Client Support Services Department
Self-Study 2004 - 2005
Overview: Client Support Services (CSS) provides University of Wyoming faculty, staff and students a single point of contact, where applicable, for assistance in the utilization of University computing resources for the fulfillment of educational and research needs, and strives to provide that assistance in a timely and professional manner. The department offers a call and walk-in help desk, desk side support, centralized academic computer lab management and direct student support, connectivity, hardware and software support, consulting, computer and peripheral sales, training, software license management, technology recommendations, and web-accessible information for UW computing to all faculty, staff, and students of the University.
The staff of the CSS met three times conducting half day working sessions to discuss the strengths, weaknesses, value, and opportunities of the various support services it provides. In an effort to obtain customer feedback and peer institution comparisons, multiple surveys were conducted on campus to evaluate the services; and targeted questionnaires were delivered to comparator institutions. The information contained below is a culmination from all of these exercises.
Name of Service: Desktop Support
Stakeholders: Faculty, Staff, Students, Retirees, Cooperating Agencies, Home & Personal
Strengths: Desktop Support employs well-trained IT professionals that provide prompt, local support to their assigned departmental users. Permanent departmental assignments allow relationship building between the department and support specialist as well as add to the knowledge that the specialist has of the unit’s uniqueness. Utilization of a backup team approach allows support to continue when one specialist may be away on another call or absent from work.
Because of the many support options utilized by the desktop support staff (online, onsite, remote desktop sharing, phone, email, local [depot / in IT house]) service is usually prompt. Incremental movement towards business class standards and availability of software via Campus Agreement has enabled swifter upgrades for operating systems and the Office Suite products. Central Student Technology Committee lab node recycling has enabled departments to upgrade equipment with less of a cost burden, thus providing supported standard machines to a wider user base. This helps the support specialists to provide better service because of the more standardized configurations.
Conversely, the staff may offer – where appropriate – versatility in providing technical (installation, configuration, vendor contact) support for non-standard software applications. The customers benefit from skilled support staff providing a “best efforts” approach by offering limited technical assistance and support in areas where strengths are not expected.
Surveys suggest high satisfaction among the customers who utilize IT’s computer support specialists. One survey ranked the consultants the third highest in satisfaction among all IT services, scoring 4.10 out of a 5-point rating scale. The customer service focus, institutional knowledge, and a steadily increasing skills base contribute greatly to this esteemed recognition by the customers.
The staff to computer ratio currently averages 1:355 (when including retirees, adjuncts, cooperating agencies, but not including all UW non-benefited part time employees), which falls within an acceptable range as compared to other institutions.
Weaknesses: From departmental surveys and monthly staff meetings, it is evident that a lack of formalized policies and enforcement of those policies hampers the desktop support specialist’s ability to provide as good a service as possible. Delays that are attributable to slowed management or technical decision making may occur that prevent immediate resolution. Often times departments are more proactive in purchasing emerging technologies. The specialists may not always have ready access to similar equipment and technologies, and are therefore not well prepared to support new technologies in as quick a fashion as desired.
Each specialist sets different expectations with customers. While that may work for an individual, if that specialist is gone for any reason, his/her backups may not be aware of those expectations and therefore unintentionally disappoint a customer when unknown expectations are not met.
There also appears to be a lack of consistency in some of the support provided, such as machine and security configurations. Having a published set of support goals (Service Level Goals) makes both customer and specialist aware at the beginning of a call what to expect/what service(s) may be provided and how those will be provided to them. Along with this, the varying knowledge and level of training or specialization (generalist vs. specialist) those specialists may have inadvertently results in varying levels of or inconsistent support being provided. Mentioned as a strength, a “best efforts” approach may also be detrimental to support specialists’ attempt to be consistent. One consultant may not be as comfortable venturing outside the support standards guidelines as another.
While the Campus Agreement has allowed for easier upgrade paths to support standard configurations, the varied deployment and utilization of Microsoft™ Windows operating systems and Office suites still poses a support obstacle. Solutions vary depending on which of these are deployed. As a result, a single discovered solution or configuration is not attainable as a recommendation to all users. The demographics of the campus desktop and laptop configuration are unknown.
Support specialists also indicate that lack of communication channels (be it in person, email, etc.) with other units within the IT family causes desktop support personnel to often be less informed of developments and implementations. Desktop support response is then reactive instead of proactive, and usually means customers endure the consequences of IT actions without due notice. In addition, lack of access to system tools (to administration data --- network, security, real time, tools, logs, status, i.e. dial up/DSL/wireless/ VPN) and a formal knowledge base causes delays in service while researching or going through another IT entity to find an answer.
The annual CSS departmental survey also suggests that support after business hours or lack of home/personal PC support is of concern to the client base. This shortcoming was addressed in a committee study, but no implementation has occurred. See Appendix X.
As reported earlier, the staff to computer ratio currently averages 1:355 (when including retirees, adjuncts, cooperating agencies, but not including all UW non-benefited part time employees). While the support ratio is within an acceptable range as compared to other institutions, it may be perceived as too high by some departments, and therefore viewed as a weakness. Several comments in recent surveys indicated that customers believe more desk-side support staff is needed to improve customer service.
Desktop Support specialists may be expected to be experts on all application packages and all platforms. Concentration may need to shift to be more towards providing technical expertise and support for generally utilized operating systems and Microsoft Office™ Suite software; computer setup and rebuild of operating systems; installation of applications; troubleshooting and configuration of network access and resources; troubleshooting operational issues; connection and configuration of peripherals; and virus and malware detection, removal and protection. The balance today is tenable, but as diverse applications proliferate on campus, clear expectations will need to be set between Client Support and its customers. The same challenge explained in this section reappears throughout the CSS self study in student computing, the training program, and software distribution.
Value added by CSS providing the service: Well trained, versatile, IT professionals provide prompt, knowledgeable service to permanently assigned department base via a variety of support methods including desk side, in-house, online, phone, email, and remote desktop sessions.
