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College of Liberal Arts E-News: Biweekly news from the College of Liberal Arts

Mission: Impossible

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"Good morning, Mr. Hansen. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, involves providing the very best technology services to the faculty, staff, and students in CLA. You must also close 14 audit findings, bring oversight to all independent IT operations in the college, and help guide the future of academic computing. You may make minor changes to the CLA-OIT organization, but you cannot hire more staff, expend more resources, or violate University policies. The community will want you to support every user request regardless of time, expense, or eccentricity, and they'll want you to do it for every smartphone and gadget ever made. You have six months to complete the mission. As always, should any member of your team be caught upsetting anyone, the college will disavow all knowledge of your actions. This message will self-destruct in five seconds..."

I'm pretty sure this was how Associate Dean Gary Oehlert presented me with the offer to be CLA's interim IT Director. For reasons that fail me at the moment, I accepted the mission.

As we begin a new academic year, let me highlight two items:

New Service Catalog

We've redesigned the CLA-OIT website to be a catalog of all the technology services we provide to CLA faculty, staff, and students. Each service is described in terms of what we do, what we don't do, and what you need to do. We also list our commitments and points of contact. Please have a look and send us your comments and ideas for new services.

Changes to Our Support Model

As part of the new technology support model, CLA-OIT is making a fundamental change: all faculty, staff, and graduate students are asked to call the Service Desk (4-4357) for assistance. Do not try to call your regional tech, because you no longer have one (the role of regional tech has been discontinued in the new model).

The plan involves a system of interrelated roles that can only be effective when in place completely. Instead of providing the technical support services of a single technician who also served other departments, we are providing a team of multiple technicians, a new Technology Administrator, and a Service Desk staffed with both professional and student staff.

Each member of this team does serve a larger community; however, by reorganizing we are able to put significant efforts into great service. Never before has CLA-OIT worked so hard to improve the faculty- and staff-relationship skills of our technical staff.

Our Tech Admins have already been working together this summer on improving their service and communication skills. By focusing their attention and building their leadership skills, we are on our way to producing the very best IT professionals. We have held organized customer service training taught by higher education experts—a first for CLA-OIT. We are also taking a little time each week to examine what is working and what needs improvement—and implementing those changes immediately. And as another first, we are coordinating the services of the Tech Admins with the Instructional Technology Fellows to promote a more cohesive and effective package of services. Personal letters from the IT Fellows and Tech Admins have been sent to all faculty and staff (look for an email from Sarah Knoblauch). Please take the time to read these very informative messages.

We are committed to providing CLA faculty, staff, and students with the absolute best service we can provide. Circumstances like the budget, our recent IT audit, and a University-wide change in IT leadership place some boundaries on how we do it. The rapidly changing technology environment in which we live is also placing new demands on us to change our ways. The support model of the past cannot keep up if it cannot evolve. No single person can know it all or do it all—and if they could, they'd be so busy researching they couldn't spend time with those who need their help.

We implement this new model understanding not everyone agrees it'll work. After all, we are attempting to achieve what many consider to be impossible: provide the best, most effective personal support; do so from a more centralized and managed model; and work within the limits of tight budgets and University policies. We recognize these changes may be difficult, and we appreciate your willingness to give the new model a chance to be successful.

We are asking everyone to make a small, but significant, change in how they request support. I ask that you take time to meet a few new faces and be willing to build new relationships with the team of exciting and capable experts we have in CLA-OIT.

I do not ask that you settle for reduced performance, for unreasonable delays, or for disappointment in any way. Never hesitate to tell us what you expect—it is essential to our plan that we hear it and respond to it. We do not promise perfection, but we do strive for it.

Have a great year! CLA-OIT looks forward to supporting you.

1 Comment

There are always advantages and disadvantages to centralization. In this case, I am willing to trade the advantages of a person who knows me, my department, our needs, and our equipment if, in return, I can be assured of timely assistance from a tech support person with a *thorough* knowledge of Apple computers and their software. I hope it works out that way!

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