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Notes from November 3, 2005 ITPAC Meeting:
notes by Steve Lasley
Streaming Audio from the meeting.
ITPAC chairman, Jim Syvertsen, was unable to make the meeting, so it was chaired in his absence by Al Wysocki, Assistant Professor with the Food and Resource Economics. Dr. Joe Joyce was also unable to attend. A number of members sent representatives on their behalf, including Ron Thomas for Ashley Wood and Joe Spooner for Jane Luzar.
ITPAC welcomed Michelle Quire, Administrative Assistant with the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, to her first meeting. Michelle has replaced Dawn Mendoza as ITPAC's representative for administrative staff.
Pete Vergot, District Extension Director for the Northwest District, and chairman of the Information Technology Task Force wasn't immediately available, so discussion of the IT Taskforce Report was delayed until Pete could participate.
The Importance of IMM Publication to the IFAS IT Policies and Procedures Recommendation Processes
Steve Lasley introduced this topic as picking up where he left off last time. To recap, at August's ITPAC meeting, we had discussed how, while working on developing IT procedures, the ICC sometimes sees the need for policy decisions to be made by administration. The ICC then develops recommendations to present to ITPAC, which in turn, develops parallel recommendation to administration. The problem, from the ICC's standpoint is that, after ITPAC, the process is essentially invisible. Without some resolution on those recommendations, the IT procedure development process is hindered.
At the last ITPAC meeting we had made several decisions to help improve this situation:
ITPAC policy recommendations, along with other information relative to ITPAC matters, have been documented for quite some time on the ITPAC website. On September 9th, Dan Cromer summarized these in an e-mail to Dr. Joyce as follows:
Steve related that issues pending administrative action are nowhere more clearly detailed, however, than in the IMMs which Dan Cromer, Acting Director of IFAS IT, has drafted and which are awaiting approval/publication by the VP. Copies of these drafts were made available to the meeting attendees and Steve turned the discussion of those over to Dan Cromer with the stated intention of having ITPAC address them and recommend the finalizing of these policy decisions via publication as IMMs.
Publication of an IMM formally recognizing the ICC
Dan Cromer presented his draft of a proposed IMM which would formally recognize the ICC, with respect to its purpose, role in the IT process and requirements for membership. Discussion revolved mostly around the need to find a contact for each department--even those with very few administrative staff who might not be particularly computer literate. Pursuant to that, Michelle Quire suggested that the word "interested" be removed. The idea of having such contacts utilize helpdesk personnel as their proxy in dealing with the ICC on IT matters was viewed as valuable. Dan Cromer stated that such a situation was always intended, however, and would not really indicate a needed change in the wording of the IMM draft. After a brief discussion, the ITPAC voted to recommend to the VP the Publication of an IMM formally recognizing the ICC.
Shortly thereafter Pete Vergot connected via the Polycom conference phone and so we interrupted the immediate discussion to cover matters relating to the Infostructure Taskforce.
Report from the Infostructure Taskforce
Copies of the Executive Summary were distributed by Diana Hagan. Pete Vergot began by mentioning that Joe Joyce had asked him to allow ITPAC to review the Taskforce Report and provide their input prior to it being submitted to administration. He then described the summary overall by stating that it was organized into five recommendation categories based around the charges which were given to the taskforce:
Each recommendation includes a number of specific action items. These action items are going to require the redirection/addition of funds, the redirection/addition of staff, and along with some oversight. Joe Joyce has recommended that we use the ITPAC to provide that oversight.
Al Wysocki asked Pete if he had received any feedback on the draft report from Joe Joyce yet. Pete replied that he had not, but that he was encouraging the committee to finish up very soon. Al then asked Pete how he saw that things may have changed since the 1997 report. Pete replied that the original report really began the Office of Information Technology (OIT) and developed a structure which we hoped might be successful. Now, we have had seven years to work with that and to see what works and what doesn't. Technology had changed dramatically in some areas and we still lag behind other land-grant institutions in some key aspects of development. We were and still are a leader in terms of electronic document distribution for extension with EDIS. Where we tend to be behind is in using the web for non-formal education. We are probably in the middle of the pack with regard to interactive video use, but we have let our web presence lag, both internally and externally.
Steve Lasley pointed out that he thought the best and most powerful statement within the Executive Summary had been placed in the next-to-last paragraph:
Steve suggested that these be placed, perhaps, at the very top of the document as a "pull quote".
