The University of Pennsylvania recently changed its internal billing, as well as shifted to online education. Here’s how it happened and why.
TechRepublic’s Karen Roby spoke with Bill Kasenchar, senior director for the technology business management office at University of Pennsylvania, about how the university’s IT department transformed its accounting strategy and the speedy digital transformation of the university when COVID-19 shut it all down. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)
Karen Roby: Bill just recently, you presented at a conference, virtually of course, talking with global tech and finance leaders about why it’s so important to have the financial side of a technology house in order. Give us some of the highlights from that discussion.
Bill Kasenchar: I think the presentation works around trust, is one of our primary facets, or the lack of trust, I should start out with. Our [internal] clients did not trust us, from a financial standpoint. It took a lot of effort. The University of Pennsylvania operates on what’s called responsibility center management, which means that we have to charge for all of our services, and we have to break even. We have to recover for our costs, and have a clean balance sheet for the university. One of our biggest flaws in our history was that it was difficult for us to provide accurate and auditable invoices to our clients for the services they consumed. If they asked a question, we would come up with a different answer, and that was problematic. So, our clients lost trust in our ability to provide the services in the demand that they need. They would try and do [IT work] themselves, which is not an efficient or effective use of the university’s resources. So, our objective was how to rebuild trust.
SEE: TechRepublic Premium editorial calendar: IT policies, checklists, toolkits, and research for download (TechRepublic Premium)
In order to rebuild trust, we had to get our house in order, financially. We had to determine what all the services we provide to the community are, and how much they cost on a unit basis. How much does each email account cost, each network for each desktop laptop that we support, and so on. Applications, and servers and things of that nature. It took a lot of work over a number of years in order to get our house in the water. In doing so, we used the tool Apptio to help provide the detail. I think one of the biggest benefits with Apptio is that it made it a self-service tool for our clients. Now, after we did all that work, our clients can go in, and they could see for themselves what our costs were. They could drill down very granular detail, the total number of email addresses they were being charged with. They can drill down into the number of ports, and if Wharton moved to a new building, they would be able to determine, “Oh,