Call for volunteers and nominations!

Further to John Ireland’s communication of 11th November, we would like to ask you, as a key stakeholder for the project to join the SDCP Steering Group. The Steering Group will be chaired by Ian Teasdale, who, as the Senior User for the project will be the group’s link with the Project Board.

We are planning for the first Steering and Superuser meetings to be scheduled w/c 8th December, and monthly thereafter.

We hope you are able to take on this role or if not, could nominate someone for this role from your team who would be able to contribute on your behalf to the discussions?  It would be very helpful if you could come back to us as soon as possible to confirm your acceptance, or let us know if this is not going to be possible.

(email sent to erlevant managers, November 2014)

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New Project Manager, Superusers and Steering Groups

Since our last update, a review and re-planning exercise has reassessed the project approach, milestones and time scales. This has highlighted some significant hurdles to transition which needed to be addressed, resulting primarily from the size of the project and the importance to the department of a smooth and well-planned transition to the new processes and toolset.

Following the review we have appointed a new Project Manager, Jamie Bateman, and agreed that the project will now follow an agile approach, focusing on incremental delivery and frequent stakeholder engagement.

A considerable amount of re-planning has already been done and the team is reaching project deliverables for Incident Management, Change Management, Service Requests and toolset configuration.

A revised governance structure including a Project Steering Group and superusers within key IT Services teams is being developed to support this new agile approach – where groups of tasks are reviewed and revised as the project progresses rather than waiting to the end of the project to approve the full functionality.

Over the next two weeks, the project team will be engaging with IT Services team leaders to define and agree superusers, and invite senior stakeholders to participate in the steering group. This will be followed by the set-up of regular reviews where the project team will demonstrate what has been delivered, what is planned to be delivered and request feedback to guide us to successful implementation in early 2015. The go-live date is a key area of discussion is for the project team and project steering group.

The project team will be sending out further communications shortly, to identify people to join the project steering group and superuser group. Please do get involved where you can.

(sent as email to staff, Novemver 2014)

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User Acceptance Testing – Front Range HEAT

I recently had an unexpected opportunity to take part in User Acceptance Testing for the new Front Range HEAT Service Desk system. It was a chance I jumped at because, although it wasn’t the first time I had seen the interface (previously there had been demonstrations and several chances to play with it), this time there was the added benefit of scripts to work through.

As a user of RT (as distinct from other help desk software) I am used to an apparently very different, and very linear way of doing things, so I might well have felt lost in the new interface, with its Incidents, Problems, Tasks, drop-down menus and tabs. But, as intended, the scripts gave a structure to my actions and this in turn made the interface and workflow seem immediately relevant, comprehensible and, within no time at all, familiar.

There were nearly a dozen testers from across the IT community, and the session (one of a series) lasted a couple of hours. The atmosphere in the suite was focused, but relaxed and friendly, and although we all ultimately committed our feedback to paper, there was enough informal Q&A to show that some testers were very on-the-ball and able to think beyond the scripts, and even under-the-bonnet, and to make informed and incisive observations. My own contribution was by contrast somewhat superficial, but the whole experience for me was reassuring and I look forward to using Front Range HEAT in earnest. And although I struggled to find fault, I did eventually suggest that one button could perhaps be better placed 🙂

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Getting Email into the Service Desk System

On June 16th Stuart Robeson, Ian Teasdale and I spent the day learning about how incoming emails are imported into the Front Range HEAT system. The basics are pretty simple: configure HEAT with the incoming and outgoing server data (IMAP and SMTP) and the authentication details for a maPostman Patilbox.The service desk tool will poll the mailbox for new email. Whenever it finds a new message it creates an Incident or Problem (as specified in the configuration) in the Service Desk system and deletes the messages from the mailbox. This is called an email listener and you can have as many of them as you like.

