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Texas A&M University System announces sweeping overhaul of IT system

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The Texas A&M University System announced Thursday it will adopt the entirety of a massive information technology audit completed in February. A&M Chancellor John Sharp said the overhaul to A&M's 11 universities and nine state institutions will result in $200 million in savings over a 10-year period.

Those savings will be realized through decreasing the amount of data centers from more than 20 to three, a reduction in software licensing costs, decreasing from about 120 email systems to about 15 to 20 and eliminating about 125 jobs over a five-year period. Sharp said the majority of the staffing reduction will come through eliminating positions vacated by attrition.

Sharp called the current IT system scattered and uncoordinated.

"Our goal here is to produce the best IT system in the state," Sharp said.

The system paid Omaha-based Deloitte LLC $903,000 for the two-part study that delivered 29 recommendations. Sharp said the company relied heavily on input from current IT staff members across the state.

Some of the recommendations from the first half of the report, such as switching to Gmail for A&M university email, are underway.

The report details sweeping suggestions for governance, security and network infrastructure.

It recommends the creation of a system-wide IT governance structure consisting of an IT board that would report to the chancellor. The streamlining of technological structures and the creation of consolidated data centers would lend to a more efficient and reliable network, the report states.

Sharp pledged that the money saved through the restructuring will go back into education and research.

"That's the goal of everything we're doing," Sharp said. "It started with outsourcing. The IT is doubly important not just for savings but perhaps more so in giving students, faculty and researchers a first-class IT system better than anybody else in the state has.

"We have the same goal with the [PriceWaterhouseCoopers] administrative study. Once we're finished, we can tell the Legislature we're the most efficient system in the state of Texas and we ought to be rewarded for that."

Mark Stone, the system's chief information officer, said the recommendations will be phased in. He said the security and governance changes should be implemented by the end of the year. The other changes will take three to five years, he said.

The most immediate expenditure stemming from the announcement will be the purchase of new payroll and financial systems, Stone said. He said the outdated systems used across the system should be replaced within three to five years for an estimated cost of $30 million.

Sharp said the state agency CEOs and the university presidents will play a major role in implementing the changes.

"Our hope is that they will think these are as important as we do," Sharp said. "I think anybody who objected, that those people will come to the same conclusion that Deliotte did and we did. We have a heck of a chance to make this place hum in a way that's second to none."

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