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Not many businesses manage $100 billion in assets with just 200 employees. “We’re a small organization, but we do a lot of stuff,” says Tim Short, who manages IT service delivery at AgriBank. He and his team of 55 IT colleagues serve 17 Farm Credit Associations in 15 states. The Farm Credit Associations own AgriBank.
Just a few years ago, the Bank’s IT team found itself struggling to connect with and serve those Farm Credit Associations and internal AgriBank departments. “We needed to change ourselves into more of a service organization. That is a little different from being just another department in the Bank,” says Short. Each Farm Credit Association customer has unique needs and Short knew the IT service management (ITSM) solution his team was using wasn’t flexible enough to serve so many groups.
“We had a ticket software package we’d been using for many years, but it really didn’t provide the value we needed,” says Short. They decided it was time to update their technology, which kicked off a process improvement project that involved reviewing every interaction IT had with customers, as well as how those interactions were tracked. We found we were doing our job inconsistently and sporadically,” says Short.
In 2014, Short’s team created a vision for a brighter future, outlining everything their ideal tool would do, including tracking, reporting and other requirements. They narrowed their search down to just two solutions. Short installed and ran both for a month, “and the team just hammered on them.” Then, he brought the results of his research to a review team that included people from HR, finance and other non-IT departments.
To everyone’s surprise, an auditor made the decision clear very quickly. He said, “When I look at this system over here, I see an Excel spreadsheet. When I look at Cherwell, I see something very similar to my iPhone. It’s easy to use. It’s much more dynamic. I want to use the iPhone.” Cherwell won the bid.
“Now our executive team has the ability, at the click of a button, to go into Cherwell and see the status of all of the strategic projects that we have going on across the Bank.”
Tim Short - Service Delivery Manager, Information Services for the AgriBank IT Group
Before Cherwell® Service Management had been implemented, departments within AgriBank asked Short to use it. “One of the directors from our treasury organization heard about what we were doing. He came down and said, ‘I want to be a part of this. I want my call center to be using that tool.’”
Next, the accounting department heard what was happening and asked to be involved. “We have been bringing on different groups ever since,” says Short.
Before Cherwell, these groups, nearly all of which interact directly with the Farm Credit Association customers, used email to track customer interactions. Team members would go into a group email box, pick an email, respond to it, and move it to the deleted file. “There were very few metrics, very little tracking. We really had no idea what work that was coming in the door, who was doing what, and how they were doing it,” says Short.
Thanks to the codeless architecture of Cherwell Service Management, Short can quickly build or design something unique for every group’s needs. He now has 10 email monitors running on the Cherwell platform, and more than 30 different departments at the Bank are enjoying significant efficiencies as a result.
Prior to implementing Cherwell, the IT team didn’t offer self-service portals to business users. Now, they have two, one for internal customers at AgriBank and another for the Farm Credit Association customers. “We put a lot in place so our customers know what services we provide, and know how to request those services for themselves,” says Short.
One of the biggest benefits of the new internal portal has been more information on workload. According to Short, many departments felt understaffed but didn’t have the data to justify a request to management for additional resources. The portal provides much-needed data on work volume and type, so it is clear whether (and what type of) resources are needed to support the business.
Externally, the portal has helped IT be more visible and accessible. “A lot of customers didn’t know whom to call for certain things,” says Short. “They would remember Tim’s name and say, ‘Hey, Tim, will you do this for me?’ Then Tim had to track down the person in the right department to fulfill the request,” says Short. Now, each request goes directly to the team that needs to respond to it, and everything is done faster on behalf of the customer.
Short has taken Cherwell well beyond ticket management. “We’ve developed an entire project management office for strategic projects at the Bank level,” says Short.
The executive team tracks high-profile projects weekly and monthly with Cherwell. “We’ve developed the screens, dashboards and reporting. Now our executive team has the ability, at the click of a button, to go into Cherwell and see the status of all of the strategic projects we have going on across the Bank,” says Short.
How important are these projects? One is designed to ensure compliance with new capital regulations. It will take two years to complete and will cost the Bank $250,000. “This is really, really important. If we don’t meet capital regulations, our ability to do business could be negatively impacted,” says Short.
The risk management group requested help managing a list of all vendors doing business with AgriBank, along with a consistent way to assess the risk to the Bank if one of those vendors disappears. “We now provide a risk management system within vendor management so all vendors are rated and tracked against the same criteria,” says Short.
Finally, audit remediation has also enjoyed a boost thanks to Cherwell. “We have umpteen audits every year because we’re a financial institution,” says Short. Often an audit returns a finding that needs to be remediated. “We’ve built within the system an audit remediation module. It tracks our audits and the responses, very much like a project,” says Short.
“The story here is that the business is coming to us and saying, ‘Hey, we’ve heard what you’re doing with Cherwell. Can you help us in this area to track what we need to track?’” says Short. “In the past to do a report, you were digging through email to find data for the report—it was a lot of manual work. You had to talk to a whole bunch of people, because there was no one single source of information.”
Short feels proud of the new level of service AgriBank’s IT team is offering the Farm Credit Associations. “It all has to do with communication and statistics. They are both our customers and our owners. We need to be very transparent to them about what’s going on,” says Short.
Short’s team is working on more portals to address other needs, such as contract employee onboarding.“We’re going to continue to develop our portals for our customers to provide good information to them. Basically, it’s all about them,” says Short.
Internally, the more than 30 departments that use Cherwell to track their tasks have processed 82,000 tickets in their first two years on the system. Short is excited about that pace and wants to keep improving AgriBank’s access to information so everyone can do their jobs efficiently and effectively.
“We’re greatly improving transparency,” he says. “And Cherwell has played—and will continue to play—a key role in the process.”
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