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Internet Technology Services overhauls after bad review

September 21, 2006

Information Technology Services (ITS) is undergoing a year-long redesign to enhance technology services on campus following a review report filed in March.

The review team, which consisted of information technology specialists from outside the UW System, concluded, “the current state of the IT unit is in a reactive rather than proactive state. This is a difficult situation for the staff in this unit.”

In its reactive state, ITS only responds to problems, whereas in a proactive state problems would be prevented.

The Redesign Project Charter describes its main goal as a way to “position Information Technology Services to provide proactive support for working, teaching and learning at UW-River Falls.”

Accompanying this main goal are six more specific goals, which were drawn from the review report.  The goals are to “increase departmental effectiveness and efficiency; improve communication between ITS and the campus community; optimize performance of departmental personnel; create appropriate organizational structures and work management; issue a stable and secure infrastructure; build a sound planning, budgeting and assessment process.”

From these goals, ITS created 87 tasks to accomplish this year. They include the further implementation of the wireless network already in place on campus, more D2L training for faculty and a greater support for technology in the classrooms.

Although the primary focus of the redesign will be on the infrastructure, the most visible accomplishments include a redesign of the Web site; a portal for students so they only have to log into campus web sites once – instead each time for eSIS, Webmail and D2L; and a faster response to problems in the classrooms.

Lisa Wheeler, executive director of the ITS redesign project, said ITS is establishing a set of metrics to measure the progress made and find areas that need improvement.

The metrics being used to make this judgment are responsiveness, dependability and effectiveness.

“This will allow us to see where the ‘ouch points’ are and respond proactively,” Wheeler said.

Technology is an enabler and that’s what it should do, she said, adding that she would like students to feel like they have easy access to the tools they need to accomplish their academic work.

“How we’ve been doing IT on campus isn’t serving the needs of the students,” she said. “That needs to change.”

This is more than a departmental project; it is a partnership to make improvements that draws in ITS staff, faculty, students and administration. 
Michael Hovestol, the student representative for the redesign project, is responsible for voicing student opinions.

He has worked hard to represent the interests of the students by pushing issues he knows are important, like the portal. Much of the board was against the idea, but he knew students wanted it, so he set out to ensure it was accomplished.

Hovestol said most of the work being done is on the infrastructure, which students most likely won’t see. Fixing this is crucial before other, more visible changes can take place.

Hovestol encourages students to seek him out.

He is responsible for the voice of the students and is eager to hear any concerns or comments on how students think ITS should be run in the future.