While cleaning out some file cabinets in my office, I uncovered a stack of old University of Minnesota newsletters. After checking with the various University library archivists to see if anyone wanted them (they already had copies) I started moving them to the recycling bin. One newsletter (from Academic Computing Services, the forerunner to the Office of Information Technology) caught my eye with this article: "Changes on the Horizon - The Role of the CIO" by Mark Luker, Acting Chief Information Officer.
I found the article an interesting snapshot of the state of IT at the University, and a good marker against how far we've come as "one IT" at the University. I'd like to share the entire article with you, verbatim. I don't think the University will mind.
University of Minnesota
Vol. 24, No. 4 - April 1991
Changes on the Horizon - The Role of the CIO
Acting Chief Information Officer
In 1990 the University established a new administrative position, the Chief Information Offier, charged with creating a new, integrated approach to our information technology, one that spans academic and administrative computing, networks and telephones, video and multimedia instruction, libraries and databases, and strategies and policies across the entire institution. This decision recognized the new, critical importance of these services for quality instruction and research, as well as the fact that each is converging on the same basic technologies - digital electronics and computer networks - and so can benefit from coordinated planning and support. By taking the broader view, by working together, we can accomplish more and do it sooner. This new approach will require a basic shift in our ways of looking at information technologies and, eventually, our organizations that support these services in the University.
What is the nature of the shift? Some trends are clear - centralized computing is becoming distributed; libraries are making increasing use of networks to share and distribute information; data processing is giving way to information support systems; a small number of "open systems" are replacing many proprietary designs; point-and-click user interfaces are supplanting complex commands; client/server designs are simplifying access to information; graphics, FAX, voice, and video are moving into the workstations; and all will be linked together locally as well as nationally through the Internet. (Each of these points is a major topic of discussion in its own right.) Other developments are less clear, though probably even more revolutionary. All promise fundamental improvements in the ways we conduct our affairs as a University.
At Minnesota we will use two basic models to chart and maintain our new course. In the first place, we will use strategic planning across all departments and technologies to identify the fundamental issues, problems, and opportunities that confront us and to select our basic responses. These issues will likely as not involve funding, training, organization, and other non-technical matters, and must be identified by our academic clients and justified in terms of our institutional goals. Secondly, we will use Total Quality Management, TQM, to focus our daily operations on the actual needs of our faculty and students, to measure their information technology problems, and to help solve them. This approach leads to a process of continuous improvement punctuated by breakthroughs to entirely new methods.
Although both systems take time to work, a number of problems have already been identified and can be addressed now. We plan, for example, to establish a single "help line" for questions regarding microcomputers, LAN's, mainframes, national networks, administrative systems, libraries, and telephones. Similarly, we plan to redesign our newsletters to provide a more coordinated view of all information services available at the University, leading eventually to a single newsletter of general interest and a collection of supplements and on-line bulletins for special needs. Both moves will require an explicit definition of our combined service offerings, to be determined through strategic planning and TQM to best serve the needs of the community. In the end, this will lead to a simpler by more powerful system of support for our faculty and students, and one that will respond more rapidly to changes in technology and needs.
The Information Services header on the cover of this newsletter signals the beginning of this process. You can expect to see specific service improvements in the near future, as well as the increased communications with clients required to maintain our long-term process of continuous improvement. You, as a client of the University's combined information services, will play a central role in the planning for these developments and our evaluation of their success. Please let us know how we are doing. Please suggest improvements. Thank you for your help.
If you're curious what else was happening in 1991, some other items from the April 1991 newsletter:
- Lotus 1-2-3 on the VAX VZ
- ML3 on the VAX VX
- How to save LUMINA sessions on an IBM PC
- Using the AppleShare File Server from a Mac or PC
- Take a free computing class this Spring