Technology Upgrading Plan and Skills Development

SECTION 2.3

A three-part technology plan was implemented by Administrative and Business Services (A&BS) in 1993 with the following goals: 1) inter-operability of technology within A&BS, 2) effective use of technical resources, and 3) development of staff skills to enable productive use of current tools and exploitation of new technology investments. These plans were developed under the general philosophy of being lean in terms of staffing but progressive in terms of technology, considering both people and machines in a balanced way. The technology plan comprises several parts, summarized on the following pages.

Technology Upgrading Plan

Technology plans have been developed and annually updated by A&BS units based on the following guidelines:

  • Move toward platform consistency within A&BS
  • Provide a "readiness framework" for future technology upgrades
  • Take into account areas of planned process streamlining within each unit
  • Provide for the efficient utilization of systems or computing equipment acquired in recent years
  • Take into account ongoing support expenses, including training and internal technical support, as well as purchased maintenance
  • Support minimum hardware and software standards.

Resource-Targeting

Despite unprecedented budget reductions, A&BS adopted the strategic priority of reallocating and targeting $1.5 million into upgraded information technology. Current-year savings were captured from two University-wide staff reduction plans (Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program and Time Reduction Incentive Plan), augmented with internal budgetary reductions, and re-allocated to A&BS units to support a targeted use: "technology upgrade plans" developed on the basis of the guidelines outlined above. In addition, the campus supported the upgrades of the central processor that supports the payroll, general ledger, purchasing, and accounts payable systems.

Technology Skills Development

Training is provided to A&BS employees to ensure that skills keep pace with technology, enabling them to exploit the investment that has been made in updated technology.

To date, participation in A&BS sponsored training courses has exceeded 1,000 attendees in over 130 classes and 18 different courses. Courses sponsored include: Windows (levels 1 and 2), Word (levels 1, 2, and 3), Excel (levels 1, 2, and 3), WordPerfect , HTML, DOS 6.0, Apple System 7, Microsoft Access (levels 1, 2, and 3), Eudora, Visual Basic, and PowerPoint.

"Management Uses of Information Technology" Workshop

Managers and key staff in A&BS units have completed a "Management Uses of Information Technology" workshop. This course provides participants with a fundamental knowledge of computers, the strategic use of information technology, and a good working knowledge of acquiring and manipulating information in databases. These skills are foundational for managers and analysts -- especially those involved in process streamlining, process improvement, "Business Process Innovation" projects, or productivity improvement endeavors.

The workshop was developed to support a new managerial "skill set" that enables the resourceful application of information technology to improve management information and business processes. The knowledge objectives for the course include:

  • Provide managers with a fundamental working knowledge of computers.
  • Enable managers to independently select and employ off-the-shelf software tools. Focus on the key skills of knowing what tools to employ and how to apply the right combination of technology tools to get the job done.
  • Instill in managers the importance of performing process mapping and streamlining utilizing A&BS' process-design principles before introducing new technology.
  • Provide a good working knowledge of relational database technology.

The key components of the workshop are:

1. Major components of computer systems

2. Networks (protocols & topologies)

3. Strategic principles

• FAST report principles*

• Key concepts in the Administrative Computing Services Strategic Planning Framework

4. Databases, query tools

• Database query software (Microsoft Access)

• Manipulate, query, and download databases

• Use of report-generators.

* "FAST" refers to UC's Financial and Accounting Systems Task Force. Principles cited were published June 1994.

Strategic Planning Framework for Administrative Computing Services

The Strategic Planning Framework for Administrative Computing Services seeks to implement the following vision:

"Take it to the Desktop" -- Make information available at the desktop, (in the appropriate electronic form) that meets or exceeds customer expectations.

The framework was developed with input and consultation from a cross-section of campus "customers" and "stakeholders" (to provide a plan for administrative computing congruent with UCI's academic mission to become a top-ranked research university by the year 2000). Due to the rapidly changing pace of technology, the framework was written for a three-year planning horizon.

In order to implement Administrative Computing Services' vision and mission, the Strategic Planning Framework advances three key principles:

  • The provision of transactional processing and decision support shall be separated in order to make differential, cost-effective investment decisions. (Transactional processing entails the activities normally associated with traditional data processing; e.g., entry of data, processing of information, creation of output and reports.)
  • Decision support systems shall be provided to the campus using client/server tools, open systems, and database technology. (Decision support will provide units the ability to access data created by on-line transactional processing and to manipulate it into useful information.)
  • Transactional processing shall be provided in the most cost-effective manner.

Three major challenges to implementation of the strategic planning framework are identified:

1. Meeting customer expectations for improved service and better front-ends -- e.g., graphical user interfaces for the provision of information in useful form, not raw data.

2. Responding to changes in the external environment, including continued, rapid change in technology; declining costs for hardware; and escalating costs for software, support, and training.

3. Responding to the internal campus environment, including unclear organizational boundaries, differential unit investments in technology, static/declining resources, and increasing transactional workloads.

Success factors supporting implementation of the strategic planning framework were identified:

  • Ubiquity of the network
  • Adequate campus computing
  • Computer training consistent with the requirements of the job
  • Consistent and coordinated support

A computing action plan was published in 1996 that articulates the system architecture and projects planned in support of strategic planing framework principles. Key components of the computing action plan have been implemented in the past three years and include client/server, GUI-based systems for equipment management, permanent budget management, and student billing. An additional key component was the deployment of an ad hoc data access facility called Data Warehouse. Data Warehouse provides users with Web-based ad hoc access to institutional data (financial system, payroll/personnel, and equipment management) when requested and in a form that can be downloaded and manipulated by the user. Data Warehouse was selected for inclusion in the Smithsonian Institution's Permanent Research Collection as part of the 1998 Computerworld Smithsonian Awards Program which highlights the innovative use of technology.