2020-2024 Information Technology Strategic Plan for Auburn University

Context, Introduction, and Structure

2020-2024 Information Technology Strategic Plan

From the CIO - Contextualizing Auburn's IT Environment

Contained herein is Auburn’s 2020-2024 Information Technology (IT) Strategic Plan. The plan is designed to align with the Auburn University 2019-2024 Strategic Plan to the greatest degree possible. However, there are unique challenges readers must understand about Auburn’s technological environment. First, major service delivery systems are adequate, but are aging and need to be refreshed to facilitate efficiency and leverage innovation in the marketplace. Highest priority will be assigned to those projects that improve student experience/success and achieve research goals. Second, changes in national policy impact strategy in areas such as technology supply chain and cybersecurity. Auburn’s technology strategy must be aligned with national policy and directives. Finally, refreshment projects must be prioritized. All requirements for modernization and business process improvement cannot be done at the same time. The mix and priority of projects will be developed in conjunction with executive plans for implementing the Auburn University Strategic Plan, staffing levels, availability of funding, and Auburn’s business cycle. Auburn is a complex enterprise.

A few facts to consider in reading this plan:

  • There are 246 IT professionals on campus serving over 38,000 faculty, staff, and students.
  • 64,111 faculty, staff, students and retirees hold active accounts on the Auburn network.
  • Auburn processed 1.4B inbound emails in 2018. Of those, 1.2B contained a security threat that the Office of Information Technology (OIT) blocked. During any given month, 85% of inbound email contains some type of threat or malware.
  • Smart phones have an average life of 4.7 years1, but the trend on campus is to acquire a new, more robust phone every 2-3 years. The cost of a new smartphone in 2019 is ~$1,000. OIT provides 2,004 cell phones, 2,326 cellular lines, and 319 data plans to campus constituents.
  • At any moment in time, Auburn students connect an average of 4-5 devices each to the network. Devices include phones, laptops, tablets, and a variety of internet-capable devices such as TVs and gaming machines. At peak, demand for network services reaches 40% - 45% of the campus’ 20 Gbs network capacity.
  • Auburn’s core systems serve all 87 units of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System as well as Pharmacy and Veterinary practices in multiple locations across the state.

Introduction to the Auburn Information Technology Strategic Plan

Auburn’s Information Technology (IT) Strategic Plan is designed to serve three purposes. First, it communicates the university’s strategic goals to IT professionals and offers IT providers a guidepost for deploying technology services that support the accomplishment of the university’s goals. Second, it provides flexibility for IT units campus-wide to develop their unit’s plan while aligning with the CIO’s strategic philosophy and technical direction. Third, the plan offers strategies that recognize the challenges of supporting today’s technology environment. The plan offers units the flexibility in deploying technology that supports their unique missions while leveraging centrally provided services. Among those central services that units leverage are cybersecurity risk mitigation, supply chain compliance, and infrastructure modernization.

Complicating planning is the staggering pace of change in the consumer technology marketplace. For example, consider the evolution of video production. The first camera was built in 1816. The first black and white “movie” with coordinated sound/dialog was produced in 1938. It took 122 years after the invention of the camera to produce a modern theatrical film in black and white. Nokia produced the first camera-enabled phone in 2001. By 2015, Apple iPhones were streaming high definition video, with the capability of producing over 16 million colors – a period of only 14 years from Nokia’s introduction of mobile phone cameras. Technology change continues to accelerate. As stated above, while major manufacturers’ smartphones have an average life expectancy of 4.7 years, major upgrades in new models actually hit the marketplace approximately every two years. The speed of change brings with it some additional risks particularly in protecting devices from intrusion and data theft.

To illustrate the particularly strong need for an effective cybersecurity strategy in a rapidly changing landscape, consider:

  • In 2018, 603 students and 37 faculty/staff at Auburn University were victims of Phishing and/or Social Engineering. Had these credentials been exploited, intellectual property could have been stolen, payments redirected, or paychecks misappropriated. While the numbers may seem low in comparison to the total university population (30K students and over 8400 faculty/staff) a single person with access to critical data could compromise hundreds of thousands of sensitive records.
  • Fireeye’s M-Trends 2019 Report2 notes that on average, the time between when an intrusion occurs and when that intrusion is recognized is 78 days. What harm could be done in 78 days? This IT Strategic Plan is 12 pages long and approximately 200 kilobytes of data. It can be transmitted over the network in less than a second. All the intellectual property in a decade long research project could easily be stolen in those 78 days.