Opportunities: Desktop support specialists have many opportunities to assist and train users for best utilization of office computers and related equipment. Besides the help desk, the computer support specialists are the frontline of support and therefore have to remain well trained, knowledgeable, and up-to-date in all aspects of PC technology. Support specialists are in continual contact with users and often are the only source of information regarding potential problems, so communication among peers and other departments is of utmost importance.
To mitigate several weaknesses, the following opportunities should be explored:
- Better notification and communication to customers on matters affecting their computer usage
- More effective utilization of a support technologies
- Develop Service Level Goals
- Study call tracking capabilities in the area of self-service and knowledge base
- Utilize available documentation from IT and AskIT websites as well as IT intranet for problem resolution and policy direction
- Review and re-implement secure login and configuration of desktop and laptop computers (utilization of –A accounts). Publish standard setup configuration and enforce utilization
- Evaluate the generalist vs. application specialist (versatility) approach and determine most valuable services
- Evaluate expansion of IT support for Mac and Linux/Unix
Name of Service: Help Desk
Stakeholders: Students, Faculty, Staff, Retirees, Cooperating Agencies Home & Personal, General Public
Strengths: The Help Desk provides efficient processing of calls to a centralized “help” number, thus providing a single point of contact for CSS and other select units with Information Technology. Calls to the Help Desk may be requesting information or software/hardware problem assistance of any kind and are logged into a call tracking system for closure or assignment to another party for resolution. The tiered support model (tier 1 and 2 in the call center and 2+ is an on call specialist backup) provides various levels of support within the Help Desk from simple response at tier 1 to supervisory assistance from a full time benefited staff member, and remote support at the tier 2 or 2+ (on call backup for emergency deployment to an office). This model provides additional levels of support to the initial call taker which makes it possible to resolve a high number of problems on first contact (current statistics indicate as high as 87% first call resolution which has continued to improve as student skills have improved with training and exposure to problems). The supervisor (tier 2) may resolve a call or send it on as necessary to tier 2+ (on call specialist), tier 3 (departmental specialist), or tier 4 system or network specialist.
The Help Desk is always staffed during normal business hours and provides quick response to simple questions. It is the central contact for walk-in assistance as well as the first line of contact for campus “incidents” (i.e. network outages, virus attacks, etc.). The Help Desk also provides backup support to desktop support specialists for rebuilding and new PC setup, and during slow periods work on ticket review and cleanup. The combined call volume – approximately 30,000 incidents per year - of the Help Desk and desk-side consultants is similar to other comparator institutions. The resolution time and resolution means (email, in office, phone, and remote support) are also within a comparable range of other institutions.
Weaknesses: Space and location are two of the problems most often brought up by staff. Due to the small space allocated to 4 people (a 5th station is outside the main help desk room) the noise level can be problematic. If all agents are on the telephone at once, even though there are noise canceling headsets being used, it is difficult to hear the caller. This causes redundant questioning and slows down response time as well as being frustrating for both caller and help desk attendant. However, this might be a strength in that one side of the call can be easily heard, monitored, and information or assistance can be quickly given because of close proximity.
It is not always possible to fully staff with 3 student FTE’s on an hourly basis because of heavy dependence on student staffing and conflicts with their academic commitments. If not fully staffed during peak incidents, callers may be on hold for longer periods of time awaiting assistance. Also, the current ACD system is not robust enough to provide flexible hold or message queues during peak incident times. Customers understandably get discouraged and hang up which inflates the call abandonment rate.
One of the biggest challenges is to provide adequate training in technical diagnostic skills as well as customer service skills -including phone skills - before a new student employee sits down at the phone. While various methods have been attempted, it always comes down to scheduling and not enough available time to properly train someone. This leads to inconsistent knowledge and customer dissatisfaction with the person attempting to provide assistance.
The Help Desk is most often the first point of contact when problems occur with computer equipment, the internet, centralized services, and the network. It is often the first IT group to be aware of a situation on campus. Currently there are not enough effective communication policies and procedures within and between IT units to ensure that information is fed to, and received from, the help desk to enable prompt and accurate responses from IT to its customers.
Value added by CSS providing the service: The Help Desk acts as a central location for information and resolution of computer problems as well as providing accurate and helpful information to University constituents for general and unique computing needs. The higher rate of first call resolution minimizes customer down time and increases faculty, staff, and student productivity.
Opportunities: The Help Desk is the frontline support area via phone and email (Userhelp@uwyo.edu) for all computer users on campus. This provides the Help Desk the opportunity to make the best first impression of Information Technology. With proper staffing and ongoing training the level of assistance the Help Desk is able to provide reflects positively (or negatively) on the entire department. It is therefore necessary to hire the best possible agents to man the desk and make certain they are well trained and have the tools to do the job efficiently and effectively.
Setting reasonable expectations with the customer, expanding Help Desk hours of availability, creating an internal paradigm shift towards a central hub of information, and expanding the tools and training available to all agents should improve the operations, credibility, and value of the Help Desk. Virtual expansion of the Help Desk to involve more IT and non-IT units may be considered. The concept of providing a single point of contact can be explored to streamline and capture all related computing calls.
Name of Service: Student Computing
(Direct support to students, Labs, ASUWLink, Classroom - Not student calls to Helpdesk
Stakeholders: Students, Faculty, Staff, Home & Personal, General Public
Strengths: The Academic Support Unit (ASU) efforts have been recognized by the UW student body as one of the highest rated services provided by the university. The 2004 Noel-Levitz Student Satisfaction Survey asked students to rate, “Computer labs are adequate and accessible.” Of the top ten items with the highest average satisfaction, UW computer labs ranked first of ten. Of the ten items for which UW is most ahead of national averages, UW’s computer labs ranked second of ten.
