Emerson IT 2.0, Part 4: New Teams and Emergency Procedures

Emerson IT has grown a lot over the last year or so. We’re asked fairly often about new happenings within IT, and we’ve written about our new initiatives, our mission and vision, our policies, and much more.

But that’s not enough. It’s never enough. There are still questions, and we love being transparent about them. It’s been a challenge to get organized, but we feel really good about how IT is working right now. Here are some examples of ways we have become more efficient:

The Communications and Policy Management Teams

Two teams have assembled over the last year and have made strides towards reshaping how we work in IT. One is the Communications Team, a group of people from across the department who meet weekly to discuss anything communications-related. This includes drafting emails to the community, writing documentation and blog posts, and generally discussing how to improve communications within IT and with the Emerson community. We also consult with other departments to help draft any communication that involves our technology. Every email blast from IT, new blog post, and update to our website and our email template over the last year has gone through the Communications Team. Having one group to manage and discuss communication has been a giant leap forward.

The Policy Management Team was assembled for a very clear purpose: draft and publish the many policies that have never been publicly available. Like the Comm Team, the PMT is made up of representatives across IT, and has had the ongoing help of Emerson’s Legal team. After a lot of hard work, we successfully published 15 new policies, and are continuing to work on more. We are also partnering with Dennis Levine, our new Security Administrator, to work on future security policy changes. We feel that the best policies are those drafted and discussed as a group, instead of a top-down monolithic decision-making process.

Our Emergency Procedures

One of the biggest and scariest issues affecting all businesses these days is disaster recovery. It’s particularly relevant for Emerson, since we’re downtown in a major city. What happens if the Emerson campus loses power? What happens if the EVVYs has a massive technological failure and needs IT’s help? What happens if the trustees or a classroom needs technical support? We’ve come up with emergency procedures for all of these issues.

One of the first things we did was to move offsite a few critical systems that would aid in any attempt at recovering from a disaster on-campus. These include our main internal documentation wiki, our password safe, our internal chat service, and an external monitoring service. In the event of a catastrophe that brought down our on-site datacenter, we would still have the ability to access our own documentation on how to fix everything. (It’s surprising how many businesses don’t have that ability during a disaster.) All of our internal instant messaging and chatrooms are now fully offsite using Slack, which has been amazing at increasing the efficiency of our group problem-solving and would be integral to keeping our team in touch no matter where we were all located.

Furthermore, we drafted and adopted an elaborate IT Emergency Flowchart. It’s complicated and a bit overwhelming, but it’s worked very well when we’ve had the unfortunate opportunity to put it to the test. One of the critical parts of the flowchart is the separation of responsibility during a true crisis: there should be people fixing the problem, and other people communicating about it. Trying to do both jobs always makes the problem worse. A critical issue can very often be fixed within literally 15 minutes, so we try to allow for that small grace period before raising serious alarms.

Being Fun and Transparent

IT Poster

Beyond these measures, we’ve made an effort to be more accessible and transparent. We love feedback! One way we try to reach out is by putting out surveys, and we love posting the resulting charts and graphs and metrics for everyone to see. Likewise, we’ve tried to inject a little humor into our blog posts and our on-campus posters.

All of these efforts together have made big changes within IT and how we work every day. It’s for the ongoing support of the Emerson Community that we continue to try to improve ourselves, and we can only measure that by how well we’re doing every day to service all of you. The more we know how you feel, and how we can make you feel even better, the more we can do to make Emerson a great place to learn and work!

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