University brings in outside tech support

Lauren Eckert

The struggles within the Information Systems and Services department at Washburn University have been the topic of many discussions this past year. These technology issues have not gone unnoticed and change is rapidly approaching as outside resources have been brought in to get the ball rolling on some necessary changes.

In February 2009, Washburn issued a request for proposals for an external review of the institution’s information technology. Kaludis Consulting was selected in May 2009, but the project did not immediately begin because of developing issues within the ISS department. 

Elliott Haugen, senior vice president at Kaludis Consulting, first responded to the request for interim CIO/ISS director in January 2010, and was selected to integrate his duties as interim director of ISS with the IT assessment project.

Haugen began exploring IT and ISS issues during the last two weeks of February and continues to maintain a bi-weekly presence on campus to learn about ISS and meet with faculty, students and staff in group and individual sessions to gain insight and expectations about what technology at Washburn should look like. Though Haugen depends largely on assistant directors to handle day-to-day operations, he remains accessible through e-mail and telephone when he is absent from campus.

In an effort to gain feedback about the needs of technology at Washburn, Haugen has sought out approximately 150 members of the Washburn community, including members of Washburn Student Government Association and Faculty Senate in order to develop a system that will better serve the needs of the university.

“Technology challenges at a university are endless, but we want to make sure that we are focusing on what’s most important,” Haugen said. “It’s not about the technology itself, but how it can help students, faculty, staff and administrators.”

The purpose of the IT assessment project is to evaluate the procedures already in place and work to make the necessary improvements.

“We need to improve things that make sense,” Haugen said, acknowledging that the focus of the assessment is to provide the Washburn community with the technology that they need to function and succeed.

Haugen also acknowledges the importance of talking to the people directly effected in order to find out how technology can best serve Washburn.

“We want to have the greatest impact,” Haugen said. “The only way to do that is to listen to people.”

Beginning the week of April 5, Haugen and his colleague Gwenn Weaver will be holding meetings and forums with students, faculty and staff to discuss the existing and future IT resources and services.

The IT assessment will be completed by the end of April and improvements will be implemented soon after. With Haugen playing both the role of evaluator and implementer, he will not only recommend necessary improvements, but will be responsible for implementing these changes and establishing a road map of sorts that will allow the future director a basic understanding of the changes that are needed.

Though Haugen will remain in the interim director position throughout the semester, the university will be seeking a new director to permanently fulfill the position.

“There are lessons to be learned in how ISS has not met the expectations of faculty and others,” Haugen said. “We are trying to look ahead to find ways to better serve this community.”