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September 1, 2016

Technology Corner: Technology topics and trends from Computing Services and Systems Development



Service Owners

Whether they’re programmers, network engineers or enterprise architects, CSSD staff members routinely interact informally with Pitt faculty, staff and students in a variety of ways. This approach can yield high-impact results.

For instance, after learning at a research committee meeting that faculty wanted electronic alternatives to traditional lab notebooks, a CSSD staff member initiated a project involving both faculty focus groups and meetings with IT staff in the schools to identify a CSSD-supported electronic lab notebook service that could be offered across the University.

Because University community engagement and ongoing service improvements are key in helping CSSD reach its goals, we have formalized a way of engaging with individuals and departments: the service owner team.

This new team of CSSD staff members will focus on service improvement, engagement with individuals/departments and user advocacy. Team members will ensure that the user perspective is consistently part of key technology services and processes. Some of the services about which we’d like to raise awareness this year are electronic lab notebooks; DocuSign, the new digital signature service; Qualtrics, Pitt’s survey service; Box; SharePoint Online; continued migration of email to the cloud; digital signage; and Skype for Business.

How will the service owner approach work to move our services beyond the development and launch stages and into ongoing engagement and improvement? As one example, service owner Brian Stengel recently held several information sessions with various research-intensive departments regarding the potential and advantages of using electronic lab notebooks (ELNs). These general sessions were supplemented by a lunch-and-learn session for the engineering school and the staffing of an information table in the Benedum Hall lobby for several days so that faculty could stop by to discuss ELNs. These interactions led to more detailed sessions with individual faculty members, targeting their specific needs, questions and usage scenarios.

In another example, students approached Student Affairs about pulling together student health and wellness sites into an organized collection. The communications staff in Student Affairs now is working with Jennifer Decima and others on the CSSD service owner team on a My Pitt approach to organizing this online information to make it readily accessible.

Scanning our environment

Identification of opportunities for engagement and improvement often will arise as they did with the ELN project. Involvement in a committee or a conversation at a meeting could highlight a problem for which CSSD staff can identify a possible technology solution and then follow an iterative process with University stakeholders to identify requirements, test options and pilot a particular solution.

But service owners also are responsible for proactively scanning the Pitt environment for such improvement possibilities. Reviewing a department’s strategic goals or a set of course syllabi, for example, could result in identifying a collaborative opportunity. Research or courses dependent on the exchange of large image files, for instance, may be best served by strategic use of services such as Box or SharePoint, rather than email attachments. If those services don’t meet a department’s needs, the service owner approach is uniquely designed to help identify technology that will meet those needs.

Service owners also will identify opportunities to work with individuals/departments on applying new technology solutions to existing administrative processes or problems.

Engagement/improvement through communication

Members of the service owner team also will be involved in implementation and stewardship of various communication scenarios, such as face-to-face focus groups, online communities, surveys and help ticket reviews.

Every request for help, complaint or suggestion submitted through the Technology Help Desk ( or 412-624-HELP) will be reviewed not only by CSSD analysts and managers, but also by members of the service owner team, who will be looking for patterns or trends so that we can address them directly.

We also will establish channels to facilitate conversations about particular technologies, using technology to build an online community where users can provide support, share ideas or concerns, and offer feedback.

Talk to me

CSSD staff welcome feedback — positive, negative or questioning — on Pitt’s technology services. Having the service owner group will help us to leverage that commitment and our focus on your technology needs. The service owner team will analyze opportunities to improve services, identify solutions to meet new needs and eliminate outdated technology offerings.

Do you have a question, idea or bone to pick about technology? We want to hear about it. Do you want to do something but aren’t sure what solutions are available to help you do it? Let us help. Contact the Technology Help Desk and your question or idea will be passed on to us.

If you are interested in discussing the service owner concept or collaborative opportunities related to technology at the University, please contact me at I look forward to working with you. n
Adam Hobaugh is CSSD’s director of services and solutions.

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