tidBiTS
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ITS Management Briefing UNB s data strategy

Author: ITS

Posted on May 20, 2016

Category: Management Briefings

In fulfilling its mission to create the premier university environment for our students, faculty and staff in which to learn, work and live, UNB expends considerable energy and resources ensuring the community has the data it needs to operate effectively. For instance, faculty need access to current and accurate student and other information to conduct classes and research. Administrators need up-to-the-minute financial, personnel, and student data to help them support the institution. And students need timely and relevant class and other data to help them track progress and ultimately reach their academic and personal goals. In an ideal world, all this data would be available easily; it would be authoritative, and of course current and accurate. It would come from a single robust and trustworthy source, and would be easy to integrate into a myriad of software programs, making life and work at UNB richer and much more focused on priorities of teaching and learning rather than struggling with balky data systems and services—as is very much the case today.

UNB's Data Strategy Framework Model

Data governance and management
This data strategy is the ambitious but necessary response to the sad state of UNB’s data environment. The strategy starts with best practices for managing an institution’s data assets via data governance and management. Data governance (DG) provides oversight and guidance through policies, standards and practices relating to management of the data at UNB. Data management (DM) enables DG to be made real in daily activities in the shaping of policies, practices, and guidelines within administrative authority areas including activities around the structure and design, storage, movement, security and quality of data.

Project FOCUS
UNB’s data strategy framework
Central to the data strategy is revitalization of the university’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, which contains the student, financial, HR, advancement, and other data supporting transactions, decision-making, and forecasting. Project FOCUS will see the transformation of this system from a clunky, outdated and temperamental service into a state-of-the-art toolset that will improve the lives of our faculty, staff and students by making authoritative data readily available, easy to use, and ubiquitous. In the past, the system (known to many as Colleague, the vendor’s name for the application suite) has been configured to meet many, many different requirements, but has never benefitted from a coordinated, thoughtful approach to overall management and governance. This has resulted in an unnecessarily complex, rigid, and ultimately frustrating data environment in which people are expected to work. The university is taking the time and effort, via Project FOCUS, to correct this; new tools and services will result in a much better system, and, under the guidance of the DG and DM groups and others, our data will be thoroughly reviewed, classified, and renewed. Project FOCUS--actually a series of interrelated projects--will ultimately provide every faculty and staff member and all of our students with more accessible and useful data, easier-to-use interfaces, and vastly improved processes for getting authoritative data in and out of the system.

Policies, procedures and standards
UNB’s policy development process ensures the university meets its many obligations as a public institution. Procedures and standards provide essential guidance to faculty, staff, students and others on how to implement and comply with policy. Legislation (think PHIPAA, PIPEDA, RTIPPA, and so on), generally drives creation of specific UNB policies like the Policy for the Protection of Personal Information and Privacy. In the IT area, the Acceptable Use of ICT, and Mobility policies set expectations and assign specific roles and responsibilities concerning use of university IT assets. The data strategy rests firmly on a policy foundation that sets responsibility for data ownership, maintenance, management and security. The Information Security Policy, now in final stages of review, revision and approval, is particularly important: it enables university community members to exert control over the chaotic data environment, and specifies appropriate roles and responsibilities for data owners and users, ITS, and many others. Additional policies will need to be developed to support the data strategy; the data governance and management groups will define them as necessary.

UNB’s Data Management Working Group is responsible for creating the university’s first comprehensive Data Classification Standard, which will provide practical guidance on how UNB data should be captured, stored, shared, secured, and archived. The new standard will have a major impact on all future data-centric initiatives at UNB; common data definitions, authoritative data sources, central data repositories, and enterprise-wide security processes and tools will ensure a reliable, efficient and above all usable data environment for everyone.

IT architecture and tools
ITS has embarked on a multi-year initiative to redesign and rebuild our campus data networks to ensure they remain secure, sustainable, have maximum possible capacity and superb performance, and are readily and easily accessible far into the future. At the same time, we will be equipping our community members with improved tools to help them cope with and thrive in an environment beset by IT threats including denial of service attacks, phishing and malware, and which impose ever-increasing pressure on IT staff and infrastructure for rapid and decisive response.

To enhance and secure the computing environment at UNB, ITS extensively reviewed best practices, and has selected several for immediate and future implementation. For example, building on the data classification standard now under development, we will segment networks and users to ensure only those authorized to do so are allowed access to specific IT services and data resources. Although we already monitor much of the data traffic flowing into the university for threats, we will be increasing coverage to all data channels to ensure maximum protection. Finally, given the growing importance of cloud services—IT resources and services hosted outside of the university, and accessible via the web—ITS will assist individual users to understand where they may safely store data, documents, files, etc., while also providing tools like encryption software and password keepers for end-to-end data management and protection. We are enlarging our IT security awareness efforts to include targeted training on how to successfully use the new tools, how to spot new threats, and how to respond effectively when incidents occur.

UNB’s data strategy is broad, but will ultimately result in a current, accurate, reliable, usable, sustainable, and managed data environment supporting teaching, learning and research.

Terry Nikkel, AVP, ITS, May 20, 2016