To facilitate the strongest cybersecurity, comply with national cybersecurity policy, and offer efficient infrastructure, all while managing change, Auburn manages the technology environment as a single, complex enterprise, not as a confederation of individual units. Enterprise solutions offer the most efficient service delivery for the entire campus. While those solutions may not be perfect, every effort must be made to use those solutions and avoid one-off, unit-unique systems, tools, and services.

Mission of Campus Information Technology

Provide the technology services and tools that stakeholders need to accomplish Auburn University’s mission and vision.


IT professionals work symbiotically with all constituencies to provide a technological foundation that enables unlimited achievement in teaching, learning, research, and service to our state and beyond.

Core Values Required of IT Professionals

IT professionals “live” these core values: Honesty, Integrity, Fairness, and Respect for all people.


Invest in People

Technology is the toolkit. To achieve mission excellence, Auburn must recruit, train, support, reward, recognize, and retain exceptional, highly motivated, professional staff members.

Faculty and Students Rely on Technology

Technology must be robust, reliable, and easy to use.

Cybersecurity is Everyone’s Responsibility

Auburn’s cyber defense must be difficult to defeat, quick to react, effective in resolution, and minimize negative impact.

Research Computing Facilitates Discovery

Auburn’s computational foundation enables researchers to solve grand challenges.

Operational Excellence

Technology must be like electricity: always on, always there when you need it.

Plan Structure

This IT plan supports Auburn University’s 2019-2024 Strategic Plan by providing a direction for the campus technology environment. IT professionals in both central and distributed units will build sub-plans consisting of Action Items, Resources, and Timelines. These plans will be coordinated with the senior leader in the support team’s home unit as well as the Office of the Vice President for Information Technology/Chief Information Officer.

The IT Strategic Plan is designed to follow the format of the Auburn University Strategic Plan. In the title of each major IT goal, in parentheses, is a reference to an Auburn University Strategic Plan goal. Ex: (4) refers to Auburn University Strategic Goal #4. A summary of all Auburn University strategic goals is included at Appendix A.

Finally, following each major goal is a set of sub-goals that support each major goal. These sub-goals will further be refined into Action Items, Resource Requirements, and Timelines.

Information Technology Strategic Goals

Goal 1. Promote staff excellence to achieve the mission. (1,4)

People are the mission. Supporting professors, students, researchers, business managers, and extension agents is why Auburn employs IT professionals. Technology is a toolkit. As in any field, no matter how good the toolset, it takes well trained, engaged people to achieve mission success. Auburn’s technical community strives to meet or exceed our colleagues’ service needs. Auburn’s technology leaders know that a clear career path, motivated professionals, fair compensation, and commitment to ethical behavior are the cornerstones to success.

Auburn has, and will continue to retain and recruit the best technicians, managers, and leaders in Higher Education technology. Auburn’s technology professionals continue to be challenged and have a rewarding career path that encourages continuous learning and improvement. Compensation will be aligned with our peer institutions. Across OIT and distributed teams, staff are well led. IT leadership is strengthened through formal training in customer service, collaboration, communications, transparency, and proactive engagement. Formal training will be reinforced through mentorship programs. Auburn’s technology resources are well managed. Our campus colleagues can continue to rely on a technical community that has the expertise and commitment to support the Auburn mission.

Motivation, career path, and compensation represent only three of those four cornerstone principles. Our technical community must continue to be ethical members of the community – that fourth cornerstone. Auburn’s technical teams embrace integrity and honesty. They continue to be personally committed to protecting Auburn’s most sensitive data. They respect and support the rights of all staff members. Technology leaders and managers lead the way in improving recruiting and engaging diverse teams. Senior IT leadership works diligently to assure a level playing field for promotions, plum assignments, and compensation increases.

In short, the technical community uses its collective expertise to make meaningful contributions to Auburn’s mission, the citizens of the State of Alabama, our nation, and the people we encounter around the world because...People are the mission.

Sub-goals Supporting IT Professionals

1.1 By December 2020, Auburn Information Technology will provide a structure that makes roles, responsibilities, and career paths clear for all technology professionals at Auburn IT.

1.2. Within five years, technology professionals will be compensated at the forty-fifth (45th) percentile as defined by marketplace surveys available to Auburn.

1.3. Every IT professional will have a career plan that helps him/her understand the path for promotion, acquire professional training, and access tools that enable each professional to excel in her/his role.

