Tech Success: CA helps governments merge operations

IT solutions in action

Project: Service desk and asset management system

Agency: Douglas-Omaha Technology Commission, the IT services agency for Omaha and Douglas County, Neb. 

Partner: Computer Associates International Inc. 

Goal: Streamline IT services for the city and county, and let them track work while it is being performed.

Obstacles: Disparate, manual systems had built up over time. Not only did a new customer service system need to be deployed, but the two IT services departments had to be consolidated into one agency.

Solution: Service desk and asset management solutions from Computer Associates International Inc. were deployed. 

Payoff: Now DOT.Comm officials have a system that tracks all the work that is performed. Service calls can be intelligently prioritized to make operations more efficient. And customer service representatives are armed with the information needed to solve issues quickly.

Lokesh Jindal , vice president of CA's Unicenter Solutions.

Computer Associates International INc.

Merging the technology departments of Omaha, Neb., and Douglas County, Neb., in 2003 was aimed at reducing costs and improving efficiency.

That move, which created the non-profit Douglas-Omaha Technology Commission (DOT.Comm), has been successful in providing the city and county with more streamlined IT services, DOT.Comm officials said.

But the consolidation also created new challenges for DOT.Comm officials, such as managing IT services for 62 government business units, with more than 4,000 individual users dispersed over 332 square miles.

Consequently, IT officials decided to deploy a customer service management solution to automate and track the ever growing demand for IT service, said Paul Christiani, DOT.Comm's chief executive officer and chief information officer.

"The old systems were manual; both the city and county would log their own calls and work orders," Christiani said. "There was no central data base, no automation and no cross use of resources."

The lack of coordination meant, for example, that city resources -- people and equipment -- could not be used by the county when an unusually large project was taking place.

DOT.Comm tapped Computer Associates International Inc. to create a new system. "Now we share resources across the city and county," Christiani said. "We have an automated system, central database and a view across the entire enterprise for problems and resources."

Tech crews can be deployed where the greatest need is and equipment being replaced in one department may be moved to another department where it still has value.

The systems DOT.Comm deployed are Computer Associates' Unicenter ServicePlus Service Desk and Unicenter Asset Management, said Lokesh Jindal, vice president of CA's Unicenter Solutions.

"It's a work system," Christiani said. "It allows us to have customers call us -- or contact us through the Web -- and request services from us. It can be repairs, new installations, new applications, really anything."

The ability to track that information is critical to the productivity of city and county departments, said Diane Sturm, director of Omaha's Public Works depart- ment.

"I check the system maybe once or twice a week, depending on what's going on," Sturm said. "And if I hear someone in my department saying, 'Well this work order hasn't been done yet, and I don't know why.' I can go into the order, find out what priority it's been given, where it stands now and who was the last person it was assigned too."

The Public Works department is where the system was first installed, and it quickly proved to be a valuable tool, Sturm said.

Prior to installation of the new system, Sturm compiled status reports on DOT.Comm services on a spreadsheet. Creating the spreadsheet was time consuming and Sturm had to update it manually.

"And I didn't have access to the actual work orders," she said.

Now she can easily track whether a printer problem in one office is taken care of or whether a workstation is set up for a new employee.

Sturm's experience with ServiceDesk is exactly how the solution is designed to work, said CA's Jindal. The system streamlines an organization's support process, which should result in saving money, he said.

For example, various departments or other units can be assigned an appropriate service level. So fixing a vital computer at the fire department may get a four-hour response time, but fixing a backup printer in another department's office might get a two-day response time.

So not only is the appropriate service level set, the system also tracks whether those response times were met, Jindal said.

Typical customer service departments are divided into two levels. At Level 1, calls come into customer service representatives. If the representative is unable to answer the question, the call moves to Level 2, where costs escalate significantly, Jindal said.

The extra staff hours spent dealing with a single request is what raises the cost. So when ServiceDesk is paired with the asset management solution it ensures the Level 1 representative has all the information needed to make sure the request doesn't move up to Level 2, he said.

"The representative will see what kind of machine the person has, what kind of software, when the last patch was applied and more," Jindal said. "It becomes much easier for the person to solve the problem right then and there as opposed to just noting down all the details and then pushing it upwards."

 

CHOOSE TO MONITOR

The two systems from Computer Associates run on standard servers, Jindal said. The ultimate hardware requirements depend on how many customer service representatives will be using it, he said. If it is run as a standalone, not much systems integration is required. However, the systems are designed to be integrated with other applications.

The systems can be integrated with applications that monitor systems and software, Jindal said. So if the monitoring system detects a problem, it can automatically open a trouble ticket in the ServiceDesk software.

For DOT.Comm's Christiani, having the ability to monitor the status of the entire enterprise has resulted in big savings for DOT.Comm.

"Before we deployed this system, I couldn't tell you how many users there were, how many desktops there were or how many workstations needed to be installed in a year," Christiani said.

"Just this last year, I can tell you there were over 12,000 requests, over 357 new workstations were installed, and they were all installed within a 40-hour period."

If you have an innovative solution that you recently installed in a government agency, contact Staff Writer Doug Beizer at dbeizer@postnewsweektech.com.

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