John's perspective on relationship management, service ownership, and IT campus partners

May 2, 2019

Below, read John Barden’s responses to the questions submitted to our ‘Ask John’ segment in a previous edition of IT Update.

1. What does Relationship Management mean to you? Who is responsible?

There was a period in Information Technology’s (IT) history at Yale where relationship management was a formally defined IT job role. While there still may be some areas where that approach is warranted, as the pervasive use of technology grows, we are positioning relationship management as a necessary skill for all team members. This is because our ability to align our services to support Yale’s mission is critical to institutional success. In addition, because most services are supported by multiple technology teams, we all have a stake in managing the internal relationships that underpin our technology services.

Over the last year, we have realigned services based on our IT Governance Pillars. The structure is intended to improve each person’s understanding of their primary colleague relationships and allows each of us to develop a deeper understanding of the functions we support. We have also defined service ownership and have positioned the service owner as the lead in bringing any IT inquiries to resolution and managing the discussion with the appropriate colleagues.

2. What is your philosophy around service ownership?

When we talk about service ownership, we are really talking about a behavior of taking ownership for the comprehensive delivery of a service as a “whole product.” This includes everything that is needed for the service user to be fully supported in his or her experience, including training, documentation, support, pricing, service levels, etc. One of the key lessons from the last year has been that where our team members have a strong understanding of our colleague’s dependency on technology, we do great work in defining the right roadmap for future enhancements. We also do a better job in defining the right service level for the production service, determining the right processes that support all facets of that service and responding when challenges arise. That takes a much more holistic view and is much more aligned to how our colleagues want IT to work, and that is service ownership. About a year ago we shared an example to highlight this point.  Specifically, when we had a Domain Name System (DNS) issue in May of 2018, this wasn’t seen as a foundational technology issue by our colleagues. All they knew was our university website ( was down. That example highlighted the expectation that the web team not only has a right but an expectation of influencing the design of DNS, because it is the web team and the service level of that defines the DNS requirement.  This is a topic we will continue to work on actively over the next year.

3. What is the first thing you think campus partners need from ITS as a whole?

Most important to me is that we all recognize that in many cases, our decentralized IT partners serve as the front line of IT support, and there is an enormous amount of reliance on our work in how they are perceived. How central IT performs impacts our decentralized colleagues and vice versa. That is the foundation of “One IT at Yale.” Our strategic goal to make these organizational delineations irrelevant in the process of IT service delivery. I believe simplifying these handoffs is critical to our institutional success. The importance of getting this fine-tuned will encourage us to look at our support model through our colleagues’ eyes, in order to create clear and accessible services delivered in a consistent and reliable way.

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