NextGen Michigan

NextGen - Newsletter from the Office of the CIO

December 2013

This monthly newsletter is sent to the Michigan IT community to provide updates, answer questions, and spark conversation about the projects that the university is undertaking as part of NextGen Michigan, a university-wide effort to improve IT services and invest in technologies that support U-M's current and future needs. Please direct questions or comments to

In this Issue:

Message from the CIO

Laura Patterson

Our university community thrives on diversity—of opinions, disciplines, people, and processes. Our academic specialties and unique expertise are the foundation of U-M's excellence, and I believe we are at our best when we come together and work toward the common good. Our IT community is no different, and our greatest achievements this fall have emerged from our commitment to partnering with individuals from across campus.

This fall, the IT Executive Committee and the IT Council endorsed an initial draft of the IT Strategic Plan, which they described as "well-informed," and should provoke positive campus discussion about IT at U-M. The plan is a strong example of cross-discipline collaboration and discussion, with over 200 deans, faculty, staff, and student contributors to date. I look forward to broad campus feedback and discussion around the plan in the coming months.

I am also pleased to share that Ted Hanss, Medical School CIO, and David Sweetman, LSA IT Director, have agreed to help bring to life the aspirations collectively expressed during the Michigan IT Town Halls held last March and April. Catherine Lilly, who facilitated the town hall discussions, also agreed to guide this effort. Expect to hear more from Ted, David and Catherine in the coming months.

As always, I am interested in hearing what's on your mind—what are we doing well and what do we need to improve. Send me a message at or connect with me via Google+. I look forward to what 2014 brings.

— Laura Patterson

Michigan IT

U-M IT Strategic Plan: What You Need to Know

The IT Strategic Plan (Version 1.0), the current iteration of U-M's IT strategy, describes information and communication technology solutions to advance the university's core missions. Rollout of the plan is one of several Fiscal Year 2014 University IT Priorities. Here are a few key facts you should know:

  • The plan is being implemented so that U-M can position itself to be increasingly effective in responding to the IT needs of the campus community both now and in the future.
  • Work on the plan began in Fiscal Year 2012 with interviews and "envisioning-the-future" exercises involving deans, executive officers and other thought leaders across campus.
  • The plan represents the input of more than 200 contributors—deans, faculty, staff, IT and student leaders.
  • The IT Executive Committee and the IT Council endorsed this initial draft of the plan in fall 2013.
  • Academic deans reviewed and discussed the plan during fall 2013.
  • During winter 2014, the IT Council will facilitate discussions with schools, colleges and departments to ensure the plan is aligned with units' mission-unique requirements. Understanding and responding to the specific needs of faculty, researchers and unit IT staff is a vital and pivotal component of the planning strategy.
  • The entire campus community will be invited to share their thoughts about the plan in fall 2014.

If you have any questions or comments, please email them to

FY15 IT Capital Request Prioritization

For Fiscal Year 2015, twenty IT Capital Investment requests were reviewed and prioritized by the following U-M IT governance committees: Administrative Domain Advisory Committee, Information and Infrastructure Assurance, Knowledge, Research, Teaching and Learning, Unit IT Steering Committee and the IT Council. CIO Laura Patterson then presented the priority recommendations to the IT Executive Committee on Tuesday, December 3. The IT Executive Committee agreed with the recommended priorities and commented on their appreciation for this process. They will use this list to aid in their budgetary decisions this spring as part of the university's annual budget process and at that time the requests approved for funding will be made publicly available.

The prioritization process is executed annually and in alignment with the university's budget process to help ensure U-M's limited resources are used to support the most important IT needs and the best ideas. This undertaking is made possible by allowing U-M IT governance to review and compare IT requests collectively instead of on a case-by-case basis. The approach has many benefits, including aligning IT expenditures with the IT Strategic Plan, providing a way to view funding needs over multiple years, fostering more unit collaboration, and helping the institution provide next generation technologies for multiple unit needs.

Additional information about the request process and schedule (as well as an FAQ) is available on the Office of the CIO website. Questions should be sent to

Identity and Access Management (IAM) Assessment to Begin in January

You may soon be asked to participate in an assessment of Identity and Access Management (IAM) environments, systems, and processes across the university. The U-M Health System (UMHS) and ITS issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) over the summer for definition of a long-term, university-wide IAM strategy and roadmap. Purchasing is working now on the final stages of engaging a vendor for that work.

In January, the selected vendor will begin an independent, vendor-neutral assessment of the university's IAM environment, including all current IAM systems (for example, Novell/NetIQ, RSA, Microsoft, custom development), tools, processes, and hardware components. ITS and UMHS, including the Medical School, will work with the vendor to reach out to stakeholders across all U-M campuses to gather input through focus groups and more.

If there are stakeholders in your department/unit who should be involved, please let us know (send email to Plan now to spend some time in the new year thinking about the current and future state of IAM at the university. Take a look at the IAM website and gather documentation of IAM systems and processes in your own department/unit to share with the vendor conducting the assessment. The assessment is expected to be completed by about April 2014. Then planning will begin for implementing the new roadmap.

To learn how IAM fits into the university's strategic planning, see the IT Strategic Plan on the Office of the CIO website.

U-M Begins Pilot of Amazon Web Services

Amazon Web Services

The NextGen Cloud Computing project has been working with the campus community and IT governance groups since the fall of 2012 to establish a primary provider of cloud-based infrastructure services. The recent signing of an enterprise agreement with Amazon Web Services (AWS) was one of several project milestones required to make it easier for the campus community to use on-demand IT resources in the cloud and expand our shared infrastructure.

The cross-campus effort is part of the second phase of the project, which focuses on the long-term strategy to adopt more public cloud services to meet campus IT needs. The first phase of the NextGen Cloud Computing project focuses on transitioning physical and virtual servers to the new MiServer or MiDatabase services, an effort that continues today. Both phases are aimed at reducing costs and effort while offering innovative and flexible IT solutions.

The project has since finalized most details of the U-M offering of Amazon Web Services, and in early December, a group of campus users began the first service pilot. A second pilot will start in January. The pilots will test the technical solution to verify functionality and determine the effectiveness of training and end-user support documentation.

Based on the outcomes of the service pilots, the project team will continue to refine details of the service design and support model. General availability of the service is expected to follow the pilot early in the 2014 calendar year.

If you are interested in participating in the January pilot, please contact If you have any questions in the meantime, please feel free to contact our Cloud Sourcing Manager, Bob Sabourin (rsabes) or Terry Houser (thouser). You can also keep up on the project on the NextGen Michigan website.

M+Amazon Web Services: An Overview

With the University of Michigan's enterprise agreement, the U-M community may opt-in to use the Amazon Web Services' (AWS) cloud-based IT infrastructure services under a U-M Master Account. The goal is to enhance and simplify access to the full catalog of AWS services for U-M users. The university-supported service enabled by the agreement is currently in pilot as M+Amazon Web Services (M+AWS) and includes the following features:

  • Legal protections under U-M's negotiated enterprise agreement.
  • Direct billing of AWS charges to an authorized U-M shortcode.
  • Access to all Amazon Web Services products, including GovCloud for compliance.
  • Support for direct billing through the ITS Service Center.
  • Opportunity to benefit from lower prices as M+AWS usage grows on campus.

M+Amazon Web Services does NOT currently support the use of Protected Health Information (PHI) under the guidelines of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The project will continue to work on adding HIPAA support in the future. For more information on sensitive data types permitted in M+AWS, see the Sensitive Data Guide to IT Services.

ServiceLink Platform Expands

Information and Technology Services (ITS) and IT in LSA rolled out the latest releases of ServiceLink on Friday, October 18 and Friday, December 13. ServiceLink is a cloud-based, enterprise application that provides an end-to-end service management solution—from resolving incidents to managing changes in the service environment to delivering knowledge support for service offerings.

The October release covered knowledge management and problem management. In December, functionality was added that allows ITS to better understand how hardware and software relates to IT services on campus, providing a clearer picture of the impact incidents and changes have on the computing environment.

The updates made in December prepared the ground for the activation of change management for ITS, which is targeted to begin in late January 2014. ServiceLink will have additional releases over the coming year, each focusing on a different set of functions and services.

The new ServiceLink platform allows the ITS and LSA Service Centers to better assist those who need help by giving their IT support staff faster, more reliable access to data, records, and knowledge resources. "ServiceLink supports the university's multi-year strategy for changing U-M's IT service approach and investing in technologies that advance the university's mission, as well as improve productivity and reduce operational costs," says Holly Nielsen, a co-sponsor of the ServiceLink project for ITS.

Most of the changes made to date by the implementation of ServiceLink have been transparent to the wider U-M community and have not impacted how users normally interact with the ITS and LSA IT Service Centers. To learn more about ServiceLink, visit the project site and read the FAQ. Or join the new ServiceLink Community on Google Plus.

