IVR Admin Hack Day


IVR Admin Hack Day

Traditionally, Hack Days or Hackathons are reserved for software developers.  However, the term works quite well for any group gathering with a focused mission over a concentrated, uninterrupted period of time.

Group:  Product Owner (Doug Zabransky), 3 Sys Admins (Al Neustadter, Jason McClure and Herb Parker) and Developer (Liwen Liu)
Mission:  Test, Demonstrate and Document new IVR Client Installations Seeking Competency and Speed
Time Period: One workday
Lunch Provided: 1 Large Veggie Pizza, Coke and Sprite
Client Software: asp.net Web App Framework, IIS, Voxeo Prophecy IVR, IVR Junction Sample Voice Forum
Client Hardware:  Asus X202E 11.6 inch Ultrabooks, Windows 8 Touch Screen

Project Background
Our office’s first IVR deployment was in Bamako, Mali.  We used a Microsoft Research product call IVR Junction.  IVR Junction runs on a single laptop using Voxeo Software and a gsm modem used to convert to Voice over IP (Read More).

Looking towards expanding the Mali prototype to other cities led us down the road of a central IVR server to manage all clients.  The server would handle the configuration and management  of  Client IVR systems or branches.  A centrally managed server would allow for rapid client deployment and easier management for a global IVR network.


Our day did not get fully started until 10:30.  However, laptops were ready to go and everyone appeared to have had enough coffee.   As the Hack Day coordinator and IVR product owner I kicked us off with a more complete list of goals I hoped to accomplish.

  1. Demonstrated client installation competency and speed
  2. Slim down original IVR code base by losing vestigial modules and local client database
  3. No Client side Visual Studio compilation necessary or Visual Studio Pro installation
  4. Custom Windows 8 touch startup screen locked with IVR client and server components and documentation
  5. Multi-modem test with multiple SIP ports using newly acquired at&t SIM cards
  6. USB imaging for new installations and recovery
  7. First revision of an official Client Installation guide

How did we do?
Of these 7 tasks we scored a 4 with two tasks getting a ½ point each.

Overall, the day was a success based on what went right but equally based on what went wrong.  While we did demonstrate client installations and gained competency in the procedure the speed part of it was not obtainable so goal 1 was given a half-point.

Goals 2 and 3 were completed by the developer even before starting the day so two points came free.  Sending this list early to all participants before the Hack Day paid benefits.  Our installations proved these goals to be true so full points were given.

Goals 4 and 5 we ran out of time.  Goal 6 was successfully demonstrated by Acronis expert Al Neustadter and Goal 7 was completed by Herb Parker but only given a half-point since we will need to expand the installation guide to include the modem installation which we just did not have time to do.

Biggest Observations and Blockers

It turns out that our administrators had very little experience working through Windows 8 Touch.  Navigating to familiar administrative menus was tough.  Technically, they encountered a myriad of layered IIS security issues from virtual directories to simple directory write permissions.  Software installations and out-of-the-box updates were chewed up quite a bit of Hack Day time.  This was a painful reminder of the installation challenges associated with Microsoft which led to a fruitful discussion about porting the code over to a linux client.

With that said there is acknowledgement of administrator or user error along with new software growing pains.  That is really what our Hack Day was about – Learning what we didn’t know and growing from the experience.  Special thanks to everyone that participated.


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Doug Zabransky

Doug Zabransky

Doug Zabransky is the Technical Services Manager for the Office of Digital & Design Innovation.

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