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IT Services update

03 Sep 2015

A dynamic, flexible, IT service and infrastructure is essential to enable the University to compete on the global stage and to deliver its ambitious Manchester 2020 strategic vision. The University is now taking the first important steps to build such a service

The IT world is fast-moving with new technologies, applications and capabilities emerging continually and users expecting a faster, more responsive and robust service.  The University needs to be able to respond effectively to this changing environment to ensure that our IT infrastructure meets the needs of our staff and students, supports our key administrative systems, and plays an important and appropriate role in driving forward our teaching and learning, research, and social responsibility agendas.

In order to provide an IT service and infrastructure capable of delivering our academic strategy and essential support services, the University is moving to a more flexible and agile model of IT support which is able to embrace new IT developments, adopt best practice and skills and allow us to invest strategically for the future.  

The need for change within our IT services has been made clear during a series of discussions held across the University which commenced back in 2013. These discussions were overseen since 2014 by the IT Transformation Advisory Board (TAB), which had academic and PSS representation from across the University.  The TAB strongly supported the need for change in IT Services and its views were reported by the Director of IT Services and other senior members to the Change and IT Projects Sub-Committee. This Sub-Committee reports to PRC which in turn reports to the Board of Governors.  

A range of options was considered for responding to the changes in the IT demand and opportunities. These included doing nothing, which was not considered to be acceptable for the future of the University, to full outsourcing which was not taken forward because of the risks involved, particularly the very major impact on most IT staff. The University was also cognisant that while IT industry analysts have recommended that Higher Education Institutions should develop their strategic sourcing strategies, taking account of the shift in industry dynamics, there is no current precedent in the Higher Education sector in the UK for moving fully to IT provision by third party organisations.

The best option was considered to be the approach where we continue to move towards using more externally provided services, as indeed the University had already started to do for a number of its IT services.  This is by no means a blanket ‘outsource’ of all systems and services, but allows the University to make informed choices to source skills and services externally, where it makes strategic sense to do so. This model will require a mix of in-house skills and the use of external sourcing to enable our IT Services to focus on providing the right IT for the University and to ‘flex’ its support according to changes in demand and strategic direction.

The skills mix of staff in some areas of IT Services is not suited to delivering this more flexible model, so we need to reshape our in-house core IT team alongside our investment in new facilities and leading market solutions.  For example, our new core IT team will require additional posts in project development and vendor management but fewer posts in infrastructure, applications and development.  

We should be under no illusion, that a failure to move to a new model of IT support would result in us continuing to focus on in-house building and maintenance of systems, which is becoming more challenging to maintain, and provide little ability to embrace new technologies. This is not a feasible option. 

It is regrettable that the move to this new IT model will involve the loss of 68 existing IT roles, although we will also create 21 new roles with different skills. It is hoped that the reduction in roles can be achieved through the retraining of staff into the new roles where possible, redeployment and a generous voluntary severance scheme. The University has been consulting with the trades unions about the detail of the voluntary severance scheme. The University will only consider a move to a compulsory redundancy programme if the target numbers are not reached through these routes and this would then be the subject of a new and separate consultation with the trades unions.

All changes involving staff that are undertaken by the University are given very careful and serious consideration.  Indeed the consequential changes to IT staffing have been subject to consideration including at the Board of Governor’s Staffing Committee and at the Board of Governors itself. The University is committed to ensuring that these processes are conducted fairly and transparently and will always seek to explore opportunities for the avoidance of redundancy.