Stakeholder Meetings November 5, 2008


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Stakeholder Meetings November 5, 2008

  1. 1. Stakeholder Meetings November 5, 2008 Information Systems 14:00-15:30 Introductions and Opening Remarks The purpose of the meeting and session objectives were reviewed. There will be five sessions, with groups of individuals representing Teaching and Learning, Research and Scholarship, Administration, Information Systems, and Students. Transcripts of all five sessions will be distributed to all participants. Early in the New Year a draft of the IT (Information Technology) strategic plan will be distributed. It is hoped that it will reflect the input received at these sessions. Everyone is encouraged to read the recently released External Review of UBC’s Central Information Technology Unit. The first six recommendations of the report focus on the role of UBC’s CIO (Chief Information Officer), IT governance, and IT funding model. The issue of UBC’s IT funding model is being addressed. There is a working group charged with determining: what infrastructure services UBC requires, the cost of scaling services to provide what is required, the cost of sustainment, and key performance indicators. Review of Guiding Principles For a strategic plan to succeed, it is necessary for everyone in the organization to know what the plan is, and how what they do contributes. The principles express the values for all members of the IT department to share: cooperation, sharing, helping each other, and leveraging efforts through collaboration. We would very much appreciate feedback on the principles. Is there anything missing? Is there anything that shouldn’t be there? • Are these new? • UBC IT: Some are new, for example: Usability and Open Standards. Most were easy to write down (reflecting long-established values). General Discussion • UBC IT: What are the priorities in your area – yours or your unit’s? • Virtualization is a very big thing for ’09. We want to see a full offering: virtual platforms, virtual networking, virtual firewalls… Also, aligning with PeopleSoft and expanding the use of (PeopleSoft) services. • Do you see yourself going 100% virtual? • It depends: if it’s mandated, if it’s cost effective, we will use it. • UBC IT: We’re trying to make it (virtual services offerings) so that everyone is better off. • UBC IT: We want it to be so that the default approach is to start with the virtual environment – ask the question: “why shouldn’t we virtualize?”
  2. 2. • We want to go with virtual wherever we can, but we expect we won’t be able to do it everywhere. For example, a new service may require a very special environment. We will try it with virtual, but it may not work. • Virtual is important, but the SAN (storage area network) is critical. It must be scalable, fast, and accessible. It also needs to be available at other locations. Can we recognize existence beyond the four campus locations? Note that VGH (Vancouver General Hospital) is not recognized as a campus – but it’s huge, receiving a third of the funding. VGH falls outside of the UBC network funding model. Two things are important: connectivity to the off-campus sites (this is paid for separately) and getting up-to-date technology at the off-campus sites. • UBC IT: We need to get rid of the distinction of hospitals as ancillaries. • Finance runs part of an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system. In a corporate environment, we would expect uniform email, LDAP (lightweight directory access protocol), etc. Here everything is different – everyone has different email, for example. CWL (campus-wide login) doesn’t have some necessary security features – for example, forcing password changes every 30 days. Lack of consistency makes using ERPs difficult. • UBC IT: Should there be a minimum level of technical support for everyone on campus? Everyone gets an email address, a phone, some computing access, etc? • I’m thinking more of corporate capabilities such as LDAP for ERP access. Identity management, etc. • UBC IT: Currently, we have no way to fund anything we can’t charge for. If we could offer identity management, workflow, authentication, authorization, etc, would that suit your needs? • Yes • Communication is increasingly a problem. We keep getting requests for email addresses, but there is no incentive for people to keep them up to date. Nothing compels people to do this. If people could be inspired to keep this up to date while doing something else … If we could at least associate Employee Id with email address. It’s a bit easier with Interchange (email). • Sometimes I think we should have “Exchange for All”. When you start, you get Exchange, when you leave, it’s taken away. • We’re doing some “on boarding” work. We’d like to automate more. • UBC IT: In moving forward with SOA (service-oriented architecture) and Identity Management, we’d like to do a functional workshop with use cases. • What keeps me up at night is privacy and security. In Medicine, we have a program to identify where private data sets are not properly protected. This includes patient data. • UBC IT: What would you like from IT?
