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Unifying cultures and processes during the Wabtec and GE Transportation merger with ServiceNow

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez October 21, 2020
Wabtec and GE Transportation merged in 2019 to become a global leader in transportation and logistics. The newly formed organisation needed to combine its ServiceNow instances to support end users.

Image of Wabtec freight rail and cars
(Image sourced via Wabtec website)

Back in 2019 Wabtec and GE Transportation decided to merge organisations in a bid to become one of the world's largest suppliers of freight car and locomotive products - with combined revenues of close to $9 billion. The newly created organisation now has more than 27,000 employees and operates in over 50 countries around the world, providing solutions for its freight rail, passenger transit and industrial customers. 

However, bringing two organisations together of this size required a huge operational effort and rethink of IT, particularly regarding how it serves end users. Both companies used ServiceNow for its service desk requirements, but each had its own processes, approaches and cultures that needed to align. 

Vann Williams, service desk senior manager at Wabtec, was speaking at ServiceNow's recent Now at Work event about the project. He explained how the company integrated IT, rolled out the Now platform out of the box, provided dashboards to senior executives to give clear insight into progress being made, and how he also plans to deliver on a savings target of $8 million. 

For all of diginomica's coverage from Now at Work, take a look at our dedicated resource page for the event here. For a link to the event itself, where you can view all the sessions on demand, click here

Commenting on the merger, Williams said: 

This was a very major undertaking where from an IT perspective it was very detailed and there were a lot of processes that we needed to take into consideration to make that happen. 

Despite the fact that the businesses were the same, the history and the cultures were very different. The two teams were very different. The Wabtec organisation had more of a keep-it-simple method, and the GE organisation was a very big corporation. And their ServiceNow instance was very mature, because they had the staffing and data to make it work. So we needed to combine the two. 

We needed to take the two platforms, bring them into one, drive efficient processes, leverage the Wabtec mergers and acquisition management to make it a single experience for the IT services, to meet the goals of our end users, as well as for the business and profitability. 

The project

Prior to the merger, Wabtec's IT team had a headcount of 250 people, with an annual budget of $45 million. GE on the other hand had a 1,000 person headcount, a $90 million budget and a $45 million annual infrastructure cost. The newly formed 1Wabtec IT structure would be combined to form a 1,250 strong organisation, with a cost of $145 million. Williams said that this created a "synergy" (saving) of approximately $35 million. 

Williams added that the primary challenges included making sure that the migration to a single ServiceNow instance needed to happen efficiently, ensuring that the business understood why and how the money was being spent. It wanted to keep its ServiceNow instance out of the box, following ITIL best practices, whilst reducing costs and unifying two cultures. He said: 

You start talking and you're saying the same thing, but you're saying it differently. Unifying those cultures was one of the biggest things and we came up with what we called out 1Wabtec IT Team and worked toward that. That was very unifying and very gratifying that we made it there. 

Wabtec started meetings for the project in February and went live with the first part of the project - for incident, problem, change and the CMDB - on the 2nd June. This was fairly rapid, considering the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic. Williams said: 

Keep in mind that we had COVID going on and this pandemic was causing havoc, not just for the project, but also the business had issues in that our end users had to work remotely. We had to set up a VPN and requests for spare monitors, etc. We had to manage that through ServiceNow, whilst this was in process. That was something that was very gratifying because our CIO was able to go to the management team and say we had X number of tickets based on these remote users and they were all done. Management was very, very pleased and gave our group a personal thank you. 

Wabtec set out to build a global, enterprise-wide service desk, across multiple countries. This included growing some teams, where for example, the Americas group grew from 26 full time service desk employees up to 40. Williams added: 

We had to support all the tickets, all the different processes that came in. And this happened all around the world. It was a very tough project and a lot of work went into it. 

Key takeaways

Williams explained that one of the key successes for the project was the foresight to create KPI dashboards for senior executives, so that they could gain insight into progress being made and so that the IT team could justify its spending. Dashboards were created for the senior executive management team, as well as the service desk leaders around the world. For example, a dashboard was created to highlight when incident SLAs were being breached, which only occurred less than 2% of the time over a substantial period. Williams said: 

One of the things when you're spending a little bit of money is that management wants to know: what does that get me? Where's my money going? So we went and built KPIs for the CIO, so that he was able to quantify what the differences are, what things IT is working on, how many things IT is working on, just so that we could justify our existence. 

Because as we know in IT, sometimes we are looked at as overhead and the profit centres want to know why we are getting so much money. We were able to build a future as to where our ServiceNow processes are going, where the IT processes are going, and what it's going to look like next year. 

We also had to make sure that some of the things that we did were to help some of the businesses stay profitable. What we could do to help them keep some of their processes moving. We were able to do that and show them on some of the reports how that worked. One of the biggest things that we had to do, the heart of this whole project, was to stay within the ITIL framework and use industry best practices - keep everything out of the box, so we didn't have any customisations in this process. Any customisations in the old processes were taken out. 

Some other aspects of the project included building out the CMDB-CI record so that if a user put in a request to the right business service, it got assigned to the right group right away, without any need for manual intervention or triage. Williams said: 

No level one help desk touches it, it gets right to the group. That has paid off many, many dividends for us and has exceeded our expectations of how well that has worked for us. They are worked and closed right there, without it being reassigned. 

In addition to this, Williams is thinking about how Wabtec can better serve its end users, providing them a better experience through the use of self service digital tools. He explained: 

What makes my day is being able to help our end users get their work done. I'm there for the end users, I'm not there for the other IT groups. So we created a very simple portal page so that they can see very simply how they can request something if they need some services from IT. They can report if something is broken if they have an incident, or they can review any of their open tickets. I think we are up to about 60 different request items. And they go from someone needing a service to requesting a PC or cell phone or access to a distribution list. 

Some of the things that we are going to build out in the future for our end users is a knowledge base - we do have some knowledge articles built in for IT only, but we are looking to be able to make a user friendly knowledge base that will lead to some self help things in the future for our end users. 

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