The University of Pittsburgh provides technical support and delivery to the business and financial areas of the university through its Financial Information Systems (FIS) department.  With 25 employees, FIS’s technical staff provides innovative solutions through the strategic use of people, processes, and technology for business advancement and cost savings.  FIS is responsible for providing resources to manage projects, design processes, develop IT standards, implement and maintain systems, protect assets, secure information, analyze data, establish audit controls, and implement policies.  All this serves to support the university’s mission of teaching, research, and service.

The service and support processes leveraged by our FIS department are based on a leading best practices framework for service desk excellence known as Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL). It was imperative that our department choose a solution that adhered to ITIL standards but also allowed for customization within our existing IT environment.

Previously, we developed a proprietary solution that tracked incident, change, and configuration management.  However, as our support processes matured, my team and I were limited by the silos of information stored in each system.  The product lacked the capability to easily link various processes and offered no analysis of trends or data.

In 2006, we conducted extensive due diligence to find a help desk product that would align with our business processes by changing and creating new business rules and other customizations.  An ideal solution for us was one that adhered to ITIL standards, while simultaneously being very flexible and customizable.

After reviewing a variety of competitive solutions, our department selected and deployed Alloy Navigator from Alloy Software, a provider of IT service and asset management software solutions.

Other solutions that we evaluated were either too expensive or inflexible to suit our needs.  Alloy Navigator gave us the ability to combine all of our service and support processes in one system with a common database.

For our department within the University of Pittsburgh, Alloy Navigator has evolved into a central management system for all of our service and support needs.  Our department uses Alloy Navigator as a help desk system, computer and network inventory system, change management database, software licensing system, internal and external knowledge-base and self-service portal, as well as the main SLA (Service Level Agreement) compliance and reporting tool. 

Our department handles approximately 500 support requests per month, including technical support related to the business and financial areas of the university.  Support includes any issues related to help desk, desktop and mobile computing, network services, and application development.

The Alloy Navigator product enables our team to create custom business logic for incident, problem, and change tickets to follow the implementation of these ITIL support processes.  These rules help enforce required fields, send eMail notifications, and automatically update information.  We have tailored many of the field names to fit our existing business processes and standards; this speaks to the flexibility of the Alloy Navigator product. Aside from business logic, field names, and categorization, we also utilize the Crystal Reports to provide us with analytics on assets, incidents and, changes.  This is extremely helpful to our entire institution.

Alloy Navigator runs on a single Windows 2003 server that includes Microsoft IIS 6 web server components and the SQL Server 2005 database.  Alloy Navigator sends alerts through the FIS Exchange eMail system.  In addition, FIS users employ Internet Explorer 7 to access the support portal for submitting requests and searching the knowledge base.  The technical services staff uses the "thick" client on Windows XP for day-to-day operations, and we also have a file share on a Windows 2003 server that stores computer inventory records.  These records are imported every 30 minutes into the Alloy Navigator database.

Since deploying Alloy Navigator, the most valuable benefit is the ability to centralize all service and support processes into one database.  We can now manage our support operations much more efficiently by combining incident, problem, change, and configuration data.  We also were able to eliminate the proprietary systems that handled these processes individually, which were becoming too costly to maintain.

Other benefits include improved communications, enhanced performance, better accuracy, as well as significant cost and time savings.

Alloy Navigator has improved communications within our organization, both internally within FIS and externally with users.  Users can go online to check the status of a help ticket and use our extensive knowledge base.  Internally, our technical support agents now have the ability to view all incidents, anticipate issues that will require change, and quickly resolve incidents on a daily basis.

We also realized enhanced performance and improved accuracy since deploying Alloy Navigator.  We can now quickly and easily find previous incident, problem, and change tickets using the "Advanced Search" feature.  Agents can now track, on a per activity basis, the time spent on every change, incident, and problem, ensuring accuracy and the highest levels of productivity.

Links:

The University of Pittsburgh

Alloy Navigator

John Duska is Director of Technical Services and Information Security Officer for Financial Information Systems (FIS) at the University of Pittsburgh