ITA Findings: Focus Areas

BerryDunn has completed their research and data analysis regarding current IT services in Business Affairs. This has led to findings in 10 areas, which are outlined below. BerryDunn is now working with the ITA advisory committee and the working group on specific recommendations for improvement in each area. 

  1. IT Projects, Planning, and Priority-setting
  2. Enterprise Service Ownership
  3. IT Service Catalog
  4. Data Analytics and Reporting
  5. Role of Technical Operations and Planning (TOP)
  6. Communication among BA IT Managers
  7. Management Skills for BA IT Managers
  8. IT Support for Risk Management, Safety and Security
  9. IT Support for E-commerce
  10. Networking Services

IT Projects, Planning, and Priority-Setting
The University has not established an effective approach to IT project prioritization that spans the enterprise. This has led to challenges related to coordination of IT resources, as well as a higher level of work disruption and frustration for stakeholders who are impacted by multiple projects.

Figure 8 shows major IT projects that have impacted Business Affairs between August 2014 (start of Kronos and Cherwell implementations) and June 2016. 

Figure 8: Timeline of IT Projects ImplementedThe majority of these projects (ex. Gmail and Dropbox) are enterprise-level projects managed by ITS, while others, such as NinerTalent and the ImageNow projects, have a more localized and direct impact on BA IT resources. Collectively, all of these projects impact the way users perform day-to-day operations and business processes. The higher volume of projects between May and November 2015 (indicated by the dark red section of the heat bar in Figure 8) corresponds with frustrations reported by stakeholders about high levels change occurring simultaneously.

This timeline does not reflect projects that have less direct impact to end users, such as the transition to touchless ID cards, the Network Video Recorder (NVR) consolidation, more localized Banner upgrades, or the implementation of Four Winds Interactive Digital Signage. However, it is important to note that these projects, while less visible to end users, further dilute the availability of IT staffing resources and create challenges around resource allocation - especially when balancing daily operations with project work. A full list of projects identified for BA is included in Appendix A. This list demonstrates the volume of projects undertaken by BA IT.

With so many projects occurring in a short amount of time, coordination, communication, and planning are critical to ensuring that project objectives are achieved.

ITS has deployed a governance process around IT projects, which is depicted in Appendix B. Any project that involves ITS resources requires submission of an Idea form. The Idea form is used for both ‘run’ and ‘transform’ projects. Run projects are operational or maintenance requests. Transformative projects provide increased value to the University through a new service offering, increased efficiencies or productivity, or that move the university into a new, untapped market.

Any project that is classified as transformative is intended to be reviewed by the IT Rationalization Committee (ITRC). According to the ITRC website1, the committee was established to:

  • ensure that IT strategic planning is integrated with the University’s strategic planning
  • make IT strategic investment decisions
  • set campus-wide priorities for IT services, resources, and facilities
  • make decisions employing a campus-­wide funding model that rewards cost‐effectiveness and discourages non‐strategic IT spending
  • communicate and align with the Board of Trustees

Our discussions with stakeholders and some ITRC members indicate that the ITRC is not consistently performing these responsibilities. Despite intentions to meet monthly, the ITRC has met five times in the last year, often being cancelled due to insufficient attendance It was also reported that meetings have been more informational and less focused on reviewing projects requests and making decisions.

ITRC members include the Senior Associate Provost, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, the Chief of Staff, the Senior Director of University Advancement Operations, the Director of Technical Operations and Planning, the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Planning & Administration in ITS, and the Chief Information Officer. 

Within BA, TOP project managers regularly meet with individual departments. However, there is no regularly occurring meeting that brings representatives from each BA department together to review the division-wide project portfolio and discuss IT-related needs.

The lack of structure and discipline for collaborative priority-setting and project planning among all divisions at UNC Charlotte is an enterprise issue that directly impacts the success of projects within BA. As demonstrated by the service listing in Figure 8, many BA IT services have an enterprise-level impact. BA IT projects with an enterprise-level impact should be evaluated, planned, resourced, and executed in coordination with other enterprise-level efforts. This requires cooperation, engagement, and discipline from both ITS and BA. 

