II. History and Context of UW Information Management and Administrative Systems
Prior Information Management and Administrative Systems Strategy
The University of Washington’s previous strategy for information management and administrative systems evolved through a series of institutional decisions made over the past 30 years.
A key decision was to channel limited resources towards technology that supports research and other computing priorities. This strategy enabled the UW to become a recognized technology leader and gave it a competitive edge in discovery and learning.
However, the strategy has resulted in decades of underinvestment in information management and administrative systems. In order to maximize the limited funding available, the University’s strategy for its administrative systems was to incrementally renew and extend its existing systems.
While the University has been able to sustain its systems with minimal investment for many years, the core systems are now decades old and no longer support its current business needs. Efforts to enhance and extend these systems have gone as far as they can go.
The University’s previous strategy is outlined in the “Strategic Choices for Administrative Computing” document, dated April 2003.
The strategy called for:
- Modernizing and extending core legacy systems (HR/payroll, finance, student)
- Transforming business practices to improve how people do their work
- Investing in best of breed systems for specific functional areas (build or buy)
- Providing access to information using data warehouse approaches
- Developing and integrating middleware that is critical to creating a user-friendly, Web-based experience, including personalization (MyUW), authentication (UW NetID), and authorization (ASTRA)
The strategy also entailed incrementally implementing the vision outlined in the UW Information Services Strategy.
The vision was to deliver a rich array of resources to the University community anytime and anywhere via a Web portal that provided a customized view for each individual, based on that person’s roles and responsibilities.
More history of administrative computing is included in the Strategic Choices document Appendix IV: History and Context of Administrative Computing at the University of Washington.
IS Futures Task Force
In March 2006, Provost Phyllis Wise created the Future of Information Systems (IS Futures) Task Force to take a comprehensive, five-to-ten-year view of information technology needs and strategies for addressing them. The committee gathered data from faculty, staff, and students; interviewed stakeholders on institutional trends and future IT needs; convened panels of business leaders and IT specialists from other universities; surveyed other universities on best practices; and did other research.
The task force’s January 19, 2007 Future of Information Systems Task Force Final Report identified the following key challenges:
- The UW’s current information technology (IT) structure is fragmented, with responsibilities, decision making, and accountability spread across many different units.
- The UW currently lacks a clear vision or institutional strategy for information technology. There is no institutional context for prioritizing projects or allocating resources and no framework for understanding how individual projects fit into a long-term strategy.
- IT funding is inconsistent, allocated in a piecemeal fashion, and inequitable.
- Analytic data is lacking or difficult to acquire. Data storage and management is not unified or coordinated.
- To compensate for missing functionality in core administrative systems, UW staff are engaged in daily heroics, cobbling together time-consuming workarounds.
To address these challenges, the report recommended that the UW consider creating an Office of Information Management to be responsible for information management and administrative systems and coordinate the integration of information systems and services throughout the UW. Other key recommendations included:
- Be proactive in creating and maintaining information and technology systems that support goals and core functions.
- Allocate baseline biennial funding for technology in all of the core areas: academics, research, administration, and medicine.
- Allocate consistent funding to maintain and support a baseline and ensure a competitive advantage through information systems in designated priority areas.
For more information about the IS Futures Task Force findings and recommendations, and to read the final task force report, see the task force Web site.
Office of Information Management
In response to the IS Futures Task Force recommendations and input from deans and other key stakeholders, the Provost and the Vice President for UW Technology created a new Office of Information Management (OIM) in November 2006. The office was created to achieve:
- Direct alignment of authority over functional organization business practices, policy, resources, and priorities with the UW’s core information management and information systems resources and capabilities
- The powerful alignment of information systems and information management staff and services across the University
- Far greater coordination of resources, priorities, and directions across UW units
- A true information management approach that supports the University’s growing need for information for strategic directions and daily operations
- Better and more powerful teamwork across UW units
- A holistic and collaborative approach to building the future of the UW’s information management and information systems
- A strong UW focus on and priority for information systems and information management
OIM is headed by the Vice Provost for Information Management/Chief Information Officer, who reports to the Provost. The VP-IM/CIO directs information management and administrative systems across the UW and provides leadership in development and management of systems and applications.
The following units were merged to create OIM:
- Administrative Information Services (AIS), from UW Technology
- The Strategic Initiatives Office (SIO), from the Office of the Executive Vice President
For more information about OIM, see http://www.washington.edu/uwit/im/
In addition, to ensure coordination of information management and administrative systems throughout the UW, the following dual reporting relationships were created:
- Information systems teams/people throughout the Office of the Provost have a dual reporting relationship to the VP-IM/CIO and their own vice provost.
- College and school-level information systems and information management teams have a dual reporting relationship to the VP-IM/CIO and their deans/chancellors.
One of the key initial charges to OIM was to gather input from key stakeholders across the University on current challenges with the UW’s information management and administrative systems. OIM conducted a discovery/assessment process in spring 2007, interviewing deans, vice provosts, vice presidents, computing directors, administrators, and other key stakeholders.
More than 700 comments were collected from these meetings and organized into four broad themes. A summary of the input collected is available in the Emerging Themes from Discovery/Assessment Meetings document.
Another key charge, which came in response to input from the Board of Deans, the Information Management Advisory Committee, and other key stakeholders, was for OIM to initiate a comprehensive strategic planning effort for information management and administrative systems. The result of that work is the UW Strategic Roadmap for Information Management and Administrative Systems (Roadmap). Development of the Roadmap is described further in Appendix III.