OIT and Team-Up UCI Build Collaborative Spirit

Team Up UCI

Team Up UCI

OIT staff, newly working together under the IT Consolidation framework, collaborated with Campus Recreation’s Team Up program to improve working relationships and reinforce their commitment to the increasingly broad and dynamic team that OIT has become.

Over a dozen members of OIT worked together to overcome stressful and challenging obstacles on a high-wire course erected near the Anteater Recreation Center.  While demanding and exhausting, participants had a positive and successful team-building experience.  Here are some of the individual reflections on the program.

Heinz Yu: “It’s the day after and I’m looking back at our adrenalin-filled afternoon and I can’t stop myself from smiling and recalling the many (white knuckle, death-grip) moments.”

Randall Morgan: “I really had a blast getting to work with all of you, and thanks to those of you that helped me along the way.”

Sonja Elson: “Thank you all for an unforgettable experience and for teaching me so much so high up. I certainly ‘got by with a lot of  help from my friends!’ ”

Deborah Ahlheim: “A big thank you to all my ‘men’ that got me across the lines, your encouragement, strength and understanding got me to push myself past my fear and doubt. I will never forget this life changing experience !!!!”

Carmen Roode: “I too enjoyed the event tremendously, and feel that extra special bonding with all of you.  These are memories I will cherish and I know will come back to me throughout my life.  I learned something new about each of my colleagues and myself and boy was this a fun way to learn!”

Brian Bucker: “It was a wonderful experience and I’m very thankful I had the opportunity to experience it with all of you.”

Kim Gerrard: “Pain is temporary. Glory is forever!   Our first task was our name tags; to write the one thing we brought to the group…I started out with ‘Trepidation’.  But after a while, it became ‘Cautious Optimism’.   And now it is ‘Ropes Evangelist’!”

IT Consolidation at UCI

Information Technology (IT) services at UCI are presently delivered by diverse groups which have arisen in various ways as needs were identified.  UCI is now undertaking a consolidation process with an eye toward the most efficient use of resources and more consistent IT support to faculty, staff, and students.

The plan, announced by EVC and Provost Michael Gottfredson on June 22, is now being developed and implemented by the Office of Information Technology (OIT) with the assistance of an IT Oversight Committee with broad campus membership:

  • Ramona Agrela, Associate Chancellor
  • Kevin Ansel, Director, Student Affairs IT Strategic Planning
  • Bill Cohen, Director of Computing Support, Information and Computer Sciences
  • David Leinen, Assistant Dean, Social Sciences (Academic Senior Manager Representative)
  • Frances Leslie, Dean, Graduate Division
  • Rich Lynch, Associate Vice Chancellor, Budget
  • Paige Macias, Associate Vice Chancellor, Administrative and Business Services
  • Marie Perezcastaneda, Director of Business Services, OIT
  • Lynn Rahn, Assistant Vice Chancellor, University Advancement
  • Dana Roode, Assistant Vice Chancellor, OIT
  • Sharon Salinger, Dean, Undergraduate Education
  • Mark Warner, Associate Vice Chancellor, Office of Research
  • Ted Wright, Associate Professor, Cognitive Sciences (NACS Faculty Advisory Representative)
  • Brent Yunek, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Enrollment Services

Goals for the consolidation process include:

  • making the most effective use of IT talent across campus, focused on the highest priority activities
  • allowing cost savings through staff attrition while mitigating the impact of losing staff in currently unique, isolated positions
  • creating a consistent campus IT environment for greatest efficiency and ease of use for faculty and staff
  • finding and implementing solutions to common problems
  • leveraging the leadership, communication, and technical skills of UCI’s IT managers
  • saving energy costs through consolidation of server maintenance in data centers

The consolidation process will result in the creation of a single IT support organization for administrative units, the Office of Information Technology.   OIT will also make available commodity IT services to academic units and provide other support through mechanisms to be discussed.  Regular consolidation progress reports will be shared with the campus, including publication here in IT News.

First Steps Toward Consolidated IT

UCI’s new consolidated IT organization, the Office of Information Technology (OIT), is just over two months old.

Administrative Computing Services (AdCom), Network and Academic Computing Services (NACS), Office of Academic Affairs Computing Services, and the Office of Research Information Technology group joined forces on July 1 as OIT.  Graduate Division IT has now joined OIT as well.

The AdCom and NACS Directors constitute the OIT senior leadership team and have been meeting regularly since late June:  Marina Arseniev, Cheryl Ast, Shohreh Bozorgmehri, Brian Buckler, Steve Franklin, Marie Perezcastaneda, Carmen Roode, and Allen Schiano.   Assistant Vice Chancellor Dana Roode serves as the department head of the Office of Information Technology.

In July, many discussions among the management and staff of the consolidated units took place to get to know one another and exchange information about job function and organizational structure.  Several teams were created to identify immediate opportunities for integration.

An initial integrated organization became effective on August 3rd.  The first of several planned combined groups have been formed: Desktop Support (see article later in this issue) and the Help Desk.  Complementary functions in AdCom and NACS have each been moved under a common OIT director (electronic security, help-desk, data-center services) to work toward integrating them.  An organizational chart is available online.  The OIT organizational structure will continue to evolve over time.

