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Hearing and Responding to Your Challenges with IT

Like many other units at SLU, Information Technology Services underwent a series of transformations over the last year. In some regards, these changes were significant, and they reached every aspect of IT services, including the helpdesk, classroom support, infrastructure services and application management. These changes have also had a direct impact on faculty and staff across the institution.

Change was necessary, not only to reduce IT expenses – as outlined in the Operational Excellence Program ­– but also to move us toward a service model that enables us to support you, while giving SLU the ability to pursue technology-related priorities outlined in the University’s strategic plan

Admittedly, this effort has come with many challenges.

During open forums and through individual feedback, many of you have shared the difficulties you have experienced during our transformation. I am grateful for this feedback, and I want you to know that I hear you loud and clear. I apologize for the disruption and pain that these changes have caused you and for any hindrance they have created to serving our patients and our students.

As CIO, the IT transformation initiatives have been my responsibility, and any issues arising from those decisions should not reflect poorly on the more than 100 dedicated and talented staff members in ITS. These staff members have done a remarkable job during the last year adapting to change and adopting a new service model. I am very thankful for all their efforts to minimize disruption wherever and whenever possible. I am also grateful for your patience and compassion toward them.

With all transformation activities now complete, my focus and that of my leadership team is to stabilize IT services and to make the adjustments necessary to ensure that IT services are meeting the needs of our University community.

After reviewing the feedback and having discussions with senior University leaders, I am planning the following activities to stabilize and improve IT services:

  • Reorganization of the IT Advisory Committee as an IT Advisory Board consisting of two members per college/school (one faculty and one staff), and one staff member to represent each administrative vice president. This group will provide regular feedback in addition to meeting twice per semester to provide feedback regarding IT services and to oversee the IT service improvement plan.
  • In the coming weeks, members of my leadership team and I will meet with each vice president and dean to get their list of unresolved issues or problems. This information will be incorporated into an IT service improvement plan that will be implemented during the summer so that the necessary adjustments are in place prior to the fall semester.
  • ITS will post the key performance indicators (KPIs) of IT services, and specifically IT support, on a site that all members of the University community can access. This will provide full transparency into the quality of various services we provide. It will also be an opportunity for us to understand any discrepancies between the data and the end-user experience.
  • In collaboration with the Office of the Vice President of Research, we will contract with a member of our faculty to work with ITS to build an IT service improvement plan for research-related support.

During the most recent open forum, we received valuable feedback and began to formulate an action plan. The key themes and our action plans to address them are outlined below. We will adjust our action plan based on any additional feedback received through the newly configured IT Advisory Board, as well as the meetings with the academic deans and administrative vice presidents.

Issues/Action Plans

ITS received numerous concerns about the length of time it takes for Blackboard to work on issues and the time needed to escalate to a ITS technician.

ITS has worked with our telephone support partner, Blackboard, to make improvements to their call system. For situations where Blackboard does not answer immediately, individuals will be notified of their wait time and their place in the hold queue. If the estimated wait time is more than three minutes, individuals will have the option to leave a callback number without losing their place in the queue.

ITS received numerous concerns about the length of time it takes for Blackboard to work on issues and the time needed to escalate to a ITS technician.

The current model is for Blackboard to resolve all possible issues and to create tickets for ITS staff only for items they are unable to resolve. This can create a delay between the time Blackboard puts in the ticket and when ITS staff can assist. ITS will pilot a new support model that involves “tier 2” support team, between Blackboard and the ITS staff. If Blackboard is unable to resolve an issue quickly, they will transfer the call to this new tier 2 team comprised of ITS staff located in Wool Center. The tier 2 staff will try to resolve the issue based on their expanded knowledge of SLU systems. If the tier 2 team is unable to resolve the problem, then they will assign the ticket for a ITS staff person to spend additional time working with the individual user to resolve the issue. Two additional staff members started April 23, and we anticipate this service in place by the second week of May. These new positions were created to improve services and are not a reallocation of existing resources.

Individuals who called the emergency classroom support number for urgent event issues were not able to get support.

SLU ITS has conducted training with Blackboard to ensure emergency event space issues are treated the same as emergency classroom issues.

Individuals reported not knowing who to contact in ITS to escalate issues that are not resolved in a reasonable timeframe.

For all IT requests and support issues, please contact the following in order or escalation:

  • Megan Greathouse Gause Manager, Customer Service 314-977-6532 – Desk phone 314-230-5100 – Cell phone
  • Kevin Carr AVP, Service Operations 314-977-6550
  • David Hakanson Vice President, CIO and Chief Innovation Officer 314-977-5353
ITS received concerns associated with the timely resolution of application issues (Banner, email, etc.).

In March, a new partner began overseeing the ITS application support operations. The partner is working through a significant backlog of more than 500 tickets, including issues or requests that were made several months ago. Our partner is working to resolve those issues as quickly as possible. Individuals will begin seeing updates to their tickets in the coming weeks as the partner works through the application support queue.

Requests were made for ITS to improve communication of outages.

This summer, ITS leadership will develop an outage communication strategy that will be shared with you in September, outlining different communication mechanisms based on the severity and scope of an outage.

In the coming weeks, we will provide updates to the University community through Newslink regarding these action steps, most of which should be completed prior to the start of the fall semester. I will conduct additional open forums in the fall, and I will work closely with the IT Advisory Board to assess if adjustments have made a difference. I also encourage you to reach out to me directly if you have any questions regarding IT services or would like to provide any additional feedback.

Thank you for your patience during this difficult transition period, and please know you have my full commitment to making the improvements necessary to further enhance the quality of IT services at Saint Louis University. 

David Hakanson
Vice President, CIO and Chief Innovation Officer
Saint Louis University