Do you have a great idea for how to simplify our shutdown procedures, or how to automate certain restart activities? Now that we will be doing more intensive planning for the October 24 data center shutdown, I ask that everyone keep an eye out for opportunities to improve our shutdown and startup processes, to reduce the time required. This can be anywhere: storage, servers, scheduling, etc. In the interests of simplify, standardize, automate, we will make every effort to provide funding for great ideas that might require small amounts of money.
August 2009 Archives
As many of you know, I attended the IT Leaders Program a few years ago. During that program, we often took special individual time (or "i-time" as we affectionately called it) to reflect on our strengths, and areas that we should focus to improve. I still try to reserve an occasional "i-time" on my calendar to continue the self-improvement process. I find it very enlightening.
There is another, more systematic way to determine your personal strengths: the StrengthsFinder assessment. Ann mentioned the StrengthsFinder in her weekly email. It should be interesting as a self-improvement exercise. If you are interested in this exercise, I urge you to take advantage of it.
Thank you to everyone who has expressed interest in the StrengthsFinder assessment. In order to ensure that we order the correct number of books and allow planning time for units who are going to take the assessment, please e-mail Steve Carnes by the end of the day next Wednesday, September 2nd, with your interest. After we have a complete list of both units and individuals who would like to do this, we will e-mail everyone who has replied with further details.
Thanks again for your interest.
Transparency is an important part of the "one OIT" goal, discussed at last week's all-OIT meeting. To become a single, unified organization to our customers, we need to first become one organization within ourselves. Transparency means that others within OIT can see what we are doing, and when we are doing them. This goes a long ways towards communication improvement.
Along these lines, Erik has set up a mailing list for anyone wanting/needing to get the weekly change reports. If this interests you, you should subscribe to the firstname.lastname@example.org list. Erik has started sending the weekly reports there.
At the All-OIT meeting last week, we saw a presentation using Pecha Kucha, so I thought I'd talk a little more about it. Using Pecha Kucha (usually pronounced in three syllables like "pe-chak-cha") a presenter shows 20 images for 20 seconds apiece, for a total time of 6 minutes, 40 seconds. The idea being that this keeps presentations concise, the interest level up, and gives more people the chance to show.
At first, this might seem to be an example of how not to use PowerPoint, but it can be an effective communication tool - if the audience is made aware of it.
Pecha Kucha communicates a lot of information in a very short amount of time, similar to a "lightning talk". Prepare your audience by letting them know about Pecha Kucha (unless you are at a Pecha Kucha Night) then deliver your presentation with as much enthusiasm and energy as you can. Remember that in any presentation, your audience will have as much interest in your topic as you have energy for it, and it's even moreso with Pecha Kucha.
You all should have received the general email that the U of M will now limit outgoing email message size. An option to sending large files via e-mail is the University's NetFiles, a secure online file storage application with collaboration and sharing features. NetFiles provides up to 5 GB of storage space for each user.
NetFiles also makes it much easier to collaborate with co-workers, as well as colleagues off campus and around the world. You can place large documents or presentations in NetFiles and give your co-workers access rights, so all of you are working on the same file and storing it in the same place. You can also lock files while you're working in them, preventing others from making changes before yours are saved. Document owners can be notified when any changes are made to their documents, and NetFiles can be used to keep track of various versions of a document.
All currently registered students, staff, and faculty with an active appointment may use the NetFiles service. Before using NetFiles for the first time, each user must activate their NetFiles account at www.umn.edu/myaccount. Follow the link for NetFiles Account Options and agree to the information there to activate your account. After activating your account you can log in to the system, with your Internet ID and password at https://netfiles.umn.edu. After logging in, you'll see your home directory.
You can add a new file to your account using the Upload button in the navigation toolbar.
- Navigate to the directory in which you wish to upload your file.
- Click Upload in the toolbar.
- Click the Browse to locate the file you want to upload.
- Click Ok and your file will be uploaded.
NetFiles also allows for collaboration and file sharing with people inside or outside of the University of Minnesota with "tickets." You can issue a ticket for a limited amount of time and/or create a password for added security. It is recommended that when you send a ticket to someone, you e-mail the password separately or call and give that person the password.
To use tickets:
- Click the Share icon.
- Click Tickets in the top toolbar.
- Click Create Ticket in the top toolbar.
- You can use the Basic or Advanced options to create a ticket to send to other users for access to the file or directory you want to share. The Advanced options allow you to specify a password and also rename the ticket.
To notify someone that a shared file or directory exits:
- Check the box next to the file or directory you want to share.
- Click E-mail in the top toolbar.
- Choose either Link or Ticket.
- Click E-mail and a message will be created (using the default e-mail application) with the link or ticket information.
You also can use your NetFiles space as a Web site. You can use as much of your 5 gigabytes of space as is available for your personal Web space. Your Web space can either be publicly accessible to only a group of users you choose to access it.
Visit http://uttc.umn.edu/training/resources/netfiles/ for further information on using NetFiles, If you need to further assistance or help activating your account, call the technology helpline at 301-4357 (1-HELP), or send e-mail to the NetFiles support group at email@example.com.
John Snider (DR) has some good news that I want to share:
DRS has completed working with the University Technical Training Center staff to develop an online training presentation on UMConnect to provide easy access to plan development training for members of your staff selected to be a plan development coordinator.
This presentation will eliminate the 1 hour face-to-face training that DRS previously provided. In addition, it provides a convenient way for individuals to refresh their memories after long intervals between working on a DRP. The presentation lasts a little over 17 minutes (no tests at the end)!
This presentation is in addition to the online DRP walk through orientation that was created earlier in the year.
Please take a look..... https://umconnect.umn.edu/drpdp/
Please remember that the OIT All-Staff meeting is this coming Wednesday, August 19 at 2:00 p.m. in the Mayo Auditorium. After a beginning example of a Pecha Kucha, the Senior Management Team will present an overview of recent OIT accomplishments, FY10 strategic directions, an overview of the next phase of One OIT work, followed by ample time for Q&A and then food/foyer conversation. See you then!
Also, please plan to attend the upcoming OIT Customer Appreciation and Technology Fair on Friday August 28 from 1:30-3:30 p.m. on the Northrup Plaza. Enclosed with this message is the invitation. Please send this notice to your customers and clients along with a personalized email message. The attached invitation will serve both as the ticket for Ben and Jerry's ice cream and as the entry for our many prizes. Be sure to let guests know to fill it out and bring it along. And if you are a supervisor, please arrange schedules so that your staff can attend.
This is a re-post from Ann's weekly email:
n order to optimize system performance and better align University of Minnesota e-mail services with industry best practices, the Office of Information Technology will make adjustments to selected University e-mail account parameters. The adjustments are consistent with recent conversations that have taken place in the technical community on this topic. In addition, the changes will help facilitate users' potential move to Gmail this fall.
Effective Monday, Aug. 17 the maximum e-mail message size will be 25MB, and Trash and Sent folders will be auto-filed after 30 days.
Any messages in your Trash or Sent folders that are more than 30 days old will be moved automatically out of those folders and filed in a folder called "AutoFiled," which will appear in your folder directory. Messages will be arranged by the date they were received in subfolders named by year. For example, a message received to your Sent folder Aug. 13, 2009 will be filed in the folder called "2009.Sent" inside the AutoFiled folder.
It is important to note that no e-mail will be deleted and that the auto-filed e-mails will be easily accessible with any desktop e-mail IMAP client, such as GopherMail, Outlook, Thunderbird, and Apple Mail.
If you've been in the practice of storing important information in your Trash folder, it is recommended that you take this opportunity to go through those folders, move any messages that you need to keep into your inbox or other folders, and delete any unnecessary items. OIT also recommends that you do the same with your Sent folder, moving older items to other folders and deleting any unnecessary items.
If there are no messages older than 30 days in your Trash or Sent folders, automatic auto-filing will not occur.
This week, I received a great one about demonstrating the value of your IT operations to your Director or CIO. I'll spare you the rest of the email (it was selling a measurement tool) but wanted to repeat this bit:
CIOs need more timely metrics, including context on historical performance in order to measure performance over time. You need tools to predict "what if" scenarios, such as the impact on revenue if a particular server or IT process is brought down. You need a broader variety of metrics, such as costs by service or resources, or resources by portfolio, budget or future demand. This allows you to answer important questions for the business, such as, how is the investment in IT innovation allocated by line of business? And how have those investments trended over time? Or what is the variance between projected and actual ROI for each IT service category over time?
With the right performance metrics you can measure and quantify what's important to the business, rather than IT. You can focus on what the business needs and values rather than operational metrics that don't reveal much about business performance. BI for the CIO helps you:
* Measure and continually improve the cost efficiency for all of IT
* Understand IT changes in business terms, such as lost revenue if a service is disabled
* Better align IT resources with business problems
* Continually improve IT processes
There's some great wisdom, there. This hits a lot of high points with me. The spam talks about understanding the impact to your operations if a system is down unexpectedly, and about providing a way to grok what's happening in your organization (for example, that's why Tdocs are so important here.)
The OIA Solaris systems administration team has been working to create a routine patching process for the Solaris servers. The team has developed a plan that will allow us to patch the Solaris servers on a routine schedule and meet concerns that servers are patched in an appropriate order.
The patching process is non-disruptive. However, for the patching to take affect a reboot of the system is required. So, the reboots have been scheduled outside of normal business hours for dev/test systems and during the Sunday maintenance window for production systems.
This plan has been discussed and reviewed with AAS senior managers, so everyone is aware what is going on, and when system changes are coming up. OIA Solaris will, of course, open change tickets for everything. If you have any questions, please check with Patton Fast or Bob Baker.
I like that we are doing this. Publishing a 1-year schedule of all system patching supports all areas of simplify, standardize, automate. By establishing the schedule, we have simplified the process to roll patches through, we standardize the work being done, allowing us to make use of more automation tools. Good job!
It's important that OIT keep a good accounting of all our purchases, even non-capital systems like desktops and laptops. Starting the week of August 10, OIT Finance will be conducting an audit of all computer equipment. A Finance team member will be coming around to each workspace looking for serial numbers and asset tag numbers on all laptop and desktop computers.
In addition to auditing all work computers here in WBOB, the team will need to audit all OIT computers that are at an employee's home.
If you have any questions please contact Kristin Jones.
This week, OIA had our all-staff meeting. Bernard gave a great overview on OIT's six-year IT plan, including the results of the OIT external review. Bill Decker talked about the DR exercise on October 24, and the importance of configuration management. And Doug discussed tracking metrics using the Workplans and Tdocs that we have all been working on.
We had a lot of great questions. One person asked if we were planning to share the slides. We're uploading the PowerPoint slides to the OIT internal wiki, under OIT Unit Updates (People).
Special thanks to JoLene for setting us up with food, and to Heather for helping me out at the last minute. Thanks!
I'm always interested in feedback from the All-OIA meetings. If you have comments about things that worked well, or things that should be improved for our next All-OIA meeting, please let me know! If you're comfortable doing so, feel free to leave a comment in my blog. Or send me an email. If you'd rather remain anonymous, you can print a note and drop it in my mailbox. Thanks!
I wanted to post a reminder for the All-OIA staff meeting. We will meet on Wednesday, August 5, 2:00-3:30 in the cafeteria. See you then!
In case you missed it from the OIT Tech Brief email this week, I wanted to share this update on the External Review:
At the request of Senior Vice President Robert Jones, the Office of Information
Technology (OIT) was visited and formally reviewed by an outside panel of
experts. The purpose of this review, as stated by Senior Vice President Robert
Jones office, was to "obtain a forward looking review that helps us think
about our future and the role that our Office of Information Technology and
related offices will need to play within our campuses to help us be globally
competitive, to maintain any competitive advantages that we now have, and to
create other advantages."
Periodic reviews such as this are conducted regularly in academic departments.
And although there are no formal policies requiring University-wide offices and
administrative units such as OIT to conduct external reviews, it is becoming
increasingly common to do so. Read more - OIT External Review.