Six Degrees Group (6DG) is a managed services provider (MSP) with serious ambition, transforming the way that managed services are delivered. Since its foundation in 2011, the company has made 13 acquisitions and is still focussed on growth. 6DG has invested in its own data centres, cloud
platforms, next generation data network and VoIP switches and it leverages these core technologies to create its own services.With 250 staff serving UK mid-market and corporate customers, 6DG offers a converged services portfolio – including datacentre, connectivity, voice and cloud offerings – designed to help companies meet the challenges of a connected, always-on world.
Its client base spans more than 3,000 organisations in a range of sectors from legal to healthcare, manufacturing to leisure, and its proposition is based around outstanding customer service. This is where Fruition Partners UK and ServiceNow come in: transforming the support experience of 6DG’s customer base, and providing the central core of the company’s service delivery.
The challenge of integrating 13 businesses
The reinvention of 6DG’s service and support is led by Paul Chorley, Integration and Transformation Programme Director. Paul is Managing Partner of Pro-Intex IT, a company which has provided programme management, architecture and integration consultancy services to 6DG over the past 18 months, with the specific goal to integrate the multiple acquisitions onto a target operating platform.
“As you can imagine, this was a considerable challenge, not only technically but also in integrating
different cultures from the various acquisitions,” he comments.
Paul’s initial approach was to scope out a vision for the IT architecture for the business, moving away from in-house systems to ‘enterprise-class’ products that would provide the capacity to support the business’s vision for continued growth. Paul describes the enterprise architecture as a “three
by three jigsaw puzzle” where each piece represents a different area of IT functionality from finance, to CRM and management information. Three of the key pieces were the provision of a service portal for 6DG’s customers, the IT service management (ITSM) solution, and configuration management database (CMDB). Paul comments on the importance of these three pieces: “We were very clear that we were not looking for a help desk system. Nor was this simply about providing ITSM for 6DG internally. While it’s vital to our ability to function as a sophisticated business that our internal systems are fully integrated and supported, what’s far more important is our ability to offer outstanding support to all of our 3000-plus customers.”
Fruition’s track record wins out
6DG began its system selection with three clear criteria in mind: the solutions must be ‘best of breed’, enterprise-scalable to cope with 6DG planned growth, and customisable.
On this last point Paul says, “We knew we wouldn’t find a solution that worked out of the box but we needed
business users to be able to make changes without the
need for developer resource.”
Having done their research, 6DG identified quite quickly that ServiceNow could meet their needs and that Fruition Partners UK was the right implementation partner. “They were recommended by ServiceNow because of their experience of the MSP sector. When we met with the Fruition team, it was clear that they understood our sector very well, and they ‘got’ the vision and complexity of our business.
“Equally as important, Fruition didn’t over-promise; they saw the challenges and weren’t afraid to address them up-front. And finally, I did quite a bit of asking around among other users and I didn’t hear a single bad thing about them which is very unusual in the IT industry!”
Ambitious roll-out for phase 1
Over a four month period 6DG worked with the Fruition team to specify and build the initial phase of the ServiceNow application. Having piloted it with three customers, in early March 2015 Paul laid down the challenge to the team to roll out phase 1 to all 3,000 customers (or 4,000 accounts) within six weeks.
“We knew this was ambitious but we also wanted to realise the benefits as soon as possible,” he says. “Prior to roll out we were operating six different help desk systems and we had limited management information on performance. The feedback from the pilot was so positive that we had confidence to move quickly.”
Paul is full of praise for the role that Fruition Partners UK has played in this project: “While we know our business, we didn’t understand ServiceNow at the outset, and Fruition’s expertise has been invaluable. Because they are so experienced, they are able to challenge and make suggestions because they know what will work and what won’t. And they’ve become part of our core team – there’s no ‘them’ and ‘us’ which is great.”
In May 2015 6DG rolled out their new ServiceNow platform including a new customer portal providing customers with the ability to record and view the progress of incidents, technical queries and requests online. The initial feedback has been extremely positive throughout the different lines of business at 6DG, and from the senior management team.
The next stage will be to garner formal customer feedback via both ServiceNow’s in-built monitoring and through regular Invest in Customers surveys. In addition, 6DG will be measuring and monitoring operational KPIs, such as adherence to SLAs and values-driven metrics, such as how quickly the company makes personal contact, by phone or email, with a customer with a query, as the company’s values specify that this should be done within 30 minutes.
‘Biggest transformational event for 6DG’
In the long term Paul sees the ServiceNow implementation as “probably the biggest transformational event for 6DG, because it will radically alter the service experience we are able to offer our customers.” While the initial roll-out of ServiceNow was focussed on incident management, change requests and queries, the next stages will provide a much richer customer experience which the company believes will differentiate it significantly from its competition.
Customers will be able to use the portal’s orchestration and automation functionality to choose new products and services from the 6DG portfolio, get cost estimates and make purchases. The system will then help customers configure the additions within their existing infrastructure. For example, they will be able to choose to add additional cloud virtual machines and integrate them automatically, or bring on additional data centre capacity.
In addition, the CMDB will enable customers to map out their configuration as well as the 6DG assets that power those services to help with diagnostics. And the MIS & Reporting suite will provide 6DG and its customers with information on KPIs such as SLA adherence, service availability, resolve times, close times, and customer satisfaction ratings.
Supporting the business vision
Over time 6DG expects to see substantial benefits to both customers and the day-to-day operation of the business. Improved service and better control over their infrastructure will develop the customer experience for the better. 6DG will also benefit from this improved service capability through greater operational efficiency and the ability to take a more proactive approach to service through, for example, the identification of common issues which can be automated or resolved before they become problems.
While the main measures of success will relate to customer service, 6DG also expects that staff will also be more satisfied with their jobs as routine tasks are automated and they can be redeployed to more value-added work.
Most importantly, the ServiceNow application is integral to delivering 6DG’s stated vision for the future of becoming “the UK’s most admired mid-market provider of managed data services” based on “an outstanding customer proposition focussed on products, service and reliability.”