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Introductory Information

Historical page: The IT@Cornell Strategic Plan was the five-year plan developed in 2012 and implemented in 2013.

This article applies to: IT@Cornell Strategic Plan

Letter from the CIO

Dear Colleagues

[Note: The current CIO and Vice President for Information Technologies is Dave Lifka. Ted Dodds, who led this strategic plan, retired in 2015.]

I am pleased to introduce IT@Cornell: Technology in Service to “One Cornell, a strategic plan for information technology, 2013-2017. This plan is the product of nearly a year of consultations, events, focus groups, and individual conversations among faculty, students, staff, and related communities.

Whatever your role at Cornell, we hope you will find the plan relevant, comprehensive, and useful as a guide to decision making, priority setting, and action. We also trust that you will find here an appropriate reflection of the vision and values of One Cornell, the university’s strategic plan, which this IT strategy is intended to enable and support.

We use the term IT@Cornell to connote the university’s entire ecosystem of information technology staff and services. The people in IT roles in colleges and schools, administrative units, and the central IT organization are all part of IT@Cornell. The systems and infrastructure for which they are responsible also are part of IT@Cornell. Although the journey is not yet complete, we are gradually transcending debates about centralization, decentralization, and control. Instead, we are moving toward an environment of intentional interdependence in which each of us supports and relies upon others.

Why an IT strategic plan, and why now? A confluence of events set the stage. IT@Cornell today comprises many pockets of excellence – groups, teams, and individuals who do outstanding work – but lacks an overarching perspective to combine these parts into a more cohesive and, therefore, more effective whole. Building on the strong foundations of the 2009 Reimagine IT initiative (, and benefiting from what has been learned since, this plan identifies strategic objectives and actions that can lead to sustainable improvements.

As a university community, we have witnessed unprecedented reductions in staff ranks since 2008 of 8.5%, including 18% in the IT area. Despite having fewer staff, there has been no corresponding reduction in the volume of work. Indeed, many would say workloads have increased. IT can and should play a major role in responding to this challenge. Better systems that are easier to use, streamlined administrative practices, flexible and effective IT support, and massive scale infrastructure are among the improvements we can make together. In this plan you will find specific reference to these and many other difference-making initiatives.

Like most universities, Cornell allocates the great majority of its IT expenditures to utility services; roughly 90% of our non-research IT expenditures are for utility services. These technologies are vital to the operation of the university but they do not directly contribute to our core academic functions of scholarship, teaching, and outreach. Examples of utility services include our email/calendaring systems, much of our IT infrastructure (basic networking, storage, etc.), most administrative information systems, and desktop support, to name a few. Information systems have the potential to simplify administrative operations, but we have not always been successful in tapping that potential. We believe this plan lays the groundwork for improvements in the important area of information systems.

I believe this expenditure ratio – 90% on utilities and 10% on academic technologies – must be rebalanced so that a greater proportion is channeled to academic technology use. I intend to use this strategic plan to guide prudent reallocation of our IT investments from utilities to academic differentiators such as technology to support teaching and learning. I believe we can do this without sacrificing the quality of utility services. Rather, we must think about them and deliver them differently. The rapid emergence of cloud and other alternative means of sourcing IT solutions is already making this happen.

Another extremely important consideration for IT@Cornell is the rapid evolution of the roles played by IT staff and the changing characteristics of our IT organizations. Like most of our peer schools, demand for new skills that are relatively scarce today – instructional design is a good example – is growing, while the need for some previously crucial skills is declining. These changing skill requirements reflect the transition of IT@Cornell from a heavy utility focus to a better balance between utilities and academic technologies. The changes can, and hopefully will, be motivating and inspiring for the excellent staff of IT@Cornell. To that end, the final section of this plan, entitled “IT Career Framework” is intended as a guide to planning and action.

I welcome your comments, ideas, and suggestions for improving this plan. You may contact me by email at or by phone at 607-255-7445. [Contact information for the current CIO, Dave Lifka, is or 607-255-7445.] I look forward to working with the entire Cornell community as, together, we pursue the aspirational goals of IT@Cornell: IT in Service to “One Cornell.”

Ted Dodds

Chief Information Officer and Vice President for Information Technologies

Executive Overview

IT@Cornell: IT in Service to “One Cornell” is the culmination of nearly a year of effort involving hundreds of members of the Cornell community – faculty, students, and staff. The plan is based primarily on input from people who use information technology, rather than being driven by technologists. Additional strategic guidance came from IT leaders across campus so that all involved in IT@Cornell can use this plan as a guide to meet the needs of our community and can accurately reflect its priorities as they provision and use IT services.

This plan lays out the objectives for the delivery and support of IT services as well as suggests many initiatives that will result in satisfying those objectives. Objectives are fairly broad and have a 3-5 year horizon.

Key principles were developed to establish the desired approach to providing IT services and serve as a guide to the activities of all IT professionals at Cornell. These included defining “IT@Cornell” as all IT professionals working collaboratively regardless of organizational unit; focusing on providing “IT solutions;” standardizing “utility” services such as email, using commodity services provided by central IT; developing locally provided services that require college or department differentiation; making administrative data available and accessible to all who need it; and always focusing on maximizing the value to Cornell of all IT.

Providing cost-effective infrastructures for information technology is a key objective in Excellence in Organizational Stewardship of the Cornell University Strategic Plan. As stated, information technology is one of the “enabling conditions” for the five goal areas of faculty excellence; educational excellence; excellence in research, scholarship, and creativity; excellence in public engagement; and staff excellence. This IT Strategic Plan serves to identify the IT objectives and initiatives necessary for success of the university’s goal areas. See also Cornell’s Strategic Plan.

Objectives were formulated for IT@Cornell under six topic areas:

Student Experience: functions that affect students from applicant to matriculated undergraduate to graduate and professional student to alumnus

  • Objective 1: Provide the essential IT capabilities in the colleges to achieve best practices for interacting and communicating with students.
  • Objective 2: Streamline IT services and provide greater awareness of student-focused IT resources for students who are enrolled in Ithaca-based programs, including the Cornell NYC Tech campus.
  • Objective 3: Embrace and build toward universal access and working seamlessly, regardless of location, for students enrolled in Ithaca-based programs.
  • Objective 4: Engage with our students and alumni regularly to understand their needs and identify opportunities for collaboration.

Teaching and Learning Technologies: support for faculty, classroom technology, access, and innovation

  • Objective 1: Facilitate the exploration, development, and adoption of new teaching tools and technologies. Focus on early adoption and leading-edge tools and technologies that reflect the range of needs across faculty and colleges.
  • Objective 2: Provide a robust technological baseline in all teaching facilities across the university that supports a range of instructional approaches and uses the most up-to-date technologies.
  • Objective 3: Enable a “virtual learning technology environment” that incorporates the most forward-looking learning systems and tools to support teaching excellence in face-to-face, online, and blended learning settings.
  • Objective 4: Support the development and use of high-quality instructional content across a range of formats, technologies, and teaching and learning approaches.

Research: IT supporting research in all disciplines

  • Objective 1: Improve campus effectiveness in addressing the requirements of “Big Data” by leveraging existing mechanisms and, where appropriate, creating new means of digital scholarly content creation, reuse, access, and preservation.
  • Objective 2: Enable easy access by researchers in all disciplines to infrastructure, tools, services, and support.
  • Objective 3: Improve administrative support systems and services for researchers, particularly as they relate to the efficient and effective management of grants.
  • Objective 4: Develop a coherent cyberinfrastructure for research according to the recommendations of the NSF Advisory Committee for Cyberinfrastructure.

Enterprise Information Systems: large systems underlying university administrative and academic-support processes

  • Objective 1: Improve the value proposition of enterprise information systems by decreasing the cost of implementing and supporting them and by increasing their business value.
  • Objective 2: Treat data as an institutional asset.
  • Objective 3: Manage enterprise information systems as an integrated portfolio of applications.

IT Service Excellence: deploying and managing IT systems and services

  • Objective 1: Build a service quality management function into IT processes for service development and management.
  • Objective 2: Increase university access to central administrative systems and institutional data.
  • Objective 3: Manage the lifecycle of IT services and projects.
  • Objective 4: Use and manage IT human resources efficiently.
  • Objective 5: Manage change. Provide leadership to those affected by technology and organizational change.
  • Objective 6: Continue developing an IT service support model.

IT Career Framework: addressing staffing to ensure effective implementation of all IT objectives

  • Objective 1: Implement a staff-development and career-development program to encourage and facilitate staff self-development.
  • Objective 2: Build and develop management and leadership capacity within IT@Cornell to meet future IT needs.
  • Objective 3: Establish a process to support and facilitate career development opportunities across IT functions.

We expect that this plan will be reviewed annually to reaffirm the identified objectives, include others if necessary, and assess progress on each of the identified objectives.

IT Strategic Plan Development Process

In creating IT@Cornell: IT in Service to “One Cornell,” we tried to find the optimal balance between broad and effective community consultation and timely completion of the plan itself. In January 2012 our Senior Advisory Group (fully identified in the appendix) was formed, comprising academic and administrative leaders from across campus. Its role was to oversee the process of developing the IT Strategic Plan, advise on the formulation of guiding principles, and offer feedback on preliminary versions of the plan. The Faculty Advisory Board on IT (FABIT, a standing faculty governance committee) also provided input to and comments on aspects of the plan during its formulation.

We created several advisory groups (see appendix), comprising campus thought leaders, who were responsible for developing five of the six sections contained in this plan. Each group focused on one specific domain. They developed the objectives and initiatives in that area by reaching out to as many IT users as possible. The groups used a combination of surveys (e.g., how Cornell faculty use learning technology, IT needs of students both at Cornell and off campus) and focus groups with graduate and undergraduate students (also with the Student Assembly and Graduate and Professional Student Assembly). We also solicited input via a widely broadcast series of inquiries called “IT Question of the Week” that were published in PawPrint and the Chronicle during the spring, summer, and early fall. Clearly, this plan would not have been possible without the hard work, dedication, and focus of all members of these advisory groups as well as the input resulting from the campus outreach.

The research enterprise at Cornell is so rich and diverse that addressing it through a single advisory group would not have been effective.  Instead, the CIO conducted individual and small-group meetings with researchers in an array of disciplines to understand their work and their IT needs more fully. These conversations were very fruitful and will continue now that the plan is published. Their findings form the framework of the “Cornell Research IT Needs” section of the plan.

In addition, an all-day IT strategic planning event “ PDF iconIT@Cornell: Planning Our Future, Together. A review of the Cornell Community’s Conversation about IT ” was held on September 11, 2012, with over 300 members of the community taking part. Fifty faculty members were among the participants that also included staff, students, and executives. This meeting was very successful and may become an annual event for IT@Cornell.

Structure of this Plan

This plan lays out the objectives for the delivery and support of IT services and suggests many initiatives that will result in satisfying those objectives. The report begins by enumerating key principles that all IT groups across the university will follow in the design, development, delivery, and maintenance of IT services at Cornell. The plan is then presented in several sections with each focusing on a specific IT domain, such as Service Excellence, or IT constituent group, such as students or researchers. This format allowed for the focus on specific needs within a given domain and reflects explicit input from the individuals most affected by the IT services. These sections are Student Excellence, Teaching and Learning Technologies, Cornell Research IT Needs, Enterprise Information Systems, IT Service Excellence, and IT Career Framework.

Specific objectives for IT are identified in each of the plan sections. These objectives are fairly broad and have a 3-5 year horizon. This means that objectives should not change much through subsequent annual reviews, but rather should provide an IT direction that spans several years. Within the context of each objective, several outcome-focused initiatives are discussed. The purpose of these initiatives is to provide more detailed actions that, if undertaken, will sufficiently move the broader objective forward.

Our desire is to review this plan annually to reaffirm the identified objectives, include others if necessary, and assess progress on each of the identified initiatives. If progress has not been made on any specific objective or initiative, an assessment will be undertaken to determine if that particular item remains a priority.

IT@Cornell Guiding Principles

Cornell has a decentralized organizational structure with diverse technical requirements. While there are advantages and strengths in this structure, it also introduces complexities and potential inefficiencies. Developing a shared set of principles to guide IT deployment and support helps strike the right balance across the IT organizations in terms of common direction, consistent strategy, and overall alignment with Cornell’s goals.

The following principles, developed as part of this IT Strategic Plan, establish the desired approach to providing IT services to the Cornell community in the future and should serve as a guide to the activities of all IT professionals at Cornell.

  1. “IT@Cornell” is defined as all IT professionals working collaboratively, regardless of organizational unit, toward the development, delivery, and management of IT services.
  2. IT@Cornell provides IT services to support and enable the academic and research activities of the university, and develops innovative and sustainable IT solutions that differentiate the university from our peers.
  3. IT is a strategic enabler for many functions across Cornell. IT@Cornell strives to move from being “IT service providers” to “IT solution providers” by gaining a deeper understanding of the business and academic functions and goals that rely on and benefit from IT.
  4. IT strategy and services are discussed and vetted using the IT@Cornell governance model to develop the highest level of collaboration and shared vision.
  5. Central IT maximizes the utility of common or commodity IT functions (such as email, networks, and storage) by standardizing to realize scale efficiencies. Units draw on these central capabilities for local implementation or adoption, allowing for increased investment in additional services at the local level as required for department or college differentiation.
  6. IT services are developed and maintained with environmental impact and sustainability in mind. Environmental sustainability focused tools, practices, and processes will be deployed where possible and economically feasible.
  7. When value and economies are demonstrated, commodity services provided by central IT are adopted and used by all units. If initially these services do not meet the needs of local units, then analyses are undertaken to determine whether the services or unit expectations should be adjusted.
  8. Cornell IT services are implemented according to nationally recognized standards and approaches, such as those for accessibility, quality, and usability.
  9. Cornell IT services, whether developed locally, integrated with vendor solutions, or outsourced, will strive to meet accessibility measures so they are equally effective for persons with disabilities.
  10. IT services are delivered in a way that maximizes value to Cornell. Cost, fit within the current IT architecture, product quality, product development, product lifecycle, and other relevant measures are considered. Central, local, outsourced, and cloud-based services always are included in this analysis.
  11. IT services created locally that gain acceptance and use across the broader institution are migrated for support into the central IT organization.
  12. University administrative data are expected to be accessible, comprehensive, timely, accurate, and flexible to accommodate the information and reporting needs of faculty, staff, and students. Data are made available to all with a legitimate need, consistent with the university's responsibility to preserve and protect data.

Advisory Group Membership

Senior Advisory Committee

  • Laura Brown (Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education)
  • Bob Buhrman (Senior Vice Provost for Research)
  • Joe Burns (Dean of University Faculty)
  • Ted Dodds (CIO)
  • Jerry Grochow (Consultant, former Vice President for IS&T, MIT)
  • Mike Kotlikoff (Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine)
  • Peter LePage (Dean, College of Arts and Sciences)
  • Sean Murphy (Student)
  • Susan Murphy (Vice President, Student and Academic Services)
  • Rich Robinson (Associate Dean, Administration and Finance, Law School)
  • Steve Schuster (Associate CIO)
  • Peter Turner (Assistant Dean for Administration, College of Architecture, Art, and Planning)
  • Adam Wolford (Chair of CIT Committee, Student Assembly)

Student Experience Committee

  • Peggy Beach (Director, University Communications)
  • Karen Brown (Director, Marketing and Communications)
  • John-Paul Couce (Student, GPSA Representative)
  • Cassie Dembosky (University Registrar)
  • Ted Dodds (CIO)
  • Andrew Gossen (Alumni Engagement Officer, Alumni Affairs and Development)
  • Jason Kahabka (Assistant Dean of Student Services, Graduate School)
  • Diane Kubarek (Communications Manager, Student and Academic Services)
  • Lee Melvin (Associate Vice Provost, Admissions and Financial Aid)
  • Sean Murphy (Student)
  • Susan Murphy (Vice President, Student and Academic Services)
  • Kellie Page (Associate Vice President, Student and Academic Services)
  • Steve Schuster (Associate CIO)
  • Lisa Shaffer (Assistant Dean of Student Services, School of Hotel Administration)
  • Rebecca McMillan Sparrow (Director, Cornell Career Services)

Teaching and Learning Committee

  • Tilman Baumstark (Senior Project Manager, Graduate School)
  • Laura Brown (Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education)
  • Andrew Chignell (Professor of Philosophy, College of Arts and Sciences)
  • Evan Cortens (GPSA President)
  • Cassie Dembosky (University Registrar)
  • Ted Dodds (CIO)
  • Barry Perlus (Associate Dean, College of Architecture, Art, and Planning)
  • Theresa Pettit (Director, Center for Teaching Excellence)
  • Oya Rieger (Associate University Librarian)
  • Chris Schaffer (Professor, Biomedical Engineering)
  • Charles Seyler (Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs, College of Engineering)
  • Frank Strickland (IT Director, College of Arts and Sciences)
  • Clare van den Blink (Director, Academic Technologies)
  • Paul Velleman (Associate Professor of Social Statistics, Computing and Information Science and FABIT Chair)
  • Don Viands (Associate Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences)
  • Adams Wolford (Chair of CIT Committee, Student Assembly)

IT Career Framework Committee

  • Tammy Blasz (Senior Human Resources Consultant, Human Resources)
  • Ted Dodds (CIO)
  • Debra Howell ( IT Director, Facilities)
  • Tim Lynch (IT Director, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences)
  • Mary Opperman (Vice President, Human Resources)
  • Clare van den Blink (Director, Academic Technologies)

IT Service Excellence Committee

  • Kevin Drake (IT Director, CIT and DFA)
  • Dan Dwyer (IT Director, Research Administration)
  • Andre Hafner (IT Director, College of Architecture, Art, and Planning)
  • Sasja Huijts (Director, Planning and Project Management)
  • Debra Howell (IT Director, Facilities)
  • Shari Kearl (IT Director, College of Veterinary Medicine)
  • Dean Krafft (IT Director, University Libraries)
  • Todd Kreuger (IT Director, Johnson Graduate School of Management)
  • Steve Lutter (IT Director, CIT Applications)
  • Tim Lynch (IT Director, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences)
  • Randi Rainbow (IT Director, College of Human Ecology)
  • Laura Robinson (IT Director, School of Industrial and Labor Relations)
  • John Ruffing (Director of Information Technologies and Services, Weill Cornell Medical College)
  • Steve Schuster (Associate CIO)
  • Don Sevey (IT Director, Student and Academic Services)
  • Scott Sheavly (Director, CIT Finance)
  • Lisa Stensland (IT Director, Alumni Affairs and Development)
  • Frank Strickland (IT Director, College of Arts and Sciences)
  • Clare van den Blink (Director, Academic Technologies)
  • James Vanee (IT Director, Research Center)
  • Dave Vernon (Associate CIO)
  • Paul Weber (IT Director, Law School)
  • Scott Yoest (IT Director, College of Engineering and Faculty of Computing and Information Science)


  • John Abowd (Professor, Economics)
  • Kenneth Birman (Professor, Computer Science)
  • Bill Block (Director, Cornell Institute for Social and Economic Research)
  • Tsuhan Chen (Professor and Director, Electrical and Computer Engineering)
  • Andrew Clark (Professor, Molecular Biology and Genetics)
  • James Cordes (Professor, Astronomy)
  • Ted Eisenberg (Professor of Law, Cornell University Law School)
  • Craig Fennie (Assistant Professor, Applied and Engineering Physics)
  • Roger Loring, Professor, and Will Dichtel, Assistant Professor (Chemistry and Chemical Biology)
  • Timothy Murray (Professor, Comparative Literature and English, and Director, Society for the Humanities)
  • John Schimenti (Professor, Biomedical Sciences)
  • Mark Turnquist (Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering)
  • Michael Webster, Associate Professor, and other researchers (Laboratory of Ornithology)

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