Essex County Fire & Rescue Service streamline service and champion collaboration using Cherwell Software

Martin Chester, Service Delivery Manager at Essex County Fire and Rescue Service describes how his team successfully implemented a self-service portal to reduce calls into the service desk by 10% and install a powerful new change management process, with the help of Cherwell Software…

Can you provide us with some background on Essex County Fire and Rescue?

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service has a simple vision – to make Essex a safe place to live, work and travel. The service is one of the largest in the UK, covering 1,338 square miles and 1.7 million people.

With over a thousand whole time and on-call firefighters and around 300 control and support personnel, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service is a large and complex operation. The scope of its support area, and the fact that lives are potentially at risk, mean that it is essential for everything within the service to operate smoothly and efficiently.

Alongside essential frontend emergency response capabilities, the service also needs efficient and reliable backend systems in place for supporting staff such as its ICT and HR teams

What improvements were you looking to make to your systems?

The main priority was to introduce a self-service portal to allow staff to log requests easily and reduce the number of calls to the support team. As a longstanding customer of Cherwell’s IT Service Management platform, we decided it was time to revert to the out-of-the-box solution so that we could cleanly update to the newest version and introduce more functionality more freely. In addition, we also implemented several key features through the Cherwell platform, unifying processes including approvals, internal incident reporting and problem and change management.

The Cherwell platform allows for a fantastic level of customisation and it is used to its full potential by our in-house team. Since refreshing our use of the Cherwell system and updating to the latest version, we’ve seen several powerful benefits to operations, and have several other implementations planned.

Can you describe the benefits you’ve enjoyed from this project?

Our change process is particularly slick now. Previously, we had no firm change control in place and our weekly change meetings focused on reviewing past changes rather than looking ahead. With the new system in place, we have full overview of the changes that are due to be implemented and can discuss any issues and risks for upcoming changes, as well as rollbacks if anything goes wrong. We have, so far, not had a single change issue under the new approach.

The introduction of the self-service portal has been an integral part of our drive to improve efficiencies and streamline core processes for both the service desk staff and the users. Prior to the updated self-service portal, the team were receiving 2,500 new inbound tickets a month. Now, for the first time, the number of calls to the support team has been reduced by 9% and 10% of new tickets are now handled through the portal. Our goal is to reduce the number of new inbound tickets to 1,700 a month.

How will you use Cherwell’s solution to continue to improve services?

An important goal for us is to become more proactive compared to our current reactive stance, and the visibility and flexibility afforded by the Cherwell solution is a huge advantage in achieving this. A new knowledge base is currently under development to enable staff to resolve calls during their first point of contact, without needing to raise additional tickets. Our current project is to introduce a new automated approach to our reporting system.

The existing manual system can be very time consuming and involves multiple steps such as exporting into Excel. We hope to save a great deal of time for our team by automating as much of the process as possible. Our reports were also previously quite limited, but we are planning to expand the scope with the increased visibility afforded by the Cherwell dashboard.

We are also planning to add automated password reset functionality and an automated equipment request form to replace the current time-consuming manual process. A new notification system will enable a much higher level of communication between staff and the support team.

The team is also planning to implement several other features such as furthering its asset management capabilities and utilising the project portfolio management (PPM) functionality offered by Cherwell. Work is underway to introduce support for web browsers, iOS and Android devices to enable staff to take the system with them anywhere and log requests directly.

Are there any other wider business benefits that this implementation has provided?

A key benefit of implementing the latest version of Cherwell across the business has been that the ICT and HR teams are on the same system for the first time, allowing for greater collaboration. The HR department is implementing new features to improve processes such as monthly reviews, and the two departments are working together to automate the starters, movers and leavers process.

Additionally, the new change management process has also been so successful that we opted to expand its use to include external suppliers as well. Suppliers now must provide us with their change plans and go through our change management process as well. This approach has gone down well with our suppliers as it lets us work together more closely, enabling us all to have greater control, governance and visibility around the impact of planned changes.

What does the future hold for your partnership with Cherwell?

The possibilities presented by the Cherwell platform are almost endless and we’re very excited to explore new options. We have plans to further integrate the IT and HR uses of the platform with other elements of the business. We are also looking further ahead and are keen to start bringing in self-learning elements like artificial intelligence and machine learning, which we could eventually use to address support calls automatically.

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