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IT Strategic Initiatives

 
 

A one-sentence description of the goal is in bold.  An explanation of why the goal is important is in standard font.  A statement of the plan and progress is in italics.

Goal: Exceptional Support

Improve customer support with faster response times, and be able to clearly measure how we are doing.  

Right now we do not have adequate tools and processes in place to track the quality of our service response.  We have received conflicting information from the student technology survey, faculty technology survey and informal feedback about satisfaction with our service, and we know we need to better understand the factors influencing our service. 

We are actively investigating our options with regard to our current helpdesk ticketing and call tracking systems. Recent updates to our service offerings include the new web-based ticket submission system and the addition of a classroom emergeny hotline. We have made several changes to our workflow processes to improve response times and are building web-based systems for dashboarding.

 

Deploy an institutional data self-service reporting tool.

Our current model for data reporting from our institutional data system (Banner) is primarily and manually provided through IT staff – we have a group of six Banner programmers who split their time between system modifications and report writing. With continued expansion of the data along with the need to integrate secondary data sources (such as spreadsheets and small databases maintained by academic departments), this model is no longer viable. We need to provide our users with a self-service reporting tool which allows direct query of our institutional data and cross-linking to external data sources. 

The Argos reporting tool is being used in production for a few departments, and development continues. The ITS Applications Team continues to ferret out standards and security models in their “Tech Tuesdays” work, including focused work with some functional areas. This team is also working on the ODS Project Plan (See Below)

 

Upgrade and extend our wireless network, including outdoors.

Indoor wireless coverage presently in place covers approximately 85%-90% of all habitable space. Outdoor wireless coverage is marginal, with only a few antennas and most outdoor WiFi signal provided by unintended leakage from building wireless antennas. As IT transitions to an increasingly wireless world through continued adoption of mobile devices (especially those without the capacity to connect to wired networks), complete, high-quality wireless coverage will become essential. 

Over the past six months, we have added a significant number of new access points in both administrative and academic buildings. As part of the tablet pilot project, we have created a high-density access point cluster in IRC, and installed additional access points into human ecology. We will be installing two outdoor antennas this spring to provide coverage of the Netzer-Schumacher quad.

 

Develop better Quality-of-Service measurement tools and further automate the discovery and alerting of failures or degradation of network service.

Much as with the helpdesk metrics plan described above, we lack adequate tools to measure our quality of service for the network infrastructure. While overall service has been adequate for the vast majority of our users, we are frequently unable to automatically determine when service degradation occurs and notify appropriate staff so that the restoration of service can begin in a more timely fashion.

We have recently installed a new version of our wireless management software suite and are investigating the quality of service metrics provided as part of this upgrade.

 

Evolve mobile strategies which effectively support major applications in use by the college.

As mobile devices become more and more prevalent, IT services needs to expand support in this area. This support should include authenticated access to both the learning management and institutional data systems. 

BlackBoard Mobile Learn, a mobile interface to our learning management system, has now been in production for nearly a year and appears to be well-recieved. During Spring 2013 we are testing the Ellucian mobile platform for access to institutional data.

 

Deploy virtualization technology for faculty, staff and students.

Virtualization technology allows remote access to desktop software and tools through the network. The physical hardware running virtualized desktops and applications can be housed in our data centers while significantly enhancing access to college-licensed software for faculty, staff and students. For students, embracing virtualization technology can reduce or eliminate the need to come in to our physical labs and allow students to access their college-related software from their residence halls or while at home.

The VDI pilot program is currently underway, and after testing by ITS staff and student employees we are rolling out this pilot program to the general student body in late March.

 

Move towards a 3-year desktop replacement cycle.

Equipment replacement cycles for desktop machines in both the labs and user offices are handled through a large variety of funding sources and procurement processes. For computer lab equipment, we presently have funding for a 3-year replacement cycle on approximately ½ of the machines, and other computer labs are refreshed with these systems. Faculty desktop computing equipment is replaced through a request process on a cycle of no less than three years, but in many cases on much longer cycles. IT services would like to move to a fixed 3-year replacement cycle for every end-user machine on campus. 

The planning process for this initiative has been ongoing. We are engaged with both the ETC and ATC for plan development, and are working to identify the groups and users who need to be on a 3, 4, or 5 year replacement cycle. In the meantime, we are working to replace all Windows XP machines on campus due to Microsoft's decision to discontinue support as of April 14, 2014.

 

 

Goal: Robust IT Environment

Create redundant fiber-optic routes across campus and develop a second network core facility to improve reliability.

Most buildings on campus are currently served by a single fiber optic cable, we have a single network core in the basement of the Milne library and we have a single off-campus internet connection. By pulling multiple fiber lines to each building, we will improve internal network capacity and redundancy, and by developing a second network core along with a secondary off-campus connection we will be able to improve both on-campus and off-campus redundancy and allow the campus to fully embrace cloud computing technologies. 

This project is currently underway, and ION has now provisioned fiber into the Netzer data center. We have begun discussions with service providers to establish a new network connection utilizing this fiber.

 

Implement environmental control systems and energy management in our data centers and telecom closets to meet sustainability goals for the campus.

Our data centers consume a great deal of energy – both in direct power to the servers and the specialized cooling provided for these rooms. In keeping with the sustainability goals of the college, we are seeking ways to minimize our energy usage and improve the efficiency of the data centers

a. The ITS Server Team has performed some renovation of the Netzer Administration Building Data Center, including significant cleaning and the replacement of old broken floor tiles. They are working with Facilities Management to develop a project for a full rehabilitation of this space including HVAC, electrical, and networking to optimize cooling and increase energy efficiency. Simoultaneously, we have focused on making our virtual server environment more dense, and leveraging both SAN and blade technology to reduce the physical footprint and electric consumption. These efforts continue in both the Milne Library and Netzer Administration Building Data Centers.

 

Leverage our dual data centers to provide for application and data migration and redundant service provision to the campus.

The college has two data center facilities: one in the basement of the Netzer Administration Building and another in the basement of the Milne Library. The two data centers have historically operated as independent entities. The college has grown increasingly dependent on IT services from these data centers and any significant service outage can have massive impact on college operations. By building redundancy and replication into the data center operations, we have the opportunity to provide continued service to the college community if one of the two data centers experiences a service interruption. 

Our ITS Server Team has completed the installation of the physical infrastructure required to begin data replication, and have begun testing and implementation of both data and server replication via the creation of high-availability clusters utilizing Microsoft Hyper-V and VMWare VSphere.

 

Build data warehousing to be able to fully leverage business intelligence and learning analytics tools.

Trending and forecasting has become increasingly important for college operations, and the growing need for analytic analysis from both our institutional data sources and learning management systems is forcing a fundamental change in how we store and organize data. Our present information system architecture is operationally focused and has little historical data. In order to be able to support trending, forecasting and other analytic activities for our institution, we need to build data warehousing capabilities and begin storing historical data. 

While the ITS Applications Team continues development of the Argos reporting tool, they are also working with ITEC, SICAS and Ellucian to bring an Operational Data Store project online for late 2013.

 

Improve network connectivity for the college’s satellite facilities.

As part of their build of fiber infrastructure, ION corp. is also establishing a local loop to the Cooperstown campus. Once complete, we will have the opportunity to lease this fiber and have the Cooperstown campus (virtually) join the same network as main campus. 

 

Re-evaluate cost effectiveness of all software contracts with the goal of reducing IT costs.

As state funding for our operations continues to decline, we need to find ways to further reduce IT costs at the College. A substantial part of our annual budget is devoted to maintaining software licenses and associated support costs, and we are undertaking a global review of all software expenditures. 

The project was launched in Spring 2012 and will continue on a product-by-product basis as software contracts come up for renewal.

 

 

Goal: Enhanced Partnerships

Develop governance structures for IT that balance administrative and academic needs.

IT has an advisory committee called the Educational Technology Committee (ETC) with representatives from each academic area, which continues to advise IT on matters related to academic computing. Multiple advisory committees exist for specific products or processes such as the Banner Steering Committee for our student information system governance and the Student Technology Initiative Committee for setting the student tech fee. There is no broad-based advisory committee which represents students or administrative users on campus. 

The new IT steering structure has been partially implemented during the 2012-2013 academic year. The newly-formed Administrative Technology Committee has been in place since Fall 2012 and we have been utilizing other venues such as the STI and F&A student advisory group to gather input from the student body. The technology steering committee has not yet been formed.

 

 

Goal: Collaborative Work Environment

Embrace project management for IT services projects.

As IT has grown and evolved from a series of small support units into a central organization, the development and deployment of projects has not kept pace. Project planning, scope development and tracking was not required when an organizational unit consisted of three people working independently, but as the organization has grown a more formalized project management process is needed both for proper planning and communication purposes.

ITS Applications & Servers has been engaging functional area leaders in 2013 planning meetings to discuss their projects and priorities for the coming months. They have established and continue to refine their “Project Board”, and are working closely with the Office of the CIO to move this to our governance structures for process review.