Meet Will: Our Coding Challenge King

1 January 1970

This year, we relaunched our ANS Coding Incentive Challenge which sees employees from across the business using their knowledge to solve real problems we have here at ANS. We trust our employees like no one else to help us continuously improve in all areas of the business.

One employee who has taken the coding incentive challenge and made it his own is Technical Analyst Apprentice, Will. The ANS Coding Incentive had barely been relaunched and he has already produced TWO automation solutions (with a third on the way) that have had a huge impact on our day to day functions in our Managed Services team.

Automation of tasks is set to be one of the biggest trends across a number of industries, from technology to farming. I think it’s fair to say that almost every business in the UK has now adopted the internet in some way whether it be a website, social media or their own applications. The next step is automation which will allow them to utilise these tools more effectively. Automation allows us to spend less time repeating the same tasks and more time on activities to drive the business forward.

With this in mind, Will has been keeping himself busy creating a new log and file sharing site for ANS and our customers, as well as automating our daily checks, and he’s even got an SLA bot in the pipeline, more on that later.

I caught up with Will to find out what he’s been up to on his mission to streamline some of our daily processes…

So Will, can you tell us about our new file sharing site?

It’s fair to say our previous file sharing site needed some improvements. However, our new site uses public cloud technologies such as blob and table storage, app service and Azure active directory for authentication.

By integrating Azure active directory, existing users will be able to login to the site using the same username and password as they use to login to their laptops and email while the user interface allows for ease of use no matter what level of technical knowledge or device they are using.

If there is one thing this project taught me, it’s the importance of planning. I have changed and improved my plan multiple times, the biggest change being when the site went from using an on-premises server to using an Azure web app. This meant the site was now far more scalable and cost effective.

And how have you automated some of our daily checks?

Each morning members of our 2nd line team log into customer environments to check everything is in working order which takes a long time. I have automated this process which has saved us 2 hours each morning – that’s a whopping 730 hours a year!

The automation works by exporting a RVtool from every fully managed customer environment and parsing it to an Azure table. By doing this, we can build a front end from which the service desk can manage existing alerts and check for new alerts or issues. By automating the gathering of data and simplifying the way in which it can be used, we are saving huge amounts of time.

Tell us a bit more about the SLA Bot you are developing.

It goes without saying that our robust SLA’s are important to us, and you can ask anyone of our customers about the lengths we will go to to ensure they are met. I have created a notifier SLA Bot which means we can spend more time resolving tickets rather than looking for them.

When an SLA is reaching breach, the SLA Bot will trigger a webhook message to a Microsoft Teams channel, alerting the members of the team that an incident or change is required therefore preventing any breach or assigning the change if it isn’t already.

As Microsoft Teams is a SaaS collaboration tool it made the perfect platform for the SLA Bot and it has allowed the ANS Service Desk to decrease the number of breaches (not that there were many anyway ?) by alerting us before it becomes close. Although our ITSM Tool does have this information, this is a more proactive way of working. ANS use Microsoft Teams heavily already and this allows us to make use of the notifier alert message, reducing the need for excessive email noise.

Thank you for your time, Will. It’s great to see how passionate and dedicated you are to improving ANS processes, and all while outside of your day job as an apprentice!

Alongside his apprenticeship, Will has been successfully working within our DevOps team 2 days a week, having been requested to join by the DevOps team leader after showing off his impressive skills during his first coding challenge project. Looks like someone has secured themselves a job after they graduate from our Academy!

Will is part of our current cohort of Technical Analyst Apprentices and if what he does sounds exciting to you and you want to kickstart an exciting career in technology, find out more about the ANS Academy here.