Office of Information Technology to launch March 1

CIO Klara Jelinkova details organizational changes in Rice’s first IT town hall

Rice University’s IT professionals got their first look Friday at the organizational structure and plans for the Office of Information Technology, a new university entity that will become effective March 1.

Headed by Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer (CIO) Klara Jelinkova, the new office brings together the university’s academic and administrative IT units. In an hourlong presentation for the combined staffs of the two merging units, Information Technology and Administrative Systems, Jelinkova described the new organizational structure for IT and its strategic goals and plans.

OIT wordmark

The IT reorganization was recommended in the final report from Rice’s Task Force on Information Technology, a panel appointed by the president in 2012 to conduct a comprehensive review of the university’s IT functions and processes. In its April 2014 report, the task force recommended centralizing IT functions under a CIO. Jelinkova was appointed to the newly created role in October and arrived at Rice Jan. 1.

“This is something that has been coming for a while,” Jelinkova told the IT staff members. “There was an 18-month study and a national search for a CIO. I came at the tail end of this progression, but you have all been on this journey for a while, and you are ready for this.

“We are now one organization, and we serve an important role,” she said. “We are the university’s trusted technology partner. We enable the people who change the world. We all are here at Rice University because this is a place where the discoveries are going to happen. This is the place that provides the thought leadership that is going to move the country and the world forward. We are here to support it, and that’s incredibly exciting.”

Jelinkova said the Office of Information Technology will build on Rice’s IT strengths and address the areas identified as needing improvement by the IT task force.

Areas of strength include infrastructure, research computing, core administrative applications and teaching and learning. She lauded Rice’s IT security team but said Rice needs universitywide security standards, policies and guidelines. Other areas targeted for improvement include data reporting and analytics, cyberinfrastructure for research computing, project and portfolio management, and strategic support and management of new technologies for teaching and scholarship.

Jelinkova said the Office of Information Technology will be organized in eight divisions. The majority of existing IT staff will work within four of these: enterprise and administrative services, which will be led by Associate Vice President of IT Randy Castiglioni; networking and telecommunications, which will be directed by William Deigaard; systems engineering, which will be directed by Renae Scott; and campus services, which will be directed by Mike Dewey.

Campus services will include the IT units that most people on campus deal with on a regular basis, including desktop support, the IT help desk, OwlSpace and classroom A/V support, and IT communications and marketing. The campus services division will also house several new programs, including a liaison office that will connect Rice employees with the IT services they need; a software distribution and licensing office that will work with divisional administrators and the Office of Procurement; and a group that will optimize operational processes.

The other divisions include two new units — business intelligence, data warehousing and analytics; and teaching, learning and scholarly technologies — whose specific functions and leadership will be determined over the next few months, Jelinkova said.

She said two other units would be “strong growth areas for Rice”: IT security, a new unit led by interim Chief Information Security Officer Marc Scarborough; and research computing and cyberinfrastructure, which will be headed by Jan Odegard, who will become associate vice president of IT March 1 and continue serving as executive director of the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology.

“I was very lucky that Jan Odegard agreed to take on the job of running and improving research computing and cyberinfrastructure and of working with the high-performance computing team that we already have in place,” she said. “Research computing and security are areas of strength where we need to expand, and Marc and Jan will work with me on how to best do that and to address the needs of the institution going forward.”

Jelinkova said she expects to spend the majority of her time in the coming months creating a technology road map that aligns with Rice’s institutional goals, developing priorities for strategic investments, improving project and portfolio management, working with IT leaders to develop new programs and units and meeting with staff at monthly luncheons.

She said the staff luncheons — a practice she started at Duke University and continued as CIO at the University of Chicago — will allow her to get to know the people in her division and to hear firsthand about the technical details of their jobs.

“I have always thought that once you go on the path of management, your purity of thought, the ability to actually see technical problems for what they are, gets inevitably corrupted by business thinking,” she said. “As a manager, you’re actually supposed to do that. It’s your job. But it is important to let technical people produce technical options and to have them sit at the table with managers and determine what will work technically within the business constraints of the organization.”

Jelinkova said she also plans to introduce a separate track for advancement within the Office of Information Technology that will provide IT staff who do not want to go into management with the opportunity for promotion and cross-training in the office’s divisions.

She urged those at the IT town hall to speak up and to take the initiative to improve things they have long seen as inefficient.

“There is no better time to change things than at the point when the organization is unfrozen, when things are moving, when there is fluidity,” she said. “If you can do something better, do it. If it’s out of your control and it needs to be changed, please speak up about it.”

She also told IT staff at the town hall that she understood that the realignment will not be simple or stress-free.

“This kind of change is always very complex. It is hard, and I understand that. No matter how optimistically I am going to be saying, ‘Change now! Change now! Change now!'” she said, “all of you, as you leave this room and start working with your managers and your directors, will have to unpack what this means for you. I know that the core of the work is with you.

“You all know what you do, and you’re good at it,” she said. “The question for each of you is, ‘How are you going to make the biggest contribution?”


About Jade Boyd

Jade Boyd is science editor and associate director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.