Over the course of the pandemic, consider how many COVID-19 questions you’ve had for the University, whether about testing, vaccine attestation or more recently, vaccine requirements resulting from the new executive order for employees of federal contractors. Now multiply that by every student, staff member and faculty member of UNC-Chapel Hill.
Campus community members had relied on web forms on the Carolina Together website to solicit and respond to questions since the program launched in January 2021.
“Questions were sent to shared email boxes within specific offices,” said Kim Vassiliadis, Manager, ITS Digital Services & User Experience. “There wasn’t an easy way to capture or analyze the types of questions being submitted or provide metrics.”
One priority of the University’s Carolina Next strategic plan is to optimize operations in part by data-driven decision making. Toward that goal, ITS groups and individuals stepped in to collaborate with the Carolina Together program to enhance the backend process and technology to better serve and support the campus community.
ServiceNow aids process
As one improvement for the Carolina Together program, the collaborators implemented a catalog item within ServiceNow to send incidents to the Business Systems Help Desk for assistance with the testing program, submitting vaccine attestations and other needs.
For the Business Systems Help Desk, which started supporting this program on September 6, having a way to manage tickets within ServiceNow was essential.
By early November, Business Systems Help Desk had received 45 help tickets related to Carolina Together. It solved 43 and sent two to the technical team for Hall Pass, said Theresa Silsby, Director of the Business Systems Help Desk. The most common questions were about testing compliance for remote campus members and those who couldn’t get to campus before the scheduled time in Hall Pass.
Virtual agents for chat
As an additional enhancement to the backend of the Carolina Together program, the collaborators also in September launched two Virtual Agent conversations within the live chat feature on the help portal. The Virtual Agent can assist with questions about Carolina Together and provide information about vaccine requirements.
The workflow and tracking system and Virtual Agent conversations replaced the web form and backend shared email inbox in advance of the weekly COVID-19 testing requirement for faculty and staff members.
As an extra source of support on the backend, there’s an active Microsoft Teams chat with 10 people who facilitate the student testing side of Carolina Together, a group of six on the employee side and a group of five who support data flow and reporting. The Teams chat started in early May to coordinate changes in the testing requirements for the summer and Fall semesters. Additional staff were added in advance of the employee testing requirement.
Automated stat updates
To support increased reporting demands and operational changes to the University’s contact tracing based on vaccination status Mihaela Cornea, CS Lead Applications Developer, added to the more than a dozen files that Informatica outputs multiple times a day, in some cases hourly, for the Carolina Together Testing Program / Hall Pass. Terence Costello, Manager, Data Warehouse & ETL, worked to automate the processes to update the Oracle database used behind the scenes to provide nightly updates of the University’s overall vaccination status to University senior leadership.
Many staffers assist
Those from ITS who contributed to the recent enhancements included the Business Systems Help Desk, the ITS Service Desk, ITS Digital Services, the Service Management Team, Enterprise Reporting & Analytics Director Rachel Serrano, Assistant Vice Chancellor Kate Hash and Matthew Mauzy, Emergency Response Technology Manager at ITS.
Additional ITS groups have been supporting Carolina Together all along, including Enterprise Applications, Data & Reporting Environments & Application Middleware, ITS Global Systems and Cloud Architecture. IT professionals outside of ITS also continue to support Carolina Together, such as Student Affairs IT.