The Academic Support Unit consists of 4 FTE, 5 student technicians and range from 72 to 90 lab assistants. The ASU supports some 98 labs including a 24-hour availability lab, and lecture classrooms utilizing the UWStudent lab system for a total of 1025 lab nodes. An additional 11 kiosk computers in the Wyoming Union and 9 depatmental laptops are managed by the unit. From January 2003 until December 2003 there were 1.6 million recorded logins to lab computers. Other universities that were contacted were within the 4 FTE and ranged from 8000 students and 160 lab nodes to 16,460 students and 850 supported lab nodes. The student-to-computer ratio of 10:1 is at or better than comparator institutions. The number of lab nodes managed by the ASU is above average, and the number of software applications installed appears to far exceed those of comparator institutions.
The ASU has been able to work as a team to efficiently process the demanding workload required to support the academic mission of the University. Other factors which have helped mitigate the load is the utilization of technologies to gain the highest efficiencies. Use of imaging software and other software tools enable the staff to maintain the academic lab system in a timely manner. Efficiencies extend beyond that of support of the labs by harnessing process and technology to effectively administer the payroll and scheduling of all student lab assistants.
The Central Student Technology Committee funding model provides adequate funding for student computing initiatives. This model also provides standardization and agressive refresh cycles of lab technology. It is easier to maintain the software and hardware on a limited number of vendor models, and by keeping the technology current.
The ASU can be contracted by College Student Fee Committees and departments to provide staffing and administration for student computer labs. The lab assistants are trained on the tools available for resolving issues along with a number of web based tools developed for communcation with the full time staff. Eleven of the 98 labs are staffed by lab assistants for a total of 31,550 open lab hours.
Timely resolution of most student and academic related computing issues is enabled by maintaining a high level of communication with IT’s Telecommunications and Systems Services (TSS) unit. Intense collaboration results in a very secure, stable, and consistent student computing lab environment (in cases where IT maintains and administers the labs). Through this relationship the Academic Support Unit is able to work with instructors and the TSS group to provide software in the student labs that are both standard and specialized for unique academic requirements.
With widespread access to computing resources it is reasonable to expect there will be many questions and issues encountered by students and faculty with repsect to academic computing resouces. Considering the volume of phone calls, e-mails and walk-in traffic received, ASU has responded with a high degree of call resolution and in most cases within a 24 hour period. As the CSS Help Desk becomes more widely known, many students are and will be utilizing this resource to resolve simple issues. Because of the cross training that was provided between the Academic Support Unit and the Help Desk, the ASU has become a strong Tier 2+ level support for the Help Desk and now has more time to devote to student issues or projects that are more difficult or that serve a larger number of constituents.
Every fall and spring the ASU presents 10 to 12 one- or two-hour training courses to students on supported software to help students accomplish their academic goals. ASU is also available for instructors to request in-class specialized instruction on core Microsoft products and using the student computing lab environment.
Even with the increasing use of wireless among students, the ASU has been able to provide immediate assistance for student wireless issues when resources are available.
Weaknesses: Past surveys have indicated that the lab assistants need more training in the area of core lab software and computing resources. Part of the problem has been the temporary nature of lab assistants, their varying skill levels and inconsistency from individual to individual.
Students request assistance in solving problems with their personal computing devices because they are dependent on the functionality of their systems to successfully access and utilize university computer services. Due to limited resources of personnel and time the ASU is not able to support personal computers beyond the basics of wireless setup, networking, and antivirus installation. This leads to inequitable support for students as compared to faculty and staff.
Limitations exist that currently hinder or prevent the ASU from expanding certain services. Limitations in personnel and skill levels have led to the inability to support non-Windows platforms such as Macintosh and Unix environments. In the spring of 2004, Information Technology sent out a survey to key UW department members and computer technology administrators across campus. The survey was intended to identify possible areas of support that the Academic Support Unit could assume and administer. It was determined there were several non-Windows platforms that needed support but that the ASU did not have the skill set available to assume support.
Instructional technology and support for the classrooms on campus is not handled in a consistent manner by the university, nor funded appropriately, nor managed centrally. The Academic Support unit concurs with the Academic Plan Action Item 103 to address such inconsistencies.
Value added by CSS providing the service: The services of this unit support the academic mission of the University which enhances the academic success of its students by providing access to and support of technology infrastructures for general and specialized disciplines. A recent Noel-Levitz survey recognized this as the highest ranked student service as compared to other universities, which can be used in the recruitment and retention of students.
Opportunities: Increasing the knowledge level of the lab assistants would help to answer a higher number of basic questions. There are areas of expansion which include providing students the same level of support as faculty and staff departmental computing and non-Windows platforms.
Information Technology will stay involved in ongoing discussions and planning for the Computer Commons/Information Commons expansion in the future ILLC and collaborate on how best to merge the current redundant computers into one comprehensive computing lab, while making the Libraries’ databases easier to access from all of the UWStudent lab computers.
Information Technology’s involvement in the APII Action Item 103 committee will be invaluable to our consideration of continued support for instructional technologies.
Name of Service: PC Maintenance
Stakeholders: Faculty, Staff, Cooperating Agencies
Strengths: The PC Maintenance Unit provides a certified, knowledgeable technician that provides quality repair services in the shortest time possible to all campus locations on supported standard machines. Pick up, delivery and set up of new equipment (usually without additional charge to customers) is facilitated through this unit as well as pick up and delivery of PC’s for support specialist work and repair in PC Maintenance. While the unit tries to minimize the parts that are on hand, inventory maintenance allows PC Maintenance staff to purchase efficiently. When a part is not readily available, the technician makes every effort to order and assure parts delivery is made as quickly as possible while minimizing cost to the University.
The diagnostic capabilities, technical knowledge and creative repair alternatives allows PC Maintenance to set realistic expectations with customers. Because of certification levels, the unit provides warranty repair for several vendors. Because of the technical skill level of the technician, many other products can be repaired on a best efforts basis. The unit offers direct access between the client and a technician and will provide assistance or deal directly on the behalf of a client with a vendor on repairs. The unit has both strong vendor relationships and customer service orientation.
Institutional knowledge both with other units within Client Support and the University itself assist in providing the best service possible. There are excellent relationships with clients and because of the high level of service there are a minimal amount of 2nd calls about a problem.
