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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Enterprise Architects Achieve Positive Business Outcomes by Integrating Planning and Strategy

By: Scott Utley, Chief Enterprise ArchitectScott Utley

What does an enterprise architect do? One of the primary roles is to be a planner and strategist. This involves accounting for trends, identifying options, and developing recommendations that result in positive business outcomes. Along the way, you can never lose sight of cost benefits and risks. Below is an example of how the process works to attain the desired goals.

There are many different enterprise architecture (EA) frameworks. One of the best and most widely recognized is The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF). This modified example focuses on what I consider key areas.

  1. Business vision
    1. Document high level business requirements, identify stakeholders, confirm business goals
    2. Evaluate your organizations capabilities and assess readiness for transformational change
    3. Define scope
    4. Identify risk mitigation activities
    5. Develop a statement of work (SOW)
  2. Architecture
    1. Define the types and sources of data needed to support the business
    2. Define key application systems that will process the data and support the business
    3. Document the target technology including hardware, software and network communications that will form the basis of implementation
  3. Opportunities and solutions
    1. Organize the different architectural components into a way that delivers the desired business outcomes
  4. Migration planning
    1. Ensure a plan is created and coordinated with the various stakeholders
    2. Prioritize the migration projects through a cost/ business assessment and risk validation
  5. Governance
    1. Develop a monitoring process that ensures conformance with the desired architecture
  6. Change management
    1. Provide continual monitoring and a change management process that ensures benefits realization

A key thing to note is that there are many different roles involved in the process. Start with the business vision that you desire to achieve. This step is driven by senior leaders based upon their knowledge of a specific business problem they are seeking to solve. That information is utilized by the architecture team who are made up of technology specialists who know what needs to be achieved either utilizing existing resources or some variation of hosted or cloud services. The architectures are all pulled together into a comprehensive solution that is the best fit for the organization to implement and sustain. A change management team can ensure a smooth cutover and develop a plan to address ongoing change. Governance surrounds the project to ensure everything is on track, focuses on value creation and that decisions are made with the best interest of the stakeholders in mind.

Of course smaller organizations or projects don’t have the luxury of having a large staff address all of these steps in a comprehensive manner and must make do with resources at hand, but still should address the major steps to ensure the project’s success.

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Enterprise Architecture Coordinates State IT Acquisitions for Cost Savings and Efficiency

Scott UtleyBy: Scott Utley, Chief Enterprise Architect

Analysts have observed that there have been more technology changes over the last three years than the preceding 20 combined. One thing all tech professions agree upon is that planned change is better than unplanned change. Enterprise architecture (EA) was born out of the need to proactively address the changing IT landscape.

Enabling legislation for the Department of Information Systems (DIS) includes responsibility for creating and supporting state enterprise architecture with the primary functions of:

  • assisting the state and state agencies, boards and commissions with delivering business outcomes by clarifying business strategy, linking it with IT strategy and providing a clear strategy execution path
  • publishing the State of Arkansas Strategic Plan for Information Technology on an annual basis that establishes a state-level mission, goals, and objectives for the use of IT as required by § 25-4-105.
  • reviewing and approving each agency’s IT plan for completeness and accuracy
  • compiling reports summarizing the state of IT within Arkansas state government

Putting EA into non-technical context, think about the role of city planners as they establish zoning codes and ensure utilities are available in sufficient capacity for all. City planners work to maximize investment dollars by controlling the number of utility providers within their jurisdiction. Does it make sense to have multiple water providers? Probably not, but reasons may exist as to why there should be. Similarly in EA, there are core systems, such as AASIS, the state’s accounting and payroll system, that cross across all boundaries. Other systems, such as email, are used by many, but not by all. There are also systems unique to each business unit.

EA coordinates, organizes, and guides decision-making for IT acquisitions such as these by applying principles that include:

  • cost savings
  • reduced solution complexity
  • reduced redundancy
  • compliance with security and privacy policies and applicable statutes
  • recognition that data is a state asset
  • making certain that implemented infrastructure is be robust, responsive, and reliable to ensure availability

Another important aspect of EA is to develop a future state and determine ways to close the gap between where we are and where we want to be. To develop a future state, trends must be identified (technical and business), strategies must be created to benefit from those trends, and requirements must be developed for how you plan to do so. Examples of current state projects that need architecture-type planning include:

  • Department of Human Services Eligibility and Enrollment Framework (EEF) project and its integration with other systems
  • numerous licensing and permitting solutions in use
  • backup and recovery in the new state data center
  • moving solutions into the cloud
  • master data management
  • mobility solutions

EA creates road maps for these projects to maximize investment dollars and value by integrating and sharing data across systems or organizations to achieve the desired results.

