MIT Reports to the President 1996-97


Information Systems (IS) strives to enable members of the MIT community to use information technology more productively in all their work. IS focuses on four strategic objectives: to align IS with Institute needs by ensuring that MIT processes use modern information technology (I/T) effectively; to grow IS's reputation for customer service and operational excellence; to continue to develop and implement clear goals, vision, principles, roles and responsibilities, process and subprocess designs, and performance metrics that enable the effective use of the Institute's I/T resources; and to achieve the benefits of transforming the Institute's I/T enterprise by fully realizing the I/T Transformation Redesign Team's vision of IS and all of the Institute's centralized I/T as a process-centered, team-based organization.

In the two years since the launch of I/T Transformation, the Information Technology Leadership Team, led by the Vice President for Information Systems, has worked to implement the redesign team's vision. Over the past year, Information Systems staff moved more fully into IS's new team-oriented, process-driven framework and continued to work with others throughout the Institute in ongoing activities and new initiatives. IS staff 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 computers in their teaching. In fiscal 1997, Quickstations and ZIP drives were introduced into the Athena Computing Environment; administrative servers averaged 99.84% daily availability despite increasingly heavy network traffic; over 500 hands-on courses, Quick Start classes, and Athena mini-courses reached thousands of participants from across the MIT community; and the Computing Help Desk handled over 20,000 cases while reducing its daily queue of pending cases by 80% through process and efficiency improvements. In addition, IS successfully delivered I/T products, such as SAPweb and Alumni "E-mail-Forwarding-For-Life," that were immediately valuable to the MIT community.

There were some changes to the I/T Leadership Team during fiscal 1997, although its core remained the same:

Over the next year, the I/T Leadership Team will continue a series of meetings designed to understand and refine IS's process-centered organization. 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. More information about Information Systems may be found on the World Wide Web at the following URL:

James D. Bruce


The Academic Computing Practice seeks to promote and enable MIT education through the effective use of information technology. 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. This occurs 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 also provides advocacy, training, documentation, and consulting services to support academic work. During fiscal 1997:

M. S. Vijay Kumar


During fiscal 1997, the Office Computing Practice continued its efforts to ensure that administrative computing customers and providers 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 individuals and organizational units that share the Institute's administrative responsibilities towards its primary mission of research and education. The work of this Practice relies on a solid and current understanding of office computing needs, opportunities, and priorities. These are essential to discovering, implementing, and supporting the best applications of information technology for the administrative computing environment.

Theresa M. Regan


The mission of the Voice, Data, and Image Networking Practice is to ensure that the necessary information technology systems and services are available to support academic, research, and administrative efforts at MIT. This includes working with IS process owners and outside vendors to make sure current systems are accessible and have adequate capacity. In addition, this Practice helps identify needs for new communications technologies and facilitates their availability to meet future needs.

In its first year, the Voice, Data, and Image (VDI) Networking Practice concentrated on building relationships and identifying opportunities. Within IS, work has focused on building relationships with and between the teams working in the I/T processes. In conjunction with the Academic Computing Practice, the VDI Practice initiated a series of conversations with several academic departments and consulted with students about MITnet service to the Independent Living Groups (ILGs) and telephone service to on-campus residents. Outside MIT, the VDI Practice participated in IVY+ and Boston/Mellon Consortium meetings.

Throughout the year, the Voice, Data, and Image Networking Practice sought to identify opportunities for improvements:

Dennis Baron


The I/T Discovery Process continued to build on customer-IS partnerships during its second year. In particular, it focused on promulgating the "discovery" approach throughout IS and around the Institute. The discovery approach is an established method for linking information technology to business strategies and customer needs. Collaborating with academic, office, and voice/data/imaging clients, Discovery works to find and implement information technology that adds value to MIT's business processes, while reducing work and lowering costs. Discovery promotes a shared vision of I/T based on best practices and business analysis, a conceptual design, and resource commitments. Recommendations from Discovery projects set the stage for accelerated work within Delivery, Integration, Service, and Support.

