Recommendation 7: Funding IT Strategically

The University of Maryland should adopt a view that information technology resources are strategic assets to the institution, and, as such, models for funding of IT - both centrally and appropriately distributed throughout the institution - should be developed to encourage effective and abundant deployment of IT and efficient investment in IT holistically throughout the institution.

Action Item 7.1 - Consolidated Charge Strategy

Recognizing that information technology is a strategic asset necessary for the institution and will become even more critical to the transformation of the institution, provision of fundamental IT elements must be done holistically and not via ad-hoc or charged elements. Essentially, charge-back "by the use" is generally viewed as non-productive and detrimental to the strategic provision of IT at UMD. The Division of IT should engage with governance structures to determine which aspects of IT are better delivered on a pay-per-use model and what the cost and charge mechanisms should be and which aspects are part of the expected intellectual infrastructure.

In today's environment, IT infrastructure - such as communication service and connectivity (voice, data, wireless, etc.) - are fundamental elements of the campus infrastructure. One could argue that the data network grid is as critical to the operation of the institution (and life on campus) as the power grid; as significant to campus activities as the roads and buildings. As such, they should be a viewed as a fundamental utility and not as a "necessary supplement" or elected luxury. Funding for these basic and fundamental services - connectivity, storage, communication mechanisms, utility software licensing, etc. - should be done as a baseline item, and not via a charge-back model. Information flow is now similar to the flow of electricity. Many leading institutions around the country are adopting this view - providing baseline funding for basic IT, and then requiring appropriate, robust, abundant, and evolving services and infrastructure for their investments. UMD has previously examined funding mechanisms for one key element - network connectivity - and has received a recommendation for this approach. The Division of IT and the Division of Administrative Affairs, via active efforts of their respective vice presidents and staff, should quickly advance such a model, perhaps as soon as academic year 2013-2014. Analysis of funding mechanisms for other key IT services and infrastructure should follow as a part of emerging IT governance, with the basic tenet that IT infrastructure or services which advance the institution's mission should be funded under a "utility mode" and that only those services or infrastructure truly "above and beyond" or of a nature that use should be abandoned in favor of more cost-effective solutions should have charge-back funding models associated with them.

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Implementation Strategy

Some enterprise facets of Information Technology are already recognized and employed, for the most part, holistically such as software engineering, user support, learning technologies and computing infrastructure. However, the basic IT communications and networking infrastructure that carries and transmits all the other facets of IT is not. Steps are to be taken to provide for a utility model for those costs similar to what now exists for the campus's basic utilities (i.e., heating, power, and light).

  1. Identify those voice, data, and wireless costs that are reoccurring charge-backs to campus units by major responsibility areas (colleges, vice presidents, and president).
  2. Identify those costs in the Division of IT budget that are provided centrally for other state-supported units (fringe benefits, fuel and utilities, and self-support administrative costs).
  3. Work with campus academic and administrative leadership on a plan for changing the funding model for those items in 1 and 2 above from a charge-back/self-support unit costing model to a utility model.

Update March 2014

In collaboration with the Provost, the Division of IT enhanced its billing model for network and telecommunication services. In fiscal year 2014, all non-academic campus units were billed once for network and phone services, rather than on a monthly basis. In fiscal year 2015, all academic units will be converted to the new billing model.

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Action Item 7.2 - Effective Centralization Model

Funding mechanisms that incentivize balanced long-term cost cutting should be developed to encourage appropriate centralization of services and infrastructure so as to best position the institution to evaluate moves of those services and infrastructure to the cloud.

