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Decision Rules for Funding IT Services

Exercise Instructions

Responsibility Center Management guides funding decisions at Penn, linking choice and responsibility at the local level. At the same time, central funds are reserved for the benefit of the University as a whole; this allocated base is used for services that are strategic to the institution. Within this framework, Penn’s computing support model provides basic guidelines about which IT services are best provided locally and which by the center. Demand for IT services is growing much faster than funding, however, and Penn is in need of finer-grained decision rules.

As a group, answer the following questions to help define decision rules for which services belong in the allocated base, which are best available for a fee, and which a School should provide for itself or not. Summarize highlights of your work on a flip chart—legibly enough for others to read.

1. Add a Few Cards—Review the cards on the table. Each lists an IT service for which people have asked. Use your blank cards to add a few services that might usefully test the decision rules.

  • Information Security
  • Fighting Fires
  • Information Security
  • Proactive Fire Prevention
  • The "Commodity" Network
  • Internet2
  • Distributed Staffing Overhead
  • Public Lab Support
  • NT Support Services
  • Distributed Learning-Facilitation/ Vendor Relationships/ Contracts
  • Distributed Learning-Strategic Programmatic Support
  • Support for non-College House Students

2. Which Bucket?—As a group, move each card into the category in which you believe it belongs: "Allocated Base," "Available to Buy on Campus," or "School Provides for Itself or Not." Feel free to move a card if you feel it has been put in the wrong bucket. If in the end the group can’t decide where a card goes, leave it out of a bucket.

3. What’s in Common?—What features are shared by the services the group put into "Allocated Costs"? The services it put into "Available to Buy on Campus"? The services it put into "School Provides for Itself or Not"?

4. What was Hard?—Where the group was not able to agree, what were the critical issues that made the decision hard?

5. Handoff—Today’s retreat won’t identify all the questions, much less figure out all the answers. Is there a natural "home" for the issue of decision rules for funding IT services: a group or role whose responsibility is to explore the issue and begin working on possible solutions. If not, identify the kinds of people who need to be involved.

6. Advice—All in all, what two or three pieces of early advice would you give the people to whom you would hand this issue?

Exercise Results: Decision Rules for Funding IT Services


  • Information Technology Steering Committee (IT Steering) should continue its fact-finding and problem-solving role
  • IT Steering should enhance the exploration of market demand for new services before full implementation
  • IT Steering and ISC should annually review policies instead of every three years
  • IT Steering should have a clear set of responsibilities along with a set of deadlines for 1999-2000
  • One specific example of a recommendation centers on security. "Security is a public good; Security is an insurance policy and should remain in allocated costs."
Outstanding Issues:

  • Retreat participants often asked, "Who funds what?" There is confusion about how funding decisions are made; many want to know how new and existing IT initiatives get funded.
  • Work Group members wondered, "Where do we put new initiatives where there are not clearly-defined early- and middle IT-adoption winners?" What about late adopters (e.g. Internet2)?
  • Is IT Steering overloaded? What are the limitations of IT Steering?
  • Faculty members expressed concern about the "haves" and the "have nots," as well as doubts about their own future IT funding
  • Participants noted that student IT-access varies among schools
Next Steps:

  • Determine an acceptable, base level of support for on and off-campus students, staff, and faculty (including remote locations)
  • Create a venture capital fund with defined starting and end points for each project
  • Continue launching pilot programs—the New Tools for Teaching initiative is working


  • IT Steering

Please note: This material is no longer current and appears online for archival purposes only.
Use the search and navigation tools above to locate more up-to-date materials, if they exist.

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