Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

U-M revising IT funding and service strategy

Nearly 500 faculty and staff learned about ongoing efforts to transform U-M's information technology last week.


Click here for information about the current sources of campus IT services.

Laura Patterson, chief information officer, and John Gohsman, program director for implementing the IT Rationalization recommendations, gave an update on U-M's future IT funding approach and IT service delivery model.

They also shared Accenture's recommendations from the recent campuswide IT assessment and outlined the university's approach for moving forward.

The event was the third round of a town hall series on NextGen Michigan, which is the university's strategy to change the IT environment to better support the acceleration and advancement of the U-M's academic, teaching, research and clinical programs.

Rethinking $300 million of IT spending

Accenture Consulting collected revealing data in its campuswide IT assessment this summer. The university spends approximately $300 million on IT each year on the Ann Arbor camps; this does not include the U-M Health System. The study reveals a small portion of that amount supports faculty members directly in their teaching or research. More than 80 percent of the annual IT investment is in "commodity services," such as e-mail, networks, infrastructure and hardware.

Many schools, colleges, and units provide commodity services to their faculty, students and staff independently. Patterson called this practice "redundant," and indicated that schools, colleges, and units could greatly reduce their costs by sharing common services. Units could reinvest their savings in technologies that more directly support their unique research and teaching needs.

Proposed alternate strategy for funding IT services

  Chief Information Officer Laura Patterson presentsan overview of the four funding categories for information technology services. (Photo by Austin Thomason, U-M Photo Services)

In her presentation, Patterson explained an IT funding and investment strategy that divides IT services into four funding categories:

• Public Goods – Services used by every school, college, unit, and central administration office (e.g. e-mail, wireless Internet access, storage, etc.). These are common services that everyone needs and therefore every school, college, and unit would be taxed to help pay for them. Patterson likened this category to the public school tax, which everyone pays regardless of whether they have children in public schools.

• Toll – Services used by most, but not all. For example, much of the university uses the Student Administration System. However, the hospital does not. Therefore, they would not be charged.

• Community – Services used by a particular group on campus. The example given for this type of service is the high-performance computing services provided by the College of Engineering for all researchers. This is a niche, but critical, IT service.

• Unit specific – Services very specific and unique to the school, college, and unit that would not be used by any other school/college.

John Gohsman, program director for implementing the IT Rationalization recommendations, speaks at town hall meetings about efforts to transform U-M's information technology. (Photo by Austin Thomason, U-M Photo Services)  

The basis for this IT funding and investment strategy is changing IT delivery to a shared-services model. This type of model is quite different from the current model of centrally provided and distributed IT offerings. Gohsman stressed this new model will be both more efficient and more responsive to campus needs, as well as assure accountability.

IT Rationalization highlights new opportunities

Gohsman presented 12 campus opportunities and 10 opportunities to improve Information and Technology Services designed to start moving the university forward.

A new IT Rationalization program office has been established to guide the university through its transition to an IT shared-service model. The recommendations, a recording, transcripts, and questions and answers from the information sessions will appear on the NextGen Michigan website next week.