Outage Communication Process at Jeppesen

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Background

Jeppesen, a subsidiary of The Boeing Company, is an American aviation business that specializes in navigational information, operations management and optimization solutions, crew and fleet management solutions and flight training products and services. Its headquarters are near Denver, Colorado, and they have offices worldwide.

IT-outage-notification-on PC

Craig Tomberg is a systems analyst within Jeppesen Technology Support

Jeppesen has been a SnapComms customer since implementing Desktop Alert Messages and Desktop News Feeds in February 2010.

Managing system outage messages more efficiently

Struggling with email lists — Prior to SnapComms Tomberg and his colleagues had struggled with maintaining dozens of email lists of users for each of their many different IT systems and were searching for a smarter way to manage the way they communicated IT updates to relevant employees.

Initially the Technology Support team directed their research towards open source solutions, but these invariably needed a lot of customization to meet Jeppesen’s needs. They were attracted to the breadth of the tried and tested, off-the-shelf solution that SnapComms offered.

 

“It was more robust, certainly, from the get go.”

 

No email required — Jeppesen’s intention was to use the SnapComms employee communication software to send messages about both scheduled and unplanned system outages to their global community of users. The problem they had experienced in using email to update staff was not only did it require a lot of manual effort to build and maintain up-to-date lists of users, but it also required users to have their email software open and to actually see and then read the message. While the impact of users not knowing about IT system downtime varied on a case by case basis, it required a lot of work from Technology Support to minimize problems such as loss of work or reduced access to programs.

 

“It really wasn't that common, but it took a lot of effort from us to make it uncommon.”

 

Color coded templates to classify outage types — The Technology Support team has created three different templates for their Desktop Alert Messages, according to whether the system outage is planned or unplanned and the depending on the status of the downtime. These are color-coded and have been designed to be impossible to miss. They display as different sizes on users’ screens, according to the status of the outage. By using these templates consistently, users have become familiar with the type of information in each template and know what to expect.

Unplanned system outages are initially notified by a large, red emergency message alert.

 

IT-Outage-Notification

 

This is replaced by a green pop-up message when the system is restored.

 

IT-Outage-Notification

 

The blue systems outage message window is smaller and more subtle on screen and is used for informational purposes and typically issued a few days in advance of planned system maintenance.

 

IT-Outage-Notification

 

Message cut through

Guaranteed message cut-through —Because the desktop alert messages are a push messaging tool, guaranteed to cut through and reach targeted recipients, users will always receive the system outage messages they are subscribed to.

 

“It’s impossible to miss if you’re looking at your screen, for sure.”

 

This means that Technology Support have dramatically reduced the amount of complaints they receive from users who may not have seen or read email notifications.

Furthermore the desktop alerts can be configured so that some form of call to action needs to be taken by the reader before the message can be closed, which ensures the information is not just received, but read.

Better use of IT resources

Tomberg says that in addition to the positive response by employees, the Technology Support team has judged the success of SnapComms by the level of reassurance the team feels in knowing the information is getting out to the people that need it and the extent to which it has reduced complaints which in the past tied up their valuable time.

 

Easy & reliable

 

“We just fire the message and forget it. That's the beautiful thing about it. We just assume that everyone's great. It's more a lack of complaints, rather than people giving us compliments about how we're handling the up and down times of our programs. So we can't really say for sure that something bad would happen having not used SnapComms. But, we certainly assume that that's true… We haven't had any bad instances since we've been using SnapComms, where people come and complain to us. I guess it's not exactly scientific feedback, I know, but it's really all we have. We like the tool, and we think it certainly does the job we need it to do.”

 

Reduced calls to the helpdesk —Calls to the helpdesk have also been reduced through users having more certainty around which systems were functioning as normal and which were experiencing issues.

 

“I would say that they are reduced. We've been using SnapComms for so long that it's hard to remember. People actually would call up and ask us if a program is up or not. They, for some reason didn't try the program and see for themselves. I'm never ever getting that since we've had SnapComms. People are not unsure of anything.”

 

Management reporting —Tomberg’s team do receive requests from Jeppesen management for data on message readership and this can be readily provided using the powerful reporting functionality included within all the SnapComms employee communications channels.

Reducing email overload —Tomberg says that most Jeppesen employees have reacted well to the SnapComms software and in particular they like the way it has reduced the volume of emails they receive.

“I think they prefer it. It cuts down their emails.”

 

The team is careful to limit how often they broadcast desktop alerts though, so users don’t become frustrated by over-use and their expectations are not compromised.


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Message targeting ensures communications are relevant

Technology Support needs to communicate with production users; these are segmented into groups according to the type of programs they use.

Jeppesen lets users self-select the groups that they identify with, so they can sign up to as many or as few notifications as they need.

 

“We let the users themselves configure which groups they belong to, so that was one of the bigger selling points for us. We don't have to touch anything. We just tell them, install the program, you choose which navigations you want, and you'll receive that notification.”

 

That puts the onus on individuals to decide what systems information they need to remain updated with. While employees may err on the side of caution and subscribe to updates about systems they only have minimal involvement with, it does mean that critical information pertaining to that system will always reach them.

 

“But there's going to inevitably be some people that use some programs more than others, and are less interested in some alerts, but subscribe to that group, irrespective of that fact, just because they do need to know sometimes, if they are actually using it.”

Reaching multiple locations

The majority of IT communications are intended for employees in the Colorado headquarters as well as the Jeppesen facilities in Germany and Poland and other overseas offices. Non-US employees receive system outage messages in exactly the same way as their US colleagues and non-US employees are included in the group of 12 administrators Jeppesen has authorized to manage the software.

Being a global business, it is important for Jeppesen to have a consistent view on the timing of their messages. They therefore enable the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) option within the “Target Dates” tab when setting up alerts and defining the timing of their system outage messages.

 

UTC-time-highlighted

The future

Tomberg and his colleagues are very satisfied with the productivity gains they have made since implementing SnapComms. Going forward they are comfortable to consolidate and refine their current practices rather than making any radical changes.


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“It's really all we use for our communication. The only time we send email is when we update SnapComms itself.” Craig Tomberg, Systems Analyst, Technology Support, Jeppesen.

 

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Situation

Communications objectives

  • Reduce the administrative burden of maintaining email lists

  • Ability to provide tailored communication outage messages to individual needs

  • Communicate IT downtime in a timely manner

  • Communicate effectively across different time zones

Key benefits of SnapComms

  • Guaranteed message delivery

  • Results that can be easily measured

  • Valuable IT resources have been freed up from administrative tasks

  • Reduction in helpdesk complaints and enquiries

  • Highly targeted distribution ensures users only receive system outage messages that are relevant to them

  • Ready to use immediately — no customization required


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