ACU Information Services Strategic Plan

June 1, 2002 - May 31, 2007

ACU Mission ... to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world.

Finance, Administration, and Enrollment Mission...to support all areas of the University by improving the quality of life for students, faculty and staff, and the well-being of the University by:

  • Providing quality service
  • Improving fiscal responsibility
  • Improving operational efficiency
  • Hiring staff dedicated to the ACU mission by selecting the best people
  • Promoting continuous learning through expanded opportunities for personal, professional, and spiritual growth
  • Communicating in a way that encourages active listening and understanding
  • Making purposeful change by continually evaluating and improving existing systems

Information Technology Mission

...to research and provide technologies that enhance learning, service, and efficiency, and are reliable, maintainable, useable, and accessible

Information Technology Vision

Information Technology will construct and maintain network, computer, voice, video, audio, and software systems. We will provide exceptional support by recruiting and keeping technically qualified Christian personnel who share the mission of the University. Technological change is inherent; therefore, we will focus on developing personnel who embrace change and can develop partnerships across the University. Administrative systems will provide flexible, efficient, timely information and will be replaced by 2006. Annually, we will visit with each department to ascertain and discuss needs and support. The LINK Team will continue to review the long-term technology needs of the University. ACU will remain ahead in technology when compared to schools of our type and size.

Executive Summary

During the past year, ACU centralized its technology organizations under a CIO. The basic effect on Information Technology was to assume responsibility of the core support of all technology on campus. The focus of planning for the next five years is on adjusting our support model to take advantage of efficiencies of this centralization. We must make adjustments to combine servers, support tools, services offered to departments, etc. to take full advantage of this centralization.

We plan to continue to create a technology atmosphere that allows the ACU campus to be able to use tools that enhance the learning process for our students. Technology already touches all areas of campus life. Our emphasis will continue the shift from managing information systems and data to a service orientation involving and helping its customers. Over the past several years, we have met with department heads on campus to evaluate our support. As they make suggestions and observations, we adjust our support model to meet their needs. All of the directors in this area will continue to enhance communication with our customers and make that a priority for each of our employees. This emphasis in Information Technology is consistent with the plan laid out in the University's Centennial Vision. The University will build on the campus-wide network infrastructure and build academic programs using this state-of-the-art technology. Our greatest challenge is supporting the campus's technology needs with limited resources. Chief among these resources is our technical employees who are in high demand in all businesses.

Technology is changing more rapidly than we, at times, can plan for and react. We must act quickly, accept a reasonable amount of risk and move while opportunities exist. Business leaders say that strategic planning for technology has a maximum horizon of 18 months. Even ACU's short-term budget planning is more than 18 months away in our planning cycle. Funding must also be somewhat fluid. Our income from long distance sales to students is rapidly decreasing due to increased competition from cellular telephones, prepaid calling cards, and Internet usage. This has and will continue to affect the funds ACU has to use for its technology needs.

The most effective way we can help our customers is to have well-qualified, effectively trained Christian personnel. This is another focus of the Centennial Vision. We will continue to use the Gallup process to screen potential employees. This has proved highly effective for us in the past several years. We will focus on retaining the personnel who are the best at satisfying ACU's technology goals. Training also is essential to the effectiveness of our employees yet, technical training is extraordinarily expensive. This area will be a significant challenge as we reduce staffing and face budget pressures in coming years.

Technology support demand will continue to escalate, as ACU is more and more dependent on technology. As departments increasingly use technology, our staff faces added pressure to keep critical systems available. While there are some areas in which we can prioritize work, others demand attention due to outside influences such as federal reporting requirements, state reports, etc.

The fall semester provided challenges in every piece of technology we use. We had problems with vendors, equipment, and software failure in academic programs, network, and servers. This also has a telling effect on staff when the stress is constant. There is no time for rest and relief. The effects of ongoing, high-demand support will continue to be an ongoing concern addressed in our strategic planning.

As we look toward the needs of the University over the next several years, we must be proactive in making systems and connectivity easier to use. We will be concentrating on hardware, security and control, software, and information resources with the goal of promoting simple and intuitive access to the University's resources. Projected resource needs relate to administrative system upgrades, planned network expansion, and connectivity issues for voice, video, and data.

Our infrastructure (cable TV system, ID card system, and many of the servers) will continue to need replacement in this plan period. We must treat these types of upgrades as ongoing operating costs rather than one-time upgrade costs. As our equipment vendors introduce new technology and equipment, they begin phasing out current equipment.

During the current fiscal year, network equipment failure forced us to replace the core network equipment. It is rare that network equipment lasts three years or more. Demands are increasing for usage of the campus network. As demands increase to about 80% usage, we must upgrade service. This requires a look into the future to plan for increased demands before it becomes critical. We also must remain vigilant to the threats to our network and computing on campus from hackers and viruses. Security has become an increasingly complex area that requires dedicated resources.

We must provide more user services to simplify use of the information resources available. User services include consulting on equipment configuration, software design and purchase, and training. There is a limit to centralized support. As technology increases, we must define the level of support in order to clarify user expectations. We will continue to use expert students in our support model to expand our support in times of no growth of full-time staff.

We continue to offer a model allowing for service to departments needing server space and administration. Our goals include working on planning for full cost of implementing and supporting new applications. We cannot continue to add applications without plans to support them with equipment, maintenance, and staff.

We will continue to watch trends and make comparisons to other universities on a regular basis. As we see areas that need improvement, we will make unit goals to address the needs. These goals will also be incorporated into the strategic planning process. We will make continuous improvements part of our planning.

The goals of Information Technology vary from department to department. Our overall goal is to remain near the leading edge in technology. We believe that it is not cost-effective for ACU to be out in front constantly testing new technologies. However, we must stay current because the overall cost of catch-up is extremely high. We plan to take the lead in pursuing a leading-edge stance in conjunction with the strategic direction developed by the LINK team.

Technological progress will accelerate in the future. Since it will become more a part of each of our customers’ daily lives, we must be ready to accept the challenges. These are exciting and challenging times for information technology. We are on the threshold of major breakthroughs in many areas all across the ACU campus. As we are more proactive in meeting these challenges, we will be better able to grasp the future and cause changes to happen.

These will not necessarily be easy times, but working together as a family, we can make information technology at ACU a useful tool to serve our students and to help “educate our students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world.”

Last modified 2/8/2002 

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