Weaknesses: The biggest weakness factor for this unit is that there is only one fulltime, fully certified technician to perform repairs. It is difficult to perform timely repairs if the technician is sick, wants to take a vacation, need to attend training, or needs to study and take mandatory certification tests. It also makes it necessary to rely on part time assistance for making simpler repairs, leaving complex or more difficult repairs to one person. Delays in timely service to customers may occur as a result. Good time management for the one certified technician is difficult due to constant interruptions from both internal and external clients needing assistance.
Other factors that contribute to service slowdowns are poor and limited building access, and service parking restrictions on campus for making equipment pickups and deliveries. The physical location of PC Maintenance makes deliveries or physical visits difficult as there is no parking facility for clients who wish to deliver or pickup equipment personally; neither is it centrally located to the rest of campus for ease of access. Space restrictions limit the amount of work that can be done at one time. There is also no separate facility for safe cleaning of equipment (release of toner dust, etc.) available on the premises.
There is no administrative support to relieve the technician from paperwork processing. This delays processing of funds to the unit and prompts phone calls from accountants inquiring about outstanding IDRs.
External and internal communication of services has improved, but could be further developed. While written service level goals have been completed for this unit, the fact that those goals have not been published hinders campus’ awareness of service expectations.
Value added by CSS providing the service: Provides vendor certified high-quality, personalized, on-campus, cost efficient diagnostic and hardware repair services for quick return to productivity for all faculty and staff
Opportunities: The services provided by the PC Maintenance unit are required to keep computer equipment and peripherals operational so people may continue their productivity. As the number of PC’s, laptops, printers, and peripherals increase, PC Maintenance will need to continue to improve training of the staff to assure that they can provide the services required. CSS also needs to provide tools and enough space for technicians to do their jobs.
Some opportunities are to:
- Investigate possibilities to provide an additional full time entry level technician and shared part time administrative support to facilitate faster repairs, mitigate downtime or interruption of service due to lack of personnel, and lessen time required to process paperwork for both internal and external charges and reimbursements.
- Work with Transportation and Parking Services to outline better access and parking for service vehicle to facilitate pickups and deliveries of equipment (especially heavy equipment).
- Communicate offered services and publish Service Level Goals.
- Work with Facilities Planning to facilitate space utilization to provide an adequate working area for an additional technician and part time assistants, as well as create a safe location for proper equipment cleaning.
Name of Service: PC Sales and Consulting
Stakeholders: Students, Faculty, Staff, Retirees, Cooperating
Home & Personal
Strengths: The PC Sales and Consulting service provides a trustworthy source of information about computer equipment and peripherals and is available to departments and individuals to assist each in determining what computer equipment is best for the situation and needs. Because of the product knowledge of the one staff member, as well as the knowledge of the campus and its standards, a person or department can be advised appropriately so that an informed decision can be made, and in most cases the University as a whole saves money. Better pricing and quicker deliveries are facilitated because the position maintains strong relationships with many vendors and with UW’s Purchasing Office. Through cooperation with the Purchasing Office, a bid process is utilized as necessary and when advised. Utilizing an IDR payment method for purchases provides an easy way for departments to pay for purchases. It also relieves customers from having to do the shopping and price negotiating themselves. Quick coordination and facilitation of repair is possible since there is a close relationship between the Sales and Consulting position and those that provide repair services. In essence, a purchase can be initiated and the rest of the process is taken care of… from purchase to delivery and set up to repair as necessary. The relationship also allows for consultation and choices in cost effective alternatives for repair versus replacement.
The position also provides assistance in personal or student individual purchases from a particular computer vendor. This service reduces the time that an individual would have to spend researching and compiling specifications for a computer purchase due to the product knowledge of the PC Sales and Consulting person.
Weaknesses: PC Sales & Consulting provides many opportunities to give assistance to departments in the purchase of their computer and computer related equipment. It also gives IT and opportunity to educate and recommend equipment standards. The question remains, however, as to whether services can be continued without additional administrative staff, as the overall workload has increased more than was anticipated. The person performing the sales function transitioned from being a hardware repair technician. Where CSS once had two PC technicians, there is only one and the workload for repairs has increased, not decreased. Creating this sales position while providing a service to campus has caused three distinct areas to arise: PC Sales & Consulting, PC Maintenance & Repair, and Apple Sales, Consulting & Repair. Each has only one FTE available to perform many duties outside of the main purpose of the position. Because of the specialization of the positions and the workload for each, it is difficult to cover a position during vacations or absences. This can cause delays in service and purchasing. Comments have been received from customers regarding delayed capabilities to order or check on order status when this one individual is absent.
The PC Sales & Consulting unit receives funds as a result of sales markup and a commission based on revenue recognition, and is supposed to be able to provide salaries for assistants not only within that unit but PC Maintenance and Apple Sales and Maintenance. With the current labor intensive processes, this is not possible. The entire marketing effort is hampered by lack of time and organization and backup personnel due to amount of duties the other unit employees must perform. Lack of demo space and storage, as well as location for effective marketing of products hampers the sales effort as well. Lack of a well planned marketing effort keeps internal and external communications to a minimum. Slow or lack of follow up with customers, including notices to customers on product order and shipping expectations, offers a dissatisfying customer experience, and customers may be unlikely to contact the unit again for assistance. Customers also perceive that once equipment is purchased, there is no place to go for assistance with problems. These problems are all related to the lack of effective communication of the services provided as well as lack of effective planning for the position.
According to the annual Departmental Support Surveys, many on campus are unaware of the sales and consulting services that are offered.
Value added by CSS providing the service: Provides institution-specific, knowledgeable information, as well as cost effective pricing for procurement of computers, and computer related peripherals while promoting UW supported standards and providing a convenient purchase method for departmental clients
- Evaluate whether this service should continue in its present form and
whether ROI covers the amount of effort required.
- Improve communications, including better advertising of services
provided and procedures to follow for purchasing through PC Sales both
internally and externally.
- Access to the cash position and inventory on a real-time basis would be
helpful for determining what and when to purchase items.
- Provide administrative support for the position to facilitate the
ability to be more proactive with sales and customer follow up.
