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Management Briefing - ECN Shared Services

Author: ITS

Posted on Mar 11, 2015

Category: Management Briefings

Federated Identity and SharePoint Pave the Way to True Shared Services

ITS is leading a project within the Education Computing Network (ECN) consortium of universities and colleges in NB and PEI to advance shared services among its members to an unprecedented level. We’ve recently deployed federated identity, which allows users at different institutions to easily and freely login to resources and services at the other member institutions; traditional IT barriers including network restrictions and account permissions cease to exist, providing easy and convenient access to an open and rich set of resources for all participants, regardless of location. Users of Eduroam (connecting to Wi-Fi at participating institutions using one’s own ID and password) are already familiar with part of the service.

Innovation in action

This is a ground-breaking initiative creating, for the first time in Canada, a truly innovative yet practical shared services platform transcending provincial boundaries, making it possible to contemplate, with assurance of technical feasibility, projects such as a common regional student application system, or a common ERP platform, or an Atlantic purchasing portal. Of course the business processes underlying projects like these and many others are complex, but the elimination of technical barriers at least allows stakeholders to discuss them with a measure of confidence that they can actually be done. Indeed, it’s already making life easier for UNB and STU students who use secure services like Wi-Fi and library e-resources on each other’s campuses.

SharePoint designated first shared service

To demonstrate that the vast potential of the project is obtainable, the consortium is establishing a centrally hosted SharePoint service. SharePoint is a collaboration suite of software from Microsoft which, while a fantastic tool, requires considerable IT infrastructure (including servers, data storage, etc.) and support (dedicated staff to manage the system and to build templates, sites, and applications).

SharePoint will be centrally hosted and managed at UNB, but will be paid for by and available to all ECN members; individual schools can make SharePoint as simple or elaborate as they wish. For all intents and purposes, SharePoint will appear to end users as serving only their institution—it will be indistinguishable from the traditional, self-hosted system. Indeed, at the end of April ITS will launch the new myUNB portal, which is built in SharePoint, and tightly integrated with Colleague, our enterprise database system supporting finance, HR, student information, and advancement. Further deployments of SharePoint features at UNB will be coordinated within the ECN project.

Another ECN success story

The ECN has been successfully engaged for over 40 years in finding ways to collaborate, cooperate, and do more with limited resources. This record of success continues with cutting-edge IT projects like federated identity and true shared services like SharePoint. There really is no limit to what we might do together.

Terry Nikkel, AVP, ITS, March 11, 2015