Lessons from the city of Copenhagen

Two men conversing at their computers

Implementing change in large organizations is always a challenge, and the City of Copenhagen, with its 45,000 employees, is no exception.

Three years ago, we embarked on a journey to implement a central enterprise service management portal using ServiceNow HR Service Delivery. Our objective was to improve the employee experience. We set out to enhance access to a wide range of services, streamline over 100 different processes across financial, legal, HR and payroll administration, and drive forward an ambitious efficiency agenda.

The results have been strong, with a 30% reduction in IT operational costs and a 10% decrease in people resources cost (FTE). The investment has repaid itself, yet the transformation of the employee experience has been about more than numbers and financial returns.

Like many organizations, we had a clear vision of where we wanted to go, but the journey was less straightforward. We made almost every mistake possible and gathered a lot of key lessons and ‘not to-dos’ that are valuable to others looking to carry out similarly ambitious initiatives.

Avoid ‘Big Bang’ adoption
When scoping out a project, avoid a ‘Big Bang’, comprehensive solution. Take a step-by-step approach instead, governed by a clearly focused business case. Start with simple and well-defined areas that can benefit from optimization.

A stepwise approach also allows you to more easily observe how employees use a new solution and gather their feedback to continuously improve their experiences.

Organizations often underestimate the change management required to adopt a new system, or the amount of resources needed. At one point, the City of Copenhagen, was using 10% of our human resources on new implementation. In the long term, however, his level of focus paid off.

Take the main road
Some time ago, we went into production with a new digital workflow and, four hours later, had to take it down and start again. Why? We had tested it thoroughly, but we had spoken to only two employees about how they conducted this process. Other users were lost when the workflow went live.

We now digitize only processes that are mature and standardized. We still get the occasional request along the lines of, “This is a difficult process, can you optimize it?” But it is not possible to automate processes that are unknown or performed differently from person to person.

We always aim to optimize what we call the ‘main road’ — the road well-travelled by many users. Then we move onto smaller sub-processes, the ‘side roads. There will always be examples where digitizing a minor workflow will be too expensive, and, from a business perspective, will make more sense to changing or eliminating that process makes more sense.

Use the power of design thinking
With the help of design thinking, we’ve been able to involve the broader business into the implementation process. This approach has included several workshops and usability tests conducted throughout the various development phases.

Design thinking helps develop a common language that enables the business to understand the technology, and developers to understand the business. By bringing business and tech closer, organizations catalyse new technology leaps forward rather than focusing on fixing known faults within an existing system.

Crucially, design thinking also establishes business ownership over a new solution during the development process, instead of after it, paving the way for successful, long-term lifecycle management.

Encourage the business to get ‘techy’
At the City of Copenhagen, we want our employees — even those in non-technology roles — to be tech savvy. We are continuously investing in a network of ‘super users’ who specialize in a specific area; for example, using the ServiceNow HR solution within finance.

In practice, this means they help design and test, provide feedback and contribute new ideas. Once per year all our super users get together, usually in the run up to the next ServiceNow release, to learn more about new features and functions.

Our super users also play a key role in amplifying projects across the organization, providing an informal support network to others in their business area. Their involvement has reduced the number of incidents logged on the system and widened our pool of new, innovative ideas.

The next frontier
Our work on the Now Platform is continuous, collaborating closely with Devoteam, the 2020 ServiceNow EMEA Regional Partner Awards Winner. Together, we are expanding the use of the Now Platform with new pilot projects, optimising processes for an ever-growing range of business areas.

This includes more Machine Learning capabilities, and ServiceNow out-of-the-box functionalities, such as lifecycle events to support any employee changes. We are looking beyond our own employees to improve the experiences of our citizens.

With an enterprise service management platform in place, we are positioned to support all aspects of our business with the digital workflows and ServiceNow-driven apps that deliver great experiences for our employees and citizens.

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