The Care and Feeding of Small Office Technology

This is a series of documents dedicated to the use of small office technology and the basic concepts for anyone establishing a technology center in their home.The article can be downloaded in its entirety.

First in a Series: Technology in the SOHO.

Remember that first pet? No matter what it was, you loved it the moment you saw it. And then it hit you, how do you take care of it? Like that first pet, or for all of you parents out there, your first child, you suddenly wish it came with a good instruction manual. Then the beads of sweat start forming; how do you know if you are doing the best for your pet? What is the best food for it? Who do you ask? Should you check the Internet? These are all of the questions you should have asked before you took on this great responsibility.

A small home office is very similar. You started your business and hoped that it would take off. But the kitchen table is not exactly an ideal workspace. Perhaps you can still work at home, but you need a space with the right tools. Maybe your home is not an ideal workspace, so you decide to get yourself a small office space in town. Now that you decided what you want to do, you still need a list of things to get your small office off to a good start. This is that guidebook.

  1. You are the most important technology in your office. Nothing you buy is more important than what you started with. Knowledge is your first and best weapon. No matter what your job, in a small office, you are also the first technician for your technology. You have to take the best care you can to keep your gear working.
  2. The design of your small office environment needs to take into consideration: needs of the occupation, quality of technology, ergonomic requirements, file storage and retrieval space. Set your office up with comfort in mind.
  3. You get what you pay for. Free is nice and low price is good, but sometimes, what you need will cost money and you will often pay handsomely for it. The trick is to get help deciding what your new gear should be worth to you and what a reasonable price for that would be.
  4. Your technology is obsolete before you get it out of the box. Your mission is to get the best value for the price, and ensure the longest functioning life for your technology. Know your hardware and its software. Mastery of the technology and software you use most often is critical, because time invested in learning a program pays back tenfold.
  5. A small reference library is a must. You should keep a library of information regarding your network and other technology assets. Download and keep the PDF manuals and enhance them with books that may increase your understanding. This will help you troubleshoot basic problems with your technology. 75% of all computer difficulties can be corrected by the user without serious technical support. Keep track of your equipment, especially if you purchase new technology. Often, introducing a new piece of gear will play havoc with your existing setup. If you know your setup well, you can inquire online about the compatibility of a product.
  6. Be honest with your IT technician, when she comes to help you. If you are having recurrent problems, write down whatever you are working on and what happens when your system fails.
  7. Learn how to backup your important information. Loss of your business data can be catastrophic and over 50% of businesses that have lost their data go out of business in twelve to eighteen months.
  8. Maintain your updates and patch your software: A sign of the times is that software is never truly finished being developed. Even though you have paid for it, it often has undisclosed (or undiscovered) bugs and flaws that can only be corrected after you have paid for it.
  9. Install and run your defensive software regularly. There are so many threats out there, if you have anti-malware tools installed, they cannot help you if you do not use them.
  10. Listen to your computer. Try to be aware of its ambient sounds. If your computer sounds different, chances are it is having a problem. The temperature of your system may affect how it sounds; strange sounds often indicate that your system is in distress. Protect your investment in your computer technology; keep it clean and free of dust, dirt, food, liquids and debris that may cause it to overheat or short out. Get a good surge protector to protect against power spikes.
  11. Keep the number of a qualified technical professional; see her at least once a year. Be nice to her, too.

Best Hardware EVER!

  1. You are the most important technology in your office. Nothing you buy is more important that what you started with. Knowledge is your first and best weapon. Before we delve into the intricacies of technology and how it can be used in the small office, we need to discuss the most powerful computer on Earth.
  • You already have it. You got it the very first day you arrived on Earth and it still has the most sophisticated and adaptable software interface the world has ever known.
  • No other creature has managed to develop software as sophisticated, create and master tools as complicated as humanity has. Yes, there are other intelligences on Earth that might rival ours, the underwater phyla of the Cetaceans (whales and dolphins) but they have not managed to change their environment the same way we have due to our use of tools.
  • When fully developed, it has allowed humanity to master a near-limitless number of technological, scientific, social or philosophical disciplines, given us an opportunity to learn to speak over six thousand different languages, to navigate the myriad environments scattered across the surface of the globe, the ability to domesticate thousands of species of plants and animals, and even divine the hidden secrets of the universe using advanced mathematics and cosmological concepts.
  • It has allowed humanity to build some of the most spectacular structures in our twenty thousand year prehistory, and at one point enter the most inhospitable environments imaginable, plumbing the deep sea, scaling the highest mountains and crossing that boundary into the final frontier; space.
  • The award for best information processing platform ever designed on Earth goes to the Human Brain!

