By Jesse Drake
In 2015, Deloitte Consulting conducted an assessment of IT services and operations at the university, in particular, central IT services offered by UIT. One of Deloitte’s recommendations was a revised framework for IT governance, which took shape in 2016.
“We had to rethink how we can come together to better use technologies for the benefit of the university, in a more unified, non-duplicative way,” Chief Information Officer Steve Hess said. “The bottom line is we needed to do a better job of working together.”
The goal of IT governance is to align IT strategy with university strategy. Ideally, university communities come together through governance to make common-good IT decisions, with the committees providing stewardship. "Common good" in this context means steering decisions on how IT resources are selected, developed, and allocated so that they reinforce the university's mission, strategic goals, and core values, and support IT strategic plans for UIT and the university.
Three years since the new IT governance model was set in motion, are we better off? Yes, Hess said.
“A [Research 1] university like the University of Utah is very distributed in power. Decisions are not always made from the top down. As a result, you need a consensus, and you get better buy-in on decisions,” he said. “Governance makes that possible.”
Hess noted these IT governance-backed accomplishments:
- Unification of the university IT network
- Consolidation of campus data centers
- University-wide IT security policies and enforcement
- Identity & Access Management (IAM) program launch
- Enterprise software acquisition process
- Common IT architecture standards
- Unified communications
Hess says IT governance can improve by “working faster to eliminate duplicative IT on campus,” and “making sure IT governance committee agendas are relevant, aligned with campus goals, and help the campus to operate efficient IT systems.”
To review, let’s look at the committees and the interplay among them.
How IT governance is organized
IT governance committees
SITC operates in parallel with the university's IT Finance Committee, which oversees IT-related funding at an executive level, and the Senate Advisory Committee on IT (SACIT), which reviews requests proposed to SITC to determine which have an impact on the academic mission of the university. They all report through the CIO up to the President's Cabinet.
SITC is charged with asking the "why?" questions — deciding whether an IT initiative is in the best interest of the university. SITC members try to see technology as a means to an end. By design, SITC membership comprises people with IT backgrounds alongside those in non-technical fields.
ANTC, a subcommittee of SITC, is more technically focused. ANTC membership is largely made up of IT leaders from various colleges who understand the nuts and bolts of IT systems and architectures. As needed, the Network Architecture Community of Practice and Business Intelligence Center of Excellence provide input to ANTC.
TLP is responsible for student- and faculty-facing IT related to teaching and learning, including learning management systems, student computer labs, and classroom technology. One of its crucial roles is awarding Learning Spaces - Student Computing Fees (LS-SCF) funds, which are derived from special student computing fees assessed to tuition-paying students. TLP has some overlap with the Integrated Student Team (IST) that offers recommendations on optimizing the student experience.
EWAC was formed out of a three-day workshop that focused on the Deloitte recommendation to create a holistic web strategy for campus.
A goal of IT governance is to gain consensus if possible. This doesn't mean that every committee member will be on board with every decision. It means that a variety of representatives will come to the table, bring their unique expertise, experiences, and use cases, and their voices will be heard.
Committee members are selected by deans or administrative directors in colleges and other organizations to represent their areas and keep those stakeholders informed.
“We have a good representation of people across campus,” Hess said. “If some feel underrepresented, we welcome their input.”