NHS Education for Scotland successfully move to a simpler system in less than five months

NHS Education for Scotland (NES) is an education and training body and special health board, responsible for supporting NHS services in Scotland.

The Challenge

Tracking targets and risks, as well as allocating and planning budgets, are key challenges for NES. Like other organisations in the public sector, their Integrated Planning and Performance System (IPPS) started out as a single system with one function. However, it quickly mushroomed into an unwieldy, four-part system based on a legacy Oracle platform.

Unifii was called in to help NES simplify and streamline the system, enabling it to add value, rather than frustration.

The Solution

In less than five months – and for a fraction of the original implementation cost of their IPPS – the system (MiTracker) was re-written, streamlined, updated and simplified in ServiceNow.

Key improvements included:

  • Capability to track Performance Improvement Targets against any activity in the system
  • Specific skills and training for NES staff – removing single points of failure
  • Users were able to log in and enter all their updates and actions in one place
  • User notifications, e.g. for actions, changed from a manual process to one driven automatically
  • Accelerated management processes without the need for IT support

The Benefits

  • Management are now able to track an activity’s full lifecycle, including associated targets, target updates, risks, risk actions, costs, controls, and auditing
  • Finance are now able to track all financials securely in one tool
  • Capturing risks (both corporate and operational), risk actions and controls is easier and can be associated to activities or targets when required
  • Simplified auditing process with automated reminders
  • Reporting process for internal and audit purposes has been streamlined

The Future

NES are also now planning MiTracker 2.0, a second phase where they want to take advantage of the new features and upgrades of the ServiceNow release cycles and make the process faster and slicker.

“Working on the MiTracker project has brought various departments together to streamline not only processes but also provided a common language across the platform that will also be rolled into other projects such as JML (Joiners, Mover and Leavers), ultimately saving time and effort by all involved.”

Pete Clarke - NES Lead ServiceNow Developer

Want a simpler, more streamlined system too?

Find about how Unifii can transform your systems, add value and save your team business-critical time by clicking here.

The Unifii TeamNHS Education for Scotland successfully move to a simpler system in less than five months
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NowBox official sponsors

Being the only ServiceNow® focused event in Scotland, this year’s NowBox ‘Everything ServiceNow’ event (24th May) attracted clients and prospects from all over Scotland and Ireland.

Kicking off with a morning of exciting offerings from multiple partners, the afternoon took a different approach, delivering a rich agenda of case studies & best practice talks. Whilst the presentations were delivered from a whole host of ITSM professionals, the underlying themes focused on:

  • Getting the most out of your ServiceNow investment
  • Visions of the future – including taking a closer look at the growing role of robots, AI and chatbots in IT and business transformations

After thoroughly enjoying exhibiting in 2017, we attended this year’s event as both an exhibitor and official sponsor.

It was great to be a bigger part of NowBox this year and to see the year on year growth of attendees. Being the only ServiceNow Partners with a permanent office in Edinburgh, we also thought it was important we were there saying hello to local users!

Paul Donnelly – Head of Consulting at Unifii

As well as exhibiting the benefits of our ServiceNow Health Check service – especially ahead of new version launches – we spent time meeting a variety of ServiceNow users. What came out of these conversations was the realisation that the platform is being used in a multitude of ways to drive the adoption of a wide range of new technologies. And with this increased investment in technology innovation, there was a growing need for a regular space where users can share experience, difficulties and success stories.

With this in mind, we found NowBox the perfect occasion to promote ServiceNow FoCus – the first meetup for the ServiceNow Community in Edinburgh. Open to all users, this event is being held on June 14th at 6pm at the Unifii Offices and is the ideal opportunity to meet, learn from and build connections with like-minded individuals in the ServiceNow Community. We also hope it complements other official ServiceNow events, such as the SNUG, taking place in Scotland.

You can book your spot here.

If you missed us at NowBox, be sure to keep an eye on our website, where we’ll release details of future events we’re exhibiting at or hosting.

