As the importance of information technology grows and budgets are cut, the University of Wyoming’s Division of Information Technology finds itself having to do more with less.
The division cut more than $1.1 million out of its fiscal year 2018 budget by laying off 15 employees and bringing all IT functions at UW under one roof.
While the division serviced the whole university, other areas of campus — such as the College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture — employed their own IT personnel, sometimes offering the same services the central division did.
Robert Aylward, vice president for information technology, said reducing these duplications of service puts UW far ahead of the curve when it comes to operating efficiently.
“We are actually probably far more centralized at the University of Wyoming than just about any other higher education institution,” Aylward said. “And we’ve done that over the years.”
An earlier consolidation in 2009 — also brought on by budget cuts — was aimed at administrative IT positions. The recent consolidation focused on academic positions.
“It’s not uncommon for higher education institutions to have distributed technology positions because they pop up typically based on unique needs of various entities,” Aylward said. “So, they end up hiring their own IT person and then that kind of grows, as you can imagine.”
The division brought 16 positions from across campus under its wing, then eliminated 15 positions from the now consolidated IT division.
“But those (15) weren’t all the consolidated positions,” Aylward said. “It was a combination of consolidated and other IT positions.”
IT was tasked with reducing its budget by $500,000 for its share of the $5.9 million in cuts allocated to specific divisions at the college. An additional $633,385 in reductions came from the consolidation scheme proposed by Huron Consulting Group after a performance improvement review.
The total $1.1 million cut from IT was made possible by the 15 layoffs — saving $936,579 — and by reducing the support budget, which saved $196,807.
IT’s lost positions represent 15 of the 37 staff layoffs which occurred earlier this month. The layoffs — stemming from either the budget reductions or the consolidation — are part of a larger $10 million reduction plan that also included eliminating vacant positions and offering separation incentives to tenured faculty.
“These layoffs are an unfortunate but necessary step for the university to meet its required reductions,” UW President Laurie Nichols says in a news release. “To this point, we have managed to reduce UW’s workforce by about 332 positions through attrition and separation incentives, but we must take this additional action to realize the savings necessitated by the reduction in our state block grant.”
Reducing the support budget was made possible by standardizing equipment and computers, cutting back on outreach functions and transitioning to WyoCloud, UW’s new financial management system.
“We’re picking up efficiencies there that allow us to be a little leaner than we would have been without it,” Aylward said. “It’s a much more efficient system and it’s in the cloud so we don’t have as much need to manage it or manage the servers that it resides on.”
The division will also be switching to a different model for client support.
“Before, we’ve been able to be a little hands-on with our users,” Aylward said. “Now … if you’ve got a problem, you’ll call the help desk and we’ll troubleshoot it remotely. We already do quite a bit of that, but we’re expanding that more.”
Aylward said the Division of Information Technology will be leaner, but streamlining the university’s IT functions through consolidation will help the division respond to the rising demands of more and more specialized technology.
“Technology is going to continue to grow and we’ll do our best to try to meet that demand,” he said.