Good News Travels Fast: Raleigh Takes Grassroots Approach to Connect City Departments

Raleigh’s IT team wanted to improve user experiences, said Spencer Smith, applications manager for the City of Raleigh, at ServiceNow’s Knowledge 19 Conference in May. The city consolidated seven IT departments into one ServiceNow enterprise IT service management (ITSM) platform. They took a grassroots approach, letting each success help build momentum.

Raleigh’s IT team supports approximately 4,500 city employees. Like many cities, Raleigh has central IT, and departments across the city. Smith explained the number one consolidation goal was to improve user experiences.

The Raleigh team knew that maintaining several ITSM platforms was a barrier. Information was in silos and users had inconsistent experiences.

Smith and team did some up-front work, including Information Technology Infrastructure Teams (ITIL) training. Raleigh created one ITIL team — one request team, one incident team. The goal was to be on the same page, Smith explained, with “one set of rules and guidelines for everyone to follow.”

Raleigh wanted to take an agile approach to their consolidation plan. They would on-board one department at a time. The team identified each organizations’ needs and duplicated a standard service catalog, Smith explained. “And then based on the team’s criteria and needs, we configured the catalog.”

A Parks and Recreation user will have different catalog items than a Public Utilities user, Smith says. “But, overall, they have the same service portal experience.”

Raleigh’s first win was on-boarding the Emergency Communications Center (ECC). Like other departments, ECC had their own technology support group. A new manager on that team noticed gaps in their process. “He actually reached out to us,” Smith shared. The manager became a great ambassador for the consolidation, which helped build support, Smith said.

Next, Raleigh integrated the Parks & Recreation and Communications departments. “People want to get on board,” Smith said. “They see what you’re doing. Continue building on that to be successful.”

As Raleigh consolidated initial departments into the ITSM portal, they also expanded capabilities. The team added project portfolio management, asset management, and a Configuration Management Database (CMDB).

“We got to the Public Utilities group, and their tech team was also looking for a project management solution,” Smith said. The group onboarded with ITSM as well as project and portfolio management. Smith says implementing these capabilities with one organization helps with the others.

This was also true for core ITSM capabilities. Smith explained they rely on the standard incident requests and processes as they on-board each group. Their focus is “understanding their challenges in terms of requests from their users, and building out that service catalog,” says Smith.

With the first departments onboard, interest grew. Smith and team maintained the positive momentum. They worked with interested groups first, creating strong internal advocates.

While focused on standardized processes, the team was also able to integrate departments with unique needs. For example, the police department had specific requirements around mobile device management. “We were able to configure CMDB processes a bit differently for them,” says Smith.

The Utility Billing division was next in line. Smith said they on-boarded with ITSM and project portfolio management. They also wanted a system to manage their custom development and agile methodology,” said Smith. “They have become one of our biggest users of agile development.”

Good news travels fast. Smith and team are currently working with the city’s Convention Center. That team reached out with interest in the change process and the successes to date.

Smith said they definitely see value for the organization as a whole. Many of the groups had been using other ITSM platforms. As a result of the consolidation, Raleigh decommissioned five different systems. And by eliminating the associate license fees, they achieved $315,000 in annual savings.

And, the city is giving IT team members the ability to focus on high-value work. “Each of those systems had to be maintained,” Smith explains. “Within the departments, it was part of someone’s day job – care and feeding…upgrades, etc.”

Smith estimates they were able to redirect hours equal to three full time staff members. The team can use newly-found time to address strategic priorities and activities that better serve the city.

Importantly, Raleigh has streamlined request routing and is delivering better, faster IT service. Previously, each department had an email address and phone number for support. Now, regardless of organization, “you have one place to come…” Smith explained.

Smith acknowledged that change is tough. For Raleigh, the goal was to improve the user experience.  They had to demonstrate and communicate how a one-portal approach helps meet the goal.

Smith advises IT teams to take time with the first organizations they on-board. These groups set up the project’s reputation, explains Smith. This includes understanding the requirements, transitioning, and training.

Smith says several steps are essential for success. First, finding executive sponsors who understand the vision and will communicate project benefits.

In Raleigh, that support comes from D. Darnell Smith, the City of Raleigh’s CIO (no relation). Spencer Smith shared the CIO’s remarks, “ServiceNow is a foundational product for the City of Raleigh. As new business​ needs arise, it is one of the first products we assess for developing a solution. ​Its feature-rich offerings have allowed us to rapidly deploy solutions on a single enterprise​ platform.”

“We will continue to deploy additional functionality over the coming years to ​provide even more efficiency gains for the City,” said D. Darnell Smith, CIO.

Through the implementation, Smith and team reviewed many user requests and special requirements. When possible, they demonstrated how ServiceNow’s existing configurations would support their needs.

“Show them the love,” said Smith. Show users that you’ll be there to support them and resolve their issues.

Smith also emphasized the need to promote a known win early in the process and build on your successes. Raleigh promoted each success, which led to grassroots support and enthusiasm. “Three years ago, we had this idea of what would be a great expectation for the city, and we ended up here,” Smith said. “You don’t have to do it all at once.”

Looking ahead, Smith said Raleigh will maintain and improve their existing service catalogs. They are currently digitizing the public records requests process (FOIA requests). As part of the project, the team set up a public-facing forum that generates a catalog item – a request into ServiceNow. The user experience is simple and fast. Before the implementation, users downloaded a PDF form and submitted via email. The city can now manage and track these requests in one place.

Smith says that Raleigh’s IT team will continue to find new ways to enable collaboration between the city’s agencies, supporting the real goal – having the best possible employee and citizen experiences across the state.

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