A Service Desk journey to agile

This blog post has been written by Fernando Metallo - Senior IT Support Specialist at Vicinity Centres

At Vicinity we support more than 1200 staff, including permanent team members and contractors. The service desk is made up of 7 team members with six located in Melbourne and one in Sydney. The day-to-day issues we deal with are the same as you'd find in most organisations. We provide hardware and software support, mobile device support, printer management, network support and user account management.

Vicinity implemented agile across its corporate offices and centres in 2016. Prior to implementing agile, the service desk functioned in a traditional style, with the daily focus on the service request queue. Service requests entered a queue and one technician would be responsible for assigning requests out evenly amongst the rest of the team.

Some team members seemed to cope well with this method but others found it challenging. Some team members would accumulate more than 40 requests and struggle to get the numbers down to a manageable level with many requests overdue by a number of few weeks.

I had heard about agile but didn't really understand what it was and how it could help us. I heard whispers about how we would overhaul our processes and words like 'trust' and 'transparency' being bandied about.

At our agile introduction meeting those whispers became a reality. We were going to do away with our call assignment process. As requests entered the queue each service desk technician would be responsible for picking and choosing requests. My first thought was that this was simply not going to work. Could we trust that each team member would pick up requests from the queue themselves without being prompted? Surely the queue would eventually get out of control? Give it time I was told.

Well, in only a couple of months we went from 300 overall outstanding requests to a little more than 100 then to a steady 70 to 80 requests today. So how did we do it?

First we adopted a 15 minute stand-up meeting and met each morning in front of our agile wall. The stand ups helped us with knowledge sharing while the board provided us with transparency.

During the stand ups we discussed outstanding requests, overdue requests and any problems or issues that we felt the team needed to be across. By being more transparent and having open and honest conversations with each other we found that the work just flowed. Even though the agile board highlighted stats such as open and closed requests it wasn’t just about the numbers. It gave us a discussion points and an insight into our speed of response and helped focus us on delivering a better quality service.

We also started retrospective meetings which added more constructive discussions within the team about what was working, what wasn’t working and what we were unsure about.

As other teams in the IT department start to adopt agile, the service desk's next focus will be on problem trend analysis and an attempt to reduce the amount of requests entering the queue.

Our agile journey has been short and there are still a lot of things we need to refine and get better at. But what I’ve learnt in this time is that the core of agile is about placing more trust in the team and having a mindset that everyone is already doing their best. Sometimes this isn't easy but so far it’s definitely proven to be effective both for our team and for the wider organisation.

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