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Issue of August 2002 
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Case Study: Mastek’s OpenView implementation
An open approach to customer management

Mumbai-based Mastek Ltd is a publicly held, global IT solutions company that has been growing at a CAGR of 60 percent over the past five years. This software services company has been set up in 1982, a time when software development in India was a small niche but showed high growth potential. by Gaurav Patra

"Service Desk 4.0 was an exact fit for our needs keeping in mind our Enterprise Network Management and Security, our WAN, flexibility to users and change management" d

"Our response time is now acknowledged as among the best in the business. Our uptimes have dramatically improved over a period of time thereby leading to superior levels of customer satisfaction" Today, Mastek provides software solutions to many Fortune 1000 companies.

Mastek has over 7000 man-years of experience achieved through the execution of more than 700 projects worldwide. The company employs over 1100 people and is ISO 9001 and assessed at SEI SW-CMM Level 5 and P-CMM Level 3. The company's core services consist of application management, offshore outsourcing and systems integration with focus on insurance, financial services and telecom verticals.

Adhering to acknowledged benchmarks in service deliverables, Mastek's networks and systems have to function in optimum operational mode with zero or minimal downtime.

Click on image for larger view

Infrastructure details
Since IT infrastructure forms a basic component of Mastek's line of business core IT components were a part of its infrastructure right from the start. Along with Mastek's growth, its IT infrastructure has grown from basic level to a complex one. "We at Mastek are very proud to talk about our world class infrastructure which is highly appreciated by even our prospects and external customers," commented Sudesh Rele, Head Technology Infrastructure Services, Mastek Ltd.

The company operates from five development centers located at Seepz (Mumbai), Mahape (Navi Mumbai) and Pune. Global IT infrastructure is supported by Technology Infrastructure Services (TIS) group at Mastek. They ensure all systems are in tune with current standards by reviewing desktop configurations every quarter and regularly conducting technology evaluations with the help of its technology partners: Dell, Compaq, Sun, HP, Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco, Cabletron and Rational. New technologies are benchmarked against existing systems. The benchmark results are used as a guideline for selecting and deploying appropriate technologies and securities keeping in mind specific requirements from customers and projects. Every change in the infrastructure is managed through defined processes, which are reviewed periodically.

Reliable and efficient IT infrastructure is the backbone of Mastek's offshore development centers. The IT infrastructure at Mastek's offshore facilities has successfully passed independent audits from customers like AT&T and CSX Lines as well as ISO and SEI CMM assessments. The company's offshore development centers at Seepz, Mumbai are connected by a campus-wide multi-core fiber, which collapses on to a fully redundant layer 3/4-enabled Gigabit switch. The entire front-end development environment uses a 100 Mbps switched network using edge switches and AT&T Cat 5e cabling which ensures adherence to future Gigabit standards. A similar LAN environment is deployed at Mahape and Pune offices to ensure standards and security across the organization. These centers are connected to corporate office at Seepz using leased lines from local service providers. Contingency is accounted for through ISDN lines.

Mastek's network follows strict standards for LAN IP address schemes. For every project, a separate VLAN (Virtual Local Area Network) is formed using private IP addresses with defined schema of sub-netting. This IP Address schema along with VLAN protects Mastek's network from internal as well as external threats. Entire communication within LAN is controlled using Access Control List on Backbone Switch; this ensures applications/databases controlled access within projects. The network devices are further protected from unauthorized access over LAN/WAN, using encrypted passwords and predefined time outs for open sessions.

Mastek's business units (BUs) located in various countries have point-to-point connectivity using IPLCs (International Private Leased Circuits) and are used for both data and private voice communication. "This in turn reduces the risk of external threats," commented Rele. ISDN acts as an automatic fail-over to the IPLC. "In case of connectivity problems, our network automatically dials to ISDN leased lines. Routers are configured to dial out but this can be activated and controlled manually as well," said Rele.

"All communication over our Private Network is secured using Access Control list on routers preventing un-authorized access. Dial-out facility on Mastek's network is banned," he added. The additional security measures are applied over WAN links on basis of project requirements. The access from external world to Mastek's network is controlled using firewalls. External firewall allows only authorized access to Mastek's Private Network. DM Zone (De Militarized Zone) and internal firewall further protects identified hosts from external threats. Remote access to the company's private network is allowed using VPN clients with software encryption.

The problem area
Mastek had been using low end products for Help Desk operations. Such products, which are predominantly manual, were not helping in proper filtering and analysis of data. Work schedules mismatch and misinterpretation of client problems was common. Since the products used were less automated, case histories were difficult to document. Consequently, establishing patterns and trends relative to the problems were getting increasingly difficult to map leading to user dissatisfaction in critical areas. Lower customer turnaround times being crucial to Mastek's success in overall scale of operations, there was a definite need to phase the existing products out and quickly move to the next level of advanced packages that would not only offer extensive functionalities but also ensure seamless Help Desk operations. "We realized the need to look at an enterprise management solution that would cater to the increasingly complex requirements of our ever-growing client base," informed Rele.

Secondly, Mastek's own business operations that spread across multi-locations and various time zones needed to be integrated under a unified service command.