IT4U Webinars Offer Jumpstart for U-M Collaborative Tools

Looking to take your Google and Box skills to the next level? IT4U webinars offer UM-specific tips and techniques for collaboration tools, including M+Google, M+Box, and CTools. You can view live demonstrations, ask questions, and watch webinar recordings. The webinars are typically 30-45 minutes, with presenters from Information & Technology Services and across campus.

All webinar recordings are available on the NextGen Michigan website. Recent episodes have included:

  • M+Box Shared Accounts (IT4U28)
    A shared account is not connected with an individual user, so it's an ideal place to store departmental or project content.

  • Intro to Google Hangouts (IT4U27)
    Get started with your first online meeting or video-chat via Google Hangouts. Learn how to invite participants, adjust your camera and microphone, share documents and your screen, and more.

  • Intro to Google+ (IT4U26)
    Connect with people and organizations through Google's social network. Set up your profile, create circles and communities.

  • Google Sites, Part 2 (IT4U25)
    Customize your site, integrate other Google apps (videos, files, groups).

The January IT4U episode will focus on Google Forms (for surveys, events planning, or quizzes) and Presentations (online slideshows). Register in My LINC for the Thursday, January 23 session, 9-9:45 a.m.

Sign up to receive M+Google updates, including future webinars and training opportunities, or join the IT4U email group on MCommunity.

Monthly IT Community Training

On the third Friday of each month, LSA IT convenes IT professionals from across campus to learn from each other and advance the professional skills of IT staff. Open to the public, these monthly IT community training presentations are led by members of the IT community and cover topics ranging from Google API and App Engine to Wireless Network Fundamentals.

The group encourages participants to suggest and vote on ideas for future IT training sessions—ideas can be platform- or product-specific (e.g., "Configuring Linux host-based firewalls"), but ideas which are product/platform neutral (e.g., "Introduction to Networking") may be given preference.

Anyone interested in presenting a training topic should email, and LSA can offer you our training room, projector, and Friday time slot.

Upcoming presentations include:

  • December 20: Introduction to Intel Xeon Phi — Seth Meyer, LSA
  • January 17: Using Web Services APIs — Kris Steinhoff, ITS

A list of past training is on the U-M IT Staff Wiki.

Service Updates

MiWorkspace Team Partnering with Academic Units


This fall, the NextGen Program Office team and key members of the MiWorkspace project leadership worked closely with Academic & Research Unit Representatives, IT, HR, and other leaders on the MiWorkspace rollout and transition process. Unit Representatives received high-level information on everything from why U-M is making this change and what each service includes, to how the team will work with schools and colleges to make informed workforce decisions and plan for employee engagement with transitioning staff. The team and unit representatives are now working to arrange additional meetings with unit faculty to share information and obtain feedback.

The MiWorkspace team is working through leadership engagement, technical discovery, and detailed planning with portions of the LSA Dean's Office and the University Library. They are also working to complete the rest of their planning and roll-out activities with the remainder of the Central Administration units. As the first pilot group, portions of the LSA Dean's Office began transitioning some faculty and staff to the MiWorkspace service in December.

Implementation Update

The MiWorkspace service currently supports 10,575 MiWorkspace customers (5,477 regular employees and 5,098 temporary and/or student employees) on a total of 5,263 devices (3,908 single user machines and 1,354 shared machines.)

Units currently in transition: Fleming, Athletics, ADVANCE Program, Facilities & Operations (F&O), Cultural Collections, Detroit Center, portions of the LSA Dean's Office, University Libraries.

Units completed or in stabilization: Graham Institute, Office of Research Sponsored Projects, Academic Affairs, Fleming Units, Student Life Units (formerly Division of Students Affairs), Center for the Education of Women, Development, Rackham & Institute for Human Adjustment (IHA), Office of the Vice President for Research, University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA), University Audits, Investment Office, Risk Management, University Human Resources (UHR), Information and Technology Services (ITS).

To learn more about MiWorkspace, visit the project site.

Collaborate @ UMICH Updates & Events

Collaborate @ UMICH

New "Tool of the Month" Feature

The Collaboration Service Team has begun to offer a new feature that highlights a different collaboration tool every month. In October, we featured Google+ and in November M+Box. Our latest tool of the month for December is Docs and Sheets. We have collected information from various websites and documents into a shared M+Box folder. We hope you find these resources useful and encourage you to share them with others who would like to learn how to take advantage of these collaboration tools.

Join the Collaboration Forum!

