Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, October 27, 2011

U-M finalizes agreement to bring Google collaborative tools to campus

U-M and Google will work together in the coming year to bring a wide array of Web-based tools to the university community that will enhance collaboration across campus and beyond.

The university and Google have finalized an agreement to move forward with the NextGen Michigan Collaboration Project, which includes Google email, calendar, Docs, Sites and other collaboration tools.

“This is one of several initiatives designed to advance U-M’s academic, teaching, research and clinical program by investing in the “next generation” of IT services and computing technologies,” says Laura McCain Patterson, the university’s chief information officer. Other efforts focus on networking, data storage and high-performance research computing, among others.

Collaboration project website:
www.nextgen.umich.edu/collaboration

Collaboration FAQ:
www.nextgen.umich.edu/collaboration/faq.php

The agreement follows a decision in early 2011 by the IT Executive Committee endorsing Google as the U-M’s unified collaboration platform. That approval followed nearly a year of study — including town-hall meetings and a campus survey — to provide the best possible tools to the university community, Patterson says.

The move to Google will be phased in throughout 2012 to bring the new tools to students, faculty and staff. The effort will be led by the Collaboration Project team, headed by Bill Wrobleski, director of infrastructure projects for NextGen Michigan.

One thing that will not change is the email address used by the campus community. Email addresses will continue to be “@umich.edu” even though email will be running on a Gmail platform.

One thing that will change is the number of email and calendar programs in use on campus. Today there are more than 40 different email and calendar tools in use. That number will be reduced significantly once the collaboration tools are fully implemented.

Due to various regulations on how restricted data is handled, certain U-M units, such as the U-M Health System and some research groups, will not switch to Google email and calendaring. Those users, however, will be given access to the rest of the Google collaboration tools.

Wrobleski outlined some of the of the key milestones for the project going forward:

This fall: The project team will finalize the schedule for moving the campus community to the collaboration tools and create a project website with timelines, training materials and other resources. Over the next several months, the team will test implementation of the new tools and perform a complete assessment. The project will move forward only if all performance standards have been met, including compliance with web accessibility requirements for users with disabilities.

Spring 2012: Once cleared to proceed, the team will start the move to Google with students.

Remainder of 2012: Google will be rolled out to faculty and staff in phases over the remainder of the year. Information on when units will make the switch will be posted on the project website.

The university’s transition to Google is part of a growing trend toward cloud computing — applications and services provided on demand over the Internet instead of by locally operated computer servers and data centers.

UM-Dearborn will move to Google email, calendar, and collaboration tools. UM-Flint will not use Google email and calendaring, but will receive the suite of collaboration tools. Both will follow the Ann Arbor campus roll-out.