Monday, March 23, 2009

The Changing Face of Support

Presentation: The Changing Face of Support
Presenter: Margaret Mason, Tennessee Board of Regents
When asking directions around a huge conference taking up 3 large buildings – always ask the AV guys. Great directions, no extraneous BS. To the 3 IATSE Local 8 guys sitting outside the Liberty Ballroom, thanks!

Did I say this conference is HUGE.

I managed to attend one session yesterday. My notes are below.

The crux of the presentation:

They gave their in-house staff multiple opportunities to prepare their skill set for the upgrade. There was a lot of resistance. And LOTS of money spent on training.

There were a lot of people who didn't see this as "real"

Finally, they gave these long-standing employees 3 options:
1) Train (again - many had done the training 3 times), test successfully (using the Oracle SQL tests), get a $10,000 raise.

2) Re-apply for the new job position and hope they get it.

3) Leave.

I wonder how many organizations are willing to take this "firm but fair" approach. It sounds like they agonized over it.

Statewide system (Tennessee)
Multi-year Banner implementation

Board of Regents has central IT support system – 1 of 2 state funded systems
- Tennessee Board of Regents (6 universities, 13 community colleges, 26 tech centers (don’t run Banner. HR and Finance through one of the community colleges), central office) 6th largest in US (190,000 students)
- University of Tennessee system (these are completely different)
- With resignation of UT president, both systems did not have permanent head. Starting to reconsider higher ed governance. Of course this complicates projects.
- 15,000 employees

Fall 2008 – completed 4 year Banner implementation on-time and under budget
- IT staff of 12 – including 5 full-time SGHE employees provide first line support to enterprise. (emphasis mine)
- 1 staff member oversees infrastructure. 1 CIO, 2 admin support personnel.
- 2 applications developers (TBR) and 5 SGHE under her.

TBR – facing 2nd major budget cutback during fiscal year.
- Bad budget prospects (duh)
- From “do more with less” to “do everything with nothing”
- 1-2 years from now, need to anticipate lower budget

Even if we get money – most of higher ed putting the money (rightly) in student-facing programs.

Old support paradigm
- PLUS (legacy system – COBOL-based)
- System less complex
- “Call Nashville”
- Send e-mail
- Phone a friend

New support paradigm
- Banner
- Central DBAs doing a lot of the work in these systems. Trying to get independent, knowledge transfer, train each other.

Throughout implementation – legacy databases sprouting like mushrooms.
- Trying to create a “database diet” for schools to go on.
- Finding when try to support the databases, finding all sorts of surprises.

Re-examined staffing needs
- Built staff with necessary knowledge, skills, experience and personal traits
- Still existing staff (even towards end of implementation), not seeing Banner as “real”
- Even after training, marketing, etc.
- Eliminated out-dated positions, created new positions
- Those folks who didn’t see the “reality” of it – their positions eliminated.
- Individual employees not terminated. Given a new position description with new skill set. Will train (though most have been through it already 2-3 times). Made them test into new position. Good – salary goes up $10,000. Not good or not test – can try with resume. Or – quit. All went for it. No one tested into the position (used 2 Oracle tests (SQL and PL SQL test) )
+Got rid of a lot of negativity
- Wanted people truly customer service oriented. Some folks hang up on clients.
- No entitlement jobs anymore.

Desired Personal Traits
- 10 determinants
+ TQM-based
- 13 Ground Rules

Determinants of Service Quality
- Reliability
- Responsiveness
- Competence
- Access
- Courtesy
- Communication
- Credibility
- Understanding
- Security / Safety
- Tangibles (can see clean facility, professional-looking folks)
(missing 2)

Did exercises with central office IT staff
- Took list of 10 determinants.
- List 3 do best, 3 need work
- 3 best – courtesy, competence, credibility
- Not how you think you do it – perception of your users!!!!
- 3 need improvement – access, communication, and understanding
+ When it’s your turn, responsiveness is wonderful.
+ But if it’s not – ummm…….

13 Ground Rules
- Become quick-change artist (tasks, projects, priorities)
- Commit fully to your job
- Speed up (because they have to do it faster, same quality)
- Accept ambiguity and uncertainty
- Behave like you’re in business for yourself
- Stay in school (my version – keep learning. Gotta be self-motivated.)
- Add value
- Hold yourself accountable for outcomes
- See yourself as a service center
- Manage your own morale
- Practice Kaizen (striving towards perfection)
- Be a fixer, not a finger-pointer
- Alter your expectations

What do we as an organization do best?
- Said – we add value, committed, quick-change. Need improvement on – altering expectations.
- Before – had people who could answer questions on the old system in their sleep. Now, don’t
- Users afraid of giving wrong answers now because don’t feel like they have enough experience with the product.

What would improve the quality of support immediately
- See yourself as a service center
- Be a fixer, not a finger pointer
- Speed up.

Cost / Quality / Time
- What system faces – Quality can’t drop. Cost must drop. As a result – time gives. People waiting longer.
Successful initiatives
- DBA Collaborative
+ Managing DBA (Centrally funded)
+ 2 DBAs – share among 19 institutions. Lions share of services
+ Used to have Sungard DBAs during Sungard Implementation
- Knowledge Transfer – became critical
+ Teaching people at the schools to help out.
- Repurposed hardware from old Course Management System (when went to hosted) to become Disaster Recovery Site.
- Institution / TBR / SGHE Partnership.
+ Begin better tracking of support requests
+ Give more direct support for the institutions
+ Customer Support Center / Action Line
+ 5 year contract – must have 1 annual meeting to discuss support issues.
- Columbia State / MTSU Help Desk (both merged in one location)

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