African Bank, a retail bank based in South Africa with over 400 branches nationwide, recently rolled out Freshworks' ITSM platform, Freshservice in under 12 months, replacing an ageing legacy platform. And whilst the IT organization is quickly realizing value from the tool, the benefits are extending across the business and it is now being adopted more broadly as an enterprise-wide service management platform - because of enthusiasm from business users.
Frans Germishuizen, Senior Release Manager at African Bank, explains how the organization needed to replace an existing ITSM platform that had been in situ for 20 years, which presented both technical challenges, as well as cultural change management issues. Simply put, he says that users were doing things simply because that's how things had always been done, but were stifling innovation in the process.
As such, Germishuizen and his team conducted a cost of ownership assessment, looking at how much the tool would cost to replace versus carrying out necessary upgrades, alterations, adding additional products and doing necessary maintenance. It soon became clear that these costs, in addition to not having the benefit of a modern ITSM solution, meant that African Bank should go to market for a whole new platform.
In addition to the costs, the organization was not able to take advantage of the service management knowledge it had internally, being restrained by the legacy system. Germishuizen says:
We started realizing our ITIL knowledge stretches far past what we actually have with our solutions. Sending our people on to training for ITIL 3,and more recently ITIL 4, resulted in them coming back and saying: but why are we not doing these things? So we identified a need to change the ITSM application.
Germishuizen explains that African Bank wanted a new platform that would allow it to take advantage of the next wave of service innovation, but one that didn't need upgrading every couple of years. As such, the organization decided to look to cloud-based, low code solutions that had mobile capabilities.
The initial market exploration began with assessing Gartner's research, but African Bank soon ran a proof of concept for a week, asking vendors to show what was possible. Freshworks was the clear winner, according to Germishuizen. He says:
Freshworks was able to produce their results within three days and actually started offering visibility of their other product suites, which was not even part of the scope of the proof of concept. The low code SaaS solution was encompassing more processes and features than we knew of and it all came together in this really nice and funky integrated solution.
Germishuizen explains that the bank had a very aggressive target of migrating to Freshservice in unders 12 months, whilst continuing to support the existing application, which still had close to 10,000 service tickets a month. He says that Freshworks "didn't blink at all" at this request. Germishuizen adds:
At the beginning of March (2020) a couple of team members came over from India. We sat down for two weeks and we conducted a design and planning session. What we found out is that we will have to consider migration of 900 plus incidents, 600 plus service requests and 450 change categories.
And it was early on that the project started to galvanize business users. Germishuizen says:
In May 2020 we selected a pilot. And something nice happened. Usually a pilot will tell you how the functionality works, but for the first time the pilot resulted in a big buzz in our business environment. This big buzz resulted in our business users taking notice of what is happening, taking notice of what Freshworks is offering, and that resulted in a big hype.
And progress happened quickly. He adds:
By October 2020 we activated 66% of our functionality that had to be migrated. Now if you think about it, 66% of our functionality would have included the entire change management, as well as incident management, and origination was completely shut off from the legacy system.
Between March and October, during those six months, we were looking at 66% of our functionality already migrated. By December we deactivated all origination on the legacy system. By February 2021, 98% of the solution was completely complete and we shut down the legacy system in April.
If you look at when we started, which was May 2020 all the way up to December. That's only seven months - and in those seven months, we concluded the origination of the system.
Expanding beyond ITSM
Germishuizen explains that the project soon grew in scope because of the enthusiasm from the business and expanding rapidly into enterprise service management. For the first time, African Bank was including business services in the platform. Germishuizen says:
These are business services that have got no IT involvement, they're purely the business offering these services out to the rest of the organization. Business sentiment was on the rise and more business units started taking notice of what Freshworks can do.
Other features of the Freshworks tool include boosting the use of automation across the business. For instance, the process by which people need to reset their password via the telephone has been automated, so that once they enter their social security or ID number, the system resets the password automatically.
Further to this, the tool has also been integrated with African Bank's mainframe, where it automatically logs incidents that get routed through to support channels. This has cut down on escalations and unknown issues, which in turn has reduced the number of human hours and time to resolution, with speed of delivery going up.
Freshworks has also expanding into African Bank's HR department. Germishuizen says:
We are integrating even with our HR systems - and this is where we, as African Bank, had to catch up with what is being offered as a standard in Freshworks. And that is to onboard and offboard employees.
Although the Freshworks project is still new and the systems have been live for less than a year, Germishuizen says the value has been clear. He explains:
Traditionally ITSM was exclusively for IT. It was always more of an afterthought than a true reflection of the powerhouse that IT operates. Freshworks changed that for us.
We now have more channels, which are fairly evenly split between web and mobile. We have very short waiting periods for implementing any change into the organization. Some changes can take minutes. The bigger changes can take a bit longer, but then it's usually more the human element with requirements gathering and all that stuff. We are no longer being held back by the technology, the technology is actually speeding up more human interactions.
Lastly, and this is the biggest one, the business is eager to engage with us. We lived by the methodology of wanting to show what we are capable of before our business users get involved - and we've proven that.
We're still more ITSM orientated at the moment, but we are onboarding more and more business units - the nice thing is, the business is chasing us, we're not having to go out to motivate people to put their processes on.