When clients don’t trust IT: How one university reformed its billing system to rebuild client confidence

The University of Pennsylvania recently changed its internal billing, as well as shifted to online education. Here’s how it happened and why.

TechRepublic’s Karen Roby spoke with Bill Kasenchar, senior director for the technology business management office at University of Pennsylvania, about how the university’s IT department transformed its accounting strategy and the speedy digital transformation of the university when COVID-19 shut it all down. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

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Karen Roby: Bill just recently, you presented at a conference, virtually of course, talking with global tech and finance leaders about why it’s so important to have the financial side of a technology house in order. Give us some of the highlights from that discussion.

Bill Kasenchar: I think the presentation works around trust, is one of our primary facets, or the lack of trust, I should start out with. Our [internal] clients did not trust us, from a financial standpoint. It took a lot of effort. The University of Pennsylvania operates on what’s called responsibility center management, which means that we have to charge for all of our services, and we have to break even. We have to recover for our costs, and have a clean balance sheet for the university. One of our biggest flaws in our history was that it was difficult for us to provide accurate and auditable invoices to our clients for the services they consumed. If they asked a question, we would come up with a different answer, and that was problematic. So, our clients lost trust in our ability to provide the services in the demand that they need. They would try and do [IT work] themselves, which is not an efficient or effective use of the university’s resources. So, our objective was how to rebuild trust.

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In order to rebuild trust, we had to get our house in order, financially. We had to determine what all the services we provide to the community are, and how much they cost on a unit basis. How much does each email account cost, each network for each desktop laptop that we support, and so on. Applications, and servers and things of that nature. It took a lot of work over a number of years in order to get our house in the water. In doing so, we used the tool Apptio to help provide the detail. I think one of the biggest benefits with Apptio is that it made it a self-service tool for our clients. Now, after we did all that work, our clients can go in, and they could see for themselves what our costs were. They could drill down very granular detail, the total number of email addresses they were being charged with. They can drill down into the number of ports, and if Wharton moved to a new building, they would be able to determine, “Oh,

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‘I didn’t feel I fitted in’: why Gypsies, Roma and Travellers don’t go to university | Universities

One day at school, Jack* was accosted by his teacher while he was putting his coat on and getting ready to leave the classroom. “Leave it there,” she insisted in front of his classmates. “We donated you that. Your mum didn’t have enough money to buy you a coat.” When he argued back – his mum, a successful public sector employee, had bought the coat for him before term – he was given detention for a week.

The same teacher referred him for an ADHD diagnosis without telling his parents. Sarah*, his mother, has worked in educational special needs, and questioned the teacher’s decision. She learned the diagnosis stemmed from a high score on a maths test, which had been deemed suspicious “considering his background”.

Throughout his school career, 12-year-old Jack has had to get used to micro-aggressions such as these. “That behaviour is quite constant,” says Sarah. “Would she have done that with another child, or is it because he’s a Traveller?”

Jack’s experience is not unique. In a recent report from the Traveller Movement, two-thirds of Irish Travellers said they been bullied by teachers, with one in five saying this made them leave school. This is one of the many reasons why just 3-4% of pupils from Traveller, Gypsy or Roma (GRT) backgrounds attend university compared with 43% of their peers, according to Kings College London research. The numbers are thought to be getting worse rather than better, although this is difficult to measure given so many GRT students conceal their identities for fear of racism.

Another barrier is cultural. Some GRT pupils’ parents experienced patchy schooling themselves, and don’t always value education or struggle to support their children with schoolwork. Jack is lucky because although Sarah didn’t attend school growing up, she had the opportunity to go to college, where she received distinctions across the board.

“The issue now is that he’s starting secondary school, and most Traveller boys don’t go. They normally go out to work with their dad,” she says. “He feels a bit torn. They’re saying ‘we’re old enough, we don’t have to’, and I’m saying ‘actually, you’re really bright, you do really well, you enjoy it’.”

So when Sarah spotted an Instagram post offering free online tutoring for pupils from GRT backgrounds during coronavirus, she leapt at the chance. Within weeks, she noticed a transformation. “It’s the attitude towards education that’s changed.”

The project is part of Rom Belong, a pioneering programme run by King’s College London and the Traveller Movement. It aims to help more bright GRT pupils like Jack get into university, and support them when they arrive. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, most of its work had to be suspended, leading the team to worry that these hard to reach communities could drift even further away from education.

But they rapidly rolled out online tutoring and discovered it to be even more effective than face-to-face. The project funds free Amazon Fire tablets and dongles for families since they are

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Don’t Miss The Year’s Last Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

KEY POINTS

  • November 2020 sky events will end with a full moon and partial penumbral lunar eclipse
  • It will be visible in North and South America, Australia and eastern Asia
  • One of the traditional names for the November full moon is the “Beaver Moon”

The November full moon will rise very early on Monday morning, and this time it will come with the fourth and final penumbral lunar eclipse of the year.

A penumbral lunar eclipse happens when the full moon moves into the penumbral shadow of the Earth, causing it to slightly lose its brightness for several hours. The previous penumbral lunar eclipse this year was the Independence Day Eclipse but, at the time, only about 35% of the moon’s surface was dimmed by the Earth’s penumbra.

This time, some 82% of the moon’s surface will pass through the Earth’s shadow, making it a more detectable event, Universe Today explained. Although it won’t be as obvious or dramatic as the other types of eclipses, it is still one that may be worth staying up for.

This final major November 2020 sky event will begin very early at 2.32 a.m. EST and peak two hours later at 4.42 a.m. EST, Universe Today said. It will be visible in North and South America, Australia and eastern Asia.

Beaver Moon

The November full moon is known by different names including the Beaver Moon and the Oak Moon, and it will rise very early on Monday morning at 4.30 a.m. EST, NASA said. It is traditionally called the Beaver Moon by Native Americans and colonial Americans because it comes at the time of the year when beavers begin to take shelter for the upcoming winter and it was also the season to trap beavers for their pelts, the Farmer’s Almanac explained.

If we go by season, the last full moon of autumn was also called the Cold Moon by the Algonquin tribes because of the long, cold nights. In Europe, the full moon before the winter solstice was also called the Oak Moon, possibly because of the ancient druid tradition of harvesting mistletoe from oak trees, according to NASA. 

Other names for it also include the “Moon Before Yule,” “Child Moon,” “Frost Moon” and “Winter Moon.” But no matter what this full moon is called in various parts of the world, people can come out very early on Monday and enjoy the penumbral eclipse while waiting for the full moon to rise.

It’s still not the final eclipse for the year because December will also bring a total solar eclipse.

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse Image: A penumbral lunar eclipse, as seen from Oria, Italy on Jan. 10, 2020. Photo: Giuseppe Donatiello/Wikimedia Commons

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