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Integrating Information Services in an Academic Setting: The Organizational and Technical Challenge This article was published in _CAUSE/EFFECT_

Volume 17, Number 3, Fall 1994. It originally appeared in _Library Hi Tech_, Issue 44--11:4 (1993). It is copyrighted by Pierian Press and the authors. Permission to copy or disseminate all or part of this material is granted provided that the copies are not made or distributed for commercial advantage and that this block of information appears as part of the article. To disseminate otherwise, or to republish, requires written permission from Pierian Press. For further information, contact Ed Wall at Pierian Press, PO Box 1808, Ann Arbor, MI 48106; phone 800-678-2435. CAUSE is the association for managing and using information resources in higher education, located at 4840 Pearl East Circle, Suite 302E, Boulder, CO 80301 USA; phone 303-449-4430. INTEGRATING INFORMATION SERVICES IN AN ACADEMIC SETTING: THE ORGANIZATIONAL AND TECHNICAL CHALLENGE by Joseph J. Branin, George D'Elia, and Douglas Lund ABSTRACT: The University of Minnesota's Integrated Information Center (IIC) project focused on both technical and organizational integration to bring coherence and unity to the support and delivery of information services. After six years, the IIC is still evolving. While unexpected progress has been made with end users and technological issues have progressed very well, organizational issues have presented a challenge. This article offers an evaluation of the full experience. The Integrated Information Center (IIC) experiment began six years ago when a small group of librarians and Management of Information Systems (MIS) faculty at the University of Minnesota decided to explore new ways of delivering information services in an academic setting. Support for the experiment was provided by two multi-year grants: an initial planning and design grant from the Council on Library Resources for the years 1987 to 1989.[1] and a Title II-D Grant from the U.S. Department of Education for implementation of the model IIC during the years 1991 to 1993. The units directly involved in the experiment at the University of Minnesota were the University Libraries, the Carlson School of Management, and the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. From its inception, "integration" was a key concept and goal in the IIC experiment. In the mid 1980s, when planning for the IIC experiment began, advances in information technology were creating multiple options for information services at the University. Mainframe computer applications were available from four computer services on campus to support various academic and administrative information needs. The

University Libraries had just introduced its online catalog of collection holdings and was also offering access to remote online databases for indexing and abstracting services. Faculty were beginning to use microcomputers at their desks for word processing and spreadsheet applications, and in the Libraries CD-ROM databases were becoming available for access from stand-alone microcomputer workstations. There were also several efforts under way around campus to use new information technology for support of distance education, conferencing, and group decision-making. However, there was not much integration of this new information technology, and it was difficult to move from one type of information system to another. There was simply little or no interoperability among these systems. If a faculty member in the Carlson School of Management, for example, wanted library catalog holdings information, he or she would have to walk to the library (or more likely send a graduate assistant) to consult the online catalog. Indexing and abstracting services would require access to yet another system with different search procedures. Obtaining actual articles or books would mean moving back to the print information system with its own separate set of procedures and protocols. If the same faculty member wanted administrative information (e.g., a class list of students or a travel budget), the task of determining where and how to obtain this data could be even more difficult to unravel. Fragmentation and chaos rather than integration or logical organization characterized the rapidly developing information services environment at the University. By the late 1980s, the University of Minnesota, like many other universities and academic institutions, was at a stage in its use of information technology that could be described as "localized exploitation." N. Venkatraman identifies this stage of information technology in business reconfiguration as the initial deployment of computer applications to "achieve some function-specific goals without necessarily influencing related areas of operations."[2] The localized efforts, however, were making it difficult for end users, in this case faculty and staff, to make sense of and effectively exploit the many new information services being developed. The IIC experiment would be an attempt to move into the next stage of information technology-induced reconfiguration, a stage Venkatraman calls "internal integration," where both technical integration and organizational integration occur to bring a form of coherence and unity to both the management and the delivery of information support services. TWO TRACKS: TECHNICAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL INTEGRATION It was apparent to the IIC planners from the beginning that advances in information technology were driving both the fragmentation and the potential for integration of information services on campus. In the initial grant proposal to the Council on Library Resources, the IIC planners in 1987 described a situation where universities, as well as all

