1. The Information Technology Solutions & Support Group

Information Technology Solutions and Support (ITSS) is a group within Texas A&M Technology Services that offers quality IT services for offices within The Texas A&M University System. These services include developing custom software, maintaining or configuring existing applications, consulting on computer solutions to serve specific requirements, or installing and supporting commercial software packages.

In summary, the services provided by ITSS include:

  • Web application and other custom software development
  • Consultation for software and hardware requirements
  • Training on customized software applications
  • Installation, configuration and/or maintenance of purchased systems
  • Project management
  • Database support
  • Recommend solutions for business needs

The latest version of this document supersedes any other copy and is available at https://it.tamu.edu/files/itss-business-guidelines.php.

For more information on ITSS services, please call 979.847.4877 (ITSS).

2. General ITSS Policies

ITSS strives to find solutions that best fit customer needs. To achieve this objective, ITSS has established the following general policies that encourage a cooperative effort among all project stakeholders:

  • ITSS asks each customer to select one person to serve as a liaison with ITSS personnel. This person defines and establishes priorities for all tasks assigned to ITSS personnel.
  • ITSS is committed to providing excellent service; therefore, staff members are required to undergo periodic training as part of their full-time workweek.
  • ITSS may ask staff members to cross-train on other customers’ projects. ITSS also retains the option to reassign personnel as projects evolve. This helps to ensure a depth of support and knowledge about each customer’s projects, and enhances ITSS' ability to provide a well-qualified support staff and better ongoing service. ITSS will coordinate any personnel changes with the customer liaison and will do its best to minimize the impact of the changes on the project.
  • The customer liaison may request that specific ITSS personnel be assigned to a project. While ITSS seriously considers these requests, it is not always possible to comply with such requests due to commitments to other projects. It is helpful if the customer provides as much advance notice as possible to facilitate scheduling and assigning desired personnel resources.
  • ITSS personnel participate in internal ITSS team activities. These activities will average no more than two hours per 40-hour workweek.
  • ITSS has developed an Application System Development Procedure (ASDP) for use when developing new applications or making major enhancements to existing applications. These procedures help control costs, ensure that systems meet customer requirements, and contribute to the timely delivery of applications.

2.1 ITSS Obligations

ITSS is committed to keeping the customer informed and aware of project activities. To facilitate communication, ITSS utilizes the ASDP guidelines to provide written and agreed upon descriptions of work to be completed, as well as status reports, risk analyses, and information on challenges such as record retention and copyright ownership. Cost estimates are provided, which include change budgets to allow for an expected measure of changes after the project is underway.

IT services are subject to a variety of regulatory forces. State and federal laws, university and A&M System rules, standard operating procedures, and technical guidelines can affect a project. These regulations are often technically complex, difficult to interpret, and subject to frequent changes. ITSS endeavors to comply with all such directives.

2.2 Customer Obligations

The effort expended by ITSS analysts is only part of the process in a project; the customer's participation also is vital. A project is best approached as a cooperative effort between the customer and ITSS, where continual feedback helps ensure the finished product meets the customer's needs.

The customer is expected to commit the time required for meeting with the ITSS analyst(s) and to provide any needed information. During the project, the customer should review the proposed solution as it develops to ensure their needs are being met. This reduces misunderstandings, helps to catch errors, and reduces costs by making corrections early in the process when they are less expensive. Finally, the customer must take an active part in testing the solution prior to its implementation to verify it meets their requirements. Once a solution is implemented and passes into the maintenance/support phase of the lifecycle, the customer should continue to assess the solution for meeting their needs.

The customer has responsibilities as the owner of a system and system data (i.e., Texas Administrative Code Title 1, Part 10, Chapter 202 and the associated Texas A&M University Rule 29.01.03.M1.21).

As a custodian of the customer's information resources, ITSS plays an important part in helping the customer meet its obligations under this university rule. However, the customer's delegation of computer support to ITSS does not abrogate their overall responsibilities under the rule. Ultimately, the owner is responsible for the system even though it may be developed, maintained, or supported by ITSS for the owner (i.e., the customer). For example, some of these responsibilities are associated with the following:

  • Providing security awareness training to staff, faculty, and student worker employees
  • Determining if departmental information is mission critical and/or confidential
  • Authorizing software applications for workstations and servers, including decisions about software versions and upgrades
  • Authorizing user account creation and modification, including decisions about who has access to which applications
  • Authorizing access for other entities (e.g., third-party vendors)
  • Allocating resources necessary for compliance with applicable regulations

Many regulations dictate "best practices" to protect state and university assets. While compliance does not guarantee safety, it may prevent or minimize damage to the application or its data, unauthorized use, or unauthorized information disclosure. Noncompliance also may have legal and administrative ramifications. 

ITSS will be happy to assist in locating these state and university regulations. For more information on state and university regulations, please visit the following websites:

ITSS' performance of the above tasks is dependent upon the customer allocating sufficient time and resources.

Additionally, ITSS works with the customer to keep the department or organization website/application compliant with legal and administrative regulations with which it is aware. This would include some or all of the following tasks:

  • Develop and test disaster recovery plans
  • Meet the requirements of the Texas A&M University Standard Administrative Procedure Information Resources – System Development and Acquisition (SAP 29.01.03.M1.21)
  • Address segregation of duties, privacy concerns and other audit concerns
  • Write system documentation
  • Ensure web accessibility
  • Conduct an annual automated web security review using a Texas A&M Information Technology approved tool
  • Provide project management services

ITSS' performance of the above tasks is dependent upon the customer allocating sufficient time and resources.

