Case Studies

Slick Support

In the UAE, Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC) does not require an introduction.

One of those rare organisations that touch the lives of most residents in the country, ENOC has established itself as a pre-eminent oil and gas company in the UAE.

Apart from the petrol stations that UAE residents see every day, ENOC is involved in multiple interests in oil and gas across Dubai and Northern Emirates. The company’s core business is the development of upstream and downstream oil and gas activities; however, its interests stretch well beyond the petroleum sector, from information technology, to chemical storage and blending.

“To give you a flavour of ENOC, we have a fairly diverse environment both from the application side as well as infrastructure side. Today we support about 1,800 users. These users are spread across several locations, some of them overseas as well. We have many users coming in through the VPN into our main data centre. We operate on a shared services contract, so most of the critical apps are centrally hosted, and it gets managed centrally, via WAN links,” says Ram Mohan, IT services manager and IT manager (STL stream), group IT at ENOC.

ENOC has around 30 large branches both within the UAE and outside, which are connected through high speed lines. There are also the retail or petrol stations, numbering around 180, that are connected via a 3G data package.

“To manage all this we have a server farm here. It is all centrally located in this building. We have three IBM mainframe servers, which cater to the backend applications. As a policy we are standardised on two things – one is all the backend is supported by Oracle and the front end is managed by Microsoft. We have 120 servers on MS Windows located here and another 80 distributed servers. We also have around 600 active network devices including routers, switches, firewalls and other appliances,” says Mohan.

Keeping in mind the magnitude of its needs and the structure of its IT systems, ENOC has a sufficiently large IT team.

“We have a team of around 70 people managing IT. Out of them we divide into two components – one of them is the operational component, another one is the governance and management component,” says Mohan.

Service management

Recently, ENOC felt the need to change its existing service management practices. The one word that best summarises how ENOC used to approach IT service management is ‘manual’. The company relied on manual change management processes, manual tracking of desktop licences, manual report generation, manual access request, and manual inventory management.

“There were several issues with the manual access requests. It was labour intensive, there were lot of data leakages and there was a time lag. Also, we were unable to accurately store or retrieve data for the audits that we conduct regularly. The manual change management was no better. We badly needed an upgrade on the WonderDesk system we were using for incident logging and categorising, which had no analytics. We also needed a solution that could give a better way to manage our existing desktop licences. People got added or deleted, and when we do not know the exact number of unused licences we end up buying more licences. That involves a significant amount of cost,” says Mohan, outlining the challenges ENOC faced.

Sina Khoory, CIO of ENOC says, “It was all person dependent, not process dependent. There were islands of processes across the company, and there were individual systems that were just doing the job in their own silos but there was no integrated view or a consistent process. Those did not exist. That was the issue.”

The goal was clear. The UAE’s national oil company needed ITIL-aligned service management processes to help propel its business service management (BSM) strategy. ENOC needed to tackle its largely manual service management processes, reduce complexity, and make ENOC’s customer support, change, asset, and request management a seamless, integrated process.

This goal became a higher necessity considering that group IT at ENOC works on a cost recovery model, where they charge the main business units for the usage of the services that they offer. Therefore, they have SLAs that need to be met and they needed a solution that could give them an integrated view of response time and incident closure.

“We had certain expectations for this project. We wanted better compliance with ITIL standards, elimination of paper-based approvals, a controlled change environment, SLA adherence tracking, regular tracking of customer feedback, licence metering, knowledge management and automated reporting,” says Mohan.

With such clear needs in mind, ENOC began the search for a vendor and a solution. After evaluation, the company shortlisted two vendors and went through a detailed walkthrough with them. Ultimately, they chose BMC’s Remedy IT Service Management.

“There were several factors that made us choose BMC. Technologically the solution was superior and offered much more integration with our existing backend systems than the others we considered. We talked to several end-users, and they had good things to say about the solution. It also had a well-established three-tier model – a database, app and Web interface. The entire thing was pretty native,” says Mohan.

He adds that another major reason for choosing BMC was the fact that the solution was ITIL compliant. “They had out of the box ITIL processes which were readily available, so we did not require any existing mature processes. So one decision we took was that we were ready to modify our processes to suit the product. Rather than doing too much customisation we decided that if a particular product offers out of the box ITIL functionality, we will stick to that rather than discovering ourselves. Though it had a risk element we were willing to take that risk,” says Mohan.

After providing ITIL training to the governance team in February last year, ENOC started initial foundation data gathering in March. Solution design was done in April, June involved actual build, configurability and customisation. This was followed by solution testing and deployment. ENOC went live with the solution in the early days of August 2009.

Quintica was chosen as the deployment partner for ENOC with the system.

“As part of the kick off, we identified the various tasks to be done. Then we assigned responsibilities to the team. Similarly Quintica also had a team of people. So for each process they also identified their corresponding person so that became pretty easy. It became a one to one responsibility. At the same time, when these guys required more information, they used to go back and gather the same,” says Mohan.

Culture change

According to Mohan, the solution made a huge cultural change in the organisation, since everything was now happening on a Web interface.

“We had to have a self service portal. If you want any incident – even if you want to move a PC or you want to connect a printer – or you want access to be provided for one more person on a common folder – now everything had to be requested through a hotel-like menu,” he states.

Anticipating this the team came up with a refreshed service catalogue, which gives details on the 33 services provided to ENOC and the charges and other metrics applicable to each. This also enabled them to change the popular charging model, whereby IT cost was divided equally between the retail, shipping and terminals, and refinery and marketing streams.

