III. Leveraging Information Systems for the University

Current administrative information systems at UVM are reasonably modern, reliable, and well supported. Core business and record keeping functions are dependable. However, our ability to provide a comprehensive picture of the University through our institutional databases is limited. Supporting stable, reliable and secure information systems should continue to be among our highest priorities, but we need to invest in improving our decision support systems. Many tasks that could be accomplished seamlessly, or automatically with modern information technology, are still performed in a frustratingly inefficient fashion. We must redesign business processes that involve excessive paper generation, routing, handling, filing, storage and, finally, shredding. For example, we cannot afford to have faculty and staff wasting time filing forms and reviewing paper grade reports to try to figure out which students are at risk.

Supporting Decisions with Quality Data

We recommend building a shared repository for University data. All offices responsible for collecting, storing, analyzing, and publishing University data and analyses will have access to this common facility. Institutional Studies, Financial Analysis and Budgeting, and Administrative Information Systems have been developing applications and prototypes based on this model. A common database and easy-to-use tools will improve our ability to develop a comprehensive institutional record that will facilitate planning and decision making.

Electronic Workflow

Offices throughout UVM are finding ways of replacing labor intensive, paper-based processes with easy-to-use, efficient electronic versions. We recommend deploying a common electronic workflow infrastructure to support their efforts. Just as CIT supports an institutional Web server and an email list server that all units can use for their work, a common, centrally supported workflow engine can provide a shared, consistent method for automating workflow. This will accelerate the process of migrating toward more efficient, paperless operations, and improve the consistency and stability of electronic forms applications.

These initiatives provide avenues to improve collaboration between the many units providing and supporting information systems. More opportunities to construct a community from separate units will arise. These include shared training, and cooperative efforts, such as developing quality documentation of institutional processes.

Attracting and Retaining IT Expertise

UVM's compensation package for employees engaged in information systems development has proven to be a real barrier to attracting and retaining highly trained and talented information systems employees. The ongoing work of the Changing Workforce Task Force and the upcoming compensation study should address the specific problems of IT staff compensation. Where feasible and appropriate, adjustments to job definitions and compensation should be made.

Core Systems

When core administrative systems have been implemented at UVM, work has focused on providing features that meet the most critical business processes. In finance, we keep track of revenue and expenses. In human resources we pay employees.

There are important but less critical business processes that are not fully supported by the core systems. This has led individual units to develop local systems that augment the features of the core systems. This "distributed" development has the advantage of being tailored to meet the specific needs of each unit, but there are serious disadvantages.

Where possible, resources ought to be invested in applications that can be deployed and supported widely across the enterprise.

We recommend Administrative Information Systems, working collaboratively with UVM's other IS departments, with the stewards of the core systems, and with employees developing and using local systems:

This work should be closely integrated with the work and recommendations of the Core Business Functions Committee.


Required actions: