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Strategic Priorities and Directions for 2015-2016

May 1, 2015


TO:              All Employees, Vice President for Information Technology Units
FROM:      Timothy M. Chester, Vice President for Information Technology
RE:                Annual Planning Memorandum for FY2016

Every year around the first of May, I write a planning memorandum for all employees that report to my office. These memorandums allow me to present our successes over the past year, discuss progress toward our strategic goals, share our initiatives and priorities for the next year, and comment on the challenges and opportunities we can expect along the way. This is my fourth planning memorandum since I joined the University of Georgia in September 2011.

This year’s memorandum may be the most important thus far. With it, I hope to communicate a broader vision of the type of organization we are becoming, and how this vision contrasts with the type of organization we have been in the past. Because of the fast-paced, changing nature of technology, this transition is a shared journey with other IT organizations. These shifts allow us to refocus our efforts to better serve the University of Georgia’s primary missions. Specifically, our primary work is slowly transitioning from the implementation and support of technology to using technology to solve problems and add value. EDUCAUSE has stated this clearly since 2008: “It’s not about the technology, it’s what we do with IT that matters.” Over the past four years, I have witnessed an organization that understands the transition it is making, from being consumed with the former to thriving in the latter. Ultimately, our most important mission is to enable the University of Georgia to strengthen its use of data in its day-to-day operations and its planning and improvement processes. By doing so, we can help to better define the University’s strategic objectives, inform its decision making, and empower students, faculty, and staff to maximize their efforts in pursuit of UGA’s instructional, research, and service missions. The recent reorganization that added the Office of Institutional Research to our ranks symbolizes this new, strategic focus.

It has taken significant effort to prepare a foundation for this endeavor, and we’ve accomplished many things in doing so. Over the past four years, we have eliminated much of the legacy technology that was holding the institution back. Our major administrative information systems no longer rely on Social Security Numbers (SSN); we have re-implemented our identity- management systems and decommissioned the aging BigCard legacy system; and we have replaced the single-sign-on and network management systems with new, commercial, off-the- shelf packages. We have also implemented a multi-factor authentication system, which has substantially reduced our information security risks. Each of these are accomplishments in themselves; however, the fact that they were concurrent with our implementation of the new Banner student-information system, the new DegreeWorks system, and the new Desire2Learn learning management system speaks to our ability to successfully and simultaneously carry out multiple highly complex projects. In the future, we will likely replace our core finance and administrative systems with state-of-the-art commercial systems from PeopleSoft (pending administrative approval). We will also join with the other 31 institutions within the University System of Georgia (USG) to fully participate in a shared PeopleSoft Human Capital Management (HCM) system that will deliver payroll, benefits, and other human resource functions. This type of shared-system initiative with other USG institutions is a first for the University of Georgia.
We must also continue to focus on improving reporting services and access to data. First and foremost, we must continue working with our academic administration to make better use of the data maintained in our new Banner student-information system. We must also support our academic programs by further developing our mobile software and other tools in order to enhance the advising experience and enrich student-learning outcomes. We will continue our efforts to provide enhanced financial data reporting from our legacy systems (known as the Simpler Systems project) while also exploring ways to bring digital signature and document routing technologies to the University. Together, these areas present enormous opportunities for our organization—opportunities we are ready for, given our aggressive decommissioning of legacy technology over the past four years.

We fared well in the University’s budget process for FY2016. In addition to a five percent merit raise pool, we received an additional $180,000 to fund new positions that will support the endeavors mentioned above. We will add two new positions within our mobile development team and 1.5 new positions within the Office of Institutional Research. We will soon appoint an associate chief information officer for data reporting and analytics. This employee, who will function as the University’s chief data officer, will be responsible for coordinating data-reporting efforts and the use of analytics across the myriad of offices within the entire University of Georgia. These new investments in personnel will allow us to begin aggressively transforming the University into a more data-informed organization.

Each of you, our employees, are our greatest assets, and I am pleased that we have continued to be successful in providing individuals with promotions and other growth opportunities. With last year’s merit pool, by July 1 we will have awarded merit raises equal to nine percent of the organization’s staffing budgets. Additionally, this past year 18 individuals have been awarded promotions, with each individual receiving an average salary increase of ten percent. Since the summer of 2011, 82 individuals have received a promotion, with each also receiving an average salary increase of ten percent. We continue to invest over $300,000 annually in redirected funds to support the professional development of our employees, and your recent accomplishments are an indicator that these investments are paying off.

