LEAD Meeting on March 26, 2015

On March 26, 2015, the Office of Faculty and Organizational Development (F&OD) hosted a seminar for MSU Leadership and Administrators (LEAD) entitled “Moving Towards Best in Class Support Services.” During this session, Joanna Young, Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer, presented plans for moving technology at MSU to high performance.

Presentations delivered during this event are available in the Administrative Briefings area of the F&OD website. Below are questions submitted following the presentation with answers from Joanna Young.

Budgeting and Planning

Can the university budget distribution system be assessed to create value instead of creating inefficiencies/cost of units?

In brief, yes. Budgeting and planning processes and systems should be regularly assessed to ensure they are designed to optimize financial resources and bring value to organizations.

How can central administration help us to overcome the hurdle of our deferred maintenance?

IT organizations, including our own, should have a detailed understanding of their portfolio and assets, so they can plan the associated lifecycles and anticipated spend, preferably going out a number of years. Further, it’s not enough to understand the technology; we also need to tie the technology to the value to MSU. IT Services is accountable for ensuring this information is not just well known, but well understood. It’s IT Services’ responsibility to propose and influence how to best address deferred maintenance.

Will the results of the Deloitte study as well as other consultant reports be made public and what is the commitment to implement suggestions?

A communication plan for the Deloitte study is in process.

Centralization

IT is becoming a bigger challenge every day. I am glad to hear it is being addressed centrally. Will we be moving to a model whereby we will standardize/move central type services to IT Services (e.g., network build out and support, central systems procurement)?

IT Services is currently strengthening existing services, such as our virtual server and storage environments, so that we can offer services to more units. The goal is not centralization for centralization’s sake. The goal is to provide better technology, that more units can use.

We have begun to deliver more centralized IT tools. Who will mandate universal adoption?

IT Services’ goal is to provide effective, efficient services whereby the value of using them is readily understood and accepted. Mandates are not a mechanism we plan to use, with the exception of certain security services – we will not compromise the safety of MSU systems, data, and personnel.

Can we centralize the network?

In brief, yes. A unified network is a characteristic of a 21st century organization. We need a contemporary, robust network to support our research, education, and outreach mission.

Connectivity

How is the university coping with the exploding need for connectivity?

Network usage has been growing steadily at about 30-35% a year for the last five years, and by 2016 network peaks are expected to exceed 20 Gigabits per second. To handle these peaks, MSU is planning for, and has started to, upgrade MSU’s network infrastructure. Upgrading the campus backbone will ensure the network continues to function optimally for the campus community. The increased capacity also means the network will operate faster.

To keep up with network bandwidth usage and growth, a campus network backbone upgrade to increase capacity and meet future needs is currently underway by IT Services. There is also a multi-year project to install wireless network services across campus.

Data Management

What is the plan for data at MSU as it relates to governance?

I am very supportive of leveraging data that is currently inaccessible in silos. Could we improve mechanisms to harmonize data for both process improvement and our research mission?

Whose data is it? We don’t consider the multiple nature of data and often relegate considerations of requests to go to one place for permission as though there is a “czar” of data. In order for units addressing student success to be successful, access to data is critical.

Could we get a central solution for research data security and sharing? This is required by funding agencies after the project ends. Currently HPCC is for use during the research, not sharing after the fact. It will be important to check the needs of all colleges when developing central solutions since the needs are very different across campus.

The central data repositories maintained by IT Services endeavor to include all of the data (in one, easily accessible spot) necessary for end users to gather information, prepare and analyze strategic metrics, and make informed business operation decisions. While we have the main administrative systems included (SIS, Finance, HR, others), we are trying to better understand the reporting needs from more local systems and seek to partner with those units to include those data in the central repositories, as well to provide a more comprehensive solution for the institution.

As we move forward and mature in our data integration, we will need to add more value by combining and coordinating data from the various systems in such a way as to easily facilitate cross functional analyses and reports. Throughout this, we will be cognizant of the necessary data security issues for sensitive or protected data and other similar matters such that only appropriate staff access and report on the data.

Data centers

You mentioned 69 data centers. What do you believe is an ideal number for this campus (target number/goal)? Are you seeing a lot of cooperation with other departments to consolidate?

Ultimately MSU is probably best served by having two primary data centers for resiliency purposes. There may be varying opinions as to “two” versus another number, but MSU certainly doesn’t need 71, which is the number we now have discovered. There are very real security and reliability issues with our current situation.

How will IT Services overcome the culture on campus, or desire of units, to keep the hardware close at hand to keep “control” of their servers?

IT Services is becoming a new IT organization. We will overcome people’s concerns by providing quality technology services on a consistent basis. Two-factor authentication is a good example of how the “new IT” will deliver.

EBS

Why does EBS SAP operate so slowly, especially when using different browsers?

The performance of EBS, just like any other application, is dependent upon many factors including the specific application/functionality being used, the network or Internet connectivity, the individual laptop/desktop configuration, and other applications running on the laptop/desktop. Any specific performance issues should be reported to IT Services at itserve@msu.edu or (517) 432-6200.

Instructional Technology

Could you provide information on instructional technology (e.g., how faculty may take advantage of resources available)?

There is a growing need for support and coordination for faculty including facility support, faculty development, instructional design, instructional technology, and online learning services. IT Services provides a range of instructional services including instructional design and technology consulting for in-person, online, and blended classes. Opportunities exist between instructional support units for coordinated planning, prioritization, and budgeting to increase effectiveness and more tightly align to college and university priorities.

Information on what initiatives are currently underway to support faculty with instructional technologies, are posted on the IT Services 2014-2015 Action Plan. Existing resources are listed on the Technology at MSU website, under Teach and Learn.

