The State of Washington’s Department of Health (DOH) implemented more than 600 improvements to its cloud IT service management implementation in 2017, which helped cut the department’s IT service delivery times in half, according to two officials within the department.

The improvements were carried out through a Continual Service Improvement (CSI) strategy the IT staff developed after implementing the ServiceNow platform to manage service requests, the officials said at ServiceNow’s Knowledge18 conference in Las Vegas on May 10.

Washington’s DOH oversees a $1.2 billion budget to support everything from drinking water and food safety, to laboratories and immunization treatment, to emergency preparedness and response. Expansive IT needs to support all those functions called for an overhaul of DOH’s enterprise service delivery management.

“In an effort to help manage demand and prioritize needs, and provide services more simply and effectively, DOH started the process of transforming its operations,” said Amy Wilson, enterprise support supervisor at DOH. “IT is really run more like a business,” she said.

That business was providing dynamic, tailored services to specific agencies, but scraping along on multiple disparate systems for IT support ticketing. DOH made the choice to integrate all of those systems into a single, born-in-the-cloud ITSM platform and customer portal.

The agency went live with ServiceNow on December 15, 2016. They implemented five Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) processes, a set of common industry practices for ITSM, and 25 automated request workflows across IT, HR, Facilities, and Safety & Security.

It was clear early on that the department’s processes to identify, collect and prioritize improvements across these different offices would also need to be refined for evolving needs.

“After go-live, we quickly realized that we really needed a defined process,” said Tiffany Escott, CSI process owner at DOH. “We did not have a process for prioritization or how to improve. We didn’t even have a good process to document any improvements we wanted to make.”

Escott and her team set out on developing the CSI process. DOH’s cloud provider ServiceNow offered an extensive resource library and customer community that documented troubleshooting tips and functionality improvements for the platform. But the department still needed to operationalize and determine its release schedule.

The staff created timelines for updates, determining a weekly operational release schedule for the quick fixes, and quarterly releases for complex workloads and more extensive optimizations. Quarterly releases were escalated up the chain to a steering committee for approval, while operational fixes jumped directly to the build phase.

Problems were rated on a 1-5 scale for both severity–the extent to which the problem could impact business–and scope–the range of individuals affected by the problem. The scores were then multiplied to determine the prioritization required in response. Process owners were given final say in priority levels.

In addition, the department built an Enterprise System Governance Framework, which shows how responsibilities trickle down from the IT Governance Board, to the executive steering committee, to various teams, all the way down to the individual process owners.

The IT Governance Board adopted it as the official framework for managing all enterprise systems in the department, a sure sign of the applicability and effectiveness of the team’s work in promoting a shared vision across the entire Department of Health.

Driving alignment throughout the command chain allowed all of the staff to buy in to the CSI process, Escott said.

“One of the great benefits to having a very detailed CSI timeline is that people know when they’ll be called upon to do something,” she said. For example, if testers know that they’ll be leading training during a specific week in month two of a quarterly release, they’re able to do their jobs more effectively, she said.

Wilson said the CSI process has allowed the IT department to “realize quick wins and build ongoing success.” Not every change needs to be monumental, but by having a defined process to support refinement, the overall service delivery can be improved markedly, she said.

In 2017, the first full year under the new ITSM platform, DOH made 597 operational fixes, and seven full release improvements.

Customer satisfaction increased to 90 percent–a 13 percent improvement–and average delivery time went from six days to three.

The department has now completed more than 40,000 ticketed requests since the ServiceNow launch in December 2016. Wilson and Escott helped expand the number of workflows on the platform from 25 to 85. As the name suggests, improvement is a continuous process.

They now have a roadmap to manage change into 2018 and beyond, and hope to leverage it to build their initial IT Service Management implementation into an all-encompassing Enterprise Service Management discipline in the upcoming years.

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