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A new IS&T organization

A letter to the community from Information Services & Technology Head Marilyn T. Smith

To the members of the MIT community,

The purpose of this message is to share with you details of the new IS&T organization that I announced to IS&T last week and which takes effect July 1. Please feel free to share this with your colleagues.

We heard the recommendations of the IT@MIT Working Group to improve systems, services, and the way IS&T serves its customers. Together with the rest of MIT, IS&T was asked to make significant budget reductions over a two-year period. Although we have achieved our expense targets and positioned IS&T to be a more efficient and effective organization, it has not been an easy task and didn’t come without pain. I regret that it was necessary to lay off 19 IS&T staff this year. With the help of Central Human Resources, we are doing all we can to help the people who were impacted to find new positions and transition successfully to the next stages in their careers.

The message from the report of the IT@MIT Working Group and from direct outreach with you is clear — our services are important and should be improved by streamlining and clarifying governance and decision making. We need to provide simpler, user-centered systems that cost less to maintain. We also need to improve consistency and cohesiveness in project and service delivery and develop innovative uses of IT that provide long-term strategic advantage to the Institute.

Our reorganization reflects a concerted effort to factor in the input both from the IT@MIT Working Group and from our customers to shape the organization for the work that lies ahead. We organized ourselves to improve focus on major Institute functions — education, research and administration. Our goal is to strengthen our connections with stakeholders, facilitate the improvement of service delivery, and encourage customer focus. We will also develop internal partnerships so that we work as “one IS&T” and concentrate on the needs of the MIT community.

Working closely with the new IT Governance Committee to determine direction and make investment decisions, the department is organized to provide IT services to the community with improved effectiveness.

The new organization consists of the following areas: Administrative Systems, Education Systems, Data Management, Systems Engineering, Customer Support, and Operations and Infrastructure – supported by an Administration area. Key changes from the current organization include structuring applications areas by function; combining course management and student systems into one applications area; forming a new area focused on applications technical support and interoperability; forming a new area focused on data management; combining some key hardware and software support organizations in our Infrastructure and Operations area; and focusing the Customer Support area on the Help Desk and faculty and student partnerships.

We balanced the need for accountability with the need for interdependency to encourage us to work as “one IS&T.” Where we had organizational readiness, we combined functions to leverage skills and experience. Although a number of reporting relationships will change, most IS&T employees’ day-to-day functions will not change significantly and we fully expect our services to continue uninterrupted.

Below is a snapshot of the key responsibilities of each of these areas. With the exception of the Administrative Officer which I am planning to post internally in the coming weeks, the leaders of each area are all current Institute employees — a testament to the strong talent and experience I have been delighted to find in IS&T.

Administrative Systems
Led by Bart Dahlstrom, the Administrative Systems area focuses on enterprise-wide systems that are critical to administration at MIT (e.g., predominantly SAP). This area works in partnership with the Vice President for Finance, Human Resources, Facilities, Environmental Health and Safety, and other key community groups to automate manual functions and support business process redesign to achieve a “Digital MIT.” Responsibilities include providing and improving systems functionality for Payroll, Benefits, Employee Data, Appointments, Travel, Purchasing, General Ledger, Custodial and Grounds, and other functions.

One of the key initiatives under way is the development of a joint business and systems roadmap that will enable MIT to determine direction and priorities and guide investment decisions. This roadmap will be regularly reviewed by the Administrative Systems Policy Coordinating Council (ASPCC) and the new IT Governance Committee to which ASPCC reports.

Education Systems
Led by Eamon Kearns, this area focuses on enterprise-wide educational systems including student systems and course management systems (Stellar). Student systems include Learning Management Systems, Student Gateway, MIT Student Information System (MITSIS), Financial Aid, Admissions, and systems supporting other student, faculty and course-based activities. Key sponsors are the departments reporting to the Dean for Undergraduate Education (DUE), the Dean for Graduate Education (DGE), and the Dean for Student Life (DSL), as well as the MIT Council on Educational Technology (MITCET).

IS&T, DUE, DGE, and DSL are developing a strategic approach that will renovate and evolve our student systems by adding critical business functionality, enhancing the user experience for faculty, students and staff, and simplifying and stabilizing the technical infrastructure. Recently MIT decided to withdraw from Kuali Student and to cancel the Next Generation Student System Study (NGS3) — projects that were intended to eventually replace the current student systems.

