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CIO  July 2012

CIO July 2012

Subject:

Re: Top 10 Issues: Issue #9 Supporting the Research Mission through High-Performance Computing...

From:

Patrick Laughran <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 9 Jul 2012 17:30:57 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (91 lines)

Robert, I'm joining this thread late having just returned from vacation.  But it's safe to say we've all wrestled with the same issue you describe.  I know I have.  Information Technology Services is often regarded as a utility.  This makes our job of articulating the value proposition of our organizations more difficult because the utility metaphor focuses too narrowly on the provision of infrastructure.  

What further complicates things is that where we add value is (at least partly) determined by the provisional context (centralized, decentralized, outsourced or self-provisioned) within which we operate.  For most of us, we operate within all 4 provisional contexts at the same time.

One way I "think out load" about this kind of stuff is to blog.  I spent some time reflecting on the research published by David F Freeny and Leslie P Willcocks which appeared in their “Core IS Capabilities for Exploiting Information Technology” article published in the Spring 1998 Sloan Management and blogged about how it might be applied today.  See http://laughran.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/provision-alone-%E2%89%A0-value/ for what it's worth.  (Thanks to Jerry Bishop for introducing me to the research).

I settled on 7 (generic) core capabilities that add value within one or more provisional context:

1.  Consultative Support – (This value is added within a centralized, decentralized and outsourced provisional context)

2.  Information Resource Management – (This value is added within a centralized, decentralized and outsourced provisional context)

3.  System Design – (This value is added within a centralized, decentralized and outsourced provisional context)

4.  Making Technology Work – (This value is added within a centralized and decentralized provisional context)

5.  Supplier Management – (This value is added within a centralized and outsourced provisional context)

6.  Service Management – (This value is added within a centralized and outsourced provisional context)

7.  Chooser Support – (This value is added within a self-provisioned context). 

I haven't figured out the wording for a mission statement or "elevator pitch" that concisely articulates all this.  But I'd be really interested in what anyone else came up with!


-P

Patrick Laughran | Chief Information Officer | Information Technology Services | 508/626-4048 w 508/626-4947 (fax) | Framingham State University | 100 State Street w PO Box 9101 w Framingham, MA  01701-9101
________________________________________
From: The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv [[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Renaud, Robert [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Sunday, July 01, 2012 7:01 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [CIO] Top 10 Issues: Issue #9 Supporting the Research Mission through High-Performance Computing...

Jack makes great points here.   Looking at his comments from a different angle, and speaking as a VP responsible for both IT and library services, I struggle with finding a compelling narrative for the IT 'side' of my shop, as opposed to the library.   When IT works well, it is seamless, as we have said for years, and transparent.  Transparency is great, except when you need to tell your story.  I am sure that there are great ways to do this, but I will admit that I struggle with it.

By the way, as someone who has dealt with burst pipes in my home, I will take a plumber over a strategist any day!


From: Jack Suess <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>>
Reply-To: The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>>
Date: Saturday, June 30, 2012 8:53 PM
To: "[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>" <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>>
Subject: Re: [CIO] Top 10 Issues: Issue #9 Supporting the Research Mission through High-Performance Computing...

I thought since traffic was light on this I would throw out some thoughts to build on david's great post. Thinking about the CIO discussion of plumbers versus strategist, I feel finding a way to help with scholarship is essential for CIO's. This support for scholarship may take many different approaches besides high performance computing and it is often much easier to engage in research support with the humanities and social sciences.

On Jun 25, 2012, at 7:56 AM, Theresa Rowe wrote:

This week's discussion issue follows, from the full article:

http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/top-ten-it-issues-2012

Issue #9: Supporting the Research Mission through High-Performance Computing, Large Data, and Analytics


 *   What is the institution's research strategy? How can IT leaders provide IT input into this strategy? How can the central IT organization support the institution's research strategy? What is the institution's strategy for funding IT infrastructure in support of research?

