Crossrail is the £14.8 billion railway project in Southeast England which, if all goes to plan, will wrap up in 2018. This creates some unique IT challenges, as staff come and go on a regular basis, meaning a flexible and simple IT helpdesk was required.
"We have a high churn of users," Alistair Goodall, head of applications and portfolio management at Crossrail, told Computerworld UK. "So at any one time we have 4,000 IT users and now 3,000, because we have contractors coming in to do a phase and leaving and the next contractors joining.
"We had 2,000 new user requests every year, so that's a 50 percent churn rate. That was putting pressure on our IT processes and costs."
Crossrail was being charged a fee for every new action performed, like a new user being on-boarded, from the outsourced service provider, Fujitsu, and wanted a more flexible solution to reduce this cost. So, when Crossrail renewed its agreement with Fujitsu it decided to shift its IT service management (ITSM) software to the cloud-based ServiceNow solution.
Crossrail won't be running the railway once it is complete, meaning all of its IT systems will need to be wound down. This meant a short term software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription was appealing to Goodall.
ServiceNow was an approved provider in the Government's G-Cloud digital procurement system and Goodall had used the solution in his previous role at Informa, so was confident in its ability to solve the problem. The idea was for a quick and painless integration process, and for a fairly rapid return on investment. He wouldn't be drawn into exact figures but did say that Crossrail will recover the cost of implementation within two years.
For the end user, the web-based solution has also reduced the number of clicks required to complete a request, allowing for more self-service IT. Users can also log on to see the status of their tickets and there is a chat function built in to save on picking up the phone.
Over the 12 months since going live the platform is handling around 40 chat session per week, 175 requests (including new users and password resets) and a decline in incidents from 300 a week to around 250. Crossrail also says that 20 percent of IT requests it receives are for account creations, and that these are now completed by the automated ServiceNow workflows.
Goodall said that although an annual subscription to the software was purchased, the flexibility it offered was key during the procurement process. "We went through all of the service providers on G-Cloud for helpdesk systems and to be honest there was no one else with a similar price model and similarly structured offering. Others needed more upfront investment for infrastructure or investment."
ServiceNow will also vastly simplify the process of archiving the data from the project as it finishes. "We will archive data for regulatory compliance for the long tail of closing out any disputes, and also to maintain an incredible body of information about a massive project in the middle of London for future projects.
"We need to be sure as we decommission infrastructure and close our data centre down that we are dealing with the information appropriately, wither if it's to be deleted, archived or handed over," Goodall said.