“Even before we introduced this in parallel we started another project to identify the services and map the resource utilisation to these services using the value drivers. We arrived at per user costs for every unit and along with the new system we are now able to calculate precisely usage across streams and charge them as appropriate,” says Mohan.

This provision has entailed a lot of changes within ENOC. According to him, people are now more aware of their IT functions, pay more attention to licence usage and app usage in their departments, and alert the IT team more readily to changes that will help them cut back on their costs.

Business units and heads are also made aware of the costs involved at every transaction level, beginning from the request of a service. When anyone requests a service of the Web portal, an alert is sent to the line manager in question along with details on the costs to the division. After his approval, and after relevant IT team approval, the service gets sanctioned.

“All of this is attached to an SLA. We have worked out a matrix for the urgency and impact of each service. The system works out a number based on several factors. If this is 13, then it automatically knows it is critical. For critical services we have defined the response time as within one hour, resolution is two hours; the moment it goes beyond that it sends an alert. At 70% it sends an alert to the help desk supervisor, so she can alert the guys further to the breach. At 100% it comes to me as the service manager. We have put 200% for the IT manager himself – for something beyond control it goes to him,” says Mohan.

The solution also enables user-based response levels, provides user information when incidents are raised on the phone and (with Qunitica’s help) has elements included that converts email based requests into proper incident requests as per the form on the Web portal.

“Those features are built into the system – all this paperless service, full automation, change, incident management, KM, smooth transition from WonderDesk to the new application. I think the integration is really fantastic. The integration engines on Remedy are really phenomenal,” says Mohan.

Muthanna Attyah, infrastructure manager at ENOC adds, “Now we are trying to further automate it by approving through email or allowing the technicians to update the calls through emails. Today they are doing it through the interface. But sometimes they are on the field, on BlackBerry, or have email access alone.

So we are tyring to further automate to allow approval and update of the call through email.”

Facing challenges

There were many challenges and risks undertaken by the team when working on this project. Some of them include the lack of established processes and procedures at ENOC, the comprehensive and proper definition of foundation data, midcourse personnel changes in the implementation of application models and a complicated SLA setup.

“We had around 33 companies using our services. Linking company to service, we ended up with close to 7,000 SLA targets. The result was that the management was a nightmare. So rather than sticking this SLA to company-wise information, we re-oriented ourselves to a service-oriented SLA, which resulted in having closer to 150 rather than 7,000 targets. That change we did only two quarters ago,” says Mohan.

The company also had to deal with frequent changes in network topology.

“The product also had unstabilities. Especially the Discovery of BMC was not a very stable product. We still have some issues with that and another basic issue was unexpected licence restriction. Remedy had floating licences and fixed ones. The minimum period for a floating licence was two hours. This created a huge internal issue. However, we were able to work that out amicably with the vendor who was accommodating and understanding,” says Mohan.

Mohan says that ongoing support was rated only average up till January this year, when the project completion report was released. This, he explains, was because Quintica had been handed the first-level of support by BMC, and since they were taking on the support model for the first time they did not have the right resources immediately. However, they did bring in a dedicated person for support services and, he says, things have improved tremendously since then.

Established project management practices were exercised by bringing together technical experts from both parties, and providing adequate training prior to going live. The project was tracked effectively and 140+ issues were identified and managed during the implementation.

Mohan agrees though that the deployment might have gone off better if policies and procedures had existed prior to the start of it, and if they had had a phased implementation.

Despite these challenges has ENOC achieved ROI from this particular implementation? Definitely yes, says the team.

The help desk is currently supporting up to 4,000 enquiries each month, with only four staff and the team has recently brought on 10% more users without any increase in help desk staffing levels. “Of the 2,000 calls they used to receive in WonderDesk, 10% of those calls would remain open after two days. With BMC Remedy IT Service Management, we’re managing twice the volume of calls and only 1% remain open after that period,” says Khoory.

“In sheer manpower alone, it has helped me tremendously. I am managing the help desk with four people, when with expansion and growth counted in, I would have required at least three more to do the job. In total manpower cost to company I am saving nearly $200,000 every year for the company. Then there is the licence optimisation which we have not even calculated yet,” says Mohan.

“There has been tremendous savings on the infrastructure side as well. Our mail server had lots of mailboxes that were dumb. Now after implementing the system people are more proactive and remove whatever is not needed, and as a result I don’t need to upgrade my storage as regularly as before. Incremental capex and opex costs have come down. Our payback is roughly two to three years for full recovery,” says Attyah.

Future thoughts

Building on the success they have achieved with the service management project, Mohan agrees that they might be adding to and extending the scope of the same in the near future. The IT team is also kept busy working on other projects as they come up in the organisation.

“On the server side, we are taking virtualisation in steps. We started evaluating last year. Then mid last year we started using Microsoft Hyper V for servers in the development environment. We did not use it in production systems but now since two weeks, we started the first production server in a virtual environment. And for virtual desktops, we are evaluating. We are using Citrix for our remote access and they are offering XenDesktop in the same box. We are evaluating that. We want to see how it is compatible with existing systems. Gradually we will see if it is feasible, and then partially deploy it in some areas. If everything is ok we will use it more widely,” says Attyah.

He continues, “Only development servers are currently on Hyper V. That is around 15 servers and the one in the production environment. We are planning to shift more production servers. We will start with non-critical ones and then if we are confident, we will start shifting virtualisation to critical ones as well,” says Attyah.

The firm is also planning a major re-engineering of its legacy applications, a CRM deployment and upgradation of certain shared services in 2011.

It is hard to find an IT team as dedicated and hard-working as the one at ENOC. With them in place, the sky seems to be no limit to the company’s possibilities in the near future.

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