STScI Surges to a New Level of Service Management Efficiency with ServiceNow

S. Reed (reed[at]

STARS logo

Space Telescope Science Institute has been on a journey to modernize and automate business services across the Enterprise. The IT Services Division has been leading the charge, utilizing technology platforms and solutions such as Box, Confluence, Jira, and ServiceNow. 

Looking back in time at how the Institute was working just five years ago compared to how we are working today illustrates just how far we have come on our digital journey. Five years ago, we were using email and manual paper forms to request most services and obtain approvals. This required printing forms, filling them out manually, walking around to get approvals and signatures, scanning signed forms, and emailing them to the group that would fulfill the request. This was an inefficient and tedious use of time for employees and especially draining on our administrative staff. Division Administrators were tasked with making sure these requests were fulfilled and that necessary approvals were obtained. This required them to track who had or hadn't completed the necessary documentation, send out reminders, track down where processes failed, and ensure that we had the proper signatures, approvals and documentation in place that is required to meet our contractual obligations.

With the Institute's strategic goal of modernizing our business processes, IT Services began to consolidate, standardize, and improve the way in which Institute staff make requests. Since implementing the ServiceNow solution the end of 2017 for the JWST Help Desk, shortly thereafter IT Services moved to the platform, followed by the Hubble Help Desk, OPO Help Desk, Archives Help Desk, HR, and BRC. In the STARS portal—the Space Telescope Action Request System—there are more than 144 unique requests with automated workflows. These workflows reach out to other technologies, such as Jira, Slack, Confluence, Pager Duty, print servers, etc.

a collection of workflows encompassed in STARSThese processes and workflows range from requesting access to applications and restricted areas around the Institute, to ordering equipment and software, to tracking property location and ownership, to requesting to telework or asking for a leave of absence. The challenge IT Services faced included replacing an email-based manual request system that was viewed as easy for the requestor to submit, but much more challenging for the staff required to fulfill, and a culture that doesn't necessarily embrace change. The way in which these processes worked did not comply with the standards used for IT service management within organizations, and Institute staff often had to request services by phone, email, or in person, rather than through a single system interface. IT Services embarked on a four-year project to modernize and transform how the Institute works. We immediately saw the potential of the ServiceNow Platform to transform IT service delivery and operate as a broader business services management tool for the organization. We needed a platform that would empower our people to work smarter and grow with our missions as we pursued better employee engagement and outcomes. IT Services was particularly impressed by the flexibility of the platform and how quickly it could pervade the organization. Within the first three years of implementing the ServiceNow Platform, there are already about 150 unique automated process flows across IT, HR, BRC, and the Director's Office.

In September of 2020, ITSD and HR commenced the first release of ServiceNow HR Case Management. This implementation enabled HR to make significant improvements to the forms and automated workflows for Teleworking, Leave Request, Parental Leave Request, Position Requisition, Conflict of Interest, and automate the Bonus Nomination Request process. For the Bonus Review Committee, we received feedback from Dave Liska, Associate Director of Engineering and Technology: "We used ServiceNow this year to manage the 2020 staff bonus nomination process. This is a fair amount of work since over 10% of staff are usually nominated, and the timeline for review is short. ServiceNow helped us considerably by reducing the effort and time required, improving the accuracy of the data collected, assisting the Bonus Committee with their review, and streamlined the data reporting needed by HR and Payroll to finalize the process."

Deploying ServiceNow has enabled STScI to operate a rigorous, systemic approach to delivering business services, and apply industry standards to align IT services with the broader needs of the Institute. IT Services views ServiceNow as a strategic platform that will play a key role in modernizing service delivery across the enterprise. While IT Services initial focus was on the mission help desks and IT service management, they have shifted to broader service management, with many of the new workflows created for HR, BRC, and non-IT related teams. IT Services will continue to use ServiceNow to automate and digitize services no matter where they are in our organization. Our vision is for anything needed at the Institute can be found in STARS and we want to make work easier wherever possible.