Recommendation 2: Information Technology Resources (Support and Enablement)
The University of Maryland should develop and maintain a robust, multi-tiered staff support environment that meets the diverse levels and specific needs of the university community so that community members can effectively use the university's abundant technology resources.
Action Item 2.1 - Leveraged Support Model (Campus-Wide)
To better leverage the varied and diverse support resources at the university, a well-articulated model should be developed and communicated defining the roles that users of technology, departmentally based IT support providers, and central IT play in collaboratively supporting the ecosystem of the university.
In addressing the broad needs for the support of the use of IT, at UMD (as it must at all similar institutions) there must exist a definition of the framework of responsibilities for leveraged support that includes the following support providers: users themselves, locally-based IT support staff that support users of IT, and the central IT organization. A leveraged model is one in which the roles, responsibilities, and support mechanisms are not only well defined - as such models readily exist - but are well understood and functioning as a matter of daily activity. The Division of IT will be responsible for implementing programs and structures that support the university's collaborative model and for ensuring that all of the key players are positioned to fulfill their roles.
Roles and responsibilities of the various IT support organizations will be discovered and defined in a collaborative effort. Using a leveraged support model, IT support organizations will move forward under the definitions and guidelines that will be established in the leveraged model.
Update March 2014
The Division of IT is reaching out to local IT groups to better understand their operations and to document external contact information.
To enhance resources available to support personnel at Maryland, the university has joined the HDI Higher Education Forum/Leadership Connection. In addition, the Division of IT's managers of client support staff will be attending the HDI national conference and will begin to attend the local chapter meetings. HDI is the worldwide professional association and certification body for the technical service and support industry.
Action Item 2.2 - Streamlined Service Access for UTCC
The Division of IT Help Desk should streamline access to higher-tiered area experts so that departmental IT support staff can quickly be escalated to more senior and specialized technologists.
A streamlined path to resolution for the needs of unit IT staff is integral to maintaining positive collaboration between central IT and local IT support. Given the highly distributed nature of IT service and support at the university, central IT must be sensitive to the needs of and demands on unit IT staff and must provide a more direct route to higher tier help for unit IT staff, rather than having them go through being processed and routed by less technically skilled call-takers. Streamlining this process benefits both sides by cutting down on the time that any one resource spends waiting to escalate or be escalated with no movement towards resolution of the issue.
A phone number that by-passes the standard help desk process will be created and shared with the University Technology Coordinating Committee (UTCC) constituents so that they more readily have access to the assistance that is needed. Determine circumstances under which and methods for other escalations allowing for access to area experts without leaving the requestor with no response or documentation of the situation.
Update March 2014
A phone number that by-passes the standard Help Desk process during regular business hours was created and shared with the University Technology Coordinating Committee constituents. In addition, the Network Operations Center hotline and the IT Operations number (301.405.1093) were shared with UTCC for after-hours use.
Action Item 2.3 - Identify Campus-Wide Subject Matter Experts
In conjunction with Action Item 2.1, the Division of IT should establish subject matter experts in areas of high value to unit IT support and, via the defined model, make them available to local IT to assist not only in resolving problems, but also in assessing needs for new technologies and developing support for such new technologies.
The Division of IT has historically focused its support on basic frontline "triage-like" services. UMD IT support staff would greatly benefit from the presence of technology (Windows, Mac, UNIX, etc.) and application (database, GIS, statistics, etc.) area experts who could be drawn upon not only for deeper problem resolution but also for exploring new or enhanced technologies and applications.
As part of the process of defining roles and responsibilities of the various IT support organizations as discussed in recommendation 2, action item 1, subject matter experts will be identified and recorded. Subject matter experts will be identified from all IT organizations across campus and the information made available through the appropriate communication vehicle.
Update March 2014
A leveraged support model is being developed for content management tools (e.g. Sharepoint and Drupal). Several Division of IT staff members have received "power user" training and will be able to consult with clients or refer them to a broader group of campus experts when necessary.
IT Help Desk full-time staff members are enhancing their skills in order to function as a true Level 2 support staff able to resolve more specialized questions without needing to escalate to other groups. They are now providing assistance for use of Microsoft Office, Visio, and Adobe products, as well as installation support for SPSS, Mathematica, and MATLAB.
