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University of Texas at San Antonio betters employee experience with ServiceNow - learnings and benefits

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez October 19, 2021
UT San Antonio has been engaged in an extensive ServiceNow rollout over the past two years - including everything from ITSM to HR.

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The University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA) is a culturally rich institution, which educates 34,000 students across its 785 acre campuses every year. Last year the University undertook a programme to improve employee experience, using the ServiceNow platform, following the success of previous IT Service Management and IT Business Management module implementations. 

The project has delivered some interesting and surprising results for the implementation team, which is now seeing employees take an active role in engaging with the self-service portal to research their own problems, before raising a ticket in ServiceNow. 

Nassos Galiopoulous, CTO and deputy CIO at UTSA, and Debby Eyzaguirre, Director Enterprise Service Management at UTSA, were speaking at ServiceNow's Now at Work virtual event recently, where the pair outlined how the University handled a number of a challenges throughout the project and is now expecting a 33% return on investment within three years. 

UTSA's ServiceNow journey started with ITSM, was followed by IT Business Management, and is now encompassing a broad Human Resource Service delivery element, where Galiopoulos and Ezyaguirre are working closely with the University's HR centers of excellence. Ezyaguirre explains: 

While ITBM was going on and running on one track, we also had a second track that was working with our HR business partner - they refer to themselves as ‘People Excellence' - and we implemented the employee service center capability, case and knowledge management capability, and we have a couple of items that we have targeted for phase 2. 

There are also small things like expanding our mobile capability in this application and looking at some more advanced survey work. And lastly, we are thrilled that we got funding to move forward with customer service management. We are are in the process of planning and purchasing and getting our implementation partner aligned right now. And we're hopeful that we'll be able to get that project started in the next month. 

Keys to success

Eyzaguirre said that there have been a number of highlights that have been instrumental in making the ServiceNow implementation process a success, which others may learn from. The first being leadership. She said: 

I think we were fortunate enough to have a VP and CTO who had some history with successfully rolling out an enterprise platform at a previous institution. So when they went to the table to have these discussions at the cabinet level and above, they brought with them a sense of street cred. That street cred allowed them to have conversations about the investment at all levels of our organization. 

And it also allowed us as an IT organization to tie the enterprise platform implementation to our digital strategy and our digital acceleration, since we were able to include all of those things in our request to move forward with an investment this size. 

The second critical factor for success was IT and the People Excellence team forming a relationship and being collaborative. Eyzaguirre explained: 

We included our People Excellence team from the very beginning - from conception with how we were going to implement, all the way through the project. And since we created this collaborative group, we put two things in place that were very helpful. 

The first is that we had shared project management responsibilities. So we had a business project manager, an IT project manager and our implementation project manager. The group formed and created a synergy very early on. And because of that synergy, the business was very open to the lessons learned that we gathered from our ITSM implementation. 

We also put together a very extensive communication campaign and we were able to share that template with our business partner and they didn't have to create that from scratch. They were able to pick that up and keep moving down the road. 

Finally, Eyzaguirre noted that working with InSource, a ServiceNow partner, on the rollout itself, where InSource provided "best practice and depth" to the implementation group, was also hugely beneficial. 


However, it wasn't all plain sailing for UTSA, which faced a number of challenges along the way for its HR service delivery project - all amplified by the fact that it was taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Firstly, Eyzaguirre highlighted that the team's remit broadened over time. She said: 

One of the first challenges we had was expanded scope. We originally were rolling this out for the People Excellence Employee Service Center, but as we began to go through requirements gathering, it became very apparent that we were going to need to include all of the People Excellence, Centers of Excellence - which is just their term for grouping functions together. 

This affected us because it went from the original scope of three to five requirements workshops to 14 requirements workshops. And that certainly put a dent in our timeline. So the way that we mitigated that challenge was to take back the increased scope to our sponsors and explain the benefit of having all of the centers of excellence deployed at the same time, which they agreed to. And we just extended our timeline. 

Eyzaguirre and her team also built a soft launch capability into its timeline. There was a month where they just had the employee service center tracking business cases and HR cases, during which time communication could continue with all end users, who began to use the tool fully a month later. Eyzaguirre added: 

Our next challenge was the increase of services that was tied to the increase of scope. So we originally planned to have 10 to 15 services configured for the implementation. That grew to 83 services. In addition, we needed a knowledge article associated with each service. So the way we mitigated that challenge was that we moved forward with no customizations and all of our forms are very simple. So it didn't increase any configuration or development time. 

Eyzaguirre‘s implementation team, as a result of this increased scope, also suffered resource constraints. However, having a business partner project manager in place allowed them to use that person as a point of contact to go out to their side of the house, using the relationships they had, and get the information needed back to the implementation team to meet the soft launch and full launch deadlines. 

The final challenge was that the People Excellence HR team wanted the ability to have an even more granular level of self service. However, this resulted in some unintended benefits over time too. Eyzaguirre said: 

They wanted an end user or a customer to be able to read a knowledge article and see if reading the knowledge article allowed them to move ahead with their business instead of opening a ticket. This is managed through the service portal. 

When you click on a service area it automatically takes you to a knowledge article. That knowledge article has detailed instructions for what to do to accomplish that service. At the end of those knowledge articles, we then leave an option to open a ticket if that's what the customer wants to do. 

We have a lot of the information already compiled in different places and different websites. So what we did was we created a knowledge article template and this template allowed all of the center of excellence managers to pull their information together in a format that was consistent across their organization. And it also allowed them to put hyperlinks to other areas where the information was already documented. So they didn't have to recreate things from scratch. 

Further benefits 

Galiopoulous said that realizing the benefits with a large project like this isn't always easy, but UTSA did hope to achieve some measurable returns within three years (out of a five year contract). And this appears to be on track, as the team is expecting a 33% ROI within three years, which Galiopoulous described as "pretty big number".

However, besides the financial returns, the project has also helped UTSA focus on the experience of employees and establishing ‘operational and service excellence'. Galiopoulous said: 

We wanted to expand the branding inside the institution and focus on people, focus on process improvement, which is why we agreed on some basic principles. 

One was ‘get to anything within three clicks'. Make sure that the portals were consistent, no further customization or deviation from the norm. That gave a level of simplicity to the type of service level request that we had to design, which eventually gave people time back. 

And the most innovative thing is the concept of allowing people to get an answer to the question before they even submit the ticket. That was a lesson learned for us internally as well, because we did not have that when we did our IT service catalogue. 

People that may have questions about their benefits plan, that maybe did not know where to go and find the information, it was easily searchable in the catalogue. Being able to read through the article before you submit the question saved a lot of time in many of our resources. 

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