Education Systems personnel are working in partnership with their stakeholders on a roadmap to determine direction and priorities and to guide investment decisions. This roadmap will be regularly reviewed by the Student Systems Steering Committee (SSSC) and the new IT Governance Committee, to which SSSC reports.

Data Management
Led by Mary Weisse, the new Data Management area pulls together functions from across IS&T to enhance the value of information at MIT. The IT@MIT Working Group recommended that far more emphasis be placed on improvements to the way in which we provide management information to support our business and the creation of this area will enable movement in that direction. The role of this area is to work with the MIT community on the development and execution of plans, policies, and practices to collect, protect, deliver, and make better use of the Institute’s data and information assets.

Some of the key responsibilities include reporting and analytics; metadata management; business intelligence; data modeling and administration; data access management and security; managed data services; and data governance.

Some of you are involved in the Data Management area’s initiative to choose a new data reporting tool to make it easier for the community to access data and deliver information. In the coming year, the tool will be chosen and piloted and implementation plans will be developed.

Plans and decisions for the work of the Data Management area will be reviewed regularly by ASPCC.

Systems Engineering
Led by Steve Buckley, the Systems Engineering area supports application development and promotes interoperability of MIT’s applications and systems. This area is a consolidation of complementary functions including Quality Assurance, Development Services, Web Services, Mobile Computing, Departmental Consulting and Applications Development (DCAD), Training and Documentation, Kerberos Development, Software Release Management, and Interface Design.

We expect to leverage this service area to de-customize our applications, making them easier to maintain with consistent interfaces where possible. This work, along with the administrative and education systems roadmaps will result in efficiencies and improvements to improve ease-of-use, functionality, and interoperability of core systems that work toward the IT@MIT Working Group recommendation of de-customizing administrative and students systems. We also expect to work with you to develop plans for mobile computing and other strategic platforms at MIT as these technologies develop and mature.

Customer Support

Led by Barbara Goguen, the Customer Support area provides an easy entry point — a front-door to IS&T — for help with IS&T products and services. This area includes usability and accessibility services that help facilitate effective use of IT resources and a faculty and student liaison group that nurtures partnerships with faculty and students and works closely with groups like the Office of Educational Innovation and Technology (OEIT) in the Department of Undergraduate Education.

We are engaged in a study of Help Desk business processes and tools to address the IT@MIT Working Group recommendation to streamline end user support. Over the coming year, we plan to recommend and implement a streamlined and expanded help desk support model:  this area will be staffed with a mix of internal professional and student staff, and will leverage external resources where appropriate.

Operations and Infrastructure

Led by Mark Silis, the Operations and Infrastructure area will focus on MIT’s foundational technologies such as the network, email, calendaring, data centers, and servers. This area will enable delivery of services, provide communication and collaboration services, and advance computing support services in partnerships with departments, labs, and centers.

Key responsibilities include network operations; network installation (including support of key construction projects across campus); server and system administration; distributed IT support of desktops and servers; desktop virtualization; security systems and services; and research computing support.

Initiatives include continuing to renovate the MIT network and completing the Microsoft Exchange implementation, as well as keeping up with developments in foundational technologies and integrating them, where appropriate, with our plans. We welcome input from the community on infrastructure and foundational technologies. The IT governance committee will hold regular reviews of the roadmap and plans.

This area will be led by a new Administrative Officer (AO), whom I hope to find within MIT. The area includes communications, finance, human resources, and general administration. I have also created a position to work with leaders and project managers in IS&T to develop standard work processes to improve consistency of project and service delivery. These processes include system development, project management, and resource and work tracking. This area will be responsible for streamlining our accounting and administrative processes to make it easier for IS&T to measure, manage, and account for our services, as well as to provide transparency to the community.

We are excited about how we are organized for the future and the opportunity to work closely with you and the new IT Governance Committee.

Thank you for your suggestions and support. Over the summer — guided by your input — we will complete our FY11 plan.

I have enjoyed getting to know you and look forward to working with you to redesign processes and deploy information technology to make it easier for all of us to do business at MIT.

I welcome any feedback or questions you may have about our organization and our work.


Marilyn T. Smith

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