Crossrail uses cloud software to address challenge of on- and off-boarding contractors

Railway construction company moves to cloud-based IT service management software from ServiceNow as it scales down IT users ahead of project completion

Crossrail has decided to move its IT service desk into the cloud with ServiceNow to help it reduce costs and become more efficient in equipping new contractors with the right IT.

The organisation, which was established to build a £14.8bn railway in Southeast England, is constantly taking new contractors on board and removing others when their work is complete.

Crossrail’s construction work began in 2009. The railway will run from Reading and Heathrow in the west, through London to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, including 42km of new tunnels and 10 new stations. Its purpose is to bring many more people within 45 minutes’ travel of central London.

The Crossrail organisation was set up with the sole purpose to build the railway and will cease to exist by the end of 2018.

Alistair Goodall, Crossrail’s head of applications and portfolio management, said the project is 80% complete, with the tunnelling and tracks done, and it is now fitting out the stations.

The organisation is therefore scaling down in terms of its IT users. “We built from nothing up to a peak of about 4,000 users, and we are now winding down ready for handing over our data and assets,” he said.

“Although we now have a relatively small number of users, the biggest challenge for us is that we have a large churn as we use a lot of contractors.”

Crossrail gets about 2,000 new IT users every year, he added.

Goodall explained that the overall Crossrail project is a combination of lots of other contracts and, as a result, new people are constantly being given access to IT resources while others are disconnected. “Handling this high number of new users every year was driving quite significant cost into the organisation,” he said.

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He said this process was being managed by the organisation’s IT services supplier, Fujitsu. When the contract with Fujitsu came up for renewal in 2015, Crossrail was considering breaking up the contract and using a service integration and management (SIAM) model.

In the end that didn’t work and it renewed its agreement with Fujitsu. But, at the same time, it decided to move to cloud-based IT service management (ITSM) software from ServiceNow.

Crossrail decided that because on-boarding was a fairly standard process, it would bring it in-house and increase automation to cut costs, said Goodall.

It started using ServiceNow in April 2016. “It has already paid back in savings what it cost to put in,” said Goodall.

A cloud service was attractive because of the temporary nature of the organisation building Crossrail. What is left will fold into Transport for London when the project is complete, so pay-as-you-go software means costs are kept down.

Quick payback

“When we were out looking for something in the marketplace, there had to be a quick payback because we knew we would only be around until the end of 2018,” he said. “Any offering that involved any substantial upfront licensing cost would not make a business case in such a short time.”

Effort had to be put into integrating ServiceNow into software from other suppliers, said Goodall. It did not do this alone, but through the government’s G-Cloud, it hired ServiceNow services partner Fruition Partners – part of DXC Technology – to implement the software.

Fruition has provided ongoing support, said Goodall. “The key role it played was challenging us. We made it clear that we didn’t want to do anything out of the ordinary and it provided the expertise, so that if we went off piste, Fruition would call us out and put us back on track.”

Although Crossrail’s on-boarding challenge has benefited the most from the ServiceNow contract, there have been other areas of improvement. Goodall said there is better visibility of what is going on in terms of IT use, and also the ability for workflows and automation to be tweaked easily.

“It is also a lot easier for users to find stuff because we have tried to make it as close to a consumer experience as possible,” he said. ...............................................................................................................

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