Good Example Of Case Study On Berkeley – Reforming It Governance

Type of paper: Case Study

Topic: Services, Government, Governance, Committee, Business, Campus, Students, Structure

Pages: 6

Words: 1650

Published: 2020/12/22

Executive Summary

UC Berkeley is a highly decentralized public university. Historically, Berkeley promoted decentralization as it helped in flexible operation, innovation and creativity. However, it failed to realize that a decentralized organizational structure for service departments often results in inefficiency. Till 2005, Berkeley IT department mostly operated as a decentralized model. This created resource constraint, redundancy, budget constraint and poor quality of service. There was a CIO for the decentralized IT departments, but he had little idea about the operations of the individual departments and therefore, he was unable to defend IT budget requirements for the future IT initiatives. However, after a nine month long survey conducted within the campus, the strategic committee found that if managed centrally, IT may offer services at a superior level. The first step towards a more centralized IT structure was to create a central IT governance model. The recommendation was to create a steering committee for all the major IT functions at the central level with the CIO being the head of that steering committee. The CIO would have clear visibility of the operations of IT department across the campus and his operation would be kept separate from that of IST. Also managing IT services and aligning IT departments based on services instead of technology or client applications made the overall IT process efficient and effective.

Organization Background – Culture and Organizational Structure

Berkeley is a large, complex, decentralized public university that encourages a high level of research activity, favors individual initiative and local entrepreneurship. The university offers 108 bachelor's level programs, 96 doctoral and 32 professional degree programs. The Carnegie classification report characterizes Berkeley as a large, primary residential research university in which a lot of research activities take place (Spicer and Pirani, 2008). Berkeley takes pride in its rich history of research activities. It faculty consisted of prominent Nobel Prize winners. Currently, there are 7 Nobel Prize winners on its faculty. The university gives a huge focus on autonomy and creativity. Of its annual yearly budget of $1,685,528,000 for the year 2006-2007, approximately one third portion $513,654,000 came from sponsored research (Spicer and Pirani, 2008). Due to the decentralized model, the culture of Berkeley is very fragmented. The IT department is an example of Berkeley's highly fragmented decentralized culture with each larger academic unit having separate IT services.

Article Summary

The researchers of ECAR analyzed the case study of the University of Berkeley to showcase how a large, decentralized research university goes through a total reformation of its IT infrastructure and transitions into a new structure. The decentralized, fragmented culture of the Berkeley University accounted for the disaster of its IT governance. each larger academic unit being responsible for making individual investment and taking strategic decisions, the IT environment at the university was characterized by duplication of investments, the lack of availability of the basic technology to students and faculty, a disparity between have and have-not units, the lack of training opportunities for technology staff and the lack of flexibility in designing enterprise applications and services (Spicer and Pirani, 2008). The problem was further aggravated by a dearth of state funding in keeping pace with the increasing demands of IT resources. All these problems became clear to the Berkeley leadership and in order to salvage the problem, IT strategic planning process was undertaken by the university in 2005 (Spicer and Pirani, 2008).
During the IT strategic planning process, the IT governance committee structure of Berkeley was reviewed, and it was found out that the IT governance structure of Berkeley was distributed, complex, slow, expensive, inefficient, decentralized and underfunded. The Berkeley leadership desired to reform the IT structure of the university into something efficient, collaborative, adequate, accessible, innovative, secure, wireless, ubiquitous and well-funded. Some of the crucial errors in the current IT governance structure of Berkeley lied on its focus on local needs and local support as a result of which the bigger institutional priorities were compromised (Spicer and Pirani, 2008). In order to make the IT governance structure effective, it was important for various departments of the universities to collaborate with each other. This finding became the guiding principle of the new IT strategic planning process. The planning committee identified and examined six critical issues that could be improved by the IT services, and those include 1) teaching and learning activities, 2) experience of students, alumni, donors, and supporters, 3) research activities, 4) security, reliability, and access, 5) governance, funding, structure, and 6) expertise (Spicer and Pirani, 2008).
The planning committee considered IT governance, funding and structure instrumental for the successful remediation of the other five critical issues. A review committee, consisting of Berkeley staff, faculty and students from different areas with IT involvement, was appointed, and the review committee's report showcased five major findings. These findings include the lack of knowledge of Berkeley's CIO regarding two-third on-campus IT activities; the absence of a connection between the process of preparing the annual IT budget for a campus and the process of discussing IT needs, investments and priorities; individual units bearing the responsibility of operating and taking decisions as regards the design, funding, implementation, and maintenance of campus-wide IT systems; ill-defined governance, funding, and structure roles of central administrative units, and the absence of a transparent mechanism to identify and disseminate IT best practices from one unit to another within a campus (Spicer and Pirani, 2008).

