Enterprise Services

Enterprise Services

Working with customers to implement IT solutions and services that benefit the entire campus

Demand for web development increases

In 2012-13, ITS experienced a significant increase in requests for website development. The ITS Web Services team expanded from two staff members to 13, and the team built well over 100 new sites, including ITS' own at http://its.uiowa.edu, Human Resources at http://hr.uiowa.edu, and the new UI Home page,  http://uiowa.edu.

The expansion of the web team was funded by customer payments for services, and this approach results in costs savings for the UI. Units benefit from having the varied expertise necessary to build a site consolidated in one larger group, and they only pay for services as needed rather than having to hire their own staff. Leveraging the knowledge of the entire ITS team also allows more effective solutions to be developed because IT experts can match up the right development frameworks and tools for each business need. 

In tandem with the web team expansion, ITS launched a Drupal-based content management system for campus, providing a more user-friendly tool for developing and updating websites. Customers can choose from two levels of service depending on on their customization needs. (See SiteNow story below.)

IT support, training, and software

Enterprise Services continued to focus on providing excellent technical support for the UI, implementing a new system to manage Help Desk tickets, and expanding its Extended Technical Support team to meet the need for desktop support in other units. Staff taught courses on IT topics such as Windows, Office, and Lync, and ITS made available thousands of online tutorials through Lynda.com.

In 2013, ITS signed a new five-year agreement with Lynda.com. This new agreement includes hospital staff and provides an enhanced Lynda.com service including a customized user experience, playlists, and much better reporting. The new service will launch in early 2014.

ES staff worked to assure legal compliance, negotiate the best possible terms and pricing, and manage the contracts and distribution for software licenses across the campus – including a renewed three-year Microsoft Campus Agreement and site licenses for Matlab, Adobe, and ArcGIS.

New tools ahead

In 2014, ITS will implement new communication and collaboration tools for students, faculty, and staff. ES will complete the migration of student e-mail to Microsoft Office 365, a cloud-based solution that provides increased storage and a companion suite of new communication and collaboration applications. Nearly 10,000 students transitioned to Office 365 in 2013.

Also in the coming months, ITS will expand Microsoft Lync offerings for faculty and staff to a production-level service with a new version that provides web-based online meetings, audio conferencing, and improved mobile clients to go along with existing features such as unified messaging, chat, and desktop sharing. And, staff are working to upgrade the campus SharePoint infrastructure to SharePoint 2013. The new version will provide improved collaboration and document-management features for campus. 

ITS will launch a new cloud-based file storage based on Microsoft’s Office 365 service called SkyDrive Pro. All faculty/staff will have access to 25GB of storage, the ability to share with colleagues around the world, and the ability to access their files from anywhere with web or mobile devices.

Also, a new campus Mac management system based on Casper will be offered in 2014. This service will be provided as a partnership between ITS and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

New student e-mail system offers larger mailboxes, more tools

In 2013 ITS began transitioning student e-mail to Microsoft Office 365 to provide larger mailboxes and a full portfolio of communication and collaboration tools.

With Office 365, students receive 25 GB e-mail boxes (compared to 1 GB previously). They can also access software that’s part of the Office suite (Excel, Power Point, Word, and OneNote) and connect with others through instant messaging, video conferencing, and online meetings.

About 5,000 first-year students began using Office 365 at the start of the fall 2013 semester, and more than 4,000 second-year students made the switch over winter break.

The rest will be transitioned in 2014. Response to the change has been positive; in fact, more than 100 students requested to be moved sooner than scheduled so they could take advantage of the new features and bigger mailboxes. 

Extensive analysis of vendors

Moving e-mail to the cloud is a major trend in both higher education and corporate business as companies such as Google and Microsoft are now offering high-quality e-mail services to universities. Microsoft has over 20 million users of their cloud services in education alone, and several other schools, such as Nebraska, Duke, and Ohio State have moved or are in the process of moving to 365.

ITS conducted an extensive analysis and comparison of vendors, finding that the Office 365 solution integrates much better with the UI’s existing Microsoft Exchange infrastructure. Security and privacy are a chief concern, and the UI worked with several other institutions to negotiate strong contractual agreements with Microsoft, including a Business Associates Agreement that covers HIPAA data.

Office 365 is initially targeted for students. Faculty and staff represent more complexity because of the kinds of information they communicate using e-mail. ITS will work through those details to see if it’s appropriate to move faculty/staff, and will evaluate the performance of the service for students. 

