Sunday, April 8, 2012

EITS Priorities for the Next Year

It is that time of the year where we have completed both employee performance reviews and our annual reporting to the University on accomplishments for the past year. We are also wrapping up our annual TechQual+ survey of students, faculty, and staff which provides crucial data on where we are in regards to the effective delivery and use of IT at the University of Georgia. As we complete our assessment and planning each year, I have found it helpful to write a memorandum to the organizations reporting to me that outline our collective priorities for the next year. That memorandum went out Thursday afternoon and over the course of the next twelve months you will see us focus on the following.

Priority #1: We shall update the Compact Planning Process by adopting TechQual+ as the starting point for annual IT planning and making it the foundation of our annual assessment processes. These processes shall culminate each year in an annual planning memorandum that shall reflect on what has been accomplished and that shall set out priorities for the following year. Our Leadership Council shall be the body charged with annually analyzing and preparing recommendations for me based on this data, and I would like to see the Information Technology Managers Forum (ITMF) to be engaged in this endeavor in a meaningful way (Information Technology Master Plan Strategic Direction 1, Goal 1a, 1b, 2a, 3b). I have asked Lynn Latimer Wilson to take ownership of this goal.

Priority #2: We shall embark on a collaborative project to revise and update our present system for career ladders and position descriptions, in order to develop greater precision that defines for you the career choices that are available to you in EITS, the areas where you should invest in your own professional development in order to maximize your potential for advancement, and to provide clarity on what is expected of you. In do so we shall aspire for a new model that does not artificially separate technical from functional, but instead emphasizes technology as a necessary but not sufficient condition, and versatility in terms of communication, planning, functional knowledge, and leadership as an additional necessary condition for effective employee performance. I hope to begin this process of reassessment this fall, and you can expect to have the opportunity to participate in this process by working together to define those traits necessary for the success of your areas and those that distinguish high performers among their peers. (Information Technology Master Plan Strategic Direction 10, Goal 1a, 2a). I have asked Alan Katz to take ownership over this goal.

Priority #3: As a parallel endeavor, I shortly shall be convening a group of staff and managers to revise our performance evaluation process to ensure that it provides us with an appropriate way to evaluate the productivity and effectiveness of the work that each of you undertakes each day. My desire is to have a new performance review form ready for consideration by the Leadership Council by July 1, 2012 and use during mid-year performance reviews this summer (Information Technology Master Plan Strategic Direction 10, Goal 2a, 4a). I will be asking for three representatives from both our staff advisory board and managers advisory board to serve on this group.

Priority #4: Building on the momentum established by our Training Council, we shall reallocate internally over the coming four budget years so as to build a stable, base pool of funding to support employee training and professional development that is no less than 3% of our level of state funding, or approximately $480,000 annually (Information Technology Master Plan Strategic Direction 10, Goal 2a, 4a). Lynn Latimer Wilson and Donna Chandler have previously been tasked with ownership over our Training Council processes.

Priority #5: We need to develop a comprehensive methodology for application development and system implementation – one that will provide all of us with better tools as we propose projects, estimate their required resources, manage scope changes during implementation, and contract for those services. Doing so will result in a strengthening of our capabilities for costing, scoping, and change management that will in turn lead to improved consistency of approach, better definition of requirements and cost, and better understanding and acceptance by our customers (Information Technology Master Plan Strategic Direction 1, Goal 1, 2a, 4b). I have asked Greg Topp to take ownership over this project, to be assisted by Danna Gianforte.

Priority #6: We need to simplify the policy, standards, and practices in regards to information security, so as to reduce complexity and improve understanding across the University. I would also like to see us redesign the information security Web site to improve usability and provide a consistent look and feel with the EITS Web site (Information Technology Master Plan Strategic Direction 5, Goal 1a, 4a, 5a). I have asked Brian Rivers to take ownership over this goal.

Priority #7: We must continue to invest in the University network, in terms of capacity and redundancy, and security. By the beginning of the fall 2012 semester, I hope that we will have in place two 10gb connections to our regional network provider, and we will have increased commodity Internet capacity that exceeds what is currently available through PeachNet and that should meet our capacity needs for the coming years. We should also adopt a commercial package for extending network authentication in an easy-to-use way for end users that is consistent across both wired and wireless access. I want to see us move to one common SSID for wireless networks across the entire University of Georgia (Information Technology Master Plan Strategic Direction 4, Goal 3, 3a). I have asked Brian Rivers to take ownership over this goal. 

Priority #8: We need to eliminate the service delivery, financial, and technical issues that pose obstacles to our establishing central control over the network from the campus core to every wall jack and to every wireless access point across the entire University. However, this shall not be a project that is enacted through policy changes and central authority, but one driven by delivering a higher quality of network support at a significantly lower cost, while allowing distributed IT staff to better focus their efforts on strategic activities local to their unit. Our first step in this process shall be a significant reduction in network support partnership rates at the silver and gold level, that could begin as soon as FY13 (Information Technology Master Plan Strategic Direction 6, Goal 1a). I have asked Alan Katz to take ownership over this goal.

Priority #9: We shall be reorganizing, parallel to the Banner implementation, to form an integrated portal, Web content management, middleware, and integration team that can take on new initiatives – either those of our customers on a cost recovery basis or those strategic projects that are funded centrally. A multidisciplinary team, akin to what Purdue has established with their STUDIO team, is my aspiration (Information Technology Master Plan Strategic Direction 1, Goal 5a; Strategic Direction 2, Goal 1, 1d, 1e). I have asked Danna Gianforte to take ownership over this goal.

Priority #10: It shall be the goal of all of EITS to internally reallocate 20% of its base state funding over the next four years. The share of this burden undertaken in our administration and business affairs (the overhead in EITS) shall be greater, equal to 30% of current expenses. These reallocated funds shall provide a stable level of support for the initiatives outlined in this memorandum, as well as those to be outlined in future memorandum. In doing so, we simply cannot opt for “starving the beast” or “trying to do more with less.” Our success in reallocation will depend on our ability to eliminate redundant shadow systems, platforms, and processes, invest in automation that increases all of our productivity, and leveraging better economies of scale in terms of technology but also our own internal expertise. Everyone throughout the organization has an important part in helping us reach this critical goal (Information Technology Master Plan Strategic Direction 8, Goal 1, 6). 

Come back in one year for an update on how we have fared with these priorities.