The exercise was an appropriate one. In the mid-’90s, Oakland County’s IT office was juggling more than 900 projects, with no way to track status, completion date, or whether the project was still needed. Oakland’s help desk, relied on by more than 4,300 county employees and 61 cities and townships, was a rolling disaster.
“The Apollo 13 exercise mirrored our own problems with our help desk,” Bertolini says. “We had five support numbers for people to call, nothing ever got logged, and employees were bypassing the help desk and escalating problems to people they knew in the IT department.”
Oakland’s road to recovery began in the late ’90s, when the county set up a PMO (project management office) and implemented PM (Portfolio Management) software that’s now known as CA Clarity PPM (Project Portfolio Management). All 900-odd projects were suspended while county officials resubmitted their proposals to the PMO. Most, Bertolini says, went into the circular file. Cross-departmental leadership groups began meeting every three months to debate projects’ merits and establish priorities. The department instituted a series of two-year plans so that everyone would know exactly what was on IT’s plate for the next 24 months and adopted an enterprisewide approach to development. This allowed the county to shave millions off potential development costs and to take on more-ambitious projects despite flat budget growth.
More recently, the county brought the same governance principles to its help desk using CA’s Service Desk solution, routing all incidents through a single point of contact and minimizing escalation.
It was a hard sell at first, Bertolini says, requiring an internal marketing campaign as well as strong support from top executives.
“Our service desk people had been holding customers’ hands for many years. We had to make them understand that the new system would make them more efficient and able to deliver services in a more robust way to our customers.
“The customer here is everything for us,” he adds. “Everything we do is for someone else in county or city government. We know we have to satisfy their needs and expectations.”
When technology is the business:
Thomson Financial watches its productivity grow
At Thomson Financial, which provides everything from data tickers to trading terminals for investment banks, technology doesn’t just drive the business — it is the business.
So it’s only natural that when the division of the $6.6 billion Thomson Corp. sought to improve its internal workflow, it found the answer in an application lifecycle management tool used by a handful of coders in its IT department.
Three years ago, Thomson brought Serena Software’s TeamTrack out of the back office and into the front office, gradually rolling it out to manage different processes across the organization. Today more than one-third of Thomson’s 8,700 employees use it for provisioning, sales proposals, help desk incidents, and dozens of other internal processes that require a clearly defined workflow.
“We realized that what TeamTrack was good at — offering visibility into the development process, tracking who made changes to the code and when, and managing hand-offs between different teams — could be applied throughout the organization,” says executive vice president Warren Breakstone. “We’ve taken TeamTrack far beyond what it was envisioned to do.”