1.4. Every position in OIT will have a fully qualified back-up staff member by December 2020.

1.5 Every member of the IT community understands the contribution that he/she can make to the unit’s Diversity Action Plan (DAP). IT members will actively engage in DAP activities. The CIO will sponsor at least one DAP activity each year beginning in CY2019.


Goal 2. Deploy resilient technology that supplements, optimizes, and facilitates teaching and learning. (4, 6)

Auburn’s technology investments provide faculty and students a robust suite of services that enable faculty to engage students effectively. These services make it possible for faculty to incorporate new paradigms such as “flipped classrooms” and hybrid teaching models. IT provides innovative technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence that faculty may use to help stimulate learning. The technical community will provide the tools. Faculty will have a clear path to engage the IT community when leveraging technology.

Technology supports Auburn’s growth in distance education. Network bandwidth enables Auburn’s professors to simultaneously teach classes at multiple, perfectly synchronized locations. Students in professional programs have the ability to interact with commercial patient and prescription management systems, gaining valuable hands-on experience. Auburn’s Outreach, Online, Global, and International programs have the services they need to support joint college/distance education content development and delivery. Robust network connectivity means faculty and students can connect from different locations across the globe. A faculty member doing research in Antarctica can still provide face-to-face advising to students located on campus.

Finally, Auburn IT provides students with an engaging, robust set of technology services that provide real-world experiences. IT leaders offer student workers on-campus jobs that provide practical experiences and augment their studies by building career expertise.

Sub-goals Supporting Academic Excellence

2.1 OIT will coordinate with the Provost’s Office to modernize a minimum of ten percent of centrally scheduled classrooms per year over each of the next three years. This equates to approximately 50 classrooms per year. Classroom technology will be upgraded to include High Definition audio-video and Light-Emitting Diode (LED) displays that elevate the classroom experience while simultaneously reducing costs and extending the refreshment lifecycle.

2.2 Researchers need the ability to collaborate across the globe to achieve their goals. Just as researchers collaborate internationally, Auburn’s teaching faculty will be able to leverage relationships with colleagues around the world and bring those colleagues into their classrooms “virtually” and securely via a robust set of communications platforms and services.

2.3 OIT will lead an effort to redesign campus portal strategy. By CY2022, a modern portal will provide a set of services that improve parent and student experiences. These services will include student safety, way-finding applications, voting, and more robust information sharing with parents and professors.

2.4 The Biggio Center provides the expertise and training faculty need to leverage technology that improves the quality of their instruction. OIT will work in support of the The Biggio Center by providing classroom technology that operationalizes the training and tools Biggio provides faculty.

2.5 OIT will continue to offer student employment opportunities that provide operational IT experience. Cybersecurity, Campus Web Solutions, the Audio/Visual Team, and the IT Service Desk will hire at least 30-40 students per year. Students will be provided access to the same tools used in industry for similar jobs.


Goal 3. Secure the cyber enterprise. (6)

Auburn’s Cybersecurity strategy is, quite simply: Make Intrusion Difficult; Detect Quickly; React Effectively; Minimize Impact.

Auburn experiences cyber-based threats each and every day. The university is an increasingly important target for the theft of intellectual property, malicious damage to core infrastructure, and disruption of campus operations. Threats are perpetrated by Advanced Persistent Threats (APT) sponsored by nation states committed to stealing intellectual property or undermining American national security. There are also individual actors seeking financial gain or simply trying to feed their egos by creating as much chaos as possible. Auburn is ever vigilant in protecting the university. Auburn meets the threat by adopting the “defense in depth” philosophy. To combat phishing and social engineering Auburn blocks an average of 100 million malicious emails per month representing eighty-five percent (85%) of all inbound email. Viruses and other intrusion attempts are filtered through firewalls at multiple levels. From April through December 2018, Auburn’s firewalls blocked 40.5 million intrusion attempts. The threat has increased. In the first seven months of 2019, campus firewalls blocked 26.8 million attempts making the total projected attempts in excess of 45M by the end of 2019.

No matter how vigilant we are, it is no longer a matter of if we will be “hit” or even when we will be “hit”. It’s really a matter of when we will be hit again. The staff members tasked with protecting the university must maintain an impenetrable defense 100% of the time, while those with malicious intent need only find one vulnerability in a million attempts. To effectively defend the campus technology environment, everyone must take responsibility for cybersecurity, and everyone must help protect Auburn’s valuable resources.

Auburn’s strategic goals for Cybersecurity address ways to make intrusion attempts as difficult and as ineffective as possible. If intrusion does occur, Auburn must identify threats quickly, isolate and remove the threats, and minimize the impact on campus constituents.

Sub-goals Supporting Cybersecurity

3.1 Cybersecurity policy and strategy is updated regularly to provide a reasonable balance between risk, cost, and benefit. Thoughtful, technologically current cyber policy guides management’s cost/benefit decisions needed to balance the cost of protecting the enterprise with the potential loss of intellectual property, reputational harm caused by an intrusion, and impact of stolen personal data on the campus community. On a monthly basis, Auburn’s Chief Information Security Officer will continue to prepare a risk assessment used by the CIO to assess effectiveness, revise cyber policy, and adjust long and short term investments.

3.2 Cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility. By Spring 2020, all faculty, staff, researchers, extension professionals, and affiliates will be required to complete annual security training focused on current threats.

3.3 The Auburn Security Operation Center (SOC), working with campus units, will proactively search for threats to campus systems, thoroughly assess impact, and work with constituents to mitigate impact and risk. The SOC became operational in Fall 2019 and will continue to refine processes.

3.4 Auburn’s core infrastructure will be redesigned to improve security and resilience, taking advantage of both on-premises and cloud options. Redesign will be completed by the end of FY2022.

3.5 By the end of CY2019 all campus units will be fully compliant with campus Cybersecurity standards. Unit heads will be kept informed of changes in policy and standards by their internal technology teams. Corrective actions will be taken quickly to remedy non-compliant environments.


Goal 4. Technology facilitates research, collaboration, and discovery. (1, 2, 3, 6)

Auburn’s technology contributes to enabling services for those directly engaged in research. As Auburn achieves its goal of increasing research volume and worldwide collaboration, the IT community will provide continuous improvements in systems needed to both manage that growth and provide cutting edge computing capacity.

Auburn’s research computing tools are robust and utilization is growing. Currently, 6,000 compute cores are used by a number of academic departments.

Auburn’s technology environment provides researchers with the capacity to conduct computationally-intensive research through a collaboration of college and central administrative units, providing high performance and massively parallel computing resources. Auburn’s colleges and research centers will have the tools to conduct innovative research in areas such as Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Computing, and Cybersecurity Engineering – all knowledge and computationally intensive programs. OIT must develop the skillsets that, in partnership with the Biggio Center, enable faculty to use these new tools effectively.

Research computing is more than High Performance Computing. Acquisition and analysis of massive datasets and unstructured datasets will enable research in non-computationally intensive areas. Collaborative programs such as Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition, Presidents United to Solve Hunger, and various genome research projects process and exchange vast amounts of data both on and off campus. These programs, and other similar programs, will be supported with robust storage and networking services.

The impact of Auburn’s outreach extends worldwide. Agricultural sensor data, in various forms, is gathered, analyzed, and made available to improve quality of life for people across the globe.

Research is a complex enterprise. Regulations, complex funding sources, grant administration, and scientific data curation are essential to supporting services in any research enterprise. Auburn’s business units, Library, Vice President for Research, and OIT will work together to modernize this essential support structure, from invoicing and accounting to network connectivity and data integrity. Robust systems will maintain an effective level of service that supports the university’s planned growth in research.

Sub-goals Supporting Research

4.1 Research compute and storage capacity will be doubled by 2024. Auburn will deploy a combination of on-premise and cloud-based technologies to support research requirements.

4.2 A campus-wide document management system will be deployed to allow automated routing and archiving of research proposals, awards, invoices, and deliverables. Deployment will be done in phases with the project completed for the entire campus by CY2024.

4.3 By the end of CY2021, network capacity in the range of 100 gigabits per second (Gbps) will provide connectivity with colleagues worldwide and support timely exchange of research information.

4.4. OIT will be active, engaged partners in supporting research initiatives. An efficient electronic research administration service will be implemented in phases. Phase I will consist of business process re-engineering and will be completed by January 2020. Phase II will implement an initial set of refreshed business processes and will be completed within 36 months of completion of Phase I.

4.5 Auburn’s research network will leverage Internet2 and Southern Crossroads connectivity, thereby enabling collaboration anywhere Internet2 has network connectivity.


Goal 5. Technology as a tool to optimize operational excellence. (3, 6)

IBM’s report on the Future State of Research Administration identified these four elements for success in creating a top-tier research enterprise: (1) People, (2) Process, (3) Technology, and (4) Environment. Technology provides the tools for people, process, environment, as well as continuous improvement.

Technology changes at an ever-increasing pace. Demands for continuous service improvement follow rapidly behind technological change, frequently driving the rate of adoption.

Cloud services have matured over the past five years, improving sourcing options for technology services. Effective security models, data center redundancy at scale, and high availability networks make delivering consumer-grade commercial services to campus constituents increasingly viable. Moreover, commercial vendors now operate at a scale that improves cost and resilience for services such as webhosting and personal productivity services (Email, Calendaring, Collaboration, and Storage).

Over the next five years, Auburn will transition into a hybrid model for IT service delivery. Where services are most effectively delivered in the commercial space, Auburn’s services will be moved to a cloud service provider. Where Auburn’s professionals can add value through direct interaction with the campus community, services will be maintained on premise. Where efficiency and resilience can be gained by a combination of models, services will be offered using the most cost-effective source.

Business process re-engineering must and will accompany technological enhancement. Technology alone does not solve business problems. Applying technology to poor business processes only exacerbates inefficiency and in some cases, increases the risk of poor outcomes. For example, 10 years ago, business managers had hours, if not days, to stop an erroneously issued paper check. In present day, an error in an electronic funds transfer can be whisked around the world in seconds, making correction almost impossible. Business process re-engineering must take these issues into consideration, develop new strategies and processes, and offer critical improvement to Auburn’s infrastructure modernization program.

Operational excellence cannot be achieved with faulty or unreliable data. Unreliable or faulty data leads decision makers to incorrect decisions that cost Auburn time, money, and momentum. Auburn is taking steps to improve data integrity in all areas. The new Data Governance team has refreshed and strengthened policies governing the appropriate use of data. Access to data is being reviewed, and unnecessary copies of locally-stored data are being replaced with centrally provided, authoritative sources. Over the course of this five-year plan, even greater emphasis will be placed on data governance, data management, and data protection.

Finally, peer collaboration helps optimize Auburn’s investments in technology. Auburn will continue to participate in purchasing consortiums that leverage the buying power of joint acquisition programs across Alabama and Higher Ed. Full participation in non-profit consortiums, Internet2, Southern Crossroads, and the newly formed Alabama Public Sector CIO Council will reduce costs for all participants.

Inherent in all Auburn technology services is the need to enable our entire campus population to fully and easily access these services. The IT community continues to strive for full compliance with Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Web Accessibility Guide V2.1.

In summary, Auburn’s technology deployments will be optimized through the development of data services that contribute to institutional effectiveness. Improvements to service effectiveness will be built upon both the deployment of effective technology and thorough analysis of business processes and best practice. Auburn’s technology environment will be more resilient and efficient. Leveraging partnerships will optimize IT investments. All of these programs will establish the technological basis needed for improving operational effectiveness at Auburn.

Sub-goals Supporting Optimization of Infrastructure and Improvement of Operational Excellence

5.1. Complete a business services risk analysis, investigate risk mitigation technologies, and deploy a suite of business continuity/disaster recovery solutions by the end of CY2021.

5.2. Develop an Enterprise Performance Management plan and manage central technology to that plan. Complete the plan by the 3rd Quarter of CY2020.

5.3. Continuously improve Auburn’s Intranet and Internet capacity over the next three years. By the end of CY2021, 100 Gbps Internet circuits will provide connectivity for teaching, learning, research, outreach, and business operations.

5.4 Auburn’s Identity and Access Management services will support connectivity to all required services whether on premise or in the cloud. A system capable of providing authentication and authorization both on-premise and in the cloud will be implemented by the end of CY2020.

5.5 Provide a set of technology services that help optimize information flow for all campus constituencies. There are multiple components to this sub-goal:

  • By the end of CY2021, a robust data governance plan, process, and toolset will be established.
  • By the end of CY2022, AU Access will be replaced with a more robust, current suite of Intranet tools.
  • By the end of CY2024, a document management system will allow for automated flow of documents and electronic signature across campus.

5.6 Deploy “Geo-Fencing” capability that contributes to constituent safety, asset tracking, and visitor experiences. Initial pilot to be completed by the end of CY2020.

5.7 Continue to refine and optimize virtual environment hosting. Provide campus units with cost effective options for hosting virtual environments within the central datacenter environment. By the end of FY2020, develop or refresh the portfolio of services that consists of service level agreements, complete with costs, for each of the virtual services OIT offers.

Last Updated: February 25, 2020