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BRG HCC IT ASSESSMENT

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As Houston Community College moves its Information Technology
services forward to achieve the goals set out by the Board of Trustees, Chancellor Maldonado, and Dr. Bill Carter, this report is intended to serve as a road-map and guide of where the institution has been, where it is now, and how to chart a course for the future. Over the last few years there has been incredible growth and change in the college, the student body, and the overall HCC community, as well as the technologies and processes the college uses to serve these populations.

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BRG HCC IT ASSESSMENT

  1. 1. 1EXECUTIVE SUMMARY HCC IT ASSESSMENT EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
  2. 2. 2 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Acknowledgements BRG would like to thank the following individuals and institutions for their assistance in completing this project The students, faculty, and staff of the Houston Community College System Dr. Ceasar Maldonado Dr. Bill Carter Austin Community College Fayetteville State University Lone Star College Hardin-Simmons University Maricopa Community Colleges NC A&T State University Shaw University The University of Alabama University of Houston University of New Orleans University of Texas at Arlington University of Texas at El Paso Western Texas College
  3. 3. 3EXECUTIVE SUMMARY As Houston Community College moves its Information Technology services forward to achieve the goals set out by the Board of Trustees, Chancellor Maldonado, and Dr. Bill Carter, this report is intended to serve as a road-map and guide of where the institution has been, where it is now, and how to chart a course for the future. Over the last few years there has been incredible growth and change in the college, the student body, and the overall HCC community, as well as the technologies and processes the college uses to serve these populations. From 2005 to 2018, the time it takes a student to go from Kindergarten into our classrooms, HCC’s campus infrastructure has more than doubled, from 2 million to 4 million square feet. The average student population has increased by almost 10,000. In terms of technology, these same students have progressed from using desktops, to laptops, to smartphones, tablets, and mobile technology. HCC’s Information Technology department has met each of these changes by rapidly tackling the challenges they bring, and doggedly pursuing the opportunities they present.
  4. 4. 4 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
  5. 5. 5EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The IT department has done a commendable job expanding its service offerings to keep pace with HCC’s rapid growth. HCC’s institutional and technology leadership have provided much needed continuity of service through these shifting times. The IT department has been successfully navigating a sea of both internal and external changes since 2005 and continued to provide core services even as the college environment has undergone numerous and fundamental transformations. This report represents an inflection point in the department’s development. For the last several years the department has needed to focus on developing new services to accommodate growth, but now the department has the opportunity to assess how those services can be matured and improved upon. Growing quickly means doing what needs to be done. Now the focus can shift to improvement. This trade-off between maintenance and improvement is typical in organizations that see rapid expansion. This report is designed to provide an in-depth guide that can move the department forward. Methodology In order to have a better grasp of how these advances can be of maximum benefit, this report examines HCC’s IT processes from an Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) perspective, a stakeholder perspective through the use of first person interviews and focus groups, and a benchmark analysis that compares HCC to other, similar institutions. Together, these reviews paint a picture of an organization striving to further align its operational IT assets with its institutional mission, provide more services focused on student success, and enhance its customer-centric environment. Each of the Directors in the following departments – Application Development, Systems Support, Customer Support, IT Security, Network, IT Administration, and Construction Project Management were interviewed in detail. A representative sample of all the employees within these departments were also interviewed on a 1:1 basis. A detailed document request from each of these different departments along with these interviews enabled BRG to get a current assessment of HCC’s IT systems. BRG then compiled all the findings and observations into the following areas – IT Governance, Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation, and Continual Service Improvement. Information Technology Infrastructure Library - ITIL ITIL is a globally accepted standard for examining IT operations and helping to move them from a back-end support function to a major driver of institutional innovation and service improvement. In the 1980s as IT began to rapidly develop, many organizations adopted an ITIL framework as a means to seamlessly incorporate IT into their operations and elevate IT from an internally-focused functional role, to a customer-oriented innovation role. The ITIL process outlines goals that align with HCC’s needs and boundaries and sets a timeline to implement those goals, all the while making sure that the focus remains on the end user and service provision.
  6. 6. 6 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY We can think of IT service provisioning the way we do a restaurant to gain a clearer understanding of what ITIL is about. In a typical restaurant setting, the food a customer orders doesn’t show up until after they’ve seen a menu. The cooks don’t begin preparing the food at the grocery store. The waiters aren’t responsible for ordering supplies, and the stove isn’t kept in the freezer. Unless each element of the kitchen, food, staff, equipment and operations are executed in the right order at the right time, a meal never arrives at the table. ITIL considers IT from this same perspective – breaking down the steps and processes of providing services and measuring how well they are executed. ITIL also creates transparency for managing IT operations. By examining IT as a process that provides services the same way a restaurant provides and serves food, you can always pinpoint issues and take actions to correct them. Management can also anticipate and plan for increasingly more efficient and effective service delivery. This increased level of transparency makes management of the IT infrastructure more stable and thorough. Because ITIL looks at IT as a process that develops over time, an ITIL maturity score indicates the current state of IT progression. For instance an aspect of IT that is informally used without documentation or a standardized format, would be considered as “ less mature” whereas as a formal process that is subject to revisions for improvement would be considered as “highly mature”. The ITIL framework uses a 5 point score to indicate a processes’ maturity. It is important to note that a function’s numeric score does not indicate “good” or “bad”, only the degree of that function’s formalization. This metric helps establish the progress of an IT offering in supporting and optimizing the end-user experience.
  7. 7. 7EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
  8. 8. 8 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Stakeholder Perceptions To measure the perceptions of stakeholders, the report also includes observations from separate focus group discussions, key informant interviews, and quantitative polling. These findings are based on the experiences of end-users in navigating the IT environment. Groups of faculty, staff, and students were each separately interviewed at various HCC campuses and asked to provide feedback on their experiences with IT. These lay perspectives are useful in establishing a base- line for services and determining areas for end-user improvement. It is worth bearing in mind however, that across the spectrum of organizations end-user sentiments often reflect non-technical understanding and are predicated on instances where users required assistance. In other words, users generally only contact IT for help when something has gone wrong. Benchmark A benchmark comparison has also been included that compares and contrasts HCC’s IT services to those of 13 other colleges and universities. Each of these institutions submitted an assessment of their own IT departments including the overall size of their school’s IT footprint. This comparison helps place HCC alongside its peers and provides a snapshot of how HCC’s IT offerings compare to those of other schools. Out of respect for the participating institutions, school specific data has been scrubbed from the comparison. Taken as a whole, these three review processes cover the technical, the internal end-user, and the external industry placement for HCC’s IT, and leads to three overarching conclusions. Each of these areas are directly related to both the core function of service-driven IT, as well as building a customer centric model of service delivery, and a technologically superior means of achieving optimal IT and data system management. Progress in each of these areas involves several steps and lower level recommendations ultimately leading to the full transformation of IT services into a driver of student-focused, college-wide innovation. In order to move its IT offerings forward in support of HCC’s institutional goals the areas of service maturity, organizational design, and cloud migration, need to be addressed.
  9. 9. 9EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ITIL Observations Raising the overall ITIL maturity level will take a concerted effort to develop policies and procedures that build a culture of documentation, improvement, and cross-discipline and cross-functional communication. Enhanced service management is the most essential element in raising the maturity and sophistication of HCC’s IT. IT offerings across the college would benefit from a tighter focus on: • How those offerings are executed • The best ways to integrate IT offerings with instruction and other core college functions • How to standardize the implementation of those offerings • How to communicate and share information about the offerings • How to manage continued review and improvement of offerings Laying a foundation that values service management is the critical step towards maturing HCC’s ITIL processes.
