Major themes that emerged include the following:
No clarity on the point person for Trouble Tickets or overall management of IT
The current understanding of how to address technology issues at NFCV had been to file a Helpdesk Ticket that was located on the internal website. The ticket was designed to handle (1) Computer Support (2) Hotline/Caller App Bugs (3) TCFV Phone Issues/Requests and (4) TCFV.ORG and NDVH.org Website Maintenance. When staff were asked how this system works and who responds to these requests, many people stated that they assumed this was managed by several people but were not clear about who was ultimately responsible for actually addressing the issues. Survey respondents also indicated several different procedures when asked how they handle requests for new technology – ranging from “talk to supervisor”, “ask the CFO”, “submit Helpdesk Tickets” and “I don’t know”.
Lack of Inventory Oversight and Lifecycle Management
Support for new technology, equipment and software was not clear resulting in staff being unaware of how to resolve problems with new equipment as they arose. All departments had varied technologies that could not be categorized into any of the working definitions found under the Helpdesk Ticket system. Furthermore, as agency technologies became increasingly critical in carrying out day-to-day work, no current system exists to asses who shouldmanage and support these technologies throughout their lifetime within a given department. An example of this was the Hotline Scoreboard, which is a television used to display incoming calls. This tool is crucial to the Hotline floor so they can stay on top of the incoming call volume. When the monitor stopped working, the Hotline Operations Director as well as Management (who were present during its installation) could not identify who to approach to fix the problem and instead filed Helpdesk Tickets under “Computer Support” that remain unanswered for an extended period. When asked if there was a warranty or paperwork about the product that could be used to check on how to get it fixed, none could be produced. The monitor has not been fixed and sits unused, which is impacting the floor’s ability to evaluate inbound calls and advocate availability. The Hotline’s current solution is to seek a donation of a new monitor, which may or may not work with the system.
Remote Work and Offsite Access to Information
Working remotely, through Virtual Private Network (VPN),was another necessity that needed to be addressed since many of the staff travel for work or participate in off site conferences and activities. Survey results reported that 63 of the 88 respondents stated that they need to access agency resources from off-site locations. This indicates a strong need for policies, processes and technology that will support these staff members. Interviews indicated that staff are not aware of the process to obtain VPN access or how to utilize it and didn’t even know if they qualified for this type of access. Staff also reported not having reliable equipment and software that is consistent and dependable enough to allow them to work off site. One such example was found with the TCFV Public Policy team, who spends up to 90% their work-week away from the office when the Texas Legislature is in session. These staff members reported difficulty accessing the file server as well as limited ability to produce documents, reports or information that is vital to their efforts with law-makers. One staff member stated that she would email herself as many files as possible before leaving the NCFV offices in order to be able to read them on her phone or open them on another computer where she was going. If she required other files she would have to either do without them or hope to have someone in the office access her desktop and forward her the information. The Public Policy Team also stated that it was very difficult to craft an email or communicate professionally with their personal mobile phones while working with lawmakers and their staff. The problems accessing the network remotely also raised the issue of staff being expected (out of necessity) to use their personal cell phones to accomplish their work without additional compensation.
Policies around the use of the internet are not clearly explained, understood or followed. Internet usage policy and enforcement vary from department to department. In one interview with a TCFV staff person, they reported that they were not allowed to stream audio or video over the internet (even for legitimate work purposes, such as a webinar) because of “the Helpline and the effect that it would have on their work providing online chat”. When asked if they could provide where this policy/rule could be found the staff member reported that it was “word of mouth”. This viewpoint also collides with observations made of Helpline and Hotline staff viewing streaming video and audio during advocate downtime. When randomly asked why advocates were allowed to watch streaming video from sites such as ABC or Hulu it was stated that this was “used for their wellness.” Both of these interactions highlight the lack of clarity and oversight by the organization around the use of the internet. Also noted several times during this evaluation were emails sent out to the NCFV agency requesting that all members limit their internet usage due to various projects that required uninterrupted bandwidth.
Personal Hardware Utilization
Another interesting discovery was the prevalence of staff members utilizing their personal devices to help accomplish their jobs. Technologies included a wide variety of devices such as laptops, mobile devices (tablets and phones), adaptors and connectors ( for projectors and monitors), thumb drives, and even WIFI routers. Almost 40% of staff members reported in the survey using non-agency programs such as Google Docs/Drive, DropBox, Evernote and PDF XChange to name a few. Helpline advocates reported bringing in their personal laptops as a way to research information and resources faster and more efficiently in addition to their workstations because agency technology was too slow and caused them to waste time instead of responding to callers/chatters/texters. Some staff members were also using their own technology when working off site for presentations as it was more reliable for the tasks they had to accomplish. Many of these staff members reported that it was easier to use their personal technology because if something did go wrong with checked-out equipment from the agency, there was no support after a certain time in the work day. Staff also commented that they had no way of locking up equipment after hours and did not want to be responsible for having to hide or take home the equipment.
While several deficiencies have been identified, it is also important to point out that there are tremendous amounts of knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm in all departments around different forms of technology and technological programs. When surveyed, almost 80% of the staff reported being competent to comfortable with technology. As indicated in the interviews, staff have gone to great lengths to make the most out of the equipment that they use, employ creative workarounds and researched programs and applications to make their job easier. There is an overall willingness to take on new technology and there are several people in every department that are capable of helping or assisting their peers with technology issues as they arise.