How ABN AMRO Asset Management banks on IT Service Management
ABN AMRO Asset Management is one of the world's leading asset managers, looking after more than 175 billion euros (108 billion sterling) from more than 30 locations around the globe.
If decisions are not taken quickly and correctly, ABN AMRO Asset Management loses money. This means that even small problems must be fixed quickly. In such an environment, all IT systems are critical.
ABN AMRO Asset Management uses what it calls a 'straight-through' process: when a fund manager makes a decision to buy or sell, he keys the instruction into his workstation; the instruction then passes through several layers of IT infrastructure before arriving at the Dealer Desk, which executes the deal.
The bank's central Service Desk in Amsterdam delivers support to the Amsterdam area, covering all Dutch Asset Management offices and some European satellites. The Service Desk, which uses Axios Systems' assyst Help Desk and IT Service Management software, takes some 1,200 calls a month. That might seem like a lot when you consider the number of employees, but not when you understand the asset management business.
In banking, the reliability of data is also crucial: even several digits after the decimal point can make a big difference. It is important that all data received is correct and readily available.
Up to 500 employees work in the company's main office, just a few steps away from the Ajax football stadium. The seven-person IT Service Desk staff provide first-level support.
Three groups provide second-level support. Another group at a computer center in Amstelveen deals with several business-critical applications.
Logging and tracking incidents via the internet
ABN AMRO Asset Management implemented Axios's assystNET, a tool for customer Web-based incident logging and status tracking. The system delivered easy access over the Internet/intranet to the business, reducing the number of non-critical calls to the Service Desk.
As the Service Desk takes over responsibility for other European centers and ponders a global support role, it will benefit from the use of assystNET.
The introduction of assystNET means ABN AMRO Asset Management staff can log fault calls and track the resolution of their incidents over the Web as well as by phone. Incidents will still be solved locally as well as centrally, but they will be logged only in a central database in Amsterdam.
A pilot scheme at the company's head office showed about a quarter of all calls could be logged via assystNET - equivalent to around 300 calls a month. Managers can track problems by department, and individuals can look up their own incidents for progress reports.
"That's what the business really wants to know. The worst thing is hearing nothing," said Erno Doorenspleet, IT Production Manager. "Now they can see what the status is. They can call us if they want more information, but everything we do is in the system and available to them."
If more information becomes available about a particular incident, staff can add it to the logged incident themselves, using assystNET.
A knowledge database, functioning like a conventional help screen, provides answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and should reduce call volumes even more.
"assystNET should also be helpful for logging calls outside office hours, especially from different time zones," added Erwin Boon of IT consultancy CMG. "Staff know they'll be called back first thing in the morning."
Where are the desktops?
A barcode scanner which links hardware items to different locations helps the IT department keep track of non-authorized movements of hardware.
ABN AMRO Asset Management works on very broad software platforms including NT, Unix, Novell, Microsoft and IBM. A total of around 600 different software items are on its database in Amsterdam alone, together with some 1,200 items of desktop hardware items, excluding screens.
Every year, it installs around 200 new PCs. The bank therefore needs an efficient system to track where these machines go and to ensure that old machines have been returned. The barcode scanner makes this process quicker and easier.
One IT staff member was able to complete the first physical verification in three weeks, collecting and adjusting data in assyst. With the scanner, the whole process should take one person just three hours.
Verifications will be carried out every quarter, increasing the reliability of information about the locations of hardware items.
Finding the right IT Service Management System
ABN AMRO Asset Management's search for an improved IT Service Management system began as a project - managed by CMG - to put IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL®) processes in place. It then needed a product to support them.
The IT team wanted to make it easier for the department to run its business and gain more control over it. The first step was to use ITIL® as a baseline and make it work in ABN AMRO Asset Management's environment in the Netherlands. It had to be sure that the product it chose could also be used in other countries where the company operates.
ABN AMRO Asset Management was looking for something 'out of the box' which would fit well with its environment. Most other products were pushing it to work in a certain way. Asset Management IT wanted things the other way round.
The main selection criteria included user acceptance. "The support staff and operations departments who had to work with the system needed to come on board from the outset," Erwin Boon said. "It is important to give users ownership of the system. They have to feel they can influence it."
The user interface had to be good. "As a manager you can choose any product, but the team has to work with it so it's very high on the list to make sure they are satisfied with the product," Erno Doorenspleet added. People at the sharp end were involved in presentations and demos, and asked the right questions.
It was important that ABN AMRO Asset Management could use its own database. Other suppliers claimed to be able to support any database but only assyst fitted this part of the bill.
The bank did not want the implementation to take a year just to get the basics working. The system had to be 'out of the box' and then it could make some small changes to meet its needs. Eighty percent or so had to fit in its environment from Day One. ITIL® compliance was also vital.
Cost was a factor at the end of the selection process, not at the beginning. "There were the implementation costs and support costs as well," Erno Doorenspleet said. "But the talks we had with Axios were pretty easy. It was clear what the final bill would be."
ABN AMRO Asset Management started by using the assyst Incident Management and Configuration Management modules and some limited Service Level Management before moving on to Change and Problem Management.
The first objective was to find out how many questions were coming in from the business. At the end of the year, each manager had to make assumptions about the costs allocated to each department. To do this, they needed to know exactly how many hours they were spending on each client.
This was achieved by putting the Configuration database in place in order to determine exactly what hardware it had and where it was located. The second step was to make sure that every question that came in was recorded in the database.
Erwin Boon explained, "It opened our eyes to see the high number of password resets each month. We had 150 to 200 of them compared with a total client population then of 450, so more than a third of users had problems with password resets."
Would ABN AMRO Asset Management buy the same IT Help Desk and Service Management product again?
"Within a very short time we've managed to get a lot of things done by using assyst," Erno Doorenspleet answered. "That's very important because IT moves quickly and every day you're in a different situation. We're running fine with the product and if we had to choose again, the answer would be 'Yes'."
"It was right to approach this from the starting point of ITIL® framework processes and choose the right application to support the processes in this organization," Erwin Boon concluded. "Hopefully, assyst will be suitable for ABN AMRO Asset Management for a long time to come."
Axios Systems is a leading provider of Best Practice-based IT Service Management (ITSM) solutions. Our customer-centric approach combined with our award-winning solutions, ensure customers worldwide can align their Service and Support organizations with the overall business goals. Our core solution, assyst, intuitively steers users through the ITIL® processes. Axios Global Services provides a range of consulting, project management and training services. Our commitment to Best Practice is demonstrated through being the first to achieve BS 15000 certification which has now become, ISO/IEC 20000, the International standard for ITSM. Axios is headquartered in the UK, with offices across the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific.