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Concerns and Enthusiasms about Penn's New Model: The Voices of the Task Force

February 8, 1996

As Penn's new model for computing services began to take shape, the task force that designed it responded to a brief poll:

1. What's your biggest concern about the new model?
2. What's the best thing about the model?
3. To what in the new model are you most committed?

Summarized here are the task force's concerns and enthusiasms.


Strikingly, the same things that worry people the most are the things they like the best.

Concern #1: We want cross-cutting activities. We want to be greater than the sum of the parts. But we worry about how to make it happen.

This is the most common concern.

"The difficulties will be at the interfaces between local support, secondary support, service bureaus, and process teams."

"Build a strong communication strategy into the model."

Process teams have to receive funding; we "can't take all of it out of the hide of already stretched resources."

I fear we'll "create isolated pockets of expertise that don't communicate."

"In accepting school dominions, we lose opportunities to break down barriers between schools."

If Penn's leaders take us seriously about integrating computing decisions into the life of the institution, do we have ways to "coordinate the computing aspects of those decisions across programs and processes?"

#2: We love primary support--but worry about how to get it done.

This concern is a close second.

"I worry about primary support being truly local. Does the model really provide incentives for schools to distribute computing staff?"

Can we make student support happen?

"I worry that have-nots will continue to lack resources to provide proper support..."

"Local support may be one person deep. We need consortial arrangements."

#3: What about money?

I worry that exploding demand puts so much pressure on dollars and staff that we won't be able to move fast enough or without hurting service in the short run.

The model gives us new ways "to do business as usual," but "no enlightenment on how to meet Penn's need for increased investment."

#4: What about the details?

"The model is still without substance; what will make or break it are the details. They are appropriately left to others to deal with, ...[but] I'm concerned the next steps may not receive the attention and review that they will need."


Enthusiasm #1: Support close to the user

By far, this what people like best about the model.

"The user-centric approach."

"Focus on the user."

"The principle that support should be closest to the user."

"The concentric nature of the model feels right."

#2: Clarity of roles

"Pushes responsibility back to the schools."

"ISC out of the primary support business."

"Serious effort to get consensus on division of labor and reduce ambiguity about who's responsible for what."

#3: Basis in reality; flexibility; market forces

"It reflects an understanding that the world is not flat and that water does not flow up hill. By recognizing differences between individual users, departments, and schools ...., it outlines a realistic mix of strategies .... and provides a combination of standards and market forces as mechanisms that will encourage positive change."

"I like the idea of creating a flexible organization... making IT an adaptable, intelligent organism that doesn't need a task force in the future to rise to a challenge. If our organizational changes are accompanied by this fundamental change in thinking by managers and staff in IT departments and by Deans and Directors, then we will have served the University quite well indeed."

"The market-based provision of services should let managers make prudent trade-offs about computing services versus other needs."


Commitment #1: Support close to the user

This is the most frequent commitment.

"The principle that support should be closest to the user."

" structures located close to the client."

"...the local support model."

"Distributed staffing."

And the complement: "....making secondary support services work."

#2: Confederation

"Developing cross-disciplinary coalitions"

"The notion of process teams enabling faculty innovation."

"The move toward confederated activities, particularly ... process teams... ."

#3: Moving forward

"Trying it out."

"Only to carrying it forward to see how it develops."

#4: Integration; survival; accountability

"....weaving information technology planning into the fabric of overall University planning."

"Surviving in it. Seriously, a mixed market model may create incentives for new kinds of self-preservation that may not mirror planned objectives."

"Making clearer the activities of ISC and holding those responsible accountable."

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