Focusing on Operation Excellence to Drive Results

Rama Dhuwaraha, Associate Vice Chancellor & CIO, University of North Texas SystemConsidering a CIO’s role decades back and now, there has been a huge evolution. How do you view this evolution?

I believe CIOs are embedded into every fabric of business, particularly in higher education. They are more involved in leading, shaping some of the policies and assisting governance in a broader space, which was restricted previously. As technology plays a vital role in most of the initiatives that are being proposed, CIOs act as a catalyst for almost all major collaborations. In our case, the University of North Texas System oversees three campuses: Health Science Center in Fort Worth, University of North Texas (Denton) and University of North Texas in Dallas (which includes the College of Law).

With IT shared services on some campuses, and a decentralized IT structure at the rest, we have a much-federated model.

What methodologies do you follow as a CIO of UNT System to put in place an error-free structure?

We start with an activity-based approach to budgeting and allocate cost to appropriate areas. Later we collaboratively take initiatives to determine the progress, which is categorized into 67 services and sub-categorized into 11 groups depending on the framework of the services.

Our focus on operational excellence is being fulfilled through shared services. Within the UNT System, IT shared services has the highest Net Promoter Score that calculates the engagement of staff and team members. An engaged workforce implies high operational excellence. We also possess good metrics and KPIs to improve OPEX.

The main reason for a better outcome is our focus on reducing the cost curve, rather than saving money

With so many technological disruptions taking place within the education industry today, what are some of the technological and behavioral trends that excite you?

Data warehouse and cybersecurity are at the forefront of disruptions. Speaking about the trends, we have embarked on a hybrid cloud implementation and an on-premise cloud that functions like the AWS. With multiple efforts on the mobile application side, we are also working with gaming companies to provide gaming features for our campus to improve communication engagement. This initiative is called “Smart Campus.”

Sensors, IOT, digital currencies and AI, can be very disruptive in the coming years. Though we presently have no initiatives in any of those, we are trying to yield outcomes for them.

With a high priority on the application side of the smart campus initiative, we are also focusing on virtualization, hybrid cloud, and automation in IT financial management. Particularly, we have many initiatives revolving around IT financial management, as most universities are lagging behind because of their inability to comprehend the benefits, system abilities and costs.

We are looking forward to revolutionizing our Student Experience, where we have a thorough analysis and insight into our student’s journey while on campus. This will help us launch initiatives to improve their experience.

What are the outcomes that you have enabled for UNT with the best practices?

The reason for our better outcomes is because we focused on improving our services and reducing the increase in the cost curve, rather than solely focusing on saving money through cuts. In order to achieve that, we started to revamp project management; enterprise architecture management and IT service management. With hybrid cloud solutions, we were able to consolidate systems to deliver more services at the same cost. Presently, we are in the third revision of governance, which paved the way for our OPEX journey. Our next advancement is in adaptive governance, which enables the organization to explore different styles apart from control and risk management. Our organization is emphasizing agility in governance by empowering teams with authority to deliver distributive decisions. Clarity in work communication is essential to enhance OPEX whereas transparency in communication is necessary to circumvent the hurdles.