Digital master plan: Montpellier University charts its digital course

The Digital Master Plan (SDN) was approved by the Board of Directors last June. It sets out the University of Montpellier's digital strategy for the next five years, and will mobilize a large part of the university community around 120 projects. Details with Adeline Fabrié, Director of Information Systems and Digital.

It's an internal revolution. Over the past few weeks, all UM staff have been able to move away from the ageing Adhoc application , and familiarize themselves with the two new time and leave management software packages, Logeca and Planum. But few are aware that these changes are just two small bricks in the immense construction that is the Digital Master Plan (SDN) 2024-2028, voted by the Board of Directors on June 10. The SDN has been a long-standing project at the University of Montpellier," explains Adeline Fabrié, Director of Information Systems and Digital Services. It's an extremely important tool for describing an institution's digital transformation trajectory.  

Covering all 271 needs

Up until now, different master plans have existed side by side at universities, depending on their respective fields of application. However, recent societal developments linked to the boom in the hybridization of teaching, the blossoming of open science and the lightning advances in artificial intelligence and cybercrime have prompted the UM to include in its latest five-year contract " the development of a digital master plan capable of covering all its perimeters, from research to training, including support functions such as HR, finance, heritage and management ", continues the director. In so doing, the University also responded to the recommendations of the HCERES and the Cour des Comptes (recommendation no. 9, report dated September 2023).

After more than two years' work led by President Philippe Augé in collaboration with the vice-presidents - and in particular David Cassagne, vice-president in charge of digital training and Anne Laurent, vice-president in charge of open science and research data - as well as DGS Bruno Fabre and the teaching and research departments (see the box on SDN governance), the UM has set itself a five-year development path. Applicable, coherent and sufficiently flexible, it is capable of absorbing the many changes in professions and practices linked to digital technology and IT. " We have analyzed the 271 needs identified during the first phase of this work, to create a portfolio of 120 projects whose development will be organized around nine strategic orientations," explains Adeline Fabrié.

Nine directions for 120 projects

One of the first objectives of this digital strategy formalized by the SDN is to explain how each of these nine orientations feeds into the University's overall strategy defined by the establishment contract. The first three of these orientations respond to the needs of training: the development of digital pedagogical uses; the response to the challenges of training transformation; and finally, the improvement of digital services for students.

Orientations 4 and 5 respond to the needs of research and innovation, which require better coordination and greater visibility of activities. The SDN also aims to improve our ability to manage research activities, which are necessarily correlated with our international expansion and modernization.

Modernization is the guiding principle behind the last four orientations. These include: simplifying administrative procedures; securing management information systems; rationalizing infrastructures; and guaranteeing business continuity through a high level of security.

" These guidelines have enabled us to organize and plan the future deployment of 120 projects, and above all to prioritize them in a roadmap that takes into account the DSIN's workload and capacity to deliver (estimated at 19,000 days/hour), as well as that of the business departments concerned (5,100 days/hour). At present, 38 projects have already been launched ," announces Adeline Fabrié.

Must-see projects

Among these projects, some are qualified as " unavoidable, i.e. they are imposed on us by a regulatory constraint, a renewal obligation on the part of the publisher, or a technical obsolescence jeopardizing the security of the IS. They affect a large number of people in the establishment, and therefore require special efforts in terms of change management," emphasizes the director. This category includes the arrival of Planum and Logeca, which we have already mentioned, as well as an upgrade of Siham, a software package used by the HR department, which will also undergo a facelift, thanks to an overhaul of its technical and application infrastructure. " Our objective is also to promote and deploy integrated, interconnected applications, which, for example, avoid re-entering the same data several times and simplify usage. We call these urbanized systems, just like the way a city works. In a context where cybercrime can no longer be ignored, securing our tools is also our top priority. "

But other major challenges will come into play from 2025 onwards, with the evolution of Sifac, our financial management tool, towards Sifac +, and above all with the gradual abandonment of Apogée, the application used for administrative management of student enrolment, for a transition to Pégase around 2028. These changes have been imposed by the Agence de mutualisation des universités et des établissements d'enseignements supérieurs (AMUE), supplier of numerous tools, including Siham, Sifac and Apogée, three behemoths for the management of our establishment. "This is where the SDN comes into its own, as its development has enabled us to become aware of the changes to come, and to better anticipate them in order to support our staff. Some of our applications are outdated, but our staff are so used to them that the change will inevitably take some time to adapt and get used to. 

Flagship projects and easy wins

The flagship projects represent 54% of the project portfolio in terms of workload. On the training side, these include the implementation of the European Charm-eight project, the setting up of the digital health school, the development of digital examination rooms, the creation of a tool for managing knowledge control procedures, etc. On the research side, they include the roll-out of the "open science plan", the provision of a tool for managing calls for projects, and the continued implementation of the Occitanie region-wide data center (Drocc) for ESR partners. 

Alongside these flagship projects, which are particularly important for the university, we find the quickwin projects, which we could translate as quicker or easier projects: " The President was very keen on this. He's aware that the flagship projects are going to mobilize the teams a lot, but certain small actions can be simple to carry out and provide great services to the university community." Among the thirty or so projects in this category are: the dematerialization of the CMS card; the introduction of a Payfip online payment tool for certain services or continuing education; the promotion of the UM's healthcare offering; and the provision of a data encryption tool.

Turning a corner

Finally, there are the "core" projects, less visible and more technical, which are DSIN's core business. " Their aim is to consolidate and improve the security of information and digital systems, and to take into account the evolution of technical and security infrastructures to meet the new challenges of digital transformation. This may involve reinforcing the establishment's network, Wi-Fi, safeguarding our technical bricks, services that are not very visible... except when they don't work ", stresses Adeline Fabrié.

This Digital Master Plan organizes and plans the University of Montpellier's response to the challenge of taking the digitalization of its activities to a new level. This transformation requires additional human resources, particularly at the DSIN, as well as financial resources. The total cost of deploying the SDN is currently estimated at 7 million euros, spread over five years. The specially designed governance structure will be responsible for adjusting, or even adding, new projects to bring this master plan to life, in line with changing needs.

For more details on planned projects, download the 2024-2028 digital master plan.

Digital governance

In the words of the Information Systems and Digital Director: "It's the essential element for implementing the SDN! Digital governance is divided into three classic areas: strategic, steering and operational. The strategic aspect is embodied by the Digital Monitoring Committee (Cosnum). It essentially involves the presidency, the directors of the schools, UFRs and institutes, and the research clusters, and meets once a year.

Steering is provided by the SDN Monitoring Committee (COSUI SDN), chaired by the Director General of Services, with the participation of the DGSAs, the Vice-President for Open Science Anne Laurent and the Vice-President for Digital Training David Cassagne. " This monitoring committee has already been in operation for over a year. It meets every month, makes decisions on the roadmap and ensures that all the resources required for the SDN's development are available," explains Adeline Fabrié.

This governance also includes eight information system steering committees. One for each of the major areas: research, digital training, training, finance, HR, management, assets and logistics, and information system and digital security. " The research, training and digital training monitoring committees already existed, while the others were created as a result of the hard work we all put in together to devise this new governance structure. Led by their respective VPs, they meet every six months to monitor the various projects and fine-tune the roadmap according to local constraints. The completion of this SDN after more than 18 months' work now constitutes a benchmark and a trajectory for the establishment's digital projects. The 9 orientations of the digital strategy and the governance in place enable it to be steered and developed in line with future digital transformations.