Carnegie Mellon pioneers AI project with U.S. Navy
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With help from the Office of Naval Research, the private university looks to develop AI capabilities for humanitarian aid and disaster relief around the world.
Commentary: As one-stop shops become the norm, a good first step is consolidating fragmented IT departments, the CIO of Bridgewater State University argues.
Ray Lefebvre is vice president of information technology and CIO for Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. Before joining Bridgewater S...
One-stop service centers are emerging more frequently as a means of increasing student retention at colleges and universities nationwide. At Bridgewater State University, we are paving the way for one-stop service by rolling out this concept for IT support to begin with — and then using the lessons we learn to inform our work in creating an institutional, campus-wide one-stop center.
One-stop service centers make it easier for students to get the assistance they need without spending an inordinate amount of time bouncing between administrative buildings on campus. Every time a student has to traverse the campus to talk with a different administrative department to resolve an issue, the institution risks losing that student.
True one-stop service centers generally include administrative functions such as financial aid, registration and student accounts and are all physically located in one office with a walkup counter, oodles of technology and a dedicated director.
These centers don’t simply co-locate administrative back-office functions and personnel; rather, an entire new department is created. Each one-stop customer service consultant is cross-trained on these various functions, with access to back-office support as needed and guided by a dedicated management team.
To explore the potential for implementing one stop at Bridgewater State, a consultant determined that we already had 14 of the 15 core technologies necessary. The only technology we lacked was a queue management system, and we’re evaluating the TablesReady waitlist app and paging system to handle this function.
Understanding that it will take time, effort and money to implement an institutional one-stop service center, the Bridgewater State University information technology team is moving ahead with this concept in a more limited capacity by establishing a centralized IT service center and a new IT service management office to provide one-stop IT service.
Consolidating IT services at Bridgewater State
Currently, we have two IT help desks on campus — one providing “level one” support for basic technology hangups and the other for escalated service needs that the first team can't address. Plus, students who live on campus must visit the ResNet office for help with residence hall technology, which includes Wi-Fi, television and printing services. The end result is that students, faculty and staff are often tossed around campus to resolve their IT problems.
The solution to this bouncing around, we determined, is a one-stop service center for all things technology.
This fall, we will consolidate our two IT help desks and the ResNet office into a single, centralized IT service center with level one and two support staff, student workers and ResNet technicians.
Additionally, we are creating a new IT service management office to implement industry-standard best practices for service management, such as ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library), Lean, DevOps and more. This office, which will be co-located in the centralized IT service center, will provide end-to-end oversight of our entire IT service delivery system.
Fundamental to our creation of a centralized IT service center is the TDX platform from TeamDynamix, which combines IT and enterprise service management with project portfolio management. We use the platform to open service tickets; track the status of unresolved issues; create an IT knowledge base for students, staff and service employees; and measure our performance, among other functions.
When we add a queue management system, we will be able to serve stakeholders through a single walk-up counter without forcing them to wait in line. Students, faculty and staff will check in to be added to the queue, and be notified when a service employee is available.
Looking past the technology
Beyond the technology, creating a one-stop service center for IT has required us to focus on two key aspects: project management and organizational change management.
Managing the project involved three main elements: preparing for the move to a new centrally located physical space by remodeling the space to suit our needs; redesigning our current processes and workflows so that level one and level two support staff can work together more efficiently; and branding, marketing and communicating about our new centralized IT service center and new location.
The organizational change management has been a little trickier. Consolidating two separate help desks into a single service center means that nearly 30 employees will have to change offices. For as many as 14 years, some employees have been parking in the same spot and have been working in the same office environment, and now we’re telling them this will all change in the fall. And the processes and workflows they have become accustomed to will be shifting as well.
Change is hard for anyone to accept. As the CIO at Bridgewater State, it’s my job to help our support staff believe in and embrace that change. To do this, I have been meeting with all 30 people who will be affected by the change to get their input on how to make the project successful. For instance, we iterated the design of the physical space by including support staff in the decision.
Our change management has extended to the larger campus community as well. Recognizing that some people might continue dropping by the old help desk location out of habit or because they were unaware of the change, we are piloting a “digital assistant” kiosk. The kiosk will have an Amazon Kindle Fire tablet equipped with an AI-powered digital assistant — “ALEXA@BSU” — to virtually connect students, faculty and staff through video to the centralized IT service center.
By investing in our existing IT personnel, we are creating a new centralized IT service center with nominal financial impact to our institution while providing opportunities for career advancement. What’s more, we are creating a roadmap for how to move to one-stop service to meet all of our students’ needs.
Institutional one-stop service centers are a worthy pursuit on a grand scale. On a smaller — and perhaps more manageable — scale, creating a centralized IT service center and IT service management office is just as important, and we will use the lessons we learn here to inform our work in eventually creating an institutional one-stop center.
Ray Lefebvre is vice president of information technology and CIO for Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. He has decades of IT experience in both the public and private sector.