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Planning & Budget: Technology

Meeting of the UWM Council on Information Technology

August 13, 2007


  • Rita Cheng (Chair), Provost and Vice Chancellor
  • Christy Brown, Interim Vice Chancellor, Finance & Administrative Affairs
  • Helen Mamarchev, Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs
  • Stan Stojkovic, Academic Deans Council Representative
  • Ed Mabry substituting for Ethan Munson, ITPC Representative
  • Gwyn Wallander, Academic Staff Committee Representative
  • Andy Richards, Director, Business & Financial Services, Ex-officio
  • Bruce Maas, CIO & Director, I&MT, Ex-officio
  • Laura Pedrick, Assistant to the Provost, Ex-officio
  • David Stack, Deputy CIO, I&MT, Guest (reporting)

Provost Rita Cheng called the meeting to order at 10:09 am.

CIT Establishment, Purpose and Structure

The Provost distributed copies of the Council on Information Technology (CIT) focus, key tasks and support structure that were drafted based upon the findings of the Blackwell review committee six years ago. Ed Mabry is in attendance today representing the faculty and academic staff from the University IT Policy Committee (ITPC). In contrast to the ITPC, the CIT is advisory to the Provost in a more strategic and executive manner across all of the divisions. UWM has both a centralized and decentralized support structure. The majority of the funding is in centralized IT, but a good amount of money is spent out of the schools, colleges and divisions. There is a network of Unit Technology Representatives (UTRs) that helps facilitate discussions of a more technical nature.

2005 IT Review & Progress Report

In 2005, an extensive internal review of campus technology was conducted to update the Blackwell review while an Interim CIO was in place. That review was shared with the CIT at its previous meeting and is available on the Academic Affairs website. New members of the CIT will receive copies of the latest IT Review and copies of the subsequent status report. Three items of note from that review are:

  • The central IT organization was seen as complex and not transparent
  • The Help Desk was not seen as responsive
  • Campus IT projects were lacking prioritization

Significant strides have been made regarding the organization and responsiveness of central IT. Project prioritization is on the agenda for this group. Ed Mabry reported that this year the ITPC will be sending a representative to the Academic Planning and Budget Committee (APBC) to develop a stronger connection between IT issues and the budget process. Some members of the ITPC have been pushing for developing a structured set of IT project reviews and prioritizations as part of the business of that committee so that feedback and recommendations can be given to the CIO.

Stan Stojkovic echoed the review committee's concerns with responsiveness and the diversity of equipment in a wireless world. The Provost explained that the building of trust, increased professional development and the reassignment of I&MT staff have been underway over the last two years.

I&MT Name Change Proposal

The Provost explained that a name change for the I&MT organization will signal to the campus that it is a new day. Departmental names within the I&MT organization have been simplified already. Bruce Maas gave the example of the Campus Solution Center simplifying its name to Help Desk. The existing divisional name, Information & Media Technologies, was a compromise based upon the prior merging of three divisions. It is a unique name in higher education. A more common name at leading universities is University Information Technology Services (UITS). Each word of the name is significant. The focus is on service, not systems. Feedback on the UITS name from staff and governance groups has been positive. The endorsement of the CIT is sought before documents are printed for the fall and a branding campaign begun. The Provost noted that Bruce Maas took his entire staff through a mission, vision and value exercise so these are not idle words.

Ed Mabry agreed that no red flags were raised by the ITPC. Stan Stojkovic noted that both advocates and critics will seize upon the word service in the name so the division will have to hold itself to a high standard.

The name change proposal will also be put on the agenda for the Academic Deans tomorrow. If they have no objections, it will go forward.

Emergency Notification System

Helen Mamarchev is leading a campus safety committee. Laura Pedrick and Chief Hodermann are leading a group that is looking into the continuity of operations. There is also an emergency response team connected to both of those efforts. A new Emergency Notification System (ENS) will consist of:

  1. a loudspeaker system that is being developed by Finance and Administrative Affairs
  2. a system for notifying people through telephones, text messaging and email

It is the latter effort that will be considered today. Laura Pedrick explained that there is both a long term and short term strategy. A full, long term strategy will require a purchasing review. Therefore, an inexpensive, short-term, hosted strategy is being pursued through a Request for Bid (RFB). Bruce Maas explained that a five-day simplified bid process for under $25,000 was released last Friday for a six month engagement with a hosted service while a full RFP is being written for a comprehensive system. A decision will be made this coming Friday, which will leave less than two weeks to have an operational system in place by the start of the fall semester. Students, faculty and staff will be able to self-select which of ten types of options they would like to use for receiving communications.

