Zurich Life tackles change management

During the 1990s Mark Bradley’s employer, Zurich Life Insurance Company of America, acquired a couple of companies (parts of Kemper and all of Scudder, Stevens & Clark) and merged about three or four IT shops into one large organization. Growing business meant growing IT tasks, and the number of merged shops made the service management waters murky.

It soon became clear to Bradley, senior applications development analyst, that the life insurance provider needed to streamline its processes across the varied IT departments before the company could hope to reduce dropped change orders, lost end-user requests and a tangle of trouble tickets.

Looking for answers

"It was my job to make it all work together smoothly. Even something as simple as a new hire required about 50 changes," Bradley says. "We needed as a group to follow the same processes and document the actions taken from ordering a phone to assigning software privileges."

The change-management chaos helped Bradley's cause, as he had to explain to upper management how putting processes in place and automating them -- to some degree -- with software would ultimately reduce the number of tickets Zurich Life's converged IT shop generated.

Bradley decided to implement a change-management system to incorporate a request and a change-management methodology using best practices similar to those put forth by the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) proponents and software.

Developing processes

Bradley's challenge didn't begin with choosing software. He first had to "clean up" the environment before any tool could be effective.

"I had to engage in a lot of fixing and mending, standardizing on processes. For a while, we had a very consistent flow of tickets because people were crossing paths," he says.

Numerous discussions with business and IT managers followed, as Bradley worked to develop policies that would most efficiently foster change, without introducing errors, across Zurich Life. Every change request routes through the IT department, and Bradley wanted to ensure his team didn't drop a ball that could potentially cause business problems.

"When we first worked on implementation, we worried most about the approval process," he explains. "I realized the more time we spent upfront informing and letting people know how to use the change management system, the less cost or downtime we would suffer later."

Adding technology

Zurich Life had already been using Peregrine Systems' ServiceCenter products to track trouble tickets and nothing else. Bradley decided to work with a software module in the service management product that he says he could customize to meet his change management requests. By entering the policies previously decided upon into the software, Bradley was able to merge process and technology and begin implementing a change management methodology.

"I realized I could use templates in the software I already had to develop a request and change management tool," Bradley says. "Basically I wanted to spread the wings of the application."

The software enables Zurich Life IT employees to use a Web form to request a change. The request goes through an approval process, which the software ensures doesn't get disregarded. Once the appropriate approval is required, Peregrine service management software and its change management module take over.

"Once the request is validated, we feed it into Peregrine. And then the software tracks the actions on a Web-based calendar so we can see the history of changes and determine the root cause when someone does go wrong," Bradley says. "It's a closed-loop system now. Anytime there is a problem we can associate it with a change, and tie it back to the change request and so on."

Bradley says Zurich Life will explore deploying an employee self-service portal with the Peregrine change management module. The company at press time was also working on an acquisition with Bank One, which means another IT shop coming into play for Bradley.

"We'll be going through another flux period, and we'll have to look at how we can improve our processes further," he says.

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