U-M's Collaboration Forum is a public group for you to ask questions, exchange information, and showcase interesting uses of collaboration tools including M+Google, M+Box, and CTools. Anyone can view topics but posting is restricted to the U-M community, so be sure to be logged in with your M+Google account when you ask to join. Want to catch up on past events or review an earlier presentation you attended? All meetings are recorded and available in the events archive on the M+Google site. Have an idea or request for a topic? Let us know!

Next Meeting: January 30, 1-3 p.m., Palmer Commons, Great Lakes North.

Collab Update Summary

Here's an overview of updates that rolled out over the last several months for M+Google and M+Box.

Updates from Around the U

IT Governance

IT Governance was formed to represent the many needs of the U. read what they're discussing and follow-up with your representative if you have questions, comments or new ideas.

Learn more about the various committees on the CIO website

IT Publications

Do you have a suggestion for other IT-related campus publications that we should include here? Please send them to

NextGen Michigan Profile

The success of the next generation of Michigan IT relies on the efforts of scores of people from across campus. This feature profiles those who are making NextGen real. If you are interested in being profiled or want to suggest someone to be profiled, please email

George DiGiacomo

George DiGiacomo

George DiGiacomo is Director of Technology Services for Student Life (formerly the Division of Student Affairs)

What is your role in the NextGen effort?

I'm the Unit Representative for one of the units that has recently transitioned to MiWorkspace. Student Life is a large and complex central administrative unit and we've been working with the NextGen folks to make as smooth a transition as possible. I'm also the steward for the IT Commons and have been helping them fill their role in the NextGen initiatives. This past spring, I was a member of the Michigan IT Working Group which started the process of engaging the campus IT community to help define this idea of "Michigan IT". I'm excited about the prospect of Michigan IT and what potential it holds for helping us define how we work together. I'm looking forward to the work we have ahead of us on that.

What do you think are the opportunities or wins for campus coming out of the NextGen effort?

A robust, enterprise-class IT infrastructure, from fiber all the way to user interface, is a requirement for running a world-class institution. I'm excited to be part of a process that is helping to build the underpinnings of the future of IT at Michigan. I'm impressed with the good thinking that I'm seeing NextGen stimulate. While some of the changes happening might be painful, there's still a good amount of positive attitude around it in that we're ultimately building an adaptable system that can be up to the challenge of matching the accelerating pace of change that we're seeing in IT.

What do you think are the challenges for the NextGen effort on campus?

Michigan is a complex place, of course. Usually, it's complexity that is the bane of any IT effort, but in the case of Michigan we also find strength in our diversity. It will be a challenge to balance the need for streamlining and the opportunity that innovative thinking brings.

With these kind of things the pendulum always swings back and forth between centralization of services versus what work remains out in the unit. It would good if we discovered where that happy medium is by building the tools we need to recognize when the pendulum is "mid-swing" and land it there. We need to learn along the way where it is we need to work together and where the value is in keeping things more diversified. The Michigan IT effort, I think, is one of those tools that will prove most effective.

What brought you to the NextGen project?

When IT Rationalization started, Student Life recognized it as an opportunity to be involved in setting direction and strategy for IT at Michigan. We asked to be involved in as many IT Rationalization and NextGen projects as would comfortably hold us. That involvement expanded the scope of my "local' work and allowed me to see where I could leverage existing services in my work and help central providers to build out more services that I needed to leverage. So, much of the time that my Student Life colleagues and I have spent on NextGen has really worked out to the benefit of Student Life.

What is your educational background?

I have a BA in Creative Writing from SUNY New Paltz. Which, of course, leads one to technology and to NYU for a MS in Management and Systems. Back in the days when websites were run by marketing departments, I was a Public Relations Manager who became more and more involved with the IT side of things. In my current role with Student Life, communications is a big part of our mission, so it all worked out.

What book are you currently reading and/or what is the last book you read?

Homemade Sodas. My kids and I love to make all kinds of DIY stuff. My daughters are always collecting little bottles for the herbal teas they make and I just made a batch of homemade limoncello. It's actually really easy. I cut the sugar in half and freeze it.

Also, I found The Research University in a Time of Discontent in the Library book sale for a dollar. I had to get it just for the irony of it, but have found the topics from 20 years ago almost exactly parallel today's.

If you could have dinner with any person, living or dead, who would it be and why? What would you order?

My wife. We hardly get to go out any more—every day is busy. I love sushi. Lots of sushi.

Contact Us

We're always interested in your feedback, comments, concerns and questions. Please share your thoughts with the Program Office using the Contact Us section of the NextGen Michigan website.