The Unifii TeamNowBox official sponsors
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Companies House embrace flexibility and control with ServiceNow and Jira integration

Unifii integrated ServiceNow and Jira for Companies House, increasing end user collaboration and developer efficiency.

Companies House is an executive agency of the UK government, sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. The organisation incorporates, and dissolves, limited companies, as well as registering company information and making it available to the public.

There are currently more than 3.5m limited companies registered in the UK, with 500,000 new companies incorporated each year. To manage this, Companies House employs around 1,000 people in Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast and London.

 

The Challenge

Companies House came to Unifii for help in applying the control of ITSM with the flexibility of DevOps to their Change and Problem processes through integrating Jira with ServiceNow. Jira is used to storyboard development iterations, bug tracking, as well as managing daily development reports and tasks. It was being primarily used by the developers, whereas the business team were using the ServiceNow platform.

Unifii was brought in specifically to implement a new, best-practice REST integration between ServiceNow and Jira. Part of the challenge was bridging a gap between the two teams whilst keeping the best from both applications. The integration, was a way of allowing ServiceNow to automate the management of work queues in Jira – a necessary addition due to a need for more effective problem and change management tracking.

Although it is fairly complex, Jira is a popular platform with developers. Companies House attempted the integration internally but ran into issues owing to a deprecated integration method (SOAP) and a recent version release from Atlassian. Companies House had worked with other ServiceNow partners before approaching Unifii.

“We engaged with Unifii to help us with our Jira and ServiceNow integration. By doing so, we have seen significantly improved communications and efficiency between our business and development teams.”

Leanne Peters, Continuous Systems Improvement Manager

The Solution

The integration proceeded with the following  key implementations:

  • Bidirectional information sharing of ServiceNow Problem and Change Management tickets with Jira to better align development teams with other teams within the business. The benefit is a team that’s more streamlined, more unified and more efficient.
  • A transaction table to track both inbound and outbound updates. This makes it easier to monitor updates and re-process tickets in Jira.
  • Dynamic field mapping which enables the client to apply future updates without code changes. This gives them the tools to run without needing third-party expertise in the future.
  • All functionality configured within ServiceNow, with no Jira updates needed. All updates automatically go from Jira into ServiceNow. This removes the need for Jira development experts and, with all information now stored in one place, means it can be managed by one team instead of two.

 

The Benefits

The project was completed in 10 working days, headline benefits to the client include:

  • Time saved by the business teams, who no longer need to manually update Jira as ServiceNow represents a single point of management. Previously tickets had to be raised manually on Jira.
  • Significantly improved efficiency and communication between business and development teams, due to mirrored updates between Jira and ServiceNow.
  • Reduced reliance on Jira development experts.
  • On-going ability to apply future updates without third-party help.

“Unifii listened and understood the business challenges we were facing. The integration they performed, between ServiceNow and Jira, was completed in 10 days and has saved our internal teams valuable time. The Unifii consultants are very professional. The integration they performed between ServiceNow and Jira means we are seeing increased business efficiencies. I feel a valuable relationship and trusted partnership growing between our organisations.”

Leanne Peters, Continuous Systems Improvement Manager

Get in touch

If you’ve liked what you’ve read here, get in touch with one of the Unifii team to discuss how we can help you.

The Unifii TeamCompanies House embrace flexibility and control with ServiceNow and Jira integration
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Applying the Controls of ITSM with the Flexibility of DevOps

As an IT leader, you want to speed up your service delivery whilst ensuring process compliance, right? Well, have you thought about using ITSM and DevOps together?

Many people think that ITSM and DevOps are incompatible: Traditional ITIL processes and DevOps practices are incompatible. Meeting the DevOps goals of shorter development and release cycles does not work with ITIL Change & Release Management.” We disagree. We believe the two actually work well together, playing to the strengths of your different tools and processes – and meaning better business.

In fact, using ITSM and DevOps together can enable your business to respond faster to market and customer needs, by accelerating controlled IT service delivery. Unifii has been demonstrating this, partnering with businesses of all sizes, across industry sectors, to implement ServiceNow using agile DevOps techniques.

