ITS looks to outsource

Some members of the University community may be worrying about
the status of their employment, as Saint Louis University begins to
look for ways to save money and increase revenue.

Employees of Information Technology Services are feeling the
brunt of this initiative, with the department’s vice president,
Ellen Watson, leading the motion to possibly hire an outsourcing
company.

According to Watson, members of the University staff are being
asked to evaluate how they do things and whether or not it makes
sense for the job to remain internal or to outsource to an outside
company.

University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J., recently highlighted
the University’s need to make cuts, in his November message.

“The time has come for all of us to ‘think outside the box’ in
everything that we do; to look for ways we can save money and
increase revenues. We should review current programs for their
long-term potential for growth, examine opportunities for
consolidating programs, or institute new programs that can
potentially generate new revenue,” Biondi stated in an e-mail sent
to the University community.

Biondi emphasized that the University is not in a financial
crisis but that decisions will have to be made in the near future
to determine where the University is headed.

“We’ve been asked to look with new eyes,” Watson said. “We don’t
know the possibilities until we explore a little bit.” The goal was
to look into the services ITS currently offers, as opposed to the
services that could be offered through outsourcing, she said.

The divisions being examined are the help desk and desktop
support.

While potential vendors have been asked to submit proposals,
this does not necessarily mean that any company will be chosen as
the best solution to the problem, Watson added.

In the end, SLU may already be providing the best services at
the most appropriate price.

While Watson was reluctant to say that no one would lose their
job, she did say that part of the negotiation process may include
rehiring some or all of the qualified employees.

However, even if the employees are rehired through the
outsourcing company, they will no longer be working for the
University. This could mean a loss of benefits, including tuition
remission for the employees and their children.

Andrew Herrmann, technology coordinator for the College of Arts
and Sciences, said his concerns with outsourcing are twofold.

“There are so many different users using so many different
programs,” Herrmann said. “How will an outsourcing company be able
to acclimate itself to these differences?”

Second, Herrmann depends heavily on the employees working in
desktop support and the help desk. If an outsourcing company steps
in, he may no longer be able to depend on these people as his
backup.

Watson, however, said that Human Resources would be brought in
to discuss benefits during negotiations.

“I think all of us are sensitive to costs,” Watson said, “and
that’s a factor. It’s the right thing to do.”