The role of the CIO

Today I am going to cheat a bit and highlight a post from Mark Roman’s blog.   I really enjoy reading his blog because it always seems to highlight something I am thinking about or struggling with.

In this post Mark gives a concise perspective on the difference between a CIO and an IT Director.   As I continue to adjust to my new role here at Queen’s I sometimes find myself clarifying that difference.   I point out that ITS is one component in the CIO portfolio. Having to explain this is not a bad thing.  I think a good leader continually provides clarity on their role and the role of others in the organization.   I have a MT retreat coming up in a couple of weeks and I hope we get to spend some time on defining roles and compentencies that reflect our roles.

Further to this distinction Queen’s has also recently re-branded the CIO role to include the title Associate Vice Principal Information Technology.   That is something I frequently find myself explaining , especially beyond ITS.   To me, it is just a further deepening of the engagement in the teaching and research enterprise at the institution.   It takes us further along the road to embedding IT decision making into the everyday decisions of the institution, rather than making these decisions on there own and on the side.



The Spring Conference “Grind” – wrapped-up

Finally I managed to squeeze in a trip to Saskatoon to attend the spring meetings of CUCCIO, The Digital Infrastructure Summit 2012 and the CANHEIT conference.      During CANHEIT, I went for a tour of the Canadian Light Source.   This is an example of  really big Science and they have an impressive tour to go along with it.  Great job by the student tour guides    In lay-person terms (from a lay-person perspective), they spin electrons around a circle, about the size of a hockey arena, using magnets to propell and bend the light.  The electrons get close to the speed of light and at specific points in time they send the light ray down a “beamline”.  It travels through, or around the object (I wasn’t sure at this point) and then they analyze the light spectrum to study the objects at the atomic level.   In a sense, it is just a giant telescope where they can put in tiny pin sized objects, or objects as large as a cow.  Interestingly they do not damage the objects.  The important thing from my perspective is how accessible and understandable the outcomes are. It was fascinating to see the real and important questions being answered by researchers here.  Whether it was checking where diamonds come from, or looking at the structure of wetlands, or solving public health issues it was all accessible.

CANHEIT had many good presentations this year.   I thought Jim Carse, from Queen’s, gave a good presentation about our ERP  project  –   QUASR .  He shared a lot about what worked and didn’t work and the lessons learned.   The openness to share the good and the bad is what makes higher ed, such a rewarding place to work.

I also really enjoyed the Roadmap presentation by Microsoft.   It was very informative and timely for us.   Both these presentations can be found on the program site.

The Digital Infrastrcture Summit was  an attempt to “to sow the seeds for a comprehensive, integrated and sustainable digital infrastructure across Canada, making it easier for researchers to research and effectively compete on the international stage”.   It brought together represetatives from government, granting agencies, the research community, universities and organizations responsible for various components of digital infrastructure for research, education and innovation in Canada.  In a sense it was another kick at the can, trying to generate some momentum by painting a vision and principals across all the pillars (Network, Storage, Analytics , Currtion and Preservation).  It was an attempt to put researchers at the forefront and drive action.  Undoubtedly Canada is slipping behind in this area.

There was a lot of good passionate debate on where we are at, what the roadblocks are and where we could/should be going.    At the end of the day, a small leadership council was established, with broad representation to push the agenda forward over the next year.   I look forward to seeing the progress of this group.

So – that was the end of the Spring Conference season for me – next stop was a family move….

The Spring Conference “Grind” – redux

Later in the spring I also attended the 39th meeting of IASSIST in Washington.  IASSIST stands for the International Associaion for Social Science Information Services and Technology.   This is always a mouthful when you cross a border and try to explain where you are going and what you are doing.  This was my first trip to Washington, and although there was no time for sightseeing, I did get a sense of a very beautiful and historic city.    A return trip will be made.

The best part about IASSIST is the opportunity to network with an incredibly experienced and passionate group of data librarians and data professionals from around the world.  This is the one conferences I attend where I am guaranteed to come back inspired with new ideas.

This year I had the privilege of chairing a session on Planning for Preservation: TDR/OAIS in data archives.  In this session we had speakers from Finland, Netherlands, USA and Canada.    All were excellent and reflect the breadth of activities happening around the world   I was particularly interested with where Scholar’s Portal was taking things.  The team there is doing some amazing things with projects like ODESI and the Geospatial Portal, that are transforming the way we access and manage information for teaching and research. Scholar’s Portal clearly shows that by combing resources across institutions we can accomplish way more than acting as independent agents.

The most transformative presentation I saw was by Stuart Macdonald of EDINA.  In this talk he discussed crowd sourcing of the Scottish Post Office Directories and Census records in the 18th and 19th century and linking these to contemporaneous maps.  On top of this they were working on an augmented reality app to be used in the city of Endinburgh.   Imagine walking through town, pointing your camera at a building and looking at all sorts of crowd sourced information about individuals who lived there in the past.  Absolutely fascinating.

The final take away for me was that IT has a big role to play in supporting the research mission through high performance computing, large data and analytics (see the Educause Top Ten IT Isssues, 2012)   Something that the IASSIT memebers have been doing for a long time.


The Spring Conference “Grind”

So much for keeping things ‘fresh’.   Now that we are making this live and I have made it through the spring, I hope a little more discipline will keep this going.   I have a few notes written that I will begin to publish.

Each spring is always a challenge as it generally lines up with several conferences, just as people on campus are ramping up with a non-teaching term.  This year I also added a personal distraction, as my family finally joined me in Kingston.   Moving was much more eventful than I had imagined, but the end result is fantastic.

This spring I did attend OUCC at the University of Toronto – Mississauga.   I had never been to this campus before and it was in a very beautiful setting.   It was not at all what I had expected,  being in the heart of a major Canadian urban setting.    I really enjoyed the keynote by Corinne Charette who is the Chief Information Officer for the Government of Canada.  An interesting discussion was had on Shared Services Canada ,  and the notion of Standardize, Integrate and Re-engineer.   There is a lot to be learned from that simple statement and things that can be applied in higher ed.   It certainly sounded like some of the same distributed issues we face daily.

I enjoyed a presentation from Richard Dumala, at the University of Windsor on a Cloud-based Survey Tool.  He talked about their implementation of Fluid Surveys, a Canadian cloud solution provider.   I think there would be a real benefit to our community if these types of cloud services made use of the Canadian Access Federation.  We need to acknowledge that our communities span multiple institution’s and managing multiple accounts shouldn’t be an issue.   Getting a campus solution for a survey tools is something we are looking at for Queen’s.  We are interested in a tool that can handle our administrative needs as well as the needs of our researchers in a secure, cost effective and easy to use environment.

I also managed to squeeze in IASSIST and CANHEIT this spring and will add more in another blog post.