2.3 Ownership of ITSS-Developed Products

Unlike many commercial software development firms, ITSS does not charge royalties or license fees for the continued use of developed products. All ITSS-developed software and associated documents shall be owned by the A&M System member. If the customer so chooses, the customer can seek a copyright or have a patent registered to further protect the A&M System member's right of ownership.

Please be advised that ITSS reserves the right to reuse any software source code developed for any project in any future project, regardless of the customer. By reusing code, ITSS is able to reduce customers' costs.

For more information on how the university handles technical product ownership, contact:
Office of Technology Commercialization
800 Raymond Stotzer Parkway, Suite 2020
College Station, Texas 77845
Phone: 979.847.8682
Email: ttc@tamus.edu
Website: http://techtransfer.tamus.edu/

2.4 Customer Feedback

ITSS appreciates feedback from its customers. Please contact the support person or the project manager about any concerns, especially those regarding the quality of ITSS support or service. Meetings also may be scheduled to discuss concerns. Any members of the customer organization or ITSS management are welcome to attend these meetings.

2.5 Contract Modification Options

Options for contract modification include the following:

  • If the customer organization consistently requests more work than can be accomplished at the existing project staffing level and ITSS has additional personnel resources available, then the contracted staff time may be increased (at additional cost).
  • If the customer organization consistently requests less work than the existing project staffing level requires, then the contracted staff time may be reduced (at a reduced cost).
  • An existing project contract may be canceled by converting to hourly ad hoc support.
  • ITSS personnel may be added on a non-contract basis to perform one-time tasks that the customer liaison would rather the regularly assigned support staff not perform due to other assigned work.
  • An existing project contract may be terminated or the level of support changed by either the customer liaison or ITSS management with 30-day written notice.
  • ITSS will endeavor to notify the customer in writing at least 90 days prior to a rate increase to facilitate budget adjustments for the following fiscal year.

3. ITSS Custom Development Policies

Customer-centered design approaches to developing systems are utilized by ITSS. The customer role in defining project requirements, verification of design and acceptance testing of the final solution is vital to a successful project. The development team and the customer share in the responsibility through all phases of the project to insure success. 

When ITSS is contracted to develop new software applications or make modifications to existing applications, ITSS recommends strict adherence to its ASDP. These procedures use a systematic and organized approach to defining objectives, specifying details, implementing solutions, and providing long-term continuing support. It provides the best environment for successfully creating custom software systems. It is designed to keep the customer advised and in control of costs throughout the course of development.

Project Classification

The exact nature of the ASDP process differs according to the size and scope of the work requested by the customer. Project classifications are often referred to on the basis of required work hours; however, work hours alone do not determine project classification. 

There are other important factors determining project classification.  These are normally assessed at the beginning of a project, but significant discoveries of unanticipated complexity may require re-classification of a project. Some of these factors include:

  • Customer's ability to communicate what they need
  • Complexity of the system needed to meet the customer's defined needs
  • Technologies required to implement the system
  • The development team/person’s experience with the proposed technologies

Using these guidelines, the customer and the development team leader are able to select an appropriate procedure that best addresses their particular system needs. The following table presents the types of contracts offered and the development methodologies used for projects, based on the number of hours estimated for a project.

Contract Type Charge By Methodology 1-40 Hours Methodology 40-320 Hours1 Methodology Based on Complexity
Fixed-Term Software Development2 Hourly Small Project Authorization Memorandum Development Procedure A Formal Development Procedure
Open-Term Software Development3 FTE4 Not Applicable Memorandum Development Procedure A Formal Development Procedure
Maintenance FTE Software Problem Report Memorandum Development Procedure A Formal Development Procedure

Table 1 – Contract Types and Methodologies

  1. The 320-hour boundary can be extended if deemed appropriate and with the ITSS Associate Director' approval.
  2. This type of contract is based on a fixed cost estimate. The customer is usually billed with a lump sum when the service is complete.
  3. An on-going development contract charged monthly based on the number of FTE(s) assigned to the project. The customer assumes responsibility for most cost over-runs.
  4. Full Time Equivalency.

ITSS recognizes that custom programming requires flexibility; therefore, limited exceptions to classifications are considered at the project leader's discretion. In the event that both the project leader and customer liaison determine an exception may be appropriate, final approval from the ITSS Associate Director is required.

As a matter of policy, we respectfully reserve the right to require using additional ITSS development procedures when changes in the scope of work are warranted.

4. ITSS Software Maintenance Policies

4.1 Warranty Policy

If defects in the software developed by ITSS result in a system malfunction during the three-month warranty period, ITSS will correct the problem at no charge providing there has been no change both in the source code and in the working environment of the system. Please report any problem to the ITSS office at 979.847.4877 (ITSS).

4.2 Post-Warranty Policy

For support and/or enhancements after the warranty period, please contact the ITSS office at 979.847.4877 for an analysis of the work to be performed and time/cost estimates. If no support contract is in effect for the system, then a new contract will need to be negotiated to cover the analysis and any resulting work.

Over time, as older versions of software and hardware are no longer supported, it may be necessary to upgrade hardware, operating system software, or make other improvements. These changes may also require upgrading the developed software. Please be aware, these costs are the customer's responsibility.