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2011 Campus Technology Innovators | Leadership, Governance, and Policy

Pepperdine University

A bold reorganization at Pepperdine merged the university-wide functions of planning, IT management, and institutional effectiveness and research under the CIO--creating a one-stop shop for information resource management and advocacy.

Project: Integrated Information Resources Advocacy, Management, and Institutional Effectiveness

Project lead: Timothy Chester, vice provost for academic administration and CIO

Vendors/technologies used:

At a time when many IT leaders fear that their departments may become marginalized, Pepperdine University (CA) has made a concerted effort to put IT and information-resource management at the heart of strategic decision-making. In January 2010, a bold reorganization merged the university-wide functions of planning, IT management, and institutional effectiveness and research under the CIO. The CIO's role was also broadened to include vice provost for academic administration, and was realigned under the Office of the Provost. The goal was to create a one-stop shop for information-resource management and advocacy that would improve institutional effectiveness.

Timothy Chester, who now fills the newly created position, led the reorganization effort. The tighter alignment of IT with high-level institutional strategy, Chester believes, has resulted in improvements in the university's planning processes, especially by directing attention on outcomes and providing data to help shape decision-making. The realignment has also helped sharpen the focus of technology projects, such as the university's iPad initiative, ensuring that implementations are linked directly to institutional goals.

"First, we are focusing on outcomes as opposed to inputs or process," he says. "While the latter are important, they are only important in service to the outcomes that are attained by our faculty and students. Second, hand in hand with the focus on outcomes, is a relentless pursuit of data. As we think about challenges or opportunities--the graduation rates of our students, the debt loads they take on as they complete their degrees, our ability to retain them, or how we develop and position new programs--the first question now is, 'What does the data tell us?'"

Chester serves as the "chief advocate" and operational leader for the integration of information resources throughout the university. He convenes discussions of strategic academic issues by chairing the University Academic Council and developing the agenda for the University Planning Committee. IT is now more integrated into Pepperdine's information-resource ecosystem, with leading-edge IT functionality the norm in strategically important areas such as academic analytics, outcomes assessment, institutional research and effectiveness, key performance indicators, information-research management, and university planning.

The overall strategic effort has been supported by significant investment in administrative systems. While existing enterprise systems play a role, the recent implementation of Oracle PeopleSoft Finance, Human Capital Management, and Campus Solutions has contributed enormously to the success of the reorganization. Data warehousing is accomplished with Oracle EPM, and Blackboard Xythos is used for the storage of unstructured content.

As campus decision-makers review program effectiveness and allocate precious resources in an uncertain economy, they are now supported by an enterprise infrastructure that supports the collection, analysis, and dissemination of critical data. Just as importantly, university planning functions now benefit from an organizational structure that is well tuned to the institution's integrated-information resources.

About the Author

Meg Lloyd is a Northern California-based freelance writer.

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