  3. 3. • We’d like a way to track where all the data sets are, what sensitive data is there, how it’s exposed, and when it was last audited for security. This is a battle the whole university will have to fight. • UBC IT: Everyone shares this concern. • Yes, for us privacy is very important. • As soon as you give people a reporting tool, they can go anywhere. • You need policies, with education and guidelines on how to follow the policies. There needs to be a service to help with this – tools you can use in your environment. At Calgary you take courses to gain privileges for access to patient data, at increasing levels. • What keeps us up at night? A few issues – not many. What’s governance going to be – a vote, or a steering committee? We want to know how stakeholder influence will affect decisions. • UBC IT: We need stakeholder input. How do we know that we’re spending funds effectively? What are the elements of IT governance that would be effective for your unit? What kinds of forums and other input mechanisms? It’s possible that a committee for IT governance could evolve from the funding model initiative. • What kind of authority would the committee have? We would want it to have some voting power – decision making authority. • UBC IT: We would like the committee to have authority over standards as well as authority over funding. • If $150 million is being spent, how is it being spent effectively? Are expenditures in alignment with strategic goals of the university? We need to understand this. • We have control over administrative and instructional computing, but none over research computing. Of the 480 people doing IT, how many are in which categories? We need more nuanced numbers. • Our pain points relate to future planning and the identity management and unified communications committees. We have pain points that could be addressed by better SQL access to SIS (student information system), FMS (finance management system), and HRMS (human resources management system). We’re tired of maintaining separate datasets. Also, why is there a separate grad admissions process, consuming lots of staff time across many departments? It even maintains its own list of institutions. • Other issues: 1. Access to data - There are multiple canonical data sources (SISC, HRMS, FMS) to which it would be useful to have SQL (structured query language) based access; the intent of the Identity Management and SOA initiatives is to make this data available. To authorized consumers of the data; it would be useful to gain access to this data sooner (now!) rather than later (when Identity Management and SOA are implemented); semi-automated and/or manual access already exists to
  4. 4. the data (SISC exports; SISCftp repository; HRMS/FMS reporting, perhaps emailed). I'm asking for access to data using SQL so that I can build systems that augment rather than duplicate the existing canonical systems. 2. Communications re Sympa (open source mailing list software) can be used: a. Sympa is a particularly powerful mailing list server that provides the ability to structure mailing list hierarchically (not just simple list inclusion) and the ability to create authorization scenarios (forward email subject to sender confirmation and moderator approval, etc.) b. As incentive to update contact information; e.g. by adding their email address to HRMS, a faculty member can be added to the faculty email list c. To set up employment-group-related mailing lists on a department-by- department basis d. To avoid the need to maintain a dataset (subscriber list) when there already exists a possible canonical dataset (HRMS) e. Solution: SQL access to HRMS data to configure Sympa ( to populate the subscribers of mailing lists automatically; also like to have SQL access to SIS data in order to populate Sympa mailing lists but that's probably more difficult to arrange f. Solution: UBC IT could deploy Sympa for the entire campus 3. Communications re MADHU (VPs, Deans and Administrative Heads of Units) o stop asking to "forward as appropriate" emails sent to MADHU from all over campus; at the very least stop asking to forward the emails regarding research grant deadlines o add a tagged posting system (such as what UBC IT has for their bulletins website,; faculty members can subscribe to the RSS (web feed format) feeds that they care about (i.e, NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council), CFI (Canada Foundation for Innovation) but not CIHR (Canada Institute of Health Research)) and receive these announcements from UBC VP Research, UBC Research and Trust Accounting, UBC Office of Research Services, UBC University Industry Liaison Office directly rather than through the let's-get-MADHU- to-forward-it mechanism 4. Improved interface o many individuals at UBC have multiple roles but the way these are presented at is confusing o one solution: modify the underlying data structure and administration interface so that titles / contact info can be associate with units; modify the display such that the titles / contact info are presented on a unit-by-unit (or role-by-role) basis 5. Graduate admissions process o why is each unit having a graduate program required to manage their admissions process independently? Why can't there be SQL (structured
