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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attending the Michigan IT Town Halls earlier this month and hearing from nearly 300 campus IT professionals was an exhilarating experience. I am even more excited and proud to be part of the Michigan IT community, as we continue engaging collaboratively to bring a shared vision of IT to U-M's campuses. The ideas shared are the markers that help guide the IT strategy in the right direction.
The questions addressed during the table discussions don't have easy or one-size-fits-all answers. We may find in certain instances that we are not dealing with problems that have clear solutions, but dilemmas that require innovation—the type of innovation that arises when a community works collectively. As such, those in attendance offered invaluable views and concepts, and while notetakers recorded hundreds of ideas, a few key themes emerged:
Connection: You want to interact with your peers and other campus community members to share ideas and IT solutions that might address common challenges or opportunities.
Knowledge: You want to hear about and learn from what your peers are doing in other units/departments. You want to have easier access to best practices and solutions that can help you advance the mission of your unit.
These themes and other feedback are helping us move forward on the road to NextGen Michigan, but there is more to do. The Michigan IT Steering Committee, led by David Sweetman and Ted Hanss, is interested in establishing ways for keeping our community connected, even when we're not in the same room. The positive energy I felt in the town hall sessions is proof that we are on the right track. Let's keep the momentum going by figuring it out together.
— Laura Patterson
This month, the Michigan IT Community gathered to discuss the university's IT Strategic Plan and how the community can work together to make it a success. The Town Halls attracted nearly 300 IT professionals from across the university, including academic and research units, ITS, MCIT, and administrative units.
Table discussions addressed how to communicate across Michigan IT about the great IT solutions each of our units is creating; how to create an innovation pipeline to bring these solutions to use across campus; and how various enablers or barriers exist in aligning our day-to-day efforts with the U-M IT Strategic Plan.
Todd Raeker, manager of computing at the School of Information (SI), also shared how SI created its own unit IT Strategy. CIO Laura Patterson encouraged all attendees to review the IT Strategic Plan and to provide feedback on the sections relevant to their work.
Town Hall attendees appreciated the opportunity to connect with one another and recommended future events be held more regularly. Plans are underway to develop IT Communities of Practice and a Michigan IT Leadership Program, as well as a summer symposium and a campus-wide "Hackathon."
View materials from the event on the CIO website.
The IT Strategic Plan includes "Provide universal access for persons with disabilities" as one of its guiding principles. "Universal access" in this context refers to the ability of all people to have equal opportunity and access to an IT service or product from which they can benefit, regardless of any physical limitation. What may not be clear from this wording is that "universal access" almost inevitably has benefits for a much broader range of users. For example:
Strategies long used by individuals with disabilities have proved invaluable as features within mobile devices. These include touch screens, zoom functionality, and word completion lists ("auto correct").
Using clear language when describing technical procedures benefits people with learning disabilities. It also helps people for whom English is a second language and people with limited technology experience.
Designs that are useful to people with permanent disabilities are also relevant when capabilities are temporarily compromised. Nearly everyone benefits from seeing TV captions in noisy restaurants, and from using automatic doors when their arms are full.
As we move to an environment where more and more people bring personal laptops and other mobile devices to school or work, universal access will become even more relevant. It will no longer matter whether compatibility needs to be addressed because of use of assistive technology, a mobile device, or wearable technology. The implications will be the same: using the guiding principle of universal access should permit individuals to use the equipment and devices that they need or prefer.
However, universal access isn't just about technology. It also covers communication, hard copy materials, and everything else that is part of a classroom or workplace experience at U-M. The upcoming Enriching Scholarship presentation on Top Ten Easy Tips for Accessibility (May 8, 1-3 p.m.) will discuss a range of practical but widely beneficial strategies. These include using clear language and legible layouts. Several spaces are still available for what promises to be a lively interactive session.
For specific questions regarding universal access and accessibility on the U-M campuses, contact Jane Berliss-Vincent: jbvincen or 734-936-3794.
Supporting the academic and research missions of U-M in a diverse and evolving computing environment requires a continuous cycle of review to determine which technologies to keep, which new ones to add, and which might no longer meet campus needs.
This last category includes systems that are outdated, underutilized, costly, difficult to maintain, or security risks. In these cases, ITS has begun to work closely with schools, colleges, and units by using a collaborative process called roadmapping to:
"The increasing pace of change in technology requires us to constantly re-examine which tools and services are the best for building a world-class computing environment here at U-M," says Terry Houser, interim program director of infrastructure projects for ITS. "The feedback and support we get from our campus partners is a critical part of that effort."
ITS currently has two key projects in which legacy services are going through the roadmapping process.
ITS is working with the U-M IT community to roadmap Web Application Hosting, AFS Storage, Oracle Database Hosting, MediaWiki, HTML Web Pages, and Drupal. Campus was invited to provide feedback via a roadmapping survey. The final service designs, cost models, and future rates should be complete by July 2014 and will be vetted with IT leadership and/or their designee in each unit.
