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February 9, 2004

Effort under way to consolidate information technology on campus

By Jennifer McNulty

Just before winter closure, the 25-member information technology team received a welcome gift: Top campus administrators endorsed their vision of what a consolidated IT program at UCSC might look like.

After four months of information-gathering and brainstorming, the IT team will now shift gears and begin a five-month planning effort that will precede implementation.

That news capped a presentation to about 125 people who turned out on February 4 for the latest Staff Advisory Board-sponsored forum on the work of the Executive Budget Committee (EBC).

After four months of information-gathering and brainstorming, the IT team will now shift gears and begin a five-month planning effort that will precede implementation, which is slated to begin in June. The team's charge was to assess the current state of IT services on campus and to envision ways to improve the program, avoid redundancy, and build a long-term, cost-effective delivery model.

Team member Aaron Melgares, manager of administrative computing for the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences, shared some of the highlights of the data-gathering phase before Janine Roeth, director of the distributed computing group in Communications and Technology Services (CATS), described the team's vision for the future.

The seven-member data-gathering team began by drafting a 60-page document that established definitions of terms like "server." By the end, the team had received 11,000 records from 10 divisions and 52 units on campus.

"We believe we've developed a fairly accurate picture of what the current state of IT at UCSC looks like," said Melgares, adding that team members are in the process of finalizing a report based on their preliminary findings.

Among the highlights of that picture:

• The campus spends at least $28.5 million annually on IT services and equipment, including $16.5 million on staff salaries; $4.84 million on hardware; and $2.49 million on software.

• About 290 people (excluding students) spend at least 20 percent of their time providing IT services on campus, including 130 employees of the Information Technology Services Division.

• Support is provided to the following groups on campus: administrative, including nonacademic and nonresearch-related employees (60 percent); research (15 percent); instruction (15 percent); faculty (8 percent); publications (2 percent).

• Types of service provided are consulting, including application development and support (30 percent); IT resource management (21 percent); workstation/user support (18 percent); server support (13 percent); network support (10 percent); IT administrative support (8 percent).

• Most computers on campus are four or five years old, although one unit dates back to 1983--a discovery that provoked titters of disbelief from the audience.

• About 50 different e-mail programs are in use across campus.

• Forty-five percent of computers run Macintosh operating systems, compared to 42 percent that run Windows, and 12 percent that run Unix/Linux.

As the data-gathering group tracked down the nitty-gritty facts, a "vision" group was busy developing a conceptual model of IT service for the campus that integrated short-term budget concerns in a longer-term delivery model.

The group identified seven principles to guide its work, including establishment of "coherent delivery" of IT services through consolidation, cost savings, a focus on customer service, the ability to be adaptive and responsive, and a recognition that the people providing IT services are essential campus resources, said Roeth.

The conceptual model that has been endorsed by administrators combines a base of centrally provided services, with additional services available on a contract basis. Local funds could also support dedicated local support in specialized areas, like theatrical lighting or telescope support.

The goal is to create an organization that is "nimble and responsive to the diverse needs of the campus," said Roeth. IT service levels need to be consistent across campus, and the IT group would benefit from greater visibility, she said, adding that consolidation would make cost-management efforts more effective.

Unlike other EBC projects, the IT consolidation effort did not identify a specific monetary savings target at the outset but is prepared to propose a target to the chancellor by June, said Larry Merkley, vice provost for information technology.

"It's going to cost some money to save some money," he said, noting that revamping the time-and-attendance system is requiring the purchase of new software.

As the IT team begins planning in earnest, members are eager for input from the campus. Members will survey campus customers, review local best practices, consult with experts both on and off campus, and host a forum on the IT transformation project. E-mail can be sent to the team, and the group's progress can be monitored online.

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