Feb 11 2022

How ServiceNow Streamlines Operations Across Campus

Most colleges and universities adopt ServiceNow to streamline their IT service management processes — but that’s just the beginning.

Virginia State University’s previous IT ticketing platform wasn’t meeting the school’s needs. Maurion Edwards, Virginia State’s CIO, wanted a solution that would allow him to easily pull metrics needed to measure the IT department’s performance .

He wanted a more productive service desk. He wanted simplified self-service capabilities, so students and faculty could take care of everyday tasks, such as password resets, without having to involve IT staffers.

He found it all in the ServiceNow platform, which Virginia State rolled out in October 2021.

“Our old platform couldn’t handle all of our IT requests, and it just wasn’t getting folks what they needed,” Edwards says. “ServiceNow will be a one-stop shop for people’s IT needs.”

Already, though, Virginia State leaders are discovering that the platform is more than just an IT tool. Edwards is exploring different ways to use ServiceNow for workflows that are only tangentially related to technology, if at all.

EXPLORE: How higher ed institutions manage long-term digital transformation projects.

“It’s way more than IT,” he says. “I look at it as helping us to enhance our business processes.”

It’s a shift that many colleges and universities have made. Several years ago, organizations in various industries began to experiment with using IT service management tools like ServiceNow for other processes, giving rise to the concept of enterprise service management, says Charles Betz, who covers the topic as a principal analyst for Forrester.

“People bring in these platforms to solve IT service management problems, but they find that the workflow engine at the heart of ServiceNow can be pressed into service for many other purposes,” Betz says. “The IT department starts to use ServiceNow for a wider variety of problems. The service request platform doesn’t care if you’re provisioning someone with a cellphone, or onboarding people into a new environment and making sure they have all the resources they need. That creates new opportunities.”

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Service Management Goes Beyond the IT Department

Betz says that the shift to enterprise service management happened largely by accident, with organizations repurposing platforms like ServiceNow out of necessity. Over time, vendors have started to position service management platforms as all-in-one tools, and organizations have increasingly sought out ways to maximize them.

Often, he says, pushing a workflow to a tool like ServiceNow can keep a college or university from having to adopt a whole new system — both cutting costs and preventing users from becoming overwhelmed.

“People say, ‘Why am I going to buy something new when I have a tool that’s 80 percent as good for the job and I only need 60 percent of the capabilities?’” Betz notes.

At Virginia State, Edwards is looking into ways to use ServiceNow for a number of non-IT workflows, including human resources. “We can use the platform to validate when people did their security training, gather metrics on the turnaround time to get their laptops deployed, and things like paperwork and parking. Then, we can go to the system to find out where our bottlenecks are because the system can give us metrics on that.”

Currently, Edwards says, it takes an average of five days to deploy a computing device to a new hire, which hampers productivity.

“With ServiceNow, as soon as the hiring manager has made an offer and it’s been accepted, they can make that request at that moment, and that gives us 10 business days to work on it,” he says.

headshot of Eric Hawley
We’re able to get closer to the business processes, and the less time we need to spend at lower layers messing with servers and patching and support, the better.”

Eric Hawley CIO, Utah State University

Service Management Helps Streamline University Processes

ServiceNow helped Utah State University centralize its IT service management, resulting in significant increases in service and productivity. Over time, the university has discovered several use cases beyond the IT service desk.

“We still do use the platform for trouble tickets, of course, but that’s not its strategic value,” says Eric Hawley, CIO for Utah State. “That’s what got us into it, but it’s been using ServiceNow as a workflow and automation platform where we’ve seen all the strategic value. It’s saved our bacon in a lot of instances.”

Utah State has moved its travel expense and university purchasing card approvals to the ServiceNow platform. “Our processes before were very manual,” Hawley says. “It was literally carbon paper forms in triplicate, and there was a lot of manual data entry. We said, this needs to be electronic.”

Hawley looked at stand-alone systems for each workflow, some of which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those new systems would also require new staff training.

“We’ve run into what I’ve labeled ‘approval fatigue,’” he says. “Our deans are bombarded with requests for things like travel, new keys and grade changes. When you look at how many approval chains there are at a high-level research organization, if we were to buy 15 different systems, all with their own different user interfaces, that approval fatigue gets worse and worse.”

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More generally, Hawley says, ServiceNow has helped Utah State simplify and automate many of its IT processes. He calls the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) — a set of processes, procedures, tasks and checklists around IT service management and IT asset management — “a nightmare of complexity,” and notes that ServiceNow simplifies the framework.

“We’re able to get closer to the business processes, and the less time we need to spend at lower layers messing with servers and patching and support, the better,” he says. “That stuff is important, but it’s not providing any direct and immediate value. The most limited resource I have is people’s time and attention, and if I can redirect that time and attention to solving problems, that boosts our reputation and our effectiveness.”


The reduction in incident resolution times experienced by the University of Maryland after leveraging the artificial intelligence and analytics capabilities of ServiceNow.

Source: ServiceNow

Facilitating Cross-Department Collaboration with Service Management

Before adopting ServiceNow several years ago, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona used IT ticketing systems that drastically limited users’ ability to engage in self-service.

“The only thing those systems could do was open up a ticket and close it,” says John McGuthry, CIO of the university. “From the perspective of the end user, there was really no way to engage with the system. We started to think about leaving behind what we saw as the old model — which was the idea that IT can handle just about everything for the end user — and going to a new model where the individual has more self-service capability. Technology, of course, is growing and growing. If every task requires users to come and sit with us, then we really can’t accomplish anything.”

Cal Poly Pomona has started using ServiceNow for other service centers across campus, including human resources. McGuthry says service departments other than IT have grown accustomed to the idea of a help desk or ticketing model.

“They see that maybe they can’t always have someone on the phone engaging with someone one-on-one,” he says. “The pandemic has also forced us to think differently about having in-person service counters.”

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Going forward, McGuthry says, he sees the university’s use of ServiceNow continuing to expand across departments — especially those that have customer service workflows but lack modern customer engagement solutions. In particular, he says, the school will look for more ways to enhance the user experience by integrating workflows across different departments.

“When you call your credit card company and talk to somebody, you expect them to know all that information the next time you talk to them,” he says. “If you transfer from one agent to another, you don’t expect to have to go through it all again. We can take a ticket out of the IT queue and move it over to the library queue if that’s where it belongs. As our electronic engagement continues to increase, our knowledge about how people have already engaged with the university should also increase. We’re going to have to continue thinking about sharing information behind the scenes. That’s our long-term strategy.”

Illustration by Janne Iivonen

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