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January 20, 1994

 

                               MINUTES

                         Computing Committee

                    Information Systems Building

                          January 20, 1994

                               3:30 PM

 

 

  PRESENT:     K.B. Rojiani, Erv Blythe, David Goodyear, Tom McAnge,

               Gerry McLaughlin, Harlan Miller, Ernest Stout,

               D. B. Stout, John Tombarge, Michael Williams

 

  ABSENT:      Sean Arthur, Gregory Brown, John Burton, Scott Johnson,

               Katherine Johnston, George Libey, Bhaba Misra,

               Terry Rakes, Frank Schima, Peter Shires,

               Lawrence Skelly, Jay Stoeckel

 

  VISITOR(S):  Barbara Robinson and Bill Sanders (Computing Center)

               Carol Eggleston (Information Systems)

               William Holbach (Internal Audit)

               Joe Tront (College of Engineering)

 

 

  A special meeting was called to inform committee members on an Information

  Systems proposal to address pressing administrative computing systems

  problems.  Regular business was postponed until the February meeting.

 

  The University has struggled for some years with administrative computing

  applications based on old proprietary technology with deficient

  capabilities.   Years of development, however, represent an enormous

  investment from which it is difficult to break loose.

  Administrative areas believe these old systems, described as obsolete,

  jury-rigged and incomplete, are preventing them from becoming more

  effective and efficient. There is concern that the current incremental plan

  to move to modern systems is random and will take too long.

 

  Information Systems agrees that 90's technology developed from a broad

  perspective holds promise for administrative systems.  Systems development

  has been piecemeal in the past since allocated resources were only

  sufficient to handle one system at a time.  A parallel implementation plan

  would involve 30-40 systems, affecting 10,000 administrative users.  The

  University has over one million CMS files, one hundred thousand program

  modules, one hundred thousand MVS datasets and prints over one hundred

  million pages per year.

 

  All systems can be migrated on a fast-track schedule into open systems

  technology with improved integration.  It would not be possible to mimic

  current processes, however, since the migration would require using largely

  unmodified, off-the-shelf software, at least initially.  Real gains in

  efficiency come from examining business processes, however, and the

  migration could encourage that to happen.

 

  The knowledge of administrative systems and processes lies outside

  Information Systems, and it would be necessary to draw on that knowledge

  and experience for rapid migration to succeed.  Most

  development/maintenance work must be suspended, restructuring the efforts

  of all computer staff for core administrative areas, 90% of whom work

  outside Information Systems.  (University data processing staff has more

  than doubled since the 70's to over 200 employees.   Since 1982, however,

  there has been virtually no growth in Computing Center/Systems Development

  staff and nearly all application development occurs outside Information

  Systems.  FRS, for example, was implemented by the Controller's Office.)

  Since the project entails significant risk and extraordinary effort, it is

  important to utilize the University's most talented staff members, even at

  the expense of some normal operational activities.

 

  An Information Systems management group, including select individuals from

  affected administrative areas, would oversee the project which would be

  divided into three areas, database management systems/server services,

  administrative client infrastructure and training, and the administrative

  system migration teams. The project must be tightly coordinated and highly

  disciplined, building and enforcing a project management plan with

  deliverables.

 

  Updating the skill set of University application developers is difficult

  when traditional development and maintenance activities are so demanding

  and management is not uniformly focused on that goal.  Restructuring would

  provide leadership committed to providing comprehensive training for all

  developers.

 

  An arbitrator with the authority to effect changes to processes and systems

  will also be required, a responsibility delegated to the Vice President for

  Information Systems.   At the same time, the Vice President must be assured

  of access to the Executive Vice President and Provost to keep them informed

  of problems requiring arbitration.

 

  Proposed funding for the project, about $2 million per year, would be

  obtained via reallocations within Information Systems and administrative

  areas.  Funding would be required for end user technology and literacy

  infrastructure, database servers and core systems hardware and software,

  and contract labor, and training of development staff.

 

  In three years, a baseline set of integrated core systems would be in

  place, eliminated the University's dependency on proprietary hardware.

 

  This proposal has been generally well-received.  There is a good

  understanding in the University community of the inefficiencies of existing

  systems, as evidenced by the concerns expressed by the Computing Committee.

   A decision on implementation is expected by the end of January.  A

  positive reaction on the part of the committee can be helpful in building

  momentum toward a decision to proceed.

 

 

  The next meeting will be held on February 2 at 3:30 p.m. in conference room

  D in the Information Systems Building.

 

  Meeting adjourned at 5:25pm.

 

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