Information Technology and Operational Excellence:
An Interview with CIO Chris Kielt

Why this change — an overhaul of the University’s IT infrastructure?
The changes coming to our IT systems will allow the University to be more responsive to the needs of faculty, students and staff, by easing their abilities to collaborate and communicate. A critical element of advancing Stony Brook’s IT infrastructure is looking to the future to provide modern tools that are needed for faculty/staff and researchers to be successful and competitive in the future.

There is a focus now within the University, through the Operational Excellence element of Project 50 Forward, for more collaboration and therefore shared services throughout campus. How is that being handled within IT?
I like to call it IT integration, but it is strongly akin to shared services. We are bringing separate IT groups across campuses together into a single organization to help strengthen our overall ability to provide contemporary IT services to faculty, students and staff. Additionally, it will provide a professional growth path and career opportunities for IT people who have shared professional interests and complementary skills. We will be more efficient too, reducing multiple ways of doing the same thing, focusing efforts into a few rather than a great many solutions and completing key administrative initiatives that should ultimately free up more IT resource that can be channeled to address academic and research IT needs.

Why the change to Google Apps?
The Google Apps for Education product is free and provides hosted email and collaboration applications, exclusively for schools and universities. Many of our students already utilize some of their product systems as well as do a good percentage of faculty. Google is a leading innovator and is continually developing new technologies that will bring powerful new capabilities to our campus.

How does this change benefit students?
The benefits are many fold. But students will have much more storage with the new system — 25 gigs from Google Apps — compared to the 250 megabytes we are allocating now. The new system also provides seamless collaboration opportunities between students, faculty, researchers and staff working together on projects.

What about faculty and staff?
The benefits of easy collaboration can lead to enhanced opportunities for partnered research and the pursuit of grant opportunities. Access to e-mail can now be conducted simply from a computer with internet anywhere in the world. Shared calendars can also help streamline meeting and appointment-setting functions.

What was the process for selecting Google Apps?
The President formed a steering committee comprised of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff. They met, reviewed needs and then studied available marketplace solutions, considering how other colleges and universities across the country were addressing their needs as well as how Stony Brook students, faculty and staff used their e-mail and related systems via a survey. The committee used the data to guide them in making a recommendation.

What is the specific timeframe for this changeover for students?
The projection calls for all students to be converted to Google Apps by December 2012. 2012’s incoming freshmen will get Google Apps to start the fall semester; sophomores, juniors, seniors and grad students may begin to migrate to Gmail during the fall semester.

What about faculty and staff?
We are targeting about 65 percent to be converted to Google Apps by the end of 2012, with remaining users migrated in early in 2013.

What about the existing systems, especially Lotus Notes?
As Google Apps is implemented current systems like Lotus Notes will be decommissioned.

How will the change be implemented?
Experience at other colleges and Universities tells us most students will successfully migrate themselves and will provide information on how to do that. The IT staff at Stony Brook will also be available to provide help and guidance as needed for students, faculty and staff. We expect the changeover process to be relatively simple and uncomplicated, and we will be sure to provide the full support to our community during the transition.

How are you communicating this change to campus?
We are taking a multi-faceted approach. We have already been sending out information about the impending change and created a website that contains all the important information. The website is: stonybrook.edu/google. On March 6 we will hold a town hall meeting at 3:00 pm in the SAC Auditorium. It’s open to students, faculty and staff, and should be a great opportunity for people to learn more about our plans and get questions answered.

What about ongoing questions and other service related issues?
We are lucky to have a great team of IT professionals and an extraordinarily gifted group of students whom we have enlisted to help us during the implementation.

Back to Operational Excellence Update from the Office of Information Technology »

March 5, 2012