University of Bradford Transforms Its HR Function

Executive Summary

In the last few years the University of Bradford’s human resources (HR) function has undergone some significant restructuring as part of a drive to improve quality and performance across the university. ServiceNow, implemented by Fruition Partners UK, has transformed HR service delivery by facilitating the introduction of a multi-tiered service model. As a result the HR team has been able to reduce the level of resource required to deal with transactional work requests and demands, for example through a 24/7 self-service portal, enabling staff to focus on transformational organisational development programmes.

Company Background

With almost 50 years of academic excellence, Bradford is a leading Technology University. The University has continued to grow its international reputation and course provision and is one of very few research-intensive technology universities in the UK. It received its Royal Charter in 1966 but its origins date back to the 1860s and today it has nearly 12,000 students.

Management Restructure

Restructuring of the management of the University began in 2013 following the appointment of a new Vice-Chancellor (the equivalent of the CEO), Brian Cantor, whose goal was to improve Bradford’s standing in the national university rankings and restore its reputation for quality and innovation.

As part of the restructure Joanne Marshall was appointed as Director of Human Resources and OD and immediately began a review of the HR function. The restructure of this function was urgent as it was needed to underpin the organisational and cultural change that was taking place throughout the University, providing support for new line management and leadership.

Joanne Marshall comments, “The function was not really fit for purpose, given the University’s ambitions. It was not well-regarded within the organisation, it had no clear specialist capabilities and a poor reporting structure.”

Multi-tier Model is Foundation for Change

Key to transformation was the introduction of a multi-tiered service delivery model. Gary McFarlane, who joined as Head of Operational HR in February 2014, has had a key role in leading this project from the beginning. He says, “It was clear from the outset that technology would be key to delivering the new model, through automation and self-service.”

Before the introduction of the multi-tiered service delivery model, HR service delivery was rudimentary in structure: essentially all work was carried out by HR Advisors supported by administrators, regardless of the nature or complexity of the task. The new model uses technology built around ServiceNow to enable the people in the team to focus on the more complex and value-added roles, while automating basic requests for information or  support. In a nutshell, the model comprises four tiers:

  • Tier 0: Self-service portal providing access to information, help and tracking of requests via a user-friendly web-based interface.
  • Tier 1: The HR Service Centre staffed by a team of 10 who provide the first line of contact for requests or issues that can’t be handled by the self-service portal.
  • Tier 2: Ten experienced HR Advisors who provide more specialist support on specific issues.
  • Tier 3: Four HR Business Partners who focus on high-level organisational change issues.

Prior to acquiring ServiceNow, the use of technology in the HR function had been limited to a basic intranet which was seen as a bolt-on, rather than core to the service.

University of Bradford Dashboard_585x321

Gary McFarlane says, “In designing the multi-tier service delivery model, our goal was to answer as many queries as possible at Tier 0 and to use IT to support our team if a query needed to be escalated to them, through automation of processes and enquiry tracking. Our goal ultimately is to improve the quality of support we provide, through a single point of contact.”

Track Record Wins for ServiceNow and Fruition Partners

The decision to use ServiceNow and Fruition Partners UK was made following a formal tendering process led by theUniversity’s IT department who were looking for a service management solution that would work across a range of departments including IT and HR.

Gary McFarlane says: “We had a clear idea of what we wanted and ServiceNow met all our requirements: it had an impressive reputation in the market and a good track record in similar HR applications, and we could see that any flaws had already been ironed out so it was pretty much ready to go ‘out of the box’. However it’s also fully customisable around our workflows, so it could be made to look and feel just as we wanted, plus we knew it would be suitable for use by the many staff who are not highly IT literate.

“Fruition Partners UK were selected as our implementation partner because they have a strong track record in both HR and public sector ServiceNow projects.”

The implementation happened rapidly, with the HR function leading the way across the organisation. Most of the work was done in October and November 2014, with the system ready for testing and feedback from pilot groups in January 2015, after the Christmas break.

Gary McFarlane relied heavily on Fruition Partners for the implementation as there was no in-house ServiceNow expertise to draw on.

