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Penn’s Information Systems & Computing Receives ISO Certification

August 22, 2008 :: Shirley Ross, Information Systems and Computing

The University of Pennsylvania’s central computing organization, Information Systems & Computing, has received the highly-regarded ISO certification for its Data Center, making it the first computing organization in the Ivy League to receive this recognition. ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is the world’s largest developer and publisher of international standards and has 157 member countries.

“The ability of our organization to obtain international certification provides tangible proof that ISC is focused on being the best it can be,” said ISC Vice President Robin Beck.

ISO certification confirms at an international level that ISC’s Data Center provides predictable, repeatable, and consistent services to its customers with a focus on quality, customer satisfaction, and continual improvement, according to Data Center IT Senior Director Donna Manley.

“We are proud to have earned recognition from ISO, an organization known for sharing technological advances and good management practices and for disseminating innovative ideas,” said Manley.

While best known for the quality standards it establishes in the manufacture and specification of goods, ISO standards range from traditional activities, such as agriculture and construction, through mechanical engineering, manufacturing, and distribution to information and communication technologies to standards for good management practices.

“When products and services meet expectations, we take it for granted,” Beck said. “But when products and services are sub-standard, we quickly notice. Standards ensure desirable characteristics of products and services such as quality, environmental friendliness, safety, reliability, efficiency, and interchangeability – all at an economical cost.”

When ISC’s Computer Operations started the certification initiative three years ago, they knew it would be a thorough and challenging process.

“We saw ISO certification as part of our on-going efforts of continuous improvement in services we provide to our clients at Penn,” said Ray Davis, the Executive Director of ISC’s Systems Engineering Operations under which the Data Center reports. “We knew the work required to achieve ISO certification would be a high bar to measure ourselves against. We also knew working through the process would provide more pronounced and interactive opportunities for employees to contribute directly to Penn’s success. This win-win scenario made the additional work well worth the effort.”

Step one in the ISO certification process introduced Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) methodology to ISC’s Computer Operations team. This meant capturing and quantifying performance to determine if customers’ needs were being met.

“It was through this effort and various process-re-engineering efforts that ISC eliminated numerous manual processes and streamlined others. In a majority of cases ISC automated processes,” explained Manley. “The entire Computer Operations staff pitched in. They contributed to the development and sustainability of a Quality Management System built upon methodical handling of logistical areas, such as documentation and supplier relationships, and continuous process improvement that relies on staff at all levels to identify areas for improvement and to ensure needed changes happen.”

Increases in efficiency will result in cost reductions of $150k+ annually, Manley estimates.

To maintain certification requires a surveillance audit twice annually. Penn’s ISC organization is next scheduled for audit in December.

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