- Location and space are not available for sales demonstration units and
client consultation. Space exists that might be utilized for such purposes;
however, heavy remodeling and relocation of a building entrance availability
might be required.
- Evaluation of the purchasing function once “university standards” are
accepted and achieved.
- Expand PC Sales function and presence.
- Evaluate centralized procurement and refresh of computer equipment
The university spent approximately $4.64 million on Dell, Gateway, and HP/Compaq computer systems and equipment during the FY03 – FY04 biennium. A little more than $1 million of the purchases were for student computer labs that are administered by Information Technology, but not necessarily funded by the Central Student Technology Committee. The remaining $3.62 million should represent office desktops, laptops, PC tablets, research lab computers, college computer labs (mostly those that are not using the College Computer Fee established in 1997), and a smattering of servers.
Name of Service: Apple Maintenance & Support
Stakeholders: Faculty, Staff, Students
Strengths: The Apple Maintenance Unit provides a certified, knowledgeable hardware repair technician who possesses an exquisite customer service focus that offers authorized warranty repair service for students, staff, and faculty on both institutional and personally owned equipment. The unit also offers software consultation and problem resolution for Macintosh software; thus a one-stop shop for both hardware and software information and repair. Because of the calm and self-assured demeanor of the technician, the unit is a credible and respected provider of Macintosh and Apple information and service on campus whether it is over the phone or in an office. A strong vendor relationship is maintained which allows the University to continue to provide quick turnaround for product repairs.
Weaknesses: From answers on the Annual Departmental Survey, it is apparent that knowledge of provided Macintosh services on campus is not widespread. There is currently no sustained marketing effort of those services. Limited backend support for the Macintosh platform within IT allows for “best effort” attempts to resolve network, system, email, and data access or storage issues.
Staffing is limited to one full time certified technician which severely limits service if the person is absent for any reason. Due to lack of product support emphasis, there has been little done to develop purchase programs or pursuit of programs that provide reimbursement for selling or providing warranty work; thus the University is losing possible funds for services rendered.
Value added by CSS providing the service: Provides local support and quick service that keeps downtime to a minimum and increases productivity for those dependent upon the Macintosh platform for their discipline.
- CSS does provide a proportionate amount of local desktop support to Mac users (10% of campus users; and 1 FTE assigned to support hardware and software problems and additional .1 FTE to respond to quick Help Desk calls). From our 2004 Annual Departmental Support Survey, there were responses that indicated that Mac users on campus are not aware of the services that are available. An informational campaign via Partners’ and IT websites and email direction to the websites might be avenues to explore.
- Review contracts with vendor to determine requirements for reimbursement for services provided.
- Meet with the Telecommunications and Systems Service group on an ongoing basis to discuss backend support that is currently provided and what new system developments would lend themselves to possible additional support avenues. Develop forum for discussion of technology developments that allow for Apple platforms to take advantage of centralized services.
- Cross-train another employee to provide backup hardware repair.
Name of Service: Training
Stakeholders: Faculty and Staff
Strengths: The Training Program is administered by a Microsoft Certified Professional who brings in-depth, highly technical skills and training of general use applications to the program. Due to a well developed, self supporting finance model, an additional veteran assistant trainer also delivers courses which have enabled the number of courses offered and hands-on instruction and consulting to rise. These approachable instructors provide registrants with institutional application of standard office software, and incorporate unique knowledge of UW’s technology infrastructure into the courses.
Through the program, university faculty and staff development is available at a very cost efficient pricing model – much reduced from third party vendor training costs – and the training is offered locally at varied times in a concentrated effort to meet the scheduling demands of the registrants. Hands-on, instructor led delivery is but one of the delivery methods available to faculty and staff. Because people acquire knowledge and skills through varied learning styles, the training program has diverse delivery choices to choose from including one-on-one consulting, open lab, computer based training, and finally manuals are available for self paced training in the privacy of users’ offices. Specialized training courses using standard office applications may be requested by departments and are developed and designed for the unique requirements of university administrative and academic pursuits.
Through collaborative efforts between the University Relations Office and the Department of Telecommunications and Systems Services, a highly popular free Web Developers Group Lab offers departments and individual assistance on web design, functionality, and layout. Participants find this opportunity to work directly with university experts to be invaluable, and requests to increase the times of availability have been frequently expressed by the users.
A state-of-the-art technology infrastructure provides for an optimum instructor-to-class participants ratio; a stable and versatile computing environment capable of accommodating multiple Windows operating systems and application suites with a quick re-image of the lab nodes; and enables the instructors to offer application training that pertains directly to the unique network and data resources available at UW. Focused scheduling efforts have led to optimum utilization of the facility and its hours of availability. The lab has a dedicated technical support specialist who ensures functionality at the highest level and in the most efficient administration possible. Computers and peripheral equipment are on a planned replacement cycle and budgets are in place to maintain and refresh them on an aggressive schedule. The air-conditioned facilities are adequate and are ADA compliant, with accessible parking available to participants.
The culmination of the strengths outlined above is a program that consistently receives superior evaluation ratings with a great frequency of repeat customers. This program offers more instructional hours to faculty and staff than any comparator institution that responded to a survey, and does so with the same or fewer staff to support the operation.
Weaknesses: While the popularity of the Training Program is encouraging, valuable, and enjoyable, it has exposed areas where Client Support Services has been slow to meet the expanding and varied needs of the customer.
Investments in additional software and training have not been made to expand the program in an effort to offer more diverse course topics. Course titles outside of the “recognized” office standards are not available.
Development of courses to train users on administration and management of personal computers - including security practices, centrally provided computer management, and safe computing habits - has not been incorporated into the listing of titles. Information Technology conducts a yearly faculty orientation session, during which new faculty are advised of computer services, licensing, UW computing policy, and support options. Staff is not afforded the same informational opportunity. It is the opinion of Client Support Services that equal and expanded orientation should be offered to administrative and academic audiences. Defensive driving courses are mandatory to operate a university vehicle; a similar approach should be adopted for computer users.