By applying the controls of ITSM with the flexibility of DevOps, your business can tune up its processes and add automation as well as orchestration to become more streamlined, more unified and more efficient. What’s more, this approach can also help ensure you have compliant, audit-friendly processes, so if an auditor knocks on the door and asks for specific evidence, you’re fully documented.

 

Why DevOps?

DevOps is not a new concept: development and operations have been around for a long time. But it’s one of the latest and most talked about labels for the process of uniting Dev and Ops teams, with best working practices and a broad range of tools, to accelerate and scale software development.

Some of the current focus around DevOps centres on smaller teams or clusters, carrying increasing workloads, who are looking to automate more of the process – and accomplish more – in a quick and scalable way. To do this, they’re harnessing the range of popular open-source and fremium-style tools, which enable them to quickly build their own ecosystems.

It also means they don’t need to face lots of centralised control functions or cross team/department standards. A major problem is that solutions owned by individual teams or small clusters, with no standards, are harder to unify into a coherent strategic operating model.

We find this with a lot of our clients, a prime example being in the investment banking industry. Teams who deal with Commodities may work in one way, and the ones who deal with FX another. But they have to come back together to standardise to a change tool that has a strict way of doing things, and this throws up compatibility issues and complications.

Using ITSM and DevOps together streamlines your software development lifecycle, making your tools and processes unified, helping to solve your standards incompatibility issues.

Using ITSM and DevOps together

So how do you successfully use DevOps alongside ITSM? It’s worth noting that whilst facilitating different business needs, there is natural compatibility between the two approaches.

The core components of ITSM are Plan (Service Strategy) and Build (Service Design) – which are Dev activities; and Release (Service Transition) and Support (Service Operation) – which are Ops. Furthermore, both approaches support Continuous Improvement processes.

Taking ITIL as the most common ITSM framework (though there are others such as COBIT and ISO20000 which can still work alongside DevOps), ITIL processes chime with a number of processes that DevOps teams touch on. Things like Demand, Release, Change, Incident, Problem and Request Management.

Consequently, it’s important to get your process design and alignment right. You need to agree what can be shared between DevOps tools and ITSM tools, to minimise the need for double keying or rework, and ensure they fit the right risk profile.

Among the advantages of using ITSM with DevOps are a higher level of process automation, and the ability to utilise your whole range of existing tools. For example, as part of a change process you can have different tools for your log, validate, approve, implement, and review stages, with DevOps pulling the right information together in the change ticket. Bringing DevOps into the mix also gives operations teams better visibility of the environment, and integrated tools to reduce time between incident detection and resolution.

 

Unifii and ServiceNow

Unifii is a team of enterprise service management and automation professionals. We’re aligning DevOps with service management using our ITSM platform of choice, ServiceNow, which has the automation capabilities to make the Integration between DevOps and ITSM a reality.

ServiceNow is a platform that’s massively growing in popularity, becoming one of the leading ITSM solutions, particularly for Discovery and Orchestration.

ServiceNow can act as a key coordination system and integration layer between the different systems involved in the DevOps lifecycle. It offers a range of applications that can help ensure a smooth and effective integration between your ITSM and DevOps processes: such as Change, Release, Project and Test Management; SDLC; and IT Orchestration.

The aim is to provide more visibility and auditability for the business by linking processes and tools together sensibly. The result, is improved alignment of your technology and business goals to improve your bottom-line.

 

Looking to streamline your software development lifecycle?

If you have questions about integrating DevOps and ITSM, or need support, whether you are an ITIL or non-ITIL house, feel free to talk to us. We can help you get the best from your tools and processes, and help you achieve a good balance between speed of delivery for the business, and process compliance.

Myles MolloyApplying the Controls of ITSM with the Flexibility of DevOps
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5 things you need to know before upgrading ServiceNow to Kingston

The Kingston release of ServiceNow is upon us and with it, the deprecation of support for Helsinki. In practice, this means a lot of businesses are upgrading from Helsinki to Kingston and dealing with the big changes between these versions, which include machine learning, refined end-user experience and major incident management.

