IT Consolidates Service Across University

FAS administrators anticipate reforms of University IT

Top administrators in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences yesterday presented to FAS and University IT officials the full transition schedule for the merger of the University’s two largest IT operations.

The planning phase of the the consolidation of IT systems, first announced in March 2010, is scheduled to be complete this June, University Chief Information Officer Anne H. Margulies said during the presentation. The planning phase will be followed by an implementation process, which is currently expected to take another year.

The key goals of the initiative are to “enable strategic investment and use of IT, redirect resources to highest and best purpose, [and] elevate level of service,” said Director of Strategy & Program Management Catherine Cho Yoo.

The new IT leadership will review options to reform the current bureaucratic structure, which is “complex, ad-hoc, [and] redundant,” Margulies said.

Of the 783 different job titles with IT-related jobs at Harvard, 80 percent are unique to individuals, Margulies added.

“So far what we know is we spend about $200 million [on IT services across the University] a year. What we don’t yet know is what we spend it on,” Margulies said.

Margulies said the reform—supported by University President Drew G. Faust and “personally sponsored” by FAS Dean Michael D. Smith, Executive Vice President Katherine N. Lapp, and Provost Steven E. Hyman—aims to create a more centralized IT system across the University.

Prior to the initiative, the sub-cultures of different IT teams hindered smooth collaboration.

“This is not unique to IT service. [It is] driven by Harvard’s extreme decentralization,” Margulies said.

Currently, the University has about 30 separate e-mail systems, 10 student information management systems, and thousands of disparate websites, according to Margulies.

Another main goal of the reform is to provide better IT service to both faculty and students.

Currently, insufficient IT support for faculty and the uneven quality of support across different schools frustrate some faculty members.

“[Harvard’s] IT services are so haphazard and piecemeal that I gave up and hired my own,” read a quote from an anonymous faculty member presented on a PowerPoint presentation at the meeting.

If successfully implemented, however, the reform—led by a six member steering committee—will have far-reaching effects that are beyond the IT structures.

“A successful IT transformation will pave the way for other strategic structural change,” FAS Dean of Administration and Finance Leslie A. Kirwan said.

—Staff Writer Sirui Li can be reached at sli@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff Writer Gautam S. Kumar can be reached at gkumar@college.harvard.edu.

This story has been revised to reflect the following correction.

CORRECTION: Feb. 13, 2011

The Feb. 9 article "IT Consolidates Service Across University" incorrectly stated that the consolidation process would be completed by June. In fact, it is the planning phase of the process which will be completed by June.

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