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Cloud project success gives Aster appetite for more

The success of a cloud project at Aster Group gives the IT department the task of having to curb enthusiasm for the cloud

The success of a project to move the IT service desk to the cloud has given the business leaders at housing developer Aster Group an appetite for more cloud-based services. It has also lead to the IT leaders having to explain to enthusiastic business leaders that cloud is not best for everything.

In 2016, while working with CSC IT services consultancy Fruition Partners UK, Aster began the project to move its IT service desk to a cloud-based platform from ServiceNow.

Aster wanted to replace its in-house hosted system IT service desk platform because it had become cumbersome and difficult to report from, according to IT operations director Richard Strange. It had also become difficult to maintain and upgrade.

It began the replacement of the system, which supported 1,300 staff, in January 2016 and completed it by the end of March.

Strange said the IT service desk was a good place to try the cloud out. “It fitted our requirement and it was a low-risk environment because of what it does and the type of data it holds,” he said.

One of the aims of the project was to become less dependent on traditional forms of communication such as email. “We were looking to increase the use of self services in the service desk and have really pushed this,” said Strange.

He added that self services were around 3% of the total volume of contacts with the service desk before ServiceNow was implemented, but now it is in the high teens.

“We are nowhere near where we want to be, but we are getting there,” said Strange, adding that Aster wants 50% of all interactions with the service desk to be self service requests by 2018.

The company is now amid a bigger cloud project to move to Microsoft Office 365 and Exchange online. “We are not quite finished,  but we are on the way. We have built a hybrid model and are running pilot projects,” said Strange. “We are migrating around 2,000 mailboxes and the main challenge we face is integrating with legacy systems.”

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After initial uncertainties in businesses about cloud, especially concerning security, successful initial projects are encouraging firms to push cloud deeper in their organisations.

Such is the enthusiasm for the cloud that the IT department no longer has to just preach its benefits, but also caution business executives and educate them about where cloud is appropriate.

Strange said the board wants to put as much as it can in the cloud, meaning he now has a different challenge. “Instead of me trying to explain to the business why cloud is a good thing, I have to explain to them that it doesn’t fit for everything. This is a different place to be, but it’s not a bad place.”

Since completing the ServiceNow project, Aster has put its health and safety management software into a separate cloud system. It is now looking at a cloud-based contact centre.

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