* You are viewing the archive for the ‘administrative computing’ Category

Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!: signs of project failure

Over the weekend I decided to kill a major personal project. Pulling the plug on an IT project at the right time is important–too often it feels like we see bad projects limp along with no one willing to put it out of our collective misery. Bad projects are not just bad for our morale, they waste our time and risk our reputation. So, here are the 12 early warning signs of IT failure:

The top people-related risks:

  1. Lack of top management support
  2. Weak project manager
  3. No stakeholder involvement and/or participation
  4. Weak commitment of project team
  5. Team members lack requisite knowledge and/or skills
  6. Subject … Continue Reading

CTO in Vegas: You Gotta Have a System

Vegas is all about systems. Everything is priced, delivered, extracted, supplied, configured, and serviced according to an extensive investigation of how to get the most return for the minimum investment. Services are unbundled because pricing is more flexible. So, my room is very cheap but I have to pay $25 to use the spa/workout facility, but if I pay $65 then I get free breakfast, cocktails, and the spa entrance is only $10, plus a view of the 3/4 scale Eiffel Tower and the Bellagio Fountains from my room. It’s like charging researchers for disk space and offering free sys … Continue Reading

Last week: lose big. This week: lose BIGGER!

Last week’s announced service improvements did not go as planned. No ETA on those, but I am assured folks are Working On It. This weekend, we announced a big bandwidth upgrade. This too failed to go off as planned. And I am assured folks are Working On It.

In both cases, the changes were promoted by us. The timeline was determined by us. Given that we were the drivers, there’s really no excuse for announcing a change unless we were 95% sure the service would work as promised. Particularly in the case of the network upgrade. Better to announce what we … Continue Reading

Losing Big, Which is Really the First Step to Winning Big, if you think about it…

Today we had a huge failure! Yeah! A major campus-wide project didn’t succeed and our services didn’t come back on line as expected! Whoopee! Although we were largely back in business by 8 a.m., one service didn’t go live until 9:30 and only about 1/3 of the improvements we’d hope to deploy went live. Everyone here is very sleep deprived and unhappy. Here are my takeaways for the moment:

  1. A 5-hour downtime (3 a.m.-8 a.m.) in the middle of the week is too long. We added buffer time, but not enough. We should have broken down the steps into more discrete … Continue Reading

Racial categories: rock, scissors, paper, and Hispanic

I spent 1.5 hours today in a meeting to figure out how we are going to change our data services to accommodate the “new” IPEDS guidelines (released in 2007 in response to a 1997 change in racial categories). Already I know you are bored with this topic–me, I was asleep at the word “IPEDS.”  Here is some text from the guidelines–and this is from the government, not us:

  • A person who answers Yes to Hispanic should also answer the race question, even though that person will be reported to IPEDS as Hispanic
  • If a respondent does not answer the Hispanic question but … Continue Reading

Vendor Meeting

Today I met with the vendor rep for our financial and human resource systems. I was surprised not to have heard from the rep before, given that I’ve been here for almost a year and that we are current customers and that every other service provider or potential service provider seems extremely willing to suck up for a scrap of business these days. In fact, I didn’t even get an invite to their Educause festivities/demos/etc. So, we met. To his credit, he started by apologizing for not being in contact. Then, after talking about our needs, their services, etc., here’s … Continue Reading

Using yesterday’s technology to solve the problems of the days of yore…

We’re doing demos for software for an administrative department. We have three finalists: one good, one bad, and one ugly. The ugly software is the current favorite of the administrative department. During the demo, the vendor noted how the database plugs right into Access. It wasn’t just that this software allowed you to create shadow databases; this software was essentially a way to do this more easily. Meanwhile the “good” software looked slick and supported a variety of queries and tracked many more components. It immediately got your mind racing toward possibilities. Another comparison point: the “good” software sent mass … Continue Reading

What to do when “to do” isn’t happening, aka, Calgon ™! Take me away activities

Sometimes you face one or more of the following conditions:

  • your to do list is heinous
  • you’ve looked at your email and just can’t face it
  • you have a few minutes between meetings and don’t need to go to the bathroom or get coffee (interesting how these relate–one could just buy a cup of coffee and dump it directly in the toilet and eliminate the middle man, as it were)
  • you just need a break

So here’s my list of stuff you can do that inches toward productivity while still providing a “break-like” feel:

  • remove really large files from your mail, assuming you’re a luser like … Continue Reading

No. Floppy. Drives.

