[CSG Winter 2011] Time to de-localize?

This discussion, led by Sally Jackson (Illinois), was a lot more interesting than is captured here, but I’ll share what I’ve got:

Overall tendency of IT has been to amplify the ability of faculty and students to reach across great distances, socially, politically, and physically. Our support structures have not adjusted to this reality.

de-localize – invites an association with globalization, but that’s not entirely what she had in mind.

Services from different providers, virtual teams, support for people who rely on many people other than just us.

Shel – localization is no longer necessary for personalization – it’s easy to tailor environments that aren’t provided locally.

Most of us have divided support structures – large core at the center, surrounded by a community of IT professionals attached to labs, colleges, centers. At Illinois, about a third of support staff are in the center, two-thirds in the units. That’s true of all the CIC except Indiana.

All of our end users are now wandering horizontally. Every day is a sequence of small but irritating hurdles to jump. We’d like to be able to eliminate those little irritations. Extra credentials are a real problem – at Illinois they need all new credentials to report on conversations with vendors.

Kitty – individual units have sets of services that work great within their silos, but for people who want to engage outside that silo it gets confused.

Barbara – as a faculty member she has control of her desktop, but as a member of the provost’s office she has to use the locked down image.

Bill – there’s a lot of power in the local tribes across the institution. Greg – tribes are no longer geographically defined. Even within local physical communities, people interact with those they choose, not necessarily those that are in physical proximity.

Shel – any given solution will be an aggregation of pieces from multiple providers. “Central” doesn’t mean what it used to – it’s about being dynamic.

Good support gets attached as a node in a personal network. Great support helps to build this unbounded personal network.

Can we build a curriculum for training great support staff? Add a layer of socio-technical competence to the pure tech. competence.
– Treat people equally and involve them no matter what organization they’re part of.
– Collaborative problem based learning infused into all projects and studies.
– Problems requiring virtual teams.
– Network-building activities.
– New professional career tracks focused on connector skills.

Treat each faculty member as the center of an unbounded network of social and technical resources.

Shel – there’s also a product management role, which Sally characterizes as a level of context awareness.


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