In 2008, Brown adopted a five-year information technology plan to support the Plan for Academic Enrichment (PAE). This plan was based on the work of 95 IT professionals, faculty and staff who tackled issues in the areas of:
- Research Computing and Support
- Teaching and Learning Technology
- Enterprise Business Applications
- Technical Directions
- Collaboratively Managing the IT Service Environment
- Support for Innovation
- Funding and Governance
Over 120 members of the Brown community were interviewed as part of this process.
The 2008 IT plan established three broad goals:
- Invest in technology to achieve our academic goals
- Ensure our ability to prevent disaster or carry on in the face of disaster
- Develop, sustain and periodically replace our core services
These goals and the fourteen guiding principles for IT that the plan established have guided our IT investment decisions and priorities for the past five years.
Substantial progress has been made towards each of the three goals. Research has been significantly enhanced through the installation of a high performance computing cluster in the Center for Computation and Visualization. Our ability to support innovative teaching and learning has been enhanced by the creation of the Educational Technology Center and the redesign of Academic Technology Support Services. In addition, the technology in 37 classrooms has been substantially upgraded and 32 additional rooms, which previously had no technology, now have modern audiovisual equipment.
Brown is better able to prevent or carry on in the face of disaster than it was five years ago. We have developed and tested business continuity plans for key administrative areas. On-campus redundancy has been established for the campus network and communications infrastructure. The University has engaged with IBM to prepare for the recovery of many major administrative systems including human resources, payroll, finance and the Banner Student System. We have also strengthened data security and preservation policies and practices across the University.
The recession shifted Brown’s priorities and the resources available to modernize our core services. We adapted our IT plan to meet these new challenges. We are implementing targeted improvements to administrative technologies to deliver efficiencies and extend the life of some enterprise systems. We have adopted a cloud computing solution for email and are evaluating one for data back up to provide more cost-effective means to enhance technology. Finally, we have taken important steps to improve the integration and efficiency of technology support services.
While much has been accomplished, we are far from done. We are also working in a substantially different context than in 2008. The NEASC reaccreditation process and the continued progress of the PAE have refined our academic strategies and priorities. The depth and duration of the recession have constrained short and long-term financial resources. The recession has instigated efforts to structurally reduce the costs of operating the University and initiatives to increase revenue from research and on-line programs. Technology has also continued to evolve. Mobile computing is rapidly changing the way individuals interact with information. Cloud computing solutions have continued to mature and provide a richer set of options for provisioning technology services. These broad trends are placing more capabilities in the hands of faculty and students to innovate in their teaching, learning and research.
Process to Update the Plan
In order to update the IT plan, the original strategic planning working groups were reconvened. In several cases, these groups were combined with IT advisory groups that had been established since the 2008 plan was adopted. A list of working groups and IT advisory groups is provided in Appendix B. The groups each met for one, two hour long discussions. Each discussion reflected on the work completed to date, discussed how Brown’s needs and priorities had evolved since 2008 and identified priorities for the next 18 to 24 months.
There were three themes that were common to many of the committees’ discussions. The first was the need for Brown to improve its ability to use data to support decision making. Discussions encompassed the need to better manage data, improve tools to extract and analyze data and enhance skills to perform complex analyses.
The second theme was collaboration. Multiple planning groups recognized that Brown faculty, students and staff routinely enter into collaborations that cross organizational, cultural and geographic boundaries. Several committees recommended improvements to the technologies and support services available to convene, manage and facilitate collaborations.
The third common theme focused on the methods of organizing and delivering support to the users of Brown technology. Committees spoke of the need to continue to enhance self-service and virtual support models. Several envisioned the role of decentralized computing staff continuing to evolve away from a focus on problem resolution and towards more general consultation on the effective use of technology.
Description of Update and Next Steps
The update presents the Phase II (next 18 to 24 months) objectives for each of the three primary IT goals. Also, based on the work of the committees, a new fourth goal to Improve the Management of IT@Brown has been created. The objectives that accompany each goal result from the work of the planning committees and the CIS leadership. They represent the next set of technology priorities for Brown and will be used by CIS and ITPRC to define and select particular IT projects.