Office of Information Technologies Strategy Review: 1999-2000

Role of UF/IFAS IT

The mission of the UF/IFAS IT office is to provide support systems and services that are based on modern information technologies in order to facilitate and further the UF/IFAS mission. The role of the UF/IFAS IT is outlined in the attached Executive Summary of the Infostructure Task Force.

Performance of UF/IFAS IT needs to be gauged by the following:

  • Short Term: The ability of UF/IFAS IT to resolve the issues of connectivity, training and support.
  • Medium Term: The ability of UF/IFAS IT to integrate the diverse corporate-level information systems currently being used by the institution.
  • Long Term: The ability of UF/IFAS IT to exploit the power of new and developing technologies that leverage the ability of faculty and staff to carry out their role in fulfilling the UF/IFAS mission. Also, the ability of IT to design information systems that survive technology changes.

Short-term Goals and Achievements

Details of short-term achievements can be found at

Medium and Long Term Issues

To successfully address short, medium and long term issues, it is necessary to create a working environment that achieves better integration of IT areas, increases the effectiveness of services delivered, and increases the efficiency of resource utilization. This requires that UF/IFAS IT leadership and staff:

  1. Maintains at least current levels of productivity.
  2. Remain current and technically competent in a rapid change environment.
  3. Remain in tune with internal and external constituents.
  4. Are clearly aware of budgetary limitations.

A set of goals having strategic implications towards the medium and long term were identified for the current period by area. These are outlined below with a comment on the level of success achieved:

  Goals Level of Success
Business Systems
  Initiate shift to Web-based application development. Very successful: Two programmers have skills, working on shifting major legacy systems to standard platforms and collaborating in Web-based accountability system.
  Reduce NERDC-related expenditures from $300K to $150K by June 2000. Results in the vicinity of the goal have been achieved.
Customer Support
  Develop a strategy and implementation plan based on funding available by the end of the first quarter of FY98-99. Successful: A plan was put in place and executed. However, requires better needs assessment and higher level of funding.
  Develop feedback mechanisms to insure that training program design and delivery is relevant to UF/IFAS needs. Successful: Evaluations and user input is being sought to improve direction of services, including help desk assessment and visits to external units. Developed tracking mechanism.
  Integrate computer support across different areas. Limited success: Different areas continue to work mostly independent from each other.
Network Systems
  Establish direct connect to all units on the WAN Limited success: Substantial progress has been made towards this goal. Few off campus units remain to be connected. Major barrier for other services.
  Establish Windows NT as the primary network platform by June 2001. Adequate progress is being made towards this goal.
  Establish platforms needed to integrate with university-wide systems, such as GatorLink. Limited Success: Attention has not been focused on this goal due to other higher priorities (connectivity, unit relocation, and conversion of legacy systems to NT). Only area addressed is that of Dist. Ed.
Research & Development
  Decrease participation in production systems. Successful: All production systems (edis, CDROM, software) are now managed and operated by staff and not research faculty.
  Establish Windows NT as the primary network platform by June 2001. Adequate progress is being made towards this goal.
  Initiate a mentoring program on Web-based approaches for design, development and maintenance of software systems, for all programming staff. Successful: Software projects involve programming staff from different areas. The accountability system, Y2K, and conversion from legacy systems to NT are driving this. Some staff still needs to be trained.
  Increase resources used in R&D. Successful: The combination of grant and state funds has been adequate for some major systems (Edis, publication tools, and digital diagnostics). In need of funds to support some major systems (FAWN).
  Explore creative arrangements with the private sector for application development. Not addressed: No action has been taken.
  Identify development tools and IDE’s for IT areas to standardize on. Very Successful: The development platform has been standardized, it is based on NT, SQL, Objectstore, RMI, CORBA and Java. This is the single most important step towards corporate system integration and unit level skill resource allowing cross-training and group collaboration.

Further attention is needed to implement software engineering practices.
Software Systems
  Assume full ownership of program production systems by June 1999. Very successful: This area has been reorganized and taken stewardship of all production systems.
  Explore new markets and delivery channels for software products. Not addressed: No action has been taken.
  Establish advisory mechanisms for www based systems. Limited success: Currently seeking input from off campus units.
  Establish a GroupWare platform for electronic collaboration. Limited success: Efforts have been initiated but have not yielded any results. The technology platform is not yet in place. Some success has been achieved with distance education.

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Other Goals

  • Goal 1: Build UF/IFAS IT into a recognized world-class organization.
    Strategy: Maintain a high level of unit productivity using cutting edge technology and publicize this at a national and international level.
  • Goal 2: Review unit goals with staff and advisory committee to assess current direction.

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Key Trends that Will Affect the Unit Over the Next Five Years

Factors that will affect the ability of this unit to perform in the near future are:

  • Rapid evolution of computer and communication technologies with a trend towards increasing levels of complexity. Although tools for development of IT applications will become more powerful, they will also require a substantial investment in human resource development in order for them to be effectively deployed.
  • Shrinkage of traditional funding source. As resources continue to shrink, IT will have to compete with other UF/IFAS mission critical components for the necessary resources to provide the services and products demanded by constituents.
  • No appropriate budgetary alternatives. Yearly cycle budgets for software and hardware systems is difficult to implement and manage, other more appropriate alternatives, such as life cycle budgeting need to be explored.
  • Increasing stakeholder expectations. Users are becoming more sophisticated, they demand more complex and user-friendlier applications, reliable network systems and the associated training and support. This further increases the need for better human resources and tools.
  • Inertia of legacy systems, methodologies and applications. Many of the current mission critical systems are running on outdated platforms that need to be ported to new technologies in order to meet stakeholder expectations.
  • High industry demand for IT professionals that will drain human resources due to the inability of the State system to compete salary-wise.

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