Later this summer we will be making some organizational changes with the addition of our new chief technology officer (CTO). By separating strategic leadership from operational leadership, my office will be better able to focus its efforts on improving the use of data reporting and analytics while also supporting the implementation of PeopleSoft financials and USG’s implementation of PeopleSoft HCM. As they are formulated, I will ensure that our reorganization plans are communicated clearly and broadly across the University and to each of the affected units.
Goals from the Previous Year

I like to use our annual planning memorandum to report on the progress of the goals we undertook during the previous year. I believe that our efforts have been successful in each one of these endeavors.

1. Support academic areas as they implement better tools to aid their decision-making processes. These will include tools for enhanced reporting, analytics, and longitudinal analysis. Provide implementation support for the new Faculty Activity Report (FAR) system, which will enhance our faculty members’ ability to showcase their work and the University’s ability to capture and leverage this information. Provide additional support to other offices as they implement analytical systems to improve the time required for undergraduates to graduate and analyze productivity data across the University (ITMP Strategic Direction 3; Goals 1, 2, 3, and 4).

Over the past year, there have been several new initiatives that aim to support enhanced reporting, analytics, and data analysis. The new FAR system, called UGA Elements, will provide a one-stop shop for our faculty to annually report on their teaching, research, and service activities; further, it also provides a more complete and authoritative record of these activities across the institution. This project is both on budget and on time, and it is expected to be delivered for faculty adoption later this year. We have also embarked on a new pilot-reporting project that will provide offices with better access to financial data and departmental accounting reports. By all indications, the pilot is proceeding successfully and the software from Simpler Systems has significant potential for campus-wide adoption. Additionally, we reallocated resources—equal to one-third of an FTE—to support the permanent hiring of a senior, expert report writer for the Banner team. Under the leadership of this individual, the Banner project is making much faster progress in supporting UGA offices with advanced data reports.

2. Continue to support UGA offices relying on the Banner system to deliver services to students. Work within the Banner governance process to prioritize items postponed from the previous year while also completing the conversion of legacy academic information and bringing it fully into Banner. Work to develop project plans, identify required resources, and implement the Banner enterprise data warehouse (EDW). Support the Vice President for Finance and Administration as a recommendation regarding new administrative information systems for finance and human resources is prepared and forwarded to University senior leadership (ITMP Strategic Direction 3; Goals 1, 2, 3, and 4).

We are now nearing the completion of the second admissions/financial aid/registrar/bursar cycle that used Banner as the authoritative information system for student information. Additionally, we have just completed our third early-course registration using Athena, the Banner portal used by students and faculty to access their academic information. This has been the most seamless, error-free implementation of any student-information system I have witnessed during my career. That is not to say there were no challenges; there were many. But the challenges generally stemmed from the transition from our custom-developed, legacy systems rather than from running and operating Banner. When it comes to the latter, our performance has been flawless. This is due to the countless hours our dedicated professionals have spent supporting the Banner team, and I am very proud of their work. Furthermore, our Banner team has successfully brought up the EDW process, and this repository will provide us with improved mechanisms for accessing and archiving academic information. While completing the Banner implementation, we have also invested significant efforts in supporting the development of recommendations for new finance and human resource systems, leading to the PeopleSoft initiatives discussed earlier in this memorandum.
3. Work in conjunction with University departments to develop a plan for aggressively eliminating departmental systems that contain sensitive or restricted information. Work to identify processes that currently require SSN data and eliminate them, unless the SSN is required for regulatory purposes. At the same time, implement the next phase of the ArchPass program that will identify systems and processes that require use of SSN data and place them behind the ArchPass firewall for added network protection (ITMP Strategic Direction 5; Goals 1 and 4).

This project has been successful during the past year, and there will continue to be opportunities for improvement in the next year. During the past year, SSN data has been eliminated from the University’s budgets and budget development system (WebDFS), as well as other Finance and Administration systems. The legacy identity management system for student affairs has been decommissioned (BigCard), and Institutional Research (IR) is currently working with teams from our Information Security department to eliminate its use of SSN to identify employee and student records. We have also successfully moved the IR server infrastructure into the Boyd Data Center, behind the ArchPass firewall, along with the University’s mainframe systems. While we continue to have elevated use of SSN data across the University of Georgia, we are making significant progress in reducing the associated risks. We must continue these efforts.

4. Work with Human Resources, EITS managers, and the EITS Staff Representative Group to assess our current career progressions and identify the competencies that separate high performance from low performance for each career progression. Develop rubrics that define progressive mastery of these competencies and align them with the career ladders. Make these rubrics a part of our annual employee performance review process (ITMP Strategic Direction 10; Goals 1, 2, 3, and 4).

