The IT organization I work for has made great strides in recent years to become larger and more professional. Along with higher expectations for features, stability, and security has come larger budgets, and several big projects to implement major overhauls to infrastructure. In general the trend seems to be towards moving away from tested open-source software maintained in-house to expensive commercial software, often managed by third parties.
I disagree with this trend, especially for an academic institution, but companies make decisions all the time regarding the real or perceived trade-offs between free and commercial software.
Today I heard about one proposal being discussed for a multi-million dollar identity management solution. Other highly expensive projects include a massive new Microsoft Exchange service, outsourced email for students, and a ton of pricy new security tools like monitoring appliances and encryption products.
Keeping all of that spending in mind, here is an email I just received:
In light of the recent notes from [Harvard President] Drew Faust and [FAS Dean] Mike Smith concerning the climate of fiscal austerity, we will forgo the reception we’d planned following the staff meeting.
That does not help me to feel confident that good budgeting decisions are being made. Keep the millions of dollars in licenses and fees and support contracts for proprietary systems of questionable value run by highly-paid consultants. Dump the cheap snacks and sodas that show management cares about employees. Glad to know where we stand.