HUIT Unification Continues

Nearly a dozen unification projects are still in the works nine months after Harvard announced the creation of Harvard University Information Technology and are projected for completion by the end of this academic year, according to Anne H. Margulies, University chief information officer.

HUIT merges what were formerly Harvard’s two largest IT groups, Central Administration and Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The single centralized IT system has already enabled the implementation of large-scale projects, including the switch to Gmail for undergraduates and a streamlined student information system currently in planning stages.

But according to Margulies, who was hired two years ago to lead the IT merger, combining the resources of CAIT and FAS IT into one efficient operational infrastructure continues to pose the “biggest challenge” for HUIT.

“Because there were two separate organizations, there were at least two of everything,” Margulies said. “We still have two different email systems, two different ticketing systems, and two different incident management systems” for internal operations of the organization.

Consolidation and streamlining of internal procedures and systems has taken longer than the initial merger because employees must work on the projects on top of their external responsibilities to the Harvard community.

“Serving faculty, students and staff is our first priority,” wrote Catherine Cho Yoo, chief strategy officer and director for the IT Transition Programs, in an email. “Consequently, we prioritize the day to day service delivery ahead of our transition projects and have been fortunate to have so many talented staff working hard to balance the two priorities and move the projects forward.”

The IT merger has been implemented almost entirely without reliance on consultants, according to Margulies. While this has allowed people who best know Harvard’s IT infrastructure to feel ownership over the change and has also saved the University money, it has placed a sizable burden on employees.

“We’re asking people to help design the future organization...while they keep doing everything they would normally do to keep all the systems up and running,” Margulies said.

HUIT employees expressed excitment for the advantages that a more efficient and streamlined system will bring, but they also acknowledged that some of these benefits will not be obvious to the Harvard community at large.

“Folks that aren’t working on [internal projects] don’t see a difference,” said Stephen Jackson, a senior project manager for IT strategy and planning.

Although no official deadline has been set, Margulies said the goal is to complete the transition by the end of 2012.

HUIT has already completed the leadership transition necessary for the IT consolidation, hiring Samantha Earp as managing director for academic technology services last month.

“In a way, that was the last missing piece of the organizational chart,” said Stephen M. Ervin, associate dean of information technology at the Graduate School of Design.

The transition projects represent the final step in the full merger of CAIT and FAS IT, but some administrators feel that HUIT’s efforts to integrate university-wide IT services are far from over.

“What do we mean by finish? This is an enormous organization, with a lot of projects,” said Ervin. “Will they have all of the boxes labeled, people filled, and agendas outlined? Yes. Will it be static? No.”

—Staff writer Radhika Jain can be reached at radhikajain@ college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Kevin J. Wu can be reached at kwu@college.harvard.edu.

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