ITS launches Drupal-based SiteNow website hosting service

Using the Drupal content-management system as a framework, ITS in 2012 launched a new website hosting service called SiteNow, allowing customers to build and customize their own websites from a standard starting point, or to hire experts from the ITS-Enterprise Services web team to help create their site.

Drupal, an open-source content management platform, provides user-friendly tools for creating and maintaining websites. In developing the Drupal-based SiteNow service at the UI, ITS wanted to ensure accessibility, mobile device compatibility, and usability of the university’s websites across all user devices and operating systems. This service is designed to be simple to use and maintain and includes functionality to support web forms, people directories, calendar events, rotating banner images, and basic news items.

ITS also worked with University Communication and Marketing to maintain UI branding standards and create some continuity in the look and feel of UI websites. Users can create and maintain new sites using design elements from the new UI Home Page.

Two levels of service

SiteNow comes in two flavors, standard or custom, depending on the level of service the customer needs.

SiteNow Standard

The SiteNow Standard option allows UI students, faculty or staff to start with a basic template and theme in Drupal and customize it with their own content, layout, and color palette. This option is well suited for many of the basic websites maintained by student organizations, units or departments, labs, studios, or classes that do not need special capabilities. It replaces the 15-year-old static HTML central web-hosting service (known internally by the server names Lime and Fog), and is available at no cost.

SiteNow Custom

The SiteNow Custom option is for sites that have advanced graphic design needs, require integration with other UI systems, have complex development requests, or are of a scale that won’t fit the standard service. UI customers hire ITS to develop their sites.

ITS provides project management, card sorts, surveys, custom design and logos, and module integration with campus systems such as Master Calendar, Academic and Professional Record (APR), and White Pages. Other customers go with the “lite custom design,” which offers custom development and integration using a variation on an existing template or theme for the design.

2 years, 100+ sites

In 2012-13, the web team built more than 100 new sites for the university.

The team redesigned the Office of the President’s external site and introduced a refactored version of the UI’s outreach site, complete with a state map that highlights how the UI impacts the lives of Iowans and is viewable by County, House, Senate, and Congressional districts.

The team also designed new sites for University Housing and Dining including http://dining.uiowa.edu as well as housing and catering, the Office of the Provost (6 sites), Finance and Operations (8 sites), and Athletics (4 sites).

Greater focus on mobile development

It seems everyone has a smartphone these days, and mobile devices now account for more than a quarter of all Internet traffic, according to a Boy Genius Report. First-year UI students are among the first generation to grow up with the devices, so using them comes naturally.

To cater to this trend and to meet the needs of today’s students, ITS is ramping up mobile development efforts. New and enhanced mobile applications provide easy access to useful information about the university, and the campus can look forward to more apps and mobile-friendly websites in the future.

HawkTools

HawkTools is a new mobile application designed specifically for UI students. Within three months of its August 2013 launch, there were nearly 3,000 iPhone and Android downloads of the app.

The app allows students to view open laundry machines on campus, access course-management and student record systems, check e-mail, and view menus for the Burge and Hillcrest dining halls. HawkTools provides a connection to Bongo (Bus on the Go), where they can track arrival times of Cambus and city buses. 

The app also provides access to the On Iowa website, an orientation resource for first-year students. During On Iowa weekend, just prior to the start of the fall semester, 40 percent of traffic to the site was mobile.

UI Mobile

UI Mobile is an app designed for campus guests—like families of current students here for Family Weekend, prospective students and their families on campus visits, or alumni returning to town. This app provides access to athletic game schedules, events occurring in Iowa City, and links to the UI’s social media sites.

What’s new?

Previously, Hawktools and UI Mobile were combined in one application. But certain features didn’t apply to all users—for example, visitors didn’t need access to course-management systems, laundry availability, or residence hall menus. Splitting up the app allowed for less confusion and more usage for everyone.

ITS also introduced a new version of Bongo for Apple, and in the fall 2013 semester alone, it was downloaded more than 4,000 times. An updated version for Android is coming soon.

What’s Next?

The next step is bringing more UI websites to mobile using responsive design tools. In collaboration with University Communication and Marketing and Facilities Management, the ITS web development team wrapped up work on a new campus maps site at the end of 2013. The next step will be to make the site accessible via the HawkTools and UI Mobile apps.

