Emory Report

February 9, 1998

 Volume 50, No. 20

ITD's 'customer-focused' reorganization nearly complete

In an effort to provide better service and communication with its customers, the Information Technology Division is putting the final touches on a year-and-a-half-long reorganization effort.

ITD has restructured itself into three service groups: teaching and research services, which supports the schools, faculty and academic departments; learning technologies, which supports students; and administrative services, which helps administrators and staff. Each has its own core of personnel and is further backed up by specialized support teams to provide a full range of services.

The idea is to build customer-focused expertise in each of these areas and provide more knowledgeable service. There is a fourth group, the customer support center, which comprises the help desk, offering telephone support for software distribution and documentation, and training courses.

"The customer no longer has to figure out, 'Who do I have to talk to in ITD?'" said Paul Morris, interim vice provost for Information Technology. "They go to their customer manager, who can work with them. The managers can then, as they need to, reach back into the rest of the organization to bring in other experts who are needed to solve a particular problem." The reorganization is a move that had its impetus in ITD's realization a couple years ago that "customer satisfaction was not where it needed to be," Morris said. The division hired consultants who worked with ITD staff to develop the customer-oriented structure as a possible solution. Teams began forming last July, and by Christmas they were essentially in place. What remains now, Morris said, is fine-tuning.

"You design an organization on paper, and then when you start to actually use it in real life, you discover that various things need to get moved around," he said. For example, initially the Office of Research was considered an academic function and the Office of Sponsored Programs an administrative one, but the customer teams found their functions overlap considerably, and now the offices are serviced by both the teaching and research and administrative services groups

"The one thing this reorganization really seeks to accomplish is to know the needs of the customer," said Alan Cattier, interim manager of the teaching and research group. "Before, it would've been more generalized: 'Here's a technical issue, how does this apply to universities?' Now we're asking that same question, but we're asking it in relation to a critical core group of customers."

Susan Mistretta is interim manager of learning technologies, and Scott Swann and Jean McGraw manage the administrative services and customer support center teams, respectively. The reorganization did not increase ITD's staff of 240 people and, beyond consultants' fees, cost little.

Morris said customers have responded favorably to the idea of the reorganization but are waiting to see if it actually results in better service. "We paid a lot of attention initially to the customer service center, and I've had a good deal of feedback saying its service is improving," he said. "We've also proposed performance measures to our customers, the idea being that if we can measure it, we can see where we're doing well and where we need to improve."

Morris added the reorganization reflects a trend in which technology support departments in universities, corporations and other organizations are changing. "There's been a shift of the center of gravity from the center out, a general recognition that we're moving to where central information technology organizations are as much enablers of what goes on as they are producers.

"This is where we are right now," Morris said. "Ten years from now the technology will change, the needs will change, and what will be the appropriate organization then? We don't know, but we'll clearly need to continue to evolve."

-Michael Terrazas

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