Things get rather more complicated when you start considering that you’ll probably want to assign incidents to different teams and specify the appropriate service depending on which email address was used. And, of course, some of the incoming mail will be in response to messages sent out, and so will need to be married up with existing incidents. All of this is possible, but you do need to specify the desired behaviour. Setting a default urgency and impact, service and team for a particular incoming email address is pretty straight-forward. Things get a little more complicated when you start using Quick Actions to change the status of a Resolved incident back to Open when processing an emailed reply to it. You do have the ability to pull fields of an email (like To:, CC:, LastName, Subject:) into fields of your incident and in theory, at least, you should be able to set parameters in a ticket dependant on the contents of email fields. For instance, if the word ITSS appears in the subject we should be able to set the Priority higher. Or if URGENT appears in the subject we could adjust the Urgency.

But as Ian, Stuart and I got started on our practical experimenting we found that HEAT was not behaving entirely as expected. Some settings were working and others were not. We reckon that most of this was due to the lack of a proper training environment and will be carrying out a virtual practice session with our instructor, Gary Jones, once the niggles have been cleared up. Still, we got plenty of practice in changing configuration settings!

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Reference Data Collection

The project team need to assemble a raft of information in order that we can configure the Frontrange toolset correctly with good reference data prifrontrange_logo_1or to transition. There are various reference data elements relating to the Services that will be supported via the tool, and the Teams that provide this support.

The plan is to set up an area on sharepoint where the various reference data spreadsheets are stored and can be updated by service owners and team leaders. We shall separately be contacting Team Leaders about this in the next week with further explanation of what needs to be done.

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When do we transition?

So, the question which many are asking: when do we transition to using Frontrange?

Here is the current position – Project Board has agreed the following proposal:
November on calendar
•    the transition to new Service Management Processes and use of Frontrange HEAT toolset be amended to November 2014 across all parts of IT Services. (BR, BBC, HBS Support Centres [excluding Student Support Centre], NSMS and Telecoms)
•    the newly forming Student Support Centre be an early adopter of Frontrange HEAT toolset for Incident Management only in September 2014
•    the self-service aspect of Frontrange HEAT (for customers to access incidents and service request fulfilment via web portal) should be made available to customers in January 2015

This now needs to be approved by IT PRAG.  Watch this space to find out regarding progress.

To prepare for transition to new processes and the Frontrange system, training sessions and online training are being prepared.  There will also be briefing/roadshow sessions and an online FAQ .  We are aware that this preparation activity will come at a busy time for many staff, and we shall be endeavouring to work with team leaders to flag up what time will be asked from members of staff.

While there is a lot of hard work still to accomplish, the project team are excited that the aim of agreed processes and one toolset being used across IT Services is firmly set within our sights.

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Drop-in sessions provide food for thought

First of all I want to thank all IT Services staff who came along to our drop-in sessions in this last month, whether you could stay for the whole session or part of it. It was great to see so many people and listen to your thoughts and questions.

Also many thanks to Ian Teasdale and Andy Goff who put themselves out at the front for three  sessions – one at Hythe Bridge Street, one at Banbury Road and one at Blue Boar Court.  They have started to get really acquainted with the product, and were ready to answer questions. We hope you got the answers you wanted, or will get them very soon as we work on more aspects of the service.  If you have further questions, please send them to  We’d like to hear from you.

In two cases, the sessions did not quite work out as we had thought they would.  Quite a few people were ready and eager to start at the advertised beginning time – which meant the drop in sessions turned into demonstration sessions.  For those who were expecting a slick and smooth demonstration on a nicely configured system, that is not what was intended, and not what the sessions were.

We need to improve on setting expectations correctly.lessons learned

On a positive note, from both sessions, process issues were raised for which we know we need to devote some more time and this is being built into our schedule.

We also became even more aware that the business changes which staff across IT Services are facing are different depending on which toolset you are coming from (RT, Altiris, ITSM), and according to the nature of your work.  Everyone will have to change the way they do things at least a little – but the changes depend on where you are starting from!  Future workshops, demos and briefings will aim to take this into account where needed.

We need the engagement of the whole of IT Services to accomplish this successfully, and we are having to learn lessons about the comms. for this project, because there is going to be a lot more comms to come!

