CBC technology staff rides virtual Apollo 13

CBC/Radio-Canada is training its IT staff with a new simulation game that gives users the opportunity to relate IT infrastructure management (ITIL) processes within a recreation of the infamous Apollo 13 space mission.

Users are confronted with mission events and situations that correlate with computer operations as well as incident, problem and capacity management. The simulation is aimed at improving the efficiency of IT management.

“One of the biggest benefits of it was the team building aspect,” Fiona Soward, service manager for technology and quality of services at CBC/Radio-Canada, said. “Sometimes, we had people in different roles that they wouldn’t normally play within the organization. We would have senior management at a potentially lower position, so it’s interesting to see how they perceive the work being done at that level.”

The simulation, offered by Montreal-based Nexio Technologies, is a mix of screen projections which takes users through the different stages of the game, as well as direction from an instructor who drives the problems that occur during the flight.

“The users will play the role of mission control,” Stephen Goulet, vice-president of research and development at Nexio Technologies, said. “They will go through different incidents that will cause problems. They need to manage costs and make decisions in order to meet my expectations as mission director.”

At the start of the game, teams receive a scorecard which represents their service level agreement with NASA. Following the various game stages, the teams will report on their compliance. Game stages include building and launching the space shuttle, dealing with the disaster, making the journey home and landing. Before each phase a set of ITIL theory is explained in relation to the processes that are encountered during the simulation.

“I could inject incidents like a communication loss, so the shuttle can’t talk to mission control anymore,” Goulet said. “So, if they don’t react and change their priorities in this emergency they would lose points and that would affect their scores.”

In addition, Goulet said, if a company wants to test a particular staff member’s ability to lead, the simulation can be changed to meet that request.

“We can also position the simulation at different stages of an ITIL project, along with different situations and a different way of presenting them,” Goulet said.

For CBC/Radio Canada, the simulator gave its staff the opportunity to train and sharpen IT management skills outside the traditional classroom environment.

“Everybody’s heard of ITIL, IT service management (ITSM) and the rest of these buzzwords,” Soward said. “This was an opportunity to really see how it all ties together. One thing that was really amazing was that throughout the process, the people who are engaging in this game actually get to build their own processes and improve upon it.”

She said the IT staff that took the course left with a greater understanding of what processes can work effectively within the IT world.

“We have regions across the country and one of the things that we’ve really seen is that staff leave really hyped up about this,” Soward said. “And for the most part, we’ve seen a huge improvement.”

Soward estimated that about 90 CBC/Radio Canada employees have already trained with the program and that they are more likely to get further involved in the future.

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