Initiative 3: IT Leadership and Coordination

Establish a Chief Information Officer (CIO) position at UNLV that provides a technology vision, aligns IT efforts with strategic initiatives, leads IT service delivery, and facilitates IT planning efforts across the university’s community of central and distributed IT personnel.

Currently, UNLV does not have an IT role with the authority to lead the entire IT community. This has impacted the ability of executive leadership to understand the full scope of IT services and resource capacity at UNLV. The creation of a Chief Information Officer (CIO) at UNLV is highly recommended.

The IT community at UNLV consists of both central and distributed IT personnel. In the current environment assessment, BerryDunn reported 197 FTEs who provide IT services at UNLV (see Appendix A). The Office of Information Technology (OIT) represented less than 40% of the total IT personnel population, leaving a significant portion of IT personnel fragmented and siloed. The distributed nature of IT at UNLV poses challenges for effectively coordinating IT resources. The result is a campus of constituents with disparate IT service delivery experiences.

The Chief Information Officer (CIO) will be responsible for executive leadership and strategic vision concerning all university information technology assets, infrastructures, and services. To start, the Office of the CIO should be comprised of the following functions to develop strategy and align planning efforts:

  • IT security
  • IT project management
  • IT communications
  • IT business services (e.g., budget, human resources)

Each of these functions is best directed at the broadest possible level to ensure consistency of IT services, policies, and best practices. The head of central IT will report to the CIO to ensure central IT infrastructure and operations are in alignment with the vision of the CIO.

A university-wide CIO must also have the leverage to create efficiencies by identifying opportunities to optimize services provided today across the central and distributed IT portfolio (see Initiative 5 for an introduction to the concept of Common Good services). A new CIO will need to determine the right mix of central and distributed IT services with input and guidance from university stakeholders.

Furthermore, the new CIO needs to be empowered to restructure existing IT resources, both central and distributed, to meet Top Tier goals. Additionally, the creation of the CIO position is a critical step in coordinating and effectively implementing the initiatives identified in the IT Master Plan and in ensuring that IT master planning continues to align with Top Tier plan goals and objectives.

Strategic initiatives underway

Far-reaching initiatives are underway at UNLV including, but not limited to, Top Tier and Retention, Progression and Completion (RPC). IT needs to be represented at the highest leadership levels to inform other cabinet-level executives about how technology can support these efforts. IT initiatives need greater visibility to reduce the risk of authorizing technology procurements and projects that do not align with the university’s strategic direction. In addition, several large, complex IT initiatives are underway that will have significant impact on the university’s ability to deliver, support, and maintain IT services going forward. These efforts include, but are not limited to:

  • Workday implementation (i.e., replacement of human resources and business systems)
  • Replacing aging infrastructure
  • Enterprise-wide document management
  • Identity and access management

Serving the community beyond the campus

As the university strives to increase its research capacity and support economic development efforts across the larger Las Vegas area, a cabinet-level CIO can help broaden critical community partnerships. For example, Switch, an international leader in data center management and broadband connectivity, could be a key resource in addressing some of the infrastructure needs that exist at UNLV today. A CIO could foster the relationship with Switch in innovative and mutually beneficial ways. In addition, a CIO could assist in strengthening the partnership between UNLV and the Las Vegas business community via IT initiatives that focus on workforce development in the technology field and innovation hubs as the region continues to diversify its economy.

Initiative Owner

  • President's Cabinet

Consultative Role

  • Technology Advisory Committee
  • Human Resources

Budget Estimate

According to the 2013 Chief Information Officer Roles and Effectiveness Study (CHECS) the average CIO salary at Doctoral Institutions was $173,522.[1]. In addition, according to 2011-2012 data collected by the Chronicle for Higher Education, the median salary for CIO’s at Doctoral Institutions was $200,000.[2] See Appendix 3A for a list of CIO responsibilities.

The Office of the CIO will be staffed with existing positions currently housed in central IT.

