Business Services Department
Self-Study 2004 - 2005
Self-Study and Evaluation
During the fall 2004, the Business Services Department team met in two groups to complete a unit self-study of services and activities.
The following action items resulted from the self-study:
- Evaluate alternatives for improving IT accounting procedures and processes to support accrual-based financial reporting of IT activities and costs.
- Evaluate existing Help Desk structure and activities for improving customer service.
- Evaluate existing billing processes and procedures relative to current Pinnacle Axis Billing Software for improving billing services.
- Review existing cellular services and evaluate the benefits of issuing an RFP for improving cellular services for faculty, staff, students, departments, and affiliates.
- Implement BES server for improving existing BlackBerry service and evaluate expanding BlackBerry services to faculty, staff, and students.
- Evaluate existing services, identify new service opportunities, and complete a marketing plan.
- Improve communication.
In completing the self-study, the Business Services Department group met in two separate groups. Each group was represented by staff from Telecom Services and from Accounting Services. Each of the 3 hour meetings began first with an overview of the Support Services Planning Process and its purpose as related to the Academic Plan. We reviewed the UW Mission Statement and IT’s Mission Statement and Core Values. Then, as a group, we generated a list of our services. The majority of the meeting was spent on identifying the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities of each service. We will meet once more to finalize our discussions. Our major service areas, strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities are outlined below.
DSL Service is provided, in partnership with Qwest, and is available to any UW faculty, staff, or students choosing to use UW as their Internet Service Provider (ISP) for DSL service.
Strengths: Revenue generated.
Weaknesses: Pricing, Speed
Current UW Rate/Speed is not competitive. Presently, all UW-DSL traffic is routed through the campus Packeteer and therefore subject to the same network bandwidth shaping as on campus users. Unlike traditional Qwest DSL subscribers, UW-DSL subscribers will experience poor performance when using applications or accessing sites restricted by Packeteer such as gaming, music, and multimedia. There is no clear process or structure for supporting UW-DSL subscribers. Limited UW support focuses on ensuring that the customer’s account is properly configured for UW-DSL access. For other questions, including performance problems, customers are referred to Qwest. There is no special UW Qwest support number, so customers are directed to the general Qwest DSL support where technicians have no knowledge of the specific nuances of the UW ISP. Because of these issues, many potential customers are referred to Qwest directly resulting in annual revenue loss.
Opportunities: There is an opportunity to increase revenue and customer base; however, Packeteer restrictions must be removed and an effective support process created. Otherwise, strong consideration should be given to discontinuing UW-DSL service.
Telephone and VOIP Telecommunications Service
(Includes Voice Mail, Long Distance, Caller ID, Call Waiting, Call Waiting ID)
Strengths: Telephone service continues to be extremely reliable means for voice communications across campus. VOIP service offers promise as a potentially lower cost alternative.
Long Distance. Our current campus long distance rates are much higher than current Qwest long distance rates and much more than some low cost calling cards. Student long distance revenue has virtually disappeared as most students are using cell phones.
Voice Mail. Many departments across campus do not pay for voice mail for faculty and staff and many faculty and staff are not aware of the availability of voice mail. Currently, we are unable to offer unified messaging services for any Meridian Mail users, which is nearly all of campus.
Telephone Service. The SL-100 switch is expensive to maintain and has approximately 5-7 years until it will need to be replaced.
VOIP. VOIP services, currently available in the UW Office Annex and IT, are not as reliable or redundant necessary for further implementation.
Opportunities: Offering Unified Messaging to Meridian Mail users would increase customer service across campus and increase IT revenue. Integrating the work order synchronization features of Pinnacle Axis software with the SL-100 switch could help eliminate the need to manually configure the switch and result in reduce costs. Investigate the potential of offering VOIP service to on-campus students as well as to faculty, staff, and students living off-campus. Long distance rates need to be revised to be more competitive. While long distance revenue for students has virtually disappeared, cellular and other services need to investigated and implemented when appropriate.
Telecom Help Desk
Strengths: The staff of the Telecom Help Desk is experienced and knowledgeable. There is a great deal of camaraderie and teamwork. The staff is focused on continual cross-training. Most telecom issues are resolved
Weaknesses: The split help desk (one for telecom and one for data/desktop) and phone tree is often confusing to customers. It is not uncommon for customers to choose option 2 (Telecom Help Desk) for questions about their desktop computer, operation system, or software application. The help desks use two different software packages to manage activity – Pinnacle Axis for Telecom issues and HEAT for the desktop/data. These systems do not natively share or exchange data efficiently. Finally, Help Desk staffs are available from 8am until 5pm Monday through Friday for a total of 40 hours each week.
