Models of Efficiency

IT Support Center at The George Washington University

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University Business, December 2013
The George Washington University
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With key performance indicators published online, anyone can eyeball the improvements the IT department has made.

The explosion of technological devices, software, and apps has been undeniably beneficial to higher education, but there is at least one group on which it has placed quite a burden: those charged with keeping all of that technology running smoothly.

“Technology support is a challenge no matter where you are,” says Chris Megill, associate director of technology services at The George Washington University (D.C). “Keeping up with trends and user demands as they adopt more and more technologies can be quite a challenge.”

With more than 25,000 users to keep happy, Megill and his colleagues have had their work cut out for them. Until they drew up efficiency metrics, they were unable to determine where to start making service improvements.

“Digging into those metrics, we identified a need to expand our operating hours to make ourselves more available to our customers,” Megill says. This involved shortening the time taken for individual interactions, accomplished by getting users to the information needed or problem’s solution quickly and efficiently—“so that they could keep moving forward on their progress on university objectives,” he adds.

Adding employees was not on the table, but merging three units into a single, new IT Support Center allowed the university “to get more value out of existing staff,” Megill says. After that, the really heavy lifting began, as the center implemented several service enhancements based on a review of data.

The new initiative relies on upgraded communication methods, including real-time status updates, online chat support, and ongoing monitoring and assessment to determine where better engagement can occur. Help tickets can be created and immediately assigned based on users’ voicemails.

The Division of Information Technology also simplified and upgraded its web presence to offer greater clarity and increase self-help options. And, the division is emphasizing service transparency, publishing the results of key performance indicators online so that the entire campus community can see the improvements. “Communication is key,” Megill says. “Let people know what you’re working on. Get their feedback. You get some great ideas coming out of the strangest places when you ask.”

The IT Support Center answered 8 percent more calls last year, decreased the average call wait time by more than 2 minutes, and lowered the average amount of time spent handling call requests by 37 seconds. Those seemingly small numbers add up fast.

The initiative is continuing. By the end of the calendar year, the IT Support Center will roll out a knowledge management system, “to increase users’ ability to help themselves,” Megill says. “They want to be able to go get the information as quickly as possible and then move on.”