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IS Now Structured By Processes

By David D. Hsu
News Editor

As a result of re-engineering, Information Systems has changed from a structure organized by functions to one organized around teams and processes.

"Re-engineering provided an opportunity for MIT to rethink the way information technology is used to support the way our academic, research, and administrative work is done," said Vice President for Information Systems James D. Bruce ScD '60.

The old structure of IS included six groups that were in charge of specific areas. Academic computing services, telecommunications systems, operations and systems, distributed computing and network services, administrative systems development, and computing support services composed IS before re-engineering, Bruce said.

Through the information technology transformation redesign - the name of the redesign process - IS is now divided into processes, practices, and competencies, Bruce said.

Five process groups added

In the redesign, IS identified five work processes: discovery, delivery, service, and support, Bruce said.

The I/T discovery process group, as the "first in the chain" of groups, defines the information technology requirements of the MITcommunity, Bruce said.

If people have an idea about providing a type of service, they can start a discovery process to find out about the service, said Erin Rae Hoffer, a member of IS.

Products and services that are "discovered" move on to the I/T delivery process group, Bruce said. This group works to implement rapidly these new products and services.

The delivered products will be maintained and upgraded by the next group, the I/T service process, Bruce said. The service process also ensures that MIT's entire information technology infrastructure - including everything from Athena, to telephones, to PC repair - runs efficiently.

The I/T support process is charged with effectively delivering timely, high-quality support to information technology users, Bruce said.

The I/T integration process pays attention to making the products and services fit into the existing environment, Hoffer said.

One question that the integration process might ask is how Kerberos, the authentication and encryption system used to protect certain information on Athena, would work with new operating environments, said Director of Academic Computing M. S. Vijay Kumar.

The five processes work in close partnership, Bruce said.

While projects move through the various processes, some people will also move along with the project, Kumar said. In this manner, there will be memory and continuity, and the processes will not be separate and discrete, he said.

Practices focus on customers

The second large category in IS is the practices, which focus on customers, Hoffer said.

The office computing practice, the academic computing practice, and the voice, data, and image networking practice work to ensure that information technology systems are available to support academic, research, and administrative efforts, Bruce said.

Formerly academic computing services, the academic computing practice has two main focuses, Kumar said. On one end, the practice strives to understand people's needs and to translate them to IS processes. The practice also tries to explain IS to the academic community so that the community can better benefit.

The practices also will work with the IS processes and outside vendors to make sure current systems are accessible, Bruce said.

The last of the three categories in IS is the I/T competency groups.

The competency groups ensure that people with the appropriate skills are available to staff the processes and projects IS undertakes, Bruce said.

The ability of the staff to learn is the most critical aspect for the competency groups, said Hoffer, the director of the I/T competency groups. The groups need to make sure that the staff have the best skills and competency to deliver to customers.

To this end, the competency groups seek to ensure training is available to the ISstaff, Hoffer said.

Currently, the competency groups are defining a competency model to find out what priorities should be, Hoffer said.

In the old organization, there were some meaningless integrations and divisions that prevented IS from using resources well, Kumar said.

In the new IS structure, "there won't be unnecessary duplication," Kumar said. The MIT community will be able to get services more efficiently.

The goal of re-engineering was to contain the growth in information technology costs while demand increased, Bruce said. During the past four years, IS has had zero-growth budgets except for salary and employee benefits increases despite an increasing workload.

One thing the competency groups will look at is the turnover rate of employees in IS, Hoffer said.

"Information Systems staff are highly skilled, and their skill sets are very much in demand in the hyper-charged information technology market," Bruce said. "As we know, salaries in higher education cannot compete with salaries in today's marketplace."

IS will need to try to stay competitive in this setting, Hoffer said.

Despite several recent senior management departures, IS has not seen a larger than average staff turnover since the redesign, Bruce said.

Hoffer and Kumar both came to IS after the redesign.

IS to move out of Building 11

Also because of re-engineering, IS will move from its current location in Building 11, to Building N42, the former home of Graphic Arts, Bruce said. Replacing IS in Building 11 will be the new Student Services Center, which needs to stay close to MIT student activity, he said.

An IS client design team is working with architects, the Planning Office, and Physical Plant to create a new home for parts of IS in Building N42.

Some of IS will still remain in the main campus, Bruce said. "We are committed to make it easy for our customers to interact with us."