CIO's Blog

Stephen Frazier, Western Illinois University

How Are Things Going To Be Different With IT Governance?

The implementation of IT governance at Western Illinois University required that two questions be answered by the President’s Cabinet.  One pertained to the membership of the top-level IT governance decision making group (called the Council) and the other question was who will become the owner (Owner) of the IT governance process.  They made these decisions last week.  Since then, a question that I’ve been asked is “How are things going to be any different with IT Governance?”  Before I respond to that question, let me provide a little background information that may shed some light on my response.

Background Information

During the President’s Cabinet meeting on November 11, 2013, Dr. Neumann (Associate Provost) and I had the opportunity to meet with the President’s Cabinet to discuss the new IT Governance framework and the new 2013-2018 IT Strategic Plan for Western Illinois University. As you may know, the Board of Trustees accepted the IT Strategic Plan at their board meeting in October and one of its intitiatives is the implementation of IT governance.

The IT Governance Planning Committee made three recommendations to the President’s Cabinet for the composition of the IT Governance Council and two recommendations for the Owner. In regard to the Council, the Planning Committee recommended the options that it be the 1) President’s Cabinet, 2) the President’s Cabinet with a representative from each of the divisions, or 3) simply a representative from each division. In the latter case, of course, a campus-wide budget would be necessary. All three recommendations included the CIO, the Budget Officer and legal counsel serving on the Council. In regard to the Owner, the planning committee recommended that this individual be either the CIO or the President.

At the start of the Spring 2014 semester, this IT Governance Council will become the top level IT Governance body, which receives proposals from its three working groups (called Alliances). As proposals are forwarded to this Council, it will determine which proposals should be moved forward. After prioritizing them, the Council will give the proposals to the Owner of the IT governance process (governance is established to aid this individual in IT decision making). The Owner is responsible for information technology at the University and for implementing anything that s/he accepts.

At the Cabinet meeting, the President and VPs selected the first option. Therefore, they, along with the CIO, the Budget Officer and the attorney, will comprise the IT Governance Council. In addition, they decided that the President will be the Owner of the IT Governance process. The President’s Cabinet traditionally has made all major IT funding decisions and therefore they felt that they have been performing the Council’s role in the past.

How Are Things Going To Be Different With IT Governance?

I have been asked whether anything will have changed by implementing IT Governance given that the President and his Cabinet will be assuming these top-level IT governance roles. Typically the question has been phrased as, “So, how are things going to be any different?” I’ve also been asked if my CIO responsibility as the senior IT decision maker for the University is changing because the President will be the Owner of the IT governance process.

IT governance has been implemented in a variety of ways at colleges and universities throughout the world and most likely no two models are exactly the same. I am optimistic that the way we have chosen to implement it here at WIU will be effective… let me explain why. In the past, IT enhancements and new initiatives proposed by campus members could be vetoed by a director or the divsion’s Vice President. If that happened, the other VPs and the President may not have had the opportunity to weigh in on the matter. Now that the President’s Cabinet will be assuming the role of the IT Governace Council, all proposals forwarded to the Council from the Alliances will be considered by all members of the President’s Cabinet. The University’s voice in IT matters, therefore, will be considered by the top level of our administration. In my opinion, that’s a good thing!

By serving on the Council, senior administration will have a greater opportunity to be involved in the aplication of technology in teaching, learning, research, and the administrative processes of the University as well as how it applies to the student life experience. As the CIO, I will be a member of the Council and I can answer questions, provide recommendations and subsquently implement proposals approved by the President in his role as the Owner. In one respect, while I become directly acountable to the President for implementation of the proposals he approves as the Owner, I do not see my current role as CIO changing.

In the past, large IT projects often needed funds to be provided by a VP or the President’s Cabinet. Under IT governance, the President’s Cabinet will determine whether funds are available for those proposals they want to move forward. Who better to determine how to fund the proposals they accept than the President’s Cabinet acting in their role as the Council?

Another difference is that the new IT Governance will provide faculty, staff and students the opportunity to fully participate in the IT decision-making process. Members of the University will be encouraged to propose suggestions for IT enhancements, particpate in the IT goveranance working groups and attend any of the meetings of the Alliances or the Council. The entire IT governance process will be open and transparent.

Where Are We At?

So, where is the planning committee at in the process of implementing IT governance? Letters have been sent to the Faculty Senate, SGA, Chairs Council, Registrar’s Office, Vice President, and President requesting that they appoint individuals from their areas to serve on the Alliances. The planning group’s intention is to conduct orientations before the end of the semester and to kick off the IT governance process at the beginning of the Spring semester.

In preparation, we are developing a website and an automated online workflow process for the submission and tracking of proposals. Faculty, staff and students will be able to use their ECom credentials to complete proposals online. As proposals work their way through the governance process, submitters be informed of the status of their requests at each step via emails generated by the tracking system.

Incidentally, the IT Governance Planning Committee continues to meet every Monday at 3:00 p.m. in Library 180. Anyone and everyone is welcome to join the group and participate in the planning!

IT Strategic Plan Priorities

During the President’s Cabinet meeting, we also discussed the IT Strategic Plan priorities. These included the consolidation of AIMS and ESS with University Technology, the ERP (mainframe), improving the IT Infrastructure (including bandwidth, ownership and funding of the network) and a 3rd party assessment of the University’s IT security stance.

I’ll talk more about these priorities in future blog posts. In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me. My door is always open!

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Author: Stephen Frazier, CIO

Stephen Frazier heads up the University Technology department as the CIO at Western Illinois University. He can be reached at sl-frazier@wiu.edu.

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