Report from Chief Technology Officer Peter Greco
As 2012 comes to an end, six months have passed since Saint Mary’s welcomed me as chief technology officer. Broadly speaking, my role is to provide support and guidance as the College determines the ways that information technology will assist in the achievement of its strategic objectives. I’m happy to report that progress is being made, and I want to provide a few highlights.
Our IT infrastructure has been a focus, as there is $3.2 million in need just to reach the stability that represents a standard in higher education. The Board of Trustees and Cabinet have been very supportive in this regard, and the following IT infrastructure projects have been funded to address approximately one third of this desired stability:
- WiFi coverage and density upgrades in all residence halls
- Network border (Internet redundancy, equipment upgrade and increased capacity)
- Central Computing Facility (electrical grid enhancement/backup, fire suppression)
- Email cloud (migration to Google Apps – and notably Gmail – for faculty and staff)
The first two of these projects are underway. The email cloud project is slated to begin in early 2013, and work on the Central Computing Facility (located in the attic of the Korth Arcade) will follow soon thereafter. The remaining – and not yet funded – list of needs includes a critical upgrade to our network core, replacement of fiber optic cable that connects our many campus buildings, upgrades to the various intermediate distribution facilities that act as a set of network routing depots for desktop and wireless computing, replacement of cabling infrastructure in a number of campus buildings (most notably those where we hold classes), installation of “state of the practice” classroom technology in all classrooms, and expansion of the campus WiFi network to ensure proper coverage in all places where students and faculty may use mobile devices. Once we reach stability, we can then begin to consider enhancements that will best address the many innovations that information technology can support.
Additionally, the department currently known as CaTS, and soon to be known as Information Technology Services (or ITS), has been fortunate to find two excellent replacements for three employees who left us during the summer. Infrastructure & Operations staff members Lawrence Altomare and Jim Miles have already identified many necessary adjustments to our networked computing environment that have created increased stability and enhanced performance, and I am really excited about the future that they represent. I’m also very pleased with the considerable number of existing staff who have expressed a desire to support the broad change that the College’s future represents. We are working hard to improve our service and support effort, as we recognize that improvement is needed.
Many of you are aware of the effort that resulted in a strategic plan for technology. While I was not here to contribute to this effort, the plan provides excellent guidance for me and my department so that we can be sure we are headed in the right direction. Also, the College has moved quickly to establish an IT governance model that assigns decision rights and accountability with respect to the adoption and use of information technology.
At Saint Mary’s, the Technology Planning and Policy Committee (TPPC) will have three subcommittees – Academic, Administrative and Infrastructure – that will generate and/or review IT investment proposals for the IT project portfolio. My role as CTO is to play IT investment advisor to a fourth subcommittee, the Executive Subcommittee, the members of which are the chairs of the TPPC and the aforementioned subcommittees. The entire process is intended to establish and continually rebalance the IT project portfolio to best address the strategic plan for technology. At present, we are bridging the gaps that exist among the past, present and future, with the portfolio containing many projects currently being implemented alongside those slated for implementation. There are also many other portfolio titles that represent IT investment opportunities pending TPPC review and approval.
When I interviewed for this position in January and February of this year, an oft-repeated word was transformation. I believe that all of higher education is experiencing change at a fundamental level that has at least some basis in development of information technology. Accordingly, my vision for the future of SMC IT service and support includes five areas of focus:
- Teaching, Learning and Scholarship
- Contract management
- Project management
- IT security
- Value-added local technical service and support
As time passes, the ITS department (currently CaTS, until January 2013) will increasingly be organized along these lines. The primary goal will be to conserve resources and to seek efficiencies that will in turn allow us to focus as much attention as possible on the College’s core mission to educate students and to support faculty in the teaching, scholarship and creative activity that distinguish a Saint Mary’s education.
As 2013 approaches, I want to be sure you all know what a privilege it is for me to serve as Saint Mary’s CTO. My perspective is still fresh, and I see that Saint Mary’s is a special place with a ton of potential to become even better than we are today. If any of you have a question or two related to the information I’ve offered here, do not hesitate to inquire via email to plg2. Thank you for taking the time to read this update. Our future is grand!