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University of St Andrews
“We support the university’s staff and
student community and visitors,” explains
Lorraine Brown, St Andrews’ IT Service Desk
manager. For the university, this means
2,200 staff, 8,000 students and almost
35,000 visitors a year – nearly a third of the
population of the town of St Andrews itself.
The university is an intrinsic part of the city.
No surprise, considering that the institution
is over 600 years old, making it the oldest in
The university may have a venerable age
but its IT Service Desk is undeniably modern.
With its self service facility, including online
tutorials and extensive FAQ section, online
suggestion scheme and IT Services Twitter
account, it is clear that St Andrews’ IT
Services department is utilizing the latest
developments to provide the best possible
service to its customers. They make it easy to
fnd the information you need, and equally
easy to contact them via the telephone,
email, online or in person if you cannot fgure
things out for yourself. The IT Service Desk
is transparent, accessible and highly visible
within the organization. However, this was
not always the case. Lorraine Brown, one
of the people responsible for turning the St
Andrews IT Service Desk around, explains
what it took to raise IT Service’s profle and
get everyone on the same page.
Finding a framework
IT underpins every aspect of a person’s day-
to-day university life. IT Services comprises
over ninety specialists and the IT Service Desk
team is comprised of seven full-time analysts,
a manager, a supervisor and a number of
students working part-time. With such a
large, diverse department, it is not surprising
to hear that the department was not always
as cohesive as it is now. “When I arrived here,
there were lots of little groups working in
isolation,” says Brown. IT Services had to deal
with problems familiar to many supporting
Attentive readers of TOPdesk Magazine
already know: the University of St
Andrews recently became the frst
European university to receive a three-
star SDI accreditation. Read on to fnd
out how the university’s IT Services
department changed its culture,
adopted a new tool and increased
customer satisfaction.
departments: limited visibility within the
organization and communication with room
for improvement.
“The change began in January 2010, when
Steve Watt was appointed Chief Information
Offcer” says Brown. “He was absolutely
committed to IT Services providing excellent
customer service. He sent all of IT Services on
a world-class customer training course. That
took us a step forward. We also all went on ITIL
training, which helped, but we wanted more
change and needed help to drive this forward.”
SDI success
Their search led them to the Service Desk
Institute (SDI), the leading professional body
for the IT and support industry. “We liked
what we read about the SDI. They work
within a globally measured standard. We
contacted them in February 2012, and by
April we had signed a three-year contract to
go through their certifcation programme,”
says Brown. The frst step towards SDI
accreditation is two stars. “We had our initial
audit in May 2012 – we didn’t meet the
two-star requirement, achieving a score of
1.64”. However, rather than be disheartened,
the IT Service Desk used the assessment as
a concrete starting point for improvements.
“We took the SDI feedback and developed
it into a project,” says Brown. “By December
2012 we had achieved a two-star
accreditation. Every year after that the SDI
came back for surveillance audit. In the same
period, the SDI reviewed their standards.
They do this as part of their continual
service improvement, and it made it much
more diffcult to get certifed. This had us
worried.” This turned out to be completely
unnecessary, however: the improvements at
the IT Service Desk were clear to see for the
SDI. “We achieved three stars!”
Moving forwards
But how did they manage to become the
frst European university to achieve this
success? This is something that Service Desk
managers want, yet may fnd hard to realize.
At St Andrews, the key to moving forward
was ensuring the various teams within IT
Services worked better together. “I’d say the
big change for the service desk team was
when IT Services went on ITIL training. For
the frst time ever, we all started speaking
the same language: incidents, service
requests, escalations. It also helped raise
awareness of the IT Service Desk’s role within
the department, because it made second and
third line support see what we were stopping
at the door.” This new-found appreciation
and understanding helped get everybody
on board with the changes within the
department. “The turning point was when
the department started to see improvement.
Success breeds success,” says Brown.
The improvements within the IT Services
department are immediately visible – and
have had a clear impact on the department
as a whole. “Communication fow within IT
Services has improved unbelievably. People
now ask for advice from the front line service
desk before they implement anything.
For instance, a few months back we were
asked our opinion on a project’s proposed
time scale. We suggested it be delayed for
operational reasons. It was rolled out a
month later, and with more success than if
we had stuck to the original time scale. We
never had this level of interaction before.”
Engaging end users
With the framework in place and the ITIL
training getting everyone on the same
page, it was time for an even bigger push
towards a shift in culture. The frst step was
repositioning the IT Services department
within the university. The department
realized they were not visible within the
organization, but were not sure how to
remedy this. The solution was daring, but
undeniably effective. “We brought in an
experienced Business Relationship Manager
(BRM), Pauline Brown. She was able to
completely rebrand IT Services – giving the
department an identity.” With the BRM’s help,
the IT Services raised their profle within the
organization. “We changed all the images
we used: we started putting our front line
service desk staff on all our publicity material
instead of photographs of computers. We
wanted to be seen as a department who were
friendly, approachable, proactive and keen
to help our end users. We’re not just here to
provide systems, or help with emergencies.”
The department started actively reaching
out to users. An important tool was the
revamped IT Services homepage, which now
includes a welcome flm and a suggestion
page. “It’s an incentivized scheme: users
have a chance to win free coffee for a month
from one of the university cafe outlets,” says
Brown. However, this is not the only way they
solicit customer feedback. “We also have
postcard feedback stations near classrooms.
We want to make sure they see we’re there
to support them.” End users can also provide
immediate feedback on the services provided
thanks to the one-minute survey: every user
who logs a call is asked to comment on the
services. This has proven to be an excellent
way to get customer feedback, but it also
provides even more proof that the changes
are working. “We have an eight per cent
response rate, and in January 2014 we had
one hundred per cent overall customer
satisfaction,” says Brown. “We received no
complaints, nineteen suggestions and seven
compliments directly related to IT Services
and staff!”
Four stars and beyond
Despite the IT Service Desk’s impressive
achievements, Brown does not want to rest
on her laurels. “This year, we’re working
towards a four-star certifcation. If we
achieve that, we’ll be the only university
worldwide to do so.” This may sound
ambitious, but it is well within reach, as
Brown explains. “There are nine concepts and
each one is weighted differently. For instance,
the leadership concept represents fourteen
per cent of the total score, and we’re already
on four stars for that.”
However, the drive to continue improving
services does not mean that the current
three-star accreditation is seen as simply a
stepping stone towards something more.
“Achieving the three-star accreditation was
an effort by the whole department,” says
Brown. “We have worked really hard, and are
being rewarded with recognition now.”
i-Graduate survey
The SDI accreditation is not the only proof
of how well the service desk is doing. “Every
year, we participate in the i-Graduate
survey. It provides valuable information
about student satisfaction across many
areas, including IT support,” says Pauline
Brown, Business Relationship Manager
The 2013 results are based on a survey
conducted among 227,579 students from
178 institutions worldwide. St Andrews
received a 21% response rate. “With our
recent excellent SDI results, this reinforces
that we are doing a great job in this area.
The additional measures we put in places
have gone a long way in creating a good
impression of IT Services with our student
community – and that’s extremely important
to us.”
Lorraine Brown and Steve Watt, University of St Andrews
Results: support average – IT services support
2013 2012 2011
Satisfed 93% 93.6% 92.3%
Internationally 1 (of 45) 4 (of 41) 4 (of 31)
UK 1 (of 22) 4 (of 28) 4 (of 24)