Bupa warns of gap between IT and business when implementing service management

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez April 30, 2014
Janet Holling urges that IT needs to start speaking a different language to make the project work

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I had the pleasure of sitting down with Janet Holling this week, an IT consultant at global private healthcare provider Bupa, who works in the Australia/New Zealand region and is in the process of rolling out ServiceNow across the enterprise. Similar service management projects are happening in other Bupa regions, but Holling is responsible for the Oz and Kiwi contingent, where she has stood up ServiceNow within IT, and because of its success, now has lines of business 'knocking at her door' to get in on the action.

However, she was keen to highlight to enterprise IT folk that if IT departments are going to be successful in implementing service management workflows and service desks across the business, not just in IT, then they are going to have to start speaking a different language. Because, let's face it, this is an abstract subject – there are acronyms galore and getting a HR director to give a damn about something called ITIL will likely be an uphill challenge.

But let's take a look at the initial rollout first, which was focused on IT and went live in December 2012. Bupa Australia/New Zealand had been using an on-premise application, which I said I wouldn't name (but is one of the suppliers you would expect in this space), and according to Holling, was five years out of date and becoming very expensive. It was time to assess alternatives.  Holling said she landed on ServiceNow for a number of reasons, including the fact that the UK was beginning its own implementation of the product. She said:

“There were a number of reasons that we went for them. I liked that they are software-as-a-service, they look after it, they stand it up. We don't have to manage another environment and we got to actually remove one, which is good for Bupa. They reportedly also had very swift delivery times. And the UK market unit was kicking off their implementation, so we leveraged their licensing model. We got a global licensing arrangement and we got a pretty good one. Also, the UK was asking all the legal, security, data protection questions, which meant that Australia and New Zealand didn't have to do all that hard work.”

And did she have any trouble convincing the business to head to the cloud? Apparently not:

“Not at all. I find the [cloud] experience fabulous, because we have nothing to do with it and it is just there. We have got three instances – dev, UAT, and production. We can get into any of them, auto-uptime is fabulous, upgrades are seamless and we have no hassle. There's a number to ring if anything goes wrong, but nothing has gone wrong yet. It's a lovely approach and a good strategy for Bupa. If we don't need to be managing it, we won't. Cloud is the future.”

If Bupa had its time again

The IT leg of the project took ten weeks from the first kick-off workshop to go-live and Bupa went live with a number of modules including incident, problem, change and request. Holling is pleased with the results and has since increased the number of licensed users from 200 to 320. However, given the opportunity to do the project again there are a couple of things that she would do differently a second time around. First of all, Holling wishes that Bupa had introduced a self-service portal from the get-go, which is something that she is working on now. She said:

“We didn't open up the self-service portal, I would have done that. We didn't do it because of time constraints and if you are

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going to open up self-service to the organisation, it's a very important piece to get right. Because if you give every user in the organisation access to log and look at where their requests and incidents are, and you fail doing that, you have lost trust. 

“Self service has just kicked off now, that's in the planning stages at the moment. We are currently doing all the process mapping, so when we workflow the requests, we know exactly what the workflow at the backend needs to look like.

“Self-service is one piece that we want to take very slowly, to get it right, because its very customer facing. It's opening up my team to everybody. We are taking that slowly.”

The other thing that Holling regrets doing is putting in the Configuration Management Database (CMDB) too quickly, which could have done with  more planning. CMDBs effectively map out all of the items that make up a business service, which then creates a clear picture of what is happening within a given process. So, for example, support agents should be able to easily tell if a configuration item goes down, which business services will be impacted. This allows IT departments to assign risks to configuration items and identify problem areas if things are regularly going wrong. Holling has been product lead on the CMDB for seven months and now realises more effort should have been put into its creation. She said:

“We put in the CMDB based on best effort without any planning really. We just stood it up manually – I would have liked to have put more planning into it. We are doing that now, the project kicked off last week."

Holling expects that the upgraded CMDB will take approximately eight weeks to complete, whilst the self-service portal will be ready by the fourth quarter.

Taking the IT out of ITSM

Since the project went live, Holling has had some interest from lines of business users, who want to also take advantage of ServiceNow and organise their workflows using proper service management processes. She anticipates that if IT gets this right, the number of licensed users within Bupa Australia/New Zealand could increase to 700 – more than double what it has at the moment. However, Holling recognises that the key to success will be ddressing the business users in a language that they understand. She said:

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“At the moment it's just IT, but what we have had happen very recently is a lot of business units knocking at my door. One came to me and said, 'you've got some work flowy, tooly thing that you do change through, do you reckon we could use that in the business?' So at the moment we are looking at a market unit release model - instead of just putting IT changes through a release process, we are going to do IT, customer impacting, people impacting changes all at once, all together, all packaged, and all going through ServiceNow.

“So it's into the business and the business units are starting to think about it, we are exposing them to it. Then it's about how do you do the whole IT to business translation thing? We speak different languages and it's very important not to speak to them like an IT person. It's getting them to think about their business process and the way it works. It's just about exposing them to service management, which IT has been doing for decades. You can apply the same principles in business. It's really exciting, but it's a massive organisational change piece. Massive IT thinking change piece. IT and business being partners, who would have thought?”

However, it isn't just about speaking the same language, according to Holling. She reckons that if IT wants to get proper buy-in from the business, then they should also recognise that an ROI can be assigned to a service management rollout, and this agenda should be pushed in the business' direction from the outset. Holling said:

“Think about the on-boarding process, bringing a new employee into the company. If you don't have it automated, how woeful is it to fill out all that paper work and get signatures, make sure the laptop is there on day one, the telephone is connected, the security pass is ready, the login account is set up? This can take weeks. 

“But if you automate that through a form sitting on somebody's desktop, where as soon as you press send, it spawns all this workflow out to the people that need to provision the laptop, the phone, the email, the security pass – they can all be working in parallel. It could be done in 8 hours if everyone is on the ball. So you have efficiency gains immediately from a resource perspective.”

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