London District Catholic School Board
Asset management, sharing knowledge and a school board navigating remote work
Supporting staff in an IT department at a school board is a challenge any day.
Meet Tom Wearing – Service Centre Analyst for London District Catholic School Board. Tom has worked for LDCSB for almost 22 years. He spent 10 years in audiovisual and 12 years in the service centre. In this article, Tom will take us through his TOPdesk journey – from the beginning stages, during the pandemic, and his thoughts on the future – all through a customer’s perspective.
We put a lot of energy into our asset tagging, making sure we had all our equipment and assets tagged and imported into TOPdesk. This helped us resolve those tickets and track that history.
Tom Wearing, Service Centre Analyst, London District Catholic School Board
Managing assets and tracking requests within a school board
Having implemented TOPdesk in 2018, London District Catholic School Board had internal challenges which needed to be solved within the IT department. One of the larger problems LDCSB consistently faced was with asset management.
“[During the] initial rollout, we faced some of the bigger challenges – asset management and our knowledge base – getting that up-to-date and reliable. This is always an ongoing aspect of maintaining an ITSM tool,” explains Wearing.
By adding their assets to TOPdesk, the IT team was able to keep an inventory of everything in the back end.
“We put a lot of energy into our asset tagging, making sure we had all our equipment and assets tagged and imported into TOPdesk. This way we could solve those tickets and track that history.”
Tracking service requests from staff and students was another hurdle. Initially, whether it was a password reset, moving a whole classroom, or installing new equipment – the IT department was using a single form to track all requests.
“Now, we have a more complex portal where people get led to specific forms, and we are given the detailed information of what we need to complete the requests,” says Wearing. “We did a lot of work in our service request area – where we have requests for ordering, reassigning, relocating equipment, making staff changes and requesting software. This has been beneficial for us.”
Closure codes in TOPdesk were a positive for the team.
“We defined about 80 different closure codes, for example ‘password reset’, ‘replaced a lamp’, or ‘ restart of a server’. It allows us to classify incidents after they are resolved rather than initially when we receive the work order. This was a big bonus for us – it helped categorize what we did, once we had all the information. It’s a stronger place to report from. It makes it easier to categorize on the front end when you first get the ticket – when you aren’t basing on symptoms.” We use our initial classification to record the affected service and determine priority and operator.”
LDCSB in the pandemic – transitioning staff and students to the ‘work from home’ life
When the pandemic hit, many IT departments in educational organizations scrambled to get their staff digitally up and running from home. For Tom and the IT team at LDCSB, the biggest challenge was delivering devices out to families who didn’t have the technology at home. This included Chromebooks, workstations, laptops, and internet access. This was a big undertaking for the department.
“For the service centre, the first immediate challenge when we went to working from home was that we didn’t have phones – people couldn’t call us. We had to rely on work orders and the chat. With TOPdesk, it allowed us to create some custom requests based on what the need for the day was.”
On the self-service portal, a sub-page was added with virtual instruction of common requests. For example, password resets for students and staff, reporting issues with Microsoft Teams, and managing students who were moving from in-school to virtual.
“I was able to monitor the most popular knowledge base articles people were reading, and post them in the portal. This way it was a ‘one-stop-place’ for pretty much everything you needed when we first started getting rolling with working from home.”
Microsoft Teams was a new territory for teachers. The organization had been using it for years, but there was never really a necessity for them to use the tool in their day-to-day. The moment the organization started working from home, teachers had to revolve their entire day around it. Most of the staff learned how to use the tool quickly. If they didn’t, the IT department ensured to get them up and running.
Password resets were another hurdle when transitioning to remote working. Teachers would usually reset student passwords on domain. When students started working from home, the application didn’t work off domain, so the service centre took on this responsibility.
“The most noteworthy change in the IT department was how the support shifted,” explains Wearing. “Before the pandemic, the nature of the requests received were network issues, workstations, printing, wifi – you know, school-based issues.”
With the transition to remote working, these issues quickly changed.
“These incidents went away almost completely and were replaced with requests for the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), Teams, cloud-based services, working with OneDrive, and different things that took the place work orders we were no longer receiving.”
With phones not being available, staff were encouraged to use the self-service portal (SSP) now even more than ever.
“Whenever you put somebody in a spot where they have less choices, you learn what you have to pretty quickly,” says Wearing. “We’ve had our portal for awhile, so that wasn’t too bad, but there was definitely an uptake in people learning their way around and finding the requests that they needed.”
Supporting students’ parents
Prior to COVID, LDCSB only supported their own staff at the service centre. Once lockdown was in place, the team was forced to adapt and start supporting the parents and students at home.
“The service centre was running from home March to mid June. We turned on TOPdesk chat, and that was a big help to us.
Parents and students could log into chat and engage with the LDCSB service centre. And if the team was unable to solve the incident within the chat, they would quickly turn that into a call.
“We would put the request in the teacher’s name,” explains Wearing. “This way, we could follow-up with the teacher and get the request resolved for the child. When the service centre returned to work, we were able to offer calls again. We just posted a number for parents and teachers to call in and continued doing the same method – taking the call, logging the ticket in the teacher’s name, and working with the teacher to resolve the incident.”
I think once we return to full-time class instruction, we’ll be a more capable organization with our customers and IT department. We learned a lot, and are going to come away stronger.
Tom Wearing, Service Centre Analyst, London District Catholic School Board
Positive outcomes of the pandemic transition
In the last year, the IT department at LDCSB forced staff to learn technology and integrate it into their day-to-day work lives.
“People rely on familiar ways of doing things. I think that will continue.”
Parents were forced to be more involved in their child’s education. A lot learned they have full and immediate access to assessment and teacher feedback, which they might not have realized was available to them. But now they were using it.
With the new IT strategy of working from home, there has been a big change in how the organization uses TOPdesk.
“I have noticed a big uptake on our knowledge articles in TOPdesk. I’ve seen a bigger of variety of items being used – people know it’s there now. They know how to navigate and find the information they need.”
Wearing sees a positive work structure moving forward:
“I think once we return to full-time class instruction, we’ll be a more capable organization with our customers and IT department. We learned a lot, and are going to come away stronger.”
Final thoughts: The future of the service management industry
“I think a lot more people will be working from home. IT people always knew it was possible, but we never really had to test it. We’ve all learned to make it effective – more effective than we thought it could be”, says Wearing. “In our school board, its new for a service centre to be providing support to our community directory – as opposed to going through the school. Once the ‘new normal’ comes around, I think that it will be a big benefit for the students and the school board. I don’t think it will be too much additional work, once things have settled down.”