collaboration

Systems critical for University operations

 

For the past 10 years, more than 50 U of L Facilities’ employees have depended on obtaining their daily work schedules and tasks through TMA, a computerized maintenance management system. And all U of L employees and students have relied on Facilities’ staff to deliver the University’s needs: power, air flow, plumbing, building maintenance, event setups, and cleanliness.webTMA

Users of Facilities’ work request system are blissfully unaware of the many months, weeks, days and hours spent planning, collaborating, testing and finally rolling out the new webTMA in December last year. But ask anyone from the Systems, Applications or Telecom teams in IT Services, or the Facilities’ teams, and they’ll tell you.

“The original TMA work order system had been in place for more than 10 years,” says Wim Chalmet, Facility Operations and Maintenance Director. “As with any software product, desktop versions are costly and require regular upgrades and maintenance. IT Systems has been moving away from desktop installations to web-based solutions for some time now. TMA was able to provide a solution, technical support and the flexibility we needed.”

The hard work of planning, upgrading the database server, applications server and the web component began in earnest. “We needed to know how we were going to move away from the desktop application and how to implement the web-based system quickly and cleanly. If it didn’t work correctly when we switched over, it could jeopardize all of the work orders waiting to be fulfilled. IT Services recommended that a test server be built so that we could play with it and fix any glitches. So we had to stagger all of the work.”

Once the Facilities and IT Services teams were confident it would operate as required, TMA converted the database to the new platform, sent it back to ITS for uploading, and the system went live.

“We had to stop all work at 3:30 pm one day and it was up and running by 9:30 am the next day. Advanced planning with ITS Systems was critical to ensure resources were available. Everything worked really well. We were very happy with all the guidance from the ITS Systems and Telecom teams. It was well planned and executed,” says Chalmet. “Excellent cooperation and collaboration meant that the Facilities’ work order system was up and running without significant downtime, not to mention those waiting for their work orders to be completed.”

The new webTMA interface can be viewed here.

For more information, contact Wim Chalmet at 403-380-1837 or wim.chalmet@uleth.ca.

Health Sciences manikins going mobile

If you see human-like beings laying around campus, breathing heavily, sweating, and generally looking unwell, don’t worry, it’s not an episode of the Walking Dead. The Simulation Health Centre in the Faculty of Health Sciences has purchased new manikins and, unlike the old ones, students and instructors will soon be able to move this newest generation of ‘patients’ around campus.

“Sharon Dersch, an instructor in the Nursing Programs, approached us about a year ago to assist the Faculty with the RFP and vendor selection to replace two of their training manikins,” says Daryle Niedermayer, Application Design and Planning Manager in IT Services. “They were aware of the technology challenges and needed to select a product that would work within the University’s environment. Any sort of complex equipment like this is far from plug-and-play, and the costs warrant intense collaboration with all stakeholders. Between our Telecom and Applications teams, we were able to help them choose the best option for their needs.”Manikin1

Dersch says the older manikins had limitations with some of their technologies. “We had experienced problems with wireless connections between the manikins and A/V systems within the University environment that could not be resolved. The problems required the manikins to be hardwired which limited the amount of information that could be transmitted through the A/V system. We did not want to encounter similar problems with the new equipment.”

The mobility characteristic of the two manikins represents only one of many complex requirements for the new medical training tools for students. The undertaking required assurance the manikins and audio-visual equipment would work seamlessly within the University’s network and could be supported by IT Services in the future.

“The amount of information about the patient’s, or manikin’s, condition was extremely limited in that it could not be transmitted between the manikin and visual displays without wireless connections,” says Dersch. “With the new equipment, students and instructors observing the simulation remotely will be able to see the ‘patient’s’ heart monitor, blood pressure and other vital signs, as well as the names and dosages of medications that are given.”

Niedermayer adds that the new manikins’ ability to use the University’s wireless network means that it will be much easier for instructors to wander the room with an iPad, for example, and test their students’ skills with simulated symptoms, and to monitor their progress.

Working together, the Health Sciences and IT Services teams were able to select a vendor that met the requirements. “By reaching out to us early in their investigation, we were able to ask the right questions and help Health Sciences choose the right vendor. Three different companies responded to the RFP but only one, Laerdal Medical Canada, Ltd., addressed the networking issues involved with a product like this,” Niedermayer says.

Dersch concurs. “Daryle and the IT team met with us on numerous occasions over the last year to help with all stages of the purchase, from wording the technical requirements on the RFP, to helping with the final selection of products. During the selection process IT Services managed all the technical correspondence, and also met with vendor technicians to test equipment. Daryle and his team were invaluable in helping to ensure the manikins have the necessary functions and functionality–not something that the SHC team could have done alone. Another huge advantage to including IT Services in the selection process is their knowledge of the selected product, enabling them to more easily provide support in the future.”

The new manikins are expected early this summer.

Consultation results in collaboration

 

Technology can fuel the collaborative spirit in ways researchers of the not-too-distant past never thought possible. Collaboration tools, like many other types of 21st Century business interactions, are born of need and limited only by the imagination.NVivo

Faculty of Education professor David Slomp had been using a stand-alone version of an application developed to organize and analyze non-numerical or unstructured data, such as audio files, videos, digital photos, and a variety of text-based data. NVivo enables users to classify, sort and arrange information according to individual needs. But, as with all software, its capabilities and functions continued to develop and become more robust.

After doing some initial investigation through NVivo, Slomp knew he needed the ability to share files with his research assistants in Ottawa and Halifax in order to work on them collaboratively.

“David knew the desktop version had its limitations and approached us about support for the server version,” says Wim Chalmet, Application Support Analyst.

Slomp says going from a simpler desktop version to a server version with multiple people using it required a level of expertise he did not have, and the ability to rely on people who understand the technology has been a relief. “The value for me is that I don’t have to worry about the complex technical aspects of integrating the technology. I have a lot of confidence in the IT team’s abilities. Wim has been pretty dedicated to the project. I know that when issues arise, he’ll be managing them.”

When Trevor Butler, Manager of Technology Services in the Faculty of Management, became aware of the product, he obtained permission from the Faculty of Education to share the server. It was simply a matter of purchasing the licenses after that.

“Sharing the same resources provides great economy of scale,” says Chalmet. “But it also gives users additional benefits because we gain a significant amount of product knowledge through the experience, allowing quicker resolutions to any issues. Also, it fosters collaboration and enriches the experience with peers.”

Slomp concurs. “Working on a project like this requires lots of negotiation with the vendor and, through the use of University resources like IT Services, creates a higher level of collegiality and understanding. I think, too, there’s a high degree of competence. Technical experts like Wim and Daryle Niedermayer know what they know, and know what they don’t know.”

Next steps for the project include providing access to an additional research team in the fall.

For more information, please contact Wim Chalmet at 403-380-1837 or wim.chalmet@uleth.ca.