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Drop in Sessions

The Service Desk Consolidation project is gathering pace, we have now had our training, finalised the processes, held scoping workshops with FrontRange and later on this week work will begin to configure our staging environment. We felt now would be a good time to share our progress so far by holding a series of drop in sessions for all IT Services staff. The first of these sessions was held last week in Hythe Bridge Street. 4503055735_687ac13b33_m

The aim of these informal drop in sessions is to allow IT Services staff to come along, have a look at the tool and ask questions on either the tool or the underlying processes.The first session was well attended with representation from Admin IT, Infrastructure Services, Software Solutions, and Programme and Project Delivery. I’m not sure if it was excitement about the changes, the free sweets and pens or a combination of the two, either way the session was extremely useful for the project team and hopefully the attendees too.

A wide range of topics were covered and many questions asked, these will be published shortly (along with answers) on the Service Desk Consolidation Project page.

A second session is being held in the ISIS lecture room on Thursday 15th May at 2pm and I hope you can join us (there will of course be more free pens and sweets).

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A new software program? What about training?

I’ve had a chance to explore the new HEAT service desk management software over the last three or four weeks and, I like it. It’s very intuitive and user friendly.

But how does this translate to training? Rather than assume that because I found it easy then all anyone would need is a quick reference guide or a short ‘how to’ video, I should ask the service desk analysts – those who are going to be using the system every day. So that is exactly what I did.

I enlisted the support of team managers and emailed a very short survey, with just two questions:

Which of the following would you access/reference in order to learn a new application (such as ITSM/Help desk software) for work? (Select all that are applicable)

      • Short 1 minute videos
      • Quick Reference Guides (which outline briefs steps to completing a task, with links to relevant Business process documents)
      • User Guides and Manuals (which include steps to completing a task plus the business processes and decision points)
      • Attend a workshop which included a demonstration of the new system and the opportunity to ‘play’ with it.
      • Attend a ‘trainer lead’ course
      • On-the-job tasks
      • Talking to colleagues

Is there an alternative way that you prefer to learn a new application? If so, please provide details.

The results clearly show a preference for quick reference guides, user guides and workshops.


This doesn’t discount the other options from being included though. For example, it is expected that there will be a number of short ‘how to’ videos – including one for the customer end-user. Furthermore, on-the-job tasks and talking to colleagues can be incorporated into workshops and online training.

Going forward we plan to have an online training presence on WebLearn (with all the training and business process resources) for new starters and for existing staff to access any time they wish.

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FrontRange scoping workshop and advanced training

Although it may have been quiet on this blog recently, a lot has happened in the last few weeks.

The Scoping Workshop

The project team met with FrontRange over three days.  A full day on 19th March, half a day on 20th March, focusing on ‘people data,’ and another full day on 26th March.  The idea of the scoping workshop was to go through the information FrontRange needs to build up a working system for us, such as how to incorporate our people data, security model as well as our incident, service request and change processes.  The FrontRange HEAT system can be configured to meet our needs but we have to work through each of these items in order to get them into the system.

The scoping workshop was also an important chance for us to make sure FrontRange understands our needs in terms of the security model and how the tool needs to work with  our university organisational structure.  As any member of the University of Oxford knows, it is not an easy task to describe to an outside company how the university works!oxford

On the half day workshop (so no lunch was provided which I’m sure didn’t please one of the project team), we spent a long time talking about people data along with the IAM team.  It was a really useful meeting and it has been decided that we can take the data from the Core User Directory (CUD).  I am currently working on which attributes will be sent to FrontRange and the IAM team will then need time to set that up.

Advanced Training

A smaller group from the project team attended the three day advanced training course from 31st March to 2nd April.  Although the first day didn’t stray too far away from what we already knew from the basic training and playing around with the test system (however we did learn plenty of interesting facts about Andy Goff) the second and third days were great fun.  We were let loose on the system and covered a number of areas including the service desk, self service and administrator interfaces, business objects, process workflows, the searching tools, dashboards and templates, just to name a few!

As Ian Teasdale has already mentioned in an earlier blog post, the tool is very configurable, it is also intuitive to use after just a short time of using it.  The more I learn about the FrontRange HEAT system the happier I am that it was chosen.  A powerful tool and one that will benefit IT Services greatly.  Setting up the system and tools such as quick searches, quick actions and workflows will take time to set up though.  There is still a lot of work and a long road ahead.

long road

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