IT staff pushes back on department reform

A reorganization of the UO information technology department, called Transform IT, has recently set off a backlash from some employees.

The reorganization started in August 2016 with a report, which states that the goals of the reorganization are to centralize and understand IT. After the report, the university hired consultants and sent out a survey to IT workers, indicating the start of the reorganization, which upset some of the IT staff.

Greg Bryant, who works in IT, felt that an internal discussion, instead of hiring investigators, would have worked better.

“These [IT workers] are people who have been here for decades. They’ve solved problems all the time, and they have all kinds of suggestions about how things could be better done, but they weren’t asked that,” Bryant said.

Patrick Chinn, a member of the Transform IT Advisory Board, believes that the reorganization helps the IT staff and students. He said it aims to optimize the IT  department and to improve the students’ experiences on campus.

Chinn attests that this reorganization is “not an effort to lay people off,” he said. “We need all the IT staff we have to continue doing the work that we do. It’s not a cost-cutting measure.”

Jennifer Perren, an IT staff member and a member of the SEIU 503-085 union, has voiced her concerns about the reorganization. Perren created a report of the IT staff’s complaints, such as low morale, unclear goals and text-based communication instead of face-to-face communication. The report also lists possible solutions to these problems.

“One issue is just the wanting more of the, I call it, ‘on-the-ground IT staff involvement,’ and not necessarily less management involvement or planning, but more actual involvement from IT staff around campus who are actually doing the groundwork,” Perren said.

Bryant hopes that Transform IT will lead to more autonomy for the IT staff, instead of the current way Transform IT is currently being managed.

“It’s not a very efficient use of human beings. It doesn’t allow for creativity to really flourish,” Bryant said. “Some people would call it an issue of management style, but it isn’t.” He wrote in an email to the Emerald, that “self-management, by individuals and teams, is the best practice in computing because free collaboration, and free inquiry, leads to the best answers.”

The university’s reorganization of its IT department reflects many other universities have done, Chinn said.

“I think that people’s concerns about where Transform IT is headed is important,” Chinn said. “We have been working to talk to staff who are concerned about that. I think at the same time it is also a really exciting opportunity to realign how we provide services on campus.”

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Emma Henderson

Emma Henderson