The Australian Rail Track Corporation Limited (ARTC) was created after the Commonwealth and State Governments agreed in 1997 to the formation of a ‘one stop shop’ for all operators seeking access to the national rail network.
ARTC currently has responsibility for the management of over 8,500 route kilometres of standard gauge interstate track in South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales. ARTC also manages the Hunter Valley coal rail network and other regional rail links in New South Wales.
ARTC is driven to create a seamless, reliable and efficient interstate rail network – the backbone of Australia’s economy.
“We really appreciated Data#3’s commitment to our program – we were behind at one stage but the consultants really went above and beyond to get the project back in line with our timeframes. That level of service really stood out.”
Brad Lacey, IT Service Delivery Manager, Australian Rail Track Corporation
Information and Communication (ICT) systems are a key part of how ARTC accomplishes its business objectives, and it has a strong history of implementing best-in-class solutions to support its national user base. When investigating and selecting systems, ARTC seeks systems that provide clear value against a specific business need, and which will offer the opportunity to reduce support costs and deliver reliable services to end users.
Over the past few years the ARTC user base has grown and now has more than 1,700 ICT users across 60 sites nationally. With ICT support sites centralised in Newcastle NSW and South Australia, providing effective remote support for users is a significant challenge.
ARTC wanted to take advantage of emerging technologies that provide opportunities to better support users with customised environments, proactive monitoring of critical systems and self-service computing.
At the same time, ARTC recognised that its outsourced service desk solution was not meeting users’ expectations for service levels and responsiveness. “We wanted to implement an ITIL- compliant system that was dynamic in its detection, tracking, response and reporting of issues,” says ARTC’s Senior Infrastructure Architect, Mark Crouch.
“Data#3 is a long-term and highly valued partner of ours. Over the last five years they have helped us with major platform upgrades including SCCM, Exchange, Windows Server and others, and they have always provided the end result we’re after, making sure we achieve what we set out to accomplish.”
Mark Crouch, Senior Infrastructure Architect, Australian Rail Track Corporation
Across the past six years, ARTC has implemented an inter-related group of ICT initiatives that have greatly improved end user support and ICT agility.
In 2007, implementation of Microsoft System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) and System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) delivered network management improvements, providing ‘a single pane of glass’ through which to view ARTC’s Windows servers, network infrastructure, storage and virtualisation performance, and allowing Mark to identify where to concentrate the resources of his small team.
This was followed in 2012 by an analysis of ARTC’s existing service desk arrangement, which was outsourced to an industry vendor, but which was not providing users with the levels of support and responsiveness they required. ARTC investigated a number of service desk models and decided to bring service desk support back in-house, but to build the service on a service management product to promote user self-service and reduce the ‘human factor’ for support as much as possible.
As a result of this analysis, ARTC selected System Center 2012 Service Manager as its ITSM solution of choice. ARTC turned to its trusted partner Data#3 as its implementation partner. With a five year history working together, Mark knew that ARTC would benefit from Data#3’s:
“To Data#3, we are more than just a System Center customer,” says Mark. “They are fully engaged with our business and the outcomes we’re seeking. They are committed to helping us implement the best technologies and processes for the business, and to achieving our continuous improvement goals.”
Using System Center 2012 Service Manager allowed ARTC to implement an ITIL-based management tool that provided incident logging, change management, automated notifications and workflows, SLA tracking and alerting, and to leverage their existing investment in System Center 2012 Configuration Manager and Active Directory to automatically update the configuration management database (CMDB).
Using the SCSM self-service portal, Data#3 automated several service requests, removing the ‘human factor’ from requesting, approving and completing common IT tasks such as the creation of new user accounts, decommission of existing users and the purchase new hardware.
On the advice of Data#3, ARTC extended the SCSM product with a set of third party tools from Cireson, which provide additional support tools for notification options, web-based connection to the Service Management console, automatic close of incidents after criteria are met and a single view of all relevant work items for a help desk operator. Cireson also adds comprehensive asset management ability and processes to track all asset management requirements of the user, computer and software lifecycles.
ARTC also partnered with Data#3 to upgrade their existing SCOM and SCCM systems to take advantage of new features in System Center 2012, including OS deployment and monitoring for critical business systems, with automated alerts to support staff and systems when an issue or potential issue is discovered. This allows proactive responses to potential incidents, which can prevent system outages, increasing uptime and overall user productivity.
In upgrading SCCM, ARTC was also able to move away from Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) and use SCCM to manage software updates and patching and also to support Windows 8.
As a result of all these initiatives, ARTC has been able to automate many common service requests, such as for new users, new mailboxes, ordering new hardware, and complicated patch management of mission critical servers, using System Center 2012 Orchestrator and the built-in approvals workflows of SCSM. Automating the provisioning of these routine requests guarantees consistency of outcome and frees up the support team for more strategic IT initiatives.
ARTC has been able to improve response times for incidents by tracking service level agreements (SLAs), enabling tools to automate system recovery and removing the need for human intervention wherever possible.
From an end user’s perspective these new systems have improved the user experience by delivering consistency in communication, approach, procedures and response as well as simplifying some of the IT processes. This has led to a dramatic improvement of the satisfaction of end users interacting with the service desk and improved first call resolution rates. With approximately 800 incidents closed per month, 98% are within the specified SLAs for incident response and incident resolution.
“Data#3 was a critical part of getting our system installed by our drop dead date of July 1. They helped us have the new environment up and running three weeks ahead of cutover date, in line with our testing program.”
Brad Lacey, IT Service Delivery Manager, Australian Rail Track Corporation
ARTC has also been able to provide better and timelier support to its users, with the ability to target application deployments to users on whatever device they are working on and by streamlining operating system deployments with remote imaging of computers from local distribution sites using SCCM. ARTC also integrated SCCM with its Citrix environment, providing application targeting and from a single location across the Windows and Citrix environments.
These systems have also aided in the reduction of risk and costs by maintaining software licensing, with clear reporting on application deployments and usage. Integration of System Center 2012 Endpoint Protection further reduces IT costs by monitoring and managing anti-virus and malware software and reporting on potential issues.
These initiatives are ongoing – as the System Center 2012 upgrades are relatively recent, they will be reviewed at three, six and 12 month points to evaluate outcomes and make any adjustments that will offer further benefits. Data#3’s involvement in the upgrades is integral and Data#3 consultants also play a significant part in helping the ARTC ICT specialists further develop their skillsets in the new environment.
To learn more about how Data#3 can assist your organisation, call 1300 23 28 23, or Enquire Online.