British communications giant BT is looking to standardize processes across its global organization, consolidate a variety of legacy service management applications onto the ServiceNow platform, and is pursuing a ZeroOps strategy in order to improve both employee and customer experience. BT has said that the project should deliver £25 million in savings by 2027.
The project is being driven out of BT’s Digital Unit, which is operating a service-focused Center of Excellence (CoE), whilst allowing global teams to adopt ServiceNow in ways that are best suited for employees and customers. The federated model means that the CoE looks after the core platform, whilst freeing up agile teams to build what they see as critical to being an experience-led organization.
The company is also using DynaTrace for monitoring operations and identifying problems, whilst embracing Google Cloud’s machine learning capabilities, with the aim of reducing time to fix any issues that impact a customer’s experience. The end goal is self-healing, a truly autonomous environment.
This is no small task for a company the size of BT, which has multiple organizations, has a significant amount of legacy, and has at times grown through acquisition. However, the core team leading this now believe that they have created enough momentum to accelerate its goal of being a service-oriented company that looks at everything through a lens of ‘experience’.
We got the chance to speak with Jim Dempsey, BT’s Technology Director of Service, and Julian Stobbs, BT’s Programme Director of Service Design and Analysis, about the company’s ambitions.
Commenting on the drivers behind the project, Dempsey said:
I think self service management across BT has historically been done in different ways, in different areas, using different systems. And in some aspects, when you talk to people about service management and some of the ITIL areas of service management, the people across BT that are involved in that space, although they've had a similar kind of framework, we've implemented it in slightly different ways and different places.
Really, part of the transformation and modernization agenda at BT is driving us more and more towards standardized processes and standardized ways of doing things. Incident management is the same, really, in digital and networks, as it is in some of our business units, like enterprise or consumer.
BT selected ServiceNow as its platform of choice a couple of years ago and has been working to standardize service management processes, beginning the job of consolidating more than 50 service management platforms onto the Now platform. Stobbs said:
Simplification is really about how we become more customer focused and base our service on customers and the people who support customers. I think historically the reasons why we've got different processes and different systems are: there’s legacy, we've had fixed, we’ve had mobile, we've had different products, different networks, there have been acquisitions. Simplifying that around the customer is a key part of why we're doing this. It’s very much about how we become more customer driven and just simplifying that journey for the customer.
On BT’s approach, Dempsey added:
The core platform, the ownership of the core platform, sits with us in the service management organization, inside the technology unit. But then we also have this vision of a federated development model based around agile principles.
What we don't want to do is have one big central programme that just gets too big and becomes too cumbersome. We'll provide the guardrails, if you like, and look after the core platform, and the performance of the core platform, and then across the organization, both inside technology and global enterprise, there'll be federated teams.
BT’s service management ambitions form part of a broader strategy to create a self-healing operations environment, following the principles of ZeroOps. Stobbs said that this won’t happen overnight, but that BT is picking processes where it can build momentum and is focused on building, measuring, learning and adapting.
The vision is quite a clear one. There's a very clear strategy in digital around ZeroOps. It starts with the customer, the core aim is to drive towards an operation where you really are self-healing. If you look at how Incident Management runs right now - and we're pretty sufficient in Incident Management - if there’s a significant customer impacting incident, it can still take us a bit of time to detect it, with the monitoring that we have right now.
Looking at the end to end journey takes a bit of time to work out what's going wrong, and then it takes a bit of time to figure out how we can fix it. Although the monitoring is pretty good, it’s still kind of a manual process to get to a fix. And actually, our monitoring doesn't always get us to where the problem is.
BT is aiming for a scenario where it uses DynaTrace for monitoring, which finds the problem, scripts are generated, and this then drives a self-healing process, with the help of Google Cloud’s machine learning tools. And then ServiceNow manages the workflows for all of this. Stobbs said:
There's something in it for the customer. There's something in it for our colleagues who have to work with clunky processes, clunky systems. And there's obviously a cost element to this, with regards to people intensity. There's some incredible knowledge in the people who run these processes today, but we make it hard for them.
And that means those individuals are not always focused on the customer. They're trying to make the processes work. The only other point I'd make is just being really data-led with AI. All the different failure signatures that we have today, it’s not about break fix, it's really focused on the experience.
I think that's where the combination of analytics from Google, Dynatrace for monitoring, and then ServiceNow to manage those workflows - combining those into sort of a service ecosystem enables us to deliver that best customer experience. And then making it a great colleague experience so they can focus on adding value for the customer. Also, shutting down systems, using less, having less waste in the processes, is clearly the third dimension of this.
Stobbs added that it’s important not to get wrapped up in believing your organization is ‘special’, and instead argues that companies that are following a similar strategy should seek to adopt out of the box processes as much as possible. He said:
Where we are still on the journey is balancing the tech focus with the process and the data focus. I think there is a temptation that you've got to build the complexity of the process, and have a technical solution to all of that. And also with the data, being really clear about what data you need.
Just really make sure that you use ServiceNow out of the box and not try to bend it. There is that temptation that BT is different. And I just think, that's a lesson that we're constantly through, that cycle of just being really customer and process balanced, and then focusing on your data.