Our Service Desk Renewal Program (SDRP) is continuing to help modernize our service desk operations through continuous improvements to our support model. We highlighted several of those initiatives in our last update and during our GlobalNOC Quick Connects for May (reach out to your CRM for access to the recording).
We are coming up on the end of first year and wanted to start to focus on some of the major initiatives we have undertaken. This is the first in our series of updates focusing on email processing, email metrics, and upcoming work to improve our communication channels.
Email Processing and Metrics Improvements
Email is a major part of our communications activities with our team processing 300,000+ emails a year across 25 inboxes. Our engagement with staff and the community highlighted the importance of email, but it also highlighted some areas in serious need for improvement. As we look to modernize our email support, we are focusing on delivering valuable human engagement while using guided workflows and automation to create a scalable model for supporting multiple networks.
In the past, each inbox was managed individually using the Thunderbird application to review them in one place. Actionable emails were then manually copied into ServiceNow communication records where our processes are initiated. Technicians are expected to monitor their assigned inboxes throughout the day and process the email within 20 minutes.
Reviewing and processing email in the previous model provided a few challenges, including:
- We were not able to provide metrics and reporting on processing times, who processed the emails, and where those emails ended up.
- Inboxes were shared across multiple Service Desk staff creating overlapping work.
- Manually copying and pasting the email details into ServiceNow offered additional areas for mistakes.
- The amount of time needed to review and process our email was significant, especially for high volume inboxes.
Our new workflow takes that original model and completely reworks how we review email communications. All email from those 25 inboxes is ingressed into our ServiceNow instance where we automatically review the email and associate it to the proper network domain. Additional processing options allow us to filter out inactionable emails, associate related emails to existing tasks, and associate emails to all related domains where our efforts overlap. All of this processing is developed to support every network's need in a seamless fashion for our support teams.
Actionable emails are automatically added to a communication record and all the important information is documented appropriately. Our frontline technicians can now quickly review these records alongside our normal task processing. Communication records from all our supported networks are shown side-by-side in our main task management view. These improvements allow for faster processing by allowing technicians to focus on the parts that benefit from human engagement: reading the email and getting it to the right person. This works for both inbound and outbound emails, with outbound emails automatically associating to the related tasks.
Reporting and metrics also received several major improvements in our new process. We are now able to report on every email received, which emails were deemed actionable, and how those emails were processed. This includes mean time to engagement, email categorization, and common contacts. A few examples of those metrics are highlighted below.
All of the changes and improvements in our new model should be seamless to our clients and their customers. As we have transitioned networks into this model, we have worked to make the appropriate changes needed to adjust the email workflow. We are continuously working to review and improve our implementation, including reviewing common contacts not documented in the database, reviewing inactionable emails for better processing, and improving how our staff engage with the records.
At the time of this blog post, many of our supported networks have moved to this new model. We will continue to work with CRMs and our internal teams to transition all of our supported networks.
Upcoming Communications Enhancements
With email communications coming to a stable state, it is time for us to look at our other methods of communication and find areas for continued improvement. We have a couple of initiatives underway focused on our communications activities, which include:
- Automated Inquiries: The automated inquiry process we are testing utilizes the GlobalNOC suite of tools to generate communications for all affected parties associated with an incident. This includes detection of affected services, templates based on service types, and the option for human engagement at valuable points in the process. We have been expanding our testing and evaluating the required components for smoothing the release of this tool once completed.
- Overall Email Reduction: With the move to processing email in ServiceNow, we are able to better report on unnecessary or noisy emails that we receive. In collaboration with teams across the organization and our supported networks, we are working to reduce the email clutter by adjusting how we communicate with vendors, adjusting how we communicate across our support networks, and by using email filters to automate parts of our email workload. This is an ongoing effort which we are working with our SSTs to integrate into their regular review cycle.
- Phone Call Management: We are working with our partners to evaluate our current phone system, looking for potential efficiencies and improvements that might need to be made. This includes our disaster recovery options available when one or more of our primary systems are down.
- Messaging Services: Recent changes in the workforce have changed the use of messaging services, like Slack, from a passive communication channel to an active communication channel. Initial engagements are occurring more through messaging services than we have seen previously. To adapt to this new world, we are implementing changes to the way we engage using messaging services to 1) ensure all critical messages are engaged with in a timely fashion, and 2) engagement via messaging services is scalable enough to fit alongside our core services.
In addition to the existing initiatives, we are going to be expanding our efforts to focus on new communications channels. As we continue to modernize our operations and look towards changes in the community, we will need to continuously evaluate emerging technologies. What do you think we should focus on as we look at new communications channels?
We will continue to provide updates on initiatives and changes that are occurring through your regular operations calls, business reviews, and in collaboration with CRMs. Feedback on the Service Desk and our SDRP efforts is always appreciated. Please reach out to your CRM or reach out directly to me at email@example.com with any feedback you would like to provide.