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Rolling out ServiceNow at University of California, Berkeley - key learnings

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez May 29, 2020
UC Berkeley is one of the top research institutions in the world and has aligned the ServiceNow platform with its leadership objectives.

Image of UC Berkeley Campus
(Image sourced via UC Berkeley )

The University of California, Berkeley is one of the world's leading higher education institutions, with over 30,000 undergraduates and 11,000 graduates carrying out pioneering research. However, education is not finite and even UC Berkeley learnt some things along the way when rolling out the ServiceNow platform for IT, HR and telecoms.

The university decided to align its rollout of ServiceNow - and more broadly service delivery - with its leadership's overarching strategic objectives.

Kellie Waters, scrum master and project manager at the University of California Berkeley, was speaking at ServiceNow's virtual Knowledge 2020 event detailing the project. Waters gives a thorough breakdown of how to approach such a project in higher education, as well as provides useful feedback on what she'd do differently a second time around.

Knowledge 2020 has dozens of use case videos to stream on demand and you can find the event here. For all of diginomica's coverage of the event, take a look at our dedicated resource hub here.

UC Berkeley now has 600 business services and 10,500 non-business services on the ServiceNow platform, which is managed by 700 licenced ITIL agents and 250 HR agents. Waters

When we started looking at planning into the future we wanted to align our roadmap with our larger organisational goals. Our Chancellor put out a strategic plan for campus a few years ago, in which she highlighted some of her key goals and priorities.

It is a huge public research institution, so that really plays a part in the way we support the university and the campus faculty and staff. Especially in the focus of research.

In addition, our central IT leadership also put out a strategic plan. They worked with the Chancellor and the Chancellor's plan to align the IT organisation's plan and priorities with those higher level goals. So we tried to stay aligned with both of these when we were looking at our roadmap with ServiceNow.

These overarching strategic goals include becoming more customer focused, boosting customer satisfaction; adopting standard practices and reporting; the broad adoption of ITSM principles and standard processes across departments; establishing performance metrics to track; as well as continuous improvement. Waters said:

Really [this is about] being able to have a product that is simple, easy to use for customers and easy to find what they need from an IT service. We wanted high customer satisfaction ratings overall. We wanted to align with IT priorities and efforts for those campus customers. In addition we wanted standardised practices and reporting.

So when you went somewhere and asked a question, you would get the same answer each time, rather than different processes depending on where you were on campus.

In addition, we wanted incremental and continual improvement. We knew that it was going to be a long process, so when building our roadmap we wanted to look at things we could do over time that really fed into the overall goals for our IT leadership and our campus as a whole. Looking at performance metrics and ways to improve service based on what we were seeing and also getting a lot of customer feedback and input.

The project

Waters explained that UC Berkeley started its implementation by standing up the ServiceNow Knowledge Base, which it did very much ‘out of the box'. It then stood up Incident Management, with the aim of doing so within six months - moving away from BMC FootPrints, which had several customised instances across campus.

From there, the University stood up Change Management, Change Board, Reporting, Homepages and Asset Management.

The focus then went to incremental improvements, particularly around user experience. Waters said:

From the basic Knowledge Base we moved into Knowledge Management. The key with that was really making it more customer centric and being able to have customers have access to Knowledge, to Knowledge articles, to be able to answer their own questions quickly, without having to go through IT if they didn't have to.

We created a public facing Knowledge Base and this allowed it to be integrated in Google and searchable in Google. Customers are able to access KB articles without actually logging into ServiceNow. This was a huge improvement for customer experience.

UC Berkeley has also rolled out internal Knowledge Bases to keep track of their processes and keep information and notes within the ServiceNow platform, about how to deal with different problems. Processes have also been streamlined for customers and become more repeatable. Surveys are now used to gain customer feedback and track performance.

Major Incident is now also in place, so that the service desks are able to look at problems happening across departments but manage it in a central place.


Waters said that one of the key things UC Berkeley has done is adopt regular focus groups for different stakeholders that make use of the ServiceNow platform. She said:

What is most valuable? You want to ask the people using the platform, ask your agents and your users. We have something called a technical user group and it's users from across 30 different departments at UC Berkeley. They come together monthly to talk about issues that have come up, best practices they're using and improvements that they'd like to see. It's really been beneficial to get people to use the platform more and work across teams.

In addition we do a larger meeting with department leaders bi-weekly, as well as directors in central IT. This really helps them to see the value of ServiceNow, as well as give their opinion and feedback on what they'd like to see down the road.

The team also organises bi-weekly check-ins with the main service desk, which has a very high volume of users on the platform, which provide "valuable" feedback given their familiarity with the product. Lots of review and planning is also carried out with high volume customers.

Waters explained that all of this should tie into the leadership's top-level priorities. She said:

Again, tying all of this into all of the planning for what your leadership wants to see. Stressing, what is it your overall leadership and campus groups' want? And at that higher level, what can you show them that would be valuable to them in ServiceNow?


UC Berkeley has learned a lot from the project. However, two key points stand out to Waters - adopting ServiceNow out of the box and also investing in training. On the former, she said:

For us, the key was to start small and out of the box. We were really forced into this because we had that six month mandate to stand up ServiceNow. It was a good thing because it made us launch into using the platform without too much being stuck in a planning stage, trying to make things perfect, and too much customisation. We were forced to just use it.

And on the latter, she said that if UC Berkeley had its opportunity again it would invest more in training for users from day one. Waters added:

The only thing we would change about that is to invest in more training. We were rolling out things like the initial Incident Management work and reporting - we did not invest enough in training for our users. That was really difficult because the platform wasn't being used to its full capability for people and they were dissatisfied with it initially - they just didn't understand and weren't familiar with it. We would have definitely invested more in training.

We also also recommend getting your users involved in planning. The things you're going to do, ask the people that are using your platform from day to day. What would they want to see? What would they want to see rolled out next? What would improve their experience overall?

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