Central Software and Applications
Group Report

Working Group members:
- Colleen Bretzlaff, Jiri Holechek, Peter Marshall, Bob McKerlie,
Reg Quinton (chair), Chuck Reid and Mike Stevenson

Revision: 6.10


1 Executive Summary

We appreciate the opportunity provided by ITS management and the ITS Senior Director in particular for this Working Group to present their comments and make suggestions for the current reorganization effort within ITS. The group has met regularly and appreciates the good suggestions offered by other member of ITS.


To collaborate with the campus community to define, build and enhance major central business, information and communications applications. To integrate these universal applications into the campus computing environment to support and enrich the teaching, research and administrative processes of the entire campus community.

1.1 Areas of Responsibility and Accountability

Responsibility for an area includes the authority to do what needs to be done to meet those responsibilities. However to ensure that decisions meet all needs, no decisions can be made by any one group without consultation with others involved. Authority and responsibility requires accountability.

This group will be accountable and responsible for the following application areas:

  1. Major business applications
    Current examples:
    Human Resources, Student Information System, Finance, Development Office, Physical Plant Department
    Future examples:
    PeopleSoft-based replacements of central business systems, parts of ITS internal computer user accounting integration

  2. Interpersonal and group communications applications
    Current examples:
    E-mail, News, Mailing lists
    Future examples:
    Internet Relay Chat (IRC), ``groupware'', Privacy Enhanced Mail (PEM), IMAP follow-on to POP3-based servers

  3. Major information distribution services
    Current examples:
    Web, gopher, FTP, Campus Directory, Encore
    Future examples:
    open interfaces to central information, integrated and comprehensive Campus Directory

  4. Security
  5. Central Database Management

In general, this group will:

  1. Be responsible for the complete, efficient and timely delivery of information-based services to a campus-wide community.
  2. Strive to deliver production services; minimize the delay and maximize benefits.
  3. Focus primarily on the server and information organization side of applications especially as the applications mature.
  4. Provide leadership and a corporate strategic perspective in the delivery of information services while working closely with other ITS Groups in the delivery of new information services (eg. multi-media in the scientific and teaching areas).

2 General Principles and Values

The guiding principles and values of ITS as a whole provide a unifying framework for all teams. Without a good understanding of these division-wide principles and values, it will be difficult for groups to work well with one another or work well internally. We therefore have included a list of what we believe those values are or should be. We recommend that a statement of common principles and values is required by ITS as a division to help make the separate groups a cohesive whole.

2.1 ITS-Wide

  1. Our greatest resource is each other; our diverse skills and complementary experiences make the whole much more than the sum of the parts.
  2. We treat others with honesty and respect.
  3. We value and trust the judgements and opinions of others.
  4. We practice open, consistent communication.
  5. We are committed to teamwork and partnership.
  6. We strive for continuous improvement. For example, through the reuse of good work and the adoption of new technologies and the continuous revision of standards and operating procedures.
  7. We consider our customer's immediate needs within a larger strategic framework. For example, it is sometimes appropriate to say ``no'' depending on the results of an evaluation.
  8. We encourage and must provide opportunities for personal and professional growth.
  9. We have ongoing communication and periodic review of objectives, goals, plans and the processes leading to decisions.

2.2 Operating Principles for this Group

The following help to characterize the nature of this group by enumerating some the aspects of the job performed by this group that we feel are valuable and important. In general, this group will:

  1. Work primarily with representatives of campus groups (usually departments) rather than end-users -- much of the end-user interaction is left up to the department or is front-ended by User Services.
  2. Cooperate and collaborate with other campus information sources (library, faculty offices, etc.) to design and build information services that allow the free flow of information between central and distributed systems to meet the goals of the University.
  3. Never cast in stone standards that we produce and use. Instead, we require that they be living documents subject to change when and as required.
  4. Provide solutions that meet the users needs and provide simple, open, standards-based, network-accessible and reusable access to that information using widely accepted standard protocols where possible. Where not possible, a sound, peer reviewed business case should justify the reasons for not conforming.
  5. Develop general and reusable interfaces.
  6. Avoid using humans as gateways between systems and provide on-line access to those systems in order to deliver a cohesive distributed information system.
  7. Actively participate in the selection and upgrade of tools utilized in the development and support of applications. For example, tools like Power Builder, PeopleTools, HTML editors, Java and Erwin.
  8. Keep abreast of information industry trends and to track information industry and educational institution trends primarily in order to provide advice on defining UWO's strategic direction in information technology.
  9. Develop information industry partnerships and work closely with those partners to assure that purchased products meet our customer needs and fit into the larger strategic framework.
  10. Work in partnership with internal auditors to assure that information based services meet the corporate needs of the University.

3 Intra-Group and Inter-Group Processes

3.1 Specific Intra-Group Processes

To work effectively together, the Group must agree on certain internal processes and common understandings.

  1. The group should embrace the spirit of the general ITS values outlined previously.
  2. Our decisions should bee value-based.
  3. The group should hold regular, minuted meetings for information-passing, priority-setting and the open discussion of issues. Minutes should be public.
  4. There must be a commitment to provide the staff and other resources to ensure that critical services are covered adequately.
  5. As far as possible, we should avoid situations where people report to two groups. Instead, we should use formal and informal processes rather than specific people as the link between groups.
  6. So far as possible, standards should be written so that they are open and bear scrutiny. The group should commit to use and build on existing policies and procedures documents.
  7. Use an ITS-wide change tracking and notification procedures/system (not Dispatch1).

The membership of this group is expected to be primarily drawn from the current Network Services Team (NST) and the DAS Development Group. We identified a number of similarities and differences between the groups and feel that these will be important to understand and find the synergy in the new organizational structure.

We feel that these differences are positive and that there is much that can be learned by both groups that would allow us better serve our users. For example, some of us need to be more disciplined while some could benefit by becoming more responsive.

  1. Similarities:

    • Support applications software
    • Campus-wide community
    • Information both public and controlled access
    • Rely on systems group
    • Databases of information
    • Tools changing rapidly
    • Current directions are toward more open systems

  2. Current Differences:

    NST DAS/Development
    ``some'' structure very structured
    generally public (open access) controlled access
    free applications proprietary applications
    evolving into business apps mature business apps
    informal methodology structured methodology
    (see Appendix B.2) (see Appendix B.1)
    distributed but linked data central orientation (UWO)
    (UWO, Dept, Internet)
    client groups are departments client groups are the big 5:
    Finance, Registrar,
    Human Resources, Dev
    Office, Physical Plant Dept

3.2 Specific Inter-Group Processes

To work effectively within the larger framework of the Division we need to establish some common understandings and develop specific processes for communication with other ITS groups. We understand that many other interactions will also take place.

  1. ITS embraces the spirit of the general ITS values outlined previously.
  2. Before decisions that affect users and other groups are made, consultation with them is required.
  3. Major interactions with Central Systems Management group will be necessary to coordinate the OS support for the machines on which we provide services. The exact process to accomplish this coordination will have to be worked out with that group once the memberships of each group has been determined.
  4. Central Database Management. It is still unclear where the responsibility for the ``database engine'' will lie. We assume that joint responsibility will be shared by this group and Central Systems Management.
  5. We see major interactions with the User Services group for many of the PC/MAC-based clients for the services that this group supports. This includes working together on the required training and documentation. We expect this to require many joint groups for specific projects.
  6. We see the support for many information services changing through the normal life cycle of the product. Especially as services mature and become production, the support expands toward User Services, Central Systems Management, Operations and Accounting.
  7. The computer accounting system should be the joint responsibility of the Central Systems Management group, Operations and this group. This group should be responsible for the server-side and interface to the major University databases.
  8. Currently the staff and faculty directory is a joint product of members of this group and members of the Telecom section. To maintain the current service, a close working relationship between the two will have to continue. As the responsibility for the faculty and staff directory moves to the Human Resources database, the direction of the data flow will change.
  9. Participation (and perhaps leadership) in a Division-wide security coordination group.

4 Summary List of Services and Functions

The following is a short summary of the services and functions for which this group will be responsible. More detail is provided in Appendix A (starting on page *).

4.1 Critical Services

  1. Core Business Applications: Human Resources, Student Information System, Physical Plant, Financial Services, Development Office. See Appendix A.1 for details.
  2. Core Communication/Information Applications: E-mail, Web, Directory, News and anonymous FTP. See Appendix A.2 for details.
  3. Miscellaneous (historical) applications/services that depend on central administrative data. See Appendix A.1 for details.
  4. Interfaces between core business applications and other campus systems when this functionality is required. For example, to supply an interface that enables the library automation system, the ITS computer accounting system and the telephone directory service to have on-line access to employee information.
  5. Unix/X-Window-based environment support for internal ITS use (in conjunction primarily with the Central Systems Management group).

4.2 Potentially Recoverable Services

  1. Custom applications-level (not interface-level) interfaces to central data. We need clarification and documentation on the rules and practice for charging.
  2. Web programming (CGI/Java) for data conversion and interaction for departments.
  3. Web, E-mail and FTP server setup and configuration for campus users in conjunction with the group responsible for Facilities Management.
  4. Unix/X-window environment support and development beyond the internal ITS needs in conjunction with a Facilities Management group and other ITS groups.

4.3 Services with Potential for Elimination

  1. News -- The news group offerings should be evaluated and rationalized based on academic needs, in conjunction with SUCNS and the user community.
  2. Gopher (this being phased out in favor of WWW).
  3. Eliminate multiple ITS anonymous FTP servers thorough integration into a single server.
  4. Stand-alone WAIS databases (use WAIS only in the back-end or eliminate completely).
  5. MVS-based systems including the NET3270 gateway (responsibility for this has moved to the Office of the Registrar) and Encore based access to MVS data (this goes with MVS and PeopleSoft).
  6. EMC2 mail system to be phased out with MVS. There may be compelling reasons to act quickly on this but any solution will require a detailed investigation of alternatives to make sure that the solution meets the user needs and is consonant with the strategic directions of the University.

4.4 Potential Development Areas

  1. Mass-access interface/standards-based gateways to central databases:
  2. A comprehensive (faculty/staff/student) directory service integrated with the HR and SIS systems as well as the traditional and current distribution mechanisms: whois, the Web and the telephone directory.

5 Division-Wide Issues

The following issues that concern all of ITS were part of our discussions as we developed a consensus for this report. We thought them important enough to record them here and to seek confirmation and/or clarification from ITS management and indeed the entire division about these issues.

  1. The general rules and exceptions for cost recovery need to be clarified. Rules like ``ancillaries are charged'' need to be written as a general ITS policy along with the current exceptions. We need to make the campus aware of the policy as well as be clear on it internally.
  2. We believe that a common standards-based approach will give us an economy of scale in all areas that minimizes duplication of effort and thereby increases the number of things we can support. This applies in all areas including the management of people. Is this a generally held belief?
  3. We perceive a growing risk to ITS and the University due to an increasing over-reliance on sets of skills in specific people without adequate backup. Is this an acceptable risk?
  4. Managers at all levels are to work with staff early in the reorganization to make sure that Job Descriptions (as required by Human Resources and the Manual of Administrative Policies and Procedures) adequately describe the responsibilities and expectations of the staff member. This should be a priority especially after the coming reorganization.
  5. Managers at all levels are required to work with staff members to provide periodic performance review in order to develop the staff members career path and address any outstanding performance issues. Is ITS committed to this?
  6. We note conflicting organizational models. In some cases the organization seems clearly layered while in other cases the organization seems vertical (a group is charged with all aspects of a particular area and seems to be independent of other groups). There is a consensus opinion in this working group that a vertical organization should not be the standard. However, there is a also a consensus that vertical organizations may be required or even desirable in some instances -- in particular, in the early stages of the development of an information service it may well be necessary. Nevertheless, the consensus seems to be that as services mature they naturally tend to a layered organization of interdependent services. Is this concern shared with the rest of the organization?

6 A Note on Staffing Requirements

We have identified a number of areas that we feel are critical to the Division and to the University but we have also recognized that in the current organization we have a clear shortage of staff assigned to these areas. Should this situation continue it will not be possible for this group to properly fulfill its mission.


