IT to be hit hardest by proposed UNSW job cuts

Equivalent of up to 170 full-time employees could be cut from IT

The National Tertiary Education Union estimates that the equivalent of up to 170 full-time IT employees at UNSW could lose their jobs under proposals being considered by the university’s administration that would see the outsourcing of commodity tech services.

The estimate is based on a leaked document that outlines a series of ‘Operational Excellence’ initiatives as part of the university’s UNSW 2025 Strategy.

Operational Excellence “seeks to transform the delivery model for professional services at UNSW,” the document states. The model is based on the outcomes of 15 detailed functional reviews, states the document sighted by Computerworld Australia.

The document states the proposal “will transform the experience for students and our staff, including removing much of the administrative burden from schools to increase focus on their core activities of research and teaching; provide strengthened career opportunities for professional staff; and enable efficient service delivery”.

The initiatives outlined in the document would be phased in over two years and are expected to deliver annual savings of $47 million to the university, including $18 million from changes to corporate support functions.

The figure includes annual savings of $7.5 million from IT. The changes to the IT function are expected to incur one-off costs of $21.4 million (including $14.3 million in severance costs, calculated at 58 per cent of annual wage). The changes to corporate services, including IT, are anticipated to begin in Q4 2016 and be completed by Q4 2018.

The leaked version of the document does not include the IT business case but states that the proposal would “selectively augment the internal capabilities by external support for commodity services (especially infrastructure and application maintenance services).”

An email sent by chief digital officer Conrad Mackenzie on 1 September noted that a number of business cases had been presented to the management board on the previous day. “The business cases are focussed on the actions across the University that will deliver the 2025 Strategy,” the email from the CDO said.

“Several of those business cases addressed how professional services groups, such as ourselves, should respond to support the enterprise in achieving the strategic objectives.”

The CDO wrote:

As I’ve previously mentioned, we will continue to build the strength and capability of UNSW IT by focussing on three core areas:

• Ensuring IT operations are conducted to the highest possible standard
• Delivering IT projects in the most professional possible manner and
• Collaborating with the business to create the 2025 future.

Right now, I believe we are ready to understand better how we in IT will do this and should start to plan. Most of the business cases that have been submitted to Management Board include IT projects and our future pipeline looks very strong. So in the immediate future, my priorities for this planning phase include:

• Services - defining our services in collaboration with our customers and then developing the process and accountabilities to delivery them
• Governance for projects – ensuring all the projects and activities we engage and deliver on are supported by well informed and capable decision making
Collaborative co-design space - establishing a facilitated collaborative co-design space that is dedicated to fundamentally changing the way we go about delivering IT projects
• Solution delivery capability - fine tuning our methodology to take advantage of facilitated collaborative co-design and establishing the practices and rigour we will need to be successful on delivering many projects simultaneously
• Infrastructure – exploring ways to get the best value for money for our infrastructure spend so that our core operations are meeting business requirements and that risks are appropriately mitigated
• Space efficiency – responding to the pressure on the UNSW campus for physical space and determine how can we best utilise the space we have.

Mackenzie wrote that he would be forming a team to assist with planning work.

A message sent to NTEU members yesterday said that union representatives had met with UNSW vice chancellor Ian Jacobs, chief of staff Peter Noble and vice-president HR David Ward on 1 December and “asked them to confirm or deny the massive job cuts proposed in the document.”

“Management would not confirm or deny the details of the document at the meeting, but confirmed that consultation with staff will commence in respect of ‘Operational Excellence’ in February 2017,” the message states.

In total the union estimates the loss of some 415 full-time equivalent professional staff positions, with the number of people affected potentially “much higher” because many work on a fractional basis.

“While there is talk of new jobs being created and an overall increase in staffing numbers by 2025, many of our current colleagues would lose their jobs under this plan,” the union said.

A UNSW spokesperson claimed that the NTEU “has selectively quoted from a document that outlines only one option modelled under our operational excellence review”.

“In isolation, it presents a misleading picture,” the spokesperson said.

“The university is currently developing detailed proposals for consultation with staff from February 2017. A number of options have been modelled for possible workplace changes but no decisions have yet been made. It is therefore premature and misleading to speculate at this stage about specific numbers.”

The university administration is “committed to a transparent process” and would consult directly with staff where there “is a direct impact on a work unit or on individual positions”. The spokesperson said that “the UNSW 2025 Strategy is a plan for growth and investment, not a cost-cutting exercise.”

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