Faculty, staff, and students are also developing innovative new apps. ITS maintains UI’s iOS license, so other mobile developers work through ITS to release apps. The license requires that the apps be free to users.

Use of cloud-based survey tool Qualtrics continues to rise

A new cloud-based survey tool deployed by ITS is proving to be a successful solution for the UI.

Since its summer 2011 launch, the number of people using Qualtrics to create surveys topped 4,500. In 2013, over 8,800 surveys were created and 375,000 survey responses were collected.

ITS has continued to hear positive feedback from customers who expressed appreciation for the new service.

A variety of uses

The UI uses online surveys for a wide variety of data collection, from conducting Institutional Review Board-approved research to seeking feedback on customer service. Event organizers create Qualtrics surveys for registration, and service managers use it to gather information from customers as they assess demand and preferences.

In 2012, Qualtrics was used for the Working at Iowa survey, which helps the UI understand how employees feel about their work environment and is used to support continuing improvement and engagement. In 2013, Qualtics was used for the annual campus IT survey, which helps IT professionals understand how employees feel about technology on campus, where it is working well, and where it can improve.

User friendly and flexible

Ben Earnhart, who handles technology for the Department of Sociology and the Iowa Social Science Research Center, has worked with Qualtrics on several projects, including one that garnered about 1,400 responses.

For the most basic functionality, it’s really simple to use. For more advanced users, the flow control, randomization capabilities, and presentation of questions can be incredibly powerful,” he says.”

Earnhart says Qualtrics meets researchers’ needs for security and compliance, and that collaboration capabilities allow them to easily edit surveys. He can maintain control over the technical aspects of the survey but still allow clients to view results in real time. Another plus is the presentation options, which range from built-in templates to custom colors, spacing, and graphics.

UI technology experts say in most cases, people can create, test, and deploy a survey in less than 30 minutes. Users can log in using their Hawk ID, and Qualtrics is hosted and fully supported by the vendor. Users receive help directly from Qualtrics by phone or e-mail, Qualtrics provides a wealth of support information, and training is available in a number of formats at no additional cost to users.

Successful transition to cloud

Prior to Qualtrics, the UI had used WebSurveyor since May of 2005. The Survey and Desktop Applications Group in ITS-Enterprise Services investigated what the market had to offer and guided the transition once Qualtrics was selected.

The Directory and Authentication Group hooked Qualtrics into the university’s Shibboleth to allow enterprise authentication. By January of 2012, everything was shifted over and ITS was able to retire the old tool.

Qualtrics is one of the first cloud-based services ITS has deployed for the entire campus. In evaluating future cloud possibilities, the UI will look at this as one of the successful transitions for campus.

For more on Qualtrics, including training and support information, visit http://its.uiowa.edu/qualtrics.

Application Development

ITS developed several new applications for the campus.

  • A Healthy Hawk Survey Engine surveys UI sophomores about their health practices across a variety of categories to identify students who may need UI support services.
  • A Recital Attendance Application for the School of Music replaces a manual paper card and database entry system, reducing the staff time necessary to manage the course by 75%.
  • The Honors Application automates processes for tracking, applying for, and awarding scholarships to students in the Honors Program.
  • The Career Graduation Survey Tool enhances reporting capabilities for measuring placement rates of graduating students.
  • ITS also wrote and deployed a Placement Score Portal for Examination and Evaluation Services.
  • Most recently ITS deployed a new application for the Office of the President to support increased transparency on the Open Records (FOIA) laws for the State of Iowa.

Bongo (Bus on the Go)

Bongo is a GPS-based, real-time passenger information system that allows riders to find current bus locations as well as predictions for upcoming bus arrivals for Iowa City, Coralville, and the UI. In 2012, the mobile app reached 14,211 downloads for iOS and Android, and in 2013 the downloads reached 16,922. 

Work also began for a new trip planning service to assist bus riders in creating detailed itineraries to travel between locations. The trip planning service will be deployed in early 2014.

Enterprise Communication and Collaboration

In 2013, ITS upgraded the UI’s Lync environment to the latest 2013 version. The new service provides web-based online meetings, improved video conferencing capabilities, mobile apps (iOS, Android) and more.

ITS has also been working to roll out a new Unified Messaging service to replace a 20-year-old voicemail system. The new system allows people to receive voicemail messages directly in their e-mail.

Printing, File Storage, and Digital Signage

ITS moved all printers on ITS print servers to Local Scoped Addressing (LSA) to reduce security risk and conserve scarce Internet Protocol (IP) address space. Several departments, including Facilities Management, Chemistry, Vice President for Research Office, Division of Continuing Education, and the Career Center, were moved to the central file service and 70 printers from Facilities Management and Housing and Dining were moved to central printing.

The Research Data Storage Service (RDSS) was moved from pilot to production. In addition, staff completed a major upgrade to AxisTV, which powers the digital signage service, including new hardware to improve performance. The Master Calendar service also received several software upgrades over the past two years.

 

Project Delivery and Process Improvement

Staff members designed an automated workflow process for Alternative Media Services in Student Disability Services to manage requests. In addition, staff conducted IT needs assessments for Communication Sciences and Disorders and for the Office of the Vice President for Research.

After completing a vendor review, ITS selected Team Dynamix as a new time-tracking and product and portfolio management tool. The new application was piloted internally in fall 2013 and will be launched ITS-wide in February 2014. Exciting new reporting options will come online as data is entered into the new system, providing insight into ITS projects and services and the impact of these on campus constituents.

Software Licensing

ITS negotiated a three-year renewal of the Microsoft Campus Agreement, and worked with a number of colleges to change how the Matlab license is funded. Departments can now deploy Matlab to as many computers as they want, and researchers and students can access the software at no additional charge. Also changed was the way students receive Microsoft Windows and Office so they can now download the software any time of the day at no charge.

In 2013, a campus-wide Adobe license was negotiated that provides the majority of Adobe products to campus as well as a home-use program for UI employees. 

Training

ITS partnered with UI Learning and Development to teach Office, Windows, and Lync classes. Lynda.com training video views reached almost 100,000 in 2012 and over 110,000 in 2013.

User Support

ITS evaluated the technology support needs of the Vice President for Research, recommending several changes to provide better support and more consistent practices. ITS contracted with several offices on campus to provide Extended Technical Support: the Pomerantz Career Center, the Academic Advising Center, and the administrative offices of the Division of Student Life.

In addition, ITS implemented the ticket-tracking tool System Center Service Manager as a replacement for the old system, Remedy. Also implemented was LogMeIn Rescue, a remote assistance and online chat support tool.

To raise awareness of IT tools and services available to the campus, ITS published new editions of its Technology Resource Guide for students and developed separate versions of the guide specifically for faculty and staff.

ITS Help Desk Contacts

The ITS Help Desk provides support to students, faculty, and staff on a variety of technology-related topics, including operating systems, software applications, networking, security, and consulting on IT purchases. Support is available by phone, e-mail, and online chat, or at the walk-in desk on the second floor of University Capitol Centre. In the past decade, the number of Help Desk contacts has grown tremendously, from about 33,000 per year to nearly 81,000.

Category200220032004200520062007200820092010201120122013
Total Contacts32,84348,46853,90151,73448,68856,50657,07666,46081,74381,82580,72380,197

ITS Help Desk Contacts per Full-time Employee

Category200220032004200520062007200820092010201120122013
Total Contacts per Full-time Employee1,5642,2542,6292,4062,1642,2602,5253,1503,6493,8424,1404,221

Managed PCs

The UI uses Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) to efficiently manage computers across the network. IT professionals can centrally manage systems (for example, deploying/updating software or operating systems) and provide support with remote tools from anywhere on campus. Use of SCCM has increased steadily.

Category2004200520062007200820092010201120122013
Total Managed PCs2,1003,9843,7615,2706,7178,28311,19712,18212,73913,104

Lynda.com Training Videos Viewed

Lynda.com is an online training library that provides access to 900 courses and over 56,000 tutorials on technology topics. ITS deployed this resource to the university in January of 2011, and it is now accessed more than 25,000 times per quarter by employees and students seeking to learn new technologies or keep their skills up to date.

CategoryQ1Q2Q3Q4
201117,47518,41923,16125,325
201225,67422,32825,05625,976
201330,69728,80926,96026,436

Reduction in Needed Student PC Repairs

The ITS Help Desk implemented better tools and training to address hardware, software and malware issues for students on a walk-in basis, and a new online system allows students to more easily install Microsoft software on their own. Combined, the changes resulted in a 60% decrease from 2011 to 2013 in the number of student-owned computers that had to be left with ITS overnight or longer for repairs. This saves staff time, and students experience less down time of lost productivity.

Category200820092010201120122013
Student PC Repairs2,6444,4675,6025,6753,5392,264