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From IEEE Communications Magazine August 2018

Reinventing ComSoc's IT Portfolio

Khaled B. Letaief
Khaled B. Letaief
Zhi Ding
Zhi Ding

This month, I am pleased to introduce Zhi Ding, the IEEE Communications Society (ComSoc) Chief Information Officer, who will share with us his plans for reinventing our IT portfolio so that ComSoc can stay ahead and on top of the latest technology trends, as well as be able to meet the expectations of our members and partners.

Zhi Ding (F’2003) has been an IEEE member for nearly three decades. He has also been a volunteer of IEEE and ComSoc for many years. Zhi received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1990 and is currently a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of California-Davis. Professor Ding served as the TPC Chair of the 2006 GLOBECOM. He also served as first as a member and then as the chair of the Steering Committee for IEEE Transactions on Wireless Communications.

To understand the role of a volunteer Chief Information Officer in a professional organization like ComSoc requires one to look deep into the key values that ComSoc IT provides to our members, industry partners, and other constituents. After all, ComSoc is neither a company that tries to sell commercial products or hospitality services to its customers, nor a typical non-profit organization that tries to advocate a particular cause. As ComSoc and members rely more and more on transformative IT tools to effectively and efficiently work and operate, an important job of the ComSoc CIO is to organize the limited information technology (IT) resources to provide the best services possible to our members and ComSoc partners.

What are, exactly, some of the critical needs that our members, our partners, and the public can be better served with today’s IT tools? Finding answers to this question leads to the following vision that I would like to share in this column, both to articulate our ongoing plan and to solicit valuable inputs from the many great minds in our ComSoc community.

At the very basic level, the scope of ComSoc IT services should address the following important needs:

  1. The ComSoc website for convenient data retrieval, marketing, education, standards, technical library, and information dissemination.
  2. Convenient and efficient networking tools for members: IEEE email, technology alerts, a one-stop ComSoc conference submission/review/registration portal, a Linkedin style ComSoc tool for social interaction aimed at information sharing, employment and business opportunities, public outreach, collaboration without barriers, receiving and disseminating education materials.
  3. ComSoc membership development.
  4. Management tools for ComSoc volunteers and leaders:

ComSoc database, project management, record archive, conference planning and coordination, and other tools that can improve the work efficiency and decision making of volunteers.

At present, our high priority includes the unveiling of a new Society website that better demonstrates the preeminence of ComSoc as the global leader in information technologies. With the recent rollout of the 5G cellular revolution by the mobile-tech industry, and the rapid development of the IoT ecosystem, ComSoc and its members will play a major role in their global R&D. The ComSoc website enables us to showcase the many high impact research results; it informs and educates the public about the value and expertise that we bring to the table; it can target a much broader audience and can efficiently provide a critical link between the ComSoc community and our industrial partners. Another high priority item is the development of a membership portal as a social network access tool for ComSoc members. The membership portal should enable easy retrieval and dissemination of information, facilitate research collaborations without barriers, and propagate the latest technological trends. This portal would also simplify the many works of ComSoc volunteers when organizing conferences, sharing meeting information, and extracting historical data. Volunteers may easily find and follow best practices, access a database for statistics to guide their decisions, and efficiently manage their respective work projects. These high priority IT needs were presented to the BoG at their recent meeting at ICC in Kansas City.

An equally important aspect is the challenging process of managing major IT projects that typically requires a strong control and coordination plan. With many competing needs and interests, fully decentralized IT project management is unlikely to be successful at optimally utilizing limited resources and our relatively small ComSoc IT team. It has become evident that the coordination of ComSoc IT projects must involve a team of energetic volunteers to consult stakeholders, define the project scope, determine project prioritization, assess project progress, exercise quality control, and conduct final project evaluation/closing.

Responding to the urgency of establishing a transparent and streamlined coordination mechanism, the ComSoc President recently decided to establish such a team (the X-Team). The details of this team will be announced in coming days. Representing the members’ interest and the needs of volunteers, the X-Team will be responsible for designing the project specifications, providing a cost and benefit analysis, ranking priorities, and guiding the execution of major initiatives.

As ComSoc’s CIO in the current term until the end of 2019, I am honored to have this opportunity to work with our staff and volunteers to deliver the best IT services possible to ComSoc members and partners. Our team welcomes your valuable suggestions and guidance at any time. We look forward to contributing to the future success of our beloved ComSoc community.