This project is on track. Along with a third-party consultant, our Finance and Administration staff led a team of individuals from EITS that collaborated with Human Resources to survey our staff and identify competencies that distinguish high performers from low performers in our organization. In a series of workshops, the survey data was refined into a list of competencies for each of the career progressions in EITS. In the coming year, we will use this data in our professional development and performance review programs, making sure that we are incentivizing the development of the right competencies and skills for our organization.

5. Work with major areas across the University to strengthen shared decision making regarding major information systems and IT initiatives. As the Banner project winds down, ensure that its governance process continues unabated. Develop and implement a complementary shared governance process for the implementation of new finance and human resource systems. Work with the Administrative Systems Advisory Council (ASAC) to develop new—or strengthen existing—processes for collaborative decision making regarding major administrative system projects. Continue to support the Student Technology Fee Advisory Committee (STFAC) as it proceeds with its transformation into a more active steward of student technology fee resources (ITMP Strategic Direction 1; Goals 2, 3, 4, and 5).

Progress has been made on these goals. First, the success of our Banner project is largely due to the highly collaborative nature of the governance process, which guides decision making on issues that have a major impact on University operations. These processes are open and transparent, and they involve major stakeholders. Moving toward commercial, off-the-shelf information systems creates interdependence among the offices that share the system, and adapting to the new conditions has sometimes been a challenge. However, the success of the Banner implementation is proof that these collaborations are both strong and successful. They have also helped us limit baseline code modifications of the commercial products, which approximate five percent of our total implementation effort. These processes are being mirrored for the PeopleSoft project, which we expect will experience similar successes. They are also contributing to the shared oneUSG HCM initiative, of which UGA is fully participating.
I have been pleased with our student technology fees (STF) governance process, which was reconstituted with a new committee chair and charter. This process is highly collaborative with our students, and this year, over $1.2 million in extra STF investments were awarded by this committee. Deep and meaningful collaborations with stakeholders across the University of Georgia are vital to our success, and these mechanisms have been critical for our organization during its journey through transformational technology initiatives.

6. Continue to focus on internal reallocation, making steady progress toward the four-year goal of reallocating $3.2 million in base budget into strategic priorities, including information security, data center and networking, the GACRC, professional development, and organizational transformation. Each associate CIO is responsible for doing more than simply defending the needs of their unit in terms of resources; rather, they should actively think above and beyond their individual unit to ensure that actions, individually and collectively, best meet the needs of EITS as a whole. I am asking all associate CIOs to work together over the next twelve months to reduce our collective salary expenses by three percent so that these resources can be further reinvested in strategic activities (ITMP Strategic Direction 8; Goals 1 and 6).

We are ahead of schedule in terms of reaching this goal. During the past year, an additional $43,081 in base budget was redirected to support merit salary increases for EITS staff. This brings our four-year total to $2,818,958.00; only $381,042 in reallocated funds are necessary to reach our goal. With the newer, smaller mainframe coming online on July 1, 2015, we anticipate an additional base budget savings of $503,476, which will be redirected to support the Banner application management services contract. With this FY2016 redirection, we will have successfully accomplished our goal of reallocating 20% of our base budget to support our strategic technology goals.

Overall, our units have succeeded because of our employees’ hard work, dedication, and professionalism. In many ways, this past year is a transitional one; as we complete the Banner implementation, we anticipate beginning to implement PeopleSoft for Finance and Administrative systems. Our immediate challenge will be to maintain momentum and forward progress, using data from our Banner system to impact decision making, while also shifting our resources and strategic focus to the implementation of PeopleSoft’s finance system. The experience we have gained over the past four years prepares us well for this challenge, and I am confident in our ability to continue to succeed in our technology initiatives in the coming years.

Assessment and Continuous-Improvement Activities for Next Year

Assessment and continuous improvement is a critical part of our practices, and it is becoming a vital part of our organization’s internal culture. This year, our units will undergo their regular five-year program review in accordance with the University’s reaccreditation process. With our annual TechQual+ customer satisfaction survey data and the work of our Assessment and Advisory Committee, I believe that we have put into place improvement practices that should be a model for IT organizations working in higher education.
Last year, I asked our committee to focus its efforts on identifying areas where greater wireless Internet coverage is necessary and to begin exploring the factors that lead to faculty dissatisfaction with the University’s IT services. Initial data from the 2015 TechQual+ survey suggests that we need to continue these efforts in the next year. The exponential increase in both the number of devices on our wireless network and the amount of bandwidth they consume has led to growing student dissatisfaction with our network service. Additionally, the decentralized nature of IT services across the University continues to make it difficult to coordinate and standardize IT services and support for faculty. Over the next year, I will ask our Assessment and Advisory Committee to continue analyzing our current TechQual+ survey data to make meaningful recommendations in these two areas.

Goals and Priorities for Next Year

Finally, in concluding this memorandum, I will discuss our strategic goals and top priorities for the next year, and provide some context for each of them.

First, one of the University’s strategic goals is to support efforts to enhance the academic experience for students and to use technology to improve collaborations among students, faculty, and academic advisors. These initiatives are underway, and EITS has been afforded additional staff to assist in this effort.

1. Develop, implement, and support better technology mechanisms that enhance the academic experience for our students. Leverage the University’s previous investments in the Banner student-information system by delivering additional mechanisms to support enhanced degree planning and forecasting (DegreeWorks). Support the use of mobile technologies to improve the connections between students and their academic advisors. Implement these mechanisms in a way that delivers better data to support academic decision-making processes across the University (ITMP Strategic Direction 3; Goals 1, 2, 3, and 4). I have assigned primary responsibility for this goal to Larry Malota, Shawn Ellis, and Michael Lucas.

Second, we expect to make final recommendations regarding the implementation of PeopleSoft’s finance applications to President Jere Morehead this summer. Should this project be approved, proceeding with this implementation will be a major goal for EITS over the next four years. At the same time, we must also focus on improving access to financial data using our legacy systems in order to help senior executives, academic leaders, and others improve their decision- making processes now.

2. Support the Vice President for Finance and Administration as he and his teams seek to improve processes, increase business efficiencies, and enhance University-wide decision making via financial data analysis. Continue preparation for the implementation of new enterprise-wide information systems for finance, payroll, and human resource functions. Deliver data warehousing and reporting capabilities that will provide deans and other executives with improved access to financial data. Explore ways to improve efficiency, possibly through the use of digital signature and electronic document-routing technologies (ITMP Strategic Direction 3; Goals 1, 2, 3, and 4). I have assigned primary responsibility for this goal to Chris Wilkins, Russell Hatfield, Shawn Ellis, and Michael Lucas.
Third, improving our use of academic information, particularly the data maintained in our new Banner student-information system, is a strategic priority. My office has received additional funding from the University to support these efforts. Our new associate CIO for data reporting and analytics will be onboard later this summer and will be charged with leading these initiatives.

3. Enhance University-wide capabilities for data-informed decision making, particularly when it comes to the use of academic information. Work with senior University leaders to clarify the roles and responsibilities for data analysis and reporting. Work across the same organizations to better define and standardize the data definitions necessary to support the provost’s and other senior executives’ academic decision making. Streamline internal processes and reporting relationships necessary to improve the efficiency and accuracy of data analysis and reporting across the decentralized offices in the University (ITMP Strategic Direction 3; Goals 1 and 4). I have assigned primary responsibility for this goal to our new associate CIO for data reporting and analytics (once onboard) and Meihua Zhai.

Fourth, from the work of our Assessment and Advisory Committee, we know that the lack of a common gateway to IT services for faculty impedes the improvement of consistent and standardized technology services to them. Over the next year, we will begin efforts to improve the delivery of IT services to faculty. First, we will work to make faculty more aware of the services, support, and training readily available across the institution. While this initiative is underway, we will also continue to examine through our TechQual+ data ways to improve the faculty experience with University-wide technology services.

4. Improve the delivery of IT services to faculty by creating and supporting improved mechanisms to orient faculty toward the various IT services available at the University of Georgia. Work across organizational boundaries, including across the University’s colleges and schools, to create a one-stop portal on the web that identifies the resources available to faculty as they carry out the University’s instructional, research, and service missions (ITMP Strategic Direction 2; Goals 2, 3, 7, and 8). I have assigned primary responsibility for this goal to Lynn Wilson and Brian Rivers.

Finally, we will continue to develop and evangelize the use of our internal defect analysis and elimination program, called 5 Whys. So far, this has led to a remarkable reduction in major service outages and other incidents. We need to fully embed this program into our organizational culture and operating practices.

5. Continue the development and use of the 5 why defect analysis and elimination program. Work to further evangelize and implement this program throughout all operating areas that report to the VPIT, ensuring that defect elimination remains a core part of the working culture of these organizations. Demonstrate and advocate for use of this program throughout the entire University and advocate for the development of similar programs across those areas (ITMP Strategic Direction 5; Goal 3). I have assigned primary responsibility for this goal to Brian Rivers, Michael Lucas, Larry Malota, Russell Hatfield, and Shawn Ellis.

Thank you for all that you do. Please know that you can call on me at any time for support and assistance. An all-staff meeting will be held on Thursday, May 21, at 2 p.m. to discuss these ideas and goals and to provide you with the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback. Until then, know that I remain deeply grateful for each of you as you continue to ensure that the University of Georgia is a very special place for all of us.
Cc: Pamela S. Whitten, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost