2 Systems contingency planning » Most of us plan for: » Hardware redundancy » Failover » Other network/systems failures » Why? Planning for the expected unexpected » A failure or loss WILL happen » WHEN, not IF We all know this, yet…
3 Personnel contingency planning » Most of us don’t plan for: » Loss of staff due to job change, life change or death » Sudden change in required skill set » Departmental reorganization » Reduction in force (staff cuts)
4 Challenges » Difficult to qualify skills and requirements » Difficult to quantify skill cost in personnel » Difficult to calculate creating skill redundancy » People hours for cross-training » People hours in skill maintenance » People hours for documentation » Ongoing additional personnel needs » How to plan for this on a 3-year budget cycle?
5 Finding a solution » Before getting started, recognize: » There is no destination, only the process » This is a long-term, ongoing activity » There may be a need to prioritize this above other activities » Prepare team to have difficult discussions » Be sensitive (we’re talking about people, not machines!) » Must plan for multiple possible “disaster” situations » Many people will need to be involved
6 Step 1: Resource identification » Identify working group for this project » Roles and responsibilities » Take a personnel inventory » Core team » Secondary and distant related personnel
7 1a: Working team » Develop committee » All will be involved to some extent, but a working team needed to coordinate » Roles and responsibilities
8 1b: Identify your core team » Hardware/software technician » Functional administrator » Support/training » Managerial » Resource management and allocation » License maintenance » Case reporting and tracking
9 1c: Secondary/distant team members » Consider others involved with Blackboard » Helpdesk » Registrar or other data supplier » Academic Computing or Information Technology » Provost or VP-level staff » Distributed support network » Course designers » Other skilled personnel for specific related tasks » Key departmental staff or faculty?
10 Step 2: Assess skills » Each team member should be assessed on a skill matrix » Can be self- or reviewed assessment » Ideally, have a multi-level skill assessment » For example: no experience, some knowledge, practical knowledge, proficiency, expert » Define what these mean (like a rubric) » Core team should review matrices for consistency
11 Step 2, cont.: Discuss assessment with team » Why is this being done? » Assure that it will not change or endanger a person’s position » Encourage full disclosure » Recording a lower skill level should be seen as an opportunity for knowledge growth, not an admission of failure
12 The skills » Skills cannot be easily mapped to positions » Every institution is structured differently » Skills tend to fall into main categories » Hardware/software administration » Functional administration » Training and support » Managerial » Data maintenance
13 Example hardware/software admin skills » OS and database installations » Database and system backups and restores » Database maintenance » SQL skills » Hardware configuration changes » Blackboard configuration changes and upgrades » Use of back-end tools » Push config, rotate logs, batch archive, etc.
14 Example functional administrator skills » User management » Course management » Tool functionality » Gradebook, discussion board, assignments, etc. » Module and tab management » Content management » Troubleshooting skills » Configuration management
15 Example training and support skills » Operating system and browser knowledge » Trouble ticket assessment, escalation, management » Customer service skills » Documentation development » Reporting skills » Presentation skills
16 Example managerial skills » Documentation » Project management » Budget management » Contracts and licenses » Implementation and support planning » Customization test planning and deployment » Upgrade planning » User base communication » Needs assessment and requirements gathering
17 Example data maintenance skills » Understand institution data flow structures » Troubleshoot and resolve data issues » Understand data extraction and integration process » Knowledge of all snapshot functionality » Data archive and purge functions
20 Step 3: Comparison of Matrices » Identify overlaps » Identify single “point of failure” » Assess missing skill sets
21 3a: Identify overlaps » Where are there skill overlaps? » Which overlaps have different skill levels? » These are opportunities for simple cross-training » An expert can train “some knowledge” to “practical” or “proficient” in less time » Which skills are adequately covered by more than one person?
22 3b: Identify single “points of failure” » Where is there only one person with that skill or knowledge? » Which of these are highest risk? » Activity: Prioritize these
23 3c: Identify missing skill sets » Are there missing pieces? » Which of these would be most beneficial to the overall team? » Which are vital to the future as the adoption grows, changes? » How does this fit with the long-term strategic plan for Blackboard? » Does one exist?
