Why Consolidate?

This information is from the 2009 OIT Consolidation. It is kept here for archival purposes.

Information Technology consolidation is about making IT more efficient and effective. The benefits of this effort encompass all services and activities enabled or supported by IT: research and education, campus communication and collaboration, business processes, data use and reuse, staff training, and more.

Information Technology at UCI has been heading in the direction of greater integration for quite some time.  IT professionals long ago realized that they all serve the same clients – UCI’s faculty, students and staff.  However, the seams between different IT units hamper efforts to provide service: inter-unit processes cannot be fully automated; user interfaces vary from application to application; data does not flow smoothly from its point of origin to distributed systems where it is needed; campus leadership does not have universal access to information that facilitates decision making.  Provost Gottfredson’s consolidation directive will allow us to pick up the pace of integration and reduce redundant activities, focusing on those that require more attention.

Every unit has its own business processes; while some relate to unique business functions, many could be the same from unit to unit.  Despite such similarities, each unit has been left to implement its own business automation.  Examples of this include time and attendance and local budget management and tracking systems.  Each unit configures the software used on desktop computers by its staff in its own way, has its own desktop support operation, does its own security patching, and has its own file and application servers, server rooms, and other IT infrastructure.  Several units operate their own email systems rather then using central email services.  Many units operate their own instructional computing labs, even though they all provide the same basic function (with the exception of specialized software needs).  The majority of this infrastructure can be shared, resulting in higher quality at the same or less cost.

Small IT groups on campus face significant challenges in keeping up with evolving demands.  It is not uncommon for a unit’s few staff to be expected to handle all aspects of IT:  routine desktop services, smart-phone support, server and information security management, and software development or maintenance.  On top of this, they must be experts on all applications the unit requires to operate.  The reality is that IT is a complex and ever-evolving area that requires specialized expertise that is most readily available in a larger organization.  A key example is information security, which demands more and more attention due to an evolving Internet environment and threats that change daily.

No one expects IT consolidation to be easy or to happen overnight.  It will be a challenge to create a large, central IT organization with responsiveness on par with that now enjoyed by some departments in today’s distributed model.  The current poor budget climate will not make the effort any easier, although it certainly makes it more important.  Successful consolidation will require creative organizational approaches, as well as excellent communication, flexibility, and assistance from all parties.

In the end, IT consolidation is about making IT, and the breadth of processes and activities it supports, significantly more efficient and effective.  It would be difficult to put a dollar amount on the savings or cost avoidance that will come from IT integration, but fully leveraging every hour our IT professionals put into support activities will have a significant benefit to the overall productivity of the campus.

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