  5. 5. query language) access to the current admissions database used by Faculty of Graduate Studies? o solution: procure / develop a central system for graduate admissions 6. Vista o problem: adoption of WebCT (Web Classroom Training application)/Vista in Electrical and Computer Engineering is low because the management interface is too cumbersome o solution: Sakai Project (open source collaboration and courseware management platform) • UBC IT: The answer to why Graduate Studies have their own admission system goes back to the old funding model. There was no strategic planning and without funding, they went their own way. • UBC IT: Shadow systems are not bad. Departments have a need for functionality that can’t be provided centrally. But the only way they have to solve the problem is to build full systems. What we want to have is shadow systems built on common data. • UBC IT: When a department builds a good service, it should be made available to everyone. • UBC IT: What are the common services that everyone needs? • What is important and lacking, is interoperability standards. IT did something very good by arranging an Oracle site licence. Everyone could use the same standard, which made getting data from central sources very easy. If you can’t get funding for central services, then make it possible to build for coordination. Is there a standard we can build around? Virtualization, etc? As we build our shadow systems, we should get together to see if there is a way to avoid duplicating data. • There is a need for an auditing and assessment process where we can make sure people aren’t duplicating work. We have many information sources where access control is by IP (internet protocol) address. If the IP address changes, it’s very difficult to get the information out to vendors. • In some ways, UBCO (UBC Okanagan) is more like what UBCV (UBC Vancouver) is striving for. Things we collaborate on include Exchange – but we have to be independent of the network, in case it goes down. Our hands do what UBCV needs. We need to try to get above “it’s my money or your money”. It comes down to stepping back and looking at what’s best for the institution. The tough things are when within the model of centralization you get pushback when you make a decision. With email addresses, for example: all faculties wanted their names as part of the address, but the decision was to use It takes a bit of courage and a thick skin, because people will always complain. But if you approach from what is best for the institution as a whole, then it’s easier. Centralizing IT isn’t going to be all new money, and that’s harder. But everyone has to step back and cooperate.
  6. 6. • With regard to pushback, we can mitigate it if there is voting representation from the units. We need to have ongoing stakeholder input to make this work. • UBC IT: The idea is not to get advice on how to centralize IT. But one thing is to replace the funding that now comes from the sale of services – cost recovery. • We’re looking for economies on the scale of enterprise-wide software licencing. • Yes – with the whole university, there is considerable leverage. • It comes down to purchasing power. We dilute it by buying from different vendors: Dell, IBM, etc. If UBC goes with one vendor, we’ll get support you wouldn’t believe. The vendor will step up to it. • UBC IT: The question to ask is “why shouldn’t we do it this way?” What are my legitimate reasons for not doing it? • It scales out – not just hardware, but also software, SAN storage, etc. • UBC IT: As an ancillary, the $10/gigabyte reflects all costs, right down to janitorial. We have all the disadvantages of a business, and none of the advantages. • SAN snap-shotting gives off-the-shelf backup. As another example, we’re using the same licences as ISI – but they were purchased separately. • Another pain point is that we have very old wiring – Cat 3 cable that was installed in the ‘80s, and not covered by UNP (University Networking Program). Upgrades for just the downstairs area will cost $150,000 to $300,000. Pockets have been upgraded, but the problem remains for most areas. • UBC IT: I wish we had known this 5 years ago. • The port charges went away, but that was all. • Just don’t go down the route where you charge at the line item level – $10 for a drill, and $2 for a ladder. • It was very refreshing to view the recommendations in the review report. Our reaction is yes, yes! It would be good to have a website to give feedback – make the document accessible on a wiki or whatever to get feedback. • What are the next steps? • UBC IT: We will take away the information from these sessions, put it into a format to absorb, and then take it to management. We’ll then circle back to communicate with you. Note that some of this applies to UBC IT, but much of it to IT at UBC. My focus is on the latter as much as the former. I have told the UBC executive that it’s important that UBC have an IT strategy that is linked to the university strategy.