Infotech Restructures For 21st Century

By Michael Seele
Chronicle Editor

The Office of Information Technology is preparing for the Boston College of tomorrow by restructuring itself to more directly address the needs of students, faculty and staff.

According to Information Technology Resources Director Martin Smith, the office - which soon will be renamed Information and Technology Services - has begun dismantling its hierarchical management structure and replacing it with a team-based approach. The new organization will be more flexible than the old, he said, and will be much better positioned to serve IT's varied constituencies and the University as a whole.

Central to the restructuring, he added, is a major change in the how computer users' problems are addressed. No longer will all requests for assistance be funneled solely through the Help Center.

"The person on the phone can't be an expert on everything," Smith said. "That individual can't answer a faculty member's question on an advanced database, then respond to an administrator's request on how to use the Human Resources system, then become an expert on the internal workings of a PC, and still know everything about the network. It's a system destined to fail."

Since the sets of computer problems faced by students, faculty and administrators often are discreet, Smith said IT will set up three distinct centers to serve each constituency.

"Faculty will have a center for faculty issues and problems," he said, that will operate in conjunction with department-level support and will work with faculty, teaching assistants and other service providers. "There will be support for the classroom, for research and databases, whatever they need to become better teachers, researchers and service providers to our students.
Information Technology Resources Director Martin Smith.

"The same thing will be created for students. There will be better services where the students are physically located." The O'Neill Computing Facility will remain the central point for coordinating student computing assistance, "but the goal is not to have them go there," Smith said. IT will work with resident assistants and other groups to provide support in the residence halls, he added, and some support will be provided on the Newton Campus so students living there won't need to travel to O'Neill for everything.

Similarly, the use of computers in the Lyons Cafe will be expanded, and will spread to McElroy Commons "and other places where students are located," Smith said.

Staff members also will have a center dedicated to answering their questions and solving their problems, Smith added.

IT also will expand the hours when staff are available to provide technical support. "We need to open up access in the evenings and on weekends, because that's when a lot of faculty research takes place," Smith said.

Another facet of the reorganization is the evaluation of the University's use of the Internet. IT will look at how effectively Boston College is presenting information on the World Wide Web and how its electronic communication is being perceived from outside the University. "We are doing a very good job now," Smith said, "and we can do better."

Part of that likely will involve the University's efforts to reach out to alumni. The Internet opens possibilities for distance-learning, Smith said, and can facilitate life-long contact between the University and its alumni.

Smith added that the reorganization of IT will mesh well with the work of Project Delta. "Information Technology is a critical component in Delta and will be important to changing how we think about providing services," said Smith, who was recently named to the Project Delta Executive Team. For instance, he said, students will be able to notify the University of address changes through the Web, rather than having to fill out a form at the Registrar's Office and wait out a bureaucratic approval process.

"We need to upgrade our organization to be consistent with the world today," Smith said. "In terms of technology, Boston College is ahead of its peers. But now, we want to go way ahead. We can't keep doing things the way we did them in the 1970s and '80s."

Smith said IT is already at work on several projects under the new structure. Much of the restructuring is expected to be completed by June 1 and much more will be in place by the start of the 1997-98 academic year.

Return to March 13 menu

Return to Chronicle home page