In a relatively short period of time, information technology has become an essential thread in the fabric of our society as well as our University. Like other preeminent institutions, Penn State has successfully woven information technology into its institutional fabric. However, the distinction between an "institution" and a "preeminent institution" is no longer whether it offers information technology services, but the quality of the services it offers. Information technology is a prime catalyst for the paradigm shifts now occurring in teaching, learning, research, and administration. As the December 1993 Report of the Study Group on Information Infrastructure (hereafter referred to as "The Report") points out, continuing, robust investments in information technology will be required to maintain Penn State's preeminent standing. Our distributed system of campuses, in particular, requires focused attention on the payoffs and potentials of information technology programs.
Penn State students, faculty, and staff now require access to information technology services at levels more than triple what they were just 18 months ago. This Plan is an extension of the three-year University Future Committee process and a forerunner to the five-year planning process that will begin next year. It represents the next reasonable step in achieving the goals detailed in The Report.
The mission of the Office of Computer and Information Systems (C&IS) is to ensure that faculty, staff, and students of all cultures have the appropriate information technology tools necessary for their teaching, learning, research, public service, and administrative activities.
Over the past several years, C&IS has greatly expanded the services they offer and the number of customers they serve without increases in staff or funding. The Access project now offers nearly 60,000 students access to the World Wide Web sites, electronic mail, and netnews. OASIS (Open Access to Student Information Service) offers students access to grades and bursar information. IBIS (the Integrated Business Information Systems) processes 30,000 electronic forms monthly. LIAS offers access to over 23 million citations in specific subject-oriented databases; students and researchers have access to the full text of journal articles from their residence hall rooms and research labs.
Almost all of these new services have been provided through internal reallocation of existing funds. Old technologies have been replaced. Activities that do not directly benefit users in pursuing the University's mission have been eliminated. Under-used services have been reduced or discontinued. The Future Committee-mandated reductions in staff and operating budget have been carried out, although cut-backs during a period of sustained growth have been extremely difficult.
Some projects have been accomplished only by reallocating funds earmarked for other needs. For example, the Center for Academic Computing (CAC) has internally reallocated funds to expand support for the Access project and student labs. The Office of Telecommunications (OTC) has had to reallocate funds reserved for upgrading basic voice services at University Park to meet immediate needs (e.g., upgrades to non-University Park cabling infrastructure, installation of residence hall data services, and maintenance of existing facilities). The risks associated with these tradeoffs have been justified; failure to enact these changes would have jeopardized the University's standing. But such tradeoffs are not sustainable. Students, faculty, and staff are complaining because of long development times, slower response times to user problems, long waiting lines in student labs, and busy modems. In short, C&IS has outstripped its ability to "tighten the belt" without dramatically affecting user services.
C&IS has continued to concentrate its diversity efforts on working with University departments and our corporate partners to add participants to the Academic Computing Fellowship Program and the Professional Development Program. This year, we developed a Diversity home page for the Vice Provost for Educational Equity, worked with one of our business partners to acquire computer equipment for the College of Health and Human Development computing program for the disabled, and are conducting a "climate assessment" for all of C&IS.
With the downsizing of mainframe computer equipment and the use of client/server technology to distribute computing, it will soon be possible to consolidate the Office of Administrative Systems' (OAS) Computer Center and the CAC Computer Center onto a single floor under common management. This consolidation may enable C&IS to do additional internal reallocation to meet other pressing needs.
In 1995-96, there have been substantial increases in funding for information technology. Many of the one-time communication requirements at University Park identified in The Report will be addressed over the next five years as a result of the 1995 Capital Budget allocation of $15.8 million. The $300,000 in continuing temporary funding has allowed OTC to hire the staff necessary to perform the associated design of these projects. The $1,000,000 in special project funds will enable the installation of much, but not all, of the building electronics to activate networks at non-University Park locations. The $380,000 (P) for priority program needs have enabled us to enhance the University's Internet connection and install interactive video services between Hershey and University Park to support the Life Sciences Initiative. The $1,085,000 special allocation (November 1995) will help address some of the most immediate student academic computing needs at University Park (see Appendix I for details on how these funds were allocated).
While these funding increases will enable us to address many of our telecommunications needs and will help us to begin solving some of our most critical student computing problems at University Park, the overall goals articulated by The Report continue to be unattainable in the current fiscal environment. Critical to attaining these goals are:
The Office of Administrative Systems (OAS) has reduced its staff by six positions through attrition and layoff, saving $145,000. The CAC reduced its budget $57,000 through more fully automated operations and other changes in the mainframe services provided. In addition, C&IS reduced its permanent budget by $83,568 as part of the general University internal reallocation program.
The funds approved for reallocation as part of the third year of the University's Future Committee process included the following:
OAS Client/Server Project: The student access client/server application, OASIS, provides students with direct access to their own administrative records for decision-making, saving administrative time and resources. In 1995-96, $120,000 in reallocation funds were allocated to OAS client/server activities.
Network Security: $43,164 was reallocated this year to support the following network security activities: scanning Penn State's networks to identify vulnerabilities before they are exploited, arranging security workshops that help train system and network administrators in how to configure systems securely, and developing security awareness training materials.
In our 1995-96 Strategic Plan, C&IS requested the conversion of $848,710 of continuing temporary funding to permanent funding. These funds are essential to maintain the current level of service provided by C&IS. None of this funding was converted. We once again request the conversion of this continuing temporary funding to permanent funding. If it is not possible to convert all of these funds to permanent funds, that portion not converted must be continued as Continuing Temporary funds. We have been receiving these temporary funds as part of our regular operating budget for over a decade.
The $300,000 in continuing temporary funds for OTC staff to provide design services for the $15.8 million Capital Budget allocation have been guaranteed for three years. They are mentioned here for the sake of completeness.
In developing our request for new permanent funds, we were instructed to assume that $250,000 in permanent funding to support the University Park student computing needs funded by the $1,085,000 mid-year allocation would be included in our budget (see Appendix I).
This year, the University is again requesting a $4.5 million special allocation to support the information infrastructure that will be installed with the $15.8 million in Capital funds and to fund many of the telecommunications needs at non-University Park locations. In 1995-96, even though the Commonwealth did not approve the $4.5 million special allocation for information infrastructure the University requested, $680,000 of these funds were provided to C&IS to continue the telecommunications agenda outlined in The Report: $300,000 (CT) for staff to design the University Park Wiring Project, and $380,000 (P) to fund expansion of the University's Internet connection and to provide a video link to Hershey to support the Life Sciences Initiative. In 1996-97, it will be necessary to provide C&IS an additional $1,400,000 (P) of these funds even if the University is not successful in obtaining this $4.5 million permanent increase. These funds are necessary to support current initiatives and the new programs the Capital funds will enable during 1996-97. The minimum level of funds needed includes the following (see Appendix II for details):
Even with these increases, no progress will be made in the following important areas identified by The Report:
The Report also recommended significant additional funding to address Academic Computing needs. While the mid-year allocation of $1,085,000 will help address some of the most critical student needs at University Park, significant additional investment is required. The Report recommended requesting an additional $4 million special permanent budget allocation for Academic Computing needs from the Commonwealth in Year 2, after the $4.5 million telecommunications request had been granted. Given the delay in acquiring these additional funds, C&IS is under increasing pressure to respond to critical Academic Computing needs identified by The Report. We are requesting funding for the most critical of these needs in 1996-97 (see Appendix II for details).
Pressing needs in other areas of C&IS responsibility are not addressed by The Report (e.g., library computing, administrative computing). In spite of the expected budget limitations in 1996-97, we are requesting additional funding for one new critical C&IS initiative network security. Funding this requirement is critical in order to deal with the rapidly expanding risk to the University's vital computer, network and information resources.
Penn State has experienced a more-than-300-percent growth in network security-related incidents in the last two-and-a-half years. The rate of security incidents is now approaching one per working day, and both the number and complexity of incidents will expand in the future. A single network security incident may vary from minor to international in scope, and may take anywhere from a few hours to several weeks to resolve. For example, in December 1995, Penn State experienced a network intrusion on only two systems that ultimately jeopardized the security of over 150 Penn State systems, more than 15 systems outside Penn State (including government and commercial systems), and nearly 500 individual user accounts here and elsewhere. When such an incident occurs, Penn State is required to notify, not only our own users and system managers, but also all those at other locations whose accounts and data may be affected because a Penn State system was penetrated. A single University network security officer can no longer handle this load. Funding is required for an additional network security analyst to help respond to incidents in a timely manner in order to reduce the substantial current and future risk to faculty, student and staff information and to systems vital to the conduct of the University's mission.
