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Open Letter to Malcolm Grant from the Information Services Division

Dear Professor Grant,

We are writing to you to highlight our concerns about the reorganisation currently being conducted in the Information Services Division (ISD) as part of the Smart IT project under the aegis of the ISD director, Mike Cope.

The majority of ISD staff have no confidence in Smart IT and do not think it will meet its stated goals. In fact, many staff think it will damage ISD and our ability to meet UCL’s IT needs. We are seeking a pause to allow for an independent review of it within College before any more harm is done to ISD and the services it provides to UCL as well as the wider academic community.

The Smart IT project has now been running for over a year and is presently in phase 3 of a top-down restructuring. This latest phase affects 183 staff in ISD, with around 33% ‘displaced’ and at risk of redundancy. The project has a budget of £385k for phase 3 alone and, with much recruitment on hold pending the outcome of the project, ISD is currently employing over 80 external contractors at an estimated cost of at least £28,000 per day (at least £560,000/month).

Although the project professes to encourage consultation with staff, there is a lack of consistency with the process, and frequent amendments and corrections leave staff with insufficient time to respond. Staff have now expressed their lack of confidence in the project in various ways, including a petition signed by 125 members of ISD (two-thirds of those affected) raising our “serious concerns” about it plus an unanimous ISD-UCU resolution expressing “no confidence” in its process and likely outcome.

ISD Management ignored this unprecedented petition along with the opinions and concerns it expressed of staff with years of experience in their respective professions. Phase 3 has more than confirmed these fears. Specific areas of concern are:

  • The ISD director admits that the “high level review” justifying the entire process has “no formal written documentation.” The “basis for the conclusions is considered self-evident.”;
  • Teams providing front-line services are being reduced while upper management increases;
  • Lack of serious risk analysis (only four are listed, compared to 16 in the UCU response);
  • Lack of any proper project methodology for the Smart IT project resulting in escalating costs;
  • It is top-down and has not undertaken a satisfactory analysis of what staff currently do;
  • Transfer of some posts from permanent to “transitional” fixed-term ones;
  • Effect on staff morale and goodwill, especially given how our concerns are being addressed;
  • Lack of confidence in the senior management team’s running of the project;
  • The refusal to extend the consultation period from 30 to 90 days despite the project not meeting its own deadlines and failing to respond to queries raised in a timely manner;
  • Lack of coherent and consistent processes in determining the status of individuals;
  • The disrespectful way some staff have been treated, for example finding out that they are at risk via public meetings or general email announcements rather than by personal contact;
  • Apparent ISD Budget Anomalies;
  • Refusal to publicly state there would be no compulsory redundancies or down-gradings.

As professionals in IT we are enthusiastic about new developments, frequently leading technological advances involving changes to working practices. We are not against change per se providing it is properly researched & implemented. However we do not think this is the case with Smart IT. We urge that the project is paused, as most ISD staff desire, so that an independent review of its process, objectives and proposals can be created which involves, unlike Smart IT, representatives of all users of ISD services.

We ask you to act on our concerns as the issues raised here will directly affect UCL and the quality of services it receives from ISD Staff. Given that the Smart IT reorganisation detrimentally affects all of UCL, we have forwarded a copy of this open letter to all interested parties. The Smart IT process is also of great concern to members of other unions within ISD. They share our dismay at its justification, methodology and transparency and we will be urging all UCL unions to join with us in passing a resolution of no confidence in Smart IT.

Sent on behalf of ISD UCU reps:

Tony Brown
Simon Marham
Iain McKay
John Nicholas
Philip Riebold
David Skyers

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