Guiding Principles

To help achieve organizational alignment, Penn State IT has established organizational principles and technical principles to serve as guideposts for how our organization will operate and the technical direction we will pursue. We believe these principles clearly and concisely articulate the type of organization we want to become. We will update these principles over time as the landscape of Penn State, higher education, and information technology evolves.

Organizational Principles

We are mission-driven

  • The Pennsylvania State University is a multi-campus, land-grant, public research University that educates students from around the world and supports individuals and communities through integrated programs of teaching, research, and service.
  • We will establish a governance model where academic, research, and business leaders drive IT investment decisions, and where these leaders are informed by close relationships with Penn State IT and by Penn State IT’s expertise and insight.
  • We will focus on work that gives Penn State a competitive advantage.

We are a team of teams

  • We will share a common purpose and vision.
  • We can achieve more together than as separate teams.
  • We will pull together and rely on each other.
  • We will operate through collaboration, communication, and coordination.
  • We will assume good intentions by our colleagues.

The right people with the right skills in the right place doing the right things

  • Organizational and geographical boundaries will not stop us from bringing the right people together to solve problems and provide services.
  • Delivering effective service will require a geographically diverse team of IT professionals.
  • We will establish a shared vision and direction across the team.
  • We empower people to make decisions within their scope of responsibility.

Culture of common sense

  • We will rely on processes to bring consistency and quality to what we do, but we will not let processes become a barrier to saying “yes.”
  • We will not let process distract us from what matters – people and outcomes.
  • We will “color outside the lines” when it helps us meet an important need.
  • We will adopt lightweight processes, policies, and methodologies that bring consistency across the organization but do not slow or weigh us down.
  • We value standards but make exceptions when it’s the right thing to do.

We will focus on the things that bring the most value to the University

  • We will provide service levels that meet or exceed the University’s requirements in everything we do.
  • We will be national leaders in the delivery of IT services that most directly enable our University’s mission and vision.
  • We will use governance models to ensure our resources are focused in the areas that matter most.

People are our most important asset

  • We are at our very best when our team includes a diverse group of people with varying experiences, ideas, and perspectives.
  • Our work environment will be safe and nurturing for everyone.
  • We will create a culture of inclusion and opportunity where every team member can excel and contribute.
  • We will reward and advance staff not just because they demonstrate a particular technical skill, but because they demonstrate our core values and behaviors.
  • We will offer competitive compensation, flexible work conditions, and an environment that promotes continuous personal growth through a diverse range of training options.

We try to get to “yes”

  • Everything we do should be planned, designed and operated with our colleagues in mind.
  • We are committed to developing a deep understanding of the needs and plans of the various University constituencies.
  • We focus on meeting needs, not just delivering technologies.
  • Speed to deliver services is key to meeting our colleagues’ needs, but we understand there are times when it’s necessary to be more deliberate.
  • The efficiency of our colleagues is more important than ours.
  • We take the word “partner” very seriously. Our partners’ success is our success.

Culture of continuous improvement

  • Our organization, our teams, and our staff members each will strive to be better today than yesterday.
  • Everyone and every team is accountable for continuous improvement.
  • We will make new and interesting mistakes, and we’ll learn from each one. We are not afraid to take calculated risks.

We will embrace common practices

  • We will adopt shared standards for services, support, and lifecycle management.
  • We will share consistent and transparent practices.
  • We will work together to leverage economies of scale in areas such as procurement, operations, and service delivery.

We prefer to empower and enable rather than to control

  • We will create services that the University community chooses to use.
  • We will encourage the use of common practices and technologies across the University but recognize that there may be times when teams adopt unique approaches to meet their mission-specific needs.
  • There are times where we will choose to enforce standards, but only when those are well-vetted and supported by the appropriate governance body.

Data will inform our decision-making

  • Our goal is to make sound decisions; high-quality data facilitates that goal.
  • We will mature our data repositories and our data analysis capabilities over time.
  • The lack of available data will not be used as a reason to avoid making a decision or for maintaining the status quo.

Technical Principles

We will spend less time managing infrastructure

  • We will maintain or improve service levels even while we reduce the effort it takes to operate them.
  • We will gain efficiency by:
    • aggressively using automation
    • consolidating redundant technologies and services across Penn State and within Enterprise IT
    • leveraging cloud services
    • constructing fewer custom systems and instead using lower maintenance vendor-designed solutions
  • Resources that otherwise would have been used to manage infrastructure should be allocated toward services that address mission-specific needs

We will relentlessly pursue automation

  • Automation allows us to run more infrastructure at better service levels with less effort.
  • We will be national leaders in automation.
    • Our higher education peers will look to us as an exemplar of how to run efficient infrastructure.
  • We will measure ourselves in ways that encourage more and more automation.
    • Traditionally, infrastructure teams’ primary measurements involve availability and performance.
    • We will equally value measurements of our automation capability such as:
      • time to deliver a service request to an end user
      • percentage of services requests met through automation (versus those met manually)
  • “Manageability” should be a primary factor in technology selection and implementation.