The Human Brain…

is currently the best computer known to Man. This organic super-processing computer has no technological equal on our planet. In overall performance, it is superior to any computer ever made. If you wanted to try to make a computer comparable to the human brain, using today’s technology it would:

  • Cover an area the size of the state of Texas (over 268,601 square miles!) and stand over 1000 feet tall (as tall as the Chrysler Building)!
  • Need to have a nearly infinite storage capacity, (when was the last time you bought a hard drive for your brain?)
  • Have to be able to process over 100 billion instructions per second! (take that Intel!)
  • Have to have the ability to handle 100 billion bits of information! (take that Microsoft!)
  • Have to possess infinitely adaptable software capable of upgrading itself whenever it wanted to! (you can develop a new habit in as little as 21 days.)

But if we are so smart why do we even need computers? Why do we seem so slow in comparison?

a) We don’t. Much of human civilization was completed and able to be done, long before complex computers were even in existence. We built the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World1, the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and sent men to the moon, all without the use of computers (the primary calculating device during the moon launch was the slide rule). In China, there are people who can still use an abacus faster than most people can use a calculator.

b) The human brain appears slow due to the overwhelming amount of data being processed. Unusual humans who are gifted, have specialized autisms or have suffered brain damage can exhibit computer-like functions like total recall, super-fast calculations or abstract thinking capacities that appear far in advance of normal human functioning. But the human brain at its best can be trained to do many of these feats.

c) Our sense of sight (which is our primary sense organ) is creating a visual information smorgasbord of sensitivity that prioritizes our vision, (what needs to be seen first, the cobra near me or that tree over there), can detect range to an object, discern the nature of an object, and determine what kind of benefit or threat that object might be to our existence.

d) Our eyes process about 575 million pixels of information per second, covering a 120 degree field of vision. This is a constant flow of information and we only discern what is important to us at the time, but no computer is capable of even a fraction of that capability yet.

e) We are constantly sorting and managing a huge amount of data from our senses. All of our senses are linked and capable of initiating information retrieval (so when you smell a cake baking you might remember your grandmother and all kinds of thoughts related to her) are all linked and processing simultaneously. No computer technology even comes close to the capabilities of our human senses!

f) Our brains do not dedicate functions to singular tasks like computers are able to: hence a computer’s apparent superiority with mathematical calculations.

g) We are also processing an entire virtual environment within our head. It is our abstraction of the universe based on our belief systems that we are constantly working with when we are interacting with the real world. This virtual environment is superimposed on our real-time view of the world, helping us navigate our way to our goals.

Why is this important? I mention this because many people have developed phobias about their computers or technology in general, preventing them from harnessing the complete power of that device.

a. Take back control of your technology. Have no more fear of your computer than you do your toaster. You put toast in, press the button and toast comes out.

b. Computers are just like your toaster or your refrigerator, nothing will come out of it that you did not put into it, but just like your toaster or refrigerator you have to be aware of what you put into it, to know what CAN come out of it.

c. Your computer will never do anything you do not tell it to do. So why does your computer do so many seeming inexplicable things, that you did not tell it to do? That, my friends is because computers are a product of their environment.

d. Computers will take instructions from anyone who knows how to tell them what to do. This could be as simple as printing your document or as complex as erasing your hard drive.


Footnote 1: And now a word from our sponsors…

Brought to you by the WikipediaSeven Wonders of the Ancient World is a well known list of seven remarkable manmade constructions of classical antiquity. It was based on guide-books popular among Hellenic (Greek) tourists and only includes works located around the Mediterranean rim. The Greek category was not “Wonders” but theamata, which translates closer to “must-sees”. Earlier lists included things like the Walls of Babylon. The list is at its core, a celebration of Greek accomplishments. Only two of the final seven were non-Greek. Interestingly enough, since the Colossus of Rhodes fell down after a mere 50 years (it fell in a massive earthquake in 226 BC), few historians could have seen it standing (Philo amongst them), and as a result; the exact form of the statue is unknown- but it is believed to have looked much like the Statue of Liberty.

Antipater’s first list replaced the Lighthouse of Alexandria with the Ishtar Gate. Of these wonders, the only one that has survived to the present day is the Great Pyramid of Giza. The existence of the Hanging Gardens has not been proven, though theories abound. Records and archaeology confirm that the other five wonders used to exist. The Temple of Artemis and the Statue of Zeus were destroyed by fire, while the Lighthouse of Alexandria, Colossus, and tomb of Maussollos were destroyed by earthquakes. There are sculptures from the tomb of Maussollos and the Temple of Artemis in the British Museum in London.

Wonder

Date of

Builder

Notable features

Date of destruction

Cause of destruction

Great Pyramid of Giza

2584-2561 BC

Egyptians

Built as the tomb of fourth dynasty Egyptian pharaoh Khufu.

Still standing

N/A

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

605562 BC

Babylonians

Diodorus Siculus described multi-levelled gardens reaching 22 metres (75 feet) high, complete with machinery for circulating water. Large trees grew on the roof. Built by Nebuchadnezzar II for his wife Amytis of Media.

After 1st century BC

Earthquake

Statue of Zeus at Olympia

466456 BC (Temple) 435 BC

Greeks

Occupied the whole width of the aisle of the temple that was built to house it, and was 12 meters (40 feet) tall.

5th6th centuries AD

Unknown, presumed destroyed by fire or earthquake.

Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

c. 550 BC

Lydians, Persians, Greeks

Dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis, it took 120 years to build. Herostratus burned it down in an attempt to achieve lasting fame. Rebuilt by Alexander the Great. Destroyed by the Goths, and rebuilt again.

356 BC(by Herostratus)
AD 262 (by the Goths)
AD 401 (by John Chrysostom)

Arson, Plundering

Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus

351 BC

Persians, Greeks

Stood approximately 45 meters (135 feet) tall with each of the four sides adorned with sculptural reliefs. Origin of the word mausoleum, a tomb built for Mausolus, a satrap in the Persian Empire

by AD 1494

Damaged by an earthquake and eventually disassembled by European Crusaders.

Colossus of Rhodes

292280 BC

Greeks

A giant statue of the Greek god Helios, c. 35m (110 ft) tall.

Toppled by an earthquake in 226 BC, with the bronze scrap removed in AD 654.

Earthquake

Lighthouse of Alexandria

c. 280 BC

Hellenistic Egypt

Between 115 – 135 meters (383 – 440 ft) tall it was one of the tallest structures on Earth for many centuries.

AD 13031480

Earthquake

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The Future of Education and its Technology

Imagine the Future

We like to see the future filled with possibilities. Education would be freely available to everyone and would come in a variety of new experiences; students using their telephones to attend classes online, while they are on their way to work, content management technologies connecting classmates from areas of the world once considered unreachable, and interactive 3D environments replicating real-time classrooms with tele-presence students and real students in the same lecture hall. In this new world, education would enhance the lives of the people who use it and they are able to freely interact with universities and business organizations instantly, in real time, to find collaborative answers to pressing and difficult questions and having the best sources to choose from all over the planet. Such collective efforts will permeate all areas of business, art and engineering, harnessing the power of multiple minds in a way never conceived of in earlier periods of history. They are sending video messages, having tele-presence conferences, storing and accessing data, and sharing results with the best and brightest of their generation regardless of their social status, race, creed or color. Computers and robotic machines handle the grunt work of society keeping us in the electronic tools and devices we will one day take for granted. Meaningful work is plentiful, no one works doing anything that doesn’t mean something to them. Some work on reclaiming the Earth from earlier generations of abuse, others are organizing the planet’s resources for better accessibility, many are managing the remaining plants and animals of the world for future generations. Businesses of all sizes are handling tasks and filling the needs of a happy and industrious planet. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

