While companies have been using a shared services model for decades, higher education is fairly new to this model because universities tend to be more decentralized. And that was the case at the
For years, the university had no central CIO, and its19 schools and colleges handled their own IT. That meant the IT environment was fragmented, with 44 email services on the
This technology situation meant that students and faculty in one college couldn't even get on the wireless network in another college. College deans influenced many of the IT decisions, and they were expected to provide the best services possible to attract students to their college. So if that meant setting up a better wireless network and only giving access to their students, that's what they did.
But then everything changed.
"Four years ago, some deans said, 'The changes occurring in higher ed are coming at us so fast, and we are not as an institution making the right investments to make the university continue to excel, particularly in teaching and learning,'" Patterson said.
Enter the NextGen Michigan program. The
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For example, the university is planning to consolidate and centralize commodity services like email, wireless networks and help desks. This will free up IT staff in the schools and colleges to work more with faculty on new projects. By focusing on teaching and learning tech-based initiatives at the school or college level, faculty innovations with technology could eventually be scaled up to the rest of the university.
This also is a cultural shift for universities in both staff and budget. Some IT staff members have left, and others have been asked to leave because they weren't willing to change, Patterson said.
The central IT department now lays open its budget, shares how much it costs to run services in the new shared services model, and compares those costs to what third parties could provide. If a company can provide the service more economically, then the university considers outsourcing it.
Being transparent about how much services cost and what it means is an important point that IT often misses, said audience member
Internally, the university plans to set up a number of ways that colleges pay for shared services. Every college will pay for commodity services, whether they use them or not. Other services will have toll fees, which will be based on how much a school or college uses the service.
Cloud computing will play a big role in the new strategy. For example, the university plans to move to
University IT will no longer be in the "build" business, but in the "integrate" business, Patterson said. "Higher education as an industry is in a time of change, and we see this as a good thing," Patterson said. "As challenging as it is, it is an opportunity. And it is an opportunity that is IT enabled.
"We in this room and conference as IT leaders have the opportunity to change the model of IT so that we enable our institutions and our industry to emerge from this time of change even stronger and better than we are today."
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