Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Hoping the moderators for each section will convene groups to brainstorm ideas for the SWOT lists to drive them toward greater coverage. Also hoping the moderators will drive those lists to conform to the following style:

  • Strengths - This < condition exists > making asu.edu < have this benefit >

  • Weaknesses - This < condition exists > making asu.edu < have this handicap >

  • Opportunities - This < action > will improve asu.edu < by providing this advantage >

  • Threats - This < condition > may < create this disadvantage >


Monday, September 26, 2005

More Wiki Questions

So we're up to 100 users today. Good going. I have also had very encouraging responses to the process thus far. We need more content and more editing, but I am confident it will come in time. So far, so good.

Several more questions came in today that I want to address briefly here…


Saturday, September 24, 2005

The relative importance of keeping score

Its been a while since I talked on the blog about the Student Information System (SIS). As you know, its a central component of the scorekeeping system here at ASU. The scorekeeping system includes Finance, HR, SIS, DARS, the Data Warehouse, and all the other data stores in Dickson's Database Diagram. These are the systems that let us keep track of who's who and what's what; how much we spend; who gets what grades; what classes are offered next term. You get the idea. Important? You bet. Absolutely vital. Can't play the game without a scoreboard; the match would be chaos without referees.

But as important as this function is, the scoring system isn't in any sense strategic. No student is going to choose ASU because of the student administration sytem that we pick. NSF won't select ASU to lead an ERC because we have a state of the art ERP (aren't acronyms great?). See "Good Enough! IT Investment and Business Process Performance in Higher Education" for more on this line of thinking.

So why are we even talking about the SIS now? If it isn't strategic, and it ain't broke, why fix it? And why now? Well, this is how the argument goes for me...


Read all the way to Q4...

At last the weekend, when I can do some serious wiki-ing. But I thought before I got started, I'd drop in a quick post to address some questions that have come up this week.

Q1: What happened to the WebDev podcast?

A: This past Tuesday I did a question and answer session with the WebDev group. The podcast of that session is available here. Another discussion of the wiki based strategy process, this one focused on Academic Technology and ASU.edu. It's another hour of your life.

Q2: This Wiki is just another form of meeting. Its the same old arguments people have been having for years. There's an article up there that is so off base I don't even no where to start. I don't even want to dignify it with a reply. This is not going to work.

A: Have some faith. At this stage of the game, if there's an article that you feel is way off base, don't feel your only option is some sort of point by point refutation. Instead, think about a new article that puts forward an alternative conception.

If the wiki space is not filled with the ideas you think are important, whose fault is that? Mine? The Wiki's? The people who don't share your views? I don't think so.

So inject your ideas into the process in a non-defensive, positive way. Don't allow your initiative to be extinguished. You do not have to respond or cross edit a page that does not serve as a basis for what you think is important. Instead, present an alternative view. If you have something to say, say it. Rally people to your conception. Don't just complain because others with different viewpoints are embracing the process.


People get ready...

One of my favorite old songs is "People Get Ready".
If I was putting the lyrics together for our purposes, I'd rearrange them a little, like this:

People get ready
There's a train a comin'
It's pickin' up passengers from coast to coast
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
Don't need no ticket, you just hop on board

The wiki train is comin, that's for sure. This week 80 people registered as contributors and twice that number visited pages. We have twenty people signed up already as monitors. So we're pickin up passengers from throughout the University. At this moment -- when the wiki is so chaotic, most of it is still empty, the style hasn't emerged, and things seem so out of focus -- we all certainly need faith to hear the engine going. But if we keep focused on the goals, make sincere contributions, respect the views of others while forcefully advancing our own, I promise you will be surprised at the progess that gets made.

You don't need no ticket, just hop on board...


Sunday, September 18, 2005


Ok, so I spent a good part of the weekend knocking together the first version of the ASU-Tech Plan Wiki. At this point it does not even qualify as a skeleton, but if you read the Methodology post or listened to the podcast then you already know that I expect this wiki to be the vehicle for creating a strategic plan collaboratively, right out in the open, without the need for expensive committees.

Applications are now being taken for moderators.


My First Podcast....

This past Thursday I had the opportunity to talk with a hundred or more members of the central IT organization at the monthly All-IT meeting. Guy Mullins and the DMIT team captured the event as a podcast.

It records a free-form, extemporaneous conversation I had with the team built around a short powerpoint presentation. (Conversation is being charitable...it was a monologue interspersed and followed with a few questions. But if you've spent much time with me lately, that's what passes for a conversation with me. Can you say "listening challenged"?)

I don't think I said anything too outrageous, but the meeting did have the feeling of an old fashioned tent revival at times. The purpose was to introduce myself, brief a wide audience on the current status of the technology planning process, and describe my plan for using a wiki-based process to collaborate in creating ASU's technology strategy.

If you have an hour to kill, this would do it -- handily.


Saturday, September 17, 2005

Sannier Bio

I studied Systems Science at Michigan State University from 1979 to 1982, when I received my Bachelor's Degree. I began my graduate studies in Operations Research at Cornell University in 1983, but returned to Michigan State in 1984 to study at the Case Center for CAD/CAM, and received my Ph.D. there in 1988. My thesis research dealt with speciation and co-adaption in parallel distributed evolving systems driven by a genetic algorithm.

After graduation I began my career as a research engineer with Schlumberger Technologies in Ann Arbor, MI (owners of MDSI and Applicon). Applicon was founded as a spin-off of an MIT lab in 1972 and in 1983, Applicon introduced BRAVO! the first 32-bit VAX-based mechanical design/NC system.. In the mid 80s, Applicon was acquired by Schlumberger and then merged with MDSI, an Ann Arbor based startup was known for its workstation based CAM products. In my two years at Applicon, I was part of the team that created the first line of CAD software for the Macintosh, marketed under the MacBravo brand. I did most of my work on FIT, the Flexible Interface Toolkit. FIT was a c-shell like scripting language that allowed users to create graphical user interfaces and reconfigure them on the fly, a forerunner of languages like Tcl and Visual Basic.

In 1990, I joined Cimlinc, a startup CAD company based in Chicago and Troy MI. Founded in the 1980's by Mike Sterling and John West, Cimlinc reached $40M in 1986 annual revenues selling its own brand of CAD/CAM software on workstation hardware they designed and manufactured. But as workstations became a commodity in the late 1980's, Cimlinc moved to a software only model. Cimlinc's Linkage product was a component of an early ERP implementation at Boeing. I worked in several capacities at Cimlinc, finally as Vice President of Product Development.

While at Cimlinc, I helped design, develop and implement Envelop, a freely downloadable, object oriented RAD environment not unlike Visual Basic. Envelop never caught on commercially, but it was pretty cool all the same. It is still available for download on the web, from Janus software.

In 1995, I left Cimlinc to become Vice President and General Manager of EAI Interactive, one of two business units of Engineering Animation (NASDAQ:EAII). EAI was founded in 1990 by four Iowa State Cyclones: Marty Vanderploeg, Jim Bernard, Jeff Trom, Jay Shannan. Joined by CEO Matt Rizai, they built a dynamic 3D visualization company from the ground up. When I signed on to EAI in 1995, we had about 80 employees. Two years later Engineering Animation had grown to almost 1000, after a successful IPO on the Nasdaq and a string of profitable quarters.

As GM for EAI Interactive, I was fortunate to work with an extremely talented group of programmers, project managers and sales and marketing people. We made everything from litigation animations and educational CD ROMS to museum installations and computer games. At Interactive's peak, with $22M in annual revenue and about 200 employees, we worked on some 70 projects at any one time. Our customers were the leaders in their respective industries: Ford, General Motors, Disney and Hasbro, McGraw Hill and Elsevier to name a few.

EAI was acquired by Unigraphics in the fall of 2000, which was subsequently acquired by EDS in 2001. EDS combined UG and EAI with SDRC later that same year to form UGS the world's largest CAD and PLM company. UGS sold to a private equity group in 2004 for a little over $2 billion.

In 2001, I joined the faculty of Iowa State University as the Stanley Professor of Interdisciplinary Engineering. The Stanley Chair was endowed by Mary Jo and Richard Stanley, BSME '55, BSEE '55. The Stanleys, known worldwide for their thoughtful work toward global peace and justice, gave the College of Engineering a gift in excess of $1 million to endow the Stanley Chair in Interdisciplinary Engineering in 1995.

Richard Stanley, from Muscatine, Iowa, is chairman of Stanley Consultants, Inc., international consultants in engineering, architecture, planning, and management. He is also vice chairman of the board of HON INDUSTRIES, and chair and president of The Stanley Foundation, a private foundation that works toward the goal of a secure peace with freedom and justice by encouraging study, research, and discussion of international issues.

I also served as Associate Director for the Virtual Reality Applications Center at ISU. Research at VRAC focuses on the applications of immersive visualization and next generation human/computer interfaces to challenges in science, technology and the humanities. The students who study here are among the best and the brightest.

In August of 2005, I took a position at Arizona State University as University Technology Officer. I’m working out of the Office of the President to implement a long-range technology plan in support of President Crow’s vision for the New American University. I am concentrating on working with folks throughout the University to identify ways to apply new technologies to improve ASU’s academic, administrative and research environments. Some of the ways I have worked to accomplish these goals over the past two years include:

Administrative Computing Systems Replacement: ASU has successfully replaced ASU’s aging Student Information and Human Resource systems with an Oracle-based PeopleSoft system. The OASIS project was executed in a year and a half for a total cost of $30 million. We know of no faster, leaner ERP implementation of similar scale and complexity.

1:1 Computing: By partnering with Dell and Apple Computer, we have helped our students switch to personal computing so they can keep up scholastically and technically with their peers and retain detailed ongoing records of their education.

ASU on iTunesU: In partnership with Apple, ASU has introduced ASU on iTunes U to the ASU community. This library of video and audio educational material allows professors and students to share and listen to lectures, public events, special productions, online courses, research materials, and more.

Google Apps for Education: ASU’s strategic alliance with Google has allowed ASU to introduce Gmail for ASU to its student community, as well as Google calendaring, Google Maps, the Google Personal Start Page, and Google Docs and Spreadsheets.

Mobile Computing: ASU has partnered with Verizon Wireless to provide discounted cell phones and calling plans to its faculty, staff, and students. We have also introduced wirelessly-equipped buses that allow students to work and study in transit.

Wireless Residence Halls for Students: In partnership with Qwest, students can now access the Internet wirelessly right from their dorm rooms, making student computing and access simple and efficient.


Monday, September 12, 2005

Why the New American University Must Go 1:1

The quill pen has special meaning in the Sannier household. It’s a symbol to my family of an education system mired in the past. When our kids were in elementary school, they’d often be at the kitchen table scrubbing away with a pencil eraser making an unholy graphite mess, on the verge of tears. “Why can’t I use my computer to do this?” they would cry out with an angst only a geek can truly appreciate.


Saturday, September 10, 2005

What might have been…

I love bookstores, especially Borders and Barnes and Noble. I like the coffee. I like the chairs. I usually like the music, but I often bring my IPod instead. I roam around looking at the tables of new releases, wandering around my old favorites on the shelves. I’ll usually grab 4 or 5 titles and head off to a comfy spot for an afternoon’s read. Very occasionally, I’ll buy one.

I do my serious book buying at Amazon.com. I make my own coffee. My chairs are pretty comfortable too, and I always like the music. I like to buy from Amazon because of the browsing experience. Since Amazon keeps track of what I buy, their collaborative filtering is like having a personal shopper tag along, someone who knows what I like, knows what other people like me like, which gives me serious help picking out books. And it couldn’t be any easier to buy. It is a pain to wait the day or so to get the book, but it’s exciting to open the packages when they come. If I was cooler, I’d just download eBooks I guess. And as soon as I find a device I like as much as a paperback, I will.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Last Week in Review...

Last week saw a dramatic increase in comment activity on the blog, which is great. So in case you're not following the comments, (and even if you are), I thought I'd review some of the issues that folks have been raising -- adding my own comments of course. :)


Monday, September 05, 2005


Last Tuesday, I met with a group of about 15-20 people in a Computing Commons conference room. I did a short monologue, recapping some of the themes in the blog, and then we did 40 minutes or so of question and answer. I wish I could remember all the questions, if for no other reason than to see if I'd give the same answers after reflection that I gave on the spot. I like to think I'd be pretty close, but you never know.

I can only remember three of the questions clearly.


Props to the House

What better day than Labor Day to say "Hats Off!" to the men and women who make ASU the amazing place it is.


Version 2 is Here!!!

Based on input from far and wide, Nancy Dickson has put out version 2 of Dickson's Database Diagram. Version 1 generated a lot of positive reaction, due most of all to the sheer Tuftian grace of its execution. Just seeing so much of the system in one place is exciting.