set policies and processes that protect the infrastructure from harm, says Smith.
“At one point, we had so much malware, and we needed to find a way to eliminate it,” he says. “We reviewed where it was coming from and realized that it was an end-user problem.”
Users were installing unapproved software. Smith’s team used ITSM to remove administrative rights across the entire network, virtually eliminating the problem, improving productivity for IT as well as for other employees, who no longer have to deal with outages or slow PCs.
“Our people are funeral directors and mortuary operators,” Smith explains. “They didn’t realize what they were doing. Employees are no longer able to install malware. As ITSM helps us get smarter and identify problems, it helps us across the board.”
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ITSM Helps Tech Teams Manage Processes
ITSM is a tool that small and midsized companies — not just enterprises — have been using for years. But those who consider ITSM old-school couldn’t be more wrong, says Roy Atkinson, a senior writer and analyst at industry research organizations HDI and the International Customer Management Institute.
“Without a system of record to capture and help manage the details of an organization’s service management actions, everything becomes ad hoc, measures and metrics become difficult if not impossible to obtain, and duplication of work is almost guaranteed,” Atkinson says.
ITSM, at its core, can help organizations with simple yet time-consuming functions such as patch management, upgrades, asset management and policy adherence. It allows IT to create repeatable and defined IT processes, automating them so there are fewer mistakes and higher returns on IT software and hardware investments.
Use ITSM to Keep Assets From Crashing
ITSM helps Jacobs, an engineering firm based in Dallas, save money and time, explains James Milburn, the company’s IT asset manager. Milburn, who joined the company about a year ago, says the ServiceNow ITSM solution Jacobs uses helps his team avoid computer and server crashes that can be costly and disruptive.
“We recently upgraded to Microsoft Windows 10, which has very specific requirements,” he says. “We wanted to push it out, but we wanted to make sure we weren’t pushing it out to computers that couldn’t handle it.”
Using ITSM, Milburn could specify which hardware would get the upgrade and which would stay on the legacy OS.
Another way the company is using ITSM is to keep up with repairs and upgrades. Recently, Jacobs was able to avoid costly repairs on a certain laptop model, which was having problems with its internal batteries. The batteries expanded and broke laptop cases, but the problem was covered under warranty for the first year, according to the vendor.
“Using ITSM, we could do a quick search for the laptops by vendor, model and the date they entered service. We were able to identify the laptops that were covered and get them repaired at no cost,” says Milburn.
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Keep Upgrades and Patches on Schedule with ITSM
SCI is also using IT service management proactively, slashing upgrade and patch errors. The company’s service management team of 35 uses Ivanti’s ITSM product for a wide variety of functions, including supporting the help desk, asset management and incident tracking.
User issues are documented as soon as they come in, starting a workflow process that can be automatically escalated through the different support groups within IT. For instance, SCI recently upgraded its VPN. Using analytics within ITSM, SCI’s team identified a bandwidth issue and addressed it early in the upgrade process so it could proceed as planned.
Jacobs is considering deploying a feature that keeps track of software licenses and checks to see that every license installed on a device is actually being used.
“We have a few hundred different programs running. It can take up to six months to do a renewal," says Milburn. “With ITSM, an automated ticket can be sent out to the teams that need it so they know about the renewals.”
It’s these types of benefits that set ITSM apart from other automation tools, says Atkinson.
“If ITSM is done right — and that means in a way appropriate for that organization, not by the book — there will be more stability, availability and security in information systems, with fewer interruptions, and shorter interruptions when they do happen. And less tail-chasing when something goes wrong.”
ITSM isn’t just for occasional upgrades, though. It helps with daily communication and collaboration within and between teams so nothing falls through the cracks. An ITSM platform gives IT the ability to set roles and define responsibilities and actions, creating accountability and improving communication between IT, users and vendors.
Set IT Priorities with Service Management Software
This is especially important as it relates to end-user problem tickets and software development goals, says Chuck Huetter, vice president of information technology at insurance provider Ameritas. Huetter says his ITSM implementation is putting service back into the hands of users.
“At every company, there is an affordability issue of how many things you can do with the people you have. You simply have only so many hands,” he says. “That’s why self-service has been a focus for us.”
Ameritas, based in Lincoln, Neb., uses BMC Helix Remedyforce ITSM to enable this functionality. It led to a company culture change, says Huetter.
There’s finally a difference between incidents and service requests as far as IT is concerned — and not everything is an incident anymore. This allows the IT team to set priorities, making everything run more efficiently.
“We have a team of people who can now really deliver on the promises we make to the business, and we’ve got users who are able to trust us,” says Huetter. “That’s a foundational piece.”