Action Item 2.4 - Service Catalog
In conjunction with Action Item 2.1, Division of IT and unit IT support providers should clearly publish service catalogs and articulate offerings so that campus community members can easily determine where to get desired tools and support.
The Division of IT has historically been somewhat of an opaque structure with regard to its services and support functions. To improve its reputation with the university community and to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of that community's dealings with the division, a clearly articulated online service catalog should be produced. The service catalog must then be continuously maintained and updated, and the division should communicate enhancements to available services to the university community periodically.
A project will be created and initiated in order to gather information and publish service catalog data for the Division of Information Technology service offerings. The project scope will be inclusive of a process by which data in the service catalog will be kept current.
Update March 2014
A division team reviewed service catalogs from a number of universities and developed functional and technical requirements for a UMD catalog. Service information has been collected and edited. A vendor was selected to build the catalog as part of a redesign of the division's website. This project started in January 2014 and is expected to be completed by June 2014.
Action Item 2.5 - Formalize Career Paths
The university must articulate a plan for recruiting and retaining world-class IT staff while developing current resources. A clearly defined personnel development track for technology staff at the university should be treated with care equal to or greater than the maintenance and operation of the systems they support.
Human resources are the single most important IT asset for the university as well as any enterprise. In order to retain excellent staff and attract and recruit new staff as needed, the university must not only follow through on the path to excellence in IT as defined by this plan, but also must develop strategies for developing and retaining those already on board. Traditional paths to higher salaries usually require promotion to supervisory roles. In order for this to benefit the institution, however, significant investment in management training and time spent mentoring new managers is required. Excellent technical performers who wish to remain on staff with the university, but who do not wish to (or are not ready to) take on a management role, should not be dis-incentivized from staying by the lack of availability of higher salaries. The Division of IT should work with university HR staff to create processes that clearly articulate personal development plans for each employee, that capture the desires of the both the employee and the division, and that lay out clear objectives and goals toward those ends. All managers of staff will be required to fulfill a pre-defined number of hours of management training each year. Alternative means for rewarding exemplary staff efforts or service on an ad-hoc basis should be identified and communicated to managers.
Working with the appropriate Division of IT staff, identify career paths within the university and the skill sets associated with each position within a career path. Once career paths and skill sets are documented, work with the appropriate division and campus human resource professionals to formalize career paths. Additionally, factors that promote employee recruitment and retention will be identified and appropriate action will be taken to implement those factors.
Update March 2014
The Campus Information Services group (phone operators) is in the process of refocusing. Several current staff are being trained for a new IT Assistant position within the Help Desk. This will provide a new career path in information technology.
Action Item 2.6 - IT Staff Development
Those who use IT and those who support its use locally must be adequately trained so as to minimize their demand for broader support and maximize the effectiveness of their use of IT. Therefore, training and education programs should be continuously enhanced and developed, acquired, and delivered in such a way as to provide the most cost effective solution.
IT enablement, much less innovation, cannot be achieved with technology adoption. Effective and constantly updated training and knowledge resources are integral to technology adoption. Training must be incorporated into the new leveraged support model for all technology. Planning for every technology implementation must include integrated training time, budget, and methodology. With every new technology adopted, appropriate methods of training must be determined. Options could include in-house training through a train-the-trainer model, ad-hoc training opportunities (e.g., contractor, online, or hybrid), and others.
The possession of appropriate knowledge and skills by users of IT and those who support them locally is a critical element to a leveraged support model and IT enablement. The Division of IT needs to develop education and training programs to ensure that users of IT have the knowledge and skill they need to make use of IT and that local IT support staff are well trained in the technologies and applications used by their local constituents.
Training efforts will be supported in multiple ways including but not limited to: mentoring, external and internal courses and training, coaching, job shadowing, webinars, and conferences. Training should encompass not just technical skills and proficiency but also skills in other areas such as customer support, professional writing, business analysis, and project management.
Update March 2014
Lynda.com was procured for campus training needs and was made available at UMD in late January 2014.
Access is now available to the Microsoft e-academy, as provided under the university's Microsoft enterprise license agreement.
Action Item 2.7 - Garden of Architectures
The IT environment at UMD should take a flexible approach to the architectures and types of systems deployed so as to take advantage of the widest array of opportunities presented by the marketplace. UMD should adopt a philosophy of a "garden of architectures" rather than seeking singular and limited technological solutions.
