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Building a technical consulting team within a federated university environment. Educause Southwest Regional Conference February 22, 2007 Austin, TX. By: C. J. Barker. Your Presenter. C. J. Barker University of Texas at Austin Information Technology Services Software Developer / IT Manager

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Building a technical consulting team within a federated university environment

Building a technical consulting team within a federated university environment

Educause Southwest Regional Conference

February 22, 2007

Austin, TX

By: C. J. Barker


Your presenter
Your Presenter university environment

C. J. Barker

  • University of Texas at Austin

  • Information Technology Services

  • Software Developer / IT Manager

  • Technical Contracts Manager [Software]


Building a technical consulting team
Building a technical consulting team university environment

Topics

  • Background & History

  • Business Plan

  • Bid Estimates

  • Service Level Agreement

  • Source Code License Agreement

  • Hiring Practices

  • Managing ‘Agile’ Projects


Building a technical consulting team1
Building a technical consulting team university environment

What will this session provide?

  • Serve as case study

  • Disclose successes, trials, and tribulations

  • General development practices within distributed university environment


Background history
Background & History university environment

UT Austin

  • 48,000+ students

  • 20,000+ faculty & staff

  • 20 Colleges & Academic Units

  • Copious administrative departments

  • Vast array of varying business and IT needs

  • Evolving technical landscape


Background history1
Background & History university environment

Recognized Need

  • Departments lack or have scarce resources

    • Human

    • Technical

    • Financial

    • Time

  • Business process and technological advancements suffer

  • Software development and support needed

  • ITS agrees to address university needs


Background history2
Background & History university environment

Agile Contracts Team (ACT)

  • Created August 2005

  • Technical Consulting Services

    • Customer-Service Oriented

    • Foster academic and administrative units’ productivity

    • Business and software development & support

  • The catch – developer positions self-funded


Develop a business plan
Develop A Business Plan university environment

Where to begin?

  • Contents of plan needs to match the purpose

    • Assist academic/administrative departments

    • Customer-oriented services

    • Assist with technical & business needs

    • Self funding team [must sustain business]

    • Small to mid size development and maintenance projects

  • Don’t loose site of your clients’ needs

  • Model after private sector

  • Prepare, plan, anticipate, and ACT


Develop a business plan1
Develop A Business Plan university environment

Plan’s Focus Areas

  • Executive Summary

  • Business Description

  • Market Analysis

  • Management

  • Business Development Strategy

  • Financial Review


Bid estimates
Bid Estimates university environment

How to Approach

  • Carry out initial requirements gathering

  • Rely on past project experience & expertise

  • Utilize team’s strengths and weaknesses

  • Get buy-in from team

  • Get approval from client

  • Remember Morse Law and apply it to estimates

  • Measure estimate versus actual

  • Bid estimating is an art form. It takes time and experience


Service level agreement
Service Level Agreement university environment

Get it in writing!

  • Service contract/agreement

    • Establishes levels of services

    • Identifies roles & responsibilities

    • Base line for expectations

  • Define deliverables and timeline

  • Get all involved parties’ authorization signature

  • Avoid scope creep – stick to agreement

  • As needed, revisit the agreement


Source code license agreement
Source Code License Agreement university environment

Reduce Liabilities and Establish Policy

  • Source code is property of UT Austin

  • Available to affiliated dept or academic unit

  • BSD licensed agreement “as is” software

  • DYI (don’t repeat yourself)

    • Leverage source code base

    • Share knowledge and techniques


Hiring practices
Hiring Practices university environment

Evaluate the Landscape and Utilize Resources

  • UT has 10 Ten Engineering, CS, & Business programs

  • Students interested in professional work experience

  • Ambitious, smart, part-time workers

  • Student programmers are cheap, good labor

  • Mentor and groom employees

  • Evaluate potential placement

    • Hire fulltime

    • Utilize specialties


Hiring practices1
Hiring Practices university environment

Potential Employee Characteristics

  • Analytical Skills

  • Great Communication (oral/written)

  • Driven to succeed

  • Professionalism

  • Self-motivated

  • General theory and software design practices

  • Don’t need someone good at technology X

  • Need someone who is a good problem solver

  • Can always pick up toolset


Technical landscape
Technical Landscape university environment

UT’s Technical Environment

  • Distributed computing

    • Legacy mainframe (IBM OS390)

    • Various RDBMS (Oracle, MS-SQL Server, MySQL)

    • Programming (PHP, Java, C/C++, Perl, Python, Cold Fusion, etc.)