Learning from the Past

Building that future is much more difficult. Any responsible advocate of higher education must address the nature of change in our society. Change is unavoidable. All institutions experience it, and some weather it better than others. The education engine of America has failed to maintain pace with the changes in society and the economic realities faced by people working today.

This is not a new problem. Its echoes can be traced back to the end of the Agricultural Age. During the late 1800’s as mechanization overtook the worker-heavy farming industry (i.e. the cotton gin), education became the means for people to transition to life in the cities with non-farming jobs, crafts and work in the industrial guilds. By the advent of the Industrial Age in the early 20th century, education was used to prepare workers to be absorbed into the new factories and industrial engines of that period’s productivity. Note there was an economic collapse during that period of transition. Like a computer after a crash, the societal infrastructure needed a restart to handle that transition. This was a second opportunity to recognize the imminent threat to American culture.

As the Industrial Age began to wane, again due to mechanization and process improvements in the early 1970’s (i.e. factory robotics and better information management) more was able to be done with less input by workers. This transition began to move people into the Service Industry as the birth of the Information Age began to create more advanced calculation devices to aid in the development of new sciences. Computers would change the landscape of the working world in ways unseen even by their creators.

We are at that crucial point again. An economic collapse has made it clear that business as usual has ended. The Information Age has made new waves of unemployment as factories close down and the service industry burgeons with the masses of workers displaced from the only life many have ever known. There is more information available than can be managed effectively by any single individual but the educational engine is still the one from the 1950’s, with its emphasis on individual achievement, its designated work periods and repetitive mind-numbing tasks, ready to churn out people to work in factories that no longer exist.

Now people are relegated to an overburdened service industry that employs them poorly and wastes their human potential. No matter the rhetoric spoken in government, education cannot continue to be last of our social priorities, if for no other reasons than, without quality education and its reform, the fabric of society continues to erode and tatter. The resource of the future will be innovation and problem-solving ability. Our only path to innovation can be found in the development of the human capital through education. Welcome to the Innovation Age.

At the Crossroads

Community college campuses are uniquely positioned to capture the population of the future workforce and direct it into one of the most economically powerful areas of the world today. California, being the world’s fifth largest economy will need a workforce constantly updating its skills, its knowledge and its capabilities to continue to compete in a more aggressive, world-wide, world-wise, and diverse economic structure.

In addition, students will need access to the most advanced concepts possible. Cooperative thinking, adaptive reasoning, an understanding of natural law and scientific thinking will be the keys to the workforce of the future. It will not be enough to simply memorize rote facts, the employees of the future need to be able to link those facts, find hidden relationships and solve problems from those facts, with skill and alacrity. They will need to have greater facility with language, mathematics, analysis, cultural awareness, and environmental consequences than any humans in history. A community college’s ultimate goal should be to allow its location at the center of the information technology, bio-technology and new sustainability revolutions to prepare its students for opportunities as members of a future when the synergistic explosion of these technologies co-mingle and improve each other.

Technology’s advance in our society has continued to change how workers and employers interact and provide services for each other. This constant growth and evolution has removed more workers from the workforce than it has employed, thus creating a form of ‘technological unemployment’ or unemployment created by the success of our technology! Fewer workers, armed with technology and technological concepts (robotics, development protocols, software and hardware) are producing more goods than ever in history. This fact has not been lost on governments concerned with educating and employing their populations. Unfortunately, the solution cannot be addressed without planning for future periods of unemployment, similar to what we are experiencing now. This problem can only be addressed with innovation, new ideas, and a revolution in the educational process.