Office 365

Could you clarify the timelines for Office 365 for all stakeholder groups?

Who pays for students?

What advantage does paying an annual fee for Office 365 offer a college that makes the investment worthwhile? Most organizations do not want their underlying tools changed frequently unless there is a high degree of benefit.

Michigan State University is transitioning student email to Microsoft Office 365 beginning with new undergraduate students during the summer and fall 2015 semesters. In 2016, all other MSU students will be transitioned. After which, Office 365 will be opened to interested academic and administrative units at MSU. Information about this is posted on the Technology at MSU website, tech.msu.edu/office365. Student use is covered centrally as will be the case for colleges and departments. No annual fee will be assessed.

An additional benefit from the license MSU has arranged with Microsoft is security. People using centrally-provided Office 365 can be assured they are on the most current version. Security issues inherent with outdated software may be exploited by malware to access and potentially damage systems. It is therefore important to keep software up to date. We strongly recommend running current, vendor-supported software and installing updates and patches as they are released. Visit MSU’s SecureIT website for more information to protect your computer and yourself.

Project Management

How will IT Services keep the MSU community informed of projects, their timelines and the prioritization of projects?

Could we have clear timelines and better communications with projects/services moved to central IT?

How can the way MSU approaches the balance between resources and desired projects be better prioritized? Sometimes we aren’t great at realizing we can’t achieve everything we’d like to achieve, with the resources we have in the time frames we’d like. Without realistic prioritization, it’s easy to spread resources so thin, trying to do so many things at once that we can’t do anything as would be optimal. Without very effective collaboration (different department’s high priority projects pull against the same resources). We need to get better at collaborative realistic prioritization.

Could we have a more robust project management system to enable cross campus collaboration? It would be more effective than the current piecemeal system.

Currently the options are limited. We are working on multiple approaches including monthly IT Project Status Reporting to the IT Council. IT Services is developing a monthly executive status report on IT projects. We are in the process of developing the format and then will work with the IT Council Executive Board to roll out the report. IT Services has just initiated a project to implement a single Project/Portfolio Management (PPM) tool. Some of the key processes being implemented will be:

  • Planning from “Idea” to “Authorized Project”
  • Planning Alignment with Business Plans
  • Project Prioritization Processes and Metrics
  • Project Status Reporting

Single Point of Contact

What’s the possibility of having one person to work with at IT Services and having them navigate the interworkings?

The IT Services Support Desk serves as the single point of contact for requests and incidents. In addition, the Business Relationship Management Team establishes and maintains relationships between service providers and customers based on understanding the customer’s needs. The team defines business requirements for services and works with customers to ensure services deliver on expectations. Both groups may be contacted by calling (517) 432-6200 or sending an email to ithelp@msu.edu.

Storage

What storage can people use for backups? People use dropbox, box, etc., but these are often too small for full backups.

Is there a plan to provide collaborative tools and data storage in support of research, be it centrally-supported, resources allocated to the colleges, or via TLE or other mechanism?

When will we have back for critical servers, 20GB or more space, a flexible and configurable research infrastructure?

Could IT absorb storage costs or provide up to a certain amount of space?

If there was one thing that could be improved it is scalable, flexible, collaborative, IT research infrastructure (data storage, virtual machines, backup)? Is there a plan to provide this?

There is a plan to bring Box, a cloud-hosted service, for access, storage, and sharing of content securely. Box also provides shared online workspaces for team collaboration, secure file transfers, a mobile app, file commenting, and versioning. This service will be rolled out following impending improvements to MSU’s identity management system planned for the end of 2015.

Technology Training

Could we have core competency training for staff in the units?

Yes. Visit tech.msu.edu/support/training for information on group, custom, one-on-one, and online training offerings. Specific core competency training may be addressed with at-your-side training.

Tools

Will the university pursue an agreement with Qualtrics online survey software so it is available for faculty, staff, and student use?

There are ongoing negotiations with Qualtrics to establish an enterprise license agreement.

Will the university be securing an enterprise customer relationship tool for use by MSU departments?

IT Services has a master subscription agreement with Salesforce.com. A request for proposal process is underway to select a qualified consultant to complete a CRM assessment with an emphasis on Salesforce.com. The major goals of this project are to provide MSU with an objective fact-based CRM system implementation recommendation. RFP recipients will be asked to address feasibility, viability, business case, and an enterprise-wide implementation strategy while detailing cost, effectiveness, sustainability, usability and integration with existing MSU IT systems and landscape.

Web Accessibility

What resources are available to help communication groups and IT areas deal with accessibility requirements? Could a center be formed for departments to turn to for help? Many individual communications departments do not have the resources or knowledge to tackle this.

There are many resources available to help MSU departments meet our current web accessibility requirements; specifically the technical guidelines for meeting WCAG 2.0 AA standards. Resources including training, evaluating websites, and quick reference and getting started guides are on the Web Accessibility website, webaccess.msu.edu. MSU departments and employees are asked to update their web pages, online course materials, and e-texts used to conduct university business or academic activities to a minimum conformance level of AA.

Although a center for accessibility has not been formed, the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives is available to answer questions related to the MSU policy and discuss exception requests to the policy. Technical questions may be directed to Web Accessibility Liaisons within the individual colleges and departments across campus. IT staff have community support through the MSU WebDev CAFE and questions about course accessibility may be answered by IT Services Teaching and Learning Technology at (517) 432-0711. MSU Usability/Accessibility Research and Consulting (UARC) conducts full website and document accessibility evaluations, provides training, and is available for accessibility consulting. Individuals may also contact the IT Services Support Desk at (517) 432-6200 or by emailing itserve@msu.edu.