The University of Alabama at Birmingham

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The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is a world-class educational and research institution with an innovative Information Technology (IT) organization. The University Strategic Plan is focused on optimum engagement in student education, research, community and patient care.  As a technology enablement organization for the campus, UAB IT endeavors to align itself with the needs of the students, faculty and staff by developing and maintaining solutions that support the ever-changing environment with applications, tools and access to technology.  As part of UAB IT’s Strategic Plan, shared governance is one of the primary imperatives. Shared governance is an organizational framework that aligns people, process and technology to the University’s Strategic Plan. 

The Challenge 

 UAB needed a trusted partner to assess the IT organization’s approach to evaluating new business and IT requests, engaging appropriate stakeholders, and managing the decision-making process for selecting, prioritizing and approving projects for execution. UAB IT’s process for governing business and IT requests did not align to the University or IT Strategic Plan.  In order to become aligned, UAB IT needed to define which requests were strategic vs. non-strategic to appropriately determine which individual stakeholders and groups needed to be engaged into the evaluation and decision-making process.  With over 200 committees and sub-committees meeting regularly to access and meet University needs, UAB IT desired a streamlined process to include designated groups with the authority to evaluate business and IT requests based on the request’s alignment with the Strategic Plan.  

 In the UAB environment, co-authorship of solutions between IT and the business is vital to expense control and risk reduction. This approach prevents individual stakeholders and groups from entering into solutions discovered and implemented independently without collective consultation from all dependent areas of the University. Due to the disparity of school and department needs, lack of solution co-authorship happens frequently. 

The Requirements 

 The scope of work included an assessment of the maturity level of UAB IT governance practices across the enterprise supporting a full read-out of gaps and observations discovered. UAB IT requested that the primary focus of the assessment include defining and documenting a governance model using frameworks recognized and recommended by best practice leaders such as GartnerInfoTech Research Group, and Chief Executive Board.  Based on the desired outcome, UAB IT agreed to the following requirements for a framework proposal:  

  1. Define a single-entry point for all business and IT requests submitted to the IT organization and establish factors for determining whether the request is strategic or non-strategic 
  2. Establish models for strategic committees to represent the business and technology needs of various schools and departments 
  3. Increase the level of stakeholder engagement in co-authoring technology solutions  
  4. Construct a method for evaluating strategic projects utilizing factors of the business case that score the benefits, value, complexity and constraints of the request 
  5. Increase the role of IT as a strategic partner capable of providing centralized support  
  6. Align the financial decision-making process with UAB Resource Cost Model (RCM)  
  7. Develop a framework implementation plan of accepted recommendations designed to communicate the goals, timeframes and outcomes for executing the proposal 


The Solution 

 After reviewing various approaches to industry-standard frameworks, UAB IT turned to iSeek Solutions (iSeek) for a customized solution.  iSeek deployed a professional services team consisting of 2 senior solutions consultants to build a framework conducive to the complex environment.  Utilizing more than 50 years of combined experience in IT Governance and Project Management, iSeek consultants worked with key stakeholders to understand the strategic alignment between the University and IT. Employing iSeek’s standard approach for stakeholder engagement, the consultants identified the people, process and technology required to align with strategic goals and objectives.  As a result of peer-university research, collaboration with University leadership and input from key stakeholders, iSeek produced the following deliverables: 

  • Request Intake Process Flow for governing business and IT requests 
  • IT Governance Framework for strategic and non-strategic projects 
  • Committee Models for stakeholder engagement and solution co-authorship 
  • Project Scoring Matrix enabling the decision-making process 

The Results 

After an assessment of UAB IT’s process for managing requests and an initial drafting of the proposed IT Governance Framework and scoring matrix, UAB IT directed iSeek to facilitate a presentation to individual Information Technology Strategic Advisory Committee (ITSAC) members demonstrating the approach.   iSeek met with all ITSAC members including 18 school and department leaders who unanimously supported the approach developed.  Several leaders were noted as expressing adulation for the structure and methodology of the proposed IT Governance Framework and scoring matrix. Leaders were immensely supportive of UAB IT’s vision for “One University” and believed the proposed framework supported it. Most leaders expressed a desire to move forward quickly with the implementation of the framework noting their concern for losing the positive momentum. 

 The IT Governance Framework enabled UAB IT to meet a strategic imperative for initiating a new approach to shared governance of people, process and technology across the enterprise.