“The consultant who worked with us was excellent: we just told him what we wanted in terms of workflows and look and feel, and he made it happen. It was really helpful that he combined IT expertise with a background in the university sector so he understood our culture and how we work. Fruition were extremely professional, very good at understanding our needs and we learnt from each other.”

‘Big Bang’ Launch

The system went live across the University at the beginning of February 2015, in tandem with the launch of a new HR website featuring a big button to access the self-service portal on the home page.

Gary McFarlane felt totally confident in their ‘big bang’ launch, as testing had shown how user-friendly the system is, and that no training would be required. 1,900 core employees, plus between 500 to 1,000 casual staff, have access to the system and the feedback was immediately positive. In fact, the training that had been organised for key administrators proved not to be essential as many felt they could get to grips with the system without it.

The ServiceNow home page offers users three options (see below), with the goal of enabling staff to answer most of their queries themselves using the self-service functions, for example checking terms of employment and filling in automated forms, for example for holiday requests. The ServiceNow Knowledge Base module has been key to enabling this functionality.

University of Bradford Case Study_600x350

If a staff member can’t deal with the issue themselves, they can press the ‘Get Help’ button which escalates their query to Tier 1, where it is ‘triaged’ by the Service Centre and, if they can’t deal with it directly, it can be referred to the appropriate specialist at Tier 2 or 3.

As the image shows, users can track the progress of their requests automatically, and they can also access automated processes and forms that support the entire employee life-cycle.

Gary McFarlane gives an example: “In the past, if a team was taking on a new employee they had to fill in a physical paper request form, with a pen, and send it to HR using the internal postal system. Now it’s all done via the portal, and almost completely automated.”

Immediate Results

Although the system has only been live for a few months, it is already delivering the results that the HR team were looking for.

In particular, levels of user satisfaction, which are tracked automatically by ServiceNow, are very high: around 90% of users are either ‘very satisfied’ or ‘satisfied’ across a range of measures including ease of using the service, the quality of information received, and the response time.

“We can’t measure this against data from before the system was implemented as it wasn’t being collected,” comments Gary McFarlane. “However, anecdotal information tells us that the new system is much better and the qualitative feedback we get is extremely positive too. People like the visibility of the progress of their requests and the fact that they can get information 24/7.”

From the HR management team’s perspective there are also substantial benefits resulting from the sophisticated reporting available within ServiceNow. The dashboards and activity reports (see the example below) enable managers to see how many issues in different areas, from discipline to grievances and secondments, are being handled at any time, and how quickly they are being resolved and at what tier. Key performance indicators and service level agreements have been set, which will enable the team to monitor performance over time, balancing efficiency against the user feedback scores that they receive.

Already it appears that the self-service strategy is delivering results in that around 45% of employees accessing the system have been able to resolve their query at Tier 0. Approximately 45% are then resolved at Tier 1 and only around 10% have to be escalated to Tier 2 or 3. Ultimately, Gary McFarlane’s goal is to have around 60% to 70% of enquiries dealt with by the self-service portal but he recognises that it’s early days and that there is more communication needed to promote the facility to employees, as well as a need to continue to improve the information available on the system.

Organisational Changes Supports Rise in the Rankings

“Cost-savings were not part of our master plan”, he adds, “But the automation of routine enquiries has significantly reduced the amount of time that HR staff need to spend on telephone calls. This freeing up of resources has enabled us to deploy people on ‘value-added’ organisational development work which is all part of the cultural shift going on in the University.”

He is very clear that this is just the beginning and that there is much more they could be doing with ServiceNow in the future, particularly in terms of automation. “Phase 2 is some way down the line but we’re already collating ideas about what we’d like to achieve.” Meanwhile the IT department are working on their own implementation to support IT service management, with a roll-out expected later in 2015.

Looking at the bigger picture, it’s clear that Fruition Partners and ServiceNow have helped the HR department achieve the goals of its restructuring: improving service delivery and supporting organisational and cultural change across the University. This in turn is bearing fruit for the University of Bradford’s strategic goals: in recent figures it achieved the highest rise in overall ranking of all UK universities in the 2015 Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey results, leaping into the top 50 and rising from 80th place in 2014 to 45th in this year’s survey.

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