John answers questions submitted through the recent IT Town Hall

May 30, 2019

Yale’s Chief Information Officer, John Barden, answers a few questions recently submitted through the IT Town Hall, held Tuesday, May 14. 
 
1.  What impact will the new Enterprise Applications and Shared Services groups have on the existing organizational structure? Can you speak to the current timeline of the re-org? Is it dependent on the hiring of the two new leadership positions, is there an update on the search for those positions? This topic is really weighing on the staff and the uncertainty is creating stress for those who will be affected.
 
I understand how this discussion has created uncertainty and apologize for the stress it has brought about for some of our team. The opportunity to rethink our application services in the context of consolidating the Business Systems Group and Campus Community Technologies is important to do with care, and we are giving it the needed time for the design meetings to be completed. I’d like to reiterate two important points that I hope will help minimize the stress or concern you may be feeling. First, we remain committed to a line-of-business model with teams serving individual functional areas. This means that many team members will be reporting the same way as they have in the last two years. Second, there is no intended compression or reduction in staff occurring with this reorganization.
 
What has taken some time to sort out is determining which team members and roles we want to bring together as shared functions – either across the applications team or across ITS. There is a significant opportunity to spread best practices more widely and to create expanded opportunities for some team members. There have also been a few isolated areas where we believe team members would be better supported under different organizational alignment. We are getting near the finish line and expect to be able to share the planned structure in June.  
 
2. What do you see as the biggest concerns preventing us from being a workplace of choice?
 
There are so many talented individuals that are a part of this team, and so much enthusiasm for the mission we serve. Our work over the last two years has been mostly about clarifying goals, sharpening our focus, and improving our underlying processes to make it easier for all of you to do your best work. To me, that continues to be our central journey as a leadership team, continually striving to define and clarify our goals, and build the model and practices that reinforce these outcomes as a natural step in our daily work. As that is taking shape, the moments of frustration appear to be reducing and the sense that we can connect to how our daily actions relate to the University objectives should get clearer to everyone. 
 
There are subtler and equally important things I also think are holding us back; for example, recognizing the quiet contributor and asking them to share a thought, going out of your way to invite a different perspective to a decision and receiving it for the gift that it is, or encouraging an appropriate risk and embracing a bold failure as progress. Often, these subtleties encourage our very best as a team and make our work touch something more than we can as an individual. I see this as an opportunity for all of us to re-assess our mindset and challenge ourselves to build the inclusive environment that will enable these actions to be our new norm. I hope all of you will join your peers, through voice and action, in taking an active role in helping to envision and enact that future. 
 
3.  What is the definition of ‘diverse’ in the slide about new hires? The 55%. How are the diverse new hires distributed across levels of the organization (compared with the new hires as a whole)?  
 
The number represents self-reported racial diversity as defined under university guidelines.  Many (including me) see this as an incomplete expression, but I shared these numbers as a proxy for the intent of increasing all facets of diversity that can help us bolster the benefits of a diverse team. Many studies have affirmed these benefits to include more fact-based decision making, identification of more alternative strategies to complex problems, and improving organizational capabilities to innovate. I’d encourage all team members to become familiar with the literature on this topic, if you are not already. 
 
4. Lotta white dudes. There is a noticeable lack of diversity in the IT leadership group. Is that something you are working on? 
 
As a discipline, it is simply a fact that there is a disproportionate representation of white men in leadership roles in technology across all industries. Among many influences, historical bias and aspects of privilege have contributed to this situation. In higher education, our statistics are not much better than the overall averages. I cannot speak in detail about the recruiting processes across all departments at Yale, but I believe most of you are aware of my commitment to processes that can aid in increasing the diversity of ITS over time.
Improving this balance is very challenging. As I talk to my peers - many of whom have been addressing the diversity challenge as CIOs much longer than me – it is extraordinarily hard to make permanent and lasting change, and much of it is systemic. There are influences that shape this outcome that go all the way back to how we incent students and teach at a middle school and high school level…. I am encouraged by our overall progress and expect to continue this focus. I am open to, and appreciate, any suggestions that may aid in our progress.  
 
 
5. Can you paint a clearer picture of how ITS will contribute to preserving cultural heritage at Yale?
 
In forming the IT Governance Pillars, we are able to better articulate our role in supporting each of the four missions of Yale (Academic Delivery, Research, Clinical Care, and Cultural Heritage).  The acknowledgement of Cultural Heritage as an equal mission in IT planning was critical to demonstrating our willingness to help co-sponsor technology initiatives for the museums and libraries of Yale. Our first effort has been to collaborate on the deployment of a digital asset management system. In FY20, this effort will shift toward search and discovery to overlay this foundation, some of which is not commercially available. This has become an area of real excitement for the novelty and importance of the work to institutions world-wide. Like with all our governance chairs, I am tremendously grateful for Susan Gibbons’ leadership in helping to align our understanding of the needs and being an active champion of this partnership. 
 
 
6.  When does the [IT Leadership] council meet?  Does the council have a “say” in projects we do in IT?
 
The council is meeting about every two months.  Some of these meetings include only the divisional IT leaders, while some include me and select members of the ITS team. Dale Hendrickson, from the library, serves as our current chair person.  
 
The Council is aiding in creating more open communications between each of our decentralized IT teams as well as providing oversight for several efforts in ITS. Specifically, this group is part of the Steering Committee for the Next Generation Network as well as other projects with substantive team inter-dependency. They also serve as the advisory group supporting me in our Foundational Technologies IT Governance Pillar. This year, I looked to this group to prioritize all our Foundational Technology investments for the FY20 budget year. I expect this kind of engagement not only to continue, but to deepen in years ahead.
 
7.  With the clinical phone project change - will this also include the network side of the clinical practices?  
 
To a degree, yes. There are two programs that are having an impact in this area. One is the phone system initiatives mentioned in the question, the second is our next generation network (NGN) program.  
 
For phones – our need to more closely align call center technologies between YNHHS and Yale Medicine for the patient experience has led us to a converged approach that in some cases will require some shared network closets in spaces that have externally published patient-facing phones. Without getting too far in the weeds, that is because we expect to deploy voice over internet protocol (VoIP) for new construction, and in those cases, we need to transport that call to YNHHS Call Center across YNHHS network. 
For NGN – We have set a long-range goal of improving the clinical faculty experience in traversing the YNHHS and Yale networks. That is likely to result in some convergence over time.  Exactly how this will play out is still not fully defined, but we are taking the first steps to build some shared standards. We are early in this discussion, but it is incredibly important to the clinical care practices of Yale.
 
8. How will we set standards to prevent future bias incidents and address any that do happen? A Workplace of Choice is safe for all its staff.
I expect to have learning and development recommendations from the Climate Culture and Inclusion (CCI) task force and Human Resources in the very near future. These training goals will likely become a foundational expectation for all ITS team members. We have access to some terrific content to help all of us improve our understanding and I believe we need to start there.  
 
There are institution-wide policies and support mechanisms that already exist to protect all of us, and we will continue to rely on these when required. My focus is on respectful behavior as the overarching approach to this discussion. I do not want our world to be governed by layers of rules and bylaws, but instead by openness, collaboration, and trust. In that environment, a misstep is seen in the most generous light possible, but corrected. It is each small and supported learning experience that will move us ahead and shape real and lasting change.
 

Take a moment to share questions and ideas you might have with John; questions will be answered in each subsequent IT Update