The Office of Computer and Information Systems fully understands the realities of today's fiscal environment. However, we also understand the important role that information technology plays in fulfilling Penn State's mission of research, instruction, and learning, as well as its potential for reducing administrative overhead costs. C&IS' 1994 benchmarking effort (see Appendix III) confirmed that Penn State's central investment in information technology is significantly smaller, proportionally, than our peer institutions. Students and their parents, as well as faculty, are increasingly intolerant of insufficient information technology services. The Report of the Study Group on Information Infrastructure has noted that, if we are going to continue as one of the nation's leading comprehensive research universities, additional investments in information technology will have to be made in the coming years.
While the additional allocations provided this year will help address some critical needs, the University must continue to channel still more funding into this area. This plan provides a reasoned, conservative recommendation for the investments that must be made in the short term to enable us to keep pace with demand as we prepare for the more comprehensive five-year planning effort.
Support Staff $400,000 (P)
The Report highlighted the critical unmet staffing need within the Office of Telecommunications. Additional staff are required to support the explosion of interest in data networking, continuing expansion of Penn State's interactive video services, and the growing complexity of modern communications systems. Penn State faculty, students, and staff require higher levels and quality of support than is possible with current staffing levels. This includes assistance with interactive video, wireless, cellular, and numerous other telecommunications services, and general support for a network which has grown six-fold over the past two years. As The Report noted, OTC can no longer support our current services for the growing number of users with available staff.
Maintenance and Life-Cycle Funding $1,000,000 (P)
One of the basic tenets of the plan to provide network connectivity to all offices and classrooms at all University locations with the $15.8 million Capital budget funds is to ensure that deans and administrators do not require additional funding to connect to the network once a building is wired. While the $15.8M allocation covers initial purchase of items such as wiring and networking electronics, without the requested $1,000,000 of permanent funding, departments and colleges will continue to be forced to pay for life-cycle, maintenance, and other ongoing costs. This will result in an environment where expensive electronics and other infrastructure funded by the $15.8 million project may go unused due to a lack of departmental or college funds to pay ongoing costs. In short, use of data networking will continue to be discretionary, substantial amounts of cabling will be installed which may go unused, users will continue to be encouraged to use old technology, and the gap between those who are and are not able to take advantage of current networking services will continue to widen.
To achieve the goals of this project as defined by The Report requires treating network connectivity like all other University-provided utilities (e.g., electricity) by centrally funding ongoing operations and maintenance costs. The plan for the $15.8 million in Capital funds was developed around this premise. The $1,000,000 (P) requested for 1996-97 will cover operation, maintenance, and life-cycle costs for those network installations made in 1995-96 and 1996-97 with Capital funds, and similar costs (with the exception of life-cycle costs for LAN electronics) for current network installations. As The Report noted, these investments will offset the cost (last estimated at $300,000 in permanent funds) of converting SNA network connections (1970-era technology) to use the University backbone.
Academic Support Staff $50,000 (P)
The CAC's Educational Technology Services group has gained international recognition for their work assisting faculty to innovatively use technology in the curriculum. In the past five years, this group has been central to rethinking how Penn State teaches. Faculty using their services have won 17 competitive awards for excellence in the last several years. These services are in great demand by faculty at all locations. The group also provides workshops, of varying duration, that focus on the complexities of good instructional design. While we have protected this group from cuts under the University Future process, we have not been able to add to the professional staff as was recommended by The Report. A modest increase in staff is requested in 1996-97.
Technology Classrooms $250,000 (P)
The CAC currently spends $150,000 per year, augmented by funds from the Classroom Improvement Committee, colleges, and campuses, to develop new technology classrooms for all Penn State locations. The Report recommended that annual investments in Technology Classrooms be increased to meet the steadily growing demands for technology classrooms.
