The University of Montana

Archive for the ‘Governance’ Category

Technology and the final four

In Governance, Innovation, Leadership and Management, Policies, Strategy on April 22, 2010 at 10:39 am

Governor Brian Schweitzer announced the final four cost savings ideas submitted by Montana citizens this week. Three of the ideas selected by the governor call for reductions in technology spending.

The tech targets are:

  1. Extend computer replacement cycles from four years to five. The entry also suggests that laptop computers are more expensive than desktop computers, and that perhaps departments could implement a shared laptop pool.
  2. Stop subsidizing Blackberries.
  3. Consolidate servers and data centers to reduce electrical consumption.

The fourth idea was to reduce the number of vehicles the state keeps in its motor pool, and to encourage employees to drive their own cars for work-related trips.

The release from the Governor’s office says that more than 1,000 ideas were submitted as part of the Montana Accountability Partnership. It doesn’t say how the four finalists were selected, but if there is a strategy beyond saving money, that strategy appears to be to stifle mobility.

Meanwhile, the New Media Consortium has released its 2010 Horizons Report highlighting emerging technologies that will have the biggest impact on higher education. Number one on the list is—you guessed it—mobile computing.

The report says this about mobile computing in higher education:

“People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to. Life in an increasingly busy world where learners must balance demands from home, work, school, and family poses a host of logistical challenges with which today’s ever more mobile students must cope.

“. . . virtually all higher education students carry some form of mobile device, and the cellular network that supports their connectivity continues to grow. An increasing number of faculty and instructional technology staff are experimenting with the possibilities for collaboration and communication offered by mobile computing. Devices from smart phones to netbooks are portable tools for productivity, learning, and communication, offering an increasing range of activities fully supported by applications designed especially for mobiles.”

It’s great to ask citizens for ideas to make government better. It’s also great to make policy decisions grounded in the realities of today and with an eye on the future.


Guidelines drafted for external web systems

In Academic, Administrative, Communication, Governance, Policies, Security, Web on June 25, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Guidelines for appropriate use of external web systems like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter have just been drafted to help UM departments and student organizations use the tools responsibly.

The guidelines acknowledge the challenge of writing policy for an ever-expanding and changing set of non-University web systems. In response, the guidelines focus on constraints imposed by FERPA and other privacy laws and policies related to a student’s educational record; HIPAA and Montana health information privacy laws; federal and state archival and retrieval requirements for official electronic communication; and state laws regarding personnel evaluations.

The draft guidelines are available on the web at:

Yes we can

In Governance, Innovation, Leadership and Management, People, Strategy, Web on May 21, 2009 at 11:46 am

Apparently, Barrack Obama was serious about this change thing.

A Time Magazine article last month, How Obama Is Using the Science of Change, revealed that a dream team of 29 leading behavioral scientists is advising the Obama administration on how to get us (you and me) to make better decisions about our finances, our health and our impact on the environment.

Turns out, humans aren’t all that good at making rational decisions.

MIT professor Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational and an Obama advisor, gave a recent talk where he demonstrated this idea. He showed data on organ donations from 11 European countries. Four countries had little success getting people to donate organs with 4-28% participation. The other seven were very successful with 86-100% participation.

The reason for the disparity? Culture? Religion?

Try the design of the form at the DMV.

In countries with low organ donation, the form asks people to check a box if they want to participate the organ donor program.

People don’t check, and thus don’t join.

The form in countries with high participation asks people to check a box if they don’t want to participate in the organ donor program.

Again, people don’t check, but this time they join.

The Netherlands-the most successful “opt-in” country-achieved 28 percent participation after mailing a letter to every household in the country begging people to join the program. To think they could have achieved 80, 90, or 100 percent success by understanding human nature and making a minor tweak to their form.

Default options pack power. As the Time article says, “Most of us will save for retirement, run our computers in energy-efficient mode and be organ donors if we have to take action to say no-but not if we have to take action to say yes.”

The Obama administration hopes to harness that behavioral reality to help people make better decisions.

Perhaps we should too.

Think about the myriad complex decisions and actions that confront UM students and employees: What course of study should I pursue? How will I pay for college? What benefits package should I choose? What’s the appropriate way to communicate and collaborate with others?

One answer is to create default options and design simpler processes that help people make better decisions.

On the first full day of Barrack Obama’s presidency, he issued an executive order on “Transparency and Open Government.” The order more or less says that we have to stop making information and processes about critical decisions people make so gosh danged complicated.

Web technology is a key player in all of this. Perhaps that’s why Obama charged his Chief Technology Officer with primary responsibility for the openness in government initiative.

“That’s exactly what this is about,” says Richard Thayler, co-author of Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness (and another Obama advisor). “If instead of the 30 pages of unintelligible crap that comes with a mortgage, you can upload it with one click to a website that will explain it and help you shop for alternatives, you make it as easy as shopping for a hotel.”

Now, that’s change we can believe in.

46 signs we live in interesting (and challenging) times

In Governance, Leadership and Management, Policies, Strategy on January 16, 2008 at 7:30 am

This list of general topics for next fall’s Educause Annual Conference provides some perspective on the breadth, complexity and significance of information technology in higher education:

  • Future Trends
  • Globalization
  • Next-Generation Technologies
  • Social Networking
  • Sustainability
  • Administrative Solutions and Business Process Improvement
  • Collaboration Tools and Portals
  • Data Warehousing, Business Intelligence, and Decision Support
  • Document Management and Records Retention
  • Enterprise Course Management Systems and Tools
  • Integration Solutions, Service Oriented Architecture, and Web Services
  • Open and Community Source Solutions
  • Digital Content Creation, Preservation, and Retrieval
  • Information Literacy and Supporting Scholarship, Teaching, and Learning
  • Innovation and Transformation in Information Resources, Outreach, and Services
  • Scholarly Communication, Intellectual Property, Copyright and Fair Use
  • Accessibility
  • Leadership
  • Legal Issues, Regulatory Compliance, Campus IT Policies, and Ethics Education
  • Managing Resources and Services
  • Organization, Staffing, and Funding
  • Planning and Assessment
  • Professional Development, Mentoring, and Succession Planning
  • Strategic Alliances, Collaborations, and Partnerships
  • Identity Management
  • Infrastructure and Infrastructure Support Services
  • Middleware and Integration Services
  • Research Computing and Advanced Networking
  • Data Privacy and Classification
  • Encryption, Cryptology, and PKI
  • Regulatory Compliance, Legal and Ethical Issues
  • Risk Assessment
  • Security Management and Remediation
  • Security Policy and Procedures
  • Security Technology, Infrastructure, and Architecture
  • Course Content
  • Faculty Development, Incentives, and Engagement
  • Learning Spaces
  • Online Learning Distributed, Distance, and Blended Learning Environments
  • Student Experience
  • Teaching and Learning Assessment and Evaluation
  • Classroom and Lab Support
  • Client Support and Help Desk
  • Desktop Support and Management
  • Supporting the Student Experience
  • Training

IT inventories and roadmaps available

In Communication, Governance, Leadership and Management, Strategy on January 15, 2008 at 8:26 am

IT inventories and roadmaps have been added to the IT website. Inventories provide a snapshot of current IT services and resources. Roadmaps depict strategic directions for a number of major IT initiatives. Currently, roadmaps are available for the campus network, identity management, student single sign-on to enterprise systems, and a notification system.

The inventories and roadmaps will continue to expand and evolve. We welcome your comments and feedback to make these resources more helpful.

IT policy inventory puts it all in one place

In Administrative, Governance, Leadership and Management, Policies on December 19, 2007 at 8:09 am

An inventory of IT policies is available on the web at

This “work in progress” attempts to aggregate IT policies and policies with IT implications in one place. It includes Board of Regents policies, official UM policies, and a few departmental operating procedures that have broad impact.

If you have comments, questions or suggestions for improvement, please leave a comment below, or email Gordy Pace.

The policy inventory is one of several IT inventories available at

10 web principles

In Communication, Governance, Leadership and Management, Strategy, Web on December 17, 2007 at 7:30 am

Marketing guru Seth Godin provides us ten principles for creating a great website.

There’s more detail in the post, but here’s a teaser:

  1. Fire the committee.
  2. Change the interaction.
  3. Less. Fewer words, fewer pages, less fine print.
  4. What works, works.
  5. Patience.
  6. Measure.
  7. Insight is good, clever is bad.
  8. If you hire a professional, hire a great one.
  9. One voice, one vision.
  10. Don’t settle.

What do you think? Can a complex organization like UM meet these standards? Should we even try?

Speaking of #9, some progress was made toward one vision during a campus-wide web strategic planning effort last spring.

The soda pop debacle of 2007

In Governance, Leadership and Management, People, Policies, Strategy on December 12, 2007 at 8:39 am

I think it’s critical to involve stakeholders in decisions. I get perturbed when leaders shun input, squelch ideas and horde control of decisions.

I was proud of my colleague Randy last week when he sought feedback from stakeholders about what new soda pop should be added to the IT pop machine. Randy created an online survey (or a ballot . . . the distinction is important) to find out what people wanted. After a few days, the survey (or ballot) closed and Randy emailed the outcome to all concerned.

Like Tom Brokaw declaring Al Gore the winner in Florida in 2000, Randy announced Diet Dr. Pepper to be the winner. The Rootbeerlicans went nuts, quickly declaring the election (or survey) results invalid.

Diet Dr. Pepper, one of 10 choices on the survey-slash-ballot had received six votes. Root beer—a write-in candidate—garnered four votes (there is some evidence of tampering and coercion  in the root beer write-in campaign). The Rootbeerlicans argued that had their candidate been provided equal consideration on the ballot, it would have easily won a spot in the pop machine.

Techie geeks of all caffeinated and carbonated political leanings clamored for influence on the soda pop supreme court, where the final decision appeared to be headed.

Turns out the IT pop machine is ruled by a despot. In a tersely worded edict, Randy declared, “it was a survey, not an election! Diet Dr. Pepper is the winner. Happy Holidays, damn it.” (or something like that).

Your challenge

We make decisions every day that affect our stakeholders. We know we should ask for input, but so often the results are just like the pop machine story. Our decisions polarize and alientate. Create factions. Rile people up. When the next decision needs to be made, we’re wary. It’s human nature to protect ourselves from an onslaught of criticism and vitriol. We start to make the decision in secret. Or we identify potential troublemakers and exclude them from the process.

How would you improve the pop machine decision-making process? How can we ensure that all stakeholders have a voice and still make rational decisions that everyone can accept?

Think about it, then click on the “Add comment” link and share your ideas.