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Notes from February 8, 2006 ITPAC Meeting:

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    notes by Steve Lasley

    Streaming Audio from the meeting.

    The meeting was run by ITPAC chairman, Jim Syvertsen,
    Professor at the Citrus REC. Russ Rouseff, also from CREC, was unable to attend in person, but joined us via conference phone.

    ITPAC welcomed Jan J. van der Aa, CIO for the UF Health Science Center (HSC) as our guest. Jan (pronounced as in the first syllable of "yonder") had suggested to Dan Cromer, Acting Director of IFAS IT, that they sit in on each others respective administrative meetings in order to share perspectives. The corollary to the IFAS ITPAC at HSC is the Information Services Advisory Council (ISAC), which had its first meeting about 6 months ago.

    The HSC, like IFAS, is a diverse group which includes a number of IT organizations. The Health Science Center is comprised of six colleges and at least four major institutes. In the College of Medicine alone, there are 24 departments, most of which have their own and varied IT organizations. Departments are further divided into divisions; the Department of Medicine within the College of Medicine has 8 divisions, for example. Most of these divisions have their own IT organizations. The ISAC is one method they are beginning to investigate for coordinating IT across their Center. They are investigating various IT governance structures and are meeting tomorrow for that very purpose. Dan will attend that meeting as a means of exchanging ideas between our two groups. `

    Jan came to Gainesville for two years--that was 25 years ago :-). He worked in a clinical department for 20 years, as a PhD--not a clinician, monitoring development and investigating patient development modalities. That position dealt quite a bit with technology and that is how he eventually transitioned into becoming totally an "IT guy".

    Joe Joyce mentioned that he would encourage an association between the IFAS and HSC IT groups, seeing them as valuable mutual allies in that both IFAS and the HSC are similarly diverse and distributed in nature.

    ICC Updates

    For Jan's benefit, Steve Lasley explained a bit about the ICC, telling him that we are a group comprised of all the IT support personnel within IFAS. We meet the second Friday of each month to discuss procedural matters and we raise policy matters to ITPAC for their consideration.

    Steve reported that the ICC had no formal policy recommendations to bring to ITPAC at this time, but noted that we were pleased with the recent and long awaited publication of IMMs relating to IT (see bottom of linked page). He took the opportunity to express his appreciation to Dr. Joe Joyce for the part he played in that process and especially wanted to thank Dan Cromer for the work he had done in drafting those items for consideration by administration. These IMMs are the first tangible fruits of our seven-year-old IT policy advisory process, which seeks transparent, stake-holder-sensitive IT-policy development, with input from all of IFAS via a formal and open ICC to ITPAC to Administration process.

    Jim Syvertsen explained that many of the items which ITPAC considers are brought from the ICC as recommendations on policy matters which require administrative action. Jim mentioned that he feels this kind of "grass-roots" input into the process has worked well. Dan Cromer mentioned that the ICC is an official group, as recognized via IMM, and that each unit within IFAS is required to appoint a representative to that group. Steve would like to point out that the actual implementation of that is still a work in progress, however, with participation varying widely across units. The ICC seeks to enlist involvement by serving as an important source of information regarding IFAS-level IT processes and policies. It is also a valuable forum for discussing unit-level concerns with those and for providing input into improving them.

    Joe Joyce recognized Steve's appreciation regarding the IT-related IMM publications and mentioned that he believed there was still one item which remained under consideration. Dan Cromer said that they had discussed having unit directors reinforce to their directory coordinators the importance of their roles in continually maintaining the directory information. Joe stated that the people involved in this had been overwhelmed with PeopleSoft issues during the past two years. Joe thought that, as this situation improves, we can go back and look into enforcing that process a bit more tightly.

    Dr. Joyce mentioned that ITPAC will sometime need to address placing some discipline on the process of posting to the IFAS-ALL list. Currently that list is being moderated by Dwight Jesseman and Dean Delker of OIT as a stop-gap measure; however, such moderation, should it continue, should be under the purview of administration--as it is not a technical issue. Yan mentioned that official lists are moderated at HSC and that other, less formal announcement lists can be subscribed to as desired.

