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I/T transformation is next on reengineering agenda

Information technology will play a crucial role in enabling MIT's reengineering efforts to succeed, and to that end, information technology staff throughout MIT must begin working together in new ways, senior officers said in an announcement last week. An Institute-wide search to fill positions on a new I/T Leadership Team is the next step in transforming work to implement, operate and help people use information technology.

The announcement of a new framework for I/T work was made on March 15 by William R. Dickson, senior vice president and chair of the Reengineering Steering Committee. J. David Litster, vice president and dean for research, outlined elements of the new framework, based on work by the I/T Transformation Team. Professor Litster is the team's sponsor. James D. Bruce, vice president for information systems and reengineering program manager, described how the transition to the new framework will be launched.

Present for the announcement were staff from Information Systems, as well as information technology staff from other offices such as Admissions, the Alumni/ae Association, the Comptroller's Accounting Office and the Libraries. These included programmers, systems analysts, system operators, project managers, consultants, trainers and production coordinators.

The new framework for I/T addresses a major challenge, Professor Litster explained. While staff continue to run current systems, they must implement and help people use several systems needed for reengineering, such as the new SAP R3 financial package, a new appointments application and a data warehouse. This is a substantial addition to the I/T workload. "The guiding principle for administrative I/T is a partnership committed to a shared I/T mission: Great Systems Fast, where `great' is defined by the customer," Professor Litster said. At the same time, the Institute is committed to pursuing continued excellence in academic computing, Professor Bruce emphasized.

I/T Transformation will affect all staff and managers in central offices who do I/T work, Mr. Dickson said. Although long-term predictions can't be made, there are no plans for I/T staff reductions for at least the next year or two. However, during this period, some existing I/T jobs will be eliminated and some new I/T positions added.

The first staffing change is the creation of a new I/T Leadership Team, said Professor Bruce, who will head this team in his role as vice president for information systems. Posts on the new team include five I/T process leaders, up to three I/T competency group leaders and two I/T practice leaders, one each for office and academic computing. The academic computing post is currently held by Gregory Jackson and will not change. Professor Bruce announced that, as the present IS work migrates to the new I/T framework, other IS director positions associated with that work will be eliminated.

The Institute-wide search for the new positions begins immediately, and applications are due April 3 to Ken Hewitt, MIT Personnel Officer. Job descriptions and application instructions are available on the World Wide Web at .

The new I/T Leadership Team will coordinate the I/T transformation and lead ongoing activities in the new framework. Teams will be the center of the action, accountable for results and with the resources and authority to achieve them. Three dimensions of the framework support the teams: improving work processes, developing skills and focusing on customers.

The process leaders will coordinate the five major phases of I/T work, wherever it occurs: I/T Discovery (choosing what work needs to be done and how to do it), I/T Delivery (designing and furnishing the results to the customer), I/T Integration (maintaining a cohesive I/T infrastructure incorporating each new product or service), I/T Service (installing new services and keeping them running), and I/T Support (helping the MIT community acquire, access and use information technology).

Competency groups will act as conduits for sharing skills throughout the Institute's I/T community. Although group members will not have offices together, they will meet periodically and communicate electronically, "to promote learning, to coordinate appraisal and to share expertise. We believe, as we look across all of IS and beyond that across I/T, that we can learn a tremendous amount from each other," Professor Bruce said.

Leaders of I/T practices will focus on ensuring that MIT's I/T resources serve the needs of specific constituents, e.g., for academic computing and for office computing. These leaders will act as liaisons between I/T and constituents, promoting deeper understanding of constituents' needs and priorities.

In the new framework, individuals may be on one or several teams, they may be a member of one and a leader of another, and they may work on more than one process. "I realize this sounds more complicated than the way we think about work today, but it's a way of organizing ourselves so we can literally be more efficient in delivering results to the community," Professor Bruce said.

As I/T staff continue to support current systems and simultaneously implement new ones, there will be a greater emphasis on performance and flexibility. "In the future, we must achieve even greater results in less time, we must each have a more complete set of skills, and we must couple our work more closely with our customers' needs," he said.

Further information about the I/T transformation will be available through group meetings and other forums. Those with questions or suggestions may e-mail them to (for attribution) or anonymously to the Institute-wide reengineering mailbox at , indicating "Attn: I/T Transformation."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 22, 1995.

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