Customers have expressed a desire to expand or alternate the Web Designers Group Lab session. The Lab is currently offered on a pre-set recurrence at the same time of day on the same day each week. Some would-be participants are not able to attend because they, too, have prior recurring commitments for teaching or administrative responsibilities.
Recent surveys conducted over an 18 month period indicate that users are not aware of the current course offerings, or do not understand the context of the available courses.
If the Training Program expands its course offerings, the current departmental computer support specialists’ (IT user consultants) ability to provide application support will be diminished, as the consultants are mostly generalist in application use. The obstacle lays in the fact that the consultants cannot be experts in all applications, while also providing the technology support to all users. Technology support refers to the service of computer setup and rebuild of operating systems; installation of applications; configuration of network access and resources; troubleshooting of operational issues; connection and configuration of peripherals; network troubleshooting; and virus and malware detection, deletion, and protection.
The local environment of the lab nodes is optimally configured with 100 MB data transfer to the desktop and an isolated subnet, yet the lab still experiences noticeable network latency. This latency affects the class participants and the instructors who experience slow response to and from university data resources. It is disruptive to the flow and pace of the classes or personal consulting experiences.
University students are expected to use many of the same software applications and develop web information for their academic success as faculty and staff. Students do not have access to the expertise, training, or open lab that is available through the Training Program. The Training Program has neither the human resources nor the facilities to accommodate student instruction.
The facility is adequate for training, but of all the comments and evaluation of the workshops, the most frequent observation by participants is that the facility is small, cramped, lighting is challenging, and the room temperature varies to extremes. Attempts have been made to correct the shortcomings by installing air-conditioning, purchasing projector systems that are suitable for lighted areas, and arrangement of the room allows for hands-on and lecture presentation to the best of the instructors’ ability and in the available space. Until a new facility is built for IT services, or space provided in another location, there are no opportunities to improve the facility’s physical environment.
What value does the service add?
The Training Program provides local experts in multiple applications, with institutional focus, to assist and build faculty and staff development at cost efficient pricing or free of charge. The program’s success to date is due to its current format and environment. While changes may be made to reach diversification in course offerings, instruction hours are already optimized.
- Areas exist where more diverse and varied training courses may more fully define the role of the Training Program.
- Users don’t seem to be aware of the Training Programs’ entire list offering. Better marketing will mitigate this weakness.
- Definitions of “standard”, “supported”, recommended”, and “provided” are not clear; identify an appropriate balance of technical versus application support models; and create and publish definitions of software delivery models with table or reference chart outlining support expectation (standard, provided, supported…).
- Improve the network performance in Training Lab. The lab already has 100 MB wired to the desktop and an isolated dedicated subnet, but the network response is still very slow even locally to IT servers.
- Student instruction is not available through the IT Training Program. IT is not able to expand the space, staffing, or hardware and software environment for student instruction. Suggestions will be researched and pursued from IT and with identified parties to expand computer and application training to students.
Name of Service: Software Distribution & Sales
Stakeholders: Students, Faculty, Staff, Cooperating Agencies
Information Technology participates in various software licensing programs on behalf of UW departments, faculty and staff, and students.
The University of Wyoming subscribes to Microsoft's Campus Agreement 3.0. Under the agreement, institutionally owned computers - desktops and laptops - may be upgraded to the latest versions of Office Professional for Windows PCs and for the Macintosh. Upgrades to the Windows operating systems are also included. All computers owned by UW, including student lab systems, are eligible to update core software under this agreement. These specific Microsoft software updates are free of charge to departments. As part of the Campus Agreement, UW is eligible to participate in the Work at Home Program, whereby UW faculty and staff can use Microsoft Office and Windows XP Pro at home for campus-related work.
UW is also a participating member of the Microsoft Academic Select License Program. As a member, UW is able to secure volume pricing on various Microsoft products that are not made available through the Campus Agreement. This significantly reduces the costs incurred by UW departments and colleges when other Microsoft products are required.
TrendMicro's OfficeScan, PC-cillin and ServerProtect are the current antivirus software programs available to UW faculty, staff, students and departments. This program is a free service provided through, and paid for by, the Division of Information Technology.
Information Technology provides statistical software package licensing - SAS and SPSS - free of charge to UW departments when the statistical packages are installed from the UW network. Student lab nodes run these statistical packages from the network. Individuals may purchase SAS or SPSS software through IT using departmental funds and have it installed locally on institutional computer equipment that may not be continually connected to the UW network.
Exceed is a connectivity tool for Windows based personal computers, and is used by some UW faculty, staff, and cooperating agencies across different disciplines. Information Technology negotiates for reduced licensing by purchasing quantities that allows for price breaks. The cost for the initial license and yearly maintenance is passed on to the consumer.
Strengths: The Campus Agreement subscription enables all faculty and staff to keep their Windows based computers up to date, benefiting from the latest enhancements and security offered through Microsoft for its operating systems and core productivity applications. When there was a charge through the Microsoft Select Program to departments, updates were slower in coming to the desktop based on the budgetary constraints and priorities of the individual departments. Information Technology is staffed to address current computing standards and supported software available from Microsoft, and resources to support older technologies are not available. The ability to upgrade at no cost to the individual departments has contributed to implementing a targeted “campus standard” on its Windows based computers. Personally owned computers can be upgraded to a similar office configuration (Windows and Office Suite) at drastically reduced prices, increasing the ability to work from the home office.
The same holds true for antivirus software, which is available to all UW faculty, staff, and students for both institutional and personally owned computers. The likelihood that users keep their systems secure and virus free is increased when there is no direct cost to the user to do so. Providing this protection software to all users helps guard the university network and the workstations attached to it from internal and external threats. Not only is the software provided via network and internet access; in 2004 Client Support Services purchase a CD duplication system so that an inventory of media can be created and distributed to all faculty, staff, and students.
The statistical packages that are used in many classes, by researchers, administrators, and faculty provide a cost effective way to ensure the packages are available to all who need them, and greatly reduces the costs to the university as a whole, as opposed to an expensive individual licensing model. The learning environment is enhanced by central administration and distribution, and the packages are accessible on all networked nodes.
