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July 21, 2016

Technology Corner: Communicating about University technology

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Throughout the past year, we have been collecting input from faculty, staff and students on ways the University might plan for strategic use of technology. In community forums, small-group meetings and through online questionnaires, we asked open-ended questions, including one on how people would like us to communicate with them.

No matter how powerful a technology solution is, it can’t help people if they don’t know about it.
Do you know about the ScienceDMZ? DocuSign? ATP?

As the University’s central IT division, we offer and support a broad range of technology services. Some are so integral to Pitt’s work today that most people take them for granted: email; software; a web infrastructure; a student information system; a robust network, including a wireless network optimized for the latest smartphones.

And as we listen to the University community talk about its goals and initiatives, we’re planning for services to help meet those goals, whether they’re related to innovative research or operational efficiency.

This year, for instance, we rolled out an Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) service for researchers. In another service supporting research collaboration, a ScienceDMZ was built, with a data transfer node using Globus for data sharing, a new network monitoring infrastructure, 100Gb connectivity to the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, and connectivity to additional research networks.

Other services that may be new to you:

• DocuSign is an e-signature and workflow solution that allows you to send, sign and manage documents electronically.

• The Qualtrics survey service has been updated; its new Insight platform provides additional resources for analyzing and making data connections from surveys and polls.

• SharePoint Online’s sharing and collaboration tools are available to all University faculty, staff and students at no cost.

• Phishing attempts have become increasingly sophisticated. As a result, we have implemented ATP (Advanced Threat Protection) for University email accounts, helping to protect against threats with Safe Links and Safe Attachments features.

Providing tech information
In addition to efforts like this Technology Corner column, how can we keep you and your colleagues aware of technological solutions that we provide? What’s the best way for you to let us know what challenges you face that we may be able to solve with the right technology?

We use Read Green, My Pitt and digital signs to communicate new services to faculty and staff, but we understand that it can be easy to file that information away — and then forget it. When you’re looking for information about services you use regularly or looking for new services, our website — — is a useful resource.

If you want to be the first to know about new services, you can subscribe to one of our text/email lists through Notify U. (From your profile page on My Pitt, click on the Pitt Text Message Updates link.) We also post news and information regularly on Facebook and Twitter as @pittcssd.

Looking for information about a service? Want to suggest new ideas or identify a challenge that may have a technology solution? The technology help desk is a good way to both get information from us and provide information to us. You can phone (412-624-HELP), chat online, email ( or use the online form (

Face to face
We find that face-to-face communication, such as the open forums held this year, is one of the most effective ways to collect ideas or provide information about our services.

In addition to project-related meetings, CSSD staff use regularly scheduled meetings and related e-communications to connect with other University IT staff and to partner with faculty, staff and administrators interested in data analysis. The engaged members of the Senate computer usage committee, for which I serve as the chancellor’s liaison, ensure that those meetings provide valuable input.

These meetings allow for two-way communication and follow-up questions on both sides. We will expand those opportunities through our new service-owner positions. Service owners are charged with ensuring that members of the University community know about key services and have an opportunity to provide input on those services.

Looking ahead
Communication is critical to the success of efforts across the University. Two projects will contribute to improved communication.

• An Enterprise Relationship Management System (ERM) collects and shares information about an individual among areas of the University in a managed, synchronized manner. A cross-section of people at the University have been involved in identifying an ERM solution for Pitt.

• We surveyed faculty and staff telephone and communications services needs and practices in order to select a next-generation telephony system. Based on that input, we plan to move Pitt’s voice services to the network. This will allow us to expand capabilities, addressing needs identified during focus groups and surveys, while reducing both cost and complexity using a cloud-based solution.

The most effective way
to stay informed?
As noted earlier, this year’s open forums and online questionnaire asked faculty and staff what the most effective way was for them to stay informed about IT news and services.

What did we learn? That there is no one way that works for everyone.

Many people mentioned email, My Pitt and the site. Others prefer Read Green, campus flyers or departmental presentations. Some people suggested launching a monthly e-newsletter.

What works best for you? Let us know by sending an email to

Jinx P. Walton is the University’s chief information officer.

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