Laura Pedrick explained that a critical piece of the effort will be the determination of how and when messages will go out, and to whom. The emergency operations plan will be merged with these new capabilities to determine how alerts will be activated and all-clears issued. A campuswide group has been putting together protocols that address these issues. The ENS system will be folded into the SAFE campaign for the fall.

Ed Mabry concurred that the ITPC saw a presentation on these issues a few months ago and the progress since then has been impressive. The University also needs procedures for events that are less dramatic and tragic than those that make the national news.

Bruce Maas explained that, over time, there will be the ability to develop different lists for different purposes, e.g., building by building. The role of the Building Chairs will have to be defined as part of that effort.

The Provost reported that a surcharge on the campus telephone bills has been discussed as a possible funding source. Telephone bills have not gone up for four years. Stan Stojkovic reported that he sits on the governor's task force for campus safety. An interim report is coming out next week. The governor has made it clear that state funds need to be made available for these types of initiatives.

Project Prioritization

Bruce Maas explained that two of the unaddressed items from the internal IT review include:

  1. the roles of centralization versus decentralization, which is being pursued with the UTRs and other governance groups
  2. project prioritization, which has been saved for last because of the preparation work that was required

I&MT has re-allocated a position in order to hire a Process Architect/Portfolio Manager. Best practices from Gartner and other universities will be tailored to work at UWM. Based upon a dollar threshold, a process needs to be created for those who want to submit their ideas and requests to initiate large projects. Requirements will be developed and governance will be given a say in what is pursued. A process already exists within PAWS, but not in other areas. For example, there are a significant number of web projects underway that have been prioritized according to a large number of inconsistent factors. New systems will be coming online for Human Resources and other needs that will have to be balanced against competing interests so that the appropriate decisions can be made. The move to new sites beyond the Kenwood campus will drive the need for workflow automation.

The Process Architect will work with the CIO and generate proposals for a prioritization process. The Provost noted that this effort is not separate from the centralized/decentralized discussion. Some of our most talented web developers are working on projects that are not the highest priority due to the availability of funding in the units that have purchased their services from I&MT. The project list is long, the budget is limited and prioritization is important.

Stan Stojkovic said that often things need to be done yesterday. He inquired if the prioritization process will enable the opportunity for schools, colleges and divisions to go off campus if they have the funding. The Provost said her vision is that this could be an option, but there would first need to be triaging and discussion on campus because there are needs for downstream support and integration of projects developed by outside suppliers.

Ed Mabry reported that the ITPC has discussed the extent to which technology can be utilized to manage the balance between centralized and decentralized efforts. I&MT should be creating common platforms that serve the core needs of the University that will help free up resources to do things in a decentralized fashion that are not antagonistic to the University infrastructure. The Content Management System and PantherFile are two examples of open campus systems that leverage departmental investments.

Colin Scanes noted that there are cases in research where people who need to acquire resources–and who have the funds–don't want to go through a process. The Provost noted the importance of having an area where research computers can sit other than in labs and under desks. However, the buying of specific research software and hardware needs to be a nimble process that is not intertwined with administrative functions.

Budget Needs on the Horizon

The Provost noted that there are both campus and UW System (UWS) concerns regarding the costs and budgeting for technology. Drafts of documents from the UWS Common Systems Review Group were distributed. Costs of UWS shared services are expected to go up in the next few years due to the implementation of a new HR system. The group will look at what is key for the success of the UW System and what is less crucial.

These same issues are mirrored on campus, e.g., the need for a second data center and the lack of redundancy for research and administrative systems. Another issue is the fiscal challenge of replacing outdated equipment on a consistent basis.

Andy Richards explained that common systems also lead to common business practices and common policies. The latter two need more discussion than has taken place to date.

Information Security Draft Policy

The Provost distributed a draft of a new Information Security Policy that will go to the Faculty Senate at their September meeting. It is designed to address a lot of needs surrounding data integrity, retention, security and compliance. It is connected to the overall campus security efforts.

Bruce Maas reported that the policy has been thoroughly reviewed already by the University Committee, the ITPC and Legal Affairs.

Future Meetings

The Provost explained that the CIT will meet three or four times per year and agenda suggestions are welcome from both the Vice Chancellors and the ITPC.