IT Oversight Committee Meeting Notes

July 9, 2009

Attendees

Ramona Agrela, Laurel Alden (for Lynn Rahn), Kevin Ansel, Mark Askren, Bill Cohen, Dave Leinen, Rich Lynch, Paige Macias, Marie Perezcastaneda, Dana Roode, Sharon Salinger, Chris Shultz (for Brent Yunek), Mark Warner, and Ted Wright.

Goals

The committee reviewed the goals of IT consolidation, which are based on the report of the IT Workgroup from the February 2009 “Big Ideas” process.  Key immediate goals include:

  • Reducing the impact of losing key staff through attrition (OIT is down approximately 15 positions across the consolidated units).
  • Most effectively using IT resources and making sure they are working on projects with the highest campus priority, especially those that help others deal with workload issues or save costs.
  • Improving overall efficiencies through economies of scale.

Important long range or parallel goals include:

  • Creating a more consistent, integrated environment for the community, while increasing functionality and ease of use.
  • Maintaining or increasing responsiveness to clients (a challenge due to the loss of staff).
  • Enhancing IT’s role as a strong partner in supporting critical instruction, research and administrative activities and goals.

Organization

Organizational charts of the initial four consolidated IT organizations were briefly reviewed.  These organizations are: Administrative Computing Services (AdCom), Network and Academic Computing Services (NACS), Office of Academic Affairs Computing Services (OAACS), and Office of Research Information Technology (ORIT).  In addition to consolidating the initial four organizations, the goal is to create a draft plan and schedule for including additional campus IT groups in OIT over coming months or years.  A summary of these additional groups was distributed, as was a draft list of the projects OIT currently has underway or in planning stages.

Consolidation Plan

Dana Roode shared the outline of the plan to consolidate UCI IT.  The first phase consists of two parts:

  • Inventorying IT functions, skill sets and resources for the consolidated organizations;
  • Implementing an initial integrated organization; starting interactions with campus IT groups about joining OIT.

The next phase will be adding an additional set of IT groups to OIT, on a schedule to be discussed by the committee, and approved by EVCP Gottfredson.

Committee Discussion

Committee discussion centered on questions and observations related to the goals of the consolidation and the plan going forward:

General observations:

  • It is imperative that we have a long-term vision for IT at UCI, and specifically what we want to get out of the consolidation.  It is particularly important to show early success and value from the effort.
  • “IT” at UCI must be consolidated, whether or not all “IT groups” are.  OIT must work with the campus to create a strategic plan, which enables others to participate as well.
  • Service level standards will be important in setting and meeting client expectations of service.
  • Implementing or enhancing central systems that have the broadest campus impacts should be the priority for OIT.
  • Kuali Coeus, ARRA Reporting System, and the Time and Attendance reporting system are all examples of high priority projects.

Enhancing IT contributions to campus goals through consolidation:

  • It is important to further consolidate systems such as the Student Billing System (SBS), which should cover all charges to students. (It does not currently include Library and Housing charges, although the latter is in the works).  Students should be charged under one bill for these and any other services and be able to pay the bill in one place rather than several.
  • It took a relatively long time for the distributed IT groups in units who partnered to implement SBS to work out integration issues.  The IT consolidation must make these sorts of integrations easier in the future.
  • All other student-facing systems should be reviewed and integrated.  Student Affairs Enrollment Services has been analyzing options for the future of the systems they run; OIT should partner with them and others to assist this effort.
  • Having a centralized organization will enhance coordination and communication among and between IT groups.
  • Centralizing systems will allow enhanced information security.
  • Creating a larger organization from smaller ones creates opportunities for IT staff to enhance their skill sets and career paths over time.

Challenges to successful IT consolidation:

  • Many people are nervous about the consolidation.  IT staff are concerned what it means to their job and career.  IT clients worry that the quality, availability and/or responsiveness of their IT support will decline.  Will priorities of local units also be a priority to a large central organization?  It is important to well communicate goals and actions going forward.
  • During UCSC’s lengthy IT consolidation, communication break-downs resulted in some units hiring their own IT staff and causing fragmentation of goals.  Communication with end-users is imperative to address their needs and avoid this.
  • What works better in one consolidated organization than another could be diluted through integration with that same function in another consolidated organization.  For example, help desk service at AdCom’s x8500 help desk has been consistently stellar, but the service at NACS x2222 help desk has not.  It is important to take the best from each organization as we form the new organization.  The help desk should have the right tools as well, self-service should be available to end-users who can take advantage of it.
  • IT staff joining the consolidated organization (OIT) may be concerned that the breadth of their IT skill set would be “watered down” as they specialize more as a part of a larger team.

Maintaining a “local IT unit feel” as we transition to a large central IT organization:

  • OIT client-facing units must have a very strong customer service focus.
  • OIT must communicate well about upgrades, outages, and the like, with clients.
  • When there is an outage, we should have additional mechanisms to communicate instead of relying on the one person at the helpdesk (an alert system of some sort to notify the campus when systems are down, consistent telephone/web system status messages, etc).
  • An “IT Liaison” should be identified in each of the units supported by OIT to establish and maintain strong client relationships.  The liaison may need to be physically located in the unit for a fraction of his/her time on a regular basis.  Liaisons would understand the business of the unit, and all of the separate ways in which OIT supports it, ensuring the unit’s IT needs are met.  When local issues occur with significant impact (such as a line of students lined up waiting for service at a department which could be alleviated through IT action), the liaison should help reprioritize OIT response to ensure business needs are addressed promptly.
  • We must acknowledge that people may lose something in the consolidation process on the way to achieving enhanced overall efficiencies and a better overall IT result.

Assessing the successfulness of the consolidation:

  • Quantifying cost savings or cost avoidance stemming from the consolidation.
  • Checking in with clients systematically over time to monitor the level of their satisfaction with IT service.  Units should feel that the IT consolidation has strategically benefitted them in meeting their business priorities.
  • Assessing how well the priorities identified by the campus are achieved.
  • Gauging electronic information security enhancements.
  • Assessing the degree to which improved IT standards make services easier to use, ensure consistent access to services across campus, and reduce training costs as people move from one unit to another.
  • Reviewing the level of service disruption to units resulting from the consolidation.

Information Technology standards:

  • Campus IT standards must be established to facilitate interactions and sharing, and to streamline support and training.  Standards are needed for desktop, laptop, smart-phone and printer hardware; desktop environments; key productivity software (calendaring, email, document management, word processing, etc.)
  • Administrative users will tend to find computing standards easier to accept than faculty users.
  • We should have tiers of standards rather than just one.  For example, we might have an administrative user, a faculty, a “power user” and a “bleeding edge” desktop environment standard.
  • We will need to build in an exception process to the standards in order to meet certain specialized needs.

Other comments:

  • Consolidating existing data centers distributed around campus has a cost associated with it that may or may not be offset by the resulting savings.
  • What should the priority be for selecting from the remaining IT groups outside of academic schools to merge with OIT?
  • What should the priority be in determining which projects will be completed first over other projects?   Who will make those decisions?
  • IT groups that exist in auxiliary units who generate their own funding through recharge may not be good candidates to join the IT consolidation.
  • Sometimes recharging for services can cause undesirable behavior that costs the campus more as a whole.  In these cases there should not be a charge.
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