Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, March 8, 2010

Campus IT rationalization project starts with unit assessments

As part of NextGen Michigan, the transformation of campus information technology, the university will conduct the first-ever comprehensive assessment of information technology at both the unit and campus levels.

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To learn more about IT rationalization and the assessment project, go to

The assessments, which will be done over the next few months, will develop a complete operational and financial inventory of each unit’s IT infrastructure, hardware, networks, applications, and desktop and personal computing environment. The primary objective is to develop an accurate snapshot of how IT is distributed and provided across campus.

Phil Hanlon, vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs, says that “while we know we need to focus thoughtfully on cost cutting, the most critical goal of these assessments is to allow U-M to get the best overall outcome with its cumulative IT expenditures. We want IT at Michigan to be viewed as a strategic asset that contributes to our core missions and our competitive advantage as an institution nationally and internationally.”

All schools, colleges, major research and administrative centers and institutes, the Flint and Dearborn campuses, and Information and Technology Services (ITS) are participating in the assessment. The university’s telephone system, which recently underwent an external review, and the U-M Health System are not included. Accenture, a management consulting and technology services company, will conduct the unit assessments.

This project is the first phase of U-M’s multi-year IT rationalization program, sponsored by the provost and chief financial officer. IT rationalization is a universitywide initiative to determine the best source of IT services, and to reduce nonproductive redundancy in information technology solutions across campus.

When successfully implemented, such rationalization will help identify sustainable and recurring cost savings that can be partially reinvested in strategic priorities. Proposed investments will be prioritized by the new IT governance structure recently established by the executive officers. In addition, other objectives are to improve interoperability of applications, products, and services across campus and to achieve faster deployment of new shared products, infrastructure and services.

“Up to now, it has been extremely difficult to determine the true lifecycle costs of most IT products and services, whether managed by units or a campus IT department,” says Laura Patterson, chief information officer. “We are confident that these assessments will provide excellent comparative data that will allow deans, directors, and the IT governance councils to make data-driven determinations regarding IT sourcing, which previously was not feasible.”

Preliminary meetings with deans, directors, and their financial and information technology senior staff are under way to help units plan for the assessments.

Cindy Wells, deputy chief information officer and lead for the assessments, says that she has been “impressed and pleased with the response so far to the rationalization effort across campus.” Wells noted that the assessments should help foster — and pay for — a greater ability of unit IT departments to develop and provide innovative, value-added technologies and applications to faculty, researchers and students.

Most unit assessments will be completed by July, and reporting back to the assessed units will begin over the summer.

Patterson anticipates that one of the key outcomes of the IT rationalization assessments will be to remove current disincentives and institutional barriers — both financial and operational — to broad, campuswide acceptance of shared IT services and infrastructure.

Results of the assessments also will help shape a new campuswide IT funding model, designed to discourage non-strategic IT spending, encourage more optimal sourcing and enhanced economies of scale, and propel innovation through redirected cost savings, Hanlon and Patterson say.

Accenture has considerable experience, most recently at Yale University, in using its assessment methodology to help universities and companies improve the effectiveness of IT spending. Accenture will work with campus staff to develop a rationalization roadmap once the initial assessments are completed, Patterson says.