CIO completes initial 75-day plan and details what's ahead
July 16, 2007
By Anita Martin
After little more than two months on the job, Chief Information Officer Brice Bible has developed a series of plans to improve information technology at Ohio University. The initial 75-day plan to evaluate IT needs and develop a strategic plan is now complete.
"We've brought multiple IT offices together, culminating with the Office of Information Technology, which is committed to better, more efficient and more secure information technology," Bible said. The office has settled on a new IT management model that restructures the central office, designates various advisory groups and identifies more opportunities to collaborate with IT workers across the Athens and regional campuses.
The past few months also have seen increased security measures through improving firewall protection, reducing Social Security number use and better monitoring of network activity.
For 2007-08, OIT will begin implementing recommendations that Bible, Gartner Consulting of Stamford, Conn., and university constituents identified during the previous academic year. According to Bible, all assessments call for more funding, increased IT staff levels, more structured project management and better infrastructure.
Bible and his team have set a goal of $8 million in additional funding over five years, $2 million of which the Ohio University Board of Trustees approved for this first year. The bulk of these investments will go toward hiring 11 new staff members in the first year, and most of the remainder will support improved hardware systems, Bible said.
These investments will help address the top two priorities of the department:
- Updating and stabilizing IT infrastructure
- Improving service to all campus constituents
In addition to new hires, OIT will restructure the central office to clarify staff responsibilities. "The trick now is to find the right balance between the central office and distributed IT services in order to better serve the university," Bible said.
The central office will assist "distributed" IT employees -- employees who work for and are on the payroll of other departments -- with issues related to server administration, application management, desktop support and computer lab management based on the individual needs of each unit.
On the hardware side, Bible will upgrade the campus server and storage architectures. The new hardware will serve the full range of server and storage needs for the entire university, including faculty research, campus e-mail and all general purposes.
The new server and storage systems will reduce redundancies, expand hardware capabilities and simplify system administration, eliminating the need for distributed employees to manage servers. This frees IT workers for other projects, and it saves academic and support units the cost of buying, maintaining and running individual servers. The universitywide storage architecture can easily grow in coming years to keep up with increased information loads, which also will save money in the long run.
"These systems will be rugged and reliable enough that the whole university can use them, instead of relying on separate servers and limited storage systems," Bible said. "This will do a lot to save the university time and money."
Tools for all
Also in the first year, the Office of Information Technology will begin upgrading various administrative and classroom tools, and piloting new e-mail and calendar systems at the College of Osteopathic Medicine.
"We will focus on helping the entire university, including regional campuses, by providing more tools that support real-time collaboration," Bible said. "We want to hear from individual units to find out how to serve their needs."
For instance, in response to customer requests, OIT will expand upon what the Oracle calendar system can do. Over the next three years, it also will switch over to Web-based PeopleSoft to manage student information, which will tie together data universitywide and provide good online tools for admissions, course registration and grade distribution, for example.
To continue improving security this coming year, additional internal firewalls will supplement the perimeter to protect sensitive information, and the university will continue to eliminate the use of Social Security numbers wherever possible. When Social Security numbers are essential, OIT will encrypt them. To bolster security, Bible also is calling for tighter policies and procedures governing such areas as data classification, identity management and disaster recovery.
In 2007-08, OIT will test and implement systems to recover current university information and ensure business continuity, should anything happen to a data center. The university will partner with Ohio State University for part of the OIT disaster recovery program, in keeping with Bible's aim to save time and money by collaborating when possible.
Finally, OIT will begin an awareness and training campaign to educate the university community about better security practices.
"We've all grown fairly tech savvy as individuals, but there are still practices we should all use that maybe we don't at both the user level and a more technical level," Bible said. To that end, OIT will offer training sessions and launch a tech-security campaign this year.
To monitor its performance, the Office of Information Technology will determine progress measurement criteria and conduct quarterly reviews, with a comprehensive program evaluation coming after the first year and each subsequent year. A universitywide Information Technology Advisory Council will assist the CIO in upholding the principles of the Vision OHIO academic plan. Additional customer-oriented support committees will focus on more specific IT issues. Membership for both the council and the support committees will be determined this year. Support committees include:
- Student Advisory Group
- Technology Architecture Council
- Faculty Senate IT Committee
- Administrative Technology Advisory Group
"The university began taking strong action a year ago to improve IT security," Bible told Outlook. "This plan builds on those efforts by articulating the key initiatives needed to carry information technology to a level of reliability and security that we all expect."
After the first year, the office will modify details of goals for the second year and add more detail to the third in order to always keep a running, flexible two-year plan in place.