  10. 10. 10 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The focus of better ITIL management is concerned with five major processes, each of which considers IT as a distinct part of the service life- cycle. Beginning with service strategy where services are conceived, through their design phase, to the implementation, operation, and review. The five major phases are: • Service Strategy - IT planning • Service Design - Creating IT services that are supportable and deliver the desired functionality • Service Transition - Actual deployment of IT services and processes and answers the question, “How do we implement this”? • Service Operation - Direct interaction with users including accepting inbound requests and issues, keeps users fully informed • Continual Service Improvement - Improving service quality on an ongoing basis In order to mature these service-focused processes, HCC will need to bolster the strength of the IT department’s human resources.
  11. 11. 11EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Organizational Design As is to be expected from an institution of its size, HCC’s IT services are legion and support all aspects of the college ranging from finance and administration, to instructor technology, to student e-mail. In essence, HCC runs on IT. Because so much of the school’s ability to function rests on its IT capabilities, IT assets and personnel should be optimally deployed to create transparency, responsiveness, and synergy. HCC’s IT has enormous responsibilities, and refocusing some organizational attention towards easing that burden means shifting reporting structures to better align with service delivery. HCC IT needs to consider alternative ways of structuring its organizational design to build a stronger sense of unity, service, and collaboration. Do you expect your full-time IT staff to: *Compiled results from the Benchmarking Survey The sheer size of HCC’s IT department has grown sufficiently large to merit the creation of additional executive oversight to provide direction and guidance in specific service areas. HCC should create three additional technology leadership positions, each with a distinct focus area and reporting directly to the Vice Chancellor. These individuals would provide leadership and direction for Project Management, Customer Technology, and Instructional Technology Operations. These focused positions will raise the capacity of HCC’s IT to provide smoother support for end-users, more efficiently utilize resources, and better manage internal processes. This additional leadership can also highlight and prioritize Clear communications, cross departmental training, service management, and other important areas. Current reporting structures show IT personnel working across the college campuses with a focus on servicing the unique needs of different campuses. While this is absolutely necessary for a college that uses MRI machines to instruct future nurses at one campus and advanced TIG/MIG welding equipment at another, certain functions are the same across the spectrum. IT specialists with campus and college-specific expertise should focused on using their intimate technical knowledge to provide end-user assistance. However, rather than reporting to their unique institutional hierarchy, they would be better able to collaborate and contribute to the overall HCC system by transitioning to a reporting structure that helps them stay connected to their IT colleagues. Directors of College Educational Technology should be elevated to the senior management team with direct access to the newly inaugurated leadership position responsible for Instructional Technology.
  12. 12. 12 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
  13. 13. 13EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Creating positions to explicitly manage IT projects from inception to completion, separate support roles for Finance and Human Resource IT functions, and the addition of front line service staff for the Help Desk, as well as the consolidation of PeopleSoft and Database administrators, will add much needed strength to core IT functions that support HCC’s overall operations and mission. This additional capacity will also further the creation of a customer service focus, cross departmental cooperation, a commitment to documentation, constant and clear communication, and building a culture of measurement - each a key element in advancing the overall maturity score of HCC’s IT. Complementing this increase in man-power is a forward thinking approach to actual IT data management. Cloud Computing HCC should have a cloud first strategy for application and data management. As this multi-year migration takes place, an Oracle SuperCluster is the preferred bridge for maintaining serviceability in the IT environment. Current capacity is an issue as systems are reported to slow considerably during peak times (such as student enrollment) causing great frustration for both end users and business function owners. Efforts to expand the capacity of the underlying hardware that supports PeopleSoft is under investigation, and several options are being considered, including an Oracle SuperCluster as well as cloud-based options for other services. Oracle’s SuperCluster Engineered System is a powerful hardware and software solution designed specifically to run Oracle applications at optimized levels. The SuperCluster can replace dozens of traditional servers with one high-performance, highly available system that reduces maintenance and administration time considerably, while increasing reliability and responsiveness. Utilizing this option will help HCC successfully transition to a cloud model. Making the move to a cloud option has become commonplace and is no longer an untried method for system development and data management. However, a managed transition to cloud computing means adopting a long term view that should transition services slowly. HCC should formulate a careful strategy for moving to the cloud at a pace which allows for full and complete confidence in the cloud ecosystem. Organizations that refuse to recognize cloud computing as the new reality will find that the longer they wait to move to the cloud, the more difficult the transition may become. Cloud computing will soon be the norm for all organizations, from education, to healthcare, to business. Due to the absolute centrality of IT to HCC’s daily operations, the burden for monitoring, providing, and executing IT services should be supported through reorganization and addition of key staff.