As referenced in Action Item 7.1, funding models should encourage strategically-sound behavior (rather than discourage it). In the past, requiring the Division of IT to operate largely as a cost center under an auxiliary model has led to the need for charging for services like virtual servers, storage, and other technologies. This requirement for an annual charge often left deans, directors, and end users in the position of having to evaluate a direct cost item (the charge) versus provision of the infrastructure or service locally, funded out of "spare cash" or not fully taking into account fully-loaded costing. As a result, there is a highly "feral" and distributed model which is neither more effective nor cost efficient from an institutional perspective. Thus, the Division of IT should be funded for key elements centrally - or tasked to reallocate within its existing budget to create pools of funds to support these elements - and thus encourage the appropriate centralization of services and infrastructure to the overall betterment of the agility, efficacy, and efficiency of their provision. Examples could include free or highly subsidized virtual server services, which encourage the elimination of reliance on basic physical servers across campus, and free or highly subsidized tiered storage services, which encourage the safe and effective storage of institutional (administrative and research) data.

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Implementation Strategy

The Division of IT provides some services to campus on a charge-back model. The reason for this is to recover funds used to acquire equipment such as servers, storage, switches/routers, etc. and use these recovered funds to acquire upgrades, refresh equipment, and pay maintenance/support among other tasks. The charge-back model is used in varying degrees by different departments within the division. Several campus constituents have indicated that some of the service pricing is too high and they have preferred to acquire their own hardware and manage it themselves. In some cases the requirements of the campus group have been larger than the existing infrastructure can support. To support appropriate centralization of services and infrastructure, we should partner with current and potential customers to explore alternative ways to fund the acquisition of equipment so that services can either be nominally priced or provided free-of-charge to campus constituents. While exploring these alternatives, we should ensure that there is emphasis on appropriate capacity planning for future years so funds can be budgeted at a proper level. A refresh and innovation model will be developed that describes the cost of support so that the university can consider allocations from a more central approach, or yearly charge rather than a service-based charge. Acquisition of data costs is an important step to the goal of IT abundance.

Update March 2014

In 2013, the Division of IT made progress in its effort to broadly engage campus constituents on enterprise-level initiatives. In coordination with campus research partners, the Division of IT substantially built out a new Cyber Infrastructure Center, which has been made available to campus researchers at a nominal set-up cost. Other products and services such as Box.com, Adobe creative software, and Lynda.com training have been centrally funded. Also, the division led a campus-wide effort to develop a scope for the eventual purchase of an enterprise media management system.

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Action Item 7.3 - Develop Campus-Wide IT Replacement Standard

In partnership with all colleges and in concert with Action Item 6.1, a campus-wide best practice based standard for lifecycle replacement of IT elements (particularly personal computing devices) should be established and a review of current funding policies and programs should be made to ensure adequate lifecycle replacement occurs.

While the level of sophistication in hardware, software, and other physical technology elements may vary depending upon the use, all UMD employees that conduct work using such elements should have basic, reliable, and modern technology so as to be productive. At a minimum, this technology should be able to run the most up-to-date software and have the latest operating systems and application versions in place to ensure the machine is secure and functions effectively. Although not always the case, old or out of date technologies may threaten the security and integrity of UMD environment, reduce the efficacy of technology, and are inefficient in terms of the increased staff support required to maintain their function.

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Implementation Strategy

The Division of IT will lead an evaluation of enterprise and local replacement strategies to determine how issues such as decentralized funding will impact development of a campus-wide standard and what IT elements will be considered "in-play." From this evaluation, a plan for a more comprehensive replacement program will be drafted and presented to appropriate governance bodies for review and adoption. If necessary, funding mechanisms will be secured to accommodate the plan, and implementation will begin as prescribed in the documented plan. Part of the plan will include methods for determining ways to evaluate lifecycles that adhere to best practices with appropriate justification.

Update March 2014

No progress to date.

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Action Item 7.4 - Campus-Wide Purchasing Arrangements

Across all aspects of IT (equipment, software, tools, training, services, etc.), in conjunction with more distributed governance structures, the university should strive for maximum efficacy and the most fiscal efficiency through the use of broad-based, centralized, holistic decision processes.

