A Fresh–and Fast–Approach to Service Delivery in the Data Center

Ryan Hill • June 08, 2023 • 4 minute read

Hybrid IT, Colocation, Connectivity in Data Centers

At Cyxtera, everything we do is in support of our customers, and we always look for ways we can innovate to improve their experience and help them transform and grow their businesses.

We recently identified a significant opportunity to improve communication with our customers, increase efficiency, and drive a more modern and technology-driven ideology in our facilities by equipping our data center operation technicians at all 31 U.S. campuses with iPads featuring a custom mobile app.

This app helps our team members resolve customer requests more quickly, streamline the shipping/receiving process, and address maintenance work orders much more efficiently.

“Going paperless is huge for our sites,” says Johnny Jenkins, site manager at ABQ-1. “We can interact more closely with our customers, and the ability to close out tickets on the move has improved customer satisfaction and saved significant time.”

Since rolling out the first release of the Cyxtera ServiceNow Agent App at the end of 2022, we have 150 active users across 110 devices. Our average session time is three minutes. This means that our team members can log in, look at a ticket, and get to work within that timeframe, whereas previously this process could easily take three-to-four times longer, given the time required to walk back and forth between workstations and customer cages.

We have significantly improved several key processes at our data centers:

  • Remote Hands: Previously, when a customer submitted a service request, their data center technician would go to their desk to access the ticketing queue in ServiceNow, pull the ticket, print it out, put it on a clipboard, go to the customer cage, perform the necessary work, and then return to their desk again to fill out the report.

    Now, our team members can pull up the queue directly on their iPad and grab the relevant ticket while in the customer cage. They can communicate with the customer via video, take pictures (and automatically load them to the customer case in our portal – Command Center), and join meetings. This functionality makes our team much more nimble and able to manage and resolve customer requests on the fly. It also improves our accuracy and accountability by encouraging our team members to include more details in each ticket.
  • Shipping/receiving: Customers regularly receive shipments – servers, equipment, supplies, etc. – at our data centers. Prior to deploying our new app, we had a very manual, paper-based process for receiving and delivering packages.

    Now, when a shipment arrives, we can track the chain of custody more effectively. We can pull up the shipping tab on the mobile app, scan the barcode (which automatically pulls the associated ticket), receive the shipment, and put it on the shelf. We no longer need to print and file receipts, and – even better – customers can log into Command Center and see a picture of their shipment as well as proof of signature.

    This new functionality also reduced the time needed to conduct inventory by half. We’ve accelerated the entire shipping/receiving process while eliminating errors.
  • Work orders: Each day, our data center teams do daily rounds looking for maintenance needs on critical infrastructure like electrical and mechanical systems and generators. Before we rolled out the iPads, we used manual checklists, but often the patrolling team members wouldn’t take complete notes or enter them all into ServiceNow when returning to their desk.

    Now, our team can log all maintenance needs into the mobile app and view building monitoring systems in real time on the devices. This helps us stay on top of all maintenance requirements and keep our facilities in optimal condition.

How we did it

The development and deployment of the iPads and mobile app was a team effort involving our IT and data center operations teams.

Originally, our IT team reviewed an off-the-shelf solution, and while we liked the aesthetic and ease of navigation, the application was not tailored for our specific use cases. So, we decided to build a homegrown logistics module, built on ServiceNow.

Says Andy Pfannestiel, director, IT systems: “As we developed the app, we focused on simplicity. We wanted to minimize the amount of training users would need to get up and running, whether they were on the data center floor or on a shipping dock. Our development team went through several iterations of designing, building, and proving capabilities and then capturing feedback from key stakeholders. The data center team’s input and buy-in were critical to our success.”

Two Cyxtera developers spent a combined 1,400 hours producing the first release and 600 hours for the second release. Our IT infrastructure team handled the procurement and set-up of the mobile hardware. Our quality assurance team traveled to several data centers to perform walkthroughs with the operations team members so they could test the solution in a real-world environment and return feedback to the developers. Data center operations leadership helped communicate and train their teams on the solution. The IT team continues to monitor usage patterns to further enhance the solution over time.

We rolled out the first release in December 2022, focused on customer tickets and shipping and receiving. Release 2 followed in late February 2023, focused on working maintenance tickets and performing “daily rounds” inspections. We are now preparing to expand the deployment to our sites in Europe and Canada.

This initiative reinforces our vision to be the best service provider in the industry, and we look forward to continuing to innovate as we serve our customers in our global data centers.

Views and opinions expressed in our blog posts are those of the employees who made them and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Company. A reader should not unduly rely on any statements made therein.

Ryan Hill Director, Data Center Operations

Ryan Hill

Director, Data Center Operations