Case study Education

An agile approach for rapid PC deployment

Teesside University’s IT Service optimises people, process and technology using IT Service Management to rapidly deploy new applications and hardware.

Teesside University’s IT and Communication Services department are working towards ISO 20001 (a quality standard focussing on the effective delivery of IT services through the optimisation of people, process and technology), and as part of a programme of continuous service improvement, we were invited to work in partnership with them around the areas of hardware and software deployment. This was achieved using the Waterstons approach to IT Service Management, which focussed on aligning IT processes to the needs of the University.

The Challenge

Teesside University’s IT and Communication Services department (ITaCS) has invested in an ongoing programme of service maturity closely aligned to the ISO 20001 standard. This work has allowed the IT service to increase efficiency and reduce costs by forming technical streams focussed on meeting the needs of the University.

ITaCS manages a staggering 5000 machines across the University and replaces approximately 20% of these devices each year. With a complex array of hardware specifications and over 1000 supported software applications, the deployment process requires detailed planning and operational excellence to meet tight deadlines each year.

To meet these deadlines in an agile manner, additional work was often required to ensure customers were not disappointed. Similarly, technical challenges were also encountered which required machines to be re-imaged, increasing the time required to complete the deployment activities. With growing demands and tight timescales there was the risk that the deadlines were not achieved.

To mitigate this risk a service improvement programme was required to ensure that the new machines were in place to support teaching, research and operational activities across the University by the start of the academic year.

The Solution

ITaCS were aware that the key to optimising the deployment process was to be found through investment in IT Service Management and therefore approached us to assist with a programme of service maturity. ITaCS particularly valued our pragmatic, value-focussed approach to service management alongside the experience we provided from improving similar processes across the education sector.

First we completed a review of the existing process in order to assist ITaCS in identifying improvements across the areas of people, process and technology. This included staff interviews, process mapping activities, staff workshops and technical investigations to make sure the process was examined from every perspective.

Our specialists utilised IT Service Management best practice frameworks, such as ITIL, to suggest improvements which would optimise the efficiency of the deployment process. We also employed lean principles to promote the value of all staff involved in the process and worked towards fostering a culture where every member of ITaCS was empowered to suggest process improvements.

Our technology specialists focus on resolving technical challenges on a day-to-day basis and are able to assist our clients’ optimisation of their system configurations (on platforms such as SCCM) to maximum effect. Therefore the final stage in the project involved utilising our technical specialists and their detailed knowledge of the Microsoft SCCM platform to identify potential improvements, which aimed to remove technical bottlenecks and increase the efficiency of deployments.

In line with the Gartner process maturity model, we have been working toward service improvement for some time. As Waterstons’ approach matches closely with those principles, we commissioned them to work with us regarding improving the process of deployment across the University.

The key recommendations from the review are summarised below:

People
The key to lasting improvements was identified as the formation of a cross-functional project team. This team will assemble at the start of the deployment process to address resource constraints and ensure the success of the annual technical refresh activities. With the appointment of a clear process owner and a spirit of continual improvement, staff will unite to achieve a common purpose.

Process
The key to process efficiency is an agile approach, centred on several deployment 'timeboxes'. This approach allows build, test and deploy activities to be concentrated into cycles, as new requirements are gathered from Schools and Departments throughout the year. This approach delivers the flexibility and efficiency required to meet the University’s needs.

Technology
A central SCCM service is configured to manage the deployment of application builds across the University. The technical investigation recommended improvements in order to decrease the time needed to build and deploy new machines.

The Benefits

ITaCS are in the process of delivering the service improvement programme and are well on their way to maturing the deployment process and increasing the efficiency of the annual technical refresh activities. As the improvements are delivered, it is expected that ITaCS will realise the following benefits:

  • Increased customer satisfaction through the rapid deployment of new applications and hardware
  • Reduced deployment time and associated costs
  • Increased time available to deliver value-add projects e.g. staff self-service portal
  • Improved relationships with Schools and Departments, allowing ITaCS to be viewed as a strategic partner across the University

So what next?

Stew Hogg's latest White Paper The IT Service Management Journey: Unlocking a Greater Return on Investment from your IT Service looks at the steps you need to take to start your own IT Service Management Journey.

As we are working towards ISO 20001, we are looking forward to improving our processes in order to benefit all of our stakeholders. Waterstons have helped us to improve our service management in an agile way.
Bill Taylor ICT Assistant Director (Client Services)