In the past there have been excellent examples of broad-based purchasing arrangements (e.g., Dell Bulk Buy), and these sorts of arrangements should be continued and where feasible expanded to include many more forms of hardware, software, and service commodities used across the university community. The Division of IT should lead this process, working closely with the Department of Procurement and Supply and fiscal and technology officers in colleges and departments.

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Implementation Strategy

This action item will be implemented by virtue of most if not all of the other action items in the IT strategic plan. Records of governance and committee structures will be kept to reflect upon the increased partnerships and collaboration being undertaken to implement and operate IT at UMD. Lessons learned for each new and existing partnership will be collected to help improve processes globally among current groups and future partnerships. Streamlined purchasing, operating, and implementation processes should result at a minimum.

Update March 2014

The Division of IT funded a senior staff resource to be the university IT procurement lead. This role serves to create a program to help streamline, educate, and identify trends in IT purchases campus-wide. Several additional IT procurement resources were hired at the end of 2013 to help round out the staffing for this new initiative.

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Action Item 7.5 - Lifecycle Management Framework

When new systems or new technology services are deployed, a thorough cost and investment analysis should be done to ensure that adequate funding is allocated to not only provide for the initial implementation but to also ensure that ongoing annual costs are addressed, that any lifecycle refresh of equipment or other infrastructure is accounted for, and that any exit costs are identified. Entities that propose or mandate enterprise information systems should be required to perform these analyses. Local entities developing and deploying systems or technology services should perform similar analyses and have control over those processes.

Too often in the pursuit of the latest advertised technologies, full evaluation of all aspects of the cost of acquiring, using, supporting, and eventually disposing of these technologies (i.e., Total Cost of Ownership) are not considered. While we should not have "paralysis of analysis" and must recognize the need to deploy new technologies in a timely manner, we must balance the need for such with broader and longer term implications.

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Implementation Strategy

A framework and rubric for performing a cost and investment analysis must first be developed; preferably by a cross-functional team of IT and business managers from throughout the university. Simultaneously, project management methodologies will be promulgated within the Division of IT and shared broadly to help facilitate proper project initiation and pre-planning with total-cost-of-ownership and return-on-investment calculation being an integral piece. When appropriate, third-party data sources will be considered, such as Gartner and peer institutions. A catalog of enterprise-level systems will be generated so that as modernization of legacy systems is proposed, data about the existing systems can be input into the analysis framework. A risk aversion continuum will be created for helping decide at what point new systems should be considered based on cost and technology maturity axes. From this high level analysis, a framework for systems lifecycle management can be developed to help make sound budgetary decisions regarding enterprise system implementation/modernization.

Update March 2014

No progress to date.

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Action Item 7.6 - Organizational Effectiveness Review

The Division of IT should engage in a self-evaluation and structured introspection of its function and the application of its resources.

A first such exercise should take place in fiscal year 2013 in an effort to help align the organization's funding with the requirements of this new IT strategic plan. Periodic reviews should be undertaken thereafter every two to three years. This process - an organizational effectiveness review - should be carried out by the leadership of the Division of IT with a first phase to identify services, functions, and investments which are no longer aligned with the strategic direction of the division and the university (as defined by this IT strategic plan) and to yield savings through their reduction and elimination. An immediate, subsequent phase of the process should then be to look to this IT strategic plan for direction in reinvesting those savings into services, functions, and infrastructure that support the successful completion of action items of this plan. Reports of the outcomes of this process should be shared with the developed IT governance structures put into place as a result of this IT strategic plan.

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Implementation Strategy

The Division of IT will identify core enterprise business goals for delivery and support of all enterprise systems and services. Against those goals, key performance indicators (KPIs) and success criteria will be developed to allow for measurement of performance. Mechanisms to gather customer satisfaction will be developed to provide the data to report against our KPIs and success criteria. From analysis of this data, potential areas for improvement will be highlighted for action and further discussion.

Update March 2014

No progress to date.

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