Information Technology provides cost saving to the university by offering all of the above mentioned software packages; is able to offer immediate version upgrades after extensive testing; and can distribute the software from a central location accommodating the installation processes in an effective manner. In addition, by leveraging volume price discounts and providing most of the licensing through site licensing models, the university is assured of legal compliance because software piracy is reduced. The administrative staff that processes the resource requests for the statistical and Microsoft Select packages helps IT in its reporting responsibilities to the vendors.
A license key server service is also offered to UW departments so that department purchased site licenses can be easily accessed and administered for UW users. The central UW faculty and staff distribution model differs from the student model, and are in most cases separated so that faculty and staff do not have access to student software (which is mandated by certain license agreements), and vice-versa.
Recent surveys indicated that UW customers’ satisfaction rates for software licensing scored 4.08 out of a possible 5 points.
Weaknesses: Information Technology is not able to absorb the cost to expand the software titles available to faculty and staff, nor has it been able to afford and extend more student options for current and desired software on personally owned computers sans Trend Antivirus software. If the title selection were to be expanded, IT does not have the skills and support staff to provide an equitable support model to that of Microsoft Office and Windows.
IT is aware of various software package uses across campus, but there is no formal method for central review, recommendation, and purchase of unique applications which may cross college disciplines and administrative needs. Lack of resources has caused IT to be more restrictive on the range of “supported” applications including Windows-based, Microsoft, or non-Microsoft products.
As mentioned in the Training Program, Desktop Support, and Student Computing sections, Information Technology needs to better define or delineate terms that are often interchanged by IT and its customers – supported, standard, recommended, and provided. Customers are confused and do not know what can be expected as far as the lengths to which IT can or will go to support a product. Client Support does not have access to (or the knowledge of) many of the products that customers purchase individually, and therefore cannot guide or assist in installation, configuration, troubleshooting, or application use. The philosophy of standards may need to be adjusted in this distributed and discipline specific environment. However, the proliferation of varied software applications across the university lessens its ability to ensure legal compliance and in some cases has led to – perhaps unintentionally – software piracy through installation of a single product license across multiple workstations.
Value added by CSS providing the service: Centralized, extreme cost efficiency and savings to UW for easily accessible products with generalist knowledge in applications, and increased availability of various products to UW.
Opportunities: Exploring expansion of software titles that are distributed by Information Technology through centralized licensing, administration, and server availability may serve the needs of more users. Funding models would need to be evaluated, as would server administration; support; and review and decision models.
Information Technology, along with departments or a governing body, may review and collaboratively determine definitions (and approaches) of standard, supported, recommended, and provided software.
With the addition of CD duplicating equipment, Information technology may create UW specific media each fall which could be customized to its various audiences – students, and faculty and staff.
Campus Agreement and Select Agreement Student Options would allow students to obtain core software for their personally owned computers. The major obstacle is funding.
Name of Service: Rental Service
Stakeholders: Faculty & Staff
Strengths: IT’s rental service provides cost effective access to technology that may only be needed on a temporary or occasional basis; whether it is for emergency back up for customers whose own equipment has broken and is in for repair, or waiting on replacements – thus minimizing downtime for the customer; or for short term needs for demonstrations, conferences, or work sessions. In some cases, customers may enjoy the benefit of trying and testing current technology before making a decision to purchase specific equipment for departmental use.
The service is a bit different from that of the Elbogen Center for Teaching and Excellence’s free check out program in that IT’s does not set a priority of check out based on academic need. ECTL’s primary goal is to support the academic needs of faculty, but the ECTL will lend its equipment to staff and students when it is available.
Weaknesses: The rental service is intended to be a self supporting operation. The amount of revenue generation barely sustains a sufficient fund balance to be able to replace one piece of equipment per year. The result is that IT has one or two current pieces of premium equipment (laptop and projector) which are consistently checked out, while the remainder of the fleet is unused or of poor enough quality that customers are not satisfied with the equipment. Information Technology refers its customers to the ECTL because it is unable to meet the demand for a sufficient number of higher quality equipment.
An initial analysis revealed that the repeat customer base is small – mostly Information Technology, a couple of affiliates, the President’s Office, and very few departments. Beyond those users, most people are unaware of the service and the available equipment or have purchased their own equipment after multiple rentals from IT.
An individual is not allowed to pay for rental equipment with personal funds, nor is the service extended to the student population.
Value added by CSS providing the service: The minimal value that is provided through this service is that IT offers a local, low cost alternative for users who need a temporary technology solution. Currently the service acts as a primary equipment pool for Information Technology use, and secondarily as an emergency back up to minimize downtime for customers. It is questionable whether this supports the mission of the university administrative, academic, or research initiatives.
Opportunities: While opportunities exist to expand the rental equipment service to students, the administration of such a program may not be the most prudent investment of personnel resources or state fiscal resources.
The Central Student Technology Committee is attempting to pilot a no-charge laptop check out program for students.
Name of Service: ResNet (Greeks, 2nd tier Residential Networking)
Strengths: Client Support Services provides support to Fraternities and Sororities in the area of spyware/malware, viruses, software patches and networking that is not provided by any other group on campus.
Several years ago support of the residental area students was moved to Residence Life and Dining Services. The ASU now provides Tier 2+ support for ResNet on residential networking issues, computer labs and problems with student computing access to campus resources.
The ASU has been able to provide adequate call resolution on these issues.
Weaknesses: Providing these services has been very resource intensive. In most instances the solution has not been a simple answer but has required several hours of work and coordination with other groups within TSS.
Because the support was an unfunded mandate, there has been a limited amount of resources which has limited the amount of service that can be provided. The majority of the support has been passed to the designated Panhellenic House technology person to resolve issues.
Value added by CSS providing the service: ASU provides computer support to on-campus fraternity and sorority students who are not supported by any other group.
Opportunities: Support may be expanded by offering house visits or providing more training to the House technology person.