institutions in society, were "in the midst of an information revolution." Traditional distinctions between administrative and academic or research information systems were blurring, and the varieties of information sources, formats, and delivery mechanisms were increasing. At the same time the IIC planners could forecast, "It has become technologically feasible for the different delivery systems within universities to be integrated into and to be managed as a single system."[3] Two years later, in 1989, after receiving the Council on Library Resources grant to design a model IIC, the planners were still viewing new technology as both a cause of disintegration and a vehicle for unification of information services. In the final report to the Council on Library Resources on the IIC design project, the IIC planners noted the "diffusion of end-user computing" and the "development of integrated computer and telecommunications networks." At the same time, the IIC planners found that "faculty and staff must now contend with an increasingly complex environment characterized by a growing market of electronic information, a confusing variety of access systems, rapidly changing technologies, and numerous software applications." In order to control growing complexity and to harness the integrating potential of information technology, the IIC planners concluded that "faculty and staff need new kinds of support services."[4] The IIC planners, then, saw a need for organizational integration as well as technical interoperability of information services and systems in the academic setting. In their application for a second grant in 1990, this time to the U.S. Department of Education for support of implementation of the IIC design model, the planners described the IIC as "an organizational entity which employs a variety of information technologies to capture, integrate, and provide scholarly and administrative information resources to the faculty and staff of an academic unit." The IIC would provide "personal, on-site support" to manage information resources at the departmental level.[5] An organizational entity would be required to lead, manage, and support the integration of information services. Technological advances alone were not enough to create this integration of information support services for faculty and staff. But as the IIC planners found during the design phase of their project and were to discover even more clearly during the implementation phase from 1991 to 1993, organizational integration is a much more problematic undertaking than technological integration. Venkatraman points this out in his study of information technologyinduced business reconfiguration. His findings show that companies moving toward the stage of internal integration may find technological integration "relatively easier to conceptualize and achieve than the organizational integration that exploits the capabilities of technological integration."[6] The IIC experiment, particularly in its implementation phase from 1991 to 1993, faced a variety of organizational challenges related to such issues as levels of authority and control; mission and role ambiguity; cohesion and conflict

among different work groups and cultures; and bureaucratic inertia and resistance to change. The integration of information services to better serve faculty and staff in an academic setting has proven to be as much a task of social and managerial change as one of technical restructuring. In fact, rapid advances in information technology during the IIC experiment created technical connectivity potential that challenged staffs' ability to relinquish traditional modes of operation and adopt new, more integrated and diffuse organizational models. In a sense a "technological imperative" came to drive the efforts of the IIC experiment as end users--faculty and staff--began to expect more and more types of information services to be available to them from their networked desktop workstations. FINDING THE RIGHT PLACE: LEVELS OF ORGANIZATIONAL INTEGRATION One of the most difficult questions the IIC planners faced was at what level in the chain of information support services should organizational integration take place. Figure 1, taken from one of the IIC design project papers, illustrates the possible organizational levels in the information resource management chain.[7] A goal of the IIC experiment from its beginning was, of course, integration of information services at the most basic, end-user level where individuals do their work. Figure 2, an early conceptual model of the IIC functions, shows the user at the center of a circle, receiving support from the IIC for all his or her major information processing activities, ranging from support for the collection of data to the dissemination of information.[8] Figure 3, another early conceptual model of the IIC, this time uses the circle to illustrate the various service and resource components that need to come together to create an integrated information center for the end user.[9] As information technology rapidly changed during the six years of planning and implementation, the IIC came to focus more on the integrative capabilities of networking, client/server architecture, and powerful microcomputers to help achieve this basic level of end-user integration. By 1992, much of the technological infrastructure at the University was in place, or at least within sight of completion, to put faculty and staff members at the center of a networked information delivery system. The "empowered user," as conceptualized in Figure 4, was becoming a reality available to faculty and staff in the Carlson School of Management. [FIGURES 1-4 NOT AVAILABLE IN ASCII TEXT VERSION] But how does one organize and coordinate the information services and resources above the individual level to achieve this end-user integration? How do departmental level, institutional level, and information markets come together to serve the individual? Who is responsible for this integration of end-user information services? What coordinating and controlling mechanisms are in place to ensure integration?

And who pays for and manages the necessary information support services? The market level in the information services chain can be influenced by customer preferences and by the insistence on standards and fair market practices, but the institution has little direct control over the organization of the information marketplace. However, there is much that can be done within an academic organization at the institutional level and the departmental level to support the integration of information services. In the IAIMS' projects of the mid1980s,[10] projects designed to create similar end-user integration for the health sciences worker, the focus was primarily on institutional level organizational integration. The IAIMS infrastructure called for centralized management with decentralized technology. Its planners recommended that a chief information officer position be used to create organizational integration at the highest level in the institution.[11] From her perspective at Columbia University, which was an IAIMS participant, Patricia Battin, an influential library leader and thinker, made similar recommendations for high-level institutional integration of information services. According to Battin, "The paradox of our situation is that the achievement of our goal, because of the character and cost of computer and communications technologies, will require a substantial level of initial cooperation and centralization that runs counter to the strongly autonomous nature of scholarly inquiry."[12] The IIC planners at the University of Minnesota, however, decided to focus on organizational integration at an intermediate level between the institution and the department. The IIC planners made this decision for both theoretical and practical reasons. A more decentralized approach was chosen because the trade-offs between economies of scale and economies of control (when analyzed using Agency Theory costs) argued for a departmental IIC, where control efficiencies were found to outweigh economies of scale.[13] Advances in information technology were also pointing towards integration at a lower level in the organization, integration closer to the end user. The general organizational environment at the University during the six years of the IIC experiment also did not lend itself to institutional level centralization of information services. Individual schools and departments had a long tradition of autonomy, and many of them were beginning to support, with their own budgets, staffing and equipment needed to network faculty and staff offices. Both the Carlson School of Management and the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, for example, had reassigned or hired departmental staff to manage information technology (IT), particularly new local area networked computing, in their individual schools. At the upper level, the institutional organization for information services at the university was in a state of flux, with leadership changing several times and central providers undergoing a series of reductions and reorganizations. In late 1990, the IIC experiment entered its implementation phase, and an organizational entity was created to serve two

schools--the Carlson School of Management and the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. Figure 5 illustrates the IIC's placement in the institution's organization and its relationships to central information providers and two departmental information technology support units. The IIC reports administratively to the University Libraries, a central provider, and has its own dedicated staff of two information services professionals and three full-time equivalent support staff. Its mission is not to act alone or serve as only an outreach arm of a central information provider. It is to be an agency of integration, bringing together information resources from the central providers, the IIC itself, and the departmental units to better serve the end user, that is, the faculty and staff of the Carlson School and the Humphrey Institute. [FIGURE 5 NOT AVAILABLE IN ASCII TEXT VERSION] CONTROL AND DELIVERY OF SERVICES: THE EVOLVING IIC ORGANIZATIONAL MODEL For purposes of organizational analysis, the actual implementation of the IIC can be divided into three distinct phases, corresponding to the three years of the U.S. Department of Education Grant, 1991 to 1993. In the start-up phase, during the first year of implementation, organizational relationships, roles, and boundaries were uncertain. A Planning and Implementation (PI) Team was formed that drew its membership from all the organizational levels in the institution: from the central providers, the IIC staff, the two school information technology units, and a number of end users from the Carlson School and Humphrey Institute. The PI Team began with the assumption that it would implement the IIC model designed during the previous two years. (See Figures 2 and 3, which give a good outline of the functions and resources the IIC planners had hoped to bring together through the IIC.) However, the PI Team, which met on a bi-weekly basis, had difficulty reaching consensus on: * jurisdictional issues (who should do what?), * priorities for service offerings (what should be done first, given limited resources?), and * scope of mission (was the IIC only concerned with electronic, networked information services, or all information services regardless of their mode of delivery?). As the PI Team continued to meet throughout the first year of implementation, it became evident that there was not a shared vision of what the IIC should be, and that there was growing competition and conflict of interests among the various levels of information providers involved. Organizational relationships were not the only disputed issues, but they tended to form an undercurrent in all discussions. The placement of the IIC between the central information providers and the departmental information units meant that the IIC belonged to no established organizational unit on campus. It had no real champion, and several intended

organizational partners opted to play only limited roles in IIC activities. This creation of a new unit at a new level in the organization seemed to draw suspicion rather than commitment from many of the information service units around it. Would the IIC take resources or usurp control away from the other information providers on campus? In a transcript from a taped interview with the chair of the PI Team, the organizational issue is evident: ..."the boundary issue ... I keep coming back to it, it's the key issue, the organizational issue ... I don't know if it has to be resolved completely for the IIC to be successful. But certainly the tension will be there over the boundaries and the division of responsibilities ... I think it's important now to try to develop some services, to actually ... do something concrete, and offer some services, and then begin to see how that works, and what are the issues around offering those services. I don't think we're going to solve the boundary issue by talking about it. I want it to be dealt with over time ... as we look at specific experience in delivering services."[14] In the second phase of implementation, the IIC staff, now in place after search and recruitment processes were completed, began to take more control for the IIC agenda and the development of specific services. A smaller, more focused IIC management team was formed that included IIC staff, a representative from the University Libraries, the coordinators of the two school information technology units, and one faculty member. The management team usually met on a weekly basis to review IIC staff activities and to set shortterm priorities. Roles and relationships were becoming clearer, because boundary lines and division of responsibilities were being firmed up. The IIC model was evolving from a somewhat vague and idealistic concept of totally integrated services, as described in the single circle model of Figures 2 and 3, into a series of connected circles or services with input to the end user controlled by the departmental information support units (see Figure 6). Control over communications with the end user was a topic of much discussion and tension among the different levels of information providers during this second phase of implementation. [FIGURE 6 NOT AVAILABLE IN ASCII TEXT VERSION] Internally the IIC staff was organizing itself during phase two. Two information professionals with different backgrounds, one in the management of information systems and the other in library science, were brought together to manage and offer IIC services. Except for some initial difficulty regarding salary differential between librarians and MIS professionals, little internal cultural conflict was encountered. The IIC staff worked as a team, complementing each other's strengths and bringing together, as the IIC planners had hoped, a synergy of technical, managerial, and librarian expertise. It was when the IIC staff tried to relate to information providers at other levels in the

organization that cultural or jurisdictional tensions seemed to arise. The IIC staff had difficulty in this second phase of implementation with mission and role ambiguity, as units on other levels of the information services chain questioned their authority and scope of responsibility. As one member of the IIC staff described it, "I feel like I am playing golf on a course where the holes are not marked." In the final and third year of implementation, the IIC experiment entered a phase of rapid development and a great deal of service activity. Organizational issues had not necessarily been resolved, but several technological advances had created new possibilities and much work for all information providers on campus. The campus infrastructure for networked information services was maturing, and central providers and departmental support units were rushing to provide new services to the end users. The Carlson School faculty and staff were now completely networked, the Humphrey Institute networking effort was under way, and end users were requesting training and assistance in using e-mail, electronic bulletin boards, networked library databases, and access to the Internet. The IIC began to serve as a bridge, if not a real integrator, for the different information providers in this networked environment. The IIC, for example, brought staff from the University Libraries and Computer and Information Services together to offer a current awareness service using the Gopher client/server model. The IIC also became a center for new information technology and literacy training activities for the Libraries staff as well as the faculty and staff of the Carlson School and Humphrey Institute. The IIC was uniquely placed and staffed to support these new information technology developments that cut across the levels and jurisdictional boundaries of the information providers on campus. In the final phase of implementation, the IIC had mixed success as an integrating organizational effort. In the area of end-user training, it was quite successful, providing facilities, equipment, and staffing that brought together information providers from all levels on campus to offer a wide range of workshops, presentations, and hands-on training on information technology and literacy topics. The IIC was also effective in exploiting the opportunities presented by new models of client/server computing, becoming an advocate and agent in the schools for the Computer and Information Services' Gopher distribution system. But collaboration and integration occurred on a task or project rather than on an ongoing basis. In the final year of implementation, the IIC provided many different services for and to the Libraries, the schools, and end users, but it never really became an integral part of any other information provider's operation. The established organizational boundaries were never broken. Figure 7 illustrates the evolution of IIC organizational integration, a movement in the direction the IIC planners had not expected. [FIGURE 7 NOT AVAILABLE IN ASCII TEXT VERSION]

CONCLUSIONS: NETWORKING AND ORGANIZATIONAL FIT After six years of research, design, and implementation experience at the University of Minnesota, there appear to be no simple or easily shared solutions to the integration of information services on campus. Technological advances in computing and especially in networking enabled the IIC to accomplish more than expected in the delivery of electronic information services. By 1993, faculty and staff in the Carlson School of Management and the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs had networked access to an impressive array of departmental, University, library, and Internet information resources. The end users in these two schools had received special attention and support in the areas of new information technology training, networked connections to both administrative and research information, current awareness service, and consultation in the organization and manipulation of personal data files. It was organizational issues rather than technological challenges that the IIC found most difficult to manage. Organizational structure decisions appear to depend a great deal on the idiosyncratic traditions and cultures of each institution. Suggested or tried structures for organizing information services in an academic setting range from highly centralized institutional control to highly decentralized departmental models. Joey George and John King, who have studied issues of centralization and decentralization in computing and information services, conclude, "During the three decades of the debate, no firm answer to the question has been forthcoming." They dismiss the technological, organizational, and managerial imperative theories as valid explanations of information technology's impact on organizations. They believe "what emerges is a strong and observable _tendency_ toward use of computing technology to reinforce the decision authority status quo: In other words, the reinforcement political interpretation.[15] The IIC experiment was an attempt to change the status quo by creating organizational integration at an intermediate level, between institutional information providers and departmental support units, at the University of Minnesota. This model appeared to make sense for both theoretical and practical reasons in this particular academic setting. Individual schools and departments had a good deal of autonomy, but working alone they did not have the resources needed to meet all their end users' information needs. Departmental information technology units were implementing systems and services tailored to their faculties' and staffs' particular needs. The central information providers, on the other hand, operated somewhat autonomously, at a greater distance from the end users, and were in a period of flux, with several changes in leadership and organization occurring during the six years of the IIC experiment. The IIC did, in fact, bring all these information service providers together, but it was not a comfortable organizational experience. Conflicts and competition over access to end users and jurisdictional and