24 Step 4: Build a training plan » Peer training » Formalize plan for staff cross-training » Outside training » Functional – Blackboard Learning Services » IT skill training (hardware, OS, etc.) » DBA training (Oracle certification, etc.) » Bb-specific – Blackboard Consulting technical knowledge transfer
25 Step 5: Task and process assessment » What are the manual processes? » What are the automated processes? » What are the relationships of these processes to the personnel?
26 Step 5a: Assess manual tasks » Exercise: record those manual tasks that occur frequently and infrequently » Identify known regular processes » Challenge: identify infrequent processes » Idea: record these in a shared blog during a two-month period leading up to and during the beginning of “largest” term (ie Fall term) » Ideal: record all tasks over a year
27 5b: Automation assessment » Can “automated” tasks be made more self- reliant? » Example: data extracts that require code changes from term to term » Which of the manual processes are most time consuming? » Which require the most intervention by a particular team member? » Which can/should be automated?
28 Step 6: Assess documentation » Take an inventory » Map processes to documentation » Identify documentation weaknesses » Create a long-term documentation solution
29 6a: Take an inventory of documentation » Take an inventory of processes documentation » Procedures for manual tasks » Procedures for ongoing tasks » Examples: system tasks, term-based tasks » Take an inventory of documentation for code » Customizations » Data extractions/manipulators » Automation code
30 6b: Map processes to documentation » Take documentation inventory » Link to processes from Step 5 » Assign document ownership
32 6d: Create long-term documentation solution » Develop SOP for documenting processes » Ideal: An integrated support ticket solution that includes external and internal knowledge base that is fully searchable. Require solutions documentation by support team. If you’re not doing this, you should! Over time, drastically improves self-service support. » Process should include a QA process » Plan for revisiting code and adding comments » Create SOP for future code work
33 Step 7: Build an improvement plan » Put all elements together on a single project plan » Training plan » Automation tasks » Documentation plans » SOP development » Improved support infrastructure » Integrated ticket solution system » Internal/external facing documentation, fully searchable
34 Step 8: Scenario planning » Team should develop scenarios to see whether improvement plan will work or needs revision » What happens if a key person leaves suddenly/dies? » Two key people? » What happens if an associated dept. is eliminated? » What would happen if there is a restructure?
35 Step 9: Develop contingency plan » What is the response to a disaster? » Small “disasters” – personnel changes » Large disasters such as a natural disaster » More than an improvement plan » Cross-training and documentation can’t cover everything » Short-term solutions may be necessary during hiring/training process – know what they would be
36 9a: Plan for outsourcing » This is a MUST as it will be the only solution in the worst of situations » Collect general information about cost and contracting model » How long can/must one contract? » How long is the typical implementation or scheduling? » What are the pricing models and options?
37 Examples of personnel loss and outsource options » Hardware/software technician » Blackboard Consulting for software upgrades, hardware assistance, technical knowledge transfer, fixed-term administrator contract » Blackboard ASP for full hosting services » Functional administrator or helpdesk » Blackboard Learning Services for training » Blackboard Consulting for short-term administrator contract or technical knowledge transfer » Blackboard for end-user support
38 Examples, continued » Custom developer (Blackboard Building Blocks™) » Blackboard Consulting for development work » Blackboard Certification Program » Blackboard Integration and Customization Maintenance (ICM) Support Program » Course designer » Contracted online pedagogy expert or designer
39 9b: Budget planning » From the scenarios (step 8), how would this be funded? » Can changes be made to budgeting over the next 3 years for emergency reserves? » What barriers exist to these changes? » Should there be additional personnel? » How does this fit with the long-term (ie 5-year) plan regarding Blackboard?
40 Step 10: Revisit plan » Reassess improvement plan with team » Have scheduled milestones » Plan for regular review » Perhaps annually? » Perhaps on same cycle as hardware contingency planning review? » Any time personnel change
41 Remember » It’s a process, not a destination » The tasks seems daunting, but is far less daunting and stressful than the alternative » Good planning is vital to mission critical applications