Sean Culligan: Implementing Self-Service to Improve Support and Get More Done

  • Teams can now avoid repetitive tasks and unnecessary escalations
  • What used to take specialists hours to do, now anyone can do in minutes
  • Broome-Tioga BOCES is a unique MSP with an important mission supporting education

“We used to have to jump through hoops to perform a lot of tasks. Rundeck has made it possible to automate and give access where it is needed.” -Sean Culligan

Sean Culligan knows a thing or two about the importance of support. Sean works on the engineering team at The Broome-Tioga Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), a central provider of managed technology services for over 25 State of New York school districts. 

Sean and his colleagues manage a mix of individualized on-premises and SaaS services to help the school districts achieve the unimaginable with information technology.

Despite having a unique mission, Broome-Tioga BOCES is susceptible to the same problems as any other Managed Services Provider (MSP). Including the risks of:

  • Repetitive requests that threaten to overwhelm team capacity 
  • Inconsistent operations procedures that undermine quality 
  • Internal experts quickly becoming bottlenecks for both ad-hoc and planned work

Knowing this, Sean and his colleagues set out to capture and automate as much operations knowledge as possible so others can perform the tasks themselves and avoid interruptions to Sean and his teammates.

They primarily focused on automating procedures that previously could only be performed by their Engineering team. Sean desired to create a Self-Service Operations model where the Operations, Service Desk, and additional teams could perform those tasks.

“Everyone has their specialties, but self-service operations speaks to our desired cross-functional way of working. We are moving away from highly-siloed teams inefficiently performing different tasks.” -Sean Culligan.

Rundeck solved access and standardization problems

Before Rundeck was brought in, Sean and his colleagues had begun automating actions across their mixed environments of Windows, Linux, and cloud-based SaaS services. Much of this was done using separate inefficient systems and scripts. While this made the engineering team quicker, it didn’t solve the problem of being able to distribute the workload to other teams. 

Some of Sean’s Broome-Tioga BOCES colleagues had suggested he look at Rundeck. Rundeck was identified as a way to solve:

  • Access issues (i.e., Operations team couldn’t directly access specific environments/services)
  • Standardization issues (i.e., ensure processes and configuration are performed consistently)

The first win for the team was using Rundeck to give the Operations team the ability to force an Office 365 sync. Previously, only a few folks on the engineering team had the direct access and requisite knowledge needed to perform the task. A Rundeck job was created to call the correct Office 365 APIs in the correct sequence. Rundeck’s access control features were then used to provide self-service access to the Operations team. Rundeck makes it easy to call APIs of other tools, something more and more common for Operations teams. Now, the Broome-Tioga BOCES Operations team was doing engineering level activity, safely and securely.  

“Even if our Operations team does not have the rights to remote into a server and perform a task, we are certainly ok with them running a Rundeck job that we crafted for them to do just what they needed to do.” -Sean Culligan

Another major win was self-service automation for registering Chromebooks with the associated cloud services. With the variability from district to district, the process had ended up becoming a manual task that took hours for Broome-Tioga BOCES engineers to complete. After using Rundeck to automate the calls to the various cloud services, self-service jobs that registered the Chromebooks reduced the hours of manual work down to the click of a few buttons.

The same pattern of self-service access to automated service management tasks has been repeated across the Broome-Tioga BOCES. Upcoming plans include using Rundeck to automate various network management processes. 

“When designing something new, one of the first questions we ask ourselves is ‘hey what can we automate with Rundeck?'” -Sean Culligan

The team also used Rundeck’s scheduling features to consolidate scheduled tasks that were previously challenging to manage in a sprawl of Task Manager and Cron schedules. Using Rundeck, the team had one place to look to both schedules, where they run, and perform on-demand administrative tasks. 

More time to work on what matters 

“For our engineering team, we’ve used Rundeck to free up time to work on more projects. For our Ops team, Rundeck usage has helped them handle more tickets and close tickets quicker” -Sean Culligan

Sean and his colleagues’ efforts to capture their expertise into automated runbooks anybody can run has enabled their teams to avoid repetitive manual processes and unnecessary escalations. This initiative has allowed them to free up time to work on projects and new initiatives that deliver greater value to the school districts.