MIT Reports to the President 1995-96


Information Systems (IS) strives to enable members of the MIT community to use information technology more productively in all their work. IS focuses on providing specialized services to the specific constituencies of academic and administrative computing, as well as a broad array of general services including telephones and network connections to the rest of the Institute.

In March 1995, senior officers announced the launch of I/T Transformation, the transition of the Institute's I/T staff into a new framework designed to meet the challenge of delivering "great systems fast," as well as supporting dramatic increases in network-based applications and users expected to arise from reengineering initiatives. The Information Technology Leadership Team, led by the Vice President for Information Systems, has worked over the past year to implement I/T Transformation and to ensure successful results on all of its three dimensions - work, skills, and customers.

Over the year, Information Systems staff left behind the six departments that previously defined IS and moved fully into the new team-oriented, process-driven framework. The five work processes - I/T Discovery, I/T Delivery, I/T Integration, I/T Service, and I/T Support - and the two practices - Academic Computing and Office Computing (which were recently joined by a third practice - Voice, Data, and Image Networking), as well as the I/T Competency Groups - replace the old IS departments of Academic Computing Services, Administrative Systems Development, Computing Support Services, Distributed Computing and Network Services, Operations and Systems, and Telecommunications Systems. As in the past, IS staff continues to work with others throughout the Institute in ongoing activities and new initiatives, and they remain deeply involved in efforts to reengineer the Institute's administrative processes. By the end of the fiscal year, IS staff had achieved an impressive range of accomplishments, some of which are highlighted in the reports which follow. This section presents an IS overview.

Use of MIT's information technology resources continues to grow as the I/T infrastructure is improved and expanded. Annually the MIT community comes to IS with some 100,000 requests for help and service changes, ranging widely from upgrading telephone service to installing a new office computing environment to assisting faculty in using computing in their teaching. As in past years, new and more platforms and services, including more third-party software, were introduced into the Athena environment. IS staff worked to provide full telephone and network connectivity to all on-campus student residences. In fiscal 1996, a new voice mail system was installed; site licenses for Oracle and SAP R/3 were negotiated and their software made available; a new I/T core curriculum for members of the MIT community was developed and implemented to support the rollout of reengineering applications; and the campus I/T infrastructure was more completely defined and communicated.

At the end of the last fiscal year, a new team was named to lead the I/T framework. Over the course of the year, there were some changes to that team:

The I/T leadership team and the IS staff are committed to continuing to learn our way into working in the new framework, and to ensuring that the new framework works for us, for our customers, and for the Institute.

James D. Bruce


The Academic Computing Practice seeks to promote and enable MIT education through the effective use of computers and other information technologies. Collaborating with I/T Process teams and in partnership with academic departments, the Academic Computing Practice provides widely distributed client-server computing designed to facilitate undergraduate education, primarily through the Athena Computing environment, which is used by thousands of users each day and over 10,000 different people on peak days. Academic Computing provides advocacy, training, documentation, and consulting services to support academic work.

During fiscal year 1996, the Academic Computing Practice focused its resources on activities aimed at strengthening the infrastructure for educational computing:

Dr. Vijay Kumar succeeded Dr. Gregory Jackson as Director, Academic Computing Practice.

M. S. Vijay Kumar


The Office Computing Practice works to ensure that office computing customers derive maximum value from MIT's information technology resources. Collaborating with I/T Process teams and in partnership with administrative offices and departments, the Office Computing Practice works to build constructive relationships with office customers. This work relies on a solid understanding of office computing needs, opportunities, and priorities is essential to discovering and implementing the best applications of information technology to simplify and improve administrative work.

Diane M. Devlin


As the first of the five work processes identified in the new I/T process-centered organization, the I/T Discovery Process seeks to define the I/T requirements of the MIT community. Discovery creates a dynamic and bold environment in which business customers and technologists can work together to define systems which create value. Beginning primarily as a business process, where "business" encompasses the full range of academic, office, and research activities at MIT, Discovery projects design and frame technology solutions that can be delivered to the community efficiently and effectively.

Working in focused project teams, Discovery efforts pursue and structure ideas that promise dramatic change and improvement to current work. Discovery efforts seek innovative solutions to problems, and work to add value to and remove unnecessary work from work. The goal of the Discovery Process is to challenge the status quo, and to influence and guide "best practice" approaches to I/T work. Although it locates efforts within the context of the Institute's strategic mission and near-term goals, Discovery also remains aware and cognizant of the rapidly changing business and technology landscape at MIT and beyond.

