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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

ICPSR 2012 technology recap - where did the money go?

A post from a week or so ago showed the sources of money flowing into the technology organization at ICPSR.  This week's post will focus on how that money is spent.

I should note that the focus of this post is on what we call the "Computer Recharge" at ICPSR.  This is a tax paid by all FTEs at ICPSR that is levied on an hourly basis.  Each time an employee completes his or her timesheet and allocates time to a project (exceptions: sick, holiday, and vacation time), a small amount of money also accumulates in the "Recharge."  In FY 2012 this accounted for about 45% of the technology revenue.

Unlike a direct charge for technology where a project or grant may be paying for a dedicated server, extra storage space, or a fraction of a software developer working on custom systems, the Computer Recharge dollars are used to fund technology expenses that benefit the entire organization.  This includes expenses as prosaic as printers and desktop computers, but also includes systems and software development for our delivery systems, ingest systems, and digital preservation systems.

Here's the breakdown in chart form:

No surprise that most of the money goes to pay people:  systems administrators, desktop support specialists, software developers, and a group of very hands-on managers who do a lot of the same work plus project management and business analysis.  This accounts for $862k out of $1218k.

Equipment ($214k) represents desktop machines, new storage capacity, printers, virtual machines, cloud storage, software licenses, and almost every non-salary expense.

Transfers ($103k) is an interesting category.  This is money that we collect as major systems depreciate.  But since the U-M doesn't really "do" depreciation, we use this interesting process instead:


  1. Buy the item (using money from Equipment pot)
  2. Estimate the lifetime of the item (say, five years)
  3. Collect 1/5 of the purchase price each year for five years
  4. At the end of each year, move the 1/5 collected into Transfers
  5. When the item needs to be replaced, use the money in the Transfers pot


So the $103k represents money that was collected in FY 2012 for items that were purchased in earlier years, and which will need to be replaced in FY 2013 or beyond.

All of our other expenses are tiny by comparison:  $19k for Internet access, $7k for telephones and service monitoring, $6k for travel, $5k for maintenance contracts, and $2k for miscellaneous fees and expenses.

One take-away from this is that the essential element in technology budgeting isn't the purchase price of the server, or the annual cost of cloud storage, bur rather the recurring cost of the people who will build, maintain, enhance, and customize the technology portion of the business.

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