Orange rings the changes to keep ITs future bright
It installed an integrated software solution to keep pace with the growth in subscribers and increased complexity of production services.
Orange Communications SA already had 300,000 customers only six months after its launch in Switzerland. Over the next two years this increased to 925,000. Staff numbers rose too - from 100 at start-up to more than 1,500. It now provides network coverage of over 95% of Switzerland's population.
"The organization was growing fast and the IT function had to grow with it," said Nick Smith, Service Management Manager. "I needed an integrated solution across Configuration, Incident, Problem, Service Level and Change Management to facilitate our operational processes."
The objective was to support the department's internal customers, primarily its Customer Care Division and the subscriber-facing call centers in Zurich and the Lausanne suburb of Bussigny. The Service Management team consists of Help Desk, Desktop, Change, Problem and Service Level Management.
Orange's choice of software was Axios Systems' assyst, which replaced an Incident Management Help Desk 'trouble ticket' tool from Royal Blue, and a paper- based Change Management system. "The Royal Blue tool met the requirements for a start-up phase but I didn't see it growing with the support processes which we wanted to put in place and the integration which was necessary," Smith added.
Its search for a Service Management solution stemmed from a review of the current support processes within IT. The review was based on the ITIL® Framework for Service Management best practice.
Smith, previously with ICL in the UK, was responsible for establishing these structures and processes within Orange Switzerland.
"We realized that to move things forward we needed a tool, a solution that would help fulfill the processes we had identified," he said at the company's head office in the World Trade Center (WTC) in Lausanne, looking out over Lake Geneva to the Alps.
To launch the project he put forward an action plan defining the organization's requirements, then sent a Request for Proposal to six software suppliers: Axios, Fox IT, Hewlett Packard, Peregrine, Remedy and Royal Blue. All six were evaluated independently, using a scoring mechanism for each functional requirement before it came down to a choice between Axios (which scored 817 out of 835 possible points) and Peregrine.
assyst was selected after a rigorous evaluation which included a comparison on the Total Costs of Ownership for the short listed solutions. A high proportion of requirements could be met 'out of the box' with assyst.
"But the key reason for choosing assyst was the functional fit," Smith recalled. "There were core things the suppliers had to meet. The other factors were the professionalism of the response, the professional impression you get from a supplier over the telephone and in person, and its track record - including its experience of telecoms and service management."
One of the points in Axios' favor was that it had already been successful in the mobile telecommunications field through its work for One2One.
Another positive factor was the experience of the Edinburgh-based company's consultants including Brian Hendry and Gary Stalker who had already produced an impressive 'Health Check' report on how Orange Switzerland - now part of France Telecom - was meeting ITIL® Best practice.
"It was key that we got experienced consultants who had exposure to the world of telecoms," Smith went on. "I wanted to see a track record of experience in deployment - not the case I see in a number of consultancy companies who throw in inexperienced consultants who learn on the job. In reality it's worth investing the time and effort in selecting the right consultant, often using smaller, more specialist companies which is one of the reasons why we asked Axios to carry out our 'Health Check'.
"Axios established its credibility very early on through that initial consultancy. The report they produced was a superb piece of work. Should we undertake another 'Health Check' in future I would recommend that we use Axios again. It was one of the most professional reports I've seen from a consultancy group within Orange.
"Its professional approach continued after it won the contract, starting off with a project scoping document and three-day workshop where we documented and agreed the route to be taken. Axios gave us a project update every week. We made quite a few changes along the way but they took them in their stride. When issues came up their consultants were flexible, accommodating and willing to look into areas which were originally outside the scope of the project. "
Service Level Manager Hardy Virdee led the implementation team on the project which included running the Royal Blue and Axios systems in parallel before the former was switched off. Axios provided intensive training for Orange managers who in turn trained 160 staff.
"The transition went very, very well," said Virdee who joined the Swiss company from British Telecom. "It was a case of ensuring that the configuration items within the database were as accurate as possible. In an ever-changing environment you'll never have 100% accuracy. When we were satisfied that sufficient people from first and second line support were trained, we moved over to assyst. "
The initial module implemented was Incident Management, underneath which was the database structure. The foundation stone of Configuration management was followed by Problem and Change Management plus a structure for managing Service Level Agreements, including incorporating details of the highest value of Orange Switzerland's 200 or so external suppliers.
"One of our challenges is managing suppliers more effectively from production viewpoint," Smith commented. "We now have a solution to help us and be more pro-active in trend analysis and during customer service reviews and contract re-negotiations. We have much more information to hand. ... Some of our managers had been crying out for a functionally rich tool like assyst. Overall, line management's acceptance of the tool has been very good."
According to Orange, IT Service Management's other benefits include efficient and effective services
Effective management of costs, risk and software licences; increased customer satisfaction; comprehensive management information for effective decision-making; and enhanced customer confidence in systems and IT support services.
The central Help Desk in the WTC fields all incident reports submitted via phone or email. Incidents are logged and solved on the Desk or passed to the relevant support team. The IT Department (now part of the Operations Group) has offices in Zurich, Lausanne, Lugano, Biel(where Orange is opening a third call center), Bussigny and Crissier, another suburb of Lausanne.
The percentage of first level fixes has risen from 30% to 40% with a target of 60%. When a problem is reported or closed, an email is automatically sent back to the reporting person. Orange recently set up a third line support group of technical specialists who deal regularly with suppliers.
"assyst is a very easy tool to use," Virdee said. "It's infinitely easier to manipulate, not only in configuration items but also for the display on the screen. That makes it easy to maintain - changes to the system take a matter of seconds. That certainly wasn't the case with the other tools I've worked with which are far more convoluted."
One issue highlighted by the management reports generated from assyst has been the level of training which users need. "Many incidents are not failures of the hardware or software but more a failure in the user's knowledge," Smith went on. "We now have a service improvement plan to improve training."
Some 30% of incidents have been found to relate to billing issues. Through assyst, the team can track calls right down to the level of individual bills or account numbers and analyse these by SLA if necessary.
Fierce competition in the telecommunications industry and the increasingly important roles played by mobile 'phones in society mean that the emphasis on quality of service and IT support is stronger than ever.
"Subscribers - especially the younger ones - are very cost-sensitive," Smith explained. "They're also sensitive to service. If our infrastructure isn't operating and they can't make calls, get dropped calls or are not getting the right level of service when they ring the call center with a billing query, then the impact for our business can be high because these customers will change to another provider."
Virdee continued: "It's a matter of customer retention. If you have a problem with the network you need it fixed as soon as possible. You need a tool which facilitates the resolution of any incident and you can track - on a month-by-month basis - the number of incidents that arise. assyst has helped change the focus from reactive to pro-active service management. We can see these trends arising and address them in advance, stop negative trends getting worse and help make sure that the overall level of service keeps getting even better."
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.