In its first year, the Discovery Process has been extraordinarily productive and has realized several organizational and project milestones. These accomplishments are testimony to the talented staff involved in the projects and to their willingness to engage new approaches to our work. Highlights of the year include:

In addition, there is an ongoing effort to understand, establish, improve, and frame the Discovery Process within the new I/T organization.

Greg Anderson


As the second of the five work processes, the I/T Delivery Process exists so that MIT and its schools, departments, laboratories, and centers can realize business value as rapidly as possible from the implementation of new information technology products and services.

The nationwide search to fill the position of the I/T Delivery Process leader ended in July 1996 with the appointment of Robert V. Ferrara as Director, I/T Delivery.

Michael D. Barker
William D. Cattey
Paul B. Hill
Daniela A. Aivazian


The mission of I/T Integration is to implement an information technology infrastructure that has high levels of reliability, availability, and serviceability; provides excellent price/performance; meets current MIT needs and can quickly adapt to meet future needs; and enables effective performance of the other I/T processes. During the past year, teams working in the Integration Process made progress in the following areas:

Susan Minai-Azary


The I/T Service Process works to keep MIT's information technology infrastructure running in a reliable and efficient manner. This infrastructure includes the datacenter in W91, MITnet, telephone and related services, the Athena computing environment, database services, and desktop maintenance (PC repair) services.

A number of significant milestones were reached in each of these areas during the past year:

Roger A. Roach


Fiscal year 1996 was highlighted by the continued evolution and refinement of services related to the core mission of the I/T Support Team: the effective and efficient delivery of timely, high-quality support to the Institute's information technology users. Support was provided by a variety of standing teams: I/T Help Desk; Training and Publications; Desktop Products; Adaptive Technology Support; Departmental Computing Support; Campuswide Information Systems Support (CWIS); Athena Help/Residential Computing Consulting; Academic Computing Support; Telephone Operators; 5ESS Support; and Support Team Headquarters.

To better identify and refine support services, Support team members concentrate on listening carefully to customers and balancing customer feedback with Institute goals and resource availability. While focused on different aspects of users' needs, the highly qualified staff on these teams share a common commitment to the I/T Support mission. During 1995-96:

Dr. William F. Hogue succeeded Cecilia R. d'Oliveira as Director, I/T Support in May 1996.

William F. Hogue


I/T Competency Groups organize Information Systems staff by their technical expertise and/or common focus. A "job competency" may be defined as an underlying characteristic of an employee - a motive, trait, self-concept, knowledge, or skill - that results in effective or superior performance on a job. Competency Group Leaders work to ensure that appropriately skilled human resources are available to staff MIT's I/T processes and projects.

In late summer 1995, four I/T Competency Groups were established, and staff were encouraged to enroll. About 70% of IS staff enrolled, as well as several staff in the I/T areas outside of IS. The four groups are:

Applications (investigate, design, and build products and services)

Assistance (help customers, document, and communicate)

Systems (keep operational aspects of work running)

I/T Management (help all the rest of staff get the business work done)

The I/T Competency Group leadership focused on three primary activities throughout the year:

Define "roles" in IS's process-oriented, team-centered environment, with the ultimate goal of replacing older and sometimes outdated "job descriptions."

Identify the competencies required to successfully perform work in this environment.

Help individuals determine what competencies are important to them today and in the future, as well as prepare personal development plans.

Redefine the four I/T Competency Groups.

Develop a training agenda for I/T professional development to address broad needs over the next few years.

Introduce a consistent approach to competency assessment in I/T recruiting and hiring; learn how to interview for I/T competencies and train staff in these skills.

Begin the process of redesigning the IS performance appraisal system.

In the future, the I/T Competency Group leadership will work to tie skills inventory results into MIT's strategic I/T needs, while identifying "gaps" for future training, hiring, and outsourcing. Guided by MIT's Human Resource Principles, they will work closely with the MIT Human Resources and the newly chartered Human Resources Practices Design (HRPD) reengineering team. Throughout the coming year, the Competency Group leaders will strive to maintain their awareness of similar developments in corporations and other institutions, and will work to make Information Systems a "best practices" example.

Erin Rae Hoffer succeeded Timothy J. McGovern as Director, I/T Competency Groups. Katherine K. Allen recently joined the I/T Competency Group leadership as Senior Project Manager, Human Resources.

Erin R. Hoffer
Shirley M. Picardi

MIT Reports to the President 1995-96