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.
Craig Tomberg is a systems analyst in the Technology Support team at Jeppesen.
The problems Tomberg and his colleagues had experienced in using email to update staff was that it required a lot of manual effort to build and maintain up-to-date lists of users, and also required users to have their email software open to actually see and read the message.
Lack of staff knowledge about system outages, caused by unread email messages, required a lot of work from Technology Support to minimize problems such as loss of work or reduced access to programs.
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.
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. They introduced two SnapComms channels in February 2010 to achieve this.
Desktop alerts ensure high impact for important messages, getting employee attention immediately on any type of device.
Desktop tickers newsfeed-style text scroll across the bottom of employees’ computer screens to provide fast updates of information at-a-glance.
IT communications are intended for employees in the Colorado headquarters, facilities in Germany and Poland, and other overseas offices. Being a global business, it’s important for Jeppesen to have a consistent view on the timing of their messages.
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 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.
Unplanned system outages are initially notified by a large, red emergency message alert. This is replaced by a green pop-up message when the system is restored. The blue systems outage message window is smaller and used for informational purposes, typically issued a few days in advance of planned system maintenance.
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.
By using these templates consistently, users have become familiar with the type of information in each template and know what to expect.
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,” says Tomberg. “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.”
This puts the onus on individuals to decide what systems information they need to remain updated with, ensuring that critical information pertaining to those systems will always reach them.
When Tomberg’s team receive requests from Jeppesen management for data on message readership, they readily provide this using the comprehensive reporting functionality included within all the SnapComms communications channels.
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. Tomberg agrees: “It’s impossible to miss if you’re looking at your screen, for sure.”
This means that Technology Support have dramatically reduced the number of complaints they receive from users who have not 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. “SnapComms was more robust, certainly, from the get go,” believe Tomberg.
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, as well as the extent to which it has reduced the number of complaints which in the past tied up their valuable time.
Jeppesen are very satisfied with the productivity gains they have made since implementing SnapComms. “We haven't had any bad instances since we've been using SnapComms, where people come and complain to us. We like the tool, and we think it certainly does the job we need it to do.”
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.
“Previously, 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.”
Tomberg says that most Jeppesen employees have reacted well to the SnapComms software and like the way it has reduced the volume of emails they receive. “I think they prefer it. It cuts down their emails.”