Welcome Veronica Hart to CIS

Veronica Hart
This month we welcomed Veronica Hart as the newest CIS staff member. Veronica graduated from Scripps College where she was able to major in art and also complete a CS minor, taking courses at HMC and Pomona. While a student at Scripps, Veronica worked all four years in their IT department. She later returned to work at Scripps in the IA Office as Assistant Director of Development Services creating reports and providing technical assistance. As our new Database, Reporting and Workflow Developer, that experience will be put to good use. Veronica will be dividing her time between Cognos reporting and OnBase Workflows.
Originally from New Mexico, Veronica is interested in computer gaming and would one day like to develop games herself. Veronica enjoys yoga and zentangling as well as the company of her cat, dog and salt-water aquarium.

February 2011 update from the CIO

It hardly seems right to call this the February 2011 update, when I am sending it on March 4th. Maybe we should think of it as delayed in the mail? As I wrote that, I had a sudden flashback to the mid 80’s (not that long ago, really), when, homesick, I would go to the stacks at UCLA and be delighted to find an Irish Times that was only two weeks old!

February was an intense month. As a result of the  Trustees’ decision to move ahead with the new building, David Dower and his team pulled out and dusted off the interim space plans.Wrecking Ball They included a permanent move of CIS to Sprague.  We will be moving to the fifth floor, with our help desk function located inside the Learning Studio.  We’ve had a couple of busy weeks as we developed detailed plans to move us all.  We are hoping to create a space that is, like the first floor, light filled, flexible and open.   You will all be welcome to visit and enjoy the view.  I have been making corny jokes about Pie in the Sky and Cloud Computing, but I am really grateful to and proud of the CIS staff for rolling with these changes and being very creative in thinking about how to meet our needs without turning the fifth floor into a rabbit warren of offices.  F&M is working flat out to get us moved as soon as possible, so that Advancement staff can move out of Thomas-Garrett into our current space.

Last month, I told you about three open positions in CIS.  In February, Susan Selhorst successfully completed our search for someone who will work on Cognos reports and OnBase workflows.  Veronica Hart will be joining us on March 14th.  Watch for a news article with more details, including news of a partnership with CUC that promises to allow us to develop workflows more quickly.   Next week, we will host visits from four people who are candidates for the Director, Systems and Network position.  Hopefully, we will soon have news about that one too.

The Computing Committee met twice in February.  At one meeting, we got into some detailed discussion of calendar scenarios once we move to Google Apps and Microsoft 365.  Our exploration of this decision and its implications is ongoing, but we have not yet hit a show stopping obstacle.  I will shortly post a news article laying out some  of the things we’ve been thinking about.  CIS is ready to start testing the two systems, and the Computing Committee has agreed to help.   Once we have a Systems and Network Director on board, the pace should begin to pick up.   At the second meeting, Elizabeth Hodas updated the committee about her progress on goals for the Educational Technology and Media Services unit.  They also discussed the Learning Studio in detail.

Cloud Computing continues to loom large.  We learned that CUC will move to a new Human Resources platform that is provided in a Software as a Service (SaaS) model.  And I helped Admission with negotiations on some new software that is also Saas.  Read more at http://www5.hmc.edu/ITNews/?p=1011 and http://www5.hmc.edu/ITNews/?p=1019.  I think we can expect to be dealing with Cloud Computing issues all the time from now on.

In my note about the security breach in January (see http://www5.hmc.edu/ITNews/?p=915) I mentioned that we had been exploring Vulnerability Scanning Services.  We have now contracted with Trustwave for this service.  Our plans include an initial scan of all networks (except the dorm network) to help identify where there are servers.  Once we know where the servers are and after discussion with the owners, we will set up security scanning to validate each server’s security measures.   We will of course send out notifications and more explanation before doing this.

We had a couple of great Bite of Learning Sessions this past month, including one in which Jeff Groves and Bill Alves talked about their work   And I’m really looking forward to one in April, in which Tim Tangherlini (UCLA) will talk about computational folkloristics.  You did read that right, he’ll be discussing computational approaches to a large corpus of folklore stories, mostly looking for house elves.

So, a busy but productive month.  I hope everyone has a great Spring break!





Notes on Cloud Computing


Despite the hype, I  find cloud computing challenging to think about and full of interesting opportunities.  I am beginning to suspect that claims that it is a game-changer are not so far fetched.

So far, our notes on cloud computing have focused on cloud offerings as alternatives for things we can do ourselves. So, for example, Jeho wrote about ODE Architect in the Cloud and I wrote about things like Formstack and Google Mail.  These are all things we either could run locally or are already running locally.   Many discussions of cloud computing focus on the pros and cons of doing things “on premise” vs “in the cloud”.  But there’s another dimension that I have recently been thinking about: cloud offerings for which there is no local alternative.

There are huge incentives for a vendor to work with a Software as a Service (SaaS) model.  To name a few

  • Every customer has the same version of the program (the only one!)
  • No need to provide different versions for different operating systems (although there are still browser compatability questions)
  • Licensing is much easier to manage (because it boils down to managing accounts) and no one can make pirate copies of the software

So it is not suprising that we are seeing vendors starting to offer SaaS only options. I am convinced that we will see more, and that this requires a central IT organization like CIS to develop some new skills.

Here’s an example.  The HMC Office of Admission was notified last Spring that the College Board is terminating its Recruitment Plus software.  This application is used by Admission to manage the process of finding students, taking applications and making admission offers.  So it is vital to the College.  Other vendors are all attempting to get the business of soon to be former Recruitment Plus users.   An offering that our Office of Admission is interested in is delivered in a SaaS only model by Admissions Lab.  So clearly there’s nothing for central IT to do, right?  No servers to install, no software to test, no support resources to provide.  As it happens, there was plenty for CIS to do, at two levels.   At a technical level, the output of the Admissions Lab software will still need to be fed into CX, so the technical folk needed to take a look at integration options.  And, at a policy and risk management level, we sent Admissions Lab a set of questions aimed at finding out about privacy, security and data management practices at the company.  This process resulted in a much better contract for the College than would have been the case if we’d accepted the first draft.

In consultation with the Cabinet and the Computing Committee, I’ve been evolving an IT Decision making model (aka IT Governance) that will help us with these kinds of decisions. A central tenet of the model is that not all IT decisions are made by the CIO, nor should they be.  The Admissions Lab software decision is a perfect case study: it’s one where the IT decision is made by the VP for Admission, and the CIO plays a “decision support” role.  The Admission office was one of the first to make use of this model, and I thank Thyra Briggs and Peter Osgood for their patience and engagement in the process.

Watch for more news as we get this governance model developed a little better.

New Human Resources Software

In November 2010, CUC provided the Presidents’ Council with a comprehensive report on Payroll software options.  It was a part of my holiday reading in December.  The report summarizes options available to the Consortium and recommends the adoption of Ultipro by Ultimate Software.  Ultipro is delivered in a SaaS (“software as a service”) model, so it is not run on servers housed locally.

In January the Presidents’ Council approved the recommendation, with a target “go live” date of 1/1/2012.  Taxes are an important part of payroll software, so it is a good idea to go live at the start of a calendar year.

The new software will allow for a significant amount of self-service via the web for employees and managers. Many of our paper based processes will be replaced.  Moreover, benefits (currently Aliquant) and time reporting (currently eTime) will be integrated in the new system.   Based on everything I’ve heard from users, this is all good news!

The report is available upon request by contacting Ken Pifer, CUC VP/Treasurer, at 909-607-0809

Apple workshop

iTunes UOn January 14,  2011 CIS sponsored a workshop by Apple for faculty and staff on creating student-generated video content. Our two Apple representatives, Tony Graham and Jeff Monday, both presented. Five HMC faculty and 10 HMC staff members attended the workshop. Jeff began the workshop with a presentation on Apple’s efforts to support the creation of short video by students as part of the course syllabus with distribution through iTunes U. Jeff and Tony have been working with several colleges in southern California and showed examples of student work and interviews with faculty who have incorporated these types of projects into their syllabus.

Tony then reviewed some of the basic do’s and don’t’s when creating short videos. He divided the attendees into four groups and handed out Flip-style video cameras. The assignment was to come up with an idea for a 2-minute video and shoot the video on campus in about an hour and a half. The groups then came back and used iMovie to edit their videos with transitions, titles and music. At the end of the workshop each group presented their video to the rest of the class. One group created a promotional video for Homework Hotline. Another group made a very amusing video about getting lost in the maze of the Libra Complex basement.

February Audiovisual News

This February has been relatively quiet for Audiovisual Services. We had some issues with the SP control system in the Learning Studio Classroom. After the system failed twice unexpectedly the contractor came out and replaced the entire unit. Fortunately the video projector could still be turned on and off using the remote control and we brought in portable speakers for faculty who needed audio. We have not had any more problems since the system was replaced. The new video projectors in the Green Room and Platt A/B performed flawlessly during the January Board of Trustee meetings. Our contractor came out briefly last week to adjust the screen in Platt A/B which was not at the correct height for the new video projector. All of the new video projectors come with built-in wireless projection capabilities and we’ll be testing those out over the next few months.

The big excitement of the month was on Monday, February 28th when we discovered that the main video projector in Galileo McAlister was not working. We took it down and replaced it with a spare projector which is working fine. When we opened the malfunctioning video projector we discovered that the bulb had exploded, showering the inside of the projector with glass. So that projector is currently with the vendor for repair.