University department heads who gathered for a meeting last Thursday received progress reports from the leaders of Information Technology and the Division of Administration about the ongoing effort to transition the university and Vanderbilt University Medical Center into separate legal and financial entities.
John Lutz, vice chancellor for information technology, and Eric Kopstain, vice chancellor for administration, spoke to an assembly of university managers and others Sept. 10 at the Student Life Center.
Vanderbilt’s complex information technology portfolio demands a careful transition plan, Lutz told the group.
“You should know that our systems environment is really, really complicated and intertwined, but we do have a plan to address it,” Lutz said. “That plan will involve considerable mutual support over the next few years, meaning that one side—or the other—will be a provider to the other side as a customer for a period of time, and that will vary according to which systems are involved.
“It’s a big, complicated job that we will all work on, and we will have a period of transition while we extricate ourselves from one another, which we’ll achieve in due course,” he said.
Vanderbilt University and Medical Center share a network, applications and core infrastructure, Lutz said.
“While we have a lot of shared systems, many of them will split to one side or the other,” he said. “We have about 1,500 applications on the university side, 300 of which will be shared between VU and VUMC.” The two entities also share a significant internal physical infrastructure.
Lutz said three interdependent considerations are driving VUIT’s transition priorities: What are the legal and regulatory requirements? What are the business needs? And what are the technical barriers to each option?
VUIT convened a group of outside and internal technical and legal experts and consultants to clarify Vanderbilt’s information technology transition challenges, as well as staff working groups to address them. These groups discovered there are no legal “deal breakers” that require IT systems to be separate by the transition’s legal close. They agreed on the bare minimum business requirements needed to support the transition “dress rehearsal” period that took effect July 1 as well as at legal close. They identified a portfolio of core back-office systems that will be impacted by the separation. And they agreed that VUIT will establish shared application environments to support both entities for a period of two to three years.
The portfolio of core back-office systems and business applications is collectively called an Enterprise Resource Planning suite, Lutz explained. ERP is business management software—typically a suite of integrated applications—that organizations use to collect, store, manage and interpret data from many business activities. While the university proceeds with establishing a new ERP, the Medical Center will continue to support a jointly governed portfolio of core back-office systems.
“When the new ERP gets put up on the university side, the level of intricacy of the sharing is simplified dramatically,” Lutz said. “It will make it easier for both sides to operate and easier for them to diverge in the future.
“Quarter by quarter, we will continue to simplify this environment and reduce the level of interconnection between the two sides,” he said. “Getting the ERP done is what we need to put that simplicity in place.”
Vanderbilt will select a vendor for a new university ERP solution by the end of 2015, Lutz said. The selection process will have an expanded scope and sharper focus on the university’s needs resulting from the transition.
“Streamlining our business processes at an institutional level will renew the focus on our academic mission,” he said.
Next, Kopstain gave an update on transition efforts within the Division of Administration that included discussing the division’s organizational chart and those administrators’ new and expanded responsibilities. He also outlined several themes guiding transition activities: dress rehearsal and testing operating models; addressing staffing needs; contracts and permits; service level agreements (the agreements between various university and Medical Center departments describing how service will be provided to one another following legal close); communications; and space planning.
“When it comes to space planning, we have some very important guiding principles,” Kopstain said. “We want space to be efficient, we want it to be modern, and we want it to encourage interaction, not discourage interaction.
“One of the key themes is that when you look at the plethora of administrative support functions, they are all over the place,” he said. “Geographic dislocation and the costs associated with the inefficiency that creates is hard to quantify, but when you have fewer locations that are more concentrated and you have greater geographic adjacencies, things tend to work better.”
Kopstain said the northeast corner of campus where Loews Vanderbilt Plaza and the Baker Building are located will become an important hub for future-state Vanderbilt University operations. Overhead functions that are currently spread across 22 campus locations will be consolidated and co-located primarily in Loews and Baker. Renovations to accommodate these staff moves will take place in Loews during fall 2015 and in Baker during early 2016.
“While the university’s and Medical Center’s administrative functions won’t be physically separated for a while, I feel these relocations and enhancing co-location are an important, visible thing people will see and experience in a tangible way as we proceed through the plan,” he said.
Traci Nordberg, chief human resources officer, opened the Sept. 10 meeting by giving a preview of this year’s benefits Open Enrollment, scheduled for Oct. 14-30. University and Medical Center employees will participate in Open Enrollment together to select benefits that will take effect Jan. 1, 2016.
In addition, Associate Provost and Dean of Students Mark Bandas discussed recent reorganizations within the Office of the Dean of Students, student support services, and efforts to promote diversity and inclusion on campus.
For more information, visit the Human Resources organizational transition website.