LSU’s Technology Task Force Meets, Hears from Indiana University CIO Brad Wheeler
BATON ROUGE – The LSU Transition Advisory Team Technology Task Force met on Monday, May 6, in the LSU Frey Computer Services Center. The meeting was streamed live via the Internet for those who could not attend and meeting archives are available at www.lsu.edu/tat.
During the meeting, the group heard from Brad Wheeler, Indiana University’s vice president for information technology and chief information officer, who spoke on “Enterprise Information Systems in Higher Education.”
“I think this is just fantastic what you’re working on,” Wheeler said.
He said that this decade is different for higher education since the economics of higher education are not as sustainable as it was in the 1990s. For every dollar that comes in from a student or the state, there are certain encumbrances upon it including compliance, capital facilities, scholarships, etc. This is why there is a difference in the net cost of education and “the sticker price.”
In discussing the current funding of higher education, Wheeler outlined the possibilities for enterprise information systems that a university can pursue, including purchasing software from a commercial vendor, developing the system in house, or partnering with other universities to develop a system.
“It’s a pretty serious time to think about this,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler provided examples of systems that other universities have implemented and the anticipated and actual costs of utilizing those systems.
“We have got to get our money where our mission is,” he said.
Wheeler also discussed the Kuali Project, which was developed in August 2004 as a community source initiative to build a financial accounting system for higher education, by higher education.
“There are other paths now beyond build or buy,” said Wheeler.
He informed the group about the Kuali Foundation and its membership expertise. Kuali membership is the means for any college, university, commercial and other not-for-profit organization to get involved in sustaining and evolving the Kuali software.
In light of LSU’s reorganization project, Wheeler was asked how each campus in the Indiana University System is involved in operating their technology services. He said that there is mission differentiation, and they operate a private cloud that is run on the Bloomington campus with a smaller system on the Indianapolis campus.
He stressed that it is important to not differentiate between centralized and decentralized functions and they instead use the terms edge, leverage and trust. It all comes down to trusting each other and working together to utilize economies and localization, he said.
Wheeler said that there are some instances where leveraging makes a lot of sense, but other instances where things can be pushed to the edge where there are “boots on the ground” and locals who can help.
He said that it’s not simple, but it’s important to develop a culture of trust of IT teams working together.
The task force followed with a group discussion of priorities moving forward. One of the priority topics was managing “big data.”
Bill Silvia, president and CEO of the Pennington Medical Foundation and co-chair of the Operations & Technology Sub-Committee, cautioned the group about thinking too small and urged them to think big and broadly.
Joel Tohline, director of LSU’s Center for Computation & Technology, or CCT, added that there needs to be a focus on how to preserve, maintain and curate data for analysis. He said that if LSU is to address this issue, 20 petabytes of storage should be added, which is a $5 million investment, along with networking infrastructure and staffing.
“There’s broad consensus that this is an issue that we need to figure out how to address,” Tohline said.
The group also discussed the importance of a clearly written vision for what big data can do for the university and how it will make a difference across the entire system.
Other topics brought up during the discussion included cloud storage, data networks, data services, bandwidth and telecommunications.
“If we’re going to behave as one, we’re going to have to treat people equally,” said Silvia, regarding concerns to make sure each campus will be able to utilize all technology available to the system.
The Technology Task Force is looking at the changing culture, promoting efficiency and encouraging innovation. Academic research, administration and leveraging data to drive innovation are being reviewed.
Task Forces have been formed to focus on specific areas of priority in the realignment process. During these meetings, testimony is provided by national and local subject matter experts. Reports and findings are discussed and input from the public is heard. Information from the Task Force meetings will become part of a final report to be submitted to LSU’s Transition Advisory Team and ultimately to the LSU Board of Supervisors.
Agendas for this and all LSU2015 sub-committee and task force group meetings can be found at http://sites01.lsu.edu/wp/lsu2015/events/. The names of Transition Advisory Team Task Force Group members are available at http://sites01.lsu.edu/wp/lsu2015/transition-advisory-team-sub-committees/task-force-groups/.
More information on LSU’s reorganization process can be found at http://www.lsu.edu/LSU2015. Information on the site includes meeting schedules, minutes and video and presentations from past meetings. Also, visit LSU’s reorganization Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/LSU2015transition.