Text Messaging Leads to COMMON-IBM Innovation Award
May 9, 2011 Dan Burger
Because text messaging is the communications lifeline for college students, this communication technique is a natural for the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. It only makes sense for FIDM to reach its students via text. Not only is it smart communications, it’s smart marketing. And as it turned out, it was a very good way to win an award for innovation, which is annually presented by IBM and COMMON.
“We needed a way to get in touch with students via the medium they use to communicate,” Roxanne Reynolds-Lair told me on the phone Friday. “They don’t answer emails or telephone messages the same way they respond to texts.” Reynolds-Lair is the CIO at FIDM, where IT innovation is wired into the business of education. The core business computing environment is IBM i.
The CIO expected to find a commercial application that would fit the school’s needs, but came up empty-handed. So FIDM put its own IT staff on this job. The team responded by cranking out the needed application, which runs on top of a Power Systems 770 running IBM i and integrated with an IBM Portal.
In short, this project integrates text messaging with FIDM’s existing telephone land lines so calls could be initiated by school administrators, but end up on student cell phones where they could reply via text messaging. It uses a gateway to “translate” the call from the land line to text messaging and back via email. IBM Lotus Sametime is used to alert FIDM admissions advisors when texts are received.
“Everything we do builds on a technology infrastructure that we have,” Reynolds-Lair says. “It uses that foundation and adds to it.”
FIDM relies on the IBM i operating system, plus Lotus and WebSphere software to provide its foundation for innovation. This was not its first award-winning venture down Innovation Street.
This is its fourth IBM-COMMON Innovation Award. FIDM also won in 2005, 2007, and 2009.
During the COMMON 2011 Annual Meeting and Exposition, which was held last week in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Reynolds-Lair said two companies talked with her about how they could implement similar projects.
“It’s one of those things that is a little bit under the radar, but it’s a no brainer when you start talking about it,” she says.
“We’ll provide guidelines to other organizations that are interested in doing similar projects, but we’re not in the business to sell code. We write our applications and create technology solutions for our own college. It makes the college run better and it improves our service to the students.”
Looking to the future, Reynolds-Lair says the IT team at the Fashion Institute will be working on projects involving PowerHA as well as expanding its use of its portal and WebSphere Content Management. The portal is currently deployed for student and employee use. The upcoming developments will make use of the portal as a public-facing website.
COMMON and IBM jointly sponsor the Innovation Awards to recognize outstanding achievements in IT departments running Power Systems. Last year, the award was presented to the West Haven, Connecticut, Police Department for its mobile information system.