City of Saskatoon uses automation tools to streamline transit system

Business managers often overlook the crucial role technology could play in reducing office expenses, improving services, or supporting the company’s key objectives, a recent survey reveals.

While both technology and business managers share the same future goals and long-term strategies — aligning IT with business priorities, controlling costs and improving services — each manager has different ideas on how to achieve these objectives, the survey by Toronto-based CA Canada reveals.

Toronto-based CA Canada is a provider of enterprise IT management software.  

One of its customers – the City of Saskatoon – decided to tackle head on the challenges posed by this lack of alignment between business and IT.

Business managers may not understand the volume of work IT staff has going on, and vice-versa, which can lead to frustration on both sides, noted Peter Farquharson, technology integration services manager for the City of Saskatoon.  

To remedy this, he said, the City started formalizing communications across the organization, using   CA Canada’s service desk application.

The service desk tool, he said, takes the guess work out of which project IT is working on and when problems are fixed. This capability boosts office productivity, Farquharson said.

He said this is a far cry from time, many years ago, when “IT guys [used to keep] track of their tasks with sticky notes.”

But management automation applications aren’t just useful in enhancing internal IT and business operations.

The City is also using similar tools to streamline its transit system, so as to minimize time wastage caused by traffic jams.

For instance, automation tools help the City determine where its buses are at any given time, and whether there’s any delay. Based on this data, it can adjust street lights to get the buses back on schedule.

Significantly, a mere 13 per cent of business managers who responded to the CA survey feel enhancing IT processes is a critical priority in the next 12 months.

By contrast, 33 per cent of tech mangers believe it is a priority.   

Seventy per cent of tech managers also believe some form of standardization of procedures across an organization will help tech staff meet business objectives.

The survey revealed business managers consistently disagreed with the effectiveness of IT changes and consistently rate IT effectiveness lower than technology managers. 

Sixty per cent of tech managers said their organization is effective or very effective in aligning with business priorities, while only 39 per cent of business managers agree with that.

Fifty-six per cent of technology managers believe their IT organization is “effective or very effective” at controlling costs, a view that only 30 per cent of business managers share.

And 62 per cent of technology managers said their IT organizations are effective at improving service to end-users, while only 38 per cent of business managers agree.

Farquharson says lack of communication and understanding of one another’s aims could lower productivity, which can impede business growth and Canada’s economic competitiveness. 

He said business and IT managers often fail to collaborate on new initiatives, which can leave knowledgeable tech staff feeling out of the loop and under-utilized.

“IT staff offer a value and that is not always taken advantage of,” Farquharson said.

Collaboration between business and tech managers is essential because each side may lack a piece of the puzzle that the other could provide, suggests Jimmy Fulton, vice-president and country manager for CA Canada.

For instance, he said business managers are often not up to speed on new technologies, while tech managers may not be always good at explaining how a new technology could drive business benefits.

Differing views between business and IT also extend to the important issue of resources.

For instance, 71 per cent of business managers surveyed said IT is provided with adequate resources, though they were dissatisfied with what IT has been able to accomplish.

“I don’t think IT has done a great job, in all cases, of making information of [its] successes and new processes known to the business community,” Fulton said.

Lack of time, he suggested, is one big obstacle to IT communicating its value and enhancing its effectiveness to the business.

Most IT departments, he noted, are still spending the bulk their time on existing legacy of applications and what time is left over is divided among other things – only one being strategic improvement.

“If anything has prevented IT from addressing these new issues, it’s simply bandwidth. When does a doctor have time to work on bedside manner? They’re saving lives.”

He said CA Canada seeks to help companies determine what technologies help them drive business benefits and reduce costs.

Fulton cited virtualization as a technology that could can result in considerable cost savings, while helping businesses do their bit for the environment.  

But just seven per cent of business managers in the CA survey said virtualization is a priority in their future technology strategy.

Virtualization could help businesses standardize and provide IT services in a more reliable, more manageable way, he said.

He said standardizing the way IT is managed is vital, as it makes information about projects – such as their value to the company, risks, resources consumed, and much more – available to the business community.

“It makes the process transparent to everyone including business partners and stake holders.”

He cited a key CA survey finding to illustrate how business and IT teams could collaborate to create such transparency.

Thirty-three per cent of technology managers and 44 per cent of business managers agree that security is one of the most important services IT delivers to enterprise.    

As both teams concur on the importance of security, he said, they can work to align spending priorities on security with business priorities – providing clarity to the entire company on how each application or piece of hardware fits within the overall business strategy.

The CA executive said tech managers should make communicating IT value a priority – focusing on educating the entire company on the business benefits of IT products and services.  

Such education is especially crucial in the case of portfolio management, asset management and service desk apps – as the first point of contact for such products is the business community.

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