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Text: Nicola van de Velde
University of Edinburgh’s campus
Photography: University of Edinburgh
UniDesk: TOPDesk as a shareD service in higher anD FUrTher eDUcaTiOn
The University of Edinburgh started using TOPdesk in November 2010 and, together with partners University of Abertay Dundee and University of St Andrews, developed UniDesk: a TOPdesk-based service, extensively tailored to the needs of Higher and Further Education institutions.
he three universities of Edinburgh, Abertay Dundee and St Andrews share a great deal of Scottish
Head of Application Division’s Service Management, and his team have their hands full. “Our users can contact the Information Services (IS) helpline for a wide range of IT-related services, ranging from requests for user accounts, general desktop queries, printer or network problems, to e-learning and web services.“ To be able to manage all these requests, the university previously used their own CMS system which they developed ten years ago. “It was a simple web-based system that only really offered Incident Management,” explains Mark. Although they could log basic calls, the bespoke work involved would have been too costly for major engineering and the system lacked extensive features such as a CMDB and knowledge base. An external company also came to assess their processes against
Andrews , they decided it was only natural to head in that same direction, with the University of Abertay Dundee as the third party. Mark explains: “Together with the other universities, we compiled a list of requirements for the new system. It not only had to offer the same support as the current system and be ITIL-compliant; we also needed a supplier partner that was able to work with Shibboleth, an Open Source centralized authentication mechanism, to ensure a shared service for all our partners. In addition, it had to comply with all the rigorous rules and regulations of the public sector.”
heritage, and are among the most prestigious in the entire UK. The University of Abertay Dundee is the newest and most modern of the three, and its buildings are considered some of the most innovative and well-designed in Scotland. The University of St Andrews, on the other hand, is the oldest in the country; In fact, they are currently celebrating their 600th birthday. With three colleges comprising 27 schools, the University of Edinburgh is one of the largest, offering its students a wide range of degree programmes in the fields of Humanities, Social Sciences, Science & Engineering and Medicine & Veterinary Medicine.
UniDesk: a shared service in every way
Aided by TOPdesk consultants, the University of Edinburgh managed to tailor TOPdesk’s Incident Management and Problem Management processes to meet the university’s requirements. Because the implementation is a shared service specifically designed for universities, the three partner universities decided to call it UniDesk. The application is hosted and supported by the University of Edinburgh. The Incident Management process is >>
50,000 staff members, students and visitors
At the heart of the University of Edinburgh’s technical support lies the Information Services department, responsible for the library, computing and e-learning services. With a total of 50,000 staff members, students and visitors to support, it’s no wonder that Mark Wetton,
ITIL standards, and they were not up to par at that time. “Because we were already working according to ITIL procedures and found it important to share a unified vocabulary, we started looking for a new solution that fitted the bill.” Having run their current CMS system as a shared service with the University of St
the first to be shared across all the partner institutions, but remains ﬂexible due to regular Change Board meetings, during which all partners are able to represent their priorities and requirements. “With UniDesk, we not only share the cost of the service, but we also share ideas through workshops, reviews and training. We believe we can collectively be more effective, creative, and learn from each other, in order to continually improve our own services,” Mark explains. Lorraine Brown, Service Desk IT Manager at St Andrews University, is very pleased with the numerous advantages UniDesk has to offer. “What I like best about UniDesk, is that I’ve got a lot more control than I had with the old system. As an administrator, it has given me a great overview, allowing me to assign roles and authorizations, for instance. Our 149 operators also greatly benefit from being able to see the status of each call.” According to Lorraine, the biggest benefit of using UniDesk is the fact that it’s a shared service. “Aside from
UniDesk is designed specifically for higher and further education institutions, the partners are able to offer UniDesk as a service to other universities. “The advantage for other institutions, is that they can use our blueprints to make more rapid progress in service deployment, and they can benefit from a community approach, using a tried-and-tested tool that has a robust track record. This saves them both time and money, with unlimited usage and very competitive pricing,” according to Mark.
greatly improved, and they are informed as soon as their call is closed,” Matt explains. The University doesn’t just use UniDesk for IT, however. “We have also integrated processes with our corporate units,” explains Mark, “which include business service desks for Finance, Registry and Accommodation services, among others. We also support external queries from research organizations and partners. Recently, we even developed a mobile ‘camper service’: an application for smartphones which the students can use to log calls.”
iT, academic and corporate support
It has been almost a year since the University of Edinburgh implemented UniDesk. They currently have 1,000 operators handling approximately 12,000 calls a month, logged by email, one of the face-to-face service desks, or by local computing officers at each college and department. UniDesk’s main service manager Matt Beilby has really noticed
a learning organization
Overall, the University of Edinburgh is very pleased with running UniDesk on TOPdesk software, as Mark explains: “It has become really easy to log calls, and the system has provided all the universities with a clear understanding of their processes and target times. In the next three months, we plan to release the Self Service Desk portal, which will enable users to log their own calls and use a shared knowledge base. We are already implementing Change Management, which is due to go live in the new year, closely followed by a Service Level Management module to help our customers manage the expectations and integrated responsibilities that underpin each service.”
WE BELIEVE WE CAN COLLECTIVELY BE MORE EFFECTIVE, CREATIVE AND LEARN FROM EACH OTHER
Mark Wetton - University of Edinburgh
the regular meetings, I can always phone the other universities to ask for their advice. When the university of Abertay Dundee launched Problem Management, for example, I went to see how they implemented it. We will be able to use that same process effectively for our university.” Normally an organization could spend days designing an appropriate process for their implementation. However, because
the difference in the services they provide. “The old system didn’t provide statistics, so there was no way of knowing how much time we were spending on each call; any (success) stories were anecdotal. Now we have the reports to back them up. We were really surprised that some tasks, such as password resets, took up a larger part of our time than we expected. We can now use this information to prioritize our calls. For the users, communication has also
Using the feedback they receive in their shared forum, the partner universities are continually improving UniDesk to better meet their requirements. “One of our collective projects is to create a management information dashboard: a high-level reporting tool which will give us even more information on our processes and areas for improvement. With UniDesk, we have really become a learning organization.”
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