New Positions: 1 FTE; Total One-time and Recurring Costs FY16-FY19: $751,413

Action Items to Implement Initiative

  1. Secure funding and approval for the CIO position.
  2. Determine the reporting structure for the CIO position.
  3. Include key elements of the IT Master Plan in the CIO job description.
  4. Identify and hire a CIO through a comprehensive search process with broad campus participation.
  5. CIO establishes a strategic vision for distributed and central IT.
  6. Optimize services across central and distributed IT.
  7. Task the CIO with implementing the IT Master Plan and give the CIO authority to do so.
  8. Assist the CIO in developing mutually beneficial partnerships with key members of the Las Vegas community.

Anticipated Benefits

  • UNLV is guided by a strong IT leader.
  • UNLV's IT vision drives technology innovations that foster Top Tier growth.
  • Strategic alignment of IT with university goals and objectives.
  • Technology changes transforming higher education inform executive-decision making.
  • Optimization of distributed and central information technology assets, infrastructures, and services.
  • Technology service delivery is seamless.
  • UNLV recruits, motivates, and develops a high-performing team of well-qualified IT staff.

Measures of Success

  • New CIO is hired.
  • Distributed and central information technology assets, infrastructures, and services align with the CIO's vision.
  • Performance reviews of the new CIO are deemed satisfactory or better.
  • Cabinet-level decisions include a consideration of technology impacts, where appropriate.
  • Components of the IT Master Plan are being implemented.
  • Customers and stakeholders report more effective IT service delivery and proactive IT planning.
  • New community partnerships initiated by the CIO have been established.

Contextual Information

EDUCAUSE Core Data[3]

Data from U.S. public institutions that meet the Very High Research University Carnegie classification indicate that:

  1. The highest-ranking IT officer has the title of CIO at over 80% of these institutions
  2. The highest ranking IT officers at over 80% of the institutions report to either the President, the Chief Academic Officer, or the Chief Financial Officer
  3. The highest ranking IT officer serves as a member of the President’s Cabinet at nearly half of these institutions

The EDUCAUSE data also indicated that, although CIO’s can be effective with different reporting lines, CIO’s that report to the top academic officer allocated more capital spending to grow the institution while CIO’s reporting to the top business officer allocated a smaller proportion of funding and focused more on the operations of running the institution.

EDUCAUSE produces an annual list of top ten issues for higher education IT to consider. Although all of these issues are relevant to the future CIO’s role and to UNLV’s IT Master Plan, Issue 9:

IT Organizational Development: Creating IT organizational structures, staff roles, and staff development strategies that are flexible enough to support innovation and accommodate ongoing changes in higher education, IT service delivery, technology, and analytics.

will be a key consideration for the CIO to address at UNLV upon arrival as the university works to build a more cohesive IT community. For the complete EDUCAUSE 2016 Top 10 IT Issues list, see the Introduction and Overview Section.

Peer Institution Research

At Arizona State University (ASU), George Mason University (GMU), and University of Oregon (UO), the CIO sits on the President’s cabinet. These universities indicated that the reporting structure provided an effective way to keep the executive management team informed on decisions affecting technology on campus.

ASU, GMU, and UO indicated that one of their primary concerns is to find the appropriate balance between distributed and centralized IT. Distributed IT is a major contributor to IT at these universities, especially in terms of staffing numbers and technology spending.

GMU: Highly centralized IT department with an approximate ratio of 3:1 for central IT to distributed IT personnel.

UO: Approximate ratio of 1:5 for central IT to distributed IT personnel. Where appropriate, the CIO at UO is beginning to absorb distributed members that are spread across campus.

However, each university expressed the need to have both central and distributed IT resources in order to best serve the campus community.


  1. A Study of CIO Roles and Effectiveness in Higher Education, 2013, Wayne Brown (n=85 respondents)
  2. http://chronicle.com/article/Median-Salaries-of-Senior/130897/