Oxford’s new digital governance framework and operating model - FAQs

Oxford’s new Digital Governance Framework and Operating Model has been agreed by the University Council. These governance changes have started to take place and will be a ‘truly transformational’ change in the way we think about, govern, and deliver digital change across the University.  

We want to thank all colleagues who have played a vital role in the University’s existing IT governance. Your ongoing commitment, dedication, and collective efforts to help Oxford to realise its technological ambitions over the years means we have a solid foundation to build on.   

This page answers questions you may have relating to Oxford’s new Digital Governance Framework and Operating Model. 

Questions and answers

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How long will the transition be from our existing governance model to the new governance model?

The new governance changes will happen quite quickly. The new Committee structure has been put in place (for all Portfolio Committees) and begun to operate at the start of Michaelmas Term 2023. With the exception of Education, however, all the new Portfolio Committees will act solely at a governance level (approving/monitoring projects, services and spend; reporting to Information & Digital Committee). 

How long will the transition be from our existing operating model to the new operating model (delivery mode)?

From Hilary Term 2024, the Education Portfolio Committee will begin to adopt the new operating model and trial the new ways of delivery for projects and services (delivery mode). This ensures that we can learn lessons from the trial, and then at some point later in 2024 consider also moving the other Portfolio Committees into new delivery mode. 

What will happen to the Programme team?

The Programme Team are going to continue to deliver the Digital Transformation Programme with colleagues in IT Services until the whole transition of BOTH the governance and operating model is complete. We are assuming this will be at least 18 months or longer, depending on the speed of the transition.  

Will we always need a transformation programme or does it become just part of business as usual (BAU)?

Once we have transitioned to the new governance framework and operating model the transformation elements of the programme should be embedded in the new way of working and transformation becomes, in some sense, part of BAU, driven by the portfolios and IDC. 

How often will the Information & Digital Committee (IDC) meet?

We anticipate it will meet twice a term.

Who will Chair the Portfolio Committees?

The PVC Digital will Chair the Information and Digital Committee (IDC). The PVC for Education will chair the Education Portfolio Committee; the PVC for Research will chair the Research Portfolio Committee; and the Registrar will chair the Administration Portfolio Committee. Richard Ovenden will chair the Engagement and Dissemination Committee; and Professor Dave De Roure will Chair the Technology Portfolio Committee. 

Will there be dual reporting for the Portfolio Committees?

The Education, Research and Administration Portfolio Committees will report both to the IDC and to the University Education Committee, Research & Innovation Committee, and Services subcommittee.  The finances and delivery elements of the Portfolio Committees are the responsibilities of the IDC and the other parent committee will share responsibility for the strategic and priority setting.  

Who decides who is on the committees?

The membership of IDC is set out in the University regulations - the Divisions will be able to determine who they put forward as members; the Chairs of the Portfolio Committees will be members.  

The membership of the Portfolio Committees will be determined by the Chairs of the new Portfolio Committees.  

What will happen to Portfolio Scrutiny Group (PSG) in the new governance framework?

Portfolio Scrutiny Group (PSG) and PSG+ (which has divisional representation) will not exist in the new governance structure and will be stepped down. PSG+ will be kept in place whilst the new committees are set up in case it is needed to sign off on activities while the committees get up and running and will be known as iPSG (interim PSG) during this period. iPSG will be stood down once all five portfolio committees have confirmed approval status.  

Will current IT board members play a role in the new Portfolio Committees?

Some Portfolio Committees may choose to keep membership from the earlier committee structure to allow continuity. Chairs of the new Committees will be in touch with the IT Board members to discuss this option where it exists. 

HR have an HR SMT, rather than an IT Board, who consider IT priorities. Under the new model, how will this work (e.g. will HR SMT feed their views into the Administration portfolio and have a representative on the portfolio)?

The Administration Portfolio brings together HR, Finance, Compliance and other services - the Chair will determine how they would like to organise the input from different communities. It may be the case that there are separate subgroups to consider these issues, or that the Heads of these Services sit on the Portfolio Committee - this will be resolved in the next few months. 

How will Portfolio Committees set priorities for service enhancements?

The Portfolio Lead will need to engage with appropriate stakeholders to understand the needs across the portfolio.  It will be for the Service Stream owners to draw up plans that can then be considered within the prioritisation. For example, in education there may be a Service Stream focussed on Graduate Admissions in which case ensuring that the priorities reflect the strategy of priorities of the Graduate Admissions Committee and the Graduate Admissions office. 

How will the relationship work between the Portfolio Manager and the Portfolio Lead? How are these roles different?

Each Portfolio Committee will have a secretariat and will be supported by the Portfolio Lead and Portfolio Manager, the former being the business lead who is responsible for strategic alignment and the Portfolio Manager is responsible for the overall planning, budgeting and resource allocation.  

What assurance checks are in place?

Once the Portfolio Committees are up and running, there will still be a mechanism for pre-Committee checks for scrutiny on, for example, information security and architecture. More details will follow once we confirm the approach and plans. 

Will the new Portfolio committees have a budget?

The IDC will allocate a budget to the Portfolio Committees. Initially this will be an allocation of the Digital Transformation Fund; in due course there will also be an allocation of the Development Plan Fund and Service Funding.  At this point in time the Service Funding is fixed as part of the three-year settlement. 

How will the Development Plan funding be allocated to Portfolios?

Because the Development Plan is already underway the Portfolio Committees will inherit the existing plans. Over time they will be allocated a budget based on their business plans for services and the need to maintain and improve them.  

At what point will the portfolios have responsibility for their funding envelopes, across both IT Dev Plan and DT?

The committees will have responsibility for the funding envelopes as soon as they are defined. For Digital Transformation that will be Michaelmas Term 2023 and for Development Plan that is likely to be Michaelmas Term 2024. 

How will the continuous improvement be funded?

The Portfolio Committees will be able to provide a service stream allocation that allows continuous improvement.

Are there changes to the financial sign off limits?

At this point in time the financial limits on sign off will not change. 

How will the new unit be created?

We need to complete a design phase for the Unit and consult with colleagues on the capabilities needed within it. Once this is complete we bring the groups together who should clearly be part of the Unit. It is likely we will need to hire some key posts into the Unit e.g in User Experience. 

Will the new unit be within IT Services department

Initially the Unit will be in IT Services. It is possible it may move out of IT Services in due course. 

Will the project communications team move to this unit?

That is a possibility but needs to be considered fully in the design phase.

What is the difference between IT and Digital Services?

It is easy for colleagues to think that IT services are delivered by IT. Digital services are the services in place to support University activity and in this case they are digital - so they might be delivered by Library Services, Research Services etc... 

What are Service Streams?

Service Streams provide a sensible and aligned grouping of the Portfolio service content with clear focus on a given part of the community. The portfolios are aligned with the aims of the university, such as Education and Research. Portfolios are then broken down into Service Streams which are distinct areas aligned to specific activities or user communities. For example within the Education Portfolio you might have a service stream for assessment, with another service stream for course delivery. 

How will they be determined?

The Portfolio Leads working with the Portfolio teams and key stakeholders will determine the grouping of services into Service Streams.  These may change over time as new services are adopted/created. 

How will Service Stream Owners be selected?

In some cases there will be natural owners of service streams in others we will need to identify staff who are suitably situated to take on the role or in some cases we may need to recruit. 

What is meant by a new operating model for the delivery of projects and services.

Delivery mode is a new way of delivering projects and services by bringing resources (teams) together into delivery groups for the particular portfolio (although it may not be appropriate to deliver all projects in this way). 

Over time, the new model will help to deepen the expertise and knowledge of colleagues working within a particular portfolio. 

Will the IT staff involved in Service Stream delivery groups move out of IT Services

During the pilot phase we will bring together teams in Education to work as delivery groups without making any changes to line management.  We will pilot this matrix management way of working with the Education Portfolio, reviewing its effectiveness throughout. We will keep colleagues informed and would like to hear from IT Services staff as this goes forward.  If creating new units to support the new operating model emerges as a better solution there would be a full consultation on it.  

What will happen to individual service steering/governance groups with the creation of Service Streams? Should they disband at the same time as the IT boards?

Given we are not yet moving to the new operating model we should not disband any delivery structures.

Will this change in Governance and Operating model mean a large organisational change?

Line management will not change during the Pilot phase. Staff will continue to be assigned to the same teams and line manager. What will change over time is prioritisation and task management will be determined at a portfolio and service stream level. If as a result of the pilot it emerges that creating new units to support the new operating model is a better solution, there would be a full consultation on it. 

Effective change management is critical for success, what change management support will be provided as part of transition to the new governance framework and operating model?

A new change governance workstream and team has been set-up as part of the Digital Transformation team.  

To ask a question about the plans and approach for the new governance framework and delivery changes, and for general enquiries, you can contact the Digital Transformation team: Digital.transformation@admin.ox.ac.uk  

Will I need to apply for a role in the new structure?

There is no organisational change planned at this time that would require applying for a role, but there may be opportunities to apply for a new role in the future.  

You mention a skills audit what does that mean?

It is clear that the new operating model needs individuals with particular skill sets in specific roles.  It is not yet clear that we have all the skill mixes we need to deliver the new model. We will therefore work through the new model to identify any gaps. Having done so, some gaps may be filled by offering further training to existing colleagues or by recruiting into the gaps. 

How will tensions across Portfolios be managed?

The IDC will need to manage the financial tension across Portfolios. Resource tensions, for example where two portfolios need access to specific technology resource during the same period, will be discussed and managed between the Portfolios, or by escalation to the IDC where necessary. 

How will we ensure that the projects and services delivered within Portfolios keep to the policies and architectural principles

The Digital Governance Unit will work with Portfolio delivery groups and leads to ensure that their developments are meeting the design principles and comply with security and other requirements. 

Where an initiative is led by one portfolio, but has an impact on other portfolios, who/how would this be managed?

This will need to be managed through the Portfolio Leads and the DGU.

How will the following be managed across the portfolios: interdependencies between initiaitives that span portfolios, shared risks, change impact (overall level of change at any one time across the University, across portfolios)

This will need to be managed through the Portfolio Leads and the DGU.

In the governance presentation pack, we talk about moving to more light touch project governance, and being able to initiate project work faster - who will work on these process changes and when?

We have a consultant working with us to develop these new processes and the assets to support them. 

How will resource allocation be done across the portfolios - Over time they will have their own delivery capability, but I assume not all resources will be local? If so, how will prioritisation be done/managed across portfolio needs?

The expectation is that over time staff resources will be assigned to portfolios for specific periods of time rather than specific projects as happens now. Clearly there will need to be a transition period, where resources will need to be balanced across the portfolios. This is a challenge we already have with our current model and processes already exist to manage them. Where challenges can't easily be overcome then portfolios will need to speak to one another to agree a compromise or escalate to IDC who have visibility of the organisational priorities.  

What will the Portfolio dashboards look like?

We have looked at the dashboards that are being used elsewhere including in the Digital Government Office. An initial dashboard will be developed for use in the next academic year. We expect it will get refined through use. 

Do we have a starter for 10 service catalogue to get us started?

Yes. Colleagues in the Service Management Office have created an initial catalogue that will be refined over the summer and provided to Portfolio Committees for their consideration in Michaelmas Term 2023. 

Contact us

If you have any further questions please contact the digital transformation team at digital.transformation@admin.ox.ac.uk