A customer success story built on a lasting partnership.
As 2018 came to a close, Segra (formerly Lumos Networks) decided they would start the new year by phasing out their legacy ITSM platform. It was now time to adopt a fresh technology that offered far more flexibility and automation. 2019 would usher in a new era of streamlined ITSM processes with a much-improved IT consumer support experience. They would also achieve (finally) an accurate and complete CMDB to include dynamic application and service maps. This, coupled with automated processes and customizable workflows, would result in much more effective request fulfillment, change management and incident response.
After careful consideration and vetting over the previous year, Segra selected Virima as their new ITSM and solutions provider. To shed light on Segra’s journey during the first two years of adoption and growth on the new platform and Virima’s contribution to their success, interviews were conducted with key stakeholders from both teams.
Below is an excerpt from our interview with Robert Roberts, Director of IT Operations and Support at Segra, and Mike Bombard, Chief Operations Officer at Virima.
Segra is a leading fiber infrastructure bandwidth company operating in the Eastern U.S. Segra’s advanced fiber infrastructure network connects more than 10,000 locations spread over 30,000 miles, run by six data centers across nine states. Segra is a provider of Ethernet, dark fiber, MPLS, advanced data centre services, IP and managed services, and voice and cloud solutions. In addition, Segra also offers high-speed, fiber-based integrated telecommunications services to both residential and business customers.
With Virima’s automated CMDB discovery and flexible ITSM solutions, Segra was able to:
Automate Incident routing to 18 discrete IT departments
Automate 256 weekly discovery scans
37% decrease in volume
of Tier 1 tickets
Scan 423,000 IP addresses for assets
Decrease misrouting incidents
I don’t often use the word “team members” while referring to a vendor but the Virima team became an extension of our operations group and worked slavishly to meet our timing demands. When we were up at 2:00 AM solving implementation problems, they were right in the trenches with us. I have never had a more responsive vendor.”
What challenges drove Segra to adopt a new ITSM platform?
Robert: We weren’t very satisfied with our existing ticketing and change management tool. Although the interface was good, we were facing some major challenges in terms of scaling and security. It also lacked flexibility that created a lot of extra manual effort.
One example of that is the tool’s restrictive policy requirements that only allowed a narrow way to make adjustments to our change control processes. The platform simply didn’t allow customization of processes, so it took us the better part of a year to take our pre-existing change control processes and make them fit into the tool.
Additionally, the self-service ticketing portal was very rudimentary and the CMDB discovery did not work well. Without the benefit of a good discovery agent, we had to manually bring all the asset data into the CMDB. Here again, it took us nearly a year to convert all that disparate raw data into functional, usable information.
When management recognized all the inefficiencies of the tool I was tasked with exploring other options. It was clear our needs required a robust and highly flexible IT service management platform.
What was Segra looking for in a new IT service management solution?
Robert: At the time, Segra was in acquisition mode. We were on track to acquire several companies and integration of our organizational assets was becoming an arduous task. With our previous ticketing tool, this task was largely being carried out manually.
We wanted to find a way to dynamically maintain the CMDB without incurring high costs. We wanted a solution that could offer us more flexibility in terms of being able to configure the application to fit our processes and workflows and not the other way around, as with our existing vendor.
Mike: What stood out about Rob was his desire to implement a solution that didn’t just offer marginal improvements over what was currently being used but something that could really transform IT operations and the service desk. Sure things had to be kept “business as usual” initially to meet their compressed timeline but he knew automation was going to be the key to long-term success.
Why did Segra select Virima ?
Robert: While doing a web search for a robust asset discovery solution, we came across Virima. After researching Virima’s website, we got in touch to schedule a demo and review our requirements with Virima’s team. The Virima platform was both adaptable and customizable. With Virima, we knew that it was the right sized solution that was not only reasonably priced but also agile and user-friendly.
Mike: After demonstrating the ability to meet Segra’s technical requirements, we put together a detailed plan to implement and drive adoption of the Virima platform. A key selling point for Rob was our managed services which meant we would remain engaged with the Segra team well beyond initial implementation and much more so than simple technical support.
How did the initial implementation go?
Robert: We were undergoing several changes at the time of purchase. There were major shifts within our IT department. We were completing a merger with another acquisition soon to follow. Our license renewal with our existing ITSM vendor was coming due, and they really didn’t meet our new IT needs. We needed a solution flexible enough to let us manage our changing business.
We were severely pressed for time to implement Virima. We asked the team at Virima if they could configure a ticketing system with base functionalities in 30 days. Virima took up the challenge and brilliantly executed it in time. With our compressed implementation timeline, we didn’t have time to train our IT staff on any new processes. We took advantage of the flexibility of the product to mirror our existing process models and minimize the pain of change. The team at Virima worked tirelessly with us to ensure that we configured our processes, mapped our assets, and streamlined the workflow in an effective manner.