Steve then relayed that what most concerns him about this report is the great number of action items. Steve feels that one of the failures of the last report was the lack of process for actualizing such items. Steve would like to see something in the report which pointed the direction toward how to get going on turning these action items into reality.
Chris Hughes believed that such a process is specified in action item number two beneath recommendation one on Administrative Structure. Chris stated that an IT governance framework would address the issue of seeing that action items were followed-up on via the oversight of a process management framework. Chris believes that IFAS IT currently lacks the structure and process models to accomplish pro-active planning and follow through. Steve stated that he also believed this to be important and that he knew Joe Spooner (who attended on behalf of Jane Luzar, but who had stepped out of the meeting at this time) also supported the development of such a framework.
Dan Cromer pointed out that action item number one beneath that same recommendation covered the issue of reviewing IT administration. If that is indeed done, that will determine who is responsible for getting our various action items accomplished. Chris re-iterated that all the IT governance frameworks include review and other IT management processes. Chris feels we should attempt to adopt such well-considered processes rather than continue our ad hoc responses to IT challenges or try to re-invent processes which have already been well-detailed by others.
Pete Vergot stated that Joe Joyce wants ITPAC to play a major role in monitoring the progress on action items beneath each recommendation. Steve noted that would surely increase the responsibility of ITPAC greatly from its past involvement. Pete believes that the ITPAC might even form some sub-committees to address particular IT matters. Diana Hagan mentioned that the committee was being very careful to not overstep its charge; they were making recommendations only and not trying to address the matters of implementation. Steve praised Diana Hagan and the rest of the committee on the great job they have done on organizing all these issues into clear categories and prioritized action items. Steve is concerned, however, that the real test will lie ahead--after the report is finalized. It is what is done with the report that will make the real difference.
Ron Thomas, representing Ashley Wood, stated that action item six beneath the recommendation on web management was already well underway. ICS is working with Ed Hanlon regarding pesticide applicator training and with Steve Sargent regarding post-harvest canned vegetable handling certificate program to make those available via the web.
Dan Cromer stated that, despite Dr. Joyce's desire to obtain a complete report ASAP, he would encourage us to take the necessary time to make sure we receive broad input from across IFAS and make this report as good as possible. He asked ITPAC to support taking that time and providing that input. Steve suggested adding the ITPAC e-mail distribution list as a member of the Taskforce listserv list so that we are all plugged into the work that it taking place within that forum. With that tie-in, perhaps some of these finalizing matters could be handled via e-mail without necessarily waiting for the next ITPAC meeting, which won't be until early February. Pete stated his hope that the committee could incorporate any additional input which might be provided over the next 5-7 days (by Thursday, November 10th), and have this report ready within a couple of weeks. It was generally agreed that ITPAC would provide any additional input via e-mail within the next week.
Publication of an IMM describing the IFAS Computer Security, Support and Operating Environment
Dan Cromer presented his draft of an IMM on the IFAS computer security, support and operating environment. Dan said that section "II. A. Security" had already been approved by ITPAC. The reason for this section is that IT administration requires the capability to patch machines so that they do not interfere with the rest of our network. Likewise, Dan stated that ITPAC had already approved paragraph "II. B. Support and Operating System". Dan stated his concern that he didn't want IFAS IT to be the IT police. Section "C. Network Access" is pursuant to the compromise agreement for joining UFAD as part of the IFAS OU which, again, was approved at a previous ITPAC. Dan moved that this draft be recommended by the ITPAC to be published as an IMM.
Michelle Quire believed that excluding Macintosh from our official support structure would cause considerable issues with her department and with many others on campus. A long discussion ensued which began with Dan Cromer stating that it is not his intention to reduce levels of support in any way. It was stated that the proposed IMM clearly states the current situation of central IT having experts primarily in Windows and that further IT resources would have to be obtained to provide support for Macintosh and or Linux beyond the current "best effort" levels. Some felt that publishing this as is might actually raise the issue to a level where it might be addressed.
It was finally decided that the phrase "In order to simplify support and reduce support resource requirements," would be removed. Additionally, the phrase "is only responsible for providing support" would be replaced with "is only equipped to provide full support". With those changes, the ITPAC approved recommending this IMM draft to the VP for publication.