UMBC has built a research strategy around leveraging our location and building partnerships between the campus and agencies. Over the last few years we have been doing more with corporate research. We see information technology as a strategic strength and I've built close partnerships with the VP of Research, Provost, and the Dean of Sciences, Dean of Engineering, and VP of Advancement to help us advance these partnerships. For me to be an effective spokesperson for IT I need to understand the research we are doing so I can talk effectively about it to outside guests.

Similar to what David described we have two large HPC systems - one for general science and one that is focused on more esoteric architectures. For funding, the VP of Research has defined HPC to be a core research facility and the campus is committed to the faculty that the facility will exist long-term. The Deans have agreed that the colleges will direct new faculty startup funding for computation into our HPC center. The campus has helped make this a priority for NSF MRI proposals and provided some one-time funds for faculty summer salary. The Provost has funded a post-doc and some grad assistantships to help with user support,  IT has committed about 25% of the total funding focused on  setting up an advanced infiniband network and providing the storage infrastructure for big data and providing system administration.

Outside of HPC, we work very closely with the humanities and social sciences on collaborative opportunities. In the humanities, our New Media Studio has been the catalyst for a variety of small digitial humanities initiatives. We help the humanities with technology, expertise, training, and by funding some grad assistantships to help with research.

 *   What is the central IT organization's role in securing research funding?

We have probably collaborated on a few million dollars in grants the last four to five years that would not of been successful without our help (mostly financial for cost-sharing or helping with support). We also work with departments doing corporate partnerships, where appropriate.

 *   How can the central IT organization develop relationships with the institution's research community? What is the balance between the central IT organization and decentralized IT support for the institution's research mission?

Taking faculty to lunch and listening to their ideas is a great start. What UMBC does that I think is useful is the VP of IT will be invited when we have outside guests from the agencies or companies visiting the campus -- IBM, NIST, NSF, NIH, etc.. In this way I get to hear what faculty are working on for their research and often this leads to further collaborations. In terms of central IT versus decentralized support, what we have done is build partnerships with the departments. We pay the statistics department to help provide statistics consultation through their grad students, we have given partial or summer funding to grad students to help with special projects such as porting codes to the tera-grid or supporting etext research for humanities publishing. We've helped Computer science fund a grad assistant to support their infrastructure when they were getting started (now they have funding to do this themselves).

 *   What are the infrastructural (e.g., networks, computing, data storage, remote instrumentation), application, support, and staffing (levels and specialized roles) implications for the central IT organization in supporting the institution's research mission?

It does take special skills to support HPC, especially for user support. Our campus plan is to invest in departments like Math and CS to provide special interdisciplinary courses for PhD students to take to learn computational science techniques. We have a faculty-led committees that are organized that we participate in for HPC and digitial humanities. These committees have been essential in defining requirements and making certain what we do is faculty-led and we have faculty buy-in.

 *   How can the central IT organization balance research needs with academic and operational needs?

Every campus is different, for UMBC research is an essential element of our strategic vision. I don't think we could be an effective IT organization if we weren't helping with research.  That doesn't mean we have to lead the effort but we can be good partners with faculty and deans and people appreciate that. What is most important is building and demonstrating trust. Faculty need to know they can count on us long-term and that our only goal is helping them to succeed. As you demonstrate your ability to partner you are invited to more meetings.

 *    How do IT leaders evaluate the worth and risks of such collaborations? How do they foster participation and buy-in?

Many of the collaborations we have helped start are when they are in the early phases of an initiative. We helped provide seed funding for equipment and support to help a number of researchers get a project started. Some have fizzled out and some have been very successful. I think that is an area where IT can play a good role in that we can determine if a proposal is technically feasible. We also need to be up-front that we are not long-term funders and try to limit our efforts to 2-3 years on any project. For some initiatives, such as one we just started in electronic publishing, our role is helping to fund a RA that will work with the faculty group on developing their plan. In other initiatives, we have provided system support and seed funding for equipment to get an initiative going -- the faculty then carry this forward through grants and other collaborations.


********** Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.

********** Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.
**********
Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.

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