Based on the findings, the planning committee formulated a few goals that can be summed up as the following:

Governance aligning IT with campus needs and priorities,
Governance being transparent and clear to students and faculty alike
Recognizing the need to rationalize through governance of local and central services and funding processes
Fostering a partnership between the CIO and various departments served by IST
Designing governance structures in accordance with conditions and technological requirement (Spicer and Pirani, 2008).
Based on the goals, a set of recommendations were provided by the review committee in 2005, and these recommendations put special emphasis on the need of involvement of the CIO in the formulation of all-campus level IT budget requests and the CIO's need to interact with the knowledgeable faculty and receive expert advice on the basis of which he must advocate for proposed IT investments (Spicer and Pirani, 2008). The recommendations also underscore the need of reorganization, rationalization and enabling of technology investments in classrooms and instructional technology support systems, the provision of the IT resources required by students, faculty and the staff members, and hiring and training professional IT staff to develop a campus-wide community of IT professionals (Spicer and Pirani, 2008).

E-Berkley Initiative

“e-Berkeley” initiative was an IT initiative that laid the foundation for the IT centralization initiative at Berkeley in 2005. In 2000, Jack McCredie, the then assistant vice-chancellor and CIO of Berkeley, and James Hyatt, the vice-chancellor of finance and budget, proposed the new technology initiative to the cabinet. The primary goal of this initiative was to use the power of the internet in the operations of the university (Spicer and Pirani, 2008). They envisioned that the power of web could be used for effective management of the day-to-day functions and could also be used for more efficient teaching and research. E-Berkeley initiative was not focused towards IT governance and was solely focused towards integration through the internet. In later years, e-Berkeley was also used for the IT policy review for all the IT departments. In fact, gradually e-Berkeley became the de-facto forum for holding discussion on all the IT related issues for all the IT departments in Berkeley. Soon e-Berkeley became a central IT initiative for IT projects, teaching and research (Spicer and Pirani, 2008). It was an initiative by the Chancellor and EVC and was primarily designed for the UCB administrative staff. However, the project became more effective for IT as well as UCB faculty. However, the funding for the e-Berkeley project was very small as the funding came from the Chancellor and EVC’s IT budget. Due to a decentralized structure, everybody used the services of e-Berkeley, but was not paying anything towards the initiative. It was also an eye opener for the IT management that a centralized structure was required for uniform services across the organization without any budget constraint and resource constraint (Spicer and Pirani, 2008).

Benefits of King’s Decision to Create A Steering Committee to Overlook and The New IT Governance Plan

King found that the CIO in Berkeley had almost no control and knowhow of the decentralized IST departments. However, he was responsible for the IT budget, new IT projects and initiatives within the campus. IT budget primarily came from the central campus budget and campus recharge activities. The CIO had to compete with other functions for the IT budget, and due to decentralized function and no constructive input, the CIO often felt no need for extra budget. However, King’s suggestion to create a steering committee for all the IT departments with the CIO as the head of all of those departments had many benefits (Spicer and Pirani, 2008). This structure helped the CIO to understand the campus-wide demand from community inputs. Financial Planning and Technology investment managers in the steering committee were responsible for providing financial, budgeting and review services input to the CIO. The office of security, privacy and policy was also created as part of steering committee that created IT mission and brought together resources and people to achieve the goal. The technology staff development committee defined key resources, job families, redundancies, training programs and mobility to create a service infrastructure of superior quality (Spicer and Pirani, 2008). Technology standards committee ensured that UC Berkley develops applications, technology infrastructure and business processes into Campus Enterprise Architecture.
The old IT governance model was decentralized. However, the new IT governance model was totally centralized. Firstly, the decision, budgeting, policies, standards and the management committee were restructured to work as a central function. Secondly, IT no longer operated as a hybrid of product and service departments. It was converted into a service-oriented organization. The focus shifted from systems to services. Instead of classification of the IT department based on systems, technologies and categories, the new IT departments was divided as per the client services, application services, infrastructure services and data services (Spicer and Pirani, 2008). This created a huge flexibility and high level of responsiveness in all the IT departments.


Decentralization is a process that yields higher flexibility and creativity. However, this is good practice for areas of research development and teaching where creativity and flexibility are required. However, functions like IT for an educational institution are more of a support function and do not require flexibility. In fact, too much decentralization can cause inefficiency, which was the case with Berkeley. However, IT strategic planning after a nine month campus-wide study identified the critical success factors like the creation of a central steering committee, central operations of IT and operating IT as a service and not as product. Changing the IT governance structure was the first big step towards centralization. This central governance process ensured that a defined and standardized IT problem resolution process exist for the whole campus. The consolidation of the IT support staff and resources also ensured that right people were there to tend to the problems. The centralized IT governance structure also made the collaboration and discussions more fruitful and efficient. Thus, the centralization of the IT services made the IT operations within the campus of Berkeley more efficient and effective.


Spicer, D. Z. and Pirani, J.A. (2008). Reforming IT Governance at Berkeley: Introducing an Enterprise Perspective to a Decentralized Organization. EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research.

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