Publication of an IMM describing the IFAS E-mail Policies and Procedures
Dan Cromer presented his draft of an IMM on the IFAS E-mail Policies and Procedures. Dan related how he had recently received support from the VP and deans for a choice requirement whereby people would use either IFAS or Gatorlink for e-mail, but not both; this is part of the move to using Gatorlink@ufl.edu addresses as the official reply addresses for IFAS business e-mail. This proposed IMM would recognize the official nature of e-mail for communication within IFAS and the responsibility of people for checking their e-mail on a daily basis whenever they are at work.
Some discussion ensued regarding the details of the upcoming e-mail changes. Dan Cromer stated that existing e-mail address aliases (@mail.ifas.ufl.edu and @ifas.ufl.edu, for example) would continue to function. Dwight Jesseman also responded to concerns with listserv subscriptions by stating that UF and IFAS listserv subscriptions would be changed for people so they could continue to post to those lists using the new reply-to addresses. List owners and editors would likewise have their addresses corrected.
The ITPAC approved recommending this IMM draft to the VP for publication without any changes.
Dan Cromer updated the ITPAC on several matters. He mentioned he had meant to bring a copy of the IT Organizational chart as part of the Taskforce report. Dan wants ITPAC members to be aware of the overall organizational structure within IFAS IT, with its various sections: the HelpDesk and District Support, the business software group, the program software group, the network services group, and the WAN group.
The IT Taskforce recommended that a strong web presence be developed and Dan's office is working closely with ICS and the web development team on this matter. There will be a presentation on Monday about one approach for implementing a content management system for web use. IFAS IT is currently proposing a superset of EDIS as being the core of our new document management system, but this is just one possibility. If Ligia Ortega, the new IFAS Web Master, and Ashley Wood, approve of this system, we may not have to do an extensive search for a commercial document management product. Al Wysocki mentioned that he is also on the Vista taskforce and they are looking into support for than system; the content management for that would be a very expensive solution apparently.
Dan announced that UFAD is moving to e-mail enable all accounts, which would add all of the university to the Global Address List (GAL) within Outlook. That process is ongoing currently and IFAS has expressed some concerns regarding the amount of replication data this move will generate. We have let it be known that we are in favor of moving slowly with this so as not to adversely clog our WANs.
Dan also expressed his gratitude to Dr. Joyce and the VP's office for supporting some of the funding model issues addressed by the taskforce. In particular, IT has a new database server and fileserver on order. Dan also expressed appreciate to several units which have assisted in funding the fileserver acquisition. IT also recently acquired a very robust backup system. We are also funded for another web server, depending on how the web management team decides to handle that situation. Dan mentioned that we have an interim web server to which our current websites are being migrated. The plan here is to migrate those with a "dev-" prefix initially in order to provide the editors of those sites the time to review them for any problems which might arise and then fix those so they work with the new server system.
Dan mentioned that the only real pending item, other than publishing the IMMs which he has drafted, is changing all our lists so they require confirmation. Dan has now received approval from Dr. Joyce to do that. Dan wants to first have a web page made documenting that change and then he will notify everyone of the change prior to that being implemented.
Al Wysocki asked how IT across the state weathered hurricane Wilma. Chris Hughes reported that one domain controller and one multi-purpose server had failed as a result, but that we were in pretty good shape for the most part--at least IT-wise.
Ron Thomas announce that the Soil and Water Science department wants to establish a server and database for sharing course objects--things like video, flash animations, etc.--among various course instructors. They have requested $14K from Jane Luzar and CALS to implement this. They would hope to make this available to a broader IFAS audience than just their department as well.
Ron also talked about a grant application with the Homeland Security Department. This is a five-state effort including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. They are proposing multiple satellite systems for use in disaster situations, such as hurricanes. They are proposing multiple mobile units in each state to establish communications when disasters arise, but also to deliver education programs to remote locations during other times. Ron said there will be a big IT component in that and he wanted Dan Cromer to be aware of it. Jane Dusky is the main administrator of that grant proposal here.
Joe Spooner informed us that this spring they will be making changes to their website which will include a very simplified web content management solution. He wanted everyone to know that they were heading in that direction.
Steve Lasley re-iterated the desirability of using a UFAD distribution group for facilitating meeting scheduling and for workgroup e-mailing within the ITPAC. Ann has been using a local distribution group for her ITPAC mailings, and consequently, there is no archive of those communications available. We will need to coordinate this distribution group with the ITPAC-L list, in any case, so that a record is maintained of those.
The next ITPAC meeting will be scheduled for sometime in February of 2006.
last edited 7 November 2005 by Steve Lasley