A vast array of systems and technologies has evolved on campus. The ubiquity of technology and increasingly savvy consumers have caused the trend of moving away from enterprise standardization on a single architectural direction or product. While groups should not be dissuaded from looking at the myriad of solutions on the market, a clear framework for business decision making at the enterprise and unit level should be communicated and help with decision making should be easily sought through local and central IT.
The purpose of this action item, however, is to confirm the university community's view that singular monolithic technology standards are inappropriate. The university must find an appropriate balance on the continuum between restrictive standards and chaotic variances where multiple technologies are efficiently supported.
A better understanding of the current architectures and deployed systems must be obtained. The task of identifying the intended future state of the technical environment should then be completed. With an "As Is/To Be" assessment complete, the technical roadmap can be developed and appropriate frameworks engineered so that diverse needs of the university can be met through well-articulated infrastructure. The development of this framework and oversight of the technologies within the framework will ultimately need to be undertaken and supported by a system architect.
Update March 2014
Dell has been contracted to perform an Efficient Enterprise Assessment. The assessment will include an end-to-end analysis of the Division of IT's technical architecture within its Support and Infrastructure group. The assessment will focus on level of complexity in the environment based on internally developed industry standards and an analysis of customer cost of IT service delivery. The detailed understanding of current operational processes and related support costs will enable Dell to make actionable recommendations that, when implemented, will result in a substantially improved (efficiency, effectiveness, cost alignment), simplified future mode of operations.
Action Item 2.8 - Expanded Presence at Orientation (2.8a) and Online information (2.8b)
The new faculty orientation process (for both teaching and research faculty) should include detailed, expansive, and engaging training to aid in faculty members' familiarization with the technology tools and services deployed in learning and research environments on campus.
As new faculty members are on-boarded, learning environment and research technology familiarization and adoption must be as integral as knowing how to fill out their timesheets. This technology orientation should be a joint effort between Division of IT Support and Enablement and local IT staff as appropriate. An IT service catalog and support structures should be presented with clear instructions on how acquire any needed services. Screening of incoming faculty should be performed in conjunction with the Office of Faculty Affairs and the Center for Teaching Excellence to gather data regarding prior experience with IT services and support at other institutions and with the faculty members' familiarity with the IT tools provided so that UMD's offerings and leveraged support model can be fine-tuned.
While the Division of Information Technology does participate in campus faculty orientation efforts, the division should continue to look for opportunities to expand their presence at campus orientation and join college-specific technical orientations. Additionally, information shared at orientations should also be available online and available for reference when faculty need to use the information outside of the orientation.
Update March 2014
A new Division of Information Technology Service Catalog project will result in service information in an online resource and common format.
Action Item 2.9 - IT Accessibility Standards and Guidance
Given the diverse set of special needs of university users, accessibility of IT systems and services must be considered thoroughly in existing and new system implementations. Standards and guidance in accessibility should be collaboratively developed to accommodate these special needs and promulgated to all university IT service providers. The standards should be guided by best practices available within the community and in accordance with existing laws and regulations. A task force destined to become a part of IT governance should be convened as a first step to consider the challenges and chart a path toward implementation of this action.
Achieving IT Abundance at UMD means that all of its diverse population has IT tools and support available. This must include those on campus with special needs related to vision, hearing, speech, or other physical impairment. Efforts have begun recently to help ensure that IT services are available to students, faculty, and staff with special needs. Programs like those in the Division of Student Affairs, should serve as a model for the university, and the Division of IT should be an active partner in such efforts for all university constituents to ensure that enterprise and critical systems are developed with the accessibility needs of all university citizens in mind.
Standards and guidance, as guided by best practice, laws and regulations, in accessibility will be collaboratively developed and promulgated to all university IT service providers. A task force destined to become a part of IT governance will be convened as a first step to consider the challenges and chart a path toward implementation.
Update March 2014
The division is actively participating in several accessibility groups and committees, including the Student Affairs Accessibility Committee, the EDUCAUSE IT Accessibility constituent group, and the CIC Accessibility Committee.
In conjunction with Action Item 9.1, the Campus IT Accessibility Working Group held its kick-off meeting in December 2013.