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A&M System Announces Further Consolidation of Services

In keeping with a recent and often controversial trend of public universities seeking savings by consolidating services, the Texas A&M University System announced a plan overhaul its IT infrastructure.

Chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, John Sharp, photographed at the System offices in Austin on March 14, 2013

In keeping with a recent and occasionally controversial trend of public universities seeking savings through consolidating services, the Texas A&M University System Thursday announced a plan to overhaul its the information technology infrastructure.

A&M released the results of an audit by Deloitte Consulting, laying out a plan that is expected to save $20 million per year for the next decade.

John Sharp, the system's chancellor, said he anticipated every president and chief executive officer of the system's institutions would accept Deloitte's recommendations. If they don't, he said, "We'll have that discussion with the board of regents and see where it goes from there."

He also said the consolidated, centralized approach to IT services recommended in the report would lead to the loss of about 125 jobs throughout the system, which he said would mostly occur through attrition. 

A plan to centralize services like human resources and information technology at the University of Texas at Austin, which was recommended by Accenture, a consulting firm, has prompted backlash among the faculty and staff. Similar plans at Texas A&M University have previously met with similarly chilly receptions.

Sharp acknowledged that could happen this time around, as well. 

"Probably, the people running the IT system are not going to be crazy about the report," he said, "Because it doesn't say good things about the people running IT."

On the other hand, the staffers in the IT departments — the "workerbees," he called them — "have been wanting to do this for a long time," Sharp said.

He said the report cost the system roughly $1 million. In a letter to Sharp,  Deloitte consultant Russ Smariga concluded that "the current IT environment lacks a unified vision and strong System-level leadership."

There are currently 120 separate email systems operating in the A&M System and no common method for storing and securing important data. Smariga described the status quo as "a confusing, frustrating, inefficient structure that makes it difficult to attract, hire and retain qualified IT staff."

About two-years worth of savings generated through a more modern, efficient infrastructure will be used to overhaul the system's financial accounting system, according to Sharp, and the rest is expected to be rerouted to academics and research.

Disclosure: Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin are corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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