Purpose and Background
The University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) has created a University-wide Information Technology (IT) Master Plan. This effort was guided by the leadership of Executive Vice President and Provost Office, and was developed with the broad engagement of students, faculty, staff and administration from across the University.
This planning project had multiple phases that included analyzing how IT services were delivered across UNLV, and conducting more than a dozen facilitated stakeholder work sessions to gain input on planning components to help envision what the Plan should achieve. In addition, subsequent planning meetings with senior executives and a cross-functional team of UNLV faculty, students and staff (Core Team) provided direction and clarification to the BerryDunn consultants.
This IT Master Plan proposes a new structure for planning, collaboration, and communication that seeks to recognize the full capacity of IT resources across the UNLV community. The Plan will help guide strategic IT priorities and inform critical decisions that support the University’s strategic goals.
Strategic Initiatives in the Plan
The landscape for IT is changing rapidly not only at UNLV but across higher education and beyond. The IT Master Plan addresses opportunities to better align the ability of UNLV’s IT service providers to meet the expanding demand for support and services. The Plan’s 14 strategic IT initiatives focus UNLV’s information technology efforts on supporting the University’s overarching Core Themes: advancing student achievement, promoting research, scholarship and creative activity, creating an Academic Health Center, fostering community partnerships. Highlights include:
- Creating effective planning processes to sustain a culture of collaboration within the IT community and across the broader University
- Ensuring adequate resources and executive support for enterprise-level initiatives such as iNtegrate 2, single sign-on, data availability and document management
- Recognizing the need to strengthen information security procedures and practices that will reduce risk and protect data
- Establishing the office of a university-wide Chief Information Officer (CIO) to strengthen the University’s IT leadership and ability to leverage the capabilities of approximately 200 campus IT personnel in support of the mission and vision of the institution
- Extending partnerships and utilization of external IT resources from the technology and business community
- Building the IT infrastructure to support a Top Tier research university by increasing mobility, access and scalability
An IT Master Plan Consistent with Trends in Higher Education
The areas of focus described above are consistent with needs and national trends in higher education. According to the 2014 EDUCAUSE Top Ten Issues less than half of all institutions claimed to have technology alignment among leadership (44%) or an effective IT governance structure (32%). In addition, only 37% had an IT Service Catalog. The role and expectations of higher education IT staff needs are changing as well. Third-party resources are being utilized more frequently than ever before to store data, house servers and build applications. This will change the way IT staff are deployed and the skill sets they need. However, these trends do not indicate a reduction in IT staff, rather a change in focus:
The IT professional of the 21st century must be able to work in cross-functional teams to gain an understanding of the bigger picture and specific requirements… IT staff must be able to effectively communicate and quickly troubleshoot issues by working alone or tapping into broader communities of expertise.
The Plan addresses these fundamental challenges and suggests ways for UNLV to strengthen its multi-faceted IT community.
External Resources and Partners for UNLV
One of the key focus areas for the University and subsequently for technology will be extending UNLV’s IT planning and awareness beyond the campus. Several opportunities exist to improve visibility in the community and to work more closely with businesses in the greater Las Vegas area and beyond. Taking advantage of these opportunities will require the University to be proactive in its planning for IT and to seek out relationships that serve the best interests of UNLV.
One example of an external relationship opportunity is the Switch SUPERNAP that provides world-class facilities for housing IT equipment in powerful technology ecosystems with unparalleled connectivity. Switch is active in supporting entrepreneurial activities and is seeking to partner with the local community while it expands its global industry and government customer base.
The proposed CIO position will be instrumental in providing the vision and leadership to nurture the most mutually beneficial external partnerships.
UNLV has evolved significantly since the planning process started. The University is moving forward to establish the UNLV School of Medicine, has adopted a strategy for achieving Top Tier status by 2030 and is strengthening student retention, progression and completion (RPC). Meanwhile, technology continues to innovate at a dizzying pace.
The IT Master Plan will enable the University to adapt to ongoing change while taking advantage of new opportunities to move the institution forward. The Plan addresses the dynamic nature of UNLV’s technology needs through an established planning cycle.
The Plan proposes 14 initiatives. For each of these, careful consideration should be given to implementation timeframe, financial and human resource requirements, and impact on existing operations. Given the scale and complexity of the University, the resources this plan requires should not be underestimated. The University should realize a ‘return on value’ from these investments of time, energy and dollars.
Sustaining the Plan
Sustaining the IT Master Plan will require effective IT governance, coupled with continued executive sponsorship, broad campus engagement and ongoing communication. These elements will position the University to identify and implement new strategic directions as IT needs evolve and new opportunities are identified.
An overview of the annual annual planning cycle is available in the planning section of the IT Master Plan website. This annual planning cycle supports a proactive, intentional planning culture that responds to emerging opportunities, challenges and priorities.