  14. 14. 14 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY To put this transformation in perspective, an organization that relied solely on hard paper files stored in cabinets, was an overburdened anachronism by the 1990s. If that same organization had begun to adopt digital solutions to their information and data management needs (as they became mature processes), they would have been a much more lean and competitive entity. This is the situation facing organizations as they contemplate cloud computing. By 2020, a corporate “no cloud” policy will be as rare as a “no Internet” policy is today1 . The move towards cloud computing is one of the most significant technological innovations of the last 30 years and will soon be an undisputed technological reality. Does your institution take advantage of cloud computing to support academic, administrative, and community services? *Compiled results from the Benchmarking Survey Higher education as an industry group is clearly heading in the direction of cloud computing for data management. While no institution has yet made the complete transition to the cloud, that is the intention and the future. HCC would be wise to utilize an Oracle SuperCluster as the bridge to cloud computing and thereby mitigate any potential risks the new technology poses while also tracking a disciplined road map for its eventual implementation. 1 Predictions 2016: Cloud Computing to Drive Digital Business 08 December 2015 G00292047 Analyst(s): David Mitchell Smith | Ed Anderson | Yefim V. Natis | Jay Heiser | Thomas J. Bittman | Douglas Toombs | David W. Cearley | Jeffrey Mann | Neville Cannon | Gregor Petri
  15. 15. 15EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Recommendations To help achieve these over-arching goals, the report also describes an additional 35 subject areas with over 200 specific, discrete recommendations. Each of these is a step in the process towards achieving the primary goals of building a student centered and customer focused institution. Create Technical Leadership Positions Consolidate all IT to report to CIO including campus technology staff Create a Program Management Office Increase Help Desk Staff during first Phases of ITIL maturation process Strengthen Incident Management Improve Problem Management Develop Knowledge Management Prioritize Change Management Further mature Security Management Develop Service Catalog Management Improve Event Management Integrate Financial Management Prioritize Service Level Management Enhance Service Asset Configuration Management Enhance IT Service Continuity Management Mature processes for Request Management Review Transition Planning and Support Support Strategy Management Support Demand Management Support Capacity Management Increase Availability Management Refine Identity & Access Management Refine Release & Deployment Management Enhance Design Coordination Build Business Relationship Management Increase Service Validation and Testing – Increases reliability of Service Transitions Change Evaluation – Increases maturity of Change Management Process Supplier Management – Increases maturity and effectiveness of Service Level Management Service Portfolio Management – Increases maturity of governance and strategic services deployment
  16. 16. 16 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Recommendations in the report are presented with observations to help explain what is driving them, the recommended course of action to address the issues observed, the desired outcomes of the actions, and metrics that can be used to indicate when progress has been made. Taken together these recommendations are the primary steps that HCC should undertake to move forward with its goals of creating a student, customer, and end-user focused IT department that thrives on constant service improvement and change. Creating a culture that supports service improvement through ITIL, and increasing the degree of executive IT leadership and management, combined with a transition to cloud data management, will be crucial in accomplishing the college’s institutional goals.
  17. 17. 17EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Transformation 2020 and Beyond These are the targeted projects moving forward that will help to achieve the goals described in the report. Combining people, process, and technology will create an improved structure for Houston Community College as they pursue a more service oriented focus on IT operations.

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