resource allocation disputes were as much a part of the experience as were cooperation and collaboration. There was as much resistance as acceptance of this new organization entity among the established information providers, and this made it difficult for the IIC to serve as a real center for organizational integration. Regardless of the power of the status quo, the organization of information services at the University of Minnesota is changing. The IIC model may not be right for every institution, and it may not be the final model used at the University of Minnesota. But one way or another, information service centers will be established that focus on support of networked end users, and they will of necessity draw on the talents and resources of all levels and types of information providers. The IIC experiment provides some useful insights and strategies for fostering this organizational integration. It is not enough for only the central information providers to come together, as is happening at places like Stanford University. School and departmental information support units must also be a part of this organizational integration. At the University of Minnesota, the IIC experiment revealed the central and critical role departmental level information technologists play in supporting faculty and staff information needs. All levels in the information services chain must come together, either loosely or tightly, to create a logical, responsive, and effective campus-wide information support system. ==================================================== Footnotes: 1 L.F. Lunin and G. D'Elia, "Perspectives on Integrated Information Centers within Academic Environments," _Journal of the American Society for Information Science_ 42 (1991): 116-151. 2 N. Venkatraman, "IT-Induced Business Reconfiguration," in _The Corporation of the 1990's: Information Technology and Organizational Transformation _ (New York: University Press, 1991), pp. 27-132. 3 G. D'Elia, et al., _The Planning and Design of a Model Academic Integrated Information Center: A Proposal Submitted to the Council on Library Resources_ (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1987), pp.1-3. 4 C. Adams, et al., _Final Report of the Academic Integrated Information Center Project: Submitted to the Council on Library Resources_ (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1989), p. 1. 5 G. D'Elia, et al., _The lmplementation and Evaluation of an Integrated Information Center in an Academic Environment: A Proposal Submitted to the U.S. Department of Education_ (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1990), p. 2. 6 Venkatraman, p. 128.

7 C.M. Beath and D.W. Straub, "Department Level Information Resource Management: A Theoretical Argument for a Decentralized Approach," _Journal of the American Society for Information Science_ 42 (1991): 125. 8 Adams, p. 12. 9 Adams, p. 11. 10 The National Library of Medicine began the Integrated Academic Information Management Systems (IAIMS) grant program in 1982. The IAIMS grant program provided support for (1) institution-wide information services planning and policy analysis, (2) model development and testing of information service integration plans, and (3) implementation of detailed, tested plans for full-scale IAIMS initiatives. By 1987, eleven institutions had participated in some form of IAIMS activity. These institutions included the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Baylor College of Medicine, Columbia University, Georgetown, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Rhode Island Hospital, and the Universities of Cincinnati, Maryland, and Utah. 11 L.F. Lunin and M.J. Ball, "Perspectives on Integrated Academic Information Management Systems (IAIMS)," _Journal of the American Society for Information Science_ 39 (1988): 102145. 12 P. Battin, "The Electronic Library--A Vision for the Future," _Educom Bulletin_, Summer 1984, p. 13. 13 Beath and Straub, pp. 124-127. 14 _Integrated Information Center Project, Transcript of Interview with Planning and Implementation Team Chair_ (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1991), p. 7. 15 J.F. George and J.L. King, "Examining the Computing and Centralization Debate," _Communications of the ACM_ 34 1991): 63-72. **************************************************** Joseph Branin is Associate University Librarian for Public Services at the University of Minnesota. His research and publication interests include information policy issues, library resource sharing, and managing change in libraries. George D'Elia is an Associate Professor in the Information and Decision Sciences Department of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. He served as Principal Investigator for the project reported in this paper. Douglas Lund is currently Director of Information Services, Department of Family Practice, University of Minnesota.He was formerly manager of the University of Minnesota Integrated Information Center described in this article. ****************************************************

Integrating Information Services in an Academic Setting: The Organizational and Technical Challenge