Mike: Since the initial purchase was delayed by several months we had very little time to configure Segra’s existing workflows and migrate them off their current platform before coming due for renewal. That meant we had to refocus the implementation effort on things that were supposed to come later in the project.
Our normal method of implementation quickly went out the window in order to meet Segra’s new set of priorities. Areas we expected to have more time to address had to be done with haste.
On top of that, some of Segra’s requirements were a bit more complex and mature than we had anticipated so that meant extra configuration and fast-tracking of some new capabilities to meet the delivery dates.
What features of the Virima platform have helped fulfil Segra’s objectives?
Robert: Virima’s dynamic CMDB has been extremely effective in helping us keep track of our assets and relationships. The business rule engine in particular has been very useful to us as well. Segra’s IT operational efficiency depends on documented process.
When we onboarded Virima, we intentionally replicated many existing processes to save time in training our staff. This decision helped us save significant time and effort. Virima’s business rule engine was highly effective in that it made it possible for us to configure the system for nearly every use case we could think of.
Our security concerns were also mitigated with Virima’s configurable solution. For example, at Segra we follow a very agile Change Control process with decentralized approvals. The platform allowed us to build permission sets to allow individual managers to approve changes in their own departments instead of allowing approvals only to be made by a central Change Advisory Board.
Mike: Segra’s deployment and adoption of the technology is a great testament to how flexible and configurable the Virima platform really is. Pulling it all together took a collective effort between Segra’s support staff and stakeholders and Virima’s project management, development and managed services teams.
How did Virima help save costs and increase productivity? What other benefits did you gain by using the Virima platform?
Robert: In a conventional support structure, there is usually a large help desk where tickets are managed manually. We were challenged with a limited number of staff available as a resource for such a large and important process. That is why our Virima implementation included plans to launch the self-service portal as our first post-implementation objective.
After launching the self-service page, we analyzed our consumer data and discovered that the IT-centric self-service choices were difficult for our customers to understand. This led to frustration in our customers and IT staff alike, as tickets were often misrouted.
Using our data, we revamped the self-service page to simplify the available choices for the consumer. We built Incident routing automation to more effectively deliver Incidents to the proper departments. This was possible with Virima’s out of the box business rule engine which allowed us to build a plain text parsing engine with business rules. This engine scans the title and description of the incidents in the tickets raised, and routs them based on keywords and key phrases. This has significantly improved the efficiency of the process and our productivity as well. The impact numbers speak for themselves.
Additionally, we are very happy in terms of the cost effectiveness of the solution, given that we do not have to spend thousands of dollars on a product with features that we do not use. Virima has provided us a robust system with many benefits that we still continue to discover.
Mike: I think the unsung hero of Segra’s success has been our managed service offering. Not only has it helped increase adoption of the platform across many departments, it has also reduced the demand on internal resources to support the platform and the needs of the various stakeholders. The result is tremendous cost savings on both tangible FTE costs as well as intangible productivity savings.
What impressed you most about Virima?
Robert: One of the things that we are truly happy about is the way in which the Virima team members have wholly invested in Segra’s growth since the beginning. Right from the start and through the implementation process, the Virima team ensured that they were with us every step of the way.
We meet with the team on a regular basis to discuss problems and solutions. We truly share a special vendor-client relationship with Virima and at this point they feel like an extension of our Operations team rather than a vendor. Their partnership has been extremely rewarding and we are excited about our plans for the future.
Mike: I had plenty of faith in our platform and team from the start. What impressed me most about Segra was their determination to leverage the technology to make a positive impact on their department stakeholders and IT consumers.
What are the future plans for the Segra--Virima partnership?
Robert: We are currently using several aspects of Virima’s ITSM suite including Incident Management, Change Management, Vendor and Contract management as well as our Service Catalog. We are also leveraging Virima’s CMDB with automated discovery and service mapping. Going forward, we would like to implement many more features internally within our IT department. We’ve not yet fully explored what Virima has to offer us.
We are particularly interested in developing solutions with respect to release management and risk management. With Virima’s powerful business rule engine, we hope to build an AI within the system that is capable of auto assigning risk categories for changes based on parsed information, and therefore, alleviate manual tasks involved in change control processes.
Another area we are looking at developing in the near future is to move our non-corporate IT engineering team into separate instances of Virima.
Mike: Segra is already, hands-down, the champ of leveraging automation within Virima. I am excited to see what other inventive ways they push the platform, particularly as we start to introduce AI capabilities.