SiteMaker Transition Project
SiteMaker has reached end of life and a variety of newer web publishing platforms has the potential to better meet campus needs while providing significant cost savings. The project team is currently working with a steering committee and pilot group to evaluate the transition of active SiteMaker accounts to other services.
For Diana Perpich, a senior associate librarian for the University Library, participating on the SiteMaker project's steering committee, reinforced the importance of campus engagement when it comes to deciding the future of IT services, particularly for services that have been around a long time.
"I think it's important for folks to understand the challenge of rallying the troops around something they've been taking for granted," says Perpich. "ITS and the Teaching and Learning group took clear leadership to engage real users in the pilot process, and they acted on our recommendations. I can honestly say that this is a steering committee that has really steered."
Imagine you are prospective student visiting U-M. As you wait in the Student Activities Building for your information session to start, you pull out your tablet to check-in and post "Go Blue!" on Facebook. You look for a Wi-Fi signal. Nothing. The Campus Wi-Fi Upgrade Project that began work this month will change this first-impression experience for thousands of students and their families.
For many years, the Student Activities Building (SAB) has operated with reliable Wi-Fi on only one floor and with spotty Wi-Fi coverage elsewhere—often borrowed from neighboring buildings. The first floor of the SAB houses the main lobby, gathering areas such as Maize and Blue Hall, and the Call Center. For these extremely high-use and high-density areas, limited Wi-Fi coverage means that students and parents, who attend information sessions and other events, often end up with a less-than-optimal impression of the university in terms of its technology environment. Supporting an average of 1.75 personal devices per visitor with up to 500 visitors in the space at a time, the available Wi-Fi falls far short of the demand.
Chuck Litvin, senior desktop support specialist in the SAB, says, "The Huetwell Visitor Center was the gateway to the university for 35,965 prospective students and their parents in academic year 2012-2013, as they attended information sessions hosted by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. In addition, there were 13,777 additional walk-in visitors to the building during that year. Many of the visitors needed to connect to Wi-Fi, which was not available."
The work will also be met with a warm welcome by staff in the many units that occupy the SAB. In addition to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Office of Financial Aid, the building is home to Student Radio Station WCBN, Housing Information, International Center, the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives, and the Career Center, among others.
Jon Hall, intermediate desktop support specialist at SAB, highlighted the benefits to specific units. "The International Center moved into SAB on April 7 from the West Quad. Not only did they get upgraded wiring, but as a bonus they will benefit from upgraded electronics and Wi-Fi connectivity as well."
The work in the Student Activities Building is on track for a complete installation by the end of July. Campus Wi-Fi Project work is also underway at the Michigan Union, Michigan League, and Pierpont Commons, as well as the President's house. See additional information about the Campus Wi-Fi Upgrade Project or join the conversation at the Google+ Community, U-M Wireless Talk.
MiWorkspace currently supports 11,101 total customers on 6,108 devices. Those counts include 6,225 regular and 4,876 temporary staff members, and 4,499 dedicated and 1,609 shared devices—including 5,276 Windows and 832 Macintosh machines. This support is provided in 48 units/departments across 123 unique locations in the Ann Arbor, Detroit, Lansing, Ohio, New York, Massachusetts, California, Texas, Washington, Alaska, Washington D.C., England, and China.
See which campus units have transitioned to MiWorkspace, or are in the process of transitioning, on the MiWorkspace project site.
Lunch & Learn sessions are hosted monthly on relevant MiWorkspace and other technical topics. These are open to ITS Service Desk, Neighborhood IT, MiWorkspace Engineering Teams, the ITS Depot, and unit IT staff from across campus. Invitations are sent monthly to internal ITS staff and unit IT leaders to share with their teams.
The next Lunch & Learn event is scheduled for May:
If you would like to receive invitations to the Lunch & Learn series, visit MCommunity, sign in, search for ITSLunchAndLearn, and click the "Join the Group" in the upper left corner.
For folks who haven't added themselves to the ITSLunchAndLearn group by May 1, email Amy Peters (email@example.com) to indicate you'd like to attend either of the May events. RSVPs are required to ensure we have enough pizza and soda for attendees.
Calling all teaching and learning enthusiasts! Join your Michigan IT colleagues for Enriching Scholarship 2014, a week-long, annual event each May for instructional faculty and staff. Faculty and staff will showcase innovative uses of technology and offer practical advice, including (but not limited to...):
See the full list of sessions on the Enriching Scholarship 2014 website. Explore the many options and sign up for an Enriching Scholarship session today! There is no cost to attend.
Box recently released a new login page design that provides a consistent login experience across devices and platforms. Your same user credentials work with the new design. No functionality has changed—just the look and feel. Note that the "Not part of University of Michigan? Log In or Sign Up Here" button allows you to login with your external Box password. If you have questions, contact the ITS Service Center or visit the Box help site.
U-M's Collaboration Forum is a public discussion group where you to ask questions, exchange information, and showcase interesting uses of collaboration tools including M+Google, M+Box, and CTools.
Be sure to check out these great learning opportunities happening in May:
Collaboration Drop-in Sessions
Get answers to all your collaboration tool questions from the experts. Bring your laptop and/or mobile device. No appointment necessary!