In the past we’ve helped many clients to upgrade, ranging from small to global organisations in various sectors. In this way, we’ve gained a real depth of knowledge about the practicalities of upgrading to the latest version of ServiceNow, from Fuji to Istanbul, Geneva to Jakarta, and so on.

Here are our 5 top tips for upgrading ServiceNow to Kingston:

 

1. Get everyone on board

Early, clear communication across the business is vital to the success of any upgrade. You need to explain what is happening and why, in order to set expectations for resource requirements, particularly for people to assist in process testing the platform, along with anticipated outages and what’s coming in the way of new features.

The key is to ensure that internal resources are planned in and available, and to maintain regular and clear communications between developers, the technical team and BAs with regards to requirements and timeframes. Upgrading is a significant piece of work but it doesn’t have to be long-winded.

Our top tip: Keep the timeline for the upgrade as short as possible, to ensure fewer outages and less disruption for the business. Smaller organisations should be planning for around two weeks, while larger businesses are looking at a maximum of one to two months.

 

2. Don’t overcomplicate things

Keep things simple. Our experience of lots of upgrades of various sizes is that there’s no need to test everything – only the things that have impact. Concentrate on new functionality and don’t spend time worrying about bug fixes to your existing system – this is a real time waster.

We also find that keeping things straightforward is also the best approach when it comes to Release Notes analysis. You simply need to work out what’s changing and whether anything needs turning off (e.g. new functionality the business may not be ready for).

Our top tip: Skip logs of items you’ve previously customised can run to thousands of items and can be both time consuming and tedious.The best tactic is to split the logs into sections so they are easier to manage. Ignore any reports, notifications and form layouts and focus on the business logic, such as Business Rules and Script Includes.

 

3. Get your testing right

Having a solid plan in place for testing is crucial. The best approach is to undertake the initial unit testing by both developers and BAs. Following this, business testing by process owners or the already agreed business resources allocated to the task.

In both cases, fixes should be implemented afterwards by developers before moving on to the next round of testing. It’s also important to manage regression testing packs and ensure they are up to date.

Our top tip: Implement a process to carefully segregate existing defects in your configuration from those introduced by the upgrade. Without this, you can spend more time on triage of existing defects than on actually doing the upgrade.

 

4. Plan your development freeze early

Freezing development while upgrading is essential because as soon as you change something you make the testing you’ve done so far redundant. The key is to get the business on board early with a full understanding of the situation, otherwise they will be clamouring for BAU changes in the middle of the upgrade.

Before upgrading, clone back from Production to ensure all your environments are synced. Good communication around exactly when this will occur is vital – people will lose work if they aren’t expecting it.

Our top tip: We recommend running a minimum of three instances – Dev, Test and Prod. After upgrading, maintain a pre-upgrade version to refer back to if there are issues and to remove the pre-existing defect noise.

 

5. Take the opportunity to revert

Ensure there is time for technical teams to revert updates back to OOTB where possible. Analysis and testing of this requires planned effort but the savings realised increase with every upgrade undertaken.

Learn the lessons about which processes are more critical than others (not every item needs to be tested), and those areas where you were short on time and others where you had more than enough. Ensure you include feedback from both the business and internal developers, BAs and the technical team.

Our top tip: Upgrades are a fact of life and there will always be another on the horizon. Record what went well and what didn’t – and why – and use that as the basis of your next upgrade plan.

 

For more information or advice on your upgrade plans, contact us today – we’re always happy to share our experience and expertise.

Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7760 7513

Email

Ellie Kleinworth5 things you need to know before upgrading ServiceNow to Kingston
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Who We Are

We are your lifecycle partner, delivering accelerated service delivery.

We are a team of Enterprise Service Management and Automation professionals. We’re dedicated to aligning your technology with your business goals. We develop innovative solutions, implement and integrate them successfully to improve your bottom line.

As full lifecycle ServiceNow Partners, we have been managing ITIL, ITSM, SIAM and ESM ServiceNow projects since 2010.

The Unifii TeamWho We Are
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