PowerSchool’s mission is to improve the education experience through innovative technology. Their platform for K-12 serves more than 32 million students, 66 million parents, and 100 million users in over 70 countries around the world. They provide secure and compliant online solutions, including registration and school choice, student information systems, learning management and classroom collaboration, assessment, analytics, and special education management. The platform empowers teachers and drives student growth through digital classroom capabilities and engages families through real-time communications across any device.
PowerSchool’s IT Service Desk is currently comprised of 27 engineers, technicians, and technical managers in the US, Canada, and India. Besides supporting over 2000 employees and contractors in those countries, handling their reactive and proactive requests, the same team handles project and implementation work outside the service desk realm.
For the past 12 months, the total ticket volume for IT related contacts was 16,749, with 40.6% incidents and 59.4% service requests. The majority of tickets (90.6%) are created via the self-service portal. The remaining requests are via phone (6%), chat/email (3%), and walk-ups. Besides IT, the service desk system is used by 12 other organizations in PowerSchool (Talent, Facilities, Accounting, Hosting, etc.) to handle their respective service workflows, with an overall ticket volume of nearly 67,000 tickets for the past 12 months.
What was the situation before the launch of the service improvement initiative?
PowerSchool scaled rapidly, acquiring seven new companies in a 16-month period, expanding their employee base from 400 to 1400. Employees struggled to collaborate on and manage IT requests, as employees from the seven different companies brought their previous experience and processes with them, each working in a very different way. This created inefficiencies and impacted both the agent and requestor satisfaction levels. It wasn’t just challenging to get things done, it wasn’t clear what had to get done.
It wasn’t just challenging to get things done, it wasn’t clear what had to get done.
The primary support organization, which started with 3 people and grew to 20, focused primarily on end-user support requests—incidents—to keep the networks, computer services, and desktops running. In terms of process, the biggest challenge they faced was the lack of structure in service management. IT was reacting to issues rather than being proactive. There was also no predictability in workload, and they didn’t even have SLAs for simple requests like password resets or laptop requests.
Requests were scattered across emails, phone calls, SharePoint, Excel, and other sources. There was no single aggregated system where people could go and have visibility into service requests and manage their IT needs. Employees didn’t have a way to request IT help for simple, routine issues—everything was a one-off request—and there was no differentiation between incidents and service requests.
Volker Otto, an ITSM veteran, was brought in as Vice President of IT to scale and mature the IT organization and streamline PowerSchool’s internal support. “We were operating under a startup mode where everyone does everything. I realized we needed to change that and bring more structure into the system. There were no service offerings that were defined to our users, so no one knew what they were accountable for. Even externally, we were not able to manage vendor relationships and keep them accountable,” said Volker.
“We received feedback from the other departments that IT wasn’t doing so well,” said Volker. “I also noticed that IT wasn’t operating strategically…IT was more reactive to issues on the ground than thinking ahead and being a strategic partner to the business.”
What was the improvement strategy?
PowerSchool quickly realized that solving for just one component of the IT organization wasn’t going to work. They needed to define services and create a service catalog where none existed. And they needed to establish SLAs.
They also needed to define processes that everyone could follow. They looked for a new service desk solution to help with overall IT operation, workflow management, and efficiency. Volker determined that Freshservice met all of his criteria, with the two most important being speed of implementation and usability.
They wanted to keep the measurement of improvement results simple and actionable, so they focused on one key metric: SLA compliance. They assessed how people were currently working and looked at industry standards. An initial assessment showed that PowerSchool was at a 60–65% SLA compliance. Volker and his team wanted this higher, so he set 95% as the target by the end of the first year of implementation.
How was the success of this initiative defined? How has that success affected business objectives?
The impact on the organization was tremendous. PowerSchool very quickly began seeing results with expectations being set and managed on the fly, standardization of processes and workflows for requests, improvement in response times, and better management of system downtimes.
People very quickly began adopting the system as they saw results. This was validated and proven as the number of submitted tickets increased dramatically after implementation. Because people were entering requests through one easy-to-find channel, the tickets were correctly being routed, prioritized, and addressed more quickly and efficiently.
Specifically, Volker saw improvement in two key areas:
SLA compliance. The team quickly hit their 95% goal within nine months of implementation.
Trust in IT. The perception of IT began improving almost immediately with the implementation of
"Overall, the team morale and overall experience improved significantly,” said Volker. “Showing them their metrics consistently and making it visible ensured that no one missed out on the work they’re supposed to do and also created some healthy competition.”
When the team hit their target of 95% SLA compliance in a short time period while also taking on three times the volume of tickets, their reputation was restored. And because the business processes were so efficient, the business side took notice and began requesting that businesses processes be included in the scope of the project.
Employees are now more productive and thus provide a better customer experience, which directly impacts the bottom line. “We impact millions and millions of students, teachers and parents every day. I strongly believe that you have to make employees happy and they will make customers happy,” said Volker. “Our focus is to enable our employees to deliver great experiences to our customers. The fact that we’re directly impacting so many students is very motivating for us.”
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