A Modest Proposal

I propose Community College Districts nationwide begin to prepare their technological future to address the issues of a workforce whose path has become uncertain. The future of community colleges is to prepare for this new model of work by assisting students (who will eventually become employees and later employers) in the development of smaller, problem-solving enterprises. Ideally, these enterprises will be staffed by individuals who can see a way to improve society’s ills with the application of reasoning skills, technological acumen, attention to detail and access to a nexus of resources available to them, before, during and after they leave college. The future of education revolves around teaching people that they will perpetually be scholars, and their livelihood will revolve around their ability to creatively solve problems and promoting innovation in all that they do.

We can ill afford to throw money at problems hoping for a solution. We cannot expect the issues of Oakland, or of California or of the United States to be solved by people who do not live here. Nor do we have the luxury of time to resolve issues such as global warming, population overcrowding, and disease management. These problems need solutions now. People are disheartened with the recent economic collapse and many Baby Boomers struggle with their own obsolescence and the realization that their work lives have left them no better off than indentured servants. Society’s security blankets (Medicare, Social Security, 401K, IRA) have continued to lose value in the face of economic collapse. It is likely that older workers will continue to have to support themselves long after they expected to retire. Generation X and Y see little value in aspiring to the same fate as their parents. They view their parent’s dilemma as a systemic failure of our educational model; hence their lack of trust in society and their indifference to education.

A community colleges goal should be no less than the development of a way of thinking that allows its students to constantly be willing and able to adapt new ways of interacting with the world and to be a resource to the workforce no matter where they may be, since with the breadth of the Internet, that workforce can and will likely be anywhere (that also means that students may also be anywhere). The same way FaceBook, Twitter and MySpace have invaded the lives of young workers, community colleges and other organizations promoting education will need to perpetuate a love of continual learning in their students and to be a resource for them to make data-driven decisions no matter what career they are involved in; any place able to define itself as an always available resource will not lack for returning students, seeking an environment that promotes intellectual advancement and continues preparing them for the constantly changing workforce.

IT Challenges of Higher Education

With all of these things as challenges, the question is asked, what part does Information Technology (hereafter, IT) play in this? The developed world has to adopt a more global paradigm that inter-relates all manner of human endeavor, science, technology, education, environment, physics, psychology, sociology, and medicine shifting from the archaic industrial age to the advanced technology of the information age. Our educational model must be revamped, retooled and re-energized, in order to prepare our students to meet the challenges of the new global paradigm. IT is the architect of that paradigm.

Learning institutions need to empower our students to address issues based on information-based decision making using reason, training and problem solving skills enhanced by technology. IT is a vital element in that ability to solve problems by potentially providing ready access to real-time information for decision making; However, a real-time monitored and data-driven environment has not been created (unless you work at the Pentagon) and will be the first real challenge of the proactive organizations of the future. The ability to get digital information regarding resources available to solve problems is the first step to being able to direct human capital, energy, manpower and training toward those issues.

A community college’s goal is the same as any organization that manages information. To create a unified information data complex that allows fast, easy and yet secure access to any information required by any user of the data complex. This simple sounding idea is years away and paving the road to that ideal will require us to have information organized and categorized in such a fashion that it can be understood, transmuted, and translated while maintaining its accessibility to a variety of future users.

Defining the Problem

Organic (non-structured, non-intentional) development of IT within most college campuses has caused a divergence of standards and technologies resulting in a lack of uniformity of services, overlapping educational programs (i.e. business and IT classes), and a lack of ability to effectively manage or identify different technologies district-wide. All campus IT has been relegated to localized management, under the supervision of various IT support staff of widely differing capabilities. Organic IT development is not unique to a particular district; as both UC and California State University systems are battling this same conundrum. This does not imply those managing these IT resources are in the wrong, however, without a guiding set of principles for the purchase, maintenance and development of IT data structures and resources, such multiplicity of systems is bound to occur prohibitively increasing the complexity and the costs of those services. This decentralized management of IT systems, has resulting in an increasing cost of IT overall, a lack of standardization and poorly centralized management and coordination between the groups managing the many resources including IT classrooms, computer labs, library technology, and student service programs (EOPS, DSPS, career centers) across the district.

