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Business Officer Magazine
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Business Intel

A roundup of short news articles and useful resources for business officers

TECHNOLOGY
Mapping IT Costs

When the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) set out to determine the cost of delivering IT services to its internal customers, it began by identifying 190 basic products and service elements in the university's central IT department that also captured associated IT staff time and activities. This research became the basis for creating a new rate and funding strategy that will more accurately and transparently account for actual costs.

Setting Project Scope

A core component of the strategy discussed by Chief Information Officer Cynthia Herrera Lindstrom and Associate Chancellor of Budget and Resource Planning Janet Parker in their presentation "Using Activity-Based Costing to Identify the Cost of Delivering IT Services" was to move away from charging for things (e.g., phones) to charging for services used (e.g., data). First steps included identifying all costs for everything expended for IT during the course of a given fiscal year—both labor and non-labor costs. After identifying all basic products and service elements and mapping these to specific lines of business, they then gathered data on what was being charged back to units and departments to determine where IT was overcharging or undercharging.

While recharging units and departments for space use and utilities has become common for many institutions, far less common is doing so for IT products and services. With increasing budget pressures, this is an area ripe for many institutions to consider, believe Lindstrom and Parker. What may keep many from going down this road is the huge effort required to accurately assess IT costs. For UIC, the process from beginning to end took five years, in part because of some significant leadership changes that occurred along the way, and because IT essentially had to start from zero in developing a baseline understanding of how staff were spending their time, says Lindstrom. Tracking time—including time spent on e-mail and performing system maintenance and backups—may require a cultural adjustment for IT staff. Yet, in the end, the only way to gain transparency in the eyes of customers is by providing hard data and context for cost assessment, she adds.

Caveats and Comparisons

Fast Fact

A full 82 percent of Generation Z, individuals born as early as 1990 or as late as 2000, indicate that they plan to go from high school directly to college, with 77 percent of them considering a four-year college or university, 39 percent considering community college, and 22 percent interested in a tech or trade school.

—Getting to Know Gen Z, a Barnes & Noble College research study.

Among the concerns UIC's IT staff encountered and addressed in this process were the following:

  • Determine what unit of measure to use for each line of business so that total costs can be divided by units of measure to get a per-unit cost. UIC settled on using regular FTE employees, discounting graduate students by 50 percent.
  • Identify services that are not common to all and charge based on actual use. Conversely, identify common services everyone uses and expects (e.g., e-mail) to determine a per-unit rate.
  • Plan for gradual implementation of any new rate structure, rolled out in conjunction with a clear communication plan, to let everyone know about the changes well in advance so that units and departments can make internal adjustments. UIC included departmental business managers as part of its working group from the beginning, and IT staff met with every department to discuss what the changes would mean for them. This part of the process is much easier to do once you have clarity on actual costs and the context in which to share the data, say Lindstrom and Parker.

Beyond determining actual costs to recharge, UIC's analysis will be of immense help going forward for benchmarking and comparing costs with peer institutions; making determinations about necessary service changes (e.g., whether to outsource a service or move a service to the cloud); and identifying areas ripe for process improvements, centralization, or recharge rate adjustments. With its well-researched baseline for activity-based costing, the university now also has a meaningful context for discussing additional or new costs related to adding IT staff or purchasing a new server, or for factoring in more complex assessments such as equipment depreciation.

SUBMITTED BY Karla Hignite, New York City, who is a contributing editor to Business Officer

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DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
Public Private Partnership Promotes Women in Engineering

COMING SOON

Look for articles on the following topics in the November 2016 issue of Business Officer:

  • The Role of Leadership in Planning and Budgeting
  • Collaborating With Competitors
  • On-Campus Advocates
  • Diversity, Inclusion, and Campus Unrest

While the push for more women in STEM careers to some extent is working, engineering and technology can't demonstrate similar results. According to the National Science Foundation, 20 percent of engineering graduates are women, but only 11 percent of engineers are female; the numbers are particularly troubling when women account for 47 percent of the labor force and more than 40 percent of all four-year degrees granted in the past five years. In mid-September, Texas A&M University hosted a two-day event, convening some of the brightest minds in engineering, technology, diversity, and inclusion—from both corporate America and higher education—to tackle the challenge of attracting and retaining more women in engineering- and technology-related careers.

The forum, based on True Blue Inclusion's work in creating experiences, relationships, and networks to promote diversity solutions with real impact, was hosted by Chevron and Intel. The Texas A&M System, with nine of its 11 universities offering engineering degree programs (and a combined enrollment of more than 25,000 engineering students and more than 600 engineering faculty) held a significant place at the discussion table.

Participants focused on three primary topics identified as key to achieving effective gender balance.

Why men? Examine how the engineering culture weighs against women and how men who are in the industry can take personal accountability in creating space for greater diversity in the engineering and technology disciplines.

Why so few women? Identify potential solutions to attract women into engineering fields, change the way we invest our resources, and discover insights that will help increase women's participation in engineering and technology careers.

Differences make us strong. Address topics related to the intersection of gender and their implication, and the interconnectedness of the collective struggle related to gender, race, and ethnicity.

The results of these discussions will be captured in A BluePrint for Action, offering actionable solutions for achieving gender balance in technical fields. Look for the upcoming plan at www.trueblueinclusion.com.

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QUICK CLICKS

Sierra Club Names "Cool Schools"

www.sierraclub.org

Sierra released its annual list of "Cool Schools," a ranking the magazine has produced since 2006. This year's list recognizes 20 schools as those "working hardest to protect the planet, in 2016." To compile the list, the Sierra Club's publication offered a free 64-question survey on sustainability practices that 202 four-year undergraduate colleges and universities completed. The top five rankings include: College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine; State University of New York, Syracuse, New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry; University of California, Irvine; Colby College, Waterville, Maine; and Stanford University, Calif.

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