Office of Information Technology (OIT) - Transition Phase
By Greg McNeal
It is hard to believe that June 2006 is here. What is significant about June? Well, since November of 2005 OIT, in accordance with our published plan, has been in the process of reassigning all Maine State employees with an Information Technology (IT) classification to the Department of Administrative and Financial Services (DAFS). As of June 30th all IT positions will have been transitioned completing this phase of the plan. What does this mean? In most cases the transition will have been seamless with little or no effect on the IT professionals or our 12,000 customers. However, within the area of Client Technologies the transition has been a little more noticeable.
Client Technologies Services has formed three desktop support groups to replace the individual agency desktop support units. The Information Systems Support Managers (ISSM’s) heading the three groups are:
- Vickie Bussey, who has desktop support and customer services responsibilities for DECD, DAFS, PFR, Regulatory agencies, DOE, Conservation, Agriculture, DMR, DEP, IF&W, SPO and the Governors office. Vickie and her approximately 19 IT professionals are supporting approximately 3000 computer users.
- Roger Smith has the desktop support and customer services responsibilities for the group that includes DOT, DOC and DPS. Within this group there are approximately 3700 computer users that are being maintained by 12 IT professionals. This group also has a large regional support area to cover.
- Walter Benson has the desktop support and customer services responsibilities for DHHS and DOL which includes approximately 5400 computer users. This support is provided by 18 IT professionals and also has a large regional support requirement.
This is a diverse group of IT professionals with a myriad of skill sets. As part of the transition process, Sheldon Bird Director, Client Technologies Services has established a series of half-day team building classes. These classes are designed to introduce ourselves to one other and to enhance the positive, can-do, customer-oriented culture within OIT.
What else is going on in the consolidation phase? The Director of Operations Services, Jon Richard, has been tasked with developing a strategy that would identify all State of Maine servers and document how they are being used. It is estimated that the State of Maine has approximately 600 servers in our inventory. With the help of the agency IT staffs and the current OIT server group, we have begun to explore options that would identify a method of reducing, when and where appropriate, the overall number of servers which also reduces the cost of ownership. This has to be done in a balanced manner that does no harm to the agencies, improves service and provides for a more stable environment. There are going to be significant changes in this area over the coming months and years.
In the past it was common to buy a new server to support specific applications. This will not normally be the case in the future. In the future support needs for all applications coming on-line will be evaluated to determine operational needs. We will also explore the option of creating a Network Attached Storage (NAS) file server environment. This solution will consist of a NAS system that will replace the traditional Windows file server. This effort, if successful, will eliminate the need for many file servers and improve service and reliability. We recognize there will be situations that this solution will not fit. In those cases we will need to continue with the traditional models as we actively seek to find creative technical and cost effective solutions.
To develop these, and to explore other operationally expedient processes, we will need to form technical teams that will perform an initial evaluation and identify existing server environments to further identify potential consolidation opportunities. These teams will be a blend of IT technical professionals with a myriad of skill sets.
The long term goal of the server consolidation effort is to have an appropriate number of operationally efficient data centers for the state. We currently have at least seven data centers. The final number of data centers will be determined once we have a clear understanding of the overall business needs.
These are both exciting and unsettling times. The uncertainty of what the future holds is common when dealing with change of this magnitude. We should all be looking forward to a successful transition of improved customer support, with a staff of IT professionals that have proven over the years to be capable of instituting change and managing technology.