DIS Employees Speak at the ARKSTE Conference

Janet WilsonBy: Janet Wilson

Public Information Officer

I recently accompanied my agency director to the 2015 Arkansas Society for Technology in Education (ARKSTE) Spring Conference at the Arch Ford Education Co-op in Plumerville, Arkansas.  It was a full house with K-12 technology coordinators across the state in attendance.

DIS director Mark  Myers

DIS director Mark Myers opens the conference.

We were there to share big news about the state’s plans to improve the Arkansas Public School Computer Network (APSCN) so that every school district in Arkansas will be provided access to high speed broadband at speeds never before offered by the Department of Education. My director was giving the opening presentation. When I took a look at the agenda, I was proud to see that DIS actually had a much larger role in the event.

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ACOOP Program Manager Courtney Dettlinger

Debbie Martin, operations center manager, did a terrific job leading a session about our state data centers at the state Capitol complex and in West Little Rock and how each serves the public sector. Courtney Dettlinger, program manager for the Arkansas Continuity of Operations Program (ACOOP) presented a session about ACOOP and the services offered by DIS to help school districts prepare and maintain disaster recovery plans in case an event impacts or disrupts district operations. Two local area network (LAN) field support technicians, Carl McGinty and Josh Jeter, conducted a demonstration of tools and best practices for backing up and restoring critical school district data.

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DIS Chief Enterprise Architect Scott Utley Presenting at the 2015 AUTIS Conference

The day prior to the ARKSTE conference, DIS personnel also served as speakers at the Arkansas Users of Telecommunications and Information Systems (AUTIS) conference. Members of our staff have been invited to speak as subject matter experts in cybersecurity, disaster recovery, data center, networking, enterprise architecture, state procurement and other areas related to information technology at events and conferences across the state and nation. Their knowledge and expertise is a point of pride in representing DIS as the state’s premier provider of information technology products and services to the state agencies, boards and commissions it serves each day.

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DIS Behind the Scenes: Customer Satisfaction Every Time

Janet Wilson

By Janet Wilson

Public Information Manager

DIS employees do so many good things to assist customers on a daily basis that often times go unnoticed or unrecognized. The agency vision is customer satisfaction every time. I am fortunate and proud to witness the many ways our account representatives and IT experts go above and beyond standard job responsibilities to assist customers to fulfill the DIS vision.

I recall three recent events in which DIS rose to the occasion on behalf of three different agencies in need of special assistance. In one instance, an agency was holding a public event and wanted to capture it on video. With no video equipment of its own, it reached out to DIS. DIS was able to assist by providing the agency with the video equipment needed so it could accomplish its needs without having to expend taxpayer dollars to purchase new equipment.

On a second occasion, a different agency was holding a public event and wanted to conduct live polling of its audience, but had no tools for doing so. DIS partnered with this agency by loaning it our audience response system so it could successfully achieve its goal. DIS personnel went to the customer’s location, worked with the customer to load the needed software onto the agency’s presentation computer and provided a tutorial for how to use the response system.

A third recent example occurred when an agency contacted DIS in a panic because a staff member accidentally deleted all of the registration records for an upcoming conference. IT specialists at DIS went to work to restore the data from the agency’s backup and most of the critical information was successfully recovered. The agency conveyed how thankful it was to have been using backup services at DIS.

These gestures of goodwill from DIS employees to the agencies it serves are a common occurrence. As a communicator, it is professionally rewarding to witness and write about how DIS employees work behind the scenes every day to assist and support other state agencies and strive to achieve customer satisfaction.

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Communicating the Technical

Janet WilsonBy: Janet Wilson

Public Information Manager

While the information technology experts at the Department of Information Systems work hard every day to fulfill the DIS mission of providing technology leadership and solutions to assist our customers in the delivery of public services, the communications staff works behind the scenes to support and promote those efforts.

Whether it is a newsletter, notification, social media post, video feature, news release, report or presentation, the aim of the DIS communications team is to create content with consistent agency imagery and branding and to include messaging that reinforces DIS’s role as the information technology provider for the state of Arkansas. Sometimes, the most difficult part of this task is taking complex subject matter and translating the industry acronyms and jargon into language that is easily understandable by audiences outside of IT. This can be a tall order to fill with audiences ranging from educators to legislators, the media, and general public and beyond. There have been a few occasions where our communications products were created for international audiences.

The skill sets of the DIS communications staff are both closely aligned and at the same time very diverse with each member bringing his or her own set of professional strengths into the mix. Sometimes our eyeballs begin to glaze over when our techie co-workers talk about databases, routers, switches, network configurations, data centers, software solutions, and cybersecurity. Communications people are just not hard wired that way. But, when we absorb that information and deposit it into our creative world of being writers, photographers, videographers, editors, producers, researchers, graphic designers, reporters, interviewers, bloggers, social media experts, page designers, Web developers, event planners, DJs and more, something magic happens.

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AUTIS Tech Update – Legislative Reception 03/12/15

Curtis Eubanks new

By: Curtis Eubanks, DIS Account Manager

It was the AUTIS event…..The 2015 annual Tech Update and Legislative Reception event!  Each year, the AUTIS Board works hard to schedule events that provide a forum for members and non-members who are interested in the rapidly changing fields of telecommunications and information systems. This forum provides the basis for the exchange of ideas, personal experiences and similar pertinent information. AUTIS also supplies to educational institutions, charitable organizations, and other organizations, speakers who are knowledgeable in telecommunications and information systems.

The AUTIS Tech Update – Legislative Reception was held March 12, 3:30 – 6:30 at the Capitol Hill apartment reception area. This year, Mr. Mark Myers, newly appointed Director of The Department of Information Systems opened the Tech Update and Reception with comments and perspective regarding legislative context as it applies to DIS and our business model.  In attendance were approximately seventy individuals representing many Arkansas agencies as well as vendor participation.  We were privileged to welcome a large number of Representatives that came by to relax, share a meal, and discuss many technical issues facing Arkansas.

This year, AUTIS welcomed representatives from the EAST Initiative, (Environmental and Spatial Technology, Inc.)  an education model unlike any other model in modern education. It is a project-based, service-learning oriented program that provides students with high-end technology available in the most progressive fields in the world. We enjoyed a presentation from Mr. Matt Dozier, President/Chief Executive officer of EAST.  Mr. Dozier is an incredible advocate for the EAST program is quick to share this education model progress and successes.

Also, this year, AUTIS invited Connect Arkansas, which is a private, nonprofit corporation dedicated to increasing high-speed Internet subscription and improving and sustaining Internet adoption throughout Arkansas.  Attending was Ms. Mary Bea Gross, a technology partner with AUTIS the recipient of this year’s AUTIS grant for $1,500.00 presented to Connect Arkansas, Computers 4 Kids. This grant will be applied to a project in Forest City, an economically and under-served area.

As we concluded the evening, reflecting on the comments and surprised by the excellent turnout, particularly on a rainy evening, I felt a sense of pride talking to peers in the State government technology arena.  As we discuss how things are moving at the speed of light…. With so much going on in Arkansas, it was good to take a step back and consider how all this impacts our individual technology needs and Arkansas at large.

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Building and Strengthening Relationships: Customer Relations Division

Donald MatthewsBy:  Donald Matthews

DIS Technical Accounts Specialist

The DIS customer relations division strives to build and strengthen collaborative relationships with DIS customers by advocating on their behalf and by ensuring that DIS services meet their needs.  The division also provides a consistent communication channel to ensure that our customers have a clear and unambiguous expectation of the level of service to be delivered.  The division includes (4) unique teams that play an integral role in overall customer satisfaction.

Account Managers

Customer relations provides customer account managers who serve as liaisons between DIS and assigned customer base. The account managers evaluate the technology needs of our customers and present solutions. They also coordinate with internal departments to present solutions and complete projects, provide product demonstrations and presentations, and promote DIS products and services to ensure buying power for the state. The team also coordinates technology upgrades and conversions for state agencies, boards, and commissions.

Communications

The communications section provides leadership in the agency’s efforts in planning and conducting internal and external communications. The team utilizes printed and electronic correspondence and newsletters, as well as audio and video presentations. The division is directly responsible for the agency’s communication with administration, legislators, customers, taxpayers, media and other key stakeholders and drives the social media presence on behalf of DIS by serving as the content administrators for YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Customer Service Desk

The customer service desk (call center) is staffed by nine agents who receive over 41,000 state, city, local government, and education customer trouble calls annually. From these calls, and additional e-mail contacts, approximately 94,000 incidents are created and managed using our incident management system. The customer service desk (call center) also houses the state operators who assist Arkansas citizens with 20,000 telephone number inquiries each year.

Service Order Section

The service order section serves the DIS customer base by placing telecommunications service orders on their behalf with contracted vendors throughout the state. This group is responsible for making sure service is provided to the customer in a timely and accurate manner, and that the appropriately billing for those services has been established.

As always, our customer relations team would love to hear from you!  Please email me at Donald.Matthews@arkansas.gov with any questions or comments you may have.

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Arkansas Communications Tabletop Exercise – January 22

By: Rachel Wilson, AWIN Support

Always striving to improve emergency communications in our great state, the Arkansas Wireless Information Network (AWIN) hosted a team from Homeland Security’s Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) as they conducted a communications focused tabletop exercise on January 22, 2015.  Jennifer Harder, Ph.D., facilitated the exercise, which guided participants step-by-step through communications challenges as they faced a hypothetical – but highly plausible – tornado as it rips through the annual Toad Suck Daze festivities in Conway.  Participation was excellent with approximately 95 people in attendance, representing a diversity of public safety disciplines.

The Arkansas Interoperable Communications Committee (AICC) sponsored the tabletop.  Special thanks go out to the Jacksonville Police Department for generously donating their excellent training facilities, as well as to The Arkansas Department of Information Systems communications department for their assistance with registration.  The expert team from the OEC will return to Arkansas in February to summarize their findings from this exercise in an After Action Report and to make recommendations for improvements to public safety communications in the state of Arkansas.  We look forward to their next visit.

 

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Rachel WilsonRachel Wilson

AWIN Support

 

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Cooling Project More than 60% Complete

IMG_4464The DIS operations team continues to work with contractors and vendors to improve the cooling system for the state data center. The project began in the last quarter of 2014 is now 62% complete. Since December 2014, contractors are near completion of replacing aging pipes that provide the water cooling system for the data center. New equipment for the cooling system, to include a new chiller and in-row cooling units, began arriving in mid-December and dates to install the equipment once all is delivered will be set in the near future.

Project team members began meeting with customers the first full week of January to discuss and make plans for realigning equipment on the state data center floor, which will be a more efficient design and increase safety and security. Prior notification will be sent to customers as any work is planned that could affect systems hosted in the data center.

The cooling improvement project is scheduled to be complete by April 2, 2015, and the project will reduce energy use by a projected 15%.

Brian Fortson

Brian Fortson

DIS Enterprise Operations Director

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