Saturday, February 27, 2010

Last Post


About 1700 days ago, I put up my first blog post prior to taking the job as University Technology Officer at Arizona State University. Today marks my last post from that position.

In April, I'm leaving ASU to join Pearson eCollege as vice president of product marketing. It's a great spot for me I think, and I'm really excited to return to the private sector, but I've certainly enjoyed my time here at ASU. I believe that the UTO has done more good than harm during the time I've spent here, the result of the hard work and dedication of the nearly 400 men and women I've been privileged to work beside.
One of the weird things about keeping a blog is that you can remember with nearly perfect fidelity what you were thinking years into the past. And on that July day in 2005, I remember writing on my lakeside porch, imagining what difference technology might make in supporting President Crow's vision for the New American University:
Next month I start a new job at Arizona State University as University Technology Officer. I'll be working out of the Office of the President to develop a long range technology plan in support of President Crow's vision for the New American University. Over the next six months, I will be working with folks throughout the University to identify ways to apply new technologies to improve ASU's academic, administrative and research environments. 
The ensuing 40,920 hours certainly haven't diminished my belief in the accelerating power of technological progress. In the past 243 weeks, despite the worst economic downturn in our lifetimes, we've seen all sorts of progress:

Google Apps and netbooks, Iphones and Droids,
Ipads, Kindles, and LED TV's
Pandora, YouTube, the Wii,
Amazon EC2 and Avatar 3D

So the technological goose hasn't stopped giving in the past 2,455,200 minutes. Things are still tearing along at Moore's Law pace. Storage and bandwidth costs continue to fall, processor speeds continue to double every 2 years. Five years ago I hoped that these technologies might:

    ...do more than streamline the University's back office administrative processes. These dramatic changes in communications, and the capture, storage, retrieval, and presentation of information can be used to enhance every student's academic experience while at the same time lowering costs and increasing the university's reach...There is an opportunity for ASU to be a leader in the application of these technologies to the academic enterprise. 
So, how'd we do? How much of the last 147,312,000 seconds did we spend delivering on that potential? Obviously, the bulk of the effort went to delivering the hundreds of individual services -- hosting servers and data, patching operating systems, upgrading machines, helping with questions, loading paper -- all the thankless but vital day to day chores that make a modern university hum. But in four years, we also made more than our fair share of change.

Looking back, the changes have been mostly good, some promising, and one not-so-good.

First the good:
Then, the promising:
  • Through MyApps, we're making some 250 software applications available over the web to faculty, staff and students wherever in the world they choose to work. With nearly 10,000 users a week, MyASU is a growing resource for the ASU community. The "AppStore" release this summer will make MyApps even easier to use and bring application streaming of ASU's most popular apps.
  • Through Server/Storage on Demand, we're making it easier for faculty and staff to put up secure servers or gain access to terabytes of backed up, secure storage. With hundreds of servers under management, this resource is making ASU nimbler and more secure. This spring will see the release of a new Server/Storage on Demand interface in MyASU and a partnership with Amazon EC2 that will make it faster and cheaper to get access to scalable compute resources.
Finally, the bad:
  • Certainly no one at ASU wants to return to August of 2007, least of all me. While all the other major systems deployed without disruption, we stumbled hard out of the gate with payroll. While paychecks to the large majority of ASU staff were issued without a hiccup, we didn't handle the ones that weren't issued smoothly. It caused a lot of turmoil and disruption to the campus for several weeks. 
  • Everyone has an opinion of course, but if I had it to do over again, I'd be less ambitious. Changing not only the system that computed pay, but also the payment period, the rules for entering time proved and a host of other procedure changes proved to be more change than we could collectively handle. On reflection, if we'd settled for replacing the old with the new, we'd have got through without a scratch.
  • While I regret not scaling back the attempt, I will always be proud of the dedication and skill shown by the ASU staff that worked tirelessly to quickly restore order, in a matter of weeks, in the face of a community's outrage and with no prospect of it's gratitude. They didn't have to do it, but they did and the university advanced over a hurdle because of them. They are the unsung heroes of the Summer of 2007.
All in all, a reasonable way to spend four years. I remain a firm believer in ASU's mission and think it will come out of its current fiscal stress still firmly fixed on its goals. I've made many friends here in the desert and will always remember this time fondly. I look forward to working with many of you in the future. Education's future is intertwined with technology's now, and I can't wait to see how the next 10 years play out.

What's next?

1 comments:

Anonymous,  February 27, 2010 at 4:31 PM  

Wishing you good luck...enjoyed working with you. ASU is a better place because of you.