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
Do you have a suggestion for other IT-related campus publications that we should include here? Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
Ted Hanss is the Medical School Chief Information Officer and leads Medical School Information Services (MSIS). Ted has been at the university since 1985, serving in several different central and unit IT roles, including eight years on loan to the Internet2 consortium.
What is your role in the NextGen effort?
It's not a surprising assertion to say that the University of Michigan increasingly operates without boundaries. By illustration, we're seeing the norm being faculty collaborating across disciplines and institutions and students pursuing global learning experiences. Thus, I continually advocate for enhancing the tools, infrastructure, and processes that enable learners, instructors, researchers, and clinicians to engage easily with any potential collaborator within the institution and beyond. Through my participation in the Unit IT Steering Committee, I engage with other unit IT leaders and ITS in helping inform and shape the directions of IT investments and practices. As part of the Michigan IT lead team with David Sweetman of LSA, Catherine Lilly of the CFO's office, and Laura Patterson, I'm contributing to the development of a university-wide community of IT staff who learn from each other while continuously improving the IT environment that supports all of our missions.
What do you think are the opportunities or wins for campus coming out of the NextGen effort?
Nearing our bicentennial, this is an appropriate time to reflect on the role of a great public university about to enter its third century. One of my favorite quotes comes from Jerry Garcia, "You do not merely want to be considered just the best of the best. You want to be considered the only one who does what you do." For me, the NextGen effort is leading us to focus on where we can bring value to the missions of the university and distinguish ourselves not just by the number of alumni or size of our research budget but in the unique ways we serve the state, the nation, and beyond.
In our third century, James Angell's "uncommon education for the common man" will not be the traditional residential experience of those enrolled in Ann Arbor, Flint, and Dearborn. We will build on the residential experience to make it more engaging across disciplines and to give students early access to research opportunities. We will extend the residential experience such that the majority of students will have learning opportunities beyond our campus boundaries, whether it be Alpena, Appalachia, or Africa. We will extend the direct engagement with our research and learning programs to wider and wider communities, both formal and informal, who may never set foot on campus. NextGen will free up the capacity to build the infrastructure and services to enable that vision.
What do you think are the challenges for the NextGen effort on campus?
To achieve the vision I've described, the 2,400 people who are part of the Michigan IT community must see how their individual efforts align with the institution's missions and goals and are in turn supported in what each of us does day-to-day to maintain that alignment. That connection between what one is doing and the larger strategy can often get lost in the day-to-day of fixing printers, installing software, writing code, and the myriad other tasks in which we engage. But that connection to what we do at the Health System—from training the next generation of doctors to researching cures to diseases to providing care—is what motivates me. Making those ties explicit between our local contribution and the institution's broader impact is one of the challenges for Michigan IT.
What brought you to the NextGen program?
When I became the Medical School CIO in 2010, I joined the Unit IT Steering Committee. Last fall, Laura Patterson invited me to co-lead the Michigan IT efforts on campus.
What is one thing campus IT professionals can do—or do more of—to advance NextGen Michigan?
Ask questions. Ask your manager whether you have a unit IT plan that ties to the U-M IT Strategic Plan. Ask during your performance review whether your professional development plan is preparing you for upcoming opportunities within your school, unit, or institute. Ask how you can be part of the Michigan IT community, contributing your knowledge and expertise in the gift economy we're constructing. (A gift economy is a community that values the exchange of goods or skills or expertise not for remuneration but to support relationships. Higher education, for example, is a gift economy in that we share knowledge from research and learning with peers around the world with the only expectation that others share back.)
What is your educational background?
I have a B.S. in Biology from Boston College, an MBA from the Ross School of Business, and am a doctoral candidate in the School of Information. My research involves studying the best practices of scholarly collaborations between institutions in developed and developing countries. Most of my fieldwork has been in Africa, working with universities that collaborate across the continent and with U.S. and European institutions.
What is the most recent book/movie you read/saw?
I generally have multiple books going at a time. A recent IT management book I read was "The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win," which describes in a page-turning (for tech nerds at least) novel format how to break out of the cycle of legacy systems and crushing technical debt to build applications and services that best meet your organization's needs. Several of us have read that book in MSIS and lessons are being applied in the Medical School. For fun, I've been reading Thomas Keller's "Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide" as I've been experimenting with this fairly new approach to highly-calibrated, long and slow water bath cooking.
If you could have dinner with any person, living or dead, who would it be and why? What would you order?
I'd spin this to include "not yet born," in which case I'd pick the president of the University of Michigan in 2117, as the campus celebrates its tricentennial. I'd like to understand whether we were headed in the right direction with what we're doing today with Michigan IT. I don't want to know too many specifics (except for which stock is the next Google) as I like seeing how our plans play out over time. But, I'd take hints as to directions we might take, or not take. As to the menu, I'm curious about both where molecular gastronomy will have evolved and the then current state of artisanal food production. So, I'd opt for a multi-course vegetarian dinner highlighting both approaches.
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.