Report to ITS Management
Sept 29-Oct 2 1996

Colleen Bretzlaff, Angela Devito, Peter Marshall

Revision: 1.17

This report is available in its entirety in a PostScript version suitable for either viewing or printing or as plain ASCII text.

1 What is the ACM SIGUCCS User Services Conference?

First a few common acronyms explained:

Association for Computing Machinery
Special Interest Group on University and College Computing Services
Special Interest Group on Computers in Education

Peter has joined all 3 groups as part of a special conference package.

The 24th annual ACM SIGUCCS User Services Conference was held in Chicago this year from September 29 through October 3 (see Colleen, Angela and Peter attended from ITS. Colleen also participated in a pre-conference workshop: Theory into Practice: Using Information Theory to Plan and Evaluate Your Web Site.

The Conference is fairly small (272 attendees) but it attracts a good cross-section of university support staff from across North America (with a few overseas visitors) -- an excellent peer group. If we had to make some broad generalizations, we would say that these are people that are passionate about providing superior services to their campuses. The attendees are keen to talk about their experiences (which aren't too different from our own) and include all types of university computing centre professionals: consultants, directors, educators, managers, programmers, technical writers, trainers, LAN support staff and others with a variety of job titles. The only groups obviously missing were the pure systems support staff -- they were probably down the street at the Usenix LISA conference -- and corporate software programmers. The size, the common interests of the participants and the general organization of the conference actively encourages informal communication and general people to people networking.

In addition to the very important informal activities, there were about 50 papers presented organized into about nine streams. Formal proceedings are due out by February 1997.

SIGUCCS also holds a documentation competition (paper and Web based) and provides space at the conference to display a variety of documentation samples (Service Brochures, Education and Training Materials and Newsletters). Colleen is acting as "librarian" for the documentation and handouts that we gathered and copies can be borrowed from her -- see the list of materials appended to this report.

SIGUCCS also sponsors an annual management symposium. The report includes some information about that symposium.

In this report we'll try to give a flavour of the conference and select a few items that we thought would be of general interest to ITS management. There are many specific items or pointers that we gathered and have been either using ourselves or informally passing on to others at ITS.

2 Streams and Lunch "Topics"


These were the topic streams with formal papers that were presented at the conference. Even with three attending we didn't cover all of these areas:

Lunch "Topics"

At each of the conference luncheons, about half of the tables were labeled with a topic for discussion at that table. This was an excellent example of how the conference is organized to facilitate information and experience exchange. It worked better than fairly informal Birds of a Feather (BOF) sessions. Topics were sometimes follow-ons from the more formal presentations but others were just a place for people of similar interests to find each other and talk. Topics included:

3 Hot Topics

So what is currently "hot" in the computing area at North American Universities? These are the topics that people are talking about and are consuming major resources:

4 Tidbits - Notes of General Interest

SIGUCCS Services

The Job

Classrooms and Labs

Campus-wide Services



5 Computer Services Management Symposium

In addition to the Conference, SIGUCCS sponsors a symposium each spring that addresses issues challenging today's computer service managers Each year the Symposium focuses on "hot" computing topics in the areas of:

The previous symposium, in March 1996 was entitled The Widening Circle. For more information see <>. Last year's symposium had three tracks:

  1. Management: How do we manage in a wider circle where partnerships, alliances and collaboration replace rigid organizational structures, and the managers' principal functions are persuasion and team building rather than pronouncement and control?
  2. Values: To what purpose does the circle widen? What do we have to offer that anyone would or should be willing to pay for? Granting that technology is a means to an end, what are the ends we seek and how do we stay focused on them? How do we maintain ourselves as a creative force rather than a destructive one?
  3. Technology: What are the emerging technologies; how do they interface with existing technologies and with one another; and how can they really help us widen the circle? What's hype, what's hope, and what's hip?

Next year's symposium, In New Realities, will be held March 19-21 1997 in St Louis, MO.

6 Recommendations

A Documentation

Colleen Bretzlaff will be acting as the lending librarian for these documents that were gathered at the conference. Please arrange with her to borrow or copy items.

ACM and SIGs





Other Campus-wide Services





Peter Marshall, ITS, UWO <> Last update: 96-10-22 22:43 by peter