    Infostructure Taskforce results

    Pete Vergot, District Extension Director, NW District and Chair of the taskforce, discussed the final report. He mentioned that there are still a few minor touches to make--mostly to wording and structure--but that the report is basically in its final form. Pete thanked the committee for their hard work, including Diana Hagan for her efforts in editing it. Pete noted that this report will be out-of-date the moment it is released, due to the fast moving nature of IT. The taskforce involved three committees, one of which looked into what is being done at other land grant institutions. It was discovered that there isn't a single best model out there and that we are doing well in some areas and less well in others. The taskforce also looked back at the 1997 report and summarized how IFAS had responded to its challenges.

    Joe Joyce said that the big issue at the time of the earlier report was how to get IFAS off using the VAX. Joe said that most of the money and effort that came out of the report was put towards that, and that some of the other items, including some of the training recommendations, were not addressed--perhaps due to that focus.

    Pete mentioned that one recommendation was to increase the frequency of our reviews and to perhaps consider mini-reviews annually in an attempt to keep things up-to-date. The final recommendation was to have ITPAC review the report and take some leadership roles in doing some implementation of those recommendations. There are 50+ actions items. Some of the budget items may require a shifting of personnel and may mean additional personnel. Equipment and types of equipment and technology needs were addressed by the report as well. We have important information to distribute both internally and externally to our clientele and the one guaranteed constant about the mechanisms we use to do that is change. These challenges cut across our teaching, research and extension missions--all of which can benefit greatly by judicious usage of appropriately applied and supported technologies.

    Dr. Joyce had wanted this report to go first to ITPAC before it was presented to the VP and deans. After some discussion, the ITPAC voted unanimously that the report (with minor editing touch-ups) be presented to the deans by Pete Vergot at the earliest opportunity with the understanding that its implementation would be shepherded by the ITPAC. Pete stressed the importance of making the VP and deans aware of these various IT issues so that they engage discussion on those matters in meetings with the department chairs and faculty. We need to increase awareness of IT--both its potential for improving our programs and its unique and special challenges--across IFAS at all levels.

    Dr. Joyce re-iterated the importance of faculty unit-level buy-in to all of this and elicited the ICC as an important means to doing that. This matter will be discussed at an up-coming ICC meeting and the importance of that buy-in will be stressed to the ICC membership.

    Steve Lasley is unsure of what mechanics will be involved in shepherding implementation via ITPAC, but hopes the details of that will become more apparent as we move ahead. He did mention that, given the tightness of the budget, those items requiring no additional funds might be the logical ones for first prioritization.

    IT Updates

    Dan Cromer updated the ITPAC on several matters. He noted that Valarie Carter had resigned over the summer as the South Central District IT support person. We have hired Bill Black, who will start Friday and will likely be located in Seffner. Dan was sad to report that Josh Wilson has resigned his position as Northwest District IT support, with his last day being February 23rd. Josh is moving to Vero Beach and has accepted a job that pays approximate two times what he was making for IFAS. Dan stated that Josh had been an excellent employee and that he wished him the very best.

    Dan mentioned that people may have noticed that the VP's office approved a footer on the IFAS-ALL list:

    ***** IMPORTANT NOTE about this e-mail distribution list: *****
    This e-mail distribution list is intended for official business purposes for
    IFAS faculty and staff.  Do not use this list for personal messages.  If you
    are a current IFAS employee, you will NOT be removed from the list.  If you 
    are no longer employed by IFAS and wish to be removed contact the Helpdesk 
    at (352) 392-4636 or mailto: help@ifas.ufl.edu.

    Dan said that they are looking at adding similar notices to other IFAS lists as deemed appropriate. He also mentioned that they are looking at revamping and updating the lists posted on the IFAS Directory web site.

    Dan also noted that we now have a standard e-mail address policy where-in our official business addresses are of the form "GatorlinkUsername@ufl.edu". Dan expressed his thanks to Dwight Jesseman (and those helping him) for the wonderful job which was done over the Christmas holidays on assuring that project was completed quickly and with a minimum of problems. Dan also thanks John Bevis and the folks at OSG who assisted us in making this transition.

    Jan asked if we had investigated a naming standard for our e-mail addresses. Dan replied that we had encouraged one for sometime, but that with the move to Gatorlink and its 8-character limits, we have put any such plans on hold. Eventually Gatorlink is expected to accept 16 characters, and at that time some may wish to change to a more standard format. Currently, the UF Help Desk has cooperated with us in facilitating changing Gatorlink IDs for those off campus, which has been appreciated. This is one of those matters which should really be addressed at the UF level.