Academic Support Staff to Support Research $108,000 (P)
Academic support staff in the CAC's Advanced Technologies Group support numerically intensive computing, visualization and graphics, and UNIX workstations University-wide. They have received national recognition for their efforts. However, as highlighted by The Report and conversations with several deans, there are not enough staff to support all Penn State faculty and graduate students who have needs. Increased funding is requested to hire and support two additional staff members.
Access Project Modems for Faculty and Staff Use $288,120 (T)
Staff Support $50,000 (P)
Operating Costs $80,640 (P)
Faculty and staff at all locations are increasing their use of Access Project modems to connect off-campus computers to the University's backbone network. Like students, they value this access highly and are dissatisfied when it is not available. This request, coupled with modems funded through other means to address student needs, would provide about 830 new modems for a total of about 1,640 modems at all locations. We estimate that this would meet needs for only the 1996-97 academic year.
User Services Support Staff for Faculty and Staff $136,000 (P)
There are now nearly 9,000 faculty and staff using the Access Project. Faculty use Access to expand their communication time with students and to receive and return assignments. Frequently, they go beyond electronic mail and use Classnews and the World Wide Web to enhance communications with their students and colleagues. This places a great burden on the CAC's Academic Support Staff. While a new telephone system and computer system have been installed to better handle the increased number of questions, the current staff cannot meet the demands the Access Project has brought. We request funding to increase support for faculty and staff. Other means are being sought to provide similar support for students.
The Office of Computer and Information Systems' benchmarking effort has shown that Penn State is effectively leveraging information technology investments, in spite of the fact that Penn State's central investment in information technology infrastructure is significantly smaller, proportionally, than that at our peer institutions.
During the first half of 1994, the Executive Director and various combinations of his direct reports visited five institutions that were determined to be "best-in-class" in their use of information technology (UCLA, the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, the University of Michigan, the University of Texas-Austin, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison). The primary goals of this effort were to identify the underlying processes that facilitate excellence and to determine how similar processes at Penn State can be improved or re-engineered. While the driving force at all of the institutions is the need to adapt rapidly and effectively to technological change, it became evident very early in the benchmarking process that there is no single "right way" to address this need. Practices that serve well in a particular environment may not be applicable to others.
The numerical data collected during the benchmark visits proved to be the least valuable information that we obtained. We found that, with the exception of the most simple measures, numerical comparisons were irrelevant, often because of institutional differences. Numbers aside, our benchmark findings can be grouped under four broad principles that indicate directions towards which major research institutions should evolve. The degree to which institutions have internalized these principles seems to be directly related to the excellence integral to "best-in-class" institutions. The four principles are:
There were a few key processes that seemed to promote excellence in information technology at the five benchmark institutions.
Business Process Re-Engineering - Best-in-class institutions are attempting to take advantage of technology to re-engineer business processes. Senior management leadership seemed to greatly enhance the probability of success.
Incentives for Transition to Standards - All of the benchmark institutions except Penn State are offering financial incentives to encourage the use of new technology and disincentives for using old technology. When this approach is not used, old services that are fully amortized appear to be cheaper than new services, even though the new ones are more economical overall. The benchmark institutions recognize this fact and use fund transfers from obsolete services to offset a portion of the expense of the new services.
Investments in Information Technology - Benchmarking also revealed that best-in-class institutions invest in and encourage early implementation of information technology infrastructure. As more emphasis is placed on the use of information technology to support each facet of a university's mission, many are viewing information less as a cost and more as an investment. There is a degree of commitment to this evidenced at the other institutions which is not yet as apparent at Penn State.
Capital Campaign - Many benchmark institutions are including information technology needs in capital campaigns. Information technology needs are capital intensive, requiring significant initial and continuing investment. It is inappropriate to fund buildings without consideration of the technology that will be needed within them, or to endow Chairs without also endowing the equipment needed by the top-flight researchers who occupy the Chairs.
Extensive Customer Service - All best-in-class institutions, including Penn State, strongly emphasize end-user support. Most actively encourage customer focus, which means that they "serve the customer, not control the customer." Most of the benchmark institutions are placing increased emphasis on their help desks.
Standards, Security, and Architectural Planning - We found that best-in-class institutions use the elements of standards, security, and architectural planning to create a supportive environment for change. In the evolution to client/server computing, architectural planning, based on standards in a secure networked environment, is key to promoting the use of information technology and ensuring interoperability between client/server systems.