Five Ways Michigan Tech Has Improved Self-Service and IT Satisfaction

Brian Hutzler, Assistant Project Manager in the IT Department, Michigan Technological University and Heidi Reid, Assistant Project Managers in the IT Department, Michigan Technological University
Brian Hutzler, Assistant Project Manager in the IT Department, Michigan Technological University

Brian Hutzler, Assistant Project Manager in the IT Department, Michigan Technological University

At Michigan Technological University, improving self-service is helping us meet our goal of delivering more efficient IT service and increasing satisfaction for our 7,300 students and 1,890 faculty and staff. One way we have approached this goal is by applying lean management principles to the design of our new knowledge base (a repository of IT self-help articles). We decided TeamDynamix was the right product for this new knowledge base.  

Last spring, Michigan Tech IT merged its User Services group and Project Management Office into one combined department, called Service Management. As part of this transformation, we looked at how we could apply our project management expertise to simplify and enhance the ability of students and university employees (our “customers”) to resolve self-service IT issues.Heidi Reid, Assistant Project Managers in the IT Department, Michigan Technological University

One major success of the knowledge base is the focus on self-service, which allows a customer’s smaller issues to be resolved without consulting an IT technician. By providing a level of self-service, we allow our IT support team to focus on more complex issues that customers encounter. When issues are resolved quickly, a great customer experience is established. The IT organization serves more people at a faster rate—and this ultimately benefits everyone.

The key to improving self-service is having a high-quality knowledge base that customers can consult. If these articles are relevant to customers’ needs, simple to find, technically accurate, and clearly and consistently written, then customers will be more apt to resolve their own issues. Because our project management team has experience with lean management principles, we decided to re-evaluate our knowledge base through a lean improvement lens. Lean management is an approach that reduces waste and emphasizes continuous improvement through a series of incremental changes.

  We also revisited the categories of service we were using, to make sure we were organizing knowledge articles in a logical way. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for users to find answers to their problems 

At the time, we were using separate platforms for hosting our knowledge base and for project portfolio management. By consolidating these services within a single platform from TeamDynamix, we were able to save $12,000 in annual licensing costs.

To improve the content within our knowledge base, we used a lean methodology tool called 5S, which is a workplace organization system based on a series of five Japanese words. Loosely translated into English, these concepts are “Sort,” “Set in order,” “Shine,” “Standardize,” and “Sustain.” Here’s how we put this methodology into practice.

Sort

First,we assessed all of the current knowledge base articles for relevance. We wanted to make sure we weren’t including any outdated information. So, we brought together project management and IT service staff to collectively evaluate our 750 articles.

For each article, we asked: Do we need this? Is it still helpful, or does it describe a system or procedure that we no longer use? Through this process, we pared down our knowledge base to the 300 articles that still had value.

Set in order

We also revisited the categories of service we were using, to make sure we were organizing knowledge articles in a logical way. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for users to find answers to their problems.

To do this, we enlisted the help of our entire IT department, as well as our customer base—and we used another lean tool, called an affinity diagram, to collect their input. An affinity diagram is a brainstorming tool that is used to gather information and organize it into groupings based on the natural relationships between items. We were able to use the feedback from our customers and other IT employees to better identify and categorize our service areas.

Shine

To make sure the information contained in our knowledge articles was accurate and easy to follow, we had help desk personnel polish or rewrite the 300 articles we determined were still relevant. We used a Kanban board, another lean management tool that is used for workflow visualization, to help us keep track of this work.

Standardize

Before we had our help desk consultants rewrite knowledge articles, we worked with our IT communications and accessibility manager to create a standardized style guide for these articles. The style guide explains how articles should be written so they are clear, consistent, and accessible to everyone, including people with visual impairments or other disabilities.

For instance, instead of creating section headings in bold type, it is important to format the words as headings so they may be read by screen reading software. The style guide also ensures the use of common and consistent language throughout our knowledge base, especially as it relates to technology terminology.

Sustain

After we improved the usability of our knowledge base, our next step was to create a review and auditing process to make sure we can continue to meet these high standards with all future content we create.

When articles are changed by the Service Management group, the changes are often minor and manageable. The real issues happen when back-end updates or changes occur that affect the content of the articles. This means that in some cases, the listed printer drivers, hardware models, or even screenshots in the article may now be different as a result of the change.  

To address this issue, we held a kaizen continuous improvement event to determine the root cause and to brainstorm countermeasures. We have now begun to implement a process in which Service Management is flagged every time back-end documentation is updated. This helps us get ahead of the change before it affects our customers. This effort, along with spot-check audits, will help sustain our knowledge base.

Our customers at Michigan Tech have only been using the improved knowledge base for a short while, and we’re already receiving very positive feedback. With our old system, the only metric we had to measure our success was the number of times an article was viewed. One of the benefits of using TeamDynamix to host our knowledge base is that our customers can give us feedback on whether a particular article is useful to them. Students, faculty, and staff are using this feature to let us know they find this content useful, which affirms that we’re providing good information.

That’s very important to us. We want our knowledge base to become a resource that Michigan Tech can rely on. It only takes one bad experience for customers to stop using our self-service system.

We will also use this knowledge base framework to improve the Michigan Tech IT service catalog. We’ll be able to address both simple and complex service requests using one simple, unified framework, all within the TeamDynamix platform—which will take our IT service management to a whole new level of efficiency.

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