There are two primary challenges facing any educational facility with advanced technological capabilities. The first is hardware/software interface and infrastructure. What hardware should we use? What software should we use and support? What is the best way to reach our respective goals using what technologies? How do we effectively connect our staff and students to the internet in a secure, effective, and stable manner but not slow as a snail or overburdened with security software? How do we organize our administrative technology so it provides high quality service and is still relatively easy to use? Technology continues to grow and evolve at a prodigious rate, how do we know if we are keeping pace and providing the workforce of the future with the tools it needs? There are six major dynamic forces opposing the creation of any IT infrastructure, service or device. These forces are responsible for all decisions made on any hardware, software or service used in IT.

They are as follows:

Technological Standardization vs. Autonomy/Experimentation

Service innovation vs. Stability/Reliability

User friendliness/Accessibility vs. Security/Privacy

Consensus in decision making vs. Efficiency in decision making

Centralized management of services vs. Distributed services

Proprietary software vs. Open source software

The second challenge facing any educational facility with advanced technological capabilities is resource management. IT is a collection of diverse resources accomplishing a variety of objectives. How do we manage, control, maintain and organize an amazingly complex series of network services to make it possible to administer, educate and enhance the educational experience of our students now and in the future? How do we effectively train staff, faculty and administrators to think progressively with an eye toward future needs? How do we maintain a leading edge without losing our financial shirt maintaining this gigantic infrastructure of hardware and staff?

In addition to those six dynamic forces there are two additional meta-concepts to be considered along with a number of pertinent questions. Those two meta-concepts are Operational IT and Organizational IT.

Operational IT: comprised of educational, infrastructure and administrative services these are the physical hardware and software tools utilized to create the IT environment in total.

  1. Educational IT – Primary reason higher education exists. These are the tools used in the dissemination of information and education and in the development of learning resources for students.
  2. Infrastructure IT – Tools used to maintain the IT infrastructure including telecom services, network services, datacenters, classrooms, wireless, research facilities and labs.
  3. Administrative IT – Tools used by the administration to organize and maintain university information; HR database services, ERP and other student databases, financial services databases, student aid services, administrative and faculty offices.

Organizational IT: the organizational and management protocols, procedures and processes required to effectively manage, lead and organize IT services in any environment

  1. Governance – How the IT organization is managed i.e. Governance Committee, Technology Committees, and Division IT leaders and whether IT management is centralized or decentralized or some combination thereof.
  2. IT Resource Organization – best practices, SLAs (service level agreements), Staff management, training and retention, asset management, asset retirement and replacement schedules, policy creation and management
  3. Operating Costs – Management of the costs of IT: Who is responsible to determine the budget for IT resources campus-wide? Chancellors, Deans, Division Chairs, IT Staff? How are these long term costs computed? What are the hidden costs of inefficiencies in the IT structure?

A Path to Greatness

Developing IT for any environment is a constantly evolving organism. Clearly defined principles, committed staff, considered metrics for success and a well developed plan of action are the elements of a successful IT group. This path requires an honest and forthright assessment of all of the IT resources available to the district office and the attendant campuses. Blame is not being sought, but answers to the question of how to realize the potential of the IT infrastructure. For a community college’s IT to develop toward the ideal described in my opening paragraphs, we must devise a plan that integrates stability (ensuring service operation by trained and qualified staff), reliability (ensuring operation by industry established standards), security (the reasonable assurance of a secured data structure and policies) and scalability (the ability to add and extend the growth and development of the network without compromising its performance or operation).

