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McMaster University

Functional Review of IT Services and Organisation Terms of Reference

January 8, 2016


Given the critical role that IT plays in supporting and enabling all aspects of the university's strategic plans and functionality, it is timely to review how IT applications of various kinds are supported across the university – by UTS, by other IT-focused units and at the Faculty, departmental and support unit level.    We define the core elements of IT services at the university to encompass research, teaching and learning, data management & security, healthcare related services, and those matters that pertain to administrative needs of university operations and McMaster's technical ability to deliver a strong digital presence to support strategic goals. We are interested in the breadth of services offered, their cost and quality in the context of the implementation of Mosaic and in the context of a distributed network of IT service organizations on campus.

By way of background, the University Budget Committee approved the UTS budget for 2015/16, which includes both ongoing funding of the traditional functions for which UTS has responsibility along with funding to transition Mosaic from a major project to a sustainable business operation.  The Mosaic funding is primarily one-time, pending a fuller understanding of the costs associated with its long term sustainment. 
In order to support the decisions that will need to be made we will undertake a functional review of technology-related (IT) services at McMaster.  As this review will not be complete for the 2016/17 budget cycle further interim budget arrangements will be required.  It is anticipated that the longer term budgetary implications of this review will be incorporated into the 2017/18 budget.

Terms of Reference

The review is required to do the following:

  • To develop a high-level understanding of the IT services required by the university, now and in the foreseeable future, to deliver its strategic and academic plans and to determine the most efficient and effective basis on which to deliver those services. To do this, this review will capture the core elements of IT services at the university and how these services are currently delivered with an eye towards understanding any duplication of service provision, opportunities for synergies and/or gaps in service provision.  Included in the review will be the development of a better understanding of the services provided by various units such as UTS, RHPCS, CSU, Faculty/department IT areas, Library, MIIETL, MPS, research institutes and centres and any other such units, their resource base and the extent to which there is duplication and/or synergies across these units.
  • To identify gaps in the services and capabilities delivered to the university and to recommend the importance of providing such capabilities
  • To review which of the IT services required by the university (whether currently provided or not) are best met on a centralized or distributed model and whether there are synergies or efficiencies available to the university through these models in relation to the services required; also, to review whether an approach based on established principles would assist in the continuing evolution of IT services; in addition, to consider models that may include hosted services and/or outsourcing of certain IT functions.
  • To consider the delivery of IT services from the many user perspectives (including faculty, staff and students).
  • To review the adequacy of the university's financial commitment (irrespective of current allocation).
  • To review the current organization structure for the delivery of IT services.
  • To make recommendations in these respects.


The process will be multi-phased, involving a Review Committee composed of external and internal members that will include co-chairs (one internal and one external) and the project sponsors (Provost and VP Administration). 

Phase 1 will be overseen by the sponsors and led by the Project Manager following a template approved by the Committee members. This template will be completed by the heads of the units providing the IT services. The services will be grouped as between faculty, staff and students. Services will be tabulated as follows:

  • Applications and components of technology;
  • Strategic alignment to FWI and related strategies; 
  • Current delivery points and users;
  • Resourcing, cost and cost recovery provisions;
  • Service level standards and performance against those standards

At the same time, key stakeholders (including unit heads) will be interviewed and asked to identify:

  • Duplications, potential for synergy and gaps in the current service offering from a strategic perspective
  •  Strategies/plans for service delivery/expansion
  • Best practice models and/or improvements for delivering IT services at the university
  • Service level expectations and user perspectives on performance.

Interviewees will include:

  • The CIO
  • Those responsible for IT services in their Faculty/department/unit of the university.
  • Users of the IT services. Preliminary list of interviewees:
    • PVPD and all AVPs
    • Leaders of Major units not included above e.g.: MNR; MIP; MMA; other
    • Faculty-based Directors of Administration and selected Faculty department-level administrators
    • A group of faculty members (selected in consultation with the VP Research) whose research is computationally-intensive
    • A group of faculty members (selected in consultation with the AVP Teaching and Learning) actively engaged in technology-enhanced learning
    • MUFA President and faculty members (selection TBD)
    • A group of students representing both the undergraduate and graduate community
    • Others as identified throughout the process.

Other mechanisms will be employed to capture the broader University community feedback (online forum, online survey, etc.).

Phase 2: the internal scan and user feedback will be provided to the Committee for the completion of their work. The Committee will decide its own processes and have the Project Manager as a resource. Unit leaders, including the CIO, will be available to the Committee for ongoing consultation during the review.


Provost and VP Administration

Review Committee Membership

A panel of the following is recommended:

  • Cynthia Herrera Lindstrom, CIO, University of Illinois @ Chicago
  •  Sean Reynolds, CIO, Northwestern University *
  • Ghilaine Roquet, CIO, McGill University  
  • Abigail Payne, Director MacData Institute *
  • Anthony Levinson, Director of e-Learning Innovation
  • Sue Becker, Professor, Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour

(* co-chairs)

Note: Hugh Couchman is available to review reports/recommendations if this is of assistance to the committee from a research computing perspective.

  • External members will be reimbursed for their expenses


To be established and shared 50/50 between Provost and VP Administration

Project Management

The project manager role is seen as full-time for the first 3-6 months for the period of the scan. Thereafter it is expected to be a part-time role. Kathy Denney will be the Program Manager.  

Report Writing

Project Manager under the direction of the Co-Chairs.  This will likely involve different formats (e.g. Executive Summary, condensed report, full report) as appropriate to the varied stakeholders.


Scan to commence Jan 1, 2016.  Report to be finalized by September 30, 2016.

Available reports for Committee Review:

  • Internal Scan
  • Vision 2020
  • UTS Budget submission 2015/16 and prior budgets if required. (Note: budgets prior to ERP implementation are built on a very different base.)
  • Universities Canada Digital Futures Workshop Survey and Report