The Arizona Desert Lamp

White Paper: Technology Support Services

Posted in UA Transformation Plan by Evan Lisull on 20 October 2008

This report, by CIO Michele Norin, is essentially five pages to tell us something we’ve heard in many different ways: centralize! The paper highlights an interesting quote, applied to IT but relevant to almost every part of the plan:

“This is a pattern we have observed consistently during the past few years. Large enterprises,
which had previously decentralized to provide business focus, find themselves re-centralizing to support major enterprise-wide initiatives, global management of business processes and the ability to increase overall corporate agility. In general, they have received a corporate mandate to increase efficiency, as well as support major transformation efforts or expansion plans. Centralizing IT becomes a key element in standardizing for efficiency, as well as innovation.”
“IT Organizations Are in Transition”, Gartner, Ellen Kitzis, Barbara Gomolski, Last Revision Date: 17 Dec 2007

This quote will make those who fear the UA-as-corporation-rhetoric shudder. And I think that the UA should be careful about centralizing for centralization’s sake; this is a university, not a handout-recepient corporation. However, that argument only goes so far as academics are concerned. For infrastructure, such as WiFi on campus, bike racks, and so on, we should be operating as efficiently as a corporation, getting as much out of the limited resources that we have.

Curiously, the paper is extremely broad in scope. In listing the pros and cons of the program, it is essentially listing the pros and cons of centralization broadly. Given the broad trend towards centralizing proposals, this list is worth posing in its entirety:

Benefits
• Opportunity to “pool” resources to reduce redundant tasks and apply risk mitigation techniques.
• Potential savings through consolidation of equipment and functions, as well as economies of scale
for purchases of standard equipment and software.
• Enhanced ability to ensure compliance with University policies, ABOR policies and Federal and
State regulations.
• New opportunities for career satisfaction as job descriptions are clarified, career ladders are
established and a sense of professional community is established (e.g., embedded IT professionals will meet regularly with colleagues across the university for updates on best practices, new
security developments, etc.).
• Pay equity as salaries are linked to qualifications and responsibilities rather than departmental
resources.
• Reduction in internal lateral transfers as staff will not be tempted to move to better resourced
departments.
• Reduction of “haves & have-nots” that have typically resulted in poorer quality support in
departments with fewer resources.
• Higher quality staffing as hiring/promotion decisions will be made with subject matter expert
involvement.
• Consistent coverage will be possible during times of transition as other resources are temporarily deployed.
• Enhancement of ability of academic administrators to focus on the core mission rather than support issues.
• Enhanced capability to reallocate staff to address urgent or significant projects.

Risks
• Units will perceive that they have less control over resources.
• Aggregate resources may not be adequate to provide consistent levels of support.
• Units with complex needs may require dedicated, locally managed resources.
• Many units have one person wearing many hats making a transfer of some functions to a centralized unit a challenge.
• Must ensure that planning for large, long-range projects leaves sufficient local resources to tackle smaller, unplanned but necessary projects.

Other notes:

-Indiana University apparently did the same thing five years ago; however, the report is coy in not providing any sort of evidence as to the success of the program.

-On the budget page, Norin writes that, “The potential for overall savings is difficult to demonstrate at this point in the process. ”

Right now, the ratio of central computing spending to various campus spending is 42 to 58. I.T. expenditures have increased steadily until FY07, when they tapered somewhat.

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