We are “cloud first” for the selection of applications and infrastructure

  • Cloud services can be a valuable tool in our long-term goal to reduce the effort it takes to operate our infrastructure.
  • We will not adopt a radical “move to the cloud” program, but instead consider migration during lifecycle replacement.
    • We will selectively move some applications/services to the cloud sooner where it helps us improve service levels or significantly reduces operational effort.
  • When selecting a delivery platform, we will consider a broad set of factors including: total cost of ownership, opportunity costs, strategic alignment, and operational sustainability.
  • We will ensure our security program is designed to embrace unique cloud challenges, and we will run key parts of our security infrastructure in the cloud.

We will buy solutions rather than develop them ourselves

  • We prefer Software-as-a-Service (Saas), cloud-based solutions over traditional software licensing models.
    • SaaS generally decreases the amount of time we spend providing infrastructure and support.
  • If we ever choose to build custom solutions, it will be in areas where we can bring unique value that is difficult to find in the marketplace.
    • For example, research computing and identity management will be areas where higher education will continue to play a leadership role.
    • As appropriate, we’ll consider partnering with higher education consortia.
  • We prefer configuration over customization.
    • Configuration changes are generally easily maintainable, while customization often involves a long-term, non-trivial effort to maintain.

We will become integration experts

  • Our mix of applications and business practices will be unique from other institutions, so we’ll need to have the skills and knowledge to integrate our systems where out-of-the-box integration is inadequate.
  • We should invest in tools, training, and infrastructure that make Penn State IT a national leader in systems integration.
  • Adopting effective integration practices will ease transition to new applications and should help us mitigate the risk of vendor lock-in for some or all our applications.

The network is the digital foundation for learning and discovery

  • Penn State’s ability to lead in teaching, learning, and research requires a world-class network.
  • Penn State will operate its own network for the foreseeable future.
  • We will invest in tools, training, and infrastructure to make Penn State IT a national leader in network operations.
  • We will actively participate in higher education networking consortia (e.g. Internet2, OmniPop) to ensure Penn State’s network is aligned with national infrastructure.
  • We will aggressively pursue automation of network services, including software defined networks, to decrease the effort to maintain the network while improving service levels.
  • We will adopt open network standards whenever possible.

Wireless and cellular will be our primary end-user network experience

  • Our user community will rarely, if ever, plug into a network via a wired jack.
    • Inside buildings, in outdoor areas, and in public transportation, ubiquitous connectivity is needed and expected.
  • Wired connections will exist primarily for specific use cases including:
    • lab equipment with special latency or performance requirements; and
    • wide area networks and data center networks where wireless is not feasible.
  • We should establish short- and long-term plans to begin this transformation, including establishing a sustainable funding model.

Managing identity is foundational to delivering excellent IT services

  • Getting students, instructors, and researchers access to the right resources at the right time requires a shared identity model and infrastructure.
  • Identity management is key to enabling interdisciplinary and interinstitutional collaboration.
  • Penn State should have national-caliber infrastructure and supporting processes for managing identity, authorization, and authentication.

We will avoid the proliferation of functionally-redundant technology

  • Proliferation of functionally-redundant technologies is inefficient.
  • We will establish a technical architecture process to organize technology decision-making.
    • The process will span across the University community and shift technology decision-making from narrow departmental decisions to more broad University-wide decisions.
    • As we gain experience, skills, and buy-in, our technical architecture practices will be extended across Penn State IT.
  • Our architecture processes will be designed to balance our desire to encourage innovation and achieve operational excellence.
    • This is challenging but can be done if we are more intentional about how we go from experimenting with new technologies to using them.

We will proactively and comprehensively monitor infrastructure

  • We will always be highly aware of the health of our infrastructure.
  • We will proactively address problems before they are experienced by end users.
  • When end users are affected by a problem, we will start responding to the issue before they even notify us.

We will embrace mobile technologies

  • We will prioritize mobile functionality when evaluating applications and services, so they work as well on mobile platforms as traditional desktop computers.
  • We will seek ways to leverage the unique benefits of mobile devices.
  • We will ensure a seamless mobile experience for the Penn State community.
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