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Monday, November 12, 2007

OBFS Customer Satisfaction Initiative Underway

Focus groups meeting to identify areas of opportunity

by Bryan Dobkin, bryandobkin@gmail.com

The Office of Business and Financial Services has begun the first stage of the Customer Satisfaction Initiative with a series of focus groups being held at all three campuses and the UI College of Medicine at Rockford and Peoria. The purpose of these focus groups is to identify key themes in perceptions around needed service improvements and customer service best practices.

The Customer Satisfaction Initiative is designed to help OBFS better understand and serve its customers. To support the University-wide strategic planning process, Doug Beckmann, senior associate vice president for business and finance, and his SAVP Advisory Council support the creation of ongoing customer feedback mechanisms and have adopted "continually improving customer satisfaction" as one of OBFS' strategic themes.

OBFS partnered with Research Survey Services, a Champaign-Urbana research marketing firm, for the focus group portion of this initiative. RSS is conducting the actual focus groups as well as providing some consultation on the development of the questions to be asked.

OBFS plans to conduct a total of 20 focus groups between the five locations by the end of next week, with projections for 200 total participants. Candidates for these groups were identified by OBFS departments and customer groups such as the Academic Fiscal Officers in Chicago and the Business Managers Groups in Urbana and Springfield. In selecting the actual participants for the focus groups, the project team attempted to ensure a good representation of the various schools, colleges, and administrative units.

Springfield focus groups, which were held on November 1, consisted of four separate sessions. A total of 27 individuals participated -- 20 customers, 6 OBFS employees, and 1 student. At the Chicago Campus, six sessions were held totaling 74 individuals -- 64 campus customers and 10 OBFS employees. There was also one focus group held at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago with 10 participants and one additional group of customers at the College of Medicine at Rockford with 13 participants. Focus groups will be held at the College of Medicine at Peoria and at UIUC on November 13 through 15. Sixty-three campus customers as well as 11 OBFS employees have accepted invitations for these focus groups.

Thus far, the meetings have been very well received by participants. OBFS customers appreciate the fact that the organization is seeking their input and feedback. There was a high degree of interest to get involved and this is evident in the high attendance rate for the meetings. Both customers and OBFS employees were able to share some of their concerns and their desire to improve the partnerships that exist between the different stakeholders.

This first round of focus groups has provided members of OBFS with some very valuable insight into how to best reach its customers. In particular, the CSI project team has discovered that the focus group process may not represent the most effective means for soliciting student feedback and involvement in the initiative. The CSI project team is currently developing other ways in which students can become involved in the initiative and provide valuable feedback on OBFS' customer service means and methods.

Following the completion of the focus groups, OBFS will determine which topics should be covered in an electronic survey that will be distributed to its customers during the months of December and January. The sample population for the survey is planned to include approximately 6,000 individuals and will provide the CSI project team with additional insight into OBFS customers' perceptions of the service they receive.


Note: Additional information about the OBFS Customer Satisfaction Initiative can be found at www.obfs.uillinois.edu/csi/index.html.

Friday, November 09, 2007

UIS Giving Tree

Sponsored by the Graduate Public Service Internship-Student Association

Donations accepted now through December 14

The tree is located in SAB 20.

While all the ornaments have been chosen, cash donations and school supplies are still welcome and will be used to benefit area schools. Drop off unwrapped gifts and other donations in the GPSI office, PAC 515, no later than December 14.

For more information, contact Kris McDonald at kmcdo2@uis.edu or Tony Ligori at tligo2@uis.edu.

Foreign & Independent Film Series committee seeks suggestions

Suggest titles for the spring series by Friday, November 16.
  • Must be a foreign or independent film
  • Should be a new release or a "classic"
  • Preference given to award-winning/potentially award-winning movies

For more information, contact Student Life at 6-6665.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Illinois activates new high-speed intercampus data network

Fiber lit on Intercampus Communications Network (ICCN) to link all three Illinois campuses, provide more bandwidth

By Philip Ciciora

More than two years of work came to fruition as the University of Illinois, with technical assistance from Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services (CITES), Administrative Information Technology Services (AITS), and the Chicago and Springfield campuses, activated the Intercampus Communications Network (ICCN). The ICCN is a high-speed data network that connects all three University campuses – Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield – and offers access to bandwidth orders of magnitude greater than before for only a marginal cost increase.

"The ICCN is one of a series of networking improvements – including the Campus Network Upgrade Project, expanded UIUCnet wireless coverage, and guest and visitor wireless – that the University has undertaken recently to bring superior quality communications to campus," said Sally Jackson, chief information officer at the Urbana campus.

Over the summer, network engineers from CITES, AITS, and the Chicago campus worked to migrate all intercampus traffic (including Banner, the WILL-TV video link, and the CARLI library servers) to the new ICCN network, replacing the twelve-year old link that previously connected the Urbana and Chicago campuses. In late July, the last of nine new routers were installed, completing the ICCN's overlapping ring topology, moving the project from an installation and tune-up phase to production.

Now, with installation and testing complete, the ICCN is ready to perform full-scale production work – and not just for administrative data.

"Originally, the ICCN was conceived as an expandable, high-availability communications network that would connect the three campuses for administrative purposes," Jackson said. "Thanks to the University's foresight in planning its implementation, we can also use its extra bandwidth to fulfill the University's education and research missions."

The ICCN fiber also connects to existing fiber rings in Chicago that are co-owned by the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) -- which includes all Big Ten universities, the University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Chicago -- and whose fiber rings connect with all the major telecommunications carriers and all the major research networks. By using its bandwidth as well as the common CIC infrastructure, the ICCN affords the University the necessary capacity to connect to research networks and peer universities at much higher bandwidths than previously possible.

According to Jackson, not only does the ICCN enhance network reliability for administrative applications, but it will also stimulate creative uses of networking between the campuses and by individual units on campus to the outside world.

"For academic and research units on campus, examples of potential innovative uses of the ICCN include access to digital libraries and databases, and bandwidth-intensive web-based services and applications that use digital media," she said.

According to Jackson, the scalability built into the ICCN will allow it to grow and be used in ways unimaginable today.

"The ICCN connects us to the wider world of innovation, including Internet2 and other next generation national infrastructure projects," she said.

Overall, Jackson believes the ICCN's potential for positive impact is enormous.

"From computer science to the fine arts, the ICCN provides the framework for the University to remain on the cutting edge of networking technology for a long time," she said.

For more information on the ICCN project, please see the ICCN Project page.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Support Group for Individuals Caring for Aging Family Members

Open to members of the UIS and LLCC communities who are currently, or who are anticipating, caring for aging family members.

Facilitators: Vince Flammini, UIS Counseling Center, and Carolyn Peck, Human Services gerontology concentration

6 to 7:15 p.m. in HRB 64
Wednesdays, November 7 and November 28

For more information, contact Carolyn Peck at cpeck2@uis.edu