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Information Technology Review

November 20, 2012
To: The University Community
From: Joel Seligman
Subject: Information Technology Review

The reorganization of the Provost’s Office following Ralph Kuncl’s departure to assume the presidency of the University of Redlands made it an opportune time to examine the governance and operation of University Information Technology (UIT).  Rob Clark, as Interim Senior Vice President for Research, and David Lewis, Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer (CIO), commissioned a broad-ranging outside review, which took place on September 4-6, 2012.  The review team consisted of Tracy Futhey, Vice President for Information Technology and CIO, Duke University; Klara Jelinkova, CIO, University of Chicago; and Marc Overcash, Deputy CIO, Emory University.  Let me express my deep appreciation to Rob, David, and the review team for their thoughtful approach to the review.

The reviewers were asked to examine and make recommendations on:

  • The organization of UIT and the services it provides, giving particular attention to the optimal balance between services provided centrally and those provided by the units, and the potential for efficiencies to be realized through closer collaboration between UIT and the Information Systems Division (ISD) in the Medical Center.
  • The appropriateness of the allocation of resources/expenditures to different services, such as administrative computing, academic computing, instructional technology, and other major services.
  • The governance of UIT, giving particular attention to how senior administrators, who often lack domain knowledge, can most effectively be informed and provide policy guidance.

Major Findings and Recommendations

The review group offered considerable praise for many things that are well done.  Beyond the steady improvement in IT services over the past several years and dedication of the UIT personnel, the group commented on some noteworthy achievements.  These include improvements in infrastructure (modern data center, wireless networking); major investments in, and strong support for, research computing; and major improvements in security.  The reviewers were impressed by the very effective and reliable provision of essential core services, and the degree to which these were appreciated by users.  The reviewers also made recommendations about areas where UIT and its engagement with stakeholders could be strengthened.

Organization of Services

The review group noted the effective cooperation between UIT and ISD, and recommended that the University examine opportunities for this to be strengthened through possible integration of services in several areas.  The group observed that the division of responsibilities between UIT and the local IT organizations within schools had been established informally over many years.  The reviewers suggested that the University would be well served by defining more clearly the responsibilities of UIT and the local units, and by establishing a formal mechanism for reporting.  The reviewers recommended particularly that IT leaders in the schools become more effectively connected with decision-making at the center through the creation of an IT Council.  With that established, the University would be better able to institute University-wide standards in key areas and could better assign responsibility for the provision of services between center and the units.

Finances

The review group noted a concern, expressed by a number of its stakeholders, about the opacity of UIT’s costs and internal accounting.  The group concluded that the overall budget structure (in part driven by the University's disaggregated budget model) might be unnecessarily complicated, with the result that it is poorly understood and has the potential to erode confidence in UIT among its user base. The review group recommended, among other things, that service lines be clearly defined in scope and scale, that their costs be explicitly built, and that the University review budget approval procedures to ensure that they are adequately thorough.

Governance

The review group observed that although UIT receives advice from several stakeholder groups within the University, the University lacks a formal governance structure that connects these groups, has no policies on how the views of the groups influence decision-making, and especially lacks an adequately formal governance mechanism at the highest level.  The reviewers noted that the current executive-level body, the IT Steering Committee, has the right membership, but recommended that its working relationship with UIT be formalized and strengthened, particularly in the domains of financial transparency and communication. In addition, the group recommended establishing mission-specific committees, which would include faculty.

Response

I have accepted the major recommendations of the report, and want to implement these to enable our already strong and effective University IT to provide even better service to its stakeholders within the University.

Separately, I have also concluded that it would be beneficial to re-establish the reporting relationship between UIT and the Provost.  From this time forward, I am directing that UIT report to the Provost and further asking Peter Lennie to work with David Lewis to implement the major recommendations of the outside review.  Let me express my gratitude to Rob Clark, who has led IT for the past few months and has done a magnificent job.

The Provost will Chair the University IT Steering Committee, which will include David Lewis and Jerry Powell, CIO of the Medical Center, and will as the Committee deems wise be empowered to establish mission-specific committees, including faculty.

I am separately appointing an Ad Hoc IT Committee to be chaired by Peter Lennie, and consisting of Medical Center CEO and University Senior Vice President for Health Sciences Brad Berk, Rob Clark, Medical Center Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Mike Goonan, University Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance and Chief Financial Officer Ron Paprocki, and Dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry and University Vice President for Health Sciences Mark Taubman.   This Committee will:

  • First, review the current financial model of UIT with the particular goals of reducing its opacity and better harmonizing this model with University and division-specific strategic goals.
  • Second, identify areas in which overlapping or duplicated services are currently provided by UIT and ISD.  Examine each of these areas to establish whether the University could benefit from consolidation to yield increased efficiency and/or improved levels of service.
  • Third, recommend, for areas where efficiencies or service improvements can be achieved through consolidation, how the consolidated service should best be provided.
  • Fourth, provide recommendations as to how University-wide IT governance can be improved.

The Ad Hoc Committee will be expected to meet as it deems appropriate with David Lewis and his team and Jerry Powell and his team.

I have asked the Ad Hoc Committee to provide a report to me no later than March 1, 2013.