Travis Perkins has completed one of the largest deployments of ServiceNow’s IT service management tool in the UK, supporting its ambitious business transformation plans with faster responses to end-user IT issues and proactive monitoring of core applications.

The Northampton-based builders’ merchant and home improvements retailer is in the midst of a five-year expansion plan, targeting a doubling of its £5 billion revenues.

Underpinning its strategy to grow its stable of 19 businesses, including consumer brands Wickes and Tile Giant, is a multi-year project to modernise its legacy IT environment. This has involved enhancing multichannel and point of sale (POS) systems, replacing outdated applications and infrastructure, adopting cloud computing services, and investing in a bring your own device (BYOD) scheme for its 24,000 staff.

The ServiceNow deployment has been part of this overhaul, according to Travis Perkins head of the service development, Andy Garrett, and has helped improve IT support as the business undergoes technology-led change.

Garrett says that the tool has resulted in a number of benefits. For example, it has reduced the time taken to respond to the 30,000 calls a month received by the service desk, down from three minutes with its previous ITSM tool. This has resulted in fewer abandoned requests.

“Those three minutes have gone down to a 20-30 second average speed of answer – better than the industry standard - and the abandonment rate has gone from 20 percent to less than 5 percent,” says Garrett.

He added: “It is about reacting to the business demand; we are not necessarily achieving the business growth, we are enabling it.

“[The wider company] is able to take on more business because we can carry on supporting them. If we were in a position where IT just couldn’t support it because we were drowning in the current volumes we have got, [we] would not be able to acquire new businesses and therefore improve growth.”

Replacing legacy ITSM tool

Travis Perkins partnered with ServiceNow specialist Partners in IT, now part of FruitionPartners, in 2013 to roll out the software as a service (Saas) tool. This meant replacing a decade-old HEAT ITSM system that lacked certain functionality required by the service delivery team. The company also decided against products such as BMC Remedy software which were not available as a Saas model.

"ServiceNow was chosen because it is a cloud tool," says Garrett. "It gave us everything we wanted today, but also a future vision in terms of capability. So all the standard ITIL terms of best practice we need for the service desk: incdent management, change management, problem management. It ticked all those boxes." 

The wide-ranging project, mostly completed in March this year, involved a number of separate elements. Foremost was creation of self-service portal – named SolveIT – which allowed staff to log IT incidents and track the resolution of issues. It also provides an information repository for staff to attempt to solve problems themselves, rather than contacting the service desk.

ServiceNow also allowed Travis Perkins to create a central database to map the existence and relationships between more than 60,000 IT devices and pieces of infrastructure. This configuration management database (CMDB) allows the IT delivery team to track devices and respond more quickly to problems by having detailed information within easy reach of service delivery staff.

In addition to this, ServiceNow’s event management module is used to monitor systems to mitigate the effects of outages and service failures. This means proactively identifying problems with key applications, such as those covering POS and sales data.

Garrett says: “Whereas in the old world we would get the end-user telling us that a certain system has gone down, with ServiceNow it is about that proactive-ness of seeing it before the business tells us. This is why we are armed up with the information up front, as compared to our legacy systems which didn’t know and was more reactive.

Cost savings

One of the expected benefits of the ServiceNow deployment is the cost savings to the business. While Garrett says that cost analysis of the deployment is currently under way, it is possible the company will see a return on the ‘millions of pounds’ invested as part of the project. 

“The savings will come from [a reduction in] duplication. We didn’t have this central database that we hold all of the kit in - the CMDB - so you could ring up the service desk and it might mean that we have to call back three or four times to get a certain bit of data, or we might have to wait until you get back to your desk to answer it. So a lot of it is duplication of effort that disappears as a result of capturing the information up front from the start."

He added: “A lot of it is in terms of the wasted time with the business waiting two to three minutes in a queue, and they can now come straight through or raise it on a self service portal.”

Moving to the cloud

The ServiceNow deployment has supported the delivery of new technologies, helping staff adapt to various cloud computing services which Garrett says the company has deployed. For example, the tool has helped in the roll-out of Google Docs and cloud collaboration tools to the tens of thousands of employees, replacing Microsoft products such as Outlook and Excel.

“It takes a bit to work with the business to train [staff] because change is [not always] received well. That has been my most difficult challenge – a great challenge – but it has been a result of ensuring we get the business bought into it,” says Garrett.

He added: “It sometimes feels unpolished, but the benefit of Google in terms of collaboration, file-sharing and the hangout facility, are immense - without a data centre that needs tape backups or anything. It reduces the need for teleconferencing or any web chats, because it is all built into the tool."

Buy-in from the business

Garrett says that one of the most important factors in creating a strong service delivery function is the backing of senior executives – both financially and strategically.

“Our exec board are very much behind the IT agenda. We are constantly are talking to them about the next changes and plans for what we want to do going forward,” he says.

“The fact that we have that buy-in and that support – and also that money – it is a great thing to have. But that doesn’t come without asking, challenging, constantly keeping that working relationship going, and also delivering on what you are saying you are going to do, which is the key message."