I asked why our staff and faculty desktop replacement model had a floppy drive. Actually, I noticed it when one of my staff asked, after reviewing the proposed model, if he could also get “a surrey with some fringe on top.” Snarky but funny. We both were told we needed to get floppies because some folks here back up their desktops onto floppy drives. Where to start with what’s wrong? The good news is that if their backup fits onto a floppy, we should really be able to provide network space for cheap…. The bad news is that, apparently, well, … Continue Reading

Monday, Monday, it was all I hoped it would be

Ah, another satisfying day at work. Here is what I accomplished today:

  • sent updates to the President’s Cabinet (sorry about the 7-hour internet outage, sorry it took 90 minutes to send a campus-wide email to 4500 people, and glad you like the new “web for employees” self service tool)
  • sent out the agenda for the directors’ meeting tomorrow: it will be The One About The Password Synchronization
  • determined that my personal pet project of a bunch of Dell minis to dish out like jujubes to buy faculty love will be delayed due to Dell’s 30-day delivery backlog
  • attended a faculty meeting to … Continue Reading

What he said

This presentation by Adrian Sannier (UTO at ASU) will cost you about 72 minutes of your life. But it’s worth it if you’re interested in what the future holds for us IT’ers in higher ed. I’m considering showing it to all the IT staff at our next staff meeting and to the dreaded advisory group too. I think Sannier’s right on the money with where we should be going and what we should be doing. The question is: how much do we let our culture and internal politics affect these ideas, our plans, and doing … Continue Reading

FCC Guy compares higher ed to the music industry

Check it out. I feel so dirty. Maybe we can threaten kids who download other college’s course info? That’d be cool. But let’s note that the demise of higher ed has been predicted before.

Meanwhile, today our call accounting software puked and then died. Nice. I asked why we didn’t have a service contract for it and was told that was because the vendor went out of business a couple of years ago. It runs on Windows 98 just to complete the picture. The good news is that long distance has gotten so cheap, … Continue Reading

Deanna Troi on Technical Support


Today I announced formally to the campus the changing of our name from the Office of Information Services to just plain Technology Services, the result of a vote described earlier. I also announced our training sessions for this month, which, for the first time ever, include a session on the administrative use of collaborative tools (e.g. our meeting’s on a wiki!). And we’re offering Mac training now too. I received many responses, all positive, all saying things like, “It’s the dawn of a new era” etc. What’s funny is these changes cost us … Continue Reading

ESB/BES/SOA/I think my head exploded

I’m attending a workshop on campus architecture and middleware planning. Back in the day, when I thought my job was about systems and services and not about meetings and synergies, I thought this workshop would help me understand how to rebuild our local environment to take advantage of new developments in enterprise applications. HAHAHAHAH. I so much do not understand what they’re talking about it’s scary. I have some staff here, but they’re being awfully quiet too.

However, I seem to fake comprehension well, because today they asked me to lead a “lightning” round tomorrow. Actually, I suspect they … Continue Reading

Get Out of My Way: what your IT staff can do for you

At the NITLE summit, Michael Wesch of “The Machine is Us/ing Us” fame presented on his use of a variety of tools in his classes. At the end of the presentation, someone asked him how central IT could help him, and he said, mostly nicely, “get out of my way.” Ah, sweet sweet users. It’s like payback for the day of the bastard operator from hell, when IT staff operated in a “deny all” mode.


So I’ve decided even if we end up outsourcing or no-sourcing all coolness, innovation, and utilities, there are two areas where IT … Continue Reading

Top 5 IT Complaints, the academic edition

Yesterday and today I met with all the academic leads: department heads, division heads, deans, etc. Two groups of about 25 each. Basically, I sat there and took notes while they complained about everything. If I collapse all the issues into the top five, here they are. Note how they don’t seem related to the academic mission and how they don’t seem that hard to solve. My thoughts in italics.

  1. All my passwords keep expiring and none of them are synchronized. Yes, this sucks and we need to change this. I’ve been here less than 4 weeks and I’m already annoyed.
  2. I … Continue Reading

Lou Reed on the Tragedy of the Commons

So there’s a central resource, say a bunch of programmers, developers, and application tweakers, which is free to a group of individuals, say for example some administrative departments, each of which has its own budget, priorities, and goals. Because the central resource is free, there’s no particular reason not to ask for whatever you like. So everyone asks for whatever they want and then the limiting factor becomes the availability of the central resource (time). People adjust their requests according to the schedule but the resource remains exploited and unappreciated for everyone’s constantly unhappy because, like Lou Reed’s man, … Continue Reading

Jackie Kennedy Onassis on administrative computing

“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” –Jackie O

Today I realized that oversight of administrative computing is a lot like raising kids. Basically, I would love it if my job could focus on establishing sweet collaborative tools to take us to some higher, cooler level, but without solid identity and institutional data access and management systems, nobody much cares about the other stuff. Apparently, we/I have a bunch of systems, some vendor, some in-house, some with unclear origins, and not only are they not working well together, but the staff managing … Continue Reading