A Inventory

A.1 Core Business Applications


The following detail contains an inventory of core business applications, their main functions, and the services related to these applications. The list contains both in-house developed applications (our current legacy systems) and purchased package applications (for the most part, the new Peoplesoft group of systems).

A.1.1 In-house Applications

The following group of applications consists of more than 2000 production programs made up of more than 3,000,000 lines of code. It currently takes 5 FTE staff members to provide day-to-day support for these applications. This support does not include enhancements to these applications. At present, these systems require approximately 75 gigabytes of disk space to support them.

Human Resources Finance Development Office
(currently 500 users) (currently 600 users) (currently 100 users)
Records General Ledger Record Keeping
Payroll Accounts Payable Fund Raising
Position Management Purchasing AdHoc Reporting
Appointment Management Research Accounting Telephone Solicitation
Benefits Processing Bank Reconciliation Data Warehousing
Pension Admin. Equipment Inventory Alumni Tracking
Salary Admin.
T4/T4A Processing
Employment/Pay Equity
Stats Canada Reporting
Student Records Miscellaneous
(currently 1000 users (currently 100 users)
plus all students)

General Record Keeping Housing Interface
Fee Assessment/Adjustments Space Management
Fees Subledger Library Interface
Financial Aid & Awards Bookstore
Convocation Processing Continuing Education
Marks Processing Research Services
Adjudication / Degree Audit Graduate Studies
Transcript Processing Physical Plant Payroll
Admissions Processing Pension Admin.
Telephone Registration Internal Applications
MCU BIU Submission
Data Warehousing

A.1.2 Inventory of Purchased Applications

Note that most of the Miscellaneous systems will still exist after PeopleSoft implementation. Appropriate interfaces will have to be provided as the transition to Peoplesoft progresses. Physical Plant will continue to use the Marcam product. It is projected, these systems will require over 100 gigabytes of disk space to support them.

Human Resources Finance Development Office
Records General Ledger Record Keeping
Payroll Accounts Payable Fund Raising
Benefits Admin. Purchasing Telephone Solicitation
Position Management Accounts Receivable Alumni Tracking
Time and Labour Billing
Employment/Pay Equity Asset Management
Stats Canada Reporting Budgeting
Student Information System Physical Plant
(currently 125 users)

General Record Keeping Maintenance Management
Fee Assessment/Adjustments Work Order processing
Fee Collection Accounts Payable
Financial Aid & Awards Purchasing
Convocation Processing Project Costing
Marks Processing Inventory Management
Adjudication / Degree Audit Approvals
Transcript Processing
Admissions Processing
Telephone Registration
MCU BIU Submission

A.2 Core Information & Communication Services

  We provide the following services: These systems are productivity tools for faculty, staff and students as well as being the computer and network-based public face of the University. All applications in the chart below except E-mail have an NST-managed informal database attached.

Type Size Server Client Support
Comm >25K msgs/day E-mail (interpersonal) Unix/X clients
>6K active users (VAX)
Comm 5GB database News (group comm) Unix/X clients
~100 simultaneous (some courseware) (VAX)
Info 20000 students Directory Unix/Web clients
4000 fac/staff (VAX)
500 temp
20-30K accesses/mo
Info 100MB (ITS) Web/Gopher/FTP Unix/X clients
1GB (campus-wide) (public face,
1.5GB (FTP) some courseware,
~100 Info Providers software repository)
~1M accesses/mo

Associated Helper Tools:

Staff support: about 2.5 FTEs (or, considering extra hours, perhaps 3.5 FTEs) plus about .5 FTE from other groups.

B Methodologies

We have two distinct methodologies represented in this group. The fairly formal process outlined in section B.1 and the less formal but still valid series of policies and procedures manuals referred to in section B.2.

B.1 DAS Development Methodology


The services provided are currently contained in a Systems Development Methodology used by the development group to design, develop, implement, and support both in-house developed and purchased applications. This methodology is used as a guideline during projects. The list includes only the highlights of this methodology and detailed versions are available on request.

B.1.1 In-house Development

B.1.2 Purchased Packages

B.2 Network, Unix and Documentation Policies and Procedures

  These manuals are available on-line:

About this document ...

Central Software and Applications
Group Report

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