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Enterprise Service Ownership
Systems and services without clear ownership have created challenges related to change management, resource allocation, and planning.

There are instances where systems were deployed within BA before formal support teams and service delivery models were established. Consequently, services related to these systems lack clear and intentional design. This is particularly problematic where multiple instances of the same technology have been implemented independently across different departments.

Examples that we identified in our assessment include:  

  • Door Access –  Facilities Lock Shop manages the door access system, Open Options. Within Auxiliary Services, 49er Card services manages the creation of the access/ID cards. ITS provides access to Banner data for both Open Options and Blackboard Transact. 

    Among these units, there is no clear owner of the University’s card services. This is confusing to end users, and creates challenges around integration, planning, and various business processes. Lack of clarity in ownership over the card services at the University has created some breakdowns in communication and planning, which in turn have resulted in deployment challenges for the new touchless ID cards.
     
  • Business Intelligence – Ownership for reporting and analytics services within BA is unclear. ITS has established a Business Intelligence unit, which is intended to provide centralized reporting and analytics services to the University. In the course of our assessment, it became apparent that this group is not consistently utilized. Often, BA IT staff are attempting to respond to reporting and analytics related needs without the support of the Business Intelligence group.
     
  • Project Management – Formal IT project management services are provided by both ITS and BA IT. See Role of Technical Operations and Planning for further discussion about the project management roles of TOP and ITS.
     
  • Security Cameras – The current state of security camera services includes personnel from the Facilities Lock Shop, TOP, ITS, and University Police. The Avigilon Network Video Recorder (NVR) project is underway with the goal to consolidate all camera feeds into one control room, but support for the Avigilon software will still need a clear owner.
     
  • Digital Signage – Business Affairs has collaborated with Academic Affairs to purchase an enterprise license for the Four Winds Interactive (FWI) digital signage system. The system is scalable and is intended to grow into an enterprise solution. However, at this time, many units across campus continue to use their own digital signage technologies.

As BA and Academic Affairs look to scale this service to other departments across campus, intentional service design will be important (see also IT Service Catalog). The Service Level Agreement that has been established by BA and Academic Affairs is a good start to intentional service design. 

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IT Service Catalog
ITS has developed a service catalog, but there is no clear process in place to ensure that services managed by BA IT are included and maintained as part of the Service Catalog. Similarly, there is no mechanism for establishing, monitoring, and maintaining service level agreements (SLAs) between service owners and customers.

The University is in the process of implementing Cherwell, an IT Service Management (ITSM) tool. In the short term, it will be used to replace the current ITS service desk system.  The long term goal for Cherwell is to expand functionality beyond service desk management and establish an enterprise ITSM tool that is used across the University. 

Cherwell2 functionality includes:

  • Embedded ITIL processes, including Service Portfolio and Service Catalog Management. ITIL is a set of practices for IT service management that focuses on aligning IT services with the needs of business.
  • IT Service Desk tools for managing incidents, problems and questions.
  • Configuration Management Database (CMDB) with discovery and inventory capabilities to populate IT asset and configuration data. Used to help assess the risk or impact of an infrastructure change.
  • IT Self-Service Portal for customers
  • ITSM Dashboards & Reporting
  • Service Integration and Management (SIAM) and Multi-Sourcing Service Integration (MSI) functionality to support multiple service provider governance and provide visibility to assess and manage the ownership and control of outsourced IT services.

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Data Analytics and Reporting
Stakeholders within BA and users of BA systems and applications reported a need for more accurate, reliable, and readily available data and reporting-related services. ITS has established a Business Intelligence group; however, services provided by this group are not consistently utilized across BA.

The availability of data to support operational and strategic decision making continues to grow. At UNC Charlotte, the distributed nature of IT has contributed to the growing number and complexity of information systems spread across campus. With so much data, comes the potential for enhanced reporting and predictive analytics. However, managing and reporting on data from the many disparate systems across campus has proven challenging. 

There are two IT staff in BA who are formally recognized as report writers; one in Business Services and one in Financial Services. At least half of BA IT-banded employees reported spending some time on analytics and reporting (the majority of which reported spending about 5% of their time). Users of BA systems reported a high degree of frustration related to processes required to create reports, many of which are required for compliance and University business reporting. Other users reported a desire to better utilize data to inform operational and strategic decision-making, stating that current endeavors to do so are time-consuming and tedious.

ITS has established a Business Intelligence unit that includes two Business and Technical Applications Specialists and one Technology Applications Analyst. Positioning Business Intelligence within ITS enables  Business Intelligence staff to more directly influence the technical architecture and define integration strategies for disparate technology and data sources.Some IT staff within BA reported a desire for access to dashboards managed by the Business Intelligence group within ITS. Currently, BA IT staff must submit requests for new reports and wait for ITS to respond.  BA IT staff feel that having access to these dashboards would enable them to be more responsive to user needs. 

The University has an Operational Data Store (ODS), but does not have a data warehouse. There is no data governance program3 in place. The University has invested in tools such as WebFocus and Tableau, and is open to researching other tools as well. BA system users reported a desire for further training and access to these tools.

Although some positions are recognized to have a report writing focus, there are no IT banded job classifications available to the University that specifically describe responsibilities for reporting and analytics.

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Role of Technical Operations and Planning
TOP fills an important role in coordinating resources to meet division-level IT needs, providing business analysis services, and helping individual BA IT units with specific projects. There are opportunities to better utilize TOP services with increased transparency and more deliberate service design.

Figure 11: TOP staff time allocationThere is overlap between the project management function in ITS and the services that TOP offers. However, by being embedded in the division, TOP has been able to highly responsive to BA stakeholder project needs. Appendix A provides a list of projects within BA, the majority of which are managed by TOP.

On the BA website, TOP describes themselves as a group that solves business problems with creative, solutions-based thinking that maximizes technology expenditures and University resources. Throughout our interviews, we heard numerous examples of TOP acting as a facilitator and coordinator of services. Many BA staff reported that TOP provides critical project management services. However, individuals within Financial Services reported uncertainty around what TOP’s role was within the division.

Currently, TOP has four staff who are dedicated to supporting specific department in BA:

  • Two Project Managers support projects and operations in Business Services
  • One Project Manager supports projects and operations in Risk Management and Safety Services 
  • One Project Manager supports projects and operations in Facilities Management

TOP Project Managers will also help to fill non-technical skill gaps, helping to bolster communication, coordination, and collaboration across the IT units within BA and ITS.

Figure 11 shows how, on average, TOP staff report spending their time. The graph demonstrates that TOP staff currently spend the majority of their time on project management and business analysis-related activities. Note that responses that averaged less than 2% were removed. 

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Communication among BA IT Managers
BA IT units often operate in silos and do not have formal channels for knowledge sharing, collaboration, or coordination amongst the units. This leads to missed opportunities for BA IT teams to collaborate on projects and engage in operational and strategic planning activities at the division level. 

 BA IT managers do meet with ITS and participate in IT Partner Updates. BA IT managers also meet with TOP project managers on an individual basis to discuss project needs.

The meetings with ITS and TOP are not providing sufficient opportunity for BA IT managers to interface with one another, discuss needs and projects, and identify collaboration opportunities in a group setting.  Too much reliance is placed on TOP to identify opportunities for collaboration among BA IT units. 

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Management Skills for BA IT Managers
There is a need to establish stronger management skills for IT staff within Business Affairs.

Many IT Managers have been promoted from within the organization and have strong technical understanding of their unit’s IT environment. Upon promotion, IT Managers are required to attend leadership training.

However, perspective gleaned from our study indicates that more attention is needed for the development of management skills. For example, it was reported that some managers are easily distracted by day-to-day operations when dealing with more complex projects and planning efforts. Consequently, projects often languish without intervention from TOP.

