Introducing Oxford’s new Digital Governance and Delivery approach

The new framework will create greater alignment to University priorities, simplify and speed up decision making, and put more emphasis on user-focused digital experiences. It will also provide a clearer view across the institution of what digital services are available to staff and students and at what cost.

In summary  

As part of the Foundation phase of Oxford University’s Digital Transformation programme, we identified that one of the most important success criteria for a sustained and real impact of any digital changes is the governance and delivery of digital services and infrastructure. Accordingly, a Working Group was set up to consider the existing IT governance and options for the future. Following its review, the Group has made recommendations on digital governance (how we decide what to do), operations (how we do it), and on organisational structures (how we structure the organisation to operate effectively).  

The review found that the way the University governs IT is too narrowly focused on just the IT part and not the ‘business part.’ The proposed governance framework shifts the focus from IT (technology) to governance embedded more in the University mission and “business” and extends the scope to include data, information, and cybersecurity.  

Why do we need to change the way we govern IT?  

The review of our existing IT governance approach found several themes, including:  

  • Silos – There are too many committees operating in silos. Siloed and slower decision making – project-based funding not effectively tensioned against other needs. 
  • Not sufficiently tied into University priorities – The committees lack integration with “business”, in terms of strategic input and alignment with strategic need, prioritisation and implementation. Current IT board model is not working appropriately – Portfolio Scrutiny Group key decision making body.  
  • Not enough user-focus - User design not embedded in projects sufficiently early 
  • Insufficient engagement with Divisional structures 
  • Not enough focus on data - Data governance is floating in our governance - touched on in various committees – focused on in none. 
  • Complexity - The joint subcommittees model does not interact effectively with other University committees to ensure strategy/priorities driven by business need. IT Committee is not properly plugged into our governance in general. Does not lead to process simplification – doesn’t enable a service improvement model  
  • Not enough focus on cybersecurity - Prioritisation of cybersecurity investments is not properly overseen or considered (it is considered by JISAG which reports into Security subcommittee, but we need clearer focus on cybersecurity services).  
  • Lack of continuity and consistency - Staff engaged in project delivery may be moved to deliver in other areas without the knowledge of the associated subcommittee.


What’s changing?

Over time, the Portfolio Committees will oversee the delivery of services through Service Streams with responsible owners for the management of the Service Streams, and Service Stream delivery teams who will maintain and improve the services.   

In time for MT23:

  • A new Information and Digital Committee (IDC) will replace the existing IT Committee. The IDC will be responsible for strategy and policy related to digital services and infrastructure, data, information, and cybersecurity.  
  • Five Portfolio Committees will be created that report to IDC. They are responsible for services in the areas of Education, Research, Engagement and Dissemination, Administration and Technology.  


The new Committee structure will be put in place to begin from MT23.

A portfolio's two modes 

A portfolio has two modes: Governance and Delivery 

Governance mode  

This mode includes overseeing, approving, monitoring, governing, tracking, deciding and guiding projects, services, and spend. All portfolios will transition to the new governance model from MT23.  

Delivery mode  

A new way of delivering projects and services by bringing resources (teams) together into delivery groups for the particular portfolio. Over time, this will help to deepen the expertise and knowledge of colleagues working within a particular portfolio.  


Governance_Education First


Education, first  

The new operating model will be piloted with the Education Portfolio in MT23. The other Portfolio Committees will focus only on governance and not delivery at this this time.  

This will require identifying the Portfolio Support, and Service Stream Owners and providing guidance, training, and support as we work through the implementation of the new model. At the same time key assets will need to be created that will be required by the Committees and teams. A review of the pilot will be completed in Trinity Term 2024 which will inform the further development of the remaining Portfolios. 

What’s the benefit of this?  

The new Digital Governance Framework provides a clearer view across the institution of what digital services are available to staff and students and at what cost. At present this information is not available and sits in many budget lines across the institution.  

The aim of the proposed changes to governance and the operating model are to shift the delivery of services to be more closely aligned with the business strategy and user needs. The change to the funding and delivery model has been made to allow a more agile and continuous improvement approach and to move away from our existing project-driven way of working. The model is based on Service Stream delivery teams, which will allow us to build experienced teams knowledgeable in both the business need and digital capabilities. Most importantly this aims to reduce siloed decision-making process, whilst at the same time increasing the capability to prioritise spend effectively.

How is the Digital Transformation programme team evolving?     

The Digital Transformation Programme team will continue to exist and will support delivery of the programme during this transition period. A dedicated change management team will oversee the setting up of the Portfolios, the creation of the assets to support the Portfolios, providing the training and support for the Committees, assisting in provision of training for Service Stream owners, and in the specific case of the Education Portfolio supporting the service stream delivery teams as well.  

The change management team will also be responsible for the delivery, in due course of the changes recommended by the IT Infrastructure Service Review.  

We recognise that there will be a significant period of transition to bed in the new governance, project and service delivery, identifying and responding to skill gaps, and potentially implementing organisational change to support service and new governance delivery. The full implementation of the governance framework and operating model is expected to take at least 12 months and possibly as long as 24 months. This may appear to be a slow transition, but the suggested timing takes into account the potential organisational/operational changes that will be the outcome of the IT Infrastructure service review and the continuing series of activities within the digital transformation programme.  

The implementation of the new governance framework and operating model are transformative in how we envisage digital services and infrastructure and how they are integrated into planning and embedded to ensure the institution is digitally “fit for the future”. Once this transition is complete, which may take up to two years, the digital transformation programme becomes business as usual, and the programme team can be disbanded.  

How can we find out more?  

If you have any questions or concerns, please speak with your existing committee chair or line manager. Or, you can email the programme team at: