Engineering Computer Network Strategic Plan (Draft)

June 2004
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In 1979, Dean of Engineering Dr. John C. Hancock established the Engineering Computer Network (ECN) for creating specialized computing environments to suit the individual needs of each school in the College of Engineering. Originally, ECN supported one mainframe. Since then, ECN and the schools have developed a computing support environment for nearly six thousand servers, desktops, and laptops. In addition to leading the College of Engineering through this transition, ECN has helped shape computing on Purdue University's West Lafayette campus through the introduction, initial development, and implementation of services that have been adopted campus-wide. Today, ECN continues to provide state-of-the-art engineering software and secure computing environments to the College.


Purdue is embarking on the journey from excellence to preeminence and several changes are occurring as a result. Campus technology groups have merged to create Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP). Focus within the College of Engineering is shifting to interdisciplinary signature areas, which promises to bring in new faculty and research groups. Facilities are being constructed or updated to meet the needs of the future. ECN is prepared to facilitate these changes by working with ITaP and expanding on strengths ECN has established throughout its history.


The process of formalizing our plans for the future began with direction from the Dean of Engineering to draft a strategic plan. To complete the assigned task, ECN established a Strategic Planning Core Group comprised of members of the ECN staff. This group solicited input from faculty and staff within the College of Engineering and members of other campus computing groups. The group then consolidated these recommendations to define key goals for the future. Key strategies with implementation points were defined and will be employed to achieve these goals over the period from 2004 to 2007.

Mission, Vision, & Goals


We provide the premier computing environment necessary to attain the strategic goals of the College of Engineering at Purdue University.


We will achieve success for Purdue Engineering by opening new avenues and removing the barriers associated with computing.


In order to realize our mission ECN must achieve these goals:

  • Facilitate high quality, advanced computing to enable the research enterprise.
  • Increase the efficiency of computing support available to faculty, staff, and students.
  • Provide the premier computing environment for learning, discovery, and engagement.
  • Reaffirm our position as a leader in academic engineering computing support.

Overview of Strategies

Engage: Faculty, Staff, & Students; ITaP & other campus IT units; & the Research Enterprise

  • Understand the needs of our constituents, especially those specific to the research enterprise.
  • Communicate the information needed to leverage the tools and talents of ECN.
  • Grow beneficial relationships with ITaP and other campus IT units to identify and apply efforts for the common good.
  • Facilitate the exchange of knowledge.
  • Establish mutually advantageous relationships with corporate partners.

Research and Develop: Technologies & Usability

  • Match technologies to client's computer skills.
  • Understand how current technologies can enable the College of Engineering in new or more efficient ways.
  • Survey prospective technologies; select the most promising for pilot projects.

Adapt: Organization, Staff, Support, & Facilities

  • Develop an organizational structure and support model that increases efficiency so that additional resources are available to the research enterprise.
  • Provide opportunities for staff to increase knowledge and skills.
  • Adjust Engineering's physical computing facilities to meet current and future needs.


Engage: Faculty, Staff, & Students; ITaP & other campus IT units; & the Research Enterprise

Faculty, Staff, & Students

  • We will spend face to face time with faculty, staff, and students by holding town meetings in engineering buildings around campus during each academic month.
  • We will monitor the needs of each school by creating site managers for each department/school that we service.
  • We will provide users with the status of operations by better integrating communication into our procedures.
  • We will notify users of current projects and new services by distributing an ECN Newsletter on a monthly basis.
  • We will increase awareness of available services by maintaining an up-to-date definitive list of services and software that we provide.
  • We will enable users to access computer resources and services by better documenting simple procedures on the web.
  • We will make computers productive tools by increasing training, documentation, and tutorials.
  • We will provide status of help requests by procuring an enhanced ticketing/queue/request system.
  • We will gather feedback by implementing an annual assessment survey.
  • We will provide personalized information such as account status, news, and scheduled updates to each of our users by creating a "My ECN" web site.
  • We will facilitate the exchange of knowledge by providing community forums.

ITaP & other campus IT units

  • We will evaluate common services and work to minimize duplication of efforts by establishing working groups consisting of ECN and ITaP staff responsible for such services.
  • We will streamline the planning and development of new computing resources and services by collaborating with other campus IT units.
  • We will share expertise and knowledge with campus IT staff by participating in community forums and seminars.

The Research Enterprise

  • We will provide the research enterprise with a catalog of ECN expertise by continuously inventorying our skill set.
  • We will look for opportunities to be involved in proposals and grants by working with the faculty, Schools, and the Dean.
  • We will seek out projects in the IT area to engage in innovative technologies by initiating our own proposals.
  • We will enable researchers to collaborate and communicate by creating web sites, forums, and other avenues specific to their needs.
  • We will develop relationships with research groups by creating research coordinators who help match ECN expertise with needed tasks in research projects.