Discovery takes many different forms--a formal project, a less formal project, or sometimes just work going on elsewhere in the organization. It extends across all of MIT, including areas with or without resident I/T capability, and it adds value to MIT strategic or tactical goals. Discovery project timelines vary between a couple of hours to two months, and projects can occur in large formal teams or small quasi-formal teams, as well as everything in-between. As an approach, Discovery may be applied to many types of challenges--organizational changes, technological opportunities, physical relocations, etc. It aims to align work properly at the outset for accelerated productivity through the I/T work processes, and to provide a key link between Information Systems and its customers, as well as between MIT business leaders and their customers.

Discovery teams were involved in almost thirty different projects during fiscal 1997, spanning almost all areas of the Institute. Discovery teams contributed to core Reengineering initiatives, including Management Reporting/Financial Operations/Buy-Pay and Student Services, as well as other projects with key customers and high MIT profiles. These included:

Other projects included an initial design to incorporate course lotteries into the electronic pre-registration process, the creation of a resource development proposal for Advanced Visualization, the continued exploration for an Institute-wide calendaring/scheduling facility, and work with the Communications Office to place MIT Office Directory information on-line.

In fiscal 1997, Discovery achieved an identity as a valued I/T service at MIT. It has established credibility with customers and IS. In fiscal 1998, Discovery will continue to improve and extend its influence and methods in order to assist MIT's goals for consistent, productive, and efficient I/T work.

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.

Robert V. Ferrara


The core mission of the I/T Service Process is to manage MIT's information technology infrastructure reliably and efficiently. This infrastructure includes the datacenter in W91, MITnet, telephone and related services, the Athena Computing Environment, database services, and desktop maintenance (PC repair) services. During the past year, I/T Service teams in each of these areas reached significant milestones.

Roger A. Roach


The core mission of the I/T Support Process is the effective and efficient delivery of high-quality support services to the Institute's information technology users. Support is provided by a variety of standing teams: I/T Help Desk; Training and Publications; Desktop Products; Adaptive Technology Support (ATIC Lab); Departmental Computing Support; Campuswide Information Systems Support (CWIS); Athena Help/Residential Computing Consulting; Academic Computing Support; 5ESS Support; and Support Team Headquarters.

To better identify and refine support services, Support team members work to improve the help process by 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 1996-97:

William F. Hogue


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 the effective performance of the other I/T processes. During the past year, teams working in the Integration Process made progress on several fronts.

Susan S. Minai-Azary


The I/T Competency Team works to ensure that appropriately skilled human resources are available to staff MIT's I/T processes and projects. Throughout the past year, the I/T Competency Team focused on four primary activities:

  • Strategy and Communications: Data gathered from in-depth interviews with I/T staff throughout the summer of 1996 was integrated into a descriptive model of I/T competency, which defined behavioral competencies linked to high performance. This model was communicated to I/T teams and team leaders, as well as to other interested groups across the Institute. Later in the year, the Competency Team developed a workplan for I/T Competency, proposing 18 months of strategies and initiatives. Along with other members of the I/T Leadership Team, Competency directors participated in a series of meetings designed to build deeper internal understanding and refinement of the IS organizational model.

    During the coming year, I/T Competency will face the challenge of transitioning to new leadership with the departures of Shirley M. Picardi and Erin Rae Hoffer, and with the appointment of Kathryn T. Kibbee as Project Manager, IS Training and Development. During the summer, acting director of I/T Competency, Greg Anderson will be spearheading the efforts of a team of staff from IS and HRPD to define next steps. Their efforts will be closely linked to the I/T Leadership Team's proposals for improvements to overall IS organization and practices.

    Katherine K. Allen, Erin Rae Hoffer, Kathryn T. Kibbee, and Shirley M. Picardi

    MIT Reports to the President 1996-97