Bridging the Digital Horizon

March 20, 2019
The University Technology and Information Plan is under way

The University Technology and Information Plan kicked off in the fall of 2018. The IT strategic plan is linked to the University Strategic Plan, with each of its four goals aligning to one or more of the University’s strategic goals.

The vision of the plan is: “Faculty, students, and staff will harness modern technologies and robust information resources to enable teaching excellence, facilitate scholarship and innovation, promote student success, and facilitate responsible stewardship. The University will invest in the ability of students, faculty and staff to use technology effectively, operate IT efficiently and protect the information security of its community.”

Vice President for Information Services and CIO Keith W. “Mac” McIntosh says, “We are committed to working in collaboration with our students, faculty, and staff to fulfill the vision by implementing four overarching goals.“

The four goals align with the goals of the University strategic plan. Goal one, which aligns with the Academic Excellence strategic plan goal, is to “Support effective and innovative teaching and learning with technology.”

Goal two, which aligns with Academic Excellence and a Thriving and Inclusive Community is to “Provide digital tools and information to help students develop effective academic plans and to deepen their co-curricular engagement.

Goal three, which is to “Enable faculty, student, and administrative support services that are efficient and data driven,” aligns with the Stewardship goal of the University strategic plan.

Also aligned with the Stewardship goal is the IT plan’s fourth goal, to “Adopt leading IT management practices and develop organizational competencies to effectively and securely use technologies.”

Each of the four goals has a number of initiatives associated with it. Information Services is approaching these initiatives in three phases between 2018 and 2023. The first phase, which began in the fall of 2018, includes the following initiatives:

  • 1.5 Expand research and scholarly computing support services including consultation, high performance computing and access to research software.
  • 3.1 Support redesigned processes with digital workflows, electronic signatures, and document management capabilities.
  • 4.1 Implement IT governance.
  • 4.2 Adopt IT Service Management methods and a service management software application across IS.
  • 4.3 Create an IS-wide project management office and adopt consistent tools and practices for resource planning and project management.
  • 4.4  Maintain up to date business continuity strategy and disaster recovery plan in alignment with institutional priorities
  • 4.5 Develop a comprehensive security strategy and security awareness program

Work on all these initiatives will continue into the 2020 calendar year, when the second phase of initiatives will kick off. The third phase is scheduled to begin in May of 2021.

Dr. Fred HagemeisterWhile the work of the first phase initiatives is ongoing, there have been noteworthy achievements. For initiative 1.5, which seeks to expand research and scholarly computing support services, Research Analyst Dr. Fred Hagemeister has worked with his team to support a High Performance Computing (HPC) proof-of-concept project in which representative faculty from across campus tested their computationally-intensive research projects in an environment provided by the Physics Department and set up by Senior System Administrator Sasko Stefanovski.  A report with recommendations was presented to both A&S and the Provost Offices to make determinations. In addition, IS has provided consultation to A&S for the development of a 12-18 month position to support computing-intensive research in the STEM-6 departments.

Susan GalvinInitiative 4.2, which calls to implement IT service management methods and software, is an all-IS effort, led by Susan Galvin, Manager of the Project Office. Susan and a core group of IS staff have begun implementation of SpiderTechNet (or “The Net”), an IT service management solution which will eventually facilitate almost every aspect of Information Services’ operations. The team started working on the project management module. Soon, work will begin on incident management and asset management. Improvements to IS workflows will result in improvements to service for students, faculty, and staff.

Clovis KhouryFor initiative 4.4, which focuses on disaster recovery and business continuity, Clovis Khoury, Manager, Data Center, and his team conducted a disaster recovery test of the University’s servers. In testing that was completed in December 2018, we eliminated aging tape technology for backup and restores. We also reduced the time to recover systems from seven days to one day. In addition, we reduced data loss from seven days to one day. This testing means that if we have a Data Center disaster, Clovis and his team will be able to restore services much quicker and with less data loss than ever before. That means faculty, staff, and students will be back in operation much sooner than they would have been just a year ago.

Progress is being made with all of the phase one initiatives. Beginning in March 2019, two additional initiatives are getting under way:

  • 1.1 Create an integrated virtual and physical center for faculty to access academic technology, research and instructional design support.
  • 4.6 Strengthen and expand our organizational capabilities.

Soon, a website will be launched to track the progress of all of the strategic plan initiatives. Information Services will continue to update the website as we continue to work on the University’s first IT strategic plan.