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Week of March 25, 2013

IT rationalization continues with upgrades, call for feedback

The rollout last spring and summer of Google mail, calendar and related computing tools to most of the campus will be followed in the coming months by MiWorkspace to boost computer support and collaboration.

MiWorkspace supports a suite of desktop services including printing, network connectivity, storage, security, software and also desktop support. It was one of the IT changes discussed March 18 during a campuswide town hall meeting — “IT Matters to You” — led by Laura Patterson, chief information officer and associate vice president for ITS.

More than 100 people gathered in the Michigan League and another 160 participated via the Internet as Patterson outlined various initiatives that will help the university efficiently introduce new services and maintain U-M’s position as a world-class research university.

Patterson talked about new services, changes in how those services will be delivered and the development of a strategic plan for IT. She said IT rationalization — the promotion of shared computing services to support the best use of resources — will be guided in part by input from the Michigan IT community and the general university community.

The program Monday was the first of three town hall meetings. They continue with sessions for IT staff from 1-4 p.m. today (March 25) in the Michigan Union Anderson Room, and 1-4 p.m. April 8 in the Pierpont Commons East Room.

Patterson said MiWorkspace-related upgrades have begun. “This is occurring across the central administration right now,” she said, adding it should be implemented across academic units in fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

Once MiWorkspace is fully implemented, Patterson said, users will see a higher level of service support for computing devices that include mobile, tablets, and desktop and laptop computers.

“The frustration of connecting from anywhere on campus should diminish and it should become easier to do. We are literally building a new infrastructure and better service to support users in their productivity tools. The way they acquire a new device, whether a laptop or desktop computer will change, the way they get help for their device will change,” she said.

Patterson said another key benefit of MiWorkspace is that everyone will be working with the same technologies. For example, computing needs will be the same for a faculty member with a shared appointment between two units, who may work in multiple buildings. Also, the contact number for help will be uniform: 4-HELP (734-764-4357).

Patterson said the IT rationalization process is designed to keep U-M on the forefront of technology solutions in order to advance its academic, teaching, research and clinical programs.

“We need to reduce overall IT costs, so units can invest in technology solutions that support their individual core missions. Part of the solution is to streamline IT expenditures that are common across units in order to obtain economies of scale,” she said.

Patterson said that since the IT rationalization process began three years ago by merging separate IT services into one entity — Information Technology Services — the university has saved $7 million each year.

She added the university’s strategy to navigate change is under study by deans and executive officers. Meanwhile, an IT Council has been working with Patterson’s Office of the CIO to set campuswide IT priorities and frame the IT Strategic Planning endeavor.

“There is absolutely no question that education as an industry is in a time of massive change,” Patterson said. Forces that will drive change include those who question the cost-to-value of higher education at a time when the accumulated debt on college loans has surpassed credit card debt. Meanwhile states have reduced their support of higher education, and online classes are growing, she said.

“What makes Michigan special and how do we preserve that and become even more strongly positioned?” Patterson asked. “New discovery and knowledge is created here. This positions us perfectly for this kind of disruption and we can emerge as a leader in higher education. We must respond, adapt to the change and drive the change, but we must preserve the Michigan brand.”

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