Minutes: January 21, 2009


Report of the meeting of the COMPUTING COMMITTEE of Erindale College Council held on Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 3:10 p.m. in the Ante Room, #3129, S.B.

Present: D. Kreuger; J. Sills; E. Nikiema; S. Murphy (for R. Da Silva); C. Mejia; A. Akers; J. Hu; C. Capewell; A. Vyas; J. Lim; J. Graham (for R. Gerlai); D. O’Day
Regrets: A. Fleming; D. O’Day;
Guests: B. Cook; R. Arora;

1. Minutes of the Previous Meeting (October 22, 2008) were approved.

2. Business:
To accommodate Mr. Bob Cook’s schedule, the agenda was revised to allow New Business to proceed before the Report of Officers.

a) The Challenges of a New CIO—Bob Cook, CIO

The CIO provided the committee with a presentation overview of what he has been doing since he assumed the CIO role.

After much consultation, he has identified a number of foundational principles on which he is building his vision of the CIO portfolio:

  • Alignment with the research and teaching priorities and functions
  • Customer service focus
  • Recognizing, respecting and finding balance in the tri-campus system
  • Coherence of IT strategy and experience (access, quality, etc.)
  • Finding and promoting value-based initiatives with quantifiable benefits

A number of pre-existing projects were in the works when the CIO took the reigns, and these projects have been proceeding, including BlackBoard enhancements, the SAP update, and the rollout of the Outlook Exchange service.

When the CIO took the job, his first goal was to listen, listen, listen to the multitude of client groups and IT workers across the University. The CIO sought to identify the key enablers that would facilitate a synergistic IT+S environment at UofT. Five such enablers were identified:

  • Enhancing Communications. To that end, an integrated IT+S website will be launched in late February with comprehensive, one-stop-shop links to useful IT+S information across UofT.
  • Support Consultation. Opportunities for IT+S experts to collaborate and share resources have been lost, so the CIO aims to enhance and support opportunities for consultation, feedback sharing, and similar mechanisms.
  • IT Governance. The CIO noted that in previous years there had been little transparency or accountability for how IT decisions were made. To rectify this, he is proposing a multi-layered review and recommendation process that will involve leaders (including IT and non-IT areas) from across UofT.
  • Restructuring the central IT portfolio. The CIO is looking for commonalities among functions, and imagines the restructuring may result in a user-interface layer, applications layer, and others all underpinned by an infrastructure layer.
  • Co-location of central IT+S workers. The CIO would like to see staff in IT+S areas working closer together so they can collaborate more readily.

A member shared his experience some years ago of trying to find collaborators for a software development initiative, but the Research Services office was restricted by confidentiality and could not disclose the names of the researchers with whom the member might fund useful collaborators. The CIO responded that his information sharing initiatives will be voluntary, so only those researchers and experts who wish to identify themselves will be captured. He recognized the difference between faculty researchers and IT+S staff members, and that their approaches and needs will be different.

In considering the CIO’s proposal for an IT governance structure, a number of members noted that the three campuses did not have equal nor proportional representation, and they encouraged the CIO to reconsider this. They reminded the CIO that UTM and UTSC had traditionally been overlooked by the St. George campus, and that treating these two campuses as entities similar to downtown faculties is not true equity. The CIO noted that his plan had assumed that members of the IT governance process would all come to the table with UofT’s best interests at heart, and reiterated that the process would evaluate UofT-wide IT+S initiatives, and that nothing would prevent local IT priorities to be dealt with at the local level.

b) Microsoft Exchange Project—Rishi Arora

The move to Exchange is a central UofT project, and UTM has now identified a list of 939 accounts to be transitioned to Exchange. The list includes primarily faculty, staff and graduate students.

The conversion is being done by the IT staff at UTM. The priority users to be transitioned are those currently using Oracle. The deadline for UTM IT to convert all 939 accounts is February 26th.

The benefits to the Exchange system include: a larger e-mail quota; synchronization to desktop computers and mobile devices; a more effective webmail system, etc.

A training session for users is in the planning stages, but no date has yet been set.

c) By-Law Changes—Joe Lim

Over the summer and into the fall of 2008, the Acting Director of Governance conducted a thorough review of the governance structure and systems at UTM. One of his key findings was that the Computing Committee—which was originally intended to make policy recommendations on computing and IT—very rarely in practice actually fulfilled this function. In the course of five years, there was only one policy-related motion that proceeded from the Computing Committee to ECC.

Instead, the Computing Committee has mostly been used to receive administrative reports and to discuss impending IT changes. This role has tremendous value, but this is a role that really should not require six formal meetings per year, which is the norm for Standing Committees of Council.

Recognizing the need for computing and IT issues to have a place in the governance structure at UTM, but also recognizing that the number of meetings has become an administrative burden, the Acting Director has recommended that the Computing Committee could be disbanded as an official Standing Committee of ECC, and instead reconstituted as a subcommittee of the Resource Planning & Priorities Committee. As a subcommittee of RPPC, meetings would only be scheduled as the need arises, and can be conducted less formally.

The Acting Director has also proposed that the CIO position be added to the permanent membership of the Resource Planning & Priorities Committee, which would ensure that computing and IT issues will always have a formal venue for policy issues to move through the governance process.

A member spoke in support of this change and noted that the communication and information dissemination function of the Standing Committees (and the governance system) is not working effectively. The member suggested that it might be a good idea to send out an ‘all-staff’ and ‘all-faculty’ e-mail once a month or so to provide an overview of the issues examined through the various governance committees and to basically let people know what is going on.

In response to a member’s request for clarification, Joe explained that the intention is to keep the structure of the committee equivalent to the one now, but it would merely meet less regularly. The new subcommittee would still review policy and provide input on the same issues it always has.

A member reiterated that the subcommittee will still have a voice in the governance system since everything of note still must proceed through to ECC. If the new By-Laws proceed, IT issues will move forward to ECC through RPPC.

The Acting Director noted that the Terms of Reference of the new subcommittee will need to be reviewed, and that this presents an opportunity to refine the role for the new subcommittee.

Motion: I move that in principle, the Computing Committee agrees to change from a Standing Committee of ECC and become a subcommittee of the Resource Planning & Priorities Committee. (J. Lim; C. Capewell)

Motion passes

3. Next meeting
At the next meeting on February 25th, 2009, the new subcommittee terms of reference will be reviewed.

4. Adjournment
Meeting adjourned at 4:40 p.m.