One IT for One UND

University Information Technology (UIT) formed to create more efficient campus IT experience

Madhavi Marasinghe

UND Chief Information Officer Madhavi Marasinghe says, starting September 15, a new centralized unit will connect UND’s IT staff and functions of CILT’s information technology support team with Administrative Services Technology. And the teaching enhancement and education technology arm of CILT will be integrated into the new Teaching Transformation and Development Academy known as TTaDA. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

We’ve all been there.

You have an issue with your computer, you need tech support – but you’re not exactly sure who to call.

UND Center for Instructional & Learning Technologies (CILT) Associate Director Joshua Jones knows the difficulty of the process, especially when many IT teams are spread throughout campus. He encounters it himself in his role coordinating user support among Colleges.

“If we’re passing support tickets back and forth, just trying to figure out who it belongs to – that’s frustrating for us, but it makes it even worse for the user, and we don’t want that,” Jones said. “We want to resolve the issue, get them the help they need and get them back into service.”

It’s just one of many frustrations UND Chief Information Officer (CIO) Madhavi Marasinghe and University IT leaders seek to overcome with the creation of University Information Technology (UIT).

Starting Sept. 15, the new centralized unit will connect the IT staff and functions of CILT’s information technology support team with Administrative Services Technology (AS Technology). The teaching enhancement and education technology arm of CILT will be integrated into the Teaching Transformation and Development Academy (TTaDA).

“The reason for creating a central IT is to standardize the things that we do – the policies and procedures, and how we go about doing our daily work,” Marasinghe said, adding that the fusion goes hand-in-hand with making sure the entire campus is heading in one direction. “We have a Strategic Plan in place, and President Mark Kennedy’s mission is One UND. All of these things are merging into supporting that strategic mission.”

“In examining IT, we had to look at where the world is now and where it’s going,” said UND Provost Thomas DiLorenzo. “Because of security issues, cost issues and cost in managing multiple systems, we’ve been inefficient. UIT is part of the solution.”

The main goal of UIT is to eliminate IT silos across campus and create a one-stop place for students, faculty and staff to take care of any updates or issues that may arise. Marasinghe’s ultimate hope is to create one phone number users can call for assistance and immediately be routed to the correct person.

“Even in their dreams, they should have that phone number stuck in their head to say, ‘If I need IT help, here is the number to call,’” she said with a laugh.

Teaming up for efficiency

UND Senior Vice Provost Hesham El-Rewini said he was impressed by the positivity he encountered when he met with the teams to announce and explain the merger. “They all exhibited a genuine spirit of cooperation and a sincere willingness to work together as one team serving One UND,” he said.

Sherry Lawdermilt, director of AS Technology, said the structure of both her team and Jones’ CILT team will stay intact. But coming together under one UIT umbrella will help the teams communicate better.

“Right now, CILT really focuses on the academic side, and we focus on the administration side,” she explained. “While there’s not complete overlap, there is some, and sometimes there are inefficiencies, because they’re doing something while we’re working on the same thing.”

“[Sherry and I] want to do more preemptive things so that we can address issues before they become issues, so that it doesn’t feel like we’re always chasing problems,” Jones said. “It makes the experience better for the user.”

No location has yet been chosen, but Marasinghe wants to eventually bring both teams together physically on campus. In the meantime, she plans to focus on staff team-building before any important UIT processes are developed and implemented.

“I want to make sure that they have a voice in how we operate. At the end of the day, these are the people doing the work,” she said. “After we settle in, we will have discussions to define ourselves to better serve our community.”

Setting a standard

In addition to centralizing the base level of services, Marasinghe is reviewing and proposing revisions to IT policies, procedures and standards. Her IT working group – comprising all of the IT directors across the University – will also work to establish IT and Data Governance for the University. Marasinghe is developing a website that will update the UND community on current projects percolating in the Office of the CIO.

But the most visible emerging standardization is endpoint security, something that was not fully addressed before Marasinghe came on board earlier this year.

“On a daily basis we get attacked somewhere in the world,” Marasinghe said. “While security is everybody’s responsibility, we, as IT, need to provide the resources for people to secure UND.”

Marasinghe is currently engaged in an initiative called “Securing UND,” which has several steps. The first is fully installing endpoint protection software across the University on all University-owned equipment.

The creation of UIT will streamline these kind of campus-wide projects.

“We would be working on that together instead of each area working on it on their own,” Lawdermilt explained. “Putting our resources together, we can do it together as one and get it rolled out more quickly.”

Beyond a new line of security, the leadership team of UIT says the campus won’t notice many immediate changes as the cogs and gears of UND’s IT is reassessed and transformed. However, the benefits will emerge in big ways.

“This is not something that will happen overnight – it’s a process,” Marasinghe said.

“I think we’ll see some important changes over the next couple of years,” DiLorenzo said. “All for One UND.”