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Harvey Mudd College Information Technology Strategy

IT Decision Making (Governance)

Permalink for this paragraph 0 HMC’s strategic vision principles make clear the need for improvement at every level. Such improvement requires innovation and ongoing decision making. Information Technology decision making is inextricably entwined with every other aspect of HMC. The college needs a strong IT governance model or “structure and process of authoritative decision making across issues that are significant for external as well as internal stakeholders” 1. And “authoritative” here means “well understood and widely accepted”.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 The past governance model for IT at Harvey Mudd College was focused almost exclusively on the Computing and Information Services Department. The CIO, who is a Vice-President and member of the Cabinet, is tasked with management of the CIS department, and is advised by the Computing Committee, which consists of three faculty members and a student. The Cabinet provides guidance on major IT issues. Some aspects of IT governance are handled at the Claremont Consortium level, by committees like the ITC and the Sakai Administration Team.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 Many (most?) decisions about IT are about an infrastructure that affects everyone in the HMC community almost all the time and is the foundation of the organization’s IT capabilities. It is therefore vital that the college develop a governance model that can capture the concerns and needs of the different constituencies in the community (students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees …), can guide CIS, and be flexible and responsive to changing needs and a changing IT environment.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 Decisions about information technology that have significant campus impact are currently made at different places in the organization, with varying levels of consultation with clients and stakeholders, and varying levels of consideration of impact. Examples include:

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  • within CIS (for example, the decision to acquire Zimbra as an email application or the annual decision as to what software should go on lab computer images)
  • at the level of the Claremont Colleges Consortium (for example, the decision to deploy Jenzabar CX, decisions about wireless technology or the choice of Footprints as an IT trouble ticket system)
  • within HMC departments (for example, the choice within F&M to adopt EMS for event management or Lenel for door lock controls; the choice within HR to adopt the ADP timekeeping system; the choice within Computer Science of an alternative to Postini for spam filtering; software support decisions within the Math Department; the decision within Admission to use Recruitment Plus).

Permalink for this paragraph 0 It is quite common for IT decisions to be made at lots of different points in an organization. It can also be challenging for the institution to coordinate IT decision making in order to develop a coherent and integrated set of technical choices for the organization. Lack of coordination can lead to fractured support of systems, limited levels of knowledge about particular systems, lack of use of features that could improve people’s working lives. All of these can prevent an organization from reaching its goals effectively.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 HMC does not have a formal process for the development of policies that cover information technology. What policies there are have mainly been produced within CIS, although some, such as the acceptable use policy, or the copyright policies, are Claremont wide. There are lacunae in policy areas such as data access and classification, data retention and web policies. So the college needs a framework that will ensure that policies are vetted by the appropriate constellation of committees and stakeholders.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 HMC does not have a formal process for the management of its project portfolio. There is no mechanism for setting the priority of IT projects, whether within CIS or across the institution. The absence of such a mechanism hampers IT decision making, if only because of the lack of clarity about how projects get approval, funding and resources.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 HMC needs to address these challenges of IT governance and decide how it will control and coordinate IT decision making.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 Examples of Information Technology Governance Goals:

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  2. Develop, deploy and optimize an IT governance model for the College
  3. Ensure that all stakeholders understand and use the IT governance model appropriately

Notes:

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  2. Gayle, Tewarie, & White, Governance in the twenty-first-century university: Approaches to effective leadership and strategic management. 2003.
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