We have been interviewing representatives of new OIT client groups and are using a survey to enhance our understanding of their needs.  We have also been meeting with the leadership of administrative units with IT groups outside of OIT to discuss their participation in the consolidation effort.

A draft plan for including administrative IT groups in OIT is under development and should be available for review in the October timeframe.  Whereas the expectation is that all administrative IT groups will become a part of OIT over the next year, the nature of the affiliation with OIT in each case will vary depending on the needs of the clients served.  The physical location of IT staff will also depend on client needs, and staff may remain proximate to the units they serve in many cases even after becoming a part of OIT.

All of this is subject to the development of the consolidation plan, review by the IT Oversight Committee and units, and approval by Provost Gottfredson.

OIT Desktop Support

“Desktop Support” refers to the maintenance of desktop computers, laptop computers, smart-phones, and peripherals as well as assistance to the faculty, staff and students who utilize them.  Desktop support keeps operating system and application software current, keeps systems secure through patches and anti-virus software, and resolves problems that occur.  Desktop support is among the first IT activities to be consolidated.

Jeremy Paje, manager of OIT Desktop Support, began his IT career as a student at UCI in the late 90s.  After a few years helping develop a national help desk system for an outside company, he returned to UCI to work in desktop support for Administrative Computing Services (AdCom).  In 2008, Jeremy was promoted to AdCom’s manager of desktop support, where he supported 600 clients and 700 desktops with a team of four staff.

Jeremy supervised the roll-out of the Thunderbird email solution featured in the previous issue of this newsletter.

This year he was given responsibility for desktop support in the new central organization, OIT.  He wants his team to continue to be seen as “the friendly IT people” as their client base grows.  The consolidated unit will benefit from many of the tools and automated systems developed by AdCom’s desktop support group.

Jeremy’s team has long experience creating a quality desktop experience for staff.  A key tool, LanDesk, allows his team members to distribute software updates (“patches”) and other software over the network, and enables remote access for investigating and resolving system problems.  Through LanDesk, Desktop Support can also grant staff the ability to install custom software without administrative privileges.

OIT Desktop Support also manages a Sophos Enterprise Console system for distribution and update of antivirus software.

A new technology that OIT Desktop Support is promoting is virtual desktops.  This allows staff to use modest hardware on the desktop, and connect to a server for the operating system and computational power.  Advantages include access to one’s personal desktop environment from any console, centralized backups of business data, simple restoration of a non-operational program from a known image, and quick replacement of broken hardware because the data is safe on the server.

OIT Desktop support secures discounted software for staff through the Microsoft Consolidated Campus Agreement (MCCA), and develops hardware and software standards which promotes simpler troubleshooting and more consistent support.

Jeremy believes that standardization is an essential element to effective and economical desktop support.  Through standardization, Desktop Support can deliver lower-cost service, quicker turn-around time, more security, and more predictable outcomes.  At the same time, he understands that one size does not always fit all and occasionally exceptions to standards must be made to deal with special needs.

Where Do We Want to End Up?

As we head down the road of changing UCI’s approach to Information Technology, it is helpful to paint a picture of where we want to end up.  Although it will take many years to get there, together we can build a computing environment wherein the quality of services will not depend on variable factors such as the resources local units have been able to invest in IT.  Recognizing that IT is critical to all university activities, our IT environment will be universal to all UCI “knowledge workers.”

Our future integrated IT environment will enable every process that can significantly benefit from automation to be available online with consistent interfaces.  We will use the same IT systems from department to department, reducing training time as staff relocate and/or have to learn new functions.  We can look forward to having data entered a single time and instantly shared with all applications that require it.  Data can be mined to produce information that is made available to decision makers interactively.

IT assistance will be available both through self-service tools and a responsive central help desk. The help desk will be able to triage problems remotely and dispatch assistance from regional support centers as needed. Failed desktop computers will be replaced very quickly, without losing files or user customization.  Security patches will be coordinated campus-wide, ensuring that systems are not vulnerable to new threats any longer than absolutely necessary.

IT staff will be able to focus their talents in specific areas.  For example, software maintainers and programmers can focus on projects with greater efficiency than is possible now (as they are interrupted to handle support issues). In addition to receiving direction from functional units, programmers will have access to the senior developers, specialized technical expertise, and IT leadership found in an appropriately staffed, modern IT organization.  Programmers will use common development and operating frameworks that allow them to take advantage of pre-existing code libraries, user interface tools, and other assets that help them work more effectively.  This results in applications that can easily be integrated as a part of a consistent end-user experience, making them easier to use, and easier to support by other programmers.

UCI will increasingly turn to externally available software packages to augment or replace homegrown IT solutions.  Commercial software will play a role, but the many open and community source systems that are becoming available will be an especially important component of our campus IT strategy.  This will allow us to leverage local programming talent by factoring in the resources of the higher education and open source communities as a whole.

IT services will run on “virtualized” servers housed in energy-efficient data centers. Virtualized servers make more efficient use of capital resources, and can greatly improve reliability and business continuity by automatically moving functions to backup hardware when primary hardware fails, allowing work to continue uninterrupted.  We will create a shared approach to operating servers and server rooms that minimizes costs in energy and support labor.

In short, the IT environment will be highly integrated and responsive, and will greatly facilitate the conduct of university business, research, and education.  This will help pave the way for UCI’s continued growth and excellence.