Farm Credit Mid-America was one of the three finalists for the HDI Service Improvement Award in 2015. The finalists were honored, and the winner announced, at FUSION 15 in New Orleans.
Farm Credit Mid-America is an agricultural lending cooperative owned and controlled by our customers. We are one of the largest associations within the Farm Credit System. With more than 1,200 employees, we serve nearly 100,000 customers in ninety-four offices throughout Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Since our customers are members, they have a voice in how the organization is run. Our customers help shape who we are, define the course we take moving forward, and guide us to get there.
What was the situation before the launch of the service improvement initiative?
When we began this initiative, we had two departments using the same call logging system in completely different ways. The service desk used it to track incidents to support our 1,150 teammates; the financial operations team used it for daily workflow, automated ticket creation from a data file received from the mainframe at our lending partner, and call logging. Between the service desk and the financial operations department, ninety-three analysts, technicians, and accountants were using the existing system.
We began a comprehensive requirements exercise for our future service desk and financial operation’s needs. We were looking for increased functionality, including automation, defined escalation paths, trend analysis, and real-time dashboards and reporting. We needed to formalize our ITIL processes, and so we wanted to select a tool that would enhance our ability to improve our incident, problem, change, asset, and knowledge management processes.
What was the improvement strategy?
We built our strategy from the ground up, starting with the creation of a mission statement and the building of a cross-functional team charged with drafting business requirements. Over the course of several weekly meetings, the team drafted a list of needs, wants, and must-haves, along with a list of issues, likes/dislikes, and desired features based on our existing tool. Armed with our lists, we researched products, requested demos, selected our top four candidates, and drafted our RFPs and a business case. Once we selected our new tool, the real work began: implementing and/or updating our ITIL processes.
What were some of the lessons learned?
What we did right:
- From the beginning of our journey, we engaged other Farm Credit teams and end users for advice and suggestions. This ensured adoption of our new tools and processes. While you can’t please everyone all the time, by including staff from every department, they felt a sense of ownership. Our new software was well received by our end users, and we continue to invite them to meetings as we roll out new functionalities.
- Since implementation, we’ve received calls from other companies asking about our selection and implementation processes. Our selection process was well defined and well executed, and we did enough background study and self-reflection to achieve our desire results.
- We kept our timeline and project plan flexible. This allowed us to move items up or down on the project timeline as needed. Due to issues with our change management site, it was moved up in the project plan; similarly, we moved the self-service portal from Phase 2 to Phase 3 because it made better business sense.
- We certified our entire service desk in ITIL Foundations.
- By sending two staff members to admin training, we were able to build in functionality at the beginning of the project that otherwise may not have been realized until later in the project. The staff members were able to brainstorm at the training and ask the instructor specific questions that weren’t covered by the course objectives.
What we learned:
- As we moved from presentation to presentation, there were features we liked in each product. Be sure to ask the vendor how to configure those items during the recorded webinar! We saw functionality in the software that we wanted to implement, but the implementation consultant didn’t know how to make the necessary adjustments.
- Our initial thought when we scheduled four consecutive days of product demos was to keep the information fresh in our minds. This was a mistake. By the end of the third day we were dreading sitting through more demonstrations. All of the products had begun to look alike.
- Visit companies that are using the software you’re interested in. Solicit feedback from the admins, the managers, and the everyday users on the ease of use, ease of configuration, and functionality.
- The vendor we selected was unable to provide implementation support, so they directed us to a consulting company that was familiar with their product. In retrospect, we should have either waited until they were available or built a dedicated resource for the entire project into the SOW. During the course of our implementation, we had three different consultants, and each one had their own way of configuring the system, ensuring that each new consultant had no idea how the previous consultant had configured items. Our software developer was confused during the changeovers, and when we called the support line for the software company, it took many extra hours for them to reconfigure items that were created by the consultants.
- Once you’ve narrowed your search to two or three companies, attend the admin training for each product. The extra expense to attend the training sessions will pay off in the end. What looks easy and out-of-the-box in a webinar or a live demonstration is not always the case. Ask each company what they mean by out-of-the-box? How much configuration is involved? Also, be sure to ask your references about their experiences.
Has your organization successfully implemented or improved one or more service offerings? Get recognized for your work! Apply for the HDI Service Improvement Award.