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Standards & Supported Desktop Products Process

IT Roundtable

The focus of IT Roundtable is information technology strategy. It is comprised of senior technology officers from Penn's Schools and major centers, along with faculty and student participation. It serves as an orientation and communication vehicle that supports strategic local IT planning among the community of IT Directors.

Roundtable addresses new and emerging technologies, considering their impact on the institution, Schools, centers, and individuals. Through pilot projects Roundtable evaluates specific technologies of interest, assessing their ability to solve problems and/or enable new and improved services. Roundtable also advises on scalability, routing non-technical issues to the appropriate academic forums as required.

Roundtable is charged with advising on new technology implementations, rollout and support, and is particularly focused on awareness, communication, and adoption planning. Roundtable is also responsible for recommending, refining and approving IT policies, as well as communicating and implementing these policies locally. Finally, IT Roundtable serves as the technology advisor to the IT Advisory Board, on issues such as needs assessment, market readiness, feasibility, support requirements, and change management.

Role of IT Roundtable

IT Roundtable oversees the annual desktop standards and supported desktop products processes during the spring. It is responsible for deciding what hardware and software is included in the supported products suite.

In cases where a change in the supported application in a category (browser, etc.) is being considered, a campus team with broad participation from across the university will typically be charged by IT Roundtable with evaluating products and making a recommendation. New versions of supported products that incorporate major changes may also merit this type of formal review. These efforts must conclude by mid-spring to allow any changes to be incorporated in the annual Fall Crush effort.

Evaluation and testing of incremental upgrades, and new versions of supported products not reviewed by campus teams, will normally become the responsibility of an ISC team. This team will submit a proposed list of supported products, indicating specific version numbers and raising any issues that need to be addressed, to IT Roundtable for approval by mid-spring to allow any changes to be incorporated in the Fall Crush effort.

Based on recommendations from evaluation teams, IT Roundtable will maintain the supported products and desktop standards, adding and removing hardware and software as appropriate.

IT Roundtable will be augmented as appropriate for discussions regarding desktop standards and supported products, depending on the type of technology being investigated and the key stakeholders who will be impacted (e.g., product experts, those with major applications or products rolling out, Fall Crush Team, Penn Web, Lab Administrators, and those responsible for administrative computing systems).

Specific responsibilities of IT Roundtable include:

  • determine when campus-wide evaluation teams are needed
  • identify evaluation team leaders
  • in conjunction with team leaders, develop charge for evaluation teams, including scope
  • provide guidance to evaluation team leaders as needed regarding process and direction
  • point evaluation team leaders to related information and templates as appropriate
  • oversee evaluation efforts, insuring that interdependent teams share information
  • make desktop standards and supported products decisions based on evaluation team recommendations (and with requisite community input)

Triggers (Sources for Intake for Product Evaluation)

A. Standard Cycle: preferred method; in preparation for the annual Fall Crush effort

B. Ad hoc: only when an urgent need, severe incompatibility, or critical problem exists that requires a new version, security patch or alternative product (source: ISC, Schools, Units, providers, user groups). Need to assess impact on support, training, documentation, CDs, FTP site, etc.

C. Something that is part of a major systems rollout: e.g., Library system, new administrative system.

D. Expiration of the site license for a supported product.

Evaluation Teams

The constitution of evaluation teams will depend on the nature of the evaluation and the timeline for recommendations. The goal will be to keep teams manageable and as broadly representative as possible (and appropriate). Evaluation teams will be responsible for communicating with local support providers (LSP) and other key stakeholders regarding their activities, to insure that they are kept informed about the implications of these efforts for the users and services they support.

Team participation will be solicited by open invitation, targeted invitation, or both. Active participation is expected from each team member (e.g., attend meeting and conduct research or evaluations outside of meetings). "Of counsel" members will be permitted, with the approval of the team. Teams are encouraged to enlist a broader network of local support providers, if appropriate, to help test applications in a range of local environments.

Core Requirements

Evaluation teams are given considerable discretion in identifying those requirements and criteria that they feel are important in selecting a particular supported product. In addition, the following core requirements are essential in supporting Penn's strategic direction and should be considered by all evaluation teams.

If the product requires authentication, identify a workable method to avoid use of cleartext, re-usable passwords. Penn's preference is to use Kerberos v5 authentication.

Testing and Certification

IT Roundtable will:

  • state the purpose or problem (scope, assumptions, etc.)
  • provide links to previous efforts, if applicable

Evaluation teams will:

  • identify requirements and criteria for selection
  • articulate a process & methodology for testing/selection
  • identify the suite of candidate products in this niche
  • conduct a first filter (reality check) on candidates (vendor site license options, distribution options, costs)
  • define written test plans and scripts
  • clearly identify products and versions to be tested
  • communicate testing process and results - preferably web based
  • publish results of all testing for all candidates
  • provide relative weights assigned to functional requirements and other criteria (pricing, tech support, distribution, vendor relationship, etc.)
  • compile content for documentation and install guides as evaluation process (look for material in vendor web sites and FAQs)
  • compile pointers to quality external documentation
  • present license/volume purchase options

Communications and Rollout

IT Roundtable will:

  • inform the provider community when evaluation efforts are about to begin (give proposed timeline)
  • solicit team participation (open ended, targeted, or both)

Evaluation teams will:

  • use a combination of e-mail and web to keep the team and the provider community up to date on evaluation efforts
  • communicate with IT Roundtable about progress or if help is needed (e.g., get behind schedule, need more resources, etc.).
  • give early "heads-up" to providers (prior to rollout) in preparation for distribution
  • provide a preview of software, if relevant
  • send announcements using appropriate vehicles (email, Web, Almanac, DP)
  • provide contact information to LSP's for support (or identify the group of providers eligible for support from the vendor, with appropriate internal escalation paths)
  • provide hand-off to operational arm(s) with update schedule (for upgrades, patches, etc.); may entail "unsupported" folder on FTP server

IT Roundtable will:

  • phase out or retire old standards, where appropriate (identify where clean-up is required -- Web, CD, FTP server)


Evaluation team, in conjunction with ISC Communications Group, will:

  • prepare draft installation guide using existing documents as models wherever possible
  • prepare draft product tip sheets and specification sheets using existing documents as models wherever possible
  • identify resources for providers as necessary (e.g. install guides, documentation, support options, early distribution)
  • compile pointers to quality external documentation
  • phase out or retire old documentation, where appropriate (identify where clean-up is required - Web, CD, FTP server, other documents)
  • provide de-installation procedures for old products

Standards Lab

  • dedicate a suite of test machines for ISC and providers to use in support of this process

Note: The Standards Lab is located in Room 217B Sansom West.