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CNI Podcast: Dean Krafft on Reimagining IT at Cornell University

In response to the financial crisis, Cornell University began a broad review of a number of functional areas of the university, including information technology. Over a one-year period from the summer of 2009 through the summer of 2010 there was an extensive analysis and review of information technology at Cornell, culminating in an IT vision document whose recommendations have been adopted by the President and Provost. Implementation of those recommendations has now begun. In this interview, Chief Technology Strategist for Cornell University Library, Dean Krafft, talks about the new model for campus IT embodied in these recommendations, looking both at the broad impact of the model on Cornell as a whole and at the specifics of its implementation within the Cornell University Library. He also shares some of the methodology that went into the review and its recommendations. While Cornell is still early in the implementation process, the new model has the potential to dramatically improve the efficient and effective delivery of administrative and academic IT services on campus. At the same time, the strategy is not without risks, and it is resulting in significant organizational, cultural, and operational changes in the provision of IT services at the University.

This interview is provided courtesy of CNI and was recorded at their 2010 Fall Membership Meeting.  The Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) is an organization dedicated to supporting the transformative promise of networked information technology for the advancement of scholarly communication and the enrichment of intellectual productivity.  You can learn more about CNI at their web site,


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Running time: 9m 20s
File size: 3.74 MB


I guess I thought this would be revolutionary news, but it doesn't seem like news at all.  Maybe its just because I'm from a smaller school, but we've had standardized computer models for over 10 years in order to be more efficient in our IT support.  We've had primarily centralized IT with strategically placed local IT for about the same amount of time.

Cornell is big enough that large IT groups have grown up over decades to support specialized needs and separate units within the university. This is in addition to a large central IT organization. Previously, the local IT groups were funded and governed entirely independently, with very little coordination. Under the new model, there will be both coordination and standardization of the local IT Service Groups. The plan is to have 12-15 service groups, each with about 25-50 staff, covering system administration, software development, second-level end-user support, and other IT functions. Rather than "primarily centralized" IT, the total size of the IT Service Groups is likely to be significantly larger than the staff in central IT. I don't know the details at your institution, but it sounds like you have a primarily central IT solution. Given the breadth of activity at Cornell, the group that created the Reimagining IT vision felt strongly that a primarily centralized IT organization was not the right model to meet our needs.