Many MU departments don't show for technology expo

Thursday, March 19, 2009 | 4:53 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Although MU’s Division of Information Technology was looking to save departments money, the turnout for its expo earlier this month was still lower than expected.

The Technology for Tight Budgets Expo was held March 4 and 5 in the Bond Life Sciences Center.

IT Director Terry Robb said the department's hope for the expo was to educate faculty and staff on money-saving opportunities and increase productivity. While the expo educated, it didn’t educate the amount of people anticipated.

“We were disappointed in walk-through traffic; it wasn’t as much as we would have hoped,” Robb said.

Robb said part of the problem might have been a policy the university has that doesn’t allow mass e-mails to be used for advertising purposes.

For the people who did visit the expo, there were a number of booths demonstrating the technologies that could save departments money, including SharePoint, video conferencing and MeetingPlace.

Scott Cornell, application administrator for SharePoint, said the application allows for a centralized place for information, including link lists for Web sites and a document library, and it saves energy, paper, ink, e-mail and time.

“It really saves time,” Cornell said. “You don’t have to worry about sending a mass e-mail and waiting on replies, printing documents and mailing them or going to a meeting and having to make copies.”

Use of SharePoint has grown from approximately 40 sites on the SharePoint 2003 service to more than 160 sites on the SharePoint 2007 service. Robb said he heard that SharePoint gained a few more customers at the expo.

MeetingPlace, another program demonstrated at the expo, is a conference system that allows web sharing and phone conferencing, which also saves time and cost.

Video conferencing provides access for visual communication with people in different parts of the country and the world without having to travel.

“With the economy the way it is, we have more interest with people calling and contacting about the availability of video conferencing on campus,” Telecom analyst Lynda Miller said.

Brandon Rodewald, who supervises the IT Help Desk Support Center, said people currently use phone conferencing more than the Web feature of this technology, but people who came to the booth said using both features was a good idea.

“Everyone that has come up said it was a good idea and they would try it,” Rodewald said. “It’s good for those looking to cut travel costs, especially now since it’s pretty much being mandated you can’t travel.”

Robb said he expects those who attended the expo will spread the word about the technologies presented there.

“I hope word-of-mouth will be a result of this expo,” Robb said. “Attendees will go back to their departments and tell them what we have to offer.”

Those wanting a better look at information can go to the Division of Information Technology’s Web site and look at the different technology options.

The division plans to build a constant awareness of the department by using its channels of communication, its Web site, MU Info and advertisements in The Maneater and Mizzou Weekly.

“We will continue to leverage our other channels to build on what we started,” Robb said.

The overall effect of the expo and other techniques pushing money-saving technology won’t be known until the end of the fiscal year when the division looks at statistics to see the differences in customer usage of their products.

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