Over the course of the last years, the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences (HSOS) came under increasing pressure to redesign its service management in order to make it more efficient and holistic. Additional challenges were to integrate internal departments and other functional areas of the university. The university launched a tender to find a partner who would provide the the best solution. Valiantys’ offer, together with their partner Sanssouci ITSM, most closely matched the criteria and hus were awarded the contract. Not only were the capabilities of Atlassian’s technical platform convincing, but so was the professional profile of both companies, as well as the suggested process implementation plan developed for the university.
The move to a new system with a solution based on Atlassian tools—the core being Jira software, Jira service management in conjunction with Insight, and Confluence as a knowledge database—was carefully designed, planned and iteratively implemented.
In addition to improving efficiency (increasing the first-call resolution), implementing IT service management as a changed method of working and a new self-conception, the target also included more transparency into the service teams’ activities, as well as establishing and integrating a newly defined service catalog. Various university stakeholders such as university employees, students, prospective students, and alumni had to be taken into account because they all needed access to the university’s services.
In the project’s first phase, the existing Helpline system was to be replaced and the “Incident Management” and “Request Fulfillment” processes established. The system went through a maturity phase for the process and tool landscape, which served as preparation and testing for the further onboarding projects (future faculties, library, etc.).
The project started off with a kickoff meeting in Osnabrück, Germany, but collided head-on with the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, all project participants had to be even more flexible and focused in their collaboration. Face-to-face workshops could no longer take place; from then on topics were discussed exclusively via conference tools. Through sensible planning, but also through a sprint-driven project mode, it was possible to ensure a continuously high level of efficiency by both parties and to sensibly define the work packages. Yet, it remained a challenge to adapt to the constantly changing circumstances, while ensuring high quality and efficiency in order to implement the best solution for the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences’ service desk.
First, a common understanding of the existing technical solution options had to be established. The central questions were:
- How exactly does Jira work?
- Which requirements can we technically solve and how?
- Which pitfalls must we avoid?
How could we design the service desk so that users without any prior Atlassian experience would accept their new tool and not find this transition as a burden or a challenge? After all, day-to-day business should be able to be done more effectively and more easily than before. The partners Valiantys and Sanssouci had also successfully accompanied this process over time.
“We particularly like the flexibility of the self-service portal. This means that even ‘suddenly emerging’ use cases can be implemented within a very short time.” Thomas Fründ – Area Manager IT Service
In addition, there was the difficulty of giving up the old way of thinking, which was based on the previously used tools (Helpline, Baramundi), and adapting to something new. Not everything could or had to be directly transferred into the new system. Breaking away from old structures and ways of doing things and accepting better alternatives should be seen more as an opportunity than a risk. And last but not least, there was the special feature that individually tailored processes and views had to be designed for different user groups. For example, it makes a difference whether a faculty member, a staff member or a student makes a service desk request or whether faculty with restricted authorizations are involved.
Simply put, the implementation of the solution consisted of a conversion to a complete Jira Service Management including knowledge database (Confluence) and asset management (Insight). While the service desk and the knowledge database were completely rebuilt, the asset management was integrated from “existing assets”’ with appropriate customization. What sounds simple here, however, was quite complex – if you look at the sheer amount of possibilities of a perfect asset management tool in the Atlassian Ecosystem: Insight. It takes quite some experience to skillfully set up this tool and to adapt it to the respective needs. However, the benefits that can be derived from it are incredibly high.
To implement the requirements of the service catalog, the solution had to be created from scratch. First, the creation was accompanied conceptually so that a later implementation would not pose any technical hurdles. Afterwards, Insight, Jira and Confluence had to be interlinked by means of automations in such a way that a low-maintenance, yet highly efficient mixture of documentation of services for end users and integration doing ticket processing, could be implemented. In this respect, the work approach between Valiantys and Sanssouci, which had already been performed in other projects, was very helpful.
The instances are operated in Valiantys’ managed hosting, which offers quite a few advantages. Not only do you not have to maintain the instances yourself, they are in the best hands with Valiantys: monitoring, regular maintenance, well-rehearsed infrastructure including test environment.
Considering the requirements, it was quickly apparent that it would not be an ordinary service desk for which the out-of-the-box features would suffice, even though Insight will be integrated into Jira in the foreseeable future. There are a number of very useful extensions for Jira in the Atlassian Ecosystem, which will be applied here. Incoming mails are processed into tickets and beyond the standard, contents of mails are stored in tickets. Different departments and faculties do not have to deal directly with the service desk, Tickets are forwarded as a well designed email with all essential ticket content. And in general, all mails get a fancy and more meaningful layout that goes far beyond the standard.
No less important is the use of Script Runner, which is included in almost any Jira instance. It is the perfect complement for special solutions via script interface (Groovy) and built-in (script-based) functions. It can be used for simple checks and conditions, from automations to complex sequences, among other things. Script Runner is used, for example, for validating entered data, “cleaning up” the service desk (especially of sensitive data), automated status adjustments and setting access permissions for individual tickets. Access permissions are a particular issue here, as other faculty are also involved without gaining complete access to the service desk. Dedicated access at ticket level can be set up with “Issue Security.” Depending on the type of tickets, only a certain group of people from a faculty should have access to the respective tickets in addition to the “regular staff.” This is a particularly sensitive issue that requires a great deal of attention and perfection in its implementation.
Different user groups require different views. With the help of another tool (Extensions for Service Desk), it was possible to ensure that the many Service Desk request forms are made available specifically only to certain or all users. While employees haave requests in regards to the their workplace for their workplace or day-to-day work, students register for courses and exams, for example. All these requests are handled in the service desk. In addition, there are opportunities for dynamic form design. So instead of using an endlessly rigid form, it designs itself based on the information entered by the user even before the form is submitted.
The product was developed on a new server as the only significant project to date. At the time of going live, only one URL had to be changed. However, it was at times challenging to connect existing systems such as an LDAP server based on OpenLDAP or to establish a consistent single sign-in & sign-out.
“Because of the good user acceptance, we are already planning the first follow-up projects with non-IT areas.” Thomas Fründ – Area Manager IT Service
The constructive cooperation, which sometimes went into the technical details, was a significant learning factor for our contacts at HSOS. Successively, from sprint to sprint, we not only developed at the service desk, but also imparted the knowledge of how what works, what works and what does not. Ultimately, the project managers are the ones who are responsible for the finished product, who support it, and who are also responsible for communicating this to their colleagues and users. For this reason alone, it is important that they know the tool well and understand how it works.
- As ESM experts, Valiantys jointly implemented the solution with the effective cooperation of the HSOS project team, significantly increasing the efficiency of the service teams. Users and administration quickly adapted to the new tools with the help of various Go-Live training sessions.
- Central processing and control of incoming requests streamlined and accelerated the processes, which positively influences the customer service experience at the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences.
- With the completion of the maturity phase, the development of roadmap was started in order to initiate the second “onboarding” phase of further reports from the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences.
The project at the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences is not the first one that Valiantys has carried out with Sanssouci-ITSM GmbH. Sanssouci-ITSM has expertise in accompanying organizational changes, especially in the ITSM environment; both strategically, conceptually and in the implementation. They also approach procedures with the appropriate methods, years of experience and with a “strict” view of the customer benefits. Last but not least, they also will implement themselves if it becomes necessary. In this respect, both companies complement each other perfectly in projects and are perceived as competent partners by customers.