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Safe Holiday Shopping Online

Safe Holiday Shopping Online

Shopping online can be safe, but there are a few tips…

Use familiar web sites: Shop at trusted sites rather than shopping with a search engine as search results can be rigged to lead you astray. If you know the site, chances are it’s less likely to be a rip off. Stick with familiar sites like Amazon.com. Just about every major retail outlet has an online store. Beware of misspellings or sites using a different top-level domain (.net instead of .com)—those are the oldest tricks in the book. Yes, the sales on these sites might look enticing, but that’s how they trick you into giving up your info.

Look for the lock: Never ever; ever buy anything online using your credit card from a site that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed—at the very least. The URL for the site will start with HTTPS:// (instead of just HTTP ://). An icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser, or right next to the URL in the address bar.

Never, ever give anyone your credit card over email

Don’t tell all: No online shopping store needs your social security number or your birthday. However, if crooks get them, combined with your credit card number for purchases, they can do a lot of damage. The more they know, the easier it is to steal your identity. When possible, default to giving up the least amount of information.

Check statements: Go online regularly during the holiday season and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts to monitor for fraudulent charges, even originating from sites like PayPal.

Check your credit report: Go to www.annualcreditreport.com.  It is the government offered free report available once a year from each of the credit agencies.  It is suggested to stagger free reports across the year, so you can get a free report every four months.  Also, if you are married, stagger you and your spouse’s reports.  They are different.

If you do see something wrong: Pick up the phone to address the matter quickly. In the case of credit cards, pay the bill only once you know all your charges are accurate. You have 30 days to notify the bank or card issuer of problems, however; after that, you might be liable for the charges anyway.

Inoculate your PC: Swindlers don’t just sit around waiting for you to give them data. Sometimes they give you a little something extra to help things along. You need to protect against malware with regular updates to your anti-virus program.

Use strong passwords: Utilizing un-crackable passwords is never more important than when banking and shopping online. Tips for creating a unique password can come in handy during a time of year when shopping around probably means creating new accounts on all sorts of e-commerce sites.

Think mobile: The National Retail Federation says that 5.7 percent of adults will use their mobile devices to do comparison shopping before making a purchase. (And 32.1 percent will comparison shop online with a computer, as well.) The trick is to use apps provided directly by the retailers, like Amazon, Target, etc. Use the apps to find what you want and then make the purchase directly, without going to the store or the web site.

Avoid public terminals: It’s a bad idea to use a public computer to make a purchase. If you do, just remember to log out every time you use a public terminal, even if you were just checking email.

What about using your own laptop to shop at Starbucks: It’s one thing to hand over a credit card to get swiped at the checkout, but when you must enter the number and expiration date on a web site while sitting in a public cafe, you’re giving an over-the-shoulder snooper plenty of time to see the goods. And public Wi-Fi is not really secure.

Privatize your Wi-Fi: Now is not a good time to try out unfamiliar hotspots. Stick to known networks like those found at Starbucks or Barnes & Noble stores powered by AT&T. Look for the network named “attwifi,” then open a browser to click into the “walled garden” to get final access.

Count the cards: Gift cards are the most requested holiday gift every year. Stick to the source when you buy one. Scammers like to auction off gift cards on sites like eBay with little or no funds on them.

Know what’s too good to be true: Once again, McAfee has compiled a Twelve Scams of Christmas list, all things to be aware of while shopping. The “coupon scam” offers of a free product with purchase, in particular an iPad (a very coveted gadget at any holiday) or even holiday job offers. Many of these “offers” will come in via social media. Beware even of your friends, who might innocently forward such a thing. Be very wary even if you get a message from friend claiming he or she has been robbed, especially a friend overseas looking for money to be wire transferred, unless you absolutely can confirm it by talking to him or her personally. Skepticism in most cases can go a long way toward saving you from a stolen card number.

Consider a temporary credit card number: Many credit card companies offer them. http://www.moneytalksnews.com/2010/09/14/virtual-credit-card/

Have things shipped to your office: If you shop to your home, make sure a neighbor that will be at home can get your packages.  Don’t leave them on the doorstep.  Not only could your package be missing, your entire house could be emptied out.

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