    Dwight noted that one unforeseen problem did occur with the e-mail address change-over. Some people assumed that they could simply drop the "ifas." portion of previous addresses; but this would not work for those whose ifas account names (for historical reasons) differed from their gatorlink names. This led to mis-delivery of some messages--something that can really only be prevented by end-user education.

    Dan and Ashley Wood mentioned a new html/css web application, a "virtual field day", which is being implemented as a pilot project. Ashley felt it held promise for assisting in certain types of communications which IFAS deals in.

    Dan also mentioned the IFAS reports site which contains various Enterprise Reports listed by Department. This password protected site is meant to simplify the access to PeopleSoft reports as well as provide additional reporting information for departments. There are plans to provide reports for central administration here as well.

    Ashley Wood reported that the Solutions for Your Life site is due for roll-out on March 1st. This will be announced, but we really need to do some testing to make sure it all works correctly. The other portion of the March 1st roll-out will be the availability of IFAS web templates. We are interested in how we can use those for various departments and counties and have already lined up a number of places for testing those. The web team will be working intensively on these things for the next few months and the public roll-out is planned for May.

    The final matter Dan wished to address was the proposed campus reorganization for IT which is being planned by Dr. Marc Hoit with the intention of consolidating IT centrally at UF. The first phase is thought to include consolidating across the Provost's office, Academic Affairs, Engineering, and Finance and Accounting. There has been discussion about centralizing IT elsewhere as well. At this point, Dan turned the floor over to Joe Joyce for further comment.

    Joe said that there were not many details yet, but that this move was precipitated by a $4 million IT deficit for which the proposed solution is to grab and consolidate resources. Joe said that nobody to whom he has talked agrees that this would be a solution to our money problems. There are 692 FTEs with IT in their job descriptions at UF, of which about 70 are within IFAS. Those resources are at the unit level and are actually multi-functional and are not simply network administration per se. Pulling those resources out will cause a great deal of grief and likely will not solve the money problems. Although Joe and Yan both seemed to support the validity of a UF CIO, they were both greatly concerned about the scope and responsibilities of that position--items which are yet to be clearly articulated.

    Jan stated that the current fiscal problems with CNS and AT could have been foreseen at least a couple of years ago. The HSC believes that a UF CIO position could be a good thing, provided that it is positioned properly and has an IT governance structure that is transparent. It is important that we know who and who does not make decisions and who has input into that process. Those are essential components of an IT governance structure in Jan's opinion. The proposal that Jan saw offered a set of solutions that he understood were created out of discussions within the Provost's office of IT and were not necessarily based on extensive discussions among the various stakeholders. Jan believes, along with Joe Joyce, that the reorganization of IT is an unlikely fix for our current fiscal problems and that this should be a separate issue from any proposed restructuring.

    Steve Lasley mentioned that Marc Hoit will be a guest at Friday's ICC meeting. Joe advised him to focus on the assumptions inherent in this proposed restructuring plan and whether the proposed cost savings really exist. Regarding the wallplate initiative for VoIP and data service, Jan stated that HSC has a great deal of experience in the costs involved there. HSC has about 9000 ports. If you include Shands, that goes to 20,000 ports. The Jacksonville campus includes another 5000 ports. Their estimates indicate that a $5/port charge for campus networking underestimates the cost of just the networking aspects of IT (by a factor of 5)--and could not possibly supply any surplus to subsidize other IT activities.

    Other Business:

    Jim Syvertsen made it known that he would appreciate being relieved of his ITPAC chair duties and Pete Vergot agreed to replace him.

    The next ITPAC meeting will be scheduled for sometime in May of 2006.

    As a last matter, Steve wanted to raise awareness of an issue that he had believed Dan was going to cover: namely the security concerns inherent in our current exit procedures. Steve noted that the number of users within the IFAS OU have increased by some 1500 since our migration. Obviously, we have not had anywhere near that increase in our employee ranks. When people leave IFAS, and possibly go to other units within UF, their accounts remain in active directory, and any access to resources they might have had remains. Unless IT staff is plugged-in to the exit procedures, we have a growing security concern on our hands relating to removing inappropriate access to our computer resources. Dan Cromer is working with Mary Ann Gularte, the Director of Human Resources for IFAS, in developing exit procedures that will address this matter.

last edited 9 February 2006 by Steve Lasley