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IT support changes implemented at Hanscom

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Rafael Chaires, a client system technician, takes a call from a customer who called 3-HELP while John Moseley, Response Center manager, assists on Aug. 31. Because of recent Air Force mandates, base personnel may soon notice changes to the way they receive IT support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rick Berry)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Rafael Chaires, a client system technician, takes a call from a customer who called 3-HELP while John Moseley, Response Center manager, assists on Aug. 31. Because of recent Air Force mandates, base personnel may soon notice changes to the way they receive IT support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rick Berry)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Ho-Ming Lee, a client system technician, and John Moseley, Response Center manager, work together to assist a customer who called 3-HELP for a computer issue on Aug. 31. In an effort to follow an Air Force-wide directive, 66th Air Base Group’s Communications and Information Division recently consolidated IT support services so customers who call the help line will receive help from a centralized team of client systems technicians. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rick Berry)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Ho-Ming Lee, a client system technician, and John Moseley, Response Center manager, work together to assist a customer who called 3-HELP for a computer issue on Aug. 31. In an effort to follow an Air Force-wide directive, 66th Air Base Group’s Communications and Information Division recently consolidated IT support services so customers who call the help line will receive help from a centralized team of client systems technicians. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rick Berry)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. –Bill James, a client system technician, works on a computer hard drive in the Response Center, which will soon become the Client Service Center, on Aug. 31. The Air Force cyberspace support workforce is undergoing a transformation. Base personnel are encouraged to call 3-HELP instead of going directly to client support administrators in order to get desktop computer assistance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rick Berry)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. –Bill James, a client system technician, works on a computer hard drive in the Response Center, which will soon become the Client Service Center, on Aug. 31. The Air Force cyberspace support workforce is undergoing a transformation. Base personnel are encouraged to call 3-HELP instead of going directly to client support administrators in order to get desktop computer assistance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rick Berry)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Hanscom personnel should start noticing some changes in the way they receive information technology (IT) support. The 66th Air Base Group's Communications and Information Division is currently implementing the Air Force's direction to consolidate IT support services.

"As if there weren't already enough names changes as a result of the recent reorganization, the Air Force cyberspace support workforce is undergoing a transformation of its own," said Mr. Will Ross, deputy director for the Communications and Information Division. "Client support administrators, better known as CSAs, are now client systems technicians or CSTs. They work under direction of the Response Center, but that organization will soon become the Client Service Center or CSC. The good news is that dialing 3-HELP will continue to be the best way to get desktop computer assistance."

The latest consolidation action at Hanscom was accomplished on July 1 when IT support on the integrated contract was shifted from dedicated stovepipe work centers to a fully consolidated CST workforce providing service to all Hanscom customer organizations.

While the change may not be that noticeable to end users, it provides advantages of an enterprise approach to delivering service.

According to Mr. Ross, the most likely change that base personnel may notice is that in some cases a different technician will be assisting them on the phone or at their desk. Because CSTs are now part of one integrated team, it provides more flexibility in how issues are resolved.

"The fact that CST work centers did not physically change was a conscious planning decision," he said. "We wanted to make the transition as smooth as possible. What has changed behind the scenes is the ability to be flexible in meeting large-scale and shifting requirements from a base-wide perspective."

These changes are part of the latest actions at Hanscom to support the Air Force's consolidation of IT support services. In 2007, shortly after Program Budget Decision 720, the Air Force's Chief Information Officer (SAF/XC) released a strategy to leverage industry practices of consolidation and evolution to improve customer services and efficiency.

Soon thereafter, leadership at Hanscom and at Air Force Materiel Command initiated efforts to combine previously separate IT support services. At Hanscom, that meant consolidating the CSA support contracts of several different organizations under the Communications and Information Division's integrated support contract.

CSA support for the last organization was transitioned over to the integrated contract in January of 2009. This centralized policy and direction for delivering IT support to all the units on Hanscom, but the structure was still based on separate CSA work centers dedicated to specific organizations. Meanwhile, in October 2009, SAF/XC updated the consolidation strategy to accelerate implementation. At this same time, the Air Force officially replaced the term CSA with CST.

"There are several motivations for making this change," Mr. Ross said. "One is a culture change from IT support as an additional duty to IT support as a critical mission in cyberspace security. CSTs need network accounts with higher level privileges to troubleshoot and maintain computers and other network devices. Given the greater risk of having one of these accounts compromised, we now limit the number of these accounts to the minimum required. We also require those using the accounts be trained and certified in accordance with Defense Department direction."

Consolidation helps with improving network security, according to Mr. Ross. Closely related is the coordination and control of configuration changes. Given a clear centralized structure under the new client service center, the CST workforce is better postured to implement network changes--both for new user requirements and for network defense.

"New network vulnerabilities, threats and countermeasures come every day," he said. "Configuration management and change control are critical to our ability to defend the network and ensure service delivery. Additionally, we have proven the ability for CSTs to remotely resolve most customer issues over the phone."

The consolidation of services, however, is just the first step in the process of a larger Air Force-wide effort. The Air Force has initiated operations of the Enterprise Service Desk. In the future, Hanscom customers will call a telephone number for remote assistance and may reach someone at Lackland AFB, Texas, Gunter Annex in Alabama or, depending on the time of day, someone in Germany or Hawaii.

Based on recent work orders, approximately 50 percent of requests for IT assistance are initiated over the phone through 3-HELP. Mr. Ross hopes that number will increase to close to 100 percent once people see the advantages.

"Completing a shift from asking a technician to come to our desk to calling 3-HELP as the first step will make going to the Air Force solution much smoother," he said.

As with any change, there are issues that need to be resolved. Many of these fall on the plate of Mr. John Moseley, the Response Center manager. One recognized challenge is making sure the telephone system technology is up to the task.

"Over the past few months we have been working several improvement initiatives, including analyzing the current 3-HELP phone system and identifying capability shortfalls," Mr. Moseley said. "We expect to have a new automated call director system installed in the near future. This will make us even more efficient in delivering service over the telephone."

In addition, Mr. Moseley explained that requests for assistance can be submitted at the Response Center website available on computer desktops or via e-mail at hanscom.response@hanscom.af.mil.

The Communication & Information Division and the whole CST team recognize that other issues and challenges may exist. They encourage personnel to provide feedback on how to improve IT service support by e-mailing 66.ABG.SCOS@hanscom.af.mil to express any concerns or questions.