An outline of that plan follows:

  1. The first step is to establish IT as an integral element of the any college organizational structure. IT must be seen as a member of the Administration, complete with its own resources (i.e. budget, staff development resources), support teams and autonomy to solve problems that may have lingered for years without effective resolution. IT management must be given the authority to resolve issues, as anything less will ensure the failure of IT projects in the future.
  2. Create a unified help-desk system to manage workflow and document change orders to improve service and to monitor costs. Include a knowledgebase and information wiki able to be updated by any in the IT workforce.
  3. Review the major themes to be covered by the district’s strategic plans and look at how technology can be directed toward those business ideals. This requires a review and a breakdown of the district office and the local campuses strategic plans to determine how those plans for future development can be supported by IT infrastructure at the strategic and operational levels. Meet with the technology committees already in existence and review previous successes and current challenges.
  4. Create a unified IT strategic plan document which encompasses the business ideals, IT development plans and the educational technology requirements of the district office and each campus.
  5. Document and build a model of all IT existing infrastructure, mapping hardware, software and services; this will ultimately require a grand re-organization of the network at all levels (from largest to smallest). However, this restructuring will pay off with the development of future services, allowing for remote management, remote deployments of new technology and standardization across the district. Standardization reduces costs, increases efficiency, and improves management of technology across an environment.
  6. Ensure the stability of those networks by establishing the guidelines and policies for their economic, technological and security requirements to be met on an agreed upon level (determined by Service Level Agreements). Those requirements need to be reviewed regularly to ensure they are as effective as when first established.
  7. Review and monitor all IT business structures and projects, services, vendor cost allocations, vendor-managed projects, IT budgets, and district-wide funding for IT.
  8. Develop an ERP Portal. The creation of an IT Steering committee and the installation of a project manager who is aligned with the needs of the staff, faculty, and administration’s will help to complete migration to this portal technology. Because of the portal’s ubiquitous nature and presence on all college campuses, this should be one of the highest priorities of the district, and for the same reason, the portal needs to hold to the highest standards of service.
  9. Define a technology path or potential specialization for each campus. This would reduce redundancies and improving coverage of technologies by the district. This would be done in accordance with educational development plans already in place.
  10. Craft an outline for a technology development plan for the campuses. Integrate technologies and develop economies of scale to reduce costs and to improve performance and services to all campuses. This step will take into account new technologies including secured wireless technologies, biometric security, new laptop and netbook hardware, server virtualization (where responsible and effectively improving services), imaging and print management, document and information management systems, centralizing networks and network security and fail-over firewall technologies.
  11. Redefine IT staff development processes (standardizing job descriptions, redefining duties of IT staff across the district) to determine staffing requirements for each campus and the district office. Consider models to improve performance for each campus, including the options of centralizing or decentralizing management of technology resources. The rule is: centralize for control, decentralize for innovation. This is likely to include the hire of new staff where appropriate and the training of current staff to improve their ability to function with the increase in technological development and complexity.
  12. Review, recommend and standardize on information management, content management and educational support technologies. These include reviewing open source programs for web content management including Drupal, WordPress, Joomla, Blackboard, Sakai and Moodle.
  13. Develop conceptual models such as the Information Technology and Infrastructure Library (ITIL, CMDB). This includes the creation and use of process and project management tools to promote the successful implementation of IT infrastructure, development, and operations. Utilize project management techniques (perhaps even hire a dedicated project manager) to get a handle on outstanding or underperforming projects in the district and prioritize resources to improve their completion and success rates.

Is this all it takes?

Not even close. I won’t lie to you. Implementing this will likely take some time. Designing the priorities will be the first step toward the development of IT at any Community College District. Nothing written on five pages can prepare you for the scale of the undertaking. But I have a plan. The principles outlined here are solid and tested. Best of all, they are scalable, so they can be adapted the concepts to any size organization. What you have here is not just a plan but a vision of the future. I will leave you with my favorite quotation. I hang it on my wall wherever I work. It inspires me to always do my best and reminds me that nothing I attempt is impossible.

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Bibliography

LELAND, JOHN. “Skills to Learn, to Restart Earnings.” The New York Times Online 01-04-2009¬ 2 Apr 2009 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/02/business/retirementspecial/02reskill.html?em

University of California, Berkeley Strategic Planning Task Force, UC Berkeley Strategic Academic Plan, 2002, Page 22, http://spc.vcbf.berkeley.edu/document/AcademicStrategicPlan.pdf