It’s one for thing for government to say it wants to modernize its information technology and improve citizen services, and another to actually do it. So how can agencies get started? How can they begin to use automated, operational intelligence tools to meet citizen experience goals?
Experts discussed these topics and more during GovLoop’s recent online training, “How to Improve Government Service Delivery.” Keith A. Bluestein, NASA’s Associate Chief Information Officer of Enterprise Services & Integration, joined Christian Malone, Advisory Solution Architect, Federal IT Operations Management at ServiceNow, for the hourlong session.
At the forefront of the training was the reality that technology and business processes evolve at a dizzying pace today, bringing with them higher-than-ever levels of expectation from users. This era has presented leadership with a challenge, Bluestein said. How do you balance security with an effort to stay on the cutting edge?
“When we sit there and take a look at all the factors, it really takes a new way of thinking to identify the resources you have in your current environment,” Bluestein said. “Especially in the government space. We are operating with scarce resources in a lot of cases, and so what we have to constantly do is take a look at if we can do things better, do them more efficiently. Is there better technology available that allows us to accomplish our mission?”
For the team at NASA, ServiceNow’s automation platform has been one of those technologies. Bluestein said the agency uses it to minimize service outages and improve the citizen experience. ServiceNow allows NASA to use operational intelligence tools to remediate problems before services are interrupted.
“Rather than only getting partial information through threshold-triggered alerts, instead we pull all of the metrics, from multiple systems,” Malone said. “Now, an operations team can look at one alert that’s come in, for example, and they can pull up the metrics for all the additional application databases that are related to that system, and they can be able to correlate. Are there actual issues here that they need to see? Without having to swivel-chair out to multiple other systems to get the same information?”
He went on to explain a five-step process on how to eliminate service outages.
1. Map business services to infrastructure.
This gives the visibility needed to understand your environment. It eliminates the gap between technology silos and gives a clear picture of each business service.
2. Keep service maps current.
History has shown that trying to manually update service maps is a recipe for failure. With ServiceNow, once the service is mapped, it stays up-to-date automatically. If changes do occur within the infrastructure, ServiceNow will pick up those changes and update the map without any intervention required by IT.
3. Ingest events from across the IT landscape.
ServiceNow ingests events and then analyzes the information, filters it and correlates it to the business services. This operational information provides the information needed to determine if problems may occur.
4. Prioritize issues and automate fixes.
When service health is at risk, users have an easy way to prioritize the issues they should be working on.
5. Gain visibility into business services health.
ServiceNow provides a visual picture of a system’s health and monitors it in near real-time.
Before the training ended, both Bluestein and Malone were asked what they felt attendees should take away from the session.
“At the end of the day, for almost anything, I think just knowing what your processes are [is crucial],” Bluestein said. “I know that that’s not cool and it’s not tech, but a lot of times where we deliver better service over time, it’s been a result of actually taking a look at what the process is and eliminating the complexity or more difficult areas. Because a lot of the times when we had outages, you could pinpoint it to those specific areas.”
Malone expanded on Bluestein’s answer.
“I would also include people,” he said. “I would say let’s start with making sure that everybody has a shared vision for where we need to go, a shared understanding of what the painpoints and the issues are that we’re trying to address, and once you have everybody on board — at least at the highest level — then I think you can dive into those processes and start to understand what there is to improve.”