Zeroing-in on the solution
This called for a holistic Web-based solution that would cater to all complex levels of service operations. Accordingly research efforts were galvanized and a comparability chart of the various available enterprise level packages was created. Extensive deliberations were carried out with the core functional heads to determine the scope and specific configurations of the solution to be sourced. Certain clear-cut guidelines were outlined as to the nature of the package to be chosen.

"Our focus was on those companies that were capable of delivering a solution that was efficient, reliable, cost-effective and last but not the least advanced and had the capability to handle complex enterprise functions," informed Rele. Considering their multi-location business operations, and multi-vendor systems, the specific parameters that they looked at was proven performance in providing enterprise solutions, local support, and degrees of customization, future up scaling and cost-effectiveness.

"Efficient and timely services are crucial determinants in our competitive matrix. Needless to say, the Help Desk function is a pivotal arm of our business operations wherein we come in direct, one-to-one interface with our customers and end users. Since, the existing products were not giving the desired service benefits, we decided to go in for a superior Help Desk package that would have the necessary breadth of functionality and truly complement our Help Desk functions," informed Rele.

After a methodical evaluation, Mastek finally homed in on HP OpenView. "Service Desk 4.0 was an exact fit for our needs keeping in mind our Enterprise Network Management and Security, our WAN, flexibility to users and change management. We also looked at a product delivering proactive control of complex service requests of our IT infrastructure and users resulting in improved end customer satisfaction for IT services, and managing changes faster and more efficiently," said Rele.

Managing implementation
With direct help from HP, the company defined a plan for implementation of Service Desk 4.0. All minute details were recorded in process document. A micro level project plan ensured a tight control on smooth implementation of Service Desk. "A dedicated team from HP as well as Mastek worked together to ensure a satisfactory implementation of the entire project. Timely help was available from HP to resolve various implementation level issues during the project cycle," said Rele.

Mastek is using the Wintel platform to run central Service Desk product from their corporate office located at Seepz, Mumbai. Entire Mastek's infrastructure covering more than 150 servers and 1200 users are mapped along with their hardware, software, networking technology environment under this implementation. Mastek plans to integrate Service Desk 4.0 with its intranet to serve employees and customers across the globe efficiently. It also wants to manage internal service level agreements across all services and platforms as well as vendors.

Bottlenecks
Mastek first rolled out Service Desk 3.0, which, at that point of time was the latest available product from HP. During the rollout, Mastek did face standard installation and rollout issues, which were jointly addressed by HP and their internal team. "Multiple service patches were implemented to meet our IT environment design and to address other minor issues. Over a period of time and with the evolving needs of the company, we felt there were additional areas that needed to be addressed," informed Rele. "HP offered us an upgraded version, Service Desk 4.0. The upgraded version had certain functionalities that were absent in 3.0 like on tap SLAs, contract details, business rules, authorized licenses tracking, etc. that greatly improved our operations quotient," he further added.

Help Desk Benefits
On a more specific level, HP OpenView Service Desk helped manage Mastek's (client-specific) wide range of SLAs (service level agreements) by showing which IT elements the service depended on, which customers received the service, and who is managing and supporting the service. "The new levels of integration with HP OpenView Internet Services Manager and HP OpenView Service Navigator enabled our facilities management team to dynamically manage their services better than before," stated Rele.

One of the greatest benefits of the HP OpenView Service Desk is increased automation of logging of service calls by users till closure. Previously the calls used to be placed manually thereby problem interpretation was, at times, subjective. Also, the call history, SLAs, problem trends and a host of other crucial information indices were not available on a tap. Now with the installation of the OpenView Service Desk, all that a customer needs to do is, log on to the Web (over their intranet) and write the description of the problem faced. From here, Service Desk takes over and the calls from users are automatically assigned for action and deliverable results. Some of the other benefits of the Service Desk implementation include uniform compatibility across all systems and applications, easy deployment, multiple SLAs and licenses tracking resulting in productive work scheduling.

"Service Desk has certainly eliminated our operational shortcomings and the results have been astounding. With the roll out of Service Desk, we could really understand where we are and what we have to improvise on. And now we have achieved 99.9 percent uptime in our service operations," informed Rele.

Future plans
Mastek has reaped the core benefits of OpenView Service Desk. And this satisfaction is not limited to Mastek's clients alone but also down-the-line service engineers. Apart from increased uptimes, easy reporting and streamlined work scheduling, Mastek has managed to further sharpen its competitive service benchmarks. "OpenView Service Desk has truly satisfied the set and well-defined parameters that we had outlined at the start of our quest for a reliable and efficient solution. Our response time is now acknowledged as among the best in the business. Our uptimes have dramatically improved over a period of time thereby leading to superior levels of customer satisfaction," commented Rele.

In the days to come, Mastek is planning to integrate Service Desk 4.0 into the enterprise network to capture information directly from network devices, servers, workstations as well as from identified applications. "We are confident that this integration will lead us to move on to 99.99 percent uptime of our infrastructure with total customer satisfaction with high ROI and low TCO," he said.

Gaurav Patra can be reached at gaurav@expresscomputeronline.com

 
     
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