Our sister publication, TechDecisions, recently partnered with integration firm AdTech Systems for a series of roundtable discussions with end users about the struggles of their jobs and how they work with integrators. The first of these series revolved around the needs of University Technology Managers. Throughout the discussion, it became apparent that there are some aspects of the job that are universal.
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University Technology Managers are typically adept at understanding what they want in their classrooms. That decision is an amalgamation of staff and faculty input, but ultimately the technology manager will provide a design. What they are looking for from integrators is to fulfill or exceed that design, and they don’t mind being told they’re wrong.
“Before I pick up the phone to call an integrator, I have a pretty good idea of what I want the design to be. But when I reach out to the integrator I’m not locked into that design. I’m open to alternatives. I’m very open to other concepts and products being pitched.” – Chris Imming, Director of Media Services and Campus Initiatives, Gordon College
“My role, when doing a design, is typically what you would have from a consultant when doing a public bid job. I’m doing the user studies, running the job spec, running the performance spec, coming up with the conceptual design. The move to IT has been kind of helpful – every system we put in now has at least a couple IP addresses. Normally it’s just for monitoring and control, but in some systems we are moving audio through the network. Unless I’m embedded into IT that becomes much more difficult.” – Jesse Anderson, Audi Visual Services Manager, The College of the Holy Cross
Choosing the Right Technology
University Technology Managers may be the ones installing systems, but they are far from the only ones deciding which systems to put in place. Registrars, budgetary committees, and faculty all play a role in choosing the right technology. Ensuring that all needs are met, fall under budget, and everyone is actually going to use the technology once it’s installed can be a real challenge.
“The pressure we feel the most is that people want the classrooms to operate exactly the same way their living rooms do. If I can take my phone, wave it, and have it on my TV, why can’t I do it in my classroom? It doesn’t matter that you say these things about wireless access points, total bandwidth and available channels. They just want to get the image up on the screen. They just want it to work.”
“If the Registrar had their way, every classroom would have the same equipment. Because that way they don’t need to assign classrooms based on what the teacher needs. It’s the same throughout. Our agreement with the Registrar is that every classroom will meet a minimum standard – one for BYOD rooms and one for everything else. As long as it meets that standard I can exceed it in any particular case. But I need to meet that standard for every classroom.” – Jesse Anderson, Audio Visual Services Manager, The College of the Holy Cross
Monitoring Technology in Classrooms
As technology has evolved, the role of University Technology Managers has evolved with it. Now, technology managers have the ability to remotely monitor technology systems throughout a campus. This not only prepares and informs them when technology needs repair, but it gives them data and insight into how often technology is used, which in turn informs their technology decisions moving forward.
“We’re using a monitoring network. So we preemptively know if a projector is running low on lamp life. We’re an Extron shop, so we’ve tied Global Viewer into our ticket system. So our projector will generate its own ticket to purchase a new lamp. For the few Crestron installations we have we have the GVE API on, so everything is through the one monitoring network. Then it will set up a ticket for us to replace it. So that works for preemptive things. It lets us know if there are other types of errors. But for a device being unplugged or something like that, it comes through a variety of means. People call us directly, they’ll call the help desk, they’ll see us in the hall, they’ll send a student to our shop, etc.” – Jesse Anderson, Audio Visual Services Manager, The College of the Holy Cross
University Technology Managers are the first line of defense against broken systems. They are the maintenance crew on top of everything else that they do. So fixing systems is always part of the job. However, new opportunities such as the service model are presenting technology managers with new options.
“At best, I’ll have 15 minutes between classes to fix anything that’s gone wrong. We may not use the shiniest, newest products. We use things that we know are reliable and that we keep spares of. So if something goes casters up during a class we can get in there quickly and remedy the issue. – Jesse Anderson, Audio Visual Services Manager, The College of the Holy Cross
“The opportunity for the service model is to educate the CFO and leadership. To talk about the product lifecycle of a projector that we typically replace over a four year period, it can really be stretched to six because it’s laser and I have spares of everything on the shelf. So I can do that first tier of support. But in switching to that service model you’re saying we normally have a four or six year deployment cycle, now every two years we’re going to come back and add the new capability. So for that flex money that’s tied into a service contract, it gives you a refresh that allows you to continue to grow. It gives a perceived value add to the faculty.” – Chris Imming, Director of Media Services and Campus Initiatives, Gordon College
Planning for the Future
University Technology Managers aren’t just there to fulfill today’s needs – they need to be able to forecast tomorrow’s needs as well. This is becoming increasingly difficult with the rapid evolution of technology, and the less rapid but still strong evolution of teaching methods across the United States. It’s up to technology managers to ready their systems for the future, not for today.
“From a design standpoint, we try as best practices to test everything before installation. So leveraging our relationships with manufacturers for demo units. We set out a small portion of our budget post-InfoComm – we see that we could be using wireless technology in two years, let’s start testing the water on where we want to go. What is that going to mean for our network? For me it’s getting harder to future cast. You see the switch to the service model – hardware points are getting compressed and the real value-add is in solutions and support. It’s getting harder, I think. I’ve also started to step back from the urgency of design and implementation.” – Chris Imming, Director of Media Services and Campus Initiatives, Gordon College