University of Wisconsin–Madison

2015 Strategic IT Initiatives

Welcome to the start of another academic year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This promises to be a year of challenges and opportunities, depending in part on how adaptable we are.

Aligning a long-successful comprehensive public land grant university with new opportunities can be daunting. History has demonstrated many times over that the most successful organizations often can be among the last to respond to disruptive market forces, in great part due to that past success. At the UW, we are now entering the fourth year of adapting to market opportunities associated with our mission of teaching and learning though our Educational Innovation initiative. But it does not stop there. We have also established a leading national model for providing computing capabilities in support of researchers, through our Advanced Computing Infrastructure initiative.

Here is an overview of some of our strategic IT initiatives in support of broader plans for the 2015 fiscal year.

Teaching and learning

Clearly the big news here is Unizin. UW-Madison has been engaged in planning with Unizin founders since the concept was first discussed about a year and a half ago. We joined in late September, along with several other major universities. We will conduct a major pilot with the Canvas Learning Management System, as we have discussed with shared governance groups such as the University Committee, Academic Staff Committee, Information Technology Committee, Madison Technical Advisory Committee, and others. This is an unprecedented opportunity for UW-Madison to shape the future of internationally-scalable services that will allow new models of technology-enhanced education. I look forward to next steps.

Research and scaleable computing

Based on the early success of the Advanced Computing Infrastructure initiative, our senior leaders have invested significantly in additional capacity. As a result, we are not only hitting new records of delivered compute hours for researchers for the last several months, we have delivered consulting and educational services to record numbers of researchers and support staff. As our response to Data Center Aggregation advances this year, we will realize economies of scale that promise to reduce our Total Cost of Ownership for all computing and storage services, including research. Many schools, colleges and divisions have been involved with the next phase, and will continue this year as part of formal and informal governance.

Data governance and management

UW-Madison is on the leading edge of strategic leadership of key and valuable institutional data, as shown by the recent hiring of our first Chief Data Officer (CDO). This hire is in direct response to a year-long shared governance study, led by Registrar Scott Owczarek, which is under review by the Provost. It indicates, we must make better use of our data to plan and run our academic business. This starts with having someone on point (New CDO Jason Fishbain), working in partnership with key stakeholders such as Academic Planning and Institutional Research, Office of Quality Improvement, Human Resources, Administration and Finance, DoIT, Division of Enrollment Management, the Center for Academic Excellence, UW System Administration, and others. Expect to see the creation of a comprehensive data governance framework and set of additional recommendations this year.

IT decision-making

In a few weeks we will have completed a series of new hires to allow us to launch a campus wide IT Decision-making process. That process was reviewed with shared governance as part of Administrative Excellence (view the reports here). This effort will be led by new Chief of Staff Don Nelson with support from a new portfolio manager and some key DoIT staff. The charter for MTAG is in the process of being changed to give both a larger voice and more accountability for architectural and strategic directions for shared enterprise services. I expect to be able to complete final discussions about roles and responsibilities over the next few months.

Statewide engagements and relationship-building

IT is a profession that increasingly must collaborate to create scalable services that cross organizational boundaries. Wisconsin stakeholders have jointly determined that ubiquitous high speed broadband is essential for economic development. The University of Wisconsin (System) has been serving a vital thought-leadership role and will continue to engage stakeholders this year. We support the PSC-led Link Wisconsin Initiative. UW-Extension and UW-Madison both have a seat on the Broadband Advisory Board. Maria Alvarez-Stroud from the UW-Extension Broadband & E-Commerce Education Center and I are working together to ensure that the UW fulfills its responsibility as part of the Wisconsin Idea that has been part of our mission for more than a century. We are also nearing completion of our new UW System network (end of 2014). This project has been expertly led by DoIT on behalf of the UW System, and will position us to be a part of broader statewide network planning and discussions. Finally, you should expect to see additional collaborations with both the Department of Public Instruction and the State CIO this year. We meet regularly and have identified areas where we can work together.


Finally, there will be much discussion this academic year centered around the state budget. This is sure to include substantial focus on the university budget. The broad IT community has an important role to play in helping UW Madison position itself in response to continuing budget challenges. We can best help by balancing local and university needs, scaling services where it makes sense, and delivering locally where it makes more sense. MTAG and ITC in particular will be important forums where we have open and transparent discussion this year.


This is shaping up to be an exciting year. Pervasive, reliable, flexible, and cost-effective IT services are critical to our missions. Recent articles make clear that CIOs have a critical role to play in the competitiveness of their organizations. I look forward to working with all levels of campus leaders to advance the competitiveness of UW-Madison through the delivery of versatile, high-quality IT services.