ITS CIO addresses inquiries from IT Town Hall

March 8, 2018

As a follow-up from the IT Town Hall meeting held on February 28, John Barden provided answers to inquires submitted during the meeting. In case you missed it, questions and answers can be found below.

1. If we’re already giving our best, is the excellence you ask for more than our best? What do you mean “move from relationships to serve”?

I see a team that is extremely dedicated to Yale, and individuals that consistently go the extra mile to resolve issues or help a colleague. I really do think the clear majority of you are giving your best every day. That is an amazing aspect of our culture, but I also do think there is room for improvement.

Specifically, I want to see us apply that same energy to establishing standards, operating practices, and processes that make the work we do more consistent, reliable, and predictable. This is what our colleagues ask me for most often – they want to know that when they pick the phone up, that it will work. They want to have a reasonable expectation of turn around when they make a request for infrastructure support. They want to have confidence when we give them an estimate for a new website or service, that we will hit it. Today, we do all these things but the results can vary greatly, and often hitting the mark involves your individual heroic efforts. I want to see us give everyone involved a chance to do their best work with more consistency. In my opinion, we can better enable your talents by putting in place stronger processes to support your good work.

2. It seems that the need for education on what is available is really needed because the entire Adobe suite is available free on software library.

The process by which we assess the software library titles and licensing models is getting a fresh look. We recently expanded the role of the faculty-led ITS Advisory Committee to provide guidance on what should be included in the software catalog. It is also clear there is a need for more direct student input on the list of titles, and based on the willingness of our student panel today, I expect we will pursue that in the coming months. As for Adobe Creative Suite specifically, students are not included in the current license —only faculty and staff. This includes post-doctoral fellows with a full-time employment status. IT leadership has been receiving many queries about the fairness of this approach. We did initially consider a full enterprise license, but it is immensely expensive. Specifically, expanding this single title to all students would increase our software costs by more than $450,000 a year. Right now, the software library cannot bear that additional cost without more comprehensively considering what other titles should come off the list to make that possible.

3. Who do you mean by “system admin” for the 5-day response? Specifically. DSPs? Help desk? Server Admin?

My reference was indeed too vague. This metric relates to Linux and Window managed server administration. Over the last year, the typical time for resolution of a break/fix ticket in this area was averaging ten days or more. Over the last quarter, the team has really focused on driving down the number of open tickets and putting in place the processes and thoughtful automation to improve the pace of resolution. This initial step of getting the average below 5 days is terrific progress. I know this team is continuing to work hard to get their quality and cycle time even better. They are doing this by carefully managing the metrics and working on process and procedures, and where they see high volumes of requests they are attempting to build the scripted procedures that will ultimately be a game changer for how this team does their work. I look forward to continuing to see how this evolves. I shared it today as an example of the kind of substantive operational process work that is happening in many areas to improve our services.

4. Every year 360 feedback is collected for their colleagues or managers. Who reviews them? It has been noticed that no appropriate action has been taken.

Overall, the process of feedback and evaluations provides insight into the skills and behaviors desired in our organization. When implemented well, these processes enable all of us to better serve our colleagues and to develop our own careers and can be a very positive accelerator of both. Throughout my career, thoughtful feedback and guidance has been enormously important to shaping my development and so I place high value in it working well. We introduced the competency framework today, and that will exist as a new way for us to facilitate a richer discussion that I hope you will all find valuable. You can and should being using this for this mid-year cycle within ITS.

Currently, 360-degree reviews are conducted on a limited basis as part of the University’s Extraordinary Leader program and the MOR Leadership program. In addition, some managers also choose to solicit feedback from colleagues as part of the annual performance review process. For the Extraordinary Leader & MOR Leadership programs, the information obtained is shared with the individual and it is their choice to share it with their manager and beyond – it is really collected entirely to support the mentoring discussions in those programs. Managers who collect colleague feedback use it as input into their reviews, but this is not a standardized practice. At the moment, we have no broader plan to rollout a formal 360-degree review program but may consider it over the course of the next few years as we continue to evolve the evaluation process.

5. Alexander Behzad is a new hire.

Alex moved from intern (fixed duration position) to a continuous staff member in this last quarter. I understand we typically have not included these changing roles as “new”, but there is no reason we could not going forward. Thanks for the feedback.

6. There is a common theme across ITS that PMO has lost credibility. Is there a plan to bring that credit back?

Many team members have observed the need to enhance how the PMO and related functions are supporting the organization. The PMO serves an important internal service role that is a critical foundation to supporting our execution. Back in December, I asked Marc Ulan to take responsibility for integrating the PMO and Service Management functions, and he is mapping a path to respond to evolving needs and heightened expectations. The team has already made good headway on our project financial controls as well as simplifying the service catalog and service owner responsibilities. Some of the items the team plans on delivering in the next year include establishing a standard and simplified delivery methodology with relevant gates and deliverable templates, reviewing change management practices, simplifying time tracking, and enhancing project management training. Over the next year, I expect we will have several additional process enhancements that will support improved project outcomes and supportability of services moved into production.

7. This question is in regards to the need to strengthen operational best practices. John mentioned there would be focus over the next six months to build out this.

We are on what is likely to be a multi-year journey to improve our operational practices. I have commented on these activities in several of the answers above – things like enhancing consistency in our change management review or the work the server administration team is doing to review break/fix for frequent problems and build scripting to improve responsiveness are two such examples.

We will plan to do a checkpoint in the coming months and see how these improvements are addressing team pain points. We’ll use that as a mechanism to both assure we are being comprehensive in that work and to improve the visibility of specific operational objectives for the entire community.

8. Capability for ITS: What are the key organizational hurdles (people, process, tech) in the way of this work effort?

Let’s start with people – Stabilizing leadership, filling key open roles, and establishing a more comprehensive set of expectations (for example, competency model and service owner expectations) are top of mind. I also expect we will start to carefully assess how we are approaching building a talent pipeline and our associated recruiting practices to improve the diversity and balance of the team in the coming year. Process – I have talked a lot about process in these answers and in the materials used in the town hall. We need more consistent and lean processes throughout much of what we do. All of us need to be engaged in designing these processes to make the good outcomes we seek a natural biproduct of our work. Technology – We continue to be in transition in how IT is delivered, and that requires us to be nimbler than has been the case in recent memory, and necessitates us working in a highly collaborative and matrixed way. We are also seeing the pervasive use of technology in all that we do as an institution, and increasingly that is driving the criticality of availability higher. I am sure there are more, but these are the key items that stand out to me that are significantly influencing our direction.

9. In terms of the New Governance Process, only CPmG is successfully running. PAC meetings has got out of wack. What is the plan for bringing PAC up and running?

IT Governance has different definitions to several in this audience. From the CIO seat, I see good progress in how we have clarified our decision authority with the colleagues we support through the governance model we unveiled in December. Recall, that delineates stakeholder responsibility for Academic IT, Research IT, Clinical IT, and Cultural Heritage, as well as Administrative and Foundational IT. Each of these leaders have participated in setting our FY19 project goals. In addition, we are building transparency to support their ongoing engagement in setting operational priorities. We also have functioning collaborations with faculty through ITSAC, with many of our distributed IT leaders through a revised IT campus leaders group. That is important progress. As for our internal structure, that work has started, but certainly remains in process. As you reference, CPMG has done a pretty significant reset to focus on the fiduciary review of in-flight projects. PAC is being reset with more clear guidelines for expectation at each “gate” but is just getting started down this path. CAB is also getting a careful look and we expect we will introduce more formality here in the months ahead. I would ask for your patience, candid feedback, and active engagement that will ultimately create consistency of practice and effective support for your work.

Thank you to all who submitted questions!