The Very Group, a multi-billion dollar online retailer based in the UK and Ireland, is expanding its use of Atlassian’s Jira Service Management platform in order to both improve its experience for employees working at the company and to help provide audit trails for its financial regulation requirements.
The Very Group is a business with a 100 year history. Having started as a catalog retailer, the company now owns brands that include Very.co.uk, Littlewoods.com and Very Ireland, where all of its operations are carried out digitally and 80% of its sales are completed through mobile devices.
As such, given the company’s evolution, technology is key to the organization’s success and growth. And part of this involves how The Very Group manages its technology estate, which is where Atlassian’s Jira tooling comes in.
Rob Crompton, Head of Service Management at The Very Group, was speaking recently at an Atlassian event about how the retailer began using Jira Service Management when it decided that it needed to replace an existing tool, which had been in use for over 10 years. He said:
It was a tool from 2010, when we outsourced a lot of our IT services. We have been bringing things back in house since then, so it was quite clunky. Our colleagues had to use telephone and email communication.
We wanted to mirror what we do in our wider organization, when it comes to being an online retailer, and innovate through technology to give our colleagues an experience similar to what they would have if they were using any online retailer or any social media platform.
The Very Group already had been using Atlassian’s Jira and Confluence elsewhere in the organization, so already had experience with the platform. The company’s engineering teams already have their backlog on Jira, so would be able to easily integrate their tickets into Jira Service Management too - in addition to the knowledge base through Confluence.
It gives us the opportunity to bring everything together on one platform - so our incident management on one platform across multiple different solutions, all the forms and that centralized collaboration ability that JIRA brings when you bring all those products together in one place.
Scaling development, quickly
The Very Group worked with Atlassian integration partner ClearVision, which it had worked with on projects in the past, to demonstrate Jira Service Management to the team, to help them get a better understanding of its capabilities. Crompton said:
They were able to help us realize the value of Jira Service Management (JSM), and what it could do for our organization. They provided some initial training courses to get myself and some key members of the team up to speed, how to use the product and how to configure the product.
Then we moved into a sort of a prototyping stage with them. Within three or four weeks, we had a product that would work for us in the organization.
ClearVision were able to help us to set up some of the basics of incident management, the self service portal, change management, problem management, and then that gave us the platform to build JSM from there.
We were able to then take the next couple of months and finesse the configuration of the tool, implement the automations that would help our colleagues to self-serve and help our services team really to sort of get the benefits of the tool.
Since doing this work with ClearVision and continuing to advance the platform’s capabilities, Crompton said that the team has had positive feedback from colleagues. He added:
Over the last six months, since we went live, we’ve been getting a 4.9/5 satisfaction score on average, which has been fantastic to see.
In the previous solution we had nothing but complaints. To see that satisfaction score has been absolutely fantastic.
Exploring use cases
Crompton said that the self-service portal has been very successful thus far, as it allows people to search for knowledge articles and get access to the information that they need, when they need it. This includes tracking requests that they’ve placed.
The organization is now expanding beyond its use for IT. He said:
One of the big things we did was implement with our joiners, movers, levers process. We were able to take a feed of data from our people systems into the asset tool each day, so that as a hiring manager you can search for them in the portal and choose the applications you wish them to have access to. And then submit your request within minutes.
That also helps our user admin team who can take that request and break it up into multiple tickets and fulfill all those different requirements for a new starter.
And JSM is now spreading across the organization. The Very Group ‘people team’ (HR), as well as finance and others, are also expanding their use cases. Crompton said:
Our people team have recently launched some new products and they've started to use Jira Service Management for reporting any issues or requests around that, as well. That's gone live recently.
And we're currently talking to our finance team, our accounts payable team, and our facility management team about their use of Jira Service Management as well. They’re really excited about what it can do for them. And we're looking to launch something with those guys over the next month, early in the new year.
In addition to these, The Very Group is using Atlassian’s products to help it comply with stringent financial regulations. Key to the retailer’s offering is its ability to provide lines of credit for its customers, dependent on their affordability and credit score. Having this financial services capability at the center of its business means that it needs to be able to prove how customers interact with its products and services. Crompton said:
Our strategy is to help families to enjoy life. Something like 95 percent of our sales are on credit. And as a regulated organization, we need to make sure we have the right controls in place.
What JSM enables us to do is really lock down that control around access to systems, to make sure we’ve got an audit trail of all the access requests. We're using the assets tool to actually record the applications against the individuals in the CMDB, to show ‘this individual has access to these applications’ - and that's exactly what they want to see from an audit perspective, that level of control. And that's really important to us.
The tooling is also helping the retailer manage some of the most critical shopping events in the calendar year. He added:
Black Friday, as you know, is an incredibly busy period for us. It's become not just a day, but several weeks of an event really, as we prepare all year round, to make sure our tech platforms are ready for the event and all our processes are in place.
From a service management perspective, where JSM is important, is giving our colleagues easy access to support when they need it. So if our customers have problems we're able to request support very quickly for them.
Our contact center teams, who deal with our customers directly, if they have a problem, they will then raise it and take it directly into JIRA and that will go through to the support team. Now, very quickly, we can resolve issues that are facing our customers at this time of year, when we want them to keep on shopping. We don't want to be interrupted.
Now that the JSM platform is in place, The Very Group team is going back to look at its processes to understand how it can further streamlined and introduce more automation. Crompton said:
We're reviewing the processes we implemented and looking at where we can further automate and take those pinch points away from our colleagues and make the process even smoother.
Looking at things like assets, from a CMDB perspective, how can we get even more value out of that? We’re a multi-cloud user, can we get those plugged into there as well? So we can start to track our tech configuration items.
And we're also going to start looking at the status page, which is going to be a great way to communicate with our colleagues across the Very Group when it comes to outages, tech issues and changes that we make.
Previously, we were using email and text message communication. With the status page we can, with the click of a button, send communications out to all our colleagues, across multiple platforms, Slack and Teams, email as well.
Colleagues can choose what components they want to subscribe to on the status page, what interests them, what impacts their day to day life at the Very Group.
So it gives that real flexibility, real ease of communication that we're looking for. Again just building on that experience with JSM and continuing to make it even easier for our colleagues to interface with the tech team.