Duke ITAC - December 19, 1996 Minutes

DUKE ITAC - December 19, 1996 Minutes

Information Technology Advisory Council (ITAC)

ITAC Minutes December 19, 1996

Next ITAC meeting is January 16, 1997.

Computer use policy

OIT has receive comments from faculty in the law school via ECAC critical of the draft as failing to adequately protect privacy. Our draft policy was also presented at CAUSE and was praised as a model of an open policy. OIT will work with law faculty and others to address concerns and revise the draft.

Wiring project

OIT and Duke has learned quite a bit in the last 9 months as the first few buildings have been wired; adjustments to the wiring plan and especially to the electronics are probably warranted in light of our experiences. A wiring plan oversight group was discussed, possibly structured as an ITAC subcommittee, and further discussion was scheduled for future meetings.

Web site committee

This group is waiting for more faculty representation, as is the site license committee. Solicitations will follow via email. Expectation is that these will be low-load committees with most work conducted via email.

New member

Les Saper was introduced as a new ITAC member; he is an Associate Professor in Math (saper@math.duke.edu).


Mike Pickett reported that SICC met the previous day (12/18/96) and went over the procurement system status. There was a proposal that Facilities look over the SAP software to see if it could help them for tasks such as scheduling chiller maintenance, etc; their existing software is inadequate. SICC wants to make sure that any new system serves both hospital and campus facilities needs. The message to Facilities is that they can evaluate the suitability of the software somewhat informally, but if they want to get serious about adopting it after an initial examination, the project will need full consideration and integration into the re-engineering efforts; Facilities cannot go off on its own.

Comment from John Sigmon: The existing facilities management software is not inadequate, it's completely broken. If SAP works, why not use it now.

Mike Pickett response: SAP is an integrated system; we would need to make sure that switching this part on would not derail other efforts already underway. If the impact is low and the facilities piece serves our needs, we could decide quickly to adopt it, but SICC needs to play its coordinating role.

Comment from Landon Bain: Procurement is already a risky, complicated installation; it is wise to back down from anything other than a commitment to evaluate SAP's suitability for Facilities at this time.

Also from SICC

The Procurement "sand box" system for training and testing is up now. Budgets for the procurement implementation are still being discussed.

CAUSE report

Several presentations were made by Duke people at Cause two weeks ago. Mike Pickett described the distributed support model for client-server systems (BPA, DAFT, FPS), concentrating on the lessons learned from Duke's tiered support model with second and third level assistance. All 200 copies of his paper were taken away. Mike had thought that Duke was way ahead in distributed support with a carefully thought-out multilevel system, but noted that two other universities presented distributed models as well (Pennsylvania, ???). We need to be sure that what we do scales well and is funded adequately as its scope grows.

Ivy-Plus group

Met before CAUSE; many peer institutions are where we are (Oracle database selected, some systems purchased, job no where near done). Only MIT has gone with SAP, they have had some problems. They tried to re-engineer everything at once in bringing up SAP, a model we are specifically not adopting here. Betty le Compagnon reported that she and her counterparts at the Ivy-PLUS schools have agreed to meet regularly, especially over such issues as budgets (what they really include and do not include at various institutions) so we can fairly compare our efforts.

More Cause news

Mike Pickett attended a session about the Western Governors' Consortium plan for unified distance learning via an internet-based virtual campus. Jeff Chase heard the Governor of Wyoming speak about it at another meeting. This highly publicized effort appears to be an attempt to find a way to spend less on higher education, with some sacrifice in quality being considered part of the cost of tight budgets in the late 90s, at least as perceived in those states.

IBM-led strategic planning effort

ITAC received a report on the presentation of the strategic plan to senior officers earlier in the day. Janet Pumo and Joshua Reiter from IBM, along with a core team from Duke developed the plan, after extensive interviews, the IT survey, and focus group meetings. Janet Pumo described the presentation.

The objective today was create awareness among the senior officers of what the recommendations for improving IT are, and the magnitude of investment for all components -- hardware, software, and support -- runs to tens of millions of dollars), and then wait for their reaction. It was noted that IT, though mentioned, did not feature in Duke's strategic plan or in the capital campaign planning; perhaps we should approach companies as part of campaign to meet some needs.

A second objective of the presentation was to obtain commitments from the senior officers to take the report as a foundation which would be augmented with needs from the patient care aspect of Duke so we can rate and rank the relative importance of IT components across the entire enterprise in first months of 1997. President Keohane committed to seeing that this happens.

The officers voiced a commitment to work on continued improved two-way communication about the plan and about IT as a whole.

The Provost asked "I don't see why people question our commitment - we created the VP-IT position and increased funding - what more do we need to do?" The President noted that the commitment may not be presented well. There was and is disagreement over many issues (cost, teaching and learning) among the senior officers.

Betty Le Compagnon thinks that the President understood for the first time the probable magnitude of expense required, and also that there is disagreement over what these numbers are, especially between OIT and the Executive Vice President's office.

Janet Pumo added that the next few months will see the conversion of this from IBM plan to a Duke plan. The intent is not to release this draft, but instead to wait until it is transformed into a plan the President can endorse.

The process for revising the plan is not yet in place, but it was noted that Janet will continue to be on campus next semester helping with the teaching and learning grant. The prime responsibility is clearly with the Vice Provost for Information Technology for getting better agreement on the dollar numbers and prioritizing.

Betty Le Compagnon made a point during the presentation that the $7 million targeted to improvements that would really help most users is much smaller than the $25 million slated for administrative reform; the President appeared to take this point.

Demo of Sponsored Projects system

Mike Gower made the presentation. Sponsored programs has been on the table for improvement since 1991. This has been a "stealth" project which has moved ahead rather quietly compared with procurement. It was approved by the senior officers in late 1994 but work only began earlier this year; it had to follow BPA in the queue. This was a partnership between MCIS, OIT, and AMS (outside consultants) that has worked well. It is a research administration system: "Cradle to grave" from the beginning of a proposal or protocol until shut-down of a project.

It is intended to be used by all units involved in grants management. Much of grant management is prescribed by the federal government, then tailored to Duke's specific needs. The system design was coupled with a process improvement effort to make Duke's grant management procedures more efficient. The team also tried to learn from problems of the BPA project. The intent was for the system to be accessible from many desktop platforms without the need for special hardware upgrades or configurations. This was done by going completely to the web. Duke will be a pilot for NIH in electronic submission and exchange of grant information (EDI) . The prototype system was demonsrated. A highlight was the routing information, which shows where the proposal has been and where it still needs to go for sign-offs, etc.

David Jamieson-Drake asked: What problems were encountered going to the web? Mike Gower responted that "It's hard to do right, but it was the right thing to do" (problems like Microsoft Internet Explorer vs Netscape Navigator capabilities).

The detailed design is nearly complete; lots of prototyping has been going on. The intent is to roll out to three pilot departments in 2Q97 (the Engineering Research Center and Psychiatry have participated all along and will be pilots).

New hardware

2 new IBM SP2's are being ordered, one for the procurement production system and one for the sponsored programs system just discussed.

Other business

Betty Le Compagnon spoke at the last Academic Council meeting; President Keohane's feedback was that it went well, and the Vice Provost has been invited to return to Academic Council in January since she did not get to several major areas in the abbreviated December meeting. In particular, discussion of her report was deferred until the January meeting.