County delivers critical online training system in six months
- Project proposed as part of 2016 Technology Application Fund.
- Previous training management system was outdated, difficult to use.
- Updated online training/learning management system provided greater flexibility, improved usability, richer features, better value.
- From start to finish, project delivered in six months, from January 2016 to June 2016.
ref: Ramsey County, June 2016.
County passes key milestone, provides better, faster, stronger Internet access
- Major network upgrade project with the activation of 56 county work sites.
- Executed five-year agreement to provide managed broadband and network services across Ramsey County offices through August 2019.
- Information Services staff led all stages: research, analysis, planning, budget, contract negotiations and implementation.
- Information Services network team also modernized our network infrastructure and enhanced security to the wired and wireless network.
- Network connectivity was added or increased at “24/7” locations such as the Ramsey County Correctional Facility, Boys Totem Town and the Arden Hills campus, and improved network bandwidth to sites that had maxed out or to sites where greater bandwidth could be provided at lower cost.
- Prior to the broadband project, approximately one-third of county sites regularly hit their network limits. Post-upgrade, typical usage at less than 40 percent of capacity. So, we’re not only able to do our work and serve our residents more efficiently and reliably today, but we have plenty of room to grow.
- Due to good management throughout the project, the final cost will be up to $2 million lower than the initial $7.25 million estimate.
ref: Ramsey County, June 2016.
County modernizes website, improves access to all staff
- Previous county website was outdated, difficult to use and navigate.
- County’s IT culture embraced only Internet Explorer, did not wish to adopt modern browsers or mobile browsers.
- As CIO, pushed for testing the new website on browsers other than Windows and Internet Explorer.
- After go-live, usage statistics show Internet Explorer is only 22%, most visitors (43%) use Google Chrome.
- A sizeable portion of users (45% total) access the website on their phone or other mobile device. That’s nearly half.
- Without testing on other browsers, the county website would have been less accessible to our residents.
ref: Ramsey County, May 2016
University builds Mobile Events app to inform students about upcoming campus events
- To fully engage students in on-campus life, in 2012, Morris’ IT director Jim Hall decided to develop an app that alerts students to the university’s events and on-campus programming.
- “The thing that helped us was to think like a student,” explains Hall. “We realized this generation doesn’t want to look for information, so we created a mobile app to bring the information directly to students’ phones.”
- For Morris, designing the app in-house made the most sense. “Morris is a small school; given our resources, we decided to build the app ourselves,” says Hall.
- The decision to build the app in-house was primarily driven by budget concerns. “When we were considering our options, we knew we needed to be very careful about how we spent both our time and money,” he says.
- Budget constraints also limited the functionality of the app. “We restricted ourselves to just advertising the events around campus,” explains Hall. “We knew that wouldn’t take long to develop.”
- In the end, the university’s existing IT infrastructure made building the app in-house the most efficient option. “We took all these different feeds we’d already designed for campus events, lectures, and programs, and routed them into one place,” explains Hall.
- He knew he could develop the app without straining his staff. “One developer put together the app and wrote the code working half time in just two weeks.”
- Morris rolled out the app in Spring 2013, and Hall is already working on updating the system.
ref: Build vs. buy: Why Morris chose to build, by Avi Asher-Shapiro, University Business, October 2013.
Cross-Functional Team Effort Enables Company To Become First Legal Firm to Establish Website
- Company wanted to advertise its services on the web and didn’t have a website.
- Contacted a web service provider to set up a web domain. Worked with Sales and Customer Service teams to understand what information they wanted to put on a website. Coordinated with technical writer to generate content.
- Deployed company’s first corporate website that included adoption of new technology for advertising—becoming one of the first legal companies to establish website.
System Migration Improves Performance Across Critical Business / IT Functions
- Company ran old Apollo DOMAIN servers for core business processes and Apollo DOMAIN workstations for its developers. These were old systems and didn’t have available funds to purchase newer systems.
- Worked with director and several developers to identify newer systems that could replace Apollo DOMAIN.
- Set up newer Windows NT Servers to support critical functions, Windows NT workstations to support developers, and Linux servers / workstations to address other needs.
Cross-Collaboration Effort Consolidates Five Server Support Groups Into a Single Unit Managing 1,100+ Servers
- In the Office of Information Technology, every unit managed its own servers. Systems were not consistently managed and did not meet standards. Each unit wanted to be separate and unique. No one wanted to work together.
- Worked with each department to discuss obstacles and how to work around them. Developed and implemented plan to facilitate server consolidation effort.
- In six months, consolidated five server support groups into a single, coordinated organization that managed 1,100+ servers for the Office of Information Technology.
One-On-One Team Meetings Lead to Merging Three Unix Support Teams Into a Single Unit
- Promoted to manage all Unix systems administration teams. One team was previously dubbed “unmanageable” by the previous two managers.
- Met with each team to “onboard” them and understand how they worked and the work that they did. Set up one-on-one meetings with each team member to provide individual management.
- “Unmanageable” team became very productive. All three units became separate areas of a single Unix Systems Administration team: Solaris, AIX, Linux.
Work Planning Process Enables College to Build-Up $105,000+ in Reserve Funds
- Organization did not have a Director for three years. As a result, staff was unstructured, projects were not organized, and budgets were unmanaged.
- Staff and leadership understood there was a problem, but the small campus culture prevented anyone from taking steps to fix things.
- Created a spending plan to track and manage purchases. Implemented work planning process to identify, prioritize, and balance resources across each quarter.
- Balanced budget and controlled costs within three months. Built up reserve funds from $30,000 to over $135,000 after one year.
New Policies and Processes Help College Resolve Six Major Audit Findings
- Organization had been audited in 2007. Eight high priority items were found during audit. College did not respond to six high priority findings from the audit.
- Worked with campus technology teams to identify and resolve audit findings. Identified gap areas and implemented new policies and processes to address them.
- All six items were cleared in the first year. Most were resolved within first quarter.
IT Partnerships and University Resources Facilitate a $1.5 Million Network Upgrade Project
- Campus network was outdated and needed to be modernized. Network upgrade projects were very expensive. Organization did not have significant available funding for campus network upgrade.
- Leveraged partnership with Office of Information Technology at Twin Cities campus and other university resources to facilitate network upgrade project.
- Through partnership with OIT, Morris contributed $776,000 and OIT provided labor and hardware in-kind at $732,000. Secured one-time “grant” funding from the U of M Regents at $350,000. Negotiated partial reallocation of Campus Fee increase to fund current and future network improvements.
- Modernized network core infrastructure and enhanced / expanded wireless coverage at total cost of $1.5 million.
Web Registration System Migration Saves $975,000
- University had migrated to PeopleSoft, and web registration was not standing up to demand. Servers were failing, resulting in in-person registration lines going out the door. Web registration system was co-written by IBM, and IBM partnership was unwilling to migrate to a non-IBM solution.
- Discovered that all components used in web registration system were available for Linux and supported by IBM. Set up a demonstration system to test with, and found that Linux solution outperformed IBM supercomputer system at fraction of the cost.
- Saved $975,000 by migrating from three-node IBM supercomputer to 10 “cluster” of Linux servers—improving both system reliability and performance.
Web Hosting Centralization Initiative Cuts Costs in Half
- As service portfolio continued to grow, services no longer added strong business value. Organization did not understand which services were valuable to support in-house functions, and which had become “commodity” services.
- Led several working groups to investigate service catalog to identify distributed and redundant services and recommend actions.
- Centralized several functions, including enterprise storage and shared web hosting. “Web Hosting 2.0.”
- Created a centralized customer service and support structure. Consolidated three different web environments into one.
- Established contractual relationships with outside vendors to divest low value services.
- Reduced infrastructure costs from $38,400 to $19,000.