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Strategic Directions and Priorities for 2018-2019


July 2, 2018


TO:                 Colleagues within VPIT Units at the University of Georgia

FROM:         Timothy M. Chester, Vice President for Information Technology

RE:                  Annual Planning Memorandum for FY19

This memorandum is coming later than in the past. I've been holding it on purpose so that I could release it on the day that we've had our most significant accomplishment of my seven-year tenure: going live with PeopleSoft Finance applications! Congratulations to all of you on this most significant accomplishment. As we get more confident and productive with these new tools, something that will take time, the University's business operations will be leaner, more efficient, more timely, and more accurate. Our entire organization of more than 240 individuals has joined thousands of others across the University of Georgia in planning, implementing, training, and getting ready for this transformation. Successful implementations such as ours succeed because of talent, teamwork, and a compelling vision shared by all. I applaud all of you, but especially our partners in Finance and Administration: VP Ryan Nesbit, Sr. Assoc. VP James Shore, and most of all Assoc. VP Holley Schramski who has done an incredible job leading this project. We've accomplished something that when I arrived seven years ago, no one believed was possible.

There's little doubt that our PeopleSoft initiative has been the most massive and most complex business transformation initiative ever undertaken at the University of Georgia. We're on-time and on-budget, and while there is significant further work to come, you should recognize that we've accomplished something that many other institutions of our size, scale, and mission continue to struggle with mightily. There's hard work ahead of us still, with our payroll and talent management modules moving into the development, testing, and training phases.

Working closely with the OneUSG Connect project team, the team has successfully converted employee data for 23,000 UGA employees and the successful calculation of 23,000 (test) paychecks. I have high confidence that we will be able to continue with the same type of success we've realized today as human resource and payroll functions go live as planned at the end of this year.

For EITS, the completion of the OneSource initiative brings to a conclusion the long-term master plan for IT at UGA that we launched in 2012. By continually focusing on the five areas of our IT master plan each year, we have helped the University become more data-driven in its decision-making, more prosperous and productive when it comes to faculty research, and more secure when it comes to our information assets. Beyond those impacts, we also operate an organization with significantly more trust and respect across the University of Georgia. Units across the University no longer shy away from working with us proactively on a variety of initiatives that are critical to our teaching, research, and service missions. Given what we have accomplished, I do not believe there is another IT organization in higher education that rivals our success over the last seven years.

Organizational Goals from the Previous 12 Months

Over the last twelve months, we have focused on the following goals to complete the long-range vision for IT at UGA.

Continue supporting our implementation of PeopleSoft applications for Finance, as well as playing a leadership role in the OneUSG implementation of PeopleSoft HCM for the entire University System of Georgia. Ensure that the project remains on-time and on-budget and delivers on the guiding principles and strategic goals that the University set out for the initiative. While there is a significant amount of technical work to be accomplished, ultimately it is our planning, change management, and communications efforts that will be instrumental in the project's success (long-term strategic goal#1).
Current Status: This project is proceeding in an on-time and on-budget fashion. The budget portion of the new system went live on January 2nd and the financials portion on July 1st. The payroll and talent management (HCM) part of the project will go live December 16th. Several hundred UGA employees plus several dozens of consultants continue to work together to make the dream of more efficient, more timely, and more transparent business processes a reality at UGA. Key to our success has been a consistent and transparent set of guiding principles which the campus community has rallied around. A strong spirit of comradery and teamwork permeates the working and collaborative environments, and we have identified and selected the right individuals who are leading the project at all levels. The addition of project coordinators across UGA's colleges, schools, and administrative divisions has been a crucial addition underlying our success. While many difficult scoping decisions will continue to be made to complete the HCM portion of the project, this project is proceeding with a quiet sense of confidence and is trending towards a successful conclusion over the coming six months.

Successfully upgrade our Banner student information systems to the latest version of Banner (Version 9). Required by the end of 2018, this "forklift" upgrade will eliminate the many Java-based problems experienced by Banner users, while also providing some new self- service capabilities. This endeavor will be a significant technical effort for our teams, requiring additional change management, communications, and training activities. It also will require several complex database and infrastructure upgrades. In some ways, this major upgrade of Banner is a "mini-implementation," in and of itself. By this time next year, we should be well on our way to deploying this next major release of the Banner applications (long-term strategic goal#1).
Current Status: This project continues and is on-time for the release of Banner 9 administrative pages, ahead of schedule. This project has been challenging, owing to the difficulty of upgrading many of the legacy Banner components, including a required database upgrade to Oracle 12. Because of the tremendous efforts of both the technical team and the functional units, we completed the needed Oracle 12 upgrades and installed Banner 9 in several of our environments. Additional work continues to convert both the UGA local customizations and the USG provided customizations so that they work with Banner 9. Once we release the Banner 9 administrative pages, the project team and our external consultants can begin focusing on the new self-service features included in Banner 9 that are not being rolled out until later next year.

Be prepared to engage Human Resources with supporting data to get them to reassess our current salary grade and pay-plan regarding FLSA exempt / non-exempt changes. Compared to other institutions (Georgia Tech, Texas A&M), the University may have been overly conservative in assessing job duties, resulting in too many of our employees reclassified in non-exempt positions. Human Resources has indicated recently to us that they will engage EITS this summer in a reassessment of this issue (long-term strategic goal #3).
Current Status: This project was placed on hold at the request of Human Resources, given that they are currently working with an external consultant to study and improve UGA's philosophy regarding compensation. Additionally, as the University System of Georgia (USG) Comprehensive Administrative Review (CAR) is expected to focus on Human Resources practices, we can expect new guidance in the areas of salary administration, employee classification, and human resource policies and procedures. We will, under the direction of UGA Human Resources, take up this goal at a later time.

Continue supporting the use of Dell SecureWorks to provide the institution with a health check regarding its use of sensitive and restricted information, to ensure that the University's information security posture continues to mature and that we are doing the maximum possible to reduce the University's exposure to both internal and external computer threats. By this time next year, complete the assessments of business Units reporting to the Vice President for Instruction and be executing plans (along with EITS) that respond to and make adjustments as necessary consistent with the recommendations made by SecureWorks (long-term strategic goal #4).
Current Status: The consultant completed the assessment of the EITS information security program and its network and applications architectures during the past year, and we now continue to make refinements consistent with the consultant's recommendations including the successful deployment of a web application firewall. The next phase of the project evaluating networks and applications within the business offices reporting to the Vice President for Instruction was completed this Spring, and the teams will continue to work with the offices to implement recommendations as necessary to improve UGA's information security posture in these business units.

Continue rolling out our ArchPass Duo service, moving it within the next 12–18 months from its current stage and require it for access to all systems containing sensitive and restricted information. Phase this project in, as robust technology and engineering are not sufficient for success by themselves. Planning, change management, and communications efforts along with the technology itself are both necessary and sufficient for successful execution of this critical initiative (long-term strategic goal #4).
Current Status: This project continues successfully, with the Employee Self-Service, eLC, and Athena apps placed behind the ArchPass two-step logins during this past semester. As the new PeopleSoft applications roll out over the next nine months, they will require the ArchPass login. While this is a change for UGA's students, faculty, and staff, it provides our information systems with extended protections against the leaking of both usernames and passwords - which we all know is increasingly common. With the addition of these new ArchPass systems, UGA’s overall information security posture has improved dramatically. 

Complete the implementation of the PaloAlto WildFire product, providing our University network with enhanced protection against Web-based malware, phishing attacks, and computer viruses. To the degree necessary, work with Units inside and outside of EITS to ensure that the implementation is done openly and transparently, allowing critical stakeholders in the ITMF and UGANet community to influence the deployment where appropriate (long-term strategic goal #4).
Current Status: The information security team completed this initiative during the past year. The addition of Wildfire to our information security defenses has been very beneficial for the University. In a typical month, Wildfire blocks over 275,000 pieces of Malware from being downloaded by students, faculty, and staff. In addition to these "known" pieces of malware, Wildfire blocked an additional 1,300 "zero-day" vulnerability exploits. These are the most dangerous threats facing UGA, as they target unpatched software used across the University's network. It was a zero-day exploit that led to the world-wide Equifax breach last year. The addition of Wildfire has gone a long way towards improving UGA's information security posture. 

Continue to extend the gains realized this past year regarding data standardization, openness, and transparency regarding academic information maintained through the Banner system. Continue efforts through the Office of Institutional Research to make these data more widely available, more easily accessed, and more impactful on University-wide decision-making. Pay particular attention to the need to merge academic information in Athena with financial and payroll information maintained in other systems across the University, and help make sure that we are not duplicating efforts across these system boundaries (long-term strategic goal #5).
Current Status: This critical work continues, and is now proceeding under the umbrella of our OneSource project to implement PeopleSoft applications at UGA. The Office of Institutional Research (OIR) has taken the lead in designing and implementing UGA's next-generation data warehouse. This new warehouse merges both student information coming from Banner and other sources with administrative data housed in PeopleSoft, providing a one-stop solution for integrated data from across the UGA enterprise. OIR has taken advantage of some vacancies to retool its operations and add new positions with expertise in this field. The new data warehouse will be rolled out over the following months consistent with the established go-live dates for the OneSource applications.

