Committee to Examine Centralizing Technology Support Services

Committee to Examine Centralizing Technology Support Services

By Alexis BlueUniversity Communications
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A proposal to centralize some campus information technology support services will be examined by a new committee that was formed as part of The University of Arizona's Transformation Plan.

The IT Transformation Committee was created in response to a proposal submitted by Michele Norin, the University's chief information officer, favoring the centralization of many of the UA's technology services and support functions, in part to allow for resources to be more effectively distributed across campus.

Online feedback on the proposal, posted on the Provost's Web site, has poured in, earning it the distinction of being the white paper proposal with the most comments, including postings expressing concern that centralization would not be productive or cost effective.

After reviewing the proposal, the Strategic Budget Advisory Committee recommended that a committee be formed to discuss ideas and concerns more thoroughly. The committee will begin its work this week.

Currently, only about 42 percent of the University's technology support services are centrally managed, Norin said. The rest are managed independently through other units on campus.

That has led to "disparate levels of quality support," Norin wrote in her "Transformation Technology Support Services: A Proposal."

The proposal called "to transition a majority of technology personnel, equipment and operational budgets currently managed and performed within colleges, departments and support units to the responsibility of the CIO, whereby management is centralized yet personnel are distributed."

The intention is not to eliminate or consolidate positions or to physically move employees from their work areas, Norin said in an interview. Rather it is to centralize management in a way that could consolidate some functions and eliminate redundancy – in areas like e-mail, server and network management – to allow technology professionals to refocus their time and attention on other areas of need, she said.

"At a minimum, we would be able to place resources in areas where we have shortages," she said.

At this point, Norin said it is difficult to predict how such a restructuring would translate into actual cost savings for the University.

Norin said some of the main concerns she has heard from units that currently manage their own resources include fears that centralization could eliminate their level of control, reduce opportunities for innovation or result in possible job losses.

In forming the IT Transformation Committee, Norin said she tried to choose members that represent a broad cross section of campus. From approximately 55 nominations for membership, she chose 21 individuals, representing as many units on campus, ranging from Arizona Research Laboratories to Arizona Student Unions. A chairman is yet to be named.

The committee will hold its first meeting this Friday, and a full report from the group is expected by May, Norin said.

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