November, 2020 CIO Update
I hope everyone had a safe and relaxing Thanksgiving holiday! This month I would like to highlight the Campus Card Services area of Technology Services, which has been particularly challenged this year.
Campus Card Services Navigates the Pandemic
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the campus to move to remote learning and work, the Campus Card Services (CCS) team was one of a few campus operations that had to maintain staff on campus while working with multiple departments to deal with the myriad of unexpected issues resulting from the pandemic. One might think CCS just prints ID cards, and while this is a primary service that impacts every single person at VCU and the VCU Health System, there is more more to the CSS operation. The CCS team is responsible for point-of-sale (PoS) systems and implementing the meal plans that drive Shafer Dining Court as well as the PoS services at retail food establishments all over both campuses such as Panda Express and Chili’s. CCS also manages the door access system for all VCU buildings across both campuses. CCS has many roles they play in the everyday life of VCU and most were impacted by the pandemic.
It was apparent from the outset that CCS would need to keep the VMI office that serves the VCU Health system operational but in a new socially distanced and contactless manner. This was also true for the new hire events at the VCU Health administrative location on Parham Road. Early on in the pandemic, there was little national guidance as to how to best keep a customer service operation running in a safe manner, which was exactly what CCS needed to do. The team researched and came up with a plan that included service by appointments, floor decals for customers to follow to keep distance, online photo submission when possible, and contactless cashless payment when needed… and plexiglass… lots of plexiglass.
During the early months of the pandemic, CCS collaborated with Facilities Management on planning for the distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) using the VCUCard and iPad-based readers for tracking. CCS also received hundreds of requests for changes to building access and reports. With over 160 buildings, this was a significant task to rush to change building schedules quickly as well as update who would have access to academic, residential, administrative, athletic, recreation, and building support spaces around campus. Thousands of doors, gates, panic buttons, and resulting alarm configurations were impacted. Much of this work had to be reversed as people returned to campus starting this past summer.
In late spring, campus plans started to formulate for new student orientation and the eventual return of staff to campus over the summer in preparation for the student return in the fall. CCS needed a new plan in place to continue a high level of service the campus community in a safe and socially distanced manner. CCS had to replicate the new VMI office operational guidelines at the Monroe Park Campus campus. Orientation was not going to be the same this year, so CCS expanded online photo submission for students. Still, they had many who needed to visit the Technology Administration Building for service, so CCS facilitated the installation of a touchless WAVE reader to open the doors to the lobby… and plexiglass… lots of plexiglass.
Early on in the pandemic, Campus Card Services worked closely with Business Services to calculate meal plans and Dining Dollar refunds for students who were suddenly no longer on campus. As plans surfaced for the fall, CCS had to implement new Business Services meal plans and retail location menus that meant many adjustments to the configuration in the CCS systems and for service counter point-of-sale setups that promoted contactless payments. This was in addition to four new retail food location concepts that had to be implemented before school started.
As people have returned to campus, the Campus Card Services team has continued to work on new projects to provide a safer environment for the campus. Mobile ordering for dining locations has been in planning and is being worked on for deployment. New Value Transfer Stations that only work with credit cards will be rolling out to campus as well so people can add money to their RamBucks account for payments. The work continues, but this is not to say there have not been challenges. CCS staff continue to be physically present in their own offices and customer service counters, onsite at meal plan and retail food locations, areas with supported readers such as for printing/copying, in the bookstore where people can use RamBucks, on construction sites, residence halls, onsite at VCU Health, and at door access installation or maintenance sites. The challenges are many but the Campus Card Services team, like many VCU TS teams, continues to rise to those challenges in service to the VCU community. I appreciate their efforts, and I’m sure the VCU community does as well.
As we begin the holiday season, I wish you and yours all the best for safe and happy times! Stay tuned for next month’s blog, where I will feature some other great work.