  • Emphasis on web and database programming

  • Don’t limit yourself

    • Pick the right tool for the job

    • Catch 22 (RAD versus Support/Maintenance)


Technical landscape1
Technical Landscape university environment

FOSS

  • Free and Open Source Software

    • Chances are someone has done it or something similar

    • Utilize the tremendous libraries and wealth of knowledge

    • Don’t be afraid – to modify and customize

  • Java: Apache Software Foundation

  • PHP: PHP Extensions and Applications Repository (PEAR)

  • Python: Cheese Shop Repository

  • Perl: Comprehensive Perl Archive Network (CPAN)

  • SourceForge.org

  • FreshMeat.net

  • OpenSourceTutorials.com


Tools techniques
Tools & Techniques university environment

Embrace Technology Protocols, Frameworks, etc.

  • Don’t limit project capabilities due to environment constraints

  • Build flexible, scalable software

  • Design Patterns are your friends

  • Utilize and adapt communication protocols

    • Web Services (SOA), XML, SOAP, RPC

    • ODBC

    • HTTP, FTP, Sockets

    • LDAP

  • Examples

    • PHP and Oracle integrating with IBM mainframe (XML Gateway)

    • Python invoking existing Java libraries (Jython)


Managing it projects
Managing IT Projects university environment

Useful Practices

  • Engage clients with development team

    • Holds developers accountable

    • Vested interest in the project

  • Utilize Scrum ‘sprint’ technique

    • 1 to 3 week development cycles

    • Rapid development

    • Iterative feedback loop with client

  • Incorporate issue/bug tracking, wiki, and project management tool [TRAC]

  • Utilize source code repository with version control [Subversion]


Managing it projects1
Managing IT Projects university environment

Useful Practices

  • Automate anything and everything

    • Document generation

    • Source code builds and unit tests

    • Quota Checks

    • Data loads


Managing it projects2
Managing IT Projects university environment

Track Metrics

  • Track employee contracted hours

  • Audit time logs for client billing

  • Monitor budgets

  • Forecasting current project needs/changes

  • Trend analysis of employees work load

  • Improve bid estimates

  • ACT built custom software application (Intranet)


Managing it projects3
Managing IT Projects university environment


Managing it projects4
Managing IT Projects university environment


Managing it projects5
Managing IT Projects university environment


Managing it projects6
Managing IT Projects university environment


Act year in review
ACT Year In Review university environment

Has it been successful?

  • Assisted over 20+ academic & administrative departments

  • Developed numerous software application suites

    • Modular applications being reused throughout colleges

  • Provides maintenance and support to enterprise University applications

  • Grossed over $155K in the last year

  • Self-funded team sustained for over a year

  • Overwhelming repeat business and client referral


Problems with current model
Problems with current model university environment

It’s not all perfect

  • Chicken and the egg issue [developers vs. projects]

  • Limiting salary budget

  • Employee burnout

  • Intense pressure to support self funding model

  • Consulting team isolated for inter-department efforts

  • Some redundancy of projects [web applications w/ dbms]

  • Lack of project priority, screen, approval

    • Do everything for anybody

  • Lack own human resources


Room for improvement
Room for Improvement university environment

  • Consolidate all consulting services

    • Hardware, user/desktop support, and software

    • Standardize policy and procedures

  • Dedicate developer resources

  • Dedicate project management resources

  • Rotate employee/teams [avoid burnout]

  • Formal review of potential contracts/projects

  • Recognize the University need and demand for such services

    • Subsidize consulting services


Contact info
Contact Info university environment

=======================================

C. J. Barker

Agile Contracts Team (ACT)

Information Technology Services

University of Texas at Austin

[email protected]

http://www.utexas.edu/its/act

=======================================


Questions answers recommendations

Questions? university environmentAnswers?Recommendations?


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