There continues to be a need for stronger non-technical skill sets; specifically, management topics of communication, collaboration, and planning. The IT Managers have an important role in leading, managing, and executing projects, and identifying opportunities for efficiency within the division. In order to do these things well, disciplined management skills are important.

This is particularly important in the areas that have larger IT staff and budgets, such as Facilities Management, TOP, and Financial Services. Some of these units are managing IT operations of comparable scale to a small college or university.

Of these units, TOP demonstrates the strongest leadership capability. In some instances, it was reported that TOP will help when gaps in management and leadership are observed.

With the exception of the Director of TOP, job descriptions for those BA IT staff with managerial and supervisory responsibilities are more technically focused, with limited emphasis on management skills. For example, the official job title and description for the Director of Financial Systems Support is Business Systems Analyst.  The official job title and description for the Facilities Information Systems Director is Business and Technical Applications Specialist. Neither of these job descriptions focuses on management competencies.

The University’s IT Master Plan includes an initiative around core competencies for IT staff, including specific competencies for those in IT management positions.  Human Resources has hired a consultant to help define core competencies for ITS and this work is estimated to be completed early this summer.  Once the competencies are identified for ITS, the University will begin to explore pathways for expanding the competencies to other IT units across campus. 

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IT Support for Risk Management, Safety and Security
There are no IT positions assigned to support the systems and applications within Risk Management, Safety, and Security.

To fill this gap, the unit has assigned IT responsibilities to individuals who lack the appropriate technical expertise and experience to support these systems and applications effectively and confidently. For some systems and applications, there are no assigned staffing resources. In some instances, personnel from other areas across BA, including TOP and Facilities Management, are helping to fill staffing gaps.

The table below shows identifies the systems managed by RMSS, and identifies the individual role that has primary responsibility for supporting each system at this time. 

System Name Primary Technical Support Resource
Dispatch Operations Dispatcher*
Blue Light Phones No staff identified
DCI, NCAware and CJ LEADs No staff identified
Emergency Messaging Lieutenant*
Mobile Command Center ITS IT Analyst
Business Continuity Business Continuity Analyst
OSSI (CAD and RMS) Dispatcher*
L-3 Communication Mobile Vision (Police Body and Dashboard Cameras)  Associate Director of Police and Public Safety*
Alertus Project Manager (TOP) / Facilities Management
Avigilon Security Cameras Facilities Lock Shop
SuperMicro Dispatcher*
Radio Communication Dispatcher*
Fire Alarm System Dispatcher*
Call Recorder No staff identified
LiveSafe Lieutenant*
*Indicates a non-IT-banded job classification

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IT Support for E-commerce
E-commerce IT services and support relies heavily on technical duties assigned to non-IT banded staff with BA.

E-commerce services are primarily delivered and managed by the Controller’s Office, with some support from ITS. The E-commerce Manager has technical responsibilities that include administration of the TouchNet Gateway and Marketplace. Specific technical duties entail gateway host account configurations and user accesses administration.

ITS provides networking support, compliance-related security support, and a variety of operational support services, such as software integration and certificate management.

The E-commerce Manager is effective in managing functional components of the e-commerce service and working with users across campus to meet their business needs. However, this role should be supplemented with an appropriately skilled technical specialist who has the skills necessary to administer the University’s e-commerce environment. This includes managing the technical security aspects of the e-commerce function.

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Networking Services
Many units within BA reported a need for more timely response to network-related service requests. Delays in network-related services impacts the ability for BA IT staff to efficiently execute projects that require action from the networking team (ex. configuring a firewall port exception).

All of the units within BA rely on ITS for networking services. There is a high level of demand for networking services related to the number of devices managed across BA, particularly within Auxiliary Services. Examples include Kronos time clocks, door access readers, building automation systems, dining POS devices, etc.

Network-related service level expectations have not been clearly defined between ITS and Business Affairs. Establishing clear service level expectations not only requires agreement about how quickly services should be provided, but also the lead time required from customers and the format for submitting service requests.

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Last updated: June 29, 2016