The email Gary Holeman of ODOT’s Engineering Automation Section received on April 8 was typical of what Information Systems has been hearing from customers recently.
“Assuming that you haven’t gotten enough praise, I want to thank you for all the work that you and the other IT staff have done to transition so many of us to telecommuting,” wrote Pamela Johnson, Highway Region 2 roadway designer. “Under the circumstances, I am sincerely impressed. As your average ODOT computer-dependent engineer, through the glitches the first few weeks, I was still able to do some work and every day got easier. Your communication on the transition was the best communication I have ever experienced at ODOT. As usual, your staff was kind and helpful. I do not take any of you for granted.”
Things may be running more smoothly now, but it took a lot of hard work, extra hours, creativity and know-how to get to that point. It was a scramble to move from a handful of employees who were teleworking to accommodating nearly half of the agency — including 800 engineers who need access to specialized systems.
“Our team, Engineering Application Support, has been very good at identifying trends as they come up,” says Todd Hedspeth, Information Systems program coordinator. “As they identify trends and solutions, they are quick to connect with the other teams, like Help Desk.
“We share information on each of our sites, so that the information is available wherever a customer looked.”
Although Engineering Application Support Team members are continually working to make sure all systems are available and customers can do what they need, they faced a situation beyond their imagination with COVID-19 – a nearly impossible scenario.
“We have one system that requires users to be within a half-mile of where the license servers are located,” Holeman says. “We only have a handful of users that live that close. Trying to make sure that people had access and who needed it was a real challenge.”
One thing that helped stabilize connectivity was looking at ways they could curb use of the actual network — what could be trimmed down and still allow a user to be operational.
“A lot of things happened in the background that helped improve connectivity – things customers wouldn’t notice,” Hedspeth says. “One example is disconnecting mapped drives that customers don’t use. It’s a small thing for each user, but it makes a big difference on the combined network overhead.”
And of course, there wasn’t just one problem coming in at a time. There was also monitoring our servers and supporting other teams with tools they needed – continually.
Thinking beyond the box
“Our team — Lennie Torgerson, Mindy Nash, Michael Jones and Jeff Leach — is scattered across the state,” explains Tony Sutton, IT program coordinator. “They know their people and they know what their customers’ needs are. But they didn’t stop when their customers were taken care of. They took care of everybody.
“People from one region were helping people from other regions. When a trouble ticket came in, it didn’t matter who it was from or for. They stepped up to do whatever was needed to benefit the entire department.
“When chokepoints came up — and there are always chokepoints — we reached out to that team to see what we could do to help. Through collaboration, the team has taken customer service to a new level.”
Editor’s note: ODOT’s entire Information Systems Branch has done a phenomenal job with helping us continue to serve our customers during this COVID-19 crisis: We went from an average of 200 people per day teleworking to more than 2,000! This story shines the spotlight on just one of those hard-working groups — the Engineering Application Support Team, part of ODOT’s Transportation Application Development within the IS Branch.