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Updated 5:00 PM October 25, 2005




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Doing information technology better is goal of town hall

"It's Your Thing (Do what you want to do)" worked as a hit song for the Isley Brothers, and "Go Your Own Way" was good to Fleetwood Mac.

But U-M information technology (IT) professionals say collaboration is the way to go in purchasing, building networks, securing storage and more.

To promote increased collaboration, more than 80 IT staff members have signed up for the latest IT Commons Town Hall event from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Nov. 1 in the Great Lakes Room Central at Palmer Commons.

Organizers are providing cookies, beverages and fun, and attendees are asked to bring creativity, energy and ideas. "The notion is that sharing IT capabilities across the University is less expensive," says Bryan Beecher, director of computer and network services for the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research.

For example, IT staff at one school or department may select one wireless network system and those at another U-M school might choose something else. "Or one needs a place to store files," Beecher says. "So instead of me buying a big piece of hardware and managing it myself, we could get a really big piece of hardware and get something better and reliable at a reduced price. Rather than two different colleges doing their own thing we can collaborate and do it better."

A 16-member IT Commons Shared Capabilities Stewards community was formed in May by James Hilton, associate provost for academic, information and instructional technology affairs, and has been meeting to discuss issues, including collaboration. The IT Commons Town Hall is a way to reach out to promote collaboration to more IT staff.

"It's time to bring other people into the fold," Beecher says. "Others can come and tell their own stories. This is more about building a community. They can get plugged into e-mail lists and think about ways we can improve the mechanism."

Organizers have identified four emerging initiatives for promoting collaboration. First, an IT Knowledgebase Initiative would develop a Web-based repository of IT information, best practices and problem solutions open to and maintained by the
U-M IT community.

Second, a Windows Vista Initiative will seek to develop U-M-tuned configurations of the upcoming Windows operating system for faster and better operation.

Third is an initiative to create a tool for IT managers to draft an organization-specific network security policy. "For example, if I'm a new IT support person, and I receive a credible report that one of my colleagues is misusing the network (e.g., a computer connected to the network is being used to launch attacks on other computers at the University), and I don't have a policy to guide me, I might not know how to respond," Beecher says.

"Who should I notify—my boss? ITSS (Information Technology Security Services)? Anyone else? Should I remove the computer from the network? Collect more information? Talk to the colleague who 'owns' the computer? If I make the wrong decisions I might cause the University some damage.

"With this in mind our thought was that perhaps we could create a tool that would help facilitate the creation of network security policies for organizations."

A fourth emerging initiative is creating a Shared Capabilities Bazaar to bring IT staff together to share knowledge of technology and active IT initiatives at U-M.

"The purpose of the bazaar is to create new relationships, inspire collaboration and foster shared capability initiatives," Hilton says.

Beecher adds, "A big part of this is getting plugged into what others on campus are doing, and taking advantage of resources, research and systems that might already be available."

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