Take a more significant leadership role in efforts to deliver on a set of predictive analytics for student success and degree completion. While the University of Georgia has strong metrics when it comes totimely degree completion, there continue to be opportunities to make better indicators available to advisors that aid in identifying students who are disengaging from their studies and are at risk of falling behind or dropping out. Success in this endeavor is equal parts project management, business redesign, data analysis and modeling, and user interface. Help to bring these different areas together, through the Office of Institutional Research, to ensure that we make significant gains in this area over the next 12 months (long-term strategic goal #5).
Current Status: Over the past year, under OIR's leadership we have made significant gains in the building and delivery of predictive models in support of student success. Several predictive models have been developed, with an emphasis on providing to our advisors some early indicators of student disengagement. This endeavor has been an iterative collaboration with the advisors, and the teams updated both the models and tools several times. Currently, we are experiencing success with predictions regarding retention, course success, and on-time graduation. Future efforts are focused on student success within their major and other majors they may be considering. This expansion of our predictive models will require programming against UGA's bulletin of courses, which need retooling into a curriculum map to maximize the effectiveness of the model.

Goals for Next Year

In last year's planning memorandum, I anticipated that we would begin a new long-range IT master planning process this year. After conferring with the University's senior leadership, we have decided to defer this activity while the University considers its need to do the same. Thus, I expect to announce next year steps we will take to establish a new long-term master plan for IT at the University of Georgia.

This doesn't mean that will be operating without refined strategic direction. Until we complete a new master plan, I would like to see us narrow our strategic focus to the research computing and information security spaces. The data sciences are a crucial area for the University as it grows the research enterprise and analysis shows that we are woefully understaffed compared to peers and aspirational institutions. We also need to continue investing in the information security area, as the variety and volume of malware-based network attacks continue to escalate. This year and next, I will be re-evaluating vacancies carefully as they arise, with an eye towards reallocation into these areas. This mirrors activity that we have undertaken over the last five years to increase staff levels in the application support and institutional researchareas.

For next year, Units under my office will devote the efforts at the following five goals for the coming year, consistent with our existing long-term master plan for IT at the University of Georgia.

1. Complete our implementation of PeopleSoft applications for Finance, and the OneUSG implementation of PeopleSoft HCM. Keep the project on-time and on-budget, and to the degree possible minimize the disruptions caused by these rollouts. Work with Unit coordinators, change champions, and others to make sure that the project delivers on the guiding principles and strategic goals for the initiative. While our technical savvy with the new systems has been impressive, so have our planning, change management, and communications efforts. Those softer skillsets have proven instrumental in our success to date (long-term strategic goal #1).

2. Complete our upgrades of the Banner software to version 9, meeting the deadline put into place by Ellucian to ensure continued support for critical University processes. Continue providing the technical, change management, communications, and training support as necessary to help our functional offices be successful with this transition. Work with the functional areas, particularly the University Registrar, to begin planning totake advantage of new Banner 9 features that will improve self-service functions for students and faculty while also provide additional advising tools that will be helpful with further enhancing student success (long-term strategic goal #1).

3. Work to continue to improve services to faculty andstudent researchers through the GACRC, by collaborating more intensely with the new members of our faculty advisory committee. Deliver an improved Sapelo 2 cluster that streamlines the different types of computational work so that we can better support informatics research while continuing to support traditional HPC research as before. Make the best use of this year's financial investment of $1.5 million in computing and storage infrastructure to support the needs of our researchers more comprehensively (long-term strategic goal#2).

4. Deliver a comprehensive University-wide data warehouse that successfully merges information from various databases, including student information from Banner and administrative information from PeopleSoft, to provide a one-stop shop for data reporting at the University of Georgia. Ensure that an appropriate level of reporting is available with our PeopleSoft go-lives while also continuing to work with our campus community to evolve and improve both data literacy and data-informed decision-making. Post- implementation of the data warehouse, work to reduce the number of shadow reporting systems maintained across the University so that all offices rely on the same data sets for answers to important questions (long-term strategic goal#5).

5. Begin the process of reallocating portions of the EITS budget to better support faculty research and further expand its information security defenses. There is a present need to substantially grow the staff in our research computing area to better support growing faculty research in the data sciences. And in the information security space, new and evolving threats require us to continually improve our stance to protect the University's information assets better. Over the next two budget years, we should redirect funding from available vacancies to reallocate $300,000 in new positions in research computing and $300,000 in both software tools and personnel for the information security team. These amounts together represent approximately 5% of our state personnel budget. This fall, my office will begin to closely scrutinize vacant positions, particularly management and supervisory positions, to realize this needed reallocation and investment.

Thank you all for such a great year. Your combined experience, wisdom, and expertise are our most essential resources. We will continue to be successful in the way we plan, the way we deliver on our initiatives, the way we engage our end user community, and the way we hold each other accountable. I like what I see each day, and I look forward to our continued work together.

Thank you for all that you do, and know that you can call on me at any time when I can be helpful to you. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss the contents of this planning memorandum with you and to answer your questions when we meet later this summer. We will announce the date of this town hall in the coming weeks.

Cc:       VPIT Monthly Status Report DistributionList