Consolidating IT across several campuses and hundreds of professionals is no easy task — just ask University of Miami Director of IT Rocky Pedroso, who started with the university eight years ago as a systems administrator and has also served as a help desk supervisor.
Under CIO Steve Cawley, Pedroso and his team have worked to consolidate IT departments across Miami's three campuses: Coral Gables, the Miller School of Medicine, and the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science campuses. Additionally, they've worked to implement new enterprise solutions to facilitate that transition.
Education Dive recently caught up with Pedroso to learn more about how the university was able to modernize its IT teams, and to get advice for other higher ed IT professionals looking to do the same.
EDUCATION DIVE: What are some of the IT challenges you've faced during your time at the University of Miami?
ROCKY PEDROSO: [When] I was promoted to a help desk supervisor probably about seven years ago, I noticed that we didn’t have any remote software tools. So I started working to implement—a long time ago—WebEx. We were using that for a long time, and we were still separated at the medical campus. We have a new CIO, and a couple of years ago, he consolidated all of the IT departments across campuses.
We had all of these different campuses, and each campus had two or three different solutions for remote support. At the med campus, I had implemented WebEx. We had GoToAssist. We had Bomgar on the academic side. We also used DameWare when something else was broken, and certain folks used TeamViewer.
As we consolidated, my team grew. I was the one in charge for all service desks, for all campuses. I consolidated the team physically and also logically, for one single point of contact. It was at that point that I realized that we had all these different tools. So what I did was evaluate every single one that we had. I had a team of technical resources, as well as myself and a couple of other managers in there for managerial decision-making. What we realized was that we had all of these different needs and that’s why we needed so many different tools. I knew that we were going to continue to grow, so it needed to be something scalable. And it needed to be secure—which certain softwares we had were not secure. It required you to open up ports in the firewall. We had a need to record sessions. None of the other tools had that. We also had a need to log into Macs. We had a need to log into folks outside of campus, and we also had a need to sometimes log into phones or even Linux platforms.
We had a smaller number of licenses with another separate IT team that I consolidated that were using Bomgar. So we beefed up our clients that we had, we purchased new licenses, and we’ve been using Bomgar as a campus-wide solution for about two and a half years. We have over 200 technicians using it, and I believe we have 34 licenses.
Consolidating all of the teams across multiple campuses sounds like a challenge in itself.
PEDROSO: It was very tricky. We had folks in the same positions with vast differences in responsibilities and compensation. For example, we had help desk technicians who had a technical background, yet their job description did not entail technical requirements. And conversely, we had folks without technical backgrounds that had a job description that stated they needed to be technical. So one of the things we did there is we cross-trained everyone to be able to have at least a minimal sort of technical talent and skill set so that they can troubleshoot, and also use Bomgar and fix stuff remotely so that we could save costs and not have to dispatch a technician. We had folks getting dispatched for adding a printer, creating a shortcut, reinstalling Microsoft Office—all of these things that could be done remotely right at the service desk level.
We provided training for teams. We consolidated them in one physical building, whereas [before] they were spread out across three different buildings. That was challenging in itself. We had to purchase new furniture. We had to get HR to approve. We had to create new policies, we had to rearrange shifts, because we also have a 24-7 service desk, and we have three supervisors and three different shifts managing our 24-7 operation here. It was pretty challenging, I’ve gotta admit. It took about a year and a half to finally get to where we’re at now. We’re still not at a very mature level, but we’re still growing and we’re still learning.
If you could change one thing overnight to make your life easier on campus, what would it be?
PEDROSO: You know, we did have one big struggle and that was adoption. If I could change one thing, I wish everyone reported to me and I could make them use ServiceNow the way that it was intended to be used. [Laughs] Unfortunately, there’s some managers out there, and some staff members, that just don’t see the value as much as we do in using these tools.
I’d say the biggest struggle was adoption. It’s hard to get everyone on all sides, because everyone’s not in the same building—not even on the same campus. We have telecomm teams on all campuses. We have networking teams spread across campus. And it’s tough to get everyone involved when we have 600 people. We try to teach them in training classes and videos and stuff, but some people have a hard time understanding how valuable these tools are. If I could change one thing, it would be that everyone uses it the same way.
What’s the best technology investment that you’ve seen your institution make while you’ve been there?
PEDROSO: Call me cheesy, but I really see the value in ServiceNow and the integration that we have also with Bomgar. I think ServiceNow moreso, though, because aside from bringing all of the teams together, it kind of ensures that everyone’s doing it the same way and using the same repeatable process in-and-out. For example, when we didn’t have change management, we would have a server team knock a server down at midnight and make a change, update a database, upgrade a software version, and then in the morning, the service desk would get hit because something doesn’t work. And there was no change management process to record that, to document what was done, to alert the service desk and other teams to what was done.
Now that we have that in place, we’re able to have a change advisory board to make sure that every single lowercase i and t’s were crossed and make sure that everyone did their due diligence in testing these applications and these changes before they’re implemented. That’s a really big portion of this. It’s not just a ticketing system, it’s a whole foundation of how your IT shop is run. And when you have people using the same process, it really makes a huge benefit.
What do you think your school's biggest technical challenge will be over the next decade?
PEDROSO: One of the big challenges we see is mobile device management. We have this BYOD system here where people bring in their laptops and their tablets and their phones. It’s been really hard trying to implement security provisions. The staff either don’t agree with it, don’t like it, or feel like it’s too much of a mission to have to put in a PIN on their phone. We’ve also been on a huge security initiative to encrypt laptops and desktops. Since we work in the medical field, there’s a lot of PHI data out there. And doctors like to put it on USB drives and they like to take their laptops home, and laptops get stolen and all of that information then has been breached. So those are some of the challenges that we’re seeing now.
And also one other thing I’d like to add, too. We’re trying to dissuade customers from calling us as much. I’m trying to enter into a self-help initiative. And what I mean by that is we’re building up our knowledge base. We’re trying to have folks reset their own passwords. We’re trying to have folks research their own issues and read an article and see if it worked rather than having to spend a couple of minutes on a phone call. Yeah, we’ll go ahead and resolve it for you, but [we’re trying] to make folks aware that they can go online to request services or maybe even fix your own issue. That’s something that I think we’ll have some trouble doing because folks are just used to sending us an email or calling us. We took 194,000 calls last year, and the staff—we can’t just keep getting more warm bodies in here to answer phones. We’ve gotta come up with different methods of contact, whether it’s chat, email, self-service. The phones, I think, take away from somebody’s ability to work while they put in a request.
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