The Need for a Strategic Roadmap
In 2006, the University of Washington’s Provost charged a special task force with taking a comprehensive look at the University’s critical information technology needs. After three months of intensive investigation, the IS Futures Task Force found that the University of Washington (UW) did not have a clear vision or long-term strategy for the administrative systems that support its core business operations or for the information management essential for running a complex enterprise.
Without a clear vision and strategy, there was no institutional context for prioritizing information management and administrative systems projects or allocating resources, and no framework for understanding how individual requests would help meet the UW’s long-term needs.
The University of Washington Strategic Roadmap for Information Management and Administrative Systems (Roadmap) was developed in response to the task force findings.
The Roadmap sets forth a long-term vision for the future of UW information management and administrative systems aligned with the institution’s business goals and priorities. It provides a strategic framework for prioritizing projects, making decisions, and allocating resources. It outlines an action plan with five key initiatives to meet the enormous range of challenges the UW faces in providing administrative systems and information to support a large, diverse, and global institution.
The University of Washington is one of the nation’s premier research institutions, receiving more federal research funding than any other public institution of higher education in the country. Yet the administrative systems that support its business operations are among the oldest and most archaic of its peer institutions. As a result, the University is facing the following critical challenges:
- The UW’s legacy systems no longer support this institution’s 21st century business and information needs. The University’s 26-to-34-year-old systems have limited functionality and are becoming increasingly difficult to upgrade. Operational inefficiencies are negatively impacting the productivity of faculty and staff at every level of this institution. Departments and units have developed hundreds of redundant shadow systems to compensate for missing functionality, at considerable cost and effort.
- University faculty and staff cannot get the information they need to support effective management and decision making. Even basic information—such as student headcount by major or financial resources for a given fiscal period—takes an extraordinary effort to obtain. Lack of institutional definitions for data as basic as “student FTE” and “faculty FTE” undermines the accuracy of the information and makes cross-institutional comparisons problematic.
- The UW has consciously underinvested in its administrative systems and fallen behind its peers. Of a peer group of 30 research/doctorate institutions, only one has a financial system older than the UW’s, only two have older student systems, and only four have older HR/payroll systems. (See UW Peers in What Others are Doing.)
The Roadmap outlines a plan to address these challenges and to bring the University’s administrative systems and information management services into the 21st century.
A Collaborative Process
Development of the Roadmap was an intensive, six-month collaborative effort involving more than 170 stakeholders across the University.
The project was initiated in the fall of 2007 in response to the IS Futures Task Force and at the request of the Board of Deans and Chancellors, the Information Management Advisory Committee, and other key stakeholders. It culminated in March 2008 with the completion of the Roadmap action plan. The project was coordinated by the Office of Information Management, with the Information Management Advisory Committee serving as the project’s steering committee. Executive sponsors included Provost Phyllis Wise and Vice President for UW Technology Ron Johnson.
Teams of stakeholders representing schools, colleges, campuses, medical centers, deans, faculty, researchers, and central administrators delved into the detail of the University’s current systems and processes, evaluating challenges and identifying risks. Divided into task groups, they focused on three key areas: administrative systems, information management, and governance.
The task groups analyzed the current state of the UW’s systems and processes. They developed a vision of where the University needs to be in ten years and outlined action plans for getting there. Their work was overseen by the Roadmap Working Team, which included task group leads and other business leaders. The Roadmap Working Team integrated task group recommendations and produced the final recommended action plan. (Details about the Roadmap project and process are available in Appendix III. A full list of contributors is available here.)
The result of this work is the first-ever comprehensive view of the University’s current information management and administrative systems’ (IM/AS) challenges and an action plan for moving the University forward.
The Roadmap recommends five key initiatives to fundamentally transform the University’s business operations. A detailed description of each initiative is provided in this Web site.
- Information for Decision Making: Develop the common data definitions, infrastructure, tools, integration framework, and training necessary to provide access to accurate, useful information and analysis.
- Replace the Base: Replace the UW’s aging legacy administrative systems with modern, flexible systems that can keep pace with evolving business needs. Legacy systems to be replaced include finance, budget, procurement, human resources, payroll, and student administration.
- Redesign Processes: Design consistent, streamlined business processes that leverage new technologies, achieve increased operational efficiencies, and help to manage change. Process redesign will happen hand-in-hand with all system replacement and upgrade projects.
- Enhance and Renew Systems: Invest in ongoing enhancement, development, and technology renewal of core administrative systems to keep pace with changing business needs.
- Prioritize and Make Decisions: Develop a transparent decision-making process and a mature portfolio management framework that enables the UW to set institutional priorities, make strategic choices, and maximize its investments. Provide the support structures necessary to enable collaborative projects across UW units.