Opportunities: With the convergence of the data, voice, and video networks, it may make sense to discuss the advantages of merging the voice (Telecom) help desk and the data help desks into one or whether another structure makes sense for help desk support. Additionally, many classes and other university business occur after 5pm Monday through Friday and on the weekends. According to data from the Educause Core Data Survey, the weekly average number of available help desk hours at doctorial universities is 83.5. There are opportunities for expanding existing help desk hours and improving customer service. Integrating Axis with
Strengths: Pinnacle Axis billing software is the premier telecom billing application. The recently implemented web interface for departmental billing has helped to improved customer self-service and reduced costs associated with preparing and printing customer bills.
Weaknesses: There is little integration and data exchange between Pinnacle Axis and other UW systems including HEAT.
Opportunities: In order to offer the Pinnacle web interface to students, we need to integrate LDAP authentication. Although LDAP integration is available in our current Pinnacle version 4.4, upgrading to version 5 may facilitate this integration and more importantly, provide the tools necessary for billing cellular service detail. Need to improve the process for billing for non-telecom services through improved integration with HEAT. Work is currently underway with Systems staff to install a report server, which will allow us to use Crystal Reports with Axis to improve our reporting capabilities.
IT Accounting and Human Resources
Strengths: There is an excellent process in place for ensuring that PISTOL reports are accurate. Requisitions are prepared and ready for signature authorization within 24 hours of receipt. The increased use of Procurement Cards has resulted in reducing the number of Purchase Orders and in improving accounts receivable efficiencies especially through the consolidation of telephone bills.
Weaknesses: The process for ensuring that PISTOL reports are accurate does not support the preparation of accrual based financial reports recommended by UW Internal Auditors and needed by management. Currently, the overall purchasing process is fragmented. For example, purchasing data is manually stored in multiple spreadsheets, databases, and applications with no electronic exchange or process for ensuring data integrity between shadow systems. The database application used to support both the management of contracts and the budgeting process is confusing to staff, not normalized, and requires constant maintenance of macros and filters.
Opportunities: Designing a process that results in timely completion of accrual based accounting reports for PC Maintenance will be beneficial for other areas of IT as well. Accrual based financial statements are needed for all other areas especially revenue generating Telecom operations. Redesigning the purchasing process by reducing the number of disparate databases and spreadsheets will help to improve data integrity and improve our ability to produce reports in a timely manner. Additional opportunities for electronically exchanging data with PeopleSoft should continue to be identified and implemented when appropriate. Policies and Procedures need to be written to outline and support new processes and should be organized and available on the IT Intranet.
Strengths: Currently, the process available for departments, faculty, and staff to purchase phones is efficient and results in a positive customer experience. Cellular One and Verizon offer discounted monthly service for UW departments, faculty, and staff.
Weaknesses: While other vendors, such as TMobile and Cingular, are expanding coverage to include Laramie and other parts of Wyoming, Cellular One and Verizon are still the only two with adequate coverage areas. We do not have an adequate cellular service product for students. While nearly 70% of 18 year olds use cell phones, we are missing out on a potentially rewarding market.
Opportunities: Providing cellular services to students provides a great opportunity for increasing IT revenue. While many schools offer discounted programs similar to the discounted programs we currently offer to departments, faculty, and staff, many schools are becoming resellers of cellular services. As a reseller, there is a greater potential for increased profit margins and product offerings. For example, it is easier to create custom calling plans based on the unique characteristics of our student population and the unique characteristics of the geographical location of Laramie. Most importantly, we can also offer plans that add value to our UW brand. For example, adding data connectivity for UW cellular service to important campus information via a browser or via a text message would add competitive value and a reason for students, faculty, staff, and departments to purchase our brand.
Strengths: We meet the legal requirements for reporting E911 information by maintaining a database that the UW Police can access for E911 information.
Opportunities: Need to continue to provide this service and ensure that we are meeting all legal requirements.
IT Web Site and Newsletter
Strengths: The IT Website is a good resource for users and is rich with how-to documentation. The Newsletter is visually appealing and published each semester.
Weaknesses: It is a continual process to ensure that content is current and navigation is appropriate for most effective customer use.
Opportunities: Continue to explore content management options for the Web site including alternate processes, software, and XML/database-driven technologies.