Faculty, Staff, & Students
  • Annual Assessment Survey Results
  • Percentage of faculty and staff attending ECN town meetings
  • Number of procedures with clearly defined points of communication
  • Percentage of faculty and staff receiving ECN newsletter
  • Total traffic to ECN Knowledge Base (web site)
  • Total queue items completed
ITaP & other campus IT units
  • Number of services evaluated through ECN/ITaP working groups
  • Number of services migrated to ITaP or other organizations
The Research Enterprise
  • Total research and special projects funding
  • Number of proposals mentioning ECN
  • Count of proposals that ECN is the principal investigator (PI)
  • Total number of ECN developed research web sites and forums
  • Number of queue items completed by research coordinator(s)

Research and Develop: Technologies & Usability


  • We will understand emerging technologies by providing our staff with time and equipment to evaluate leading-edge technologies for use within the College of Engineering.
  • We will ensure current services are up to date and useful by developing a recurring evaluation plan for the technologies we currently employ.
  • We will prevent duplication of effort by reviewing technologies in use by other campus IT units that could be used by the College of Engineering.
  • We will increase the fraction of computers covered under our support by developing models acceptable to a broader base of users.
  • We will protect vulnerable research equipment by providing security measures to protect such machines.
  • We will continue to look for ways to improve backup services by investigating alternate data backup systems.
  • We will provide continuity for research groups by providing repositories for research information and code.


  • We will determine the computer knowledge and skills of our users by conducting surveys.
  • We will adapt the methodology of accessing user account options by developing interfaces to common user tools to match the above determined skill set.
  • We will offer a more flexible computing environment for users by developing alternative desktop models.


  • Number of new valuable technologies available to the College of Engineering
  • Number of formal staff reviews of emerging technologies
  • Number of formal staff reviews of technologies offered through other campus IT units
  • Participation in the ECN backup service
  • Research group usage of central knowledge/code repositories
  • Number of research computers receiving some level of ECN support
  • Percentage of desktop computers covered under ECN support
  • Annual Assessment Survey Results

Adapt: Our Organization, Staff, Support, & Facilities

Our Organization

  • We will leverage the specialized skills of our staff by moving toward a well defined multi-tiered support organization.
  • We will meet the demands for increased involvement within the Research Enterprise by expanding our special projects team.
  • We will offer uninterrupted support by cross training staff.
  • We will facilitate cross disciplinary efforts within the College of Engineering by adapting our organizational structure and procedures.


  • We will enable our staff to update skills by offering the opportunity to attend training courses and conferences.
  • We will increase staff productivity by defining guidelines and procedures.


  • We will minimize duplication and increase efficiency of current distributed tasks such as account maintenance, software packaging, and licensing by increasing centralized support for these tasks.
  • We will decrease time to response by leveraging remote desktop technology from central support centers.
  • We will expand custom support for research groups by developing alternative funding models.
  • We will offer extended support by defining and advertising procedures for off-hours support.


  • We will provide reliable and redundant computing infrastructure by leveraging ITaP's BoilerNet upgrade to move towards a centralized machine room.
  • We will expedite staff awareness in the event of system failures by implementing or developing system monitoring software with automated notifications.
  • We will provide superior purchase options and equipment life cycles by leveraging campus agreements and combining the needs of the units within the College of Engineering.


Our Organization
  • Number of schools/departments receiving tier one support from the ECN helpdesk
  • Number of schools/departments covered by a site manager
  • Total hours invested in special projects
  • Number of training courses and conferences attended by ECN staff
  • Average response time to trouble report
  • Number of research computers receiving some level of ECN support
  • Number of hardware/machine room failures
  • Average response time to hardware/machine room failures
  • Average age of computer equipment within the College of Engineering

Resources and Requirements


  • Research Coordinator
  • Site Managers
  • Help Desk Staff and Students
  • Communication and Outreach Coordinator
  • Development Coordinator


  • Machine Room Consolidation and Reorganization
  • Staff Offices


  • New Positions
  • New Equipment
  • Recurring funds for regular equipment refresh
  • Training
  • Conferences
  • Emerging Technology
  • Staff Retention

Cooperation and Empowerment

  • The Faculty and Staff, Schools, and College ask ECN to join all technology related discussions
  • ECN offers expertise to all technology related discussions
  • Schools agree to the reorganization of Site Specialists and Site Managers