April 1996 Volume 12:6
A University-wide task force has produced a new model for computing services that will guide organizational change over the next few years. It's no magic bullet or guarantee of success. It offers instead a way of doing business that gives members of the community the chance to make Penn better and exposes each of us to the costs of bad decisions and the benets of good ones. The model values organizational self-reliance even as it encourages confederation for the common good.
The userThe user is at the center of the model. Each person ideally has a local computing "home" and takes all computing questions there.
Primary supportSchools and administrative divisions are responsible for primary support. This includes frontline customer support and support of local processes, services, and innovations. Units can provide primary support themselves or buy it from other schools, from the central computing group, or from outside Penn. The task force urges that guidelines for basic primary support levels be set and that Penn institutionalize ways to keep those levels moving up.
Secondary servicesBeyond this circle of primary support are expanding circles of secondary services - provided by schools, by ISC, or by outside vendors. But the map of services is irrelevant to the user: The primary support person navigates that landscape.
Process teamsThe model offers a potentially powerful way for Penn to take action at the University level. A few cross-cutting processes will be funded directly and managed across traditional organizational boundaries. For the moment, Penn will concentrate on two or three high-priority processes, such as "academic innovation" and "student services." These processes can be considered "institutional bets" with high potential payback.
CostsCost-effectiveness, targeted investment, and giving units more control over their costs are aims of the model. In an area where investment is sure to expand, Penn wants to see money saved in some areas and reinvested in others. For example, as ISC reduces the number of things it does for allocated costs and cuts costs in other ways, funds can be returned to the Provost's budget. The task force strongly urges that these particular savings be spent strategically on forward-looking computing activities. Process teams are a prime target for these funds. We freely and frankly say that we cannot tell whether this model will be seen by individual units as costing them more or less. Rather, in an environment of exploding demand, the model will give units more control over their costs. The model tries to unite responsibility and authority where they have grown apart, to reveal real costs where they have become obscured, and to return choice to purchasers where it has been eroded.