Minutes for IT Task Force Meeting # 1
Date: July 24, 1997
Prepared by: Roger Lawson
Ray Lavigne, Jon Crystal , Keith
Kennedy, Martha Cafferky, Lauck Parke, Carol Gilbert, Joe Patlak,
Deborah Shenk, Mark Fitzsimmons, Geetha Ramanathan, David Punia
& Roger Lawson
Ray Lavigne commenced the meeting by thanking the committee for
agreeing to participate in this planning effort and giving the
committee its charge:
Why are we undertaking another IT planning
task force in view of the many well-intentioned and well-founded
"The intent is to build upon the efforts of previous efforts,
which have not resulted in a concrete widely-accepted plan for IT at
UVM, to develop a strategy for implementation and budgeting. In
April President Ramaley asked me to develop a strategic and tactical
IT plan, including a proposed expansion of the Library and the
replacement of the Telecommunication system. President Ramaley
believes that technology and specifically information technology is
critical to UVM's future."
- Review recent efforts to describe the IT vision and/or plan
- Develop a vision of information technology at UVM, including a
definition of the desired future role of IT on campus. Complete
an assessment of the University's existing resources (hardware,
software, infrastructure, people, and the information technology
organizational structure). Develop a strategic and tactical (long
and short-term) plan for realizing the vision.
- Recommend any changes in organization and a realistic budget
plan togo along with the vision and IT plan for the campus.
The IT vision and plan must include research, instruction, and
administrative information technology applications.
Examples of issues to be addressed are:
- What is the appropriate organizational structure for IT at
- What should the criteria be to evaluate the success and
progress of the plan?
- Should IT be more centrally managed or should more decisions
be distributed and decentralized?
- Should UVM adopt standards for hardware, software, etc.?
- What is the role of the Web in management and communication?
- How should UVM manage the Web?
- How do we provide IT support to UVM students, faculty, staff
and departments, and how do we fund it?
- Given that there will be more worthwhile initiatives than we
can fund and support, how do we set priorities?
These are just some of the questions and issues that should be
included in the evaluation of IT and its development of an IT vision
"In terms of the timetable, I recommend that a draft
report be ready for campus comments by the end of October. After
review and comment by the campus, a final proposal should be
delivered to the Provost and Vice President for Administration for
their review and approval by January 15, 1998."
As members who were present introduced themselves, they described the
improvements they would like to see initiated via this process. The
ideas aired are paraphrased below. Although there are clearly
differing viewpoints, there appears to be a gratifying level of
congruence and a strong sense of teamwork among the membership. The
ideas are posted roughly in the order presented, as recollected and
without attribution. These are the thoughts of individuals and though
there seems to be concurrence in most cases, these are not put forth
as a committee consensus. Members (and others) are encouraged to post
their visions and ideas directly to Plan-IT -- especially those who
were unable to be at the meeting...
- An increased cohesion of IT implementations would foster lower
support costs, enhanced IT awareness and improved communications.
- Desktop computers should be treated more like telephones:
consistent and supported by the infrastructure. Failing devices or
software would be expeditiously remedied (by rapid replacement if
necessary) as a required part of infrastructure.
- A substantial infusion of project funds is needed to implement
major modernization of legacy systems, workflow enhancements, etc.
- Our budgeting/funding mechanisms must be examined and revised
to facilitate coherent deployment and support of IT to the benefit
of not just individuals and their departments, but the University
as a whole.
- There is currently a substantial emphasis upon and investment
in the acquisition and deployment of computer hardware and
software without adequate strategic management and planning for
this costly and valuable resource. More emphasis should be placed
upon people and their use of IT.
- Insufficient balance is being applied in the deployment of
IT. For example, though a great deal of money is being spent on
desktop computing hardware, a laserdisk player cannot be funded.
- There is a serious lack of parity in the deployment of
desktop computing infrastructure. For example, while some
departments provide their faculty and staff with powerful, modern,
state-of-the-art computers, others provide virtually nothing.
- We need to make rational choices of what is centralized or
decentralized. The decision process should be consistent and
codified to ensure a more organized approach to IT deployment and
support. Currently, logic is not always going to help one
determine where to go for support or who is accountable for
systems, facilities and infrastructure quality.
[question: President Ramaley is reported to have described our
curriculum as a "weed patch". How might our our current IT
structure be described?]
- We need to consider the enormous expenses anticipated for the
new telephone system, new library systems, and Internet II in
view of other, possibly more pressing, IT needs.
- In the interest of improved cohesiveness we must not lose
sight (I almost typed "site"!) of the needs of those who are not
in central, main campus areas.
- There needs to be a continued recognition of the "P" in
"PC"s. That is, we must assure that we do not lose but, in fact,
reinforce the human aspects of distributed computing. IT
coordination, cooperation, & communication should serve to
aggregate and multiply our intellectual resources.
- Our IT investments should serve not as anchors (burdens) but
as wings (empowerment). IT should enhance our sense of community
-- improving everyone's morale, enabling creativity and generally
building our personal wherewithal...
- In order to enhance our ability to collaborate we must
correct some of the discontinuities caused by our IT choices. For
example, document sharing and exchange is frequently frustrated
by differing hardware, software and protocols.
- The University would benefit from having a consistent
communications & collaboration tool set that would include
word-processing, electronic mail, calendaring and document
- We need to assess UVM's existing IT infrastructure and
resource allocation. There is a sense that, in some areas, we are
behind. We need to increase or redeploy our resources to catch up
with other instituions.
- We should do something "exciting" that would energize the
campus and enhance UVM's reputation.
- Devices don't need to be ubiquitous, but the information and
communications need to be readily available.
- We need to consider how to use IT to support learning,
research, etc. away from the classroom.
- IT is too frequently regarded only as an "expense" not as a
resource. We need to continue to use IT to make us more
efficient and to make administrative and other transactions simple
and easy to use (AKA "paperless").
- We need a coherent information plan that includes assessment,
enhancement, education/training and provides integrated
- "Productivity paradox" pundits suggest that though we have
made enormous investments in personal computing, the "industry"
(least of all higher education) has not made corresponding
productivity gains. We can no longer continue to invest without
recouping greater productivity advances. There are a variety of
reasons for this paradox (some of which may be related to the
measurement model of productivity). One of them is choosing to
continue to maintain/support/employ the old methods in parallel
with new systems. We need to accelerate the harvesting of the
investments we have made.
- We could use organizational ideas espoused by Peter Senge
(see http://www.uvm.edu/%7eprovost/accreditation/readlist.html )
to become a learning organization that
"seeks to create its own future;
assumes learning is an ongoing
and creative process for its members;
develops, adapts and transforms itself
in response to the needs and aspirations of people,
both inside and outside itself."
No points have been intentionally passed over. In some case I
may have consolidated similar ideas under a single bullet and may
have added my own "spin" to some of these ideas. If I have
inadvertently (due to my faulty memory and marginal note-taking
skills), left out or misunderstood/misrepresented important points,
please post them to this list!
Following introductions the discussion turned to the tasks at hand.
Considerable concern was raised about the magnitude of the planning
effort and the prospect of delivering a draft document to the campus
by November 1 with no more than weekly meetings (14 weeks through the
end of October). Committee members offered several suggestions:
- The meeting times should be leveraged using the time between
meetings to continue to discuss and develop plans electronically
(using Plan-IT and email). This has the added advantage of
automatically recording/publishing ideas, comments and proposals.
This vehicle will also be used to gather input, comments and
questions from the general campus community. Although some members
felt that the discussion might be inhibited by concerns that
anyone could see and possibly misinterpret comments and
electronic ruminations, the consensus seemed to be that the list
should remain open. [The expectation is that readers of the
Plan-IT will, in addition to offering ideas and counter-proposals,
will pose questions and request clarification when needed.]
- Retreats were suggested as a way to complete the paper within
the recommended time frame. Suggestions ranged from a proposed
5-day retreat at the end of August to periodic half-day sessions
scheduled throughout the duration of the planning effort.
- Develop a work plan to focus our efforts and avoid reproducing
work already completed by earlier planning committees. It will be
important to devote time to the issues at hand.
The meeting adjourned at 11AM. The next meeting will be on
Thursday 1-3PM room TBA. Roger
David Punia's notes -
VP Lavigne and the group discussed the need for budget
a detailed implementation strategy necessarily must include budget
Ray also noted, while there may be some one-time funding
for changes in base budget needs will have to come from
It was noted that the Board of Trustees is very interested in the
the Task Force.
The members introduced themselves and each spoke briefly about
backgrounds and specific ideas about the work that needs to be
highlights, in no particular order, were;
Dealing with legacy systems in the new and changing IT environment
Integrating disparate information systems
Improving desktop support; treating desktop computers as
The difficulty of cost/benefit analyses
Interfacing different units around campus
Getting a handle on what and how we spend our IT dollars
Remembering there are other forms of IT than computers, e.g.
players and other classroom equipment
Focus on (pedagogical) content, not hardware.
Addressing the budget inequities across units
Establishing a minimum standard for IT in the classroom and on the
Equipping classrooms appropriately
Centralized vs. Decentralized purchasing and control
The politics of IT around campus
Personal IT: Looking at people and how they use IT
"Anchors vs. Airplanes" Appropriate IT for whom?
Technical literacy and training
Pooling intellectual resources
Addressing the "technology gap" between units
Keeping up with current technologies to allow innovative teaching
Assessing IT use, and the progress of an implementation plan
How does this tie in to curriculum changes that are coming;
How ubiquitous should IT be? Who needs what, when, where, and how
Distributed learning environments
Information sharing across campus
Paper and paperwork reduction
Work flow analysis; not just moving the same processes onto
Establishing a common vision for IT, with campus consensus
Dealing with the productivity paradox
Establishing supportable standards, while providing leeway to
There was further discussion about the volume of work that has
done, both at UVM and by other institutions, some of which is on
page, more to be added. The questions posed were;
What is applicable in today's environment?
What is still applicable to UVM?
What are the important questions to ask?
Can we tailor the work that's been done by other institutions to
There was general agreement that the documents placed on the web
to be reviewed and that a work plan would be an appropriate topic
next meeting. There was discussion, and general agreement, that
one or more
intensive, retreat-like sessions might be a better approach than
hour-or-longer meetings. This will be explored further. It was
suggested that the group invite in some of the authors of past
speak about their efforts.
There was some discussion of moving the target date up to
better coordinate with the Telecommunications project.