Name of Service: Knowledge Management & Communication
Stakeholders: Students, Faculty, Staff, Retirees, Cooperating Agencies, Home & Personal, General Public
Strengths: The institution of knowledge management within IT has been helpful internally because information is now more centralized, organized and easier to locate. Externally, it has provided the first steps to self help because of those same factors. Because of the development of a central location for organizing data, a process is now in place that provides consistent formatting of documentation, and insurance of consistency in information. This will be helpful as CSS evaluates development and integration with the call tracking system.
The documentation is geared toward all audiences – faculty, staff, and students – and accommodates different learning styles and skill levels. The AskIT website developed to provide access to computer and computing related information is not only an excellent training tool for faculty, staff and student computer users on campus, but also for IT employees. It is easy to access whether on or off campus due to its low bandwidth usage, is UW specific and ADA compliant.
Weaknesses: While there are many positives that have been provided by the development of the AskIT site and the beginning of internal knowledge management, IT has learned from the Department Support Annual Survey distributed in spring of 2004, that a better job can be done of marketing or “getting the word out” about the help available from IT especially with regards to the AskIT website. Eighty-two percent of respondents to the survey indicated that they were not aware of the site at all. As the concept of Knowledge Management is new to many people, not only does the IT culture need to accept and support the concept of providing reliable, researched information that can be disseminated to the campus in a useful way, but IT needs to find the best way to help the campus as a whole begin to embrace the concept of self-help. IT utilization and consistent referral for customers to use ASKIT and other web resources should become second nature. Finding the appropriate incentives for internal utilization as well as providing of documentation may be difficult. Also, providing incentives for people to utilize the tool may be necessary.
Resources are a large part of the site, process, and system development effort. A fulltime resource is not available which delays any steady publishing and development process which in turn, causes information to not be updated in a timely and consistent manner. Also any time given to the development process takes away from customer support as the current knowledge manager is a departmental computer support specialist. This situation reduces satisfaction with overall support service.
Along with staff resources, a review of advanced tools (e.g. animation - advanced search) and better integration of the InfoTech and AskIT sites should be considered. Are the InfoTech and AskIT sites mutually exclusive or are there opportunities for a more integrated product? A better definition of the purpose and content of the AskIT site might provide a clear direction for further development.
Internal Service Level Goals for submitting and processing documentation by IT units has been formulated, but not widely discussed or published. Policies that govern processing and publication for public consumption on various platforms and applications that are outside of CSS expertise are not clear.
Value added by CSS providing the service: Knowledge empowers users by providing both the IT professional and end user with current and correct documentation in a centralized and easily accessible location.
Opportunities: Knowledge Management within the department should not only benefit IT as a whole, but would be of great help to campus computer users as well. Development of a data repository of policies, procedures, FAQ’s, How To’s, application help, hardware troubleshooting techniques, etc., that can be accessed by campus computer users should, over time, provide avenues for most everyone to problem solve and resolve computer related issues. As more self help is available, staffing of desktop support personnel may be realigned to staff the call-in service, expand hours of operation and services, and reallocate more hours to knowledge management efforts.
Name of Service: Academic Project Planning & Participation
Stakeholders: Students, Faculty, Staff
Strengths: The Academic Support Unit is frequently involved, or should be involved, in many computer lab, teaching classroom, and technology enabled lecture room developments and renovations. Additionally, there are projects on campus that are in planning stages where IT could contribute valuable input. The ASU brings technology knowledge and initiatives to project committees. It can keep the external customers informed of technology limitations and advances, advise of IT services and capabilities, coordinate the demonstration of advanced technologies, and provide an IT interface to campus. The ASU is available to collaborate with contracted external design and equipment consultants to provide environments that are needed for college disciplines, teaching, and learning.
The ASU has a strong technology background and as such is able to bring technology knowledge, initiatives, advances and limitations to project committees.
In project planning, the ASU is able to advise other groups of IT services and capabilities which will be needed to complete projects. In this way the ASU is able to provide an IT interface to campus. As an added benefit, project planning helps make IT aware of campus initiatives that may affect it in the future.
Weaknesses: Unfortunately, often times IT and specifically the ASU, are not involved in key decisions, strategic initiatives, or planning of services that may affect or involve IT staff. As such, proper policy and planning are not afforded consideration until after a decision has been implemented.
The ASU is not fully knowledgeable of all campus committees and their charges which limits involvement in technology related areas. The ASU may find out about initiatives or projects through hearsay, which leaves the unit in a precarious position to offer any feedback or insight.
Project planning of this nature is not only concentrated on computer labs and technology enabled environments. Decisions regarding initiatives or policies that include IT services should include an IT voice. Costs associated with computer accounts, licenses, access to campus resources and databases, networking considerations, and support services often are not always considered in University decisions.
Value added by CSS providing the service: Project planning and participation can be used to provide a bi-directional communication channel between IT and other academic and student support units across the University to help with technology decisions and initiatives.
Opportunities: Individual units of the university have made technology decisions and purchases without consulting IT to determine if the project, requirements, and services are completely or partially available through a central source. Information Technology is available to consult on many academic projects so that informed decisions can be made, scales of economy can be taken advantage of, and potential cost savings are known.
Service and technology endeavors made by individual units are sometimes successful, and sometimes not. When they are not, IT is called upon to make right a situation when IT had no involvement in the development or decision to begin with.
Renovations around campus seem haphazard and there is no central process through which decisions for technology are made. One-time funding is available for technology upgrades but the maintenance and eventual replacement of this technology also needs to be carried into the planning cycle. Information Technology and University groups considering Action Item 102 – Convene an institution-wide information technology summit and Action Item 103 – Centralize audiovisual equipment and instructional technology may consider addressing this situation in a collaborative manner with ECTL and Facilities Planning.
With the increase of technology use in the classroom and throughout academics, there is a need to work with other technology focus groups, academic groups, and administrative planning groups across campus to explore technology needs and solutions. An Executive Council acknowledged review committee on campus might be in a good position to recommend technologies and sources of funding, thus positioning projects for success.