2. The department’s strategic challenges 2011 to 2015(including the impact of reductions in resources):

2.1. Retrospective Consideration of Previous Plan

At the beginning of 2010 OUCS produced its revised five-year plan(see http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/internal/5yr/). This provided a detailed analysis of the future initiatives and developments within OUCS, listed a series of specific goals and tasks, and demonstrated how these took forward the aims and objectives of the University.

OUCS has achieved considerable success in meeting the objectives set out jointly by the department and the divisions. Our major projects are all delivered on time and within budget, with notable successes in the roll-out of the Nexus service (over 40,000 mailboxes) – which as well as accommodating all the previous Herald users, has now attracted several departments and colleges to the central service allowing them to wind down their local instantiation (notably UAS, Chemistry, and IMSU). Our NSMS service has led the way in virtualisation allowing other units (e.g. BSP) to share this expertise and reduce its costs, and the team is also providing front-line IT Support for some faculties (e.g. English) which has allowed the local department to reduce expenditure.

Despite the fact that demands on our services, and for new services are increasing all the time, we have also managed our expenditure to year-on-year reduce deficits. Considerable success has been achieved here in attracting external funding which in 2009-10 generated nearly £500k in FEC. At the same time, whilst remaining financially prudent we have also managed to develop our services in new and imaginative ways – e.g. extending the network (OWL and Eduroam) to within NHS properties, allowing for remote backup to the HFS via VPN, achieving the 5m download milestone on the OUCS supported iTunes U project and becoming one of the first Universities to launch ePubs through the gateway, developing Mobile Oxford, etc. This was achieved through projects taken to the PRAC ICT Envelope with the support of the Divisions, or from external sources, e.g. JISC.

2.2. Challenges, Issues, and Monitoring

At an abstract level the underlying challenge for OUCS remains the same, namely to:

  • develop and deliver the mission critical services demanded of it by the University
  • be responsive to the changing needs of the users within the University
  • be responsive to the changing landscape of IT in Higher Education
  • against already existing major financial constraints, and a new budget challenge of reducing net expenditure by 10%.

Considering the range of critical services - the backbone network, Nexus, identity and access management services, the HFS, our training programme, advice and support – and the demands for new IT services which match the ambitions and reputation of a top-flight University, the challenge is considerable. Over recent years we have been asked to make cuts on predicted expenditure that have led to a year-on-year reduction in baseline funding with little access to development funds, and like all service departments have been asked to budget a 10% cut in net expenditure by 2013 (see below). As a result it is increasingly difficult for OUCS to meet the challenge noted above.

It is important, therefore, that our performance (financial, service provision, and development) is constantly monitored and scrutinised by the Divisions through the OUCS Management sub-committee and ultimately the PRAC ICT sub-committee. This is a fully transparent process in which on an annual basis the new OUCS Management sub-committee analyses our services (as defined in our complete set of Service Level Descriptions), suggest changes, reviews usage, and assists in setting the budget for the following academic year. This is but one stage in a now established review process of OUCS (see Key Performance Indicators – below).

2.3. Savings

[ N.B. This report does not cover Telecoms’ finances which in keeping with previous years are treated as a separate case. Telecoms runs entirely as a cost recovery service, and any surpluses built-up in year have been agreed with the Divisions and colleges as a means of funding the peaks in expenditure needed to maintain and upgrade the system. These surpluses need to be safeguarded, therefore, and carried forward year-on-year.]Computing Services

Initiative Saving 2011/12 Saving 2012/13 Comment/Status
College service contribution - 604.5

OUCS was asked in 2010 to set out a plan for achieving a 10% saving in net expenditure over three years set against the 09/10 budget. The targets and steps agreed with the divisions and in the budgeting process of early 2010 meant that OUCS aims to reduce net expenditure through:

  • staff leaving through the OMIS scheme, early retirement, etc £113k
  • phasing out of Herald £44k
  • removal of dial-in service £4k
  • exploring possible college contributions to the cost of core OUCS services £tbc (i.e. paying for those services which college-only staff/business depend on and thus not included in the infrastructure charge to Divisions).

The agreed target was £532k (by 2013) but it was requested, if possible, that we should try to achieve greater than that (£605k – this assumed contributions from colleges of c. £15k each).

With reference to the above we can report that by end of AY2011-2012 we will have achieved:

  • OMIS and early retirements savings of: £166k (higher than expected due to late applications, staff taking early retirement as allowed under older contracts)
  • Dial-in reduction saving of: £4k
  • phasing out of Herald of: £44k

TOTAL: £214k
(against a target of 113k + 44k + 4k = 161k for end 2011/12)

In our budget forecast for 11/12 we provide details of our payroll and equipment spends. It is worth noting a couple of points also:

We should remember that of our estimated £5,655 payroll costs in 11/12 c.£900k is recovered in sales and services (e.g. NSMS, InfoDev, and UCISA) – c.16% of our total costs. We believe this shift of payroll cost to cost recovery will also increase by 60k in 11/12 as our InfoDev team moves forward.
For 11/12 we estimate our spend will be £1,520k (which includes the 2% inflationary rise) . If we take into account the £83k of unavoidable expenditure this represents an 18k reduction against 10/11 spend.

Finally we are still pursuing the college contribution. If that materialised at the level we expect then we would make up the shortfall. This is currently being discussed.

2.4. ICT Governance

In Hilary Term 2011 OUCS will move to UAS, and come under the jurisdiction of the Registrar. This will mean leaving the Academic Services and University Collections division.

The change in governance is one of the recommendations emerging from a report by the internal auditors which reviewed IT across the main central IT providers (excluding the libraries). It also recommended the appointment of a CIO for IT.

OUCS is fully committed to supporting these recommendations and looks forward to a time when the major IT providers (OUCS, ICT ST, and BSP) come under the same governance structure for reporting and financial matters. However, it is also keen to maintain its identity as an academic computing service driven by the needs of the divisions.

2.5. Future Plans and Initiatives

What follows is a reflection on some of the objectives set last year, and a plan for how we can take services forward over the next five-year period bearing in our finances. Drawing on the objectives set out in published University strategies, we focus on key academic areas such as teaching, research, and overall support services. Under these we then list the key objectives OUCS proposes which will assist the University in meeting these strategies. In writing this we have attempted to align the appropriate goals with those presented in the strategic plan for the Office for the Director of IT (ODIT).

In some cases these new initiatives would require new money and we will look to the internal ICT Project Development (PD) Envelope for this, or external funding (through bodies such as JISC). In Appendix A we have listed major new objectives that require funding in excess of £50k. The most important of these being the replacement of the backbone network beginning in 2011. Within its recurrent budget OUCS has no development funds of its own to draw on so the ICT PD Envelope provides the main avenue for development. However any projects suggested would need prior approval by the OUCS Management Committee, PICT, BSC, and ultimately PRAC – and would only be submitted with the support of the divisions.

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