IT Virtual Town Hall December 15, 2020

December 22, 2020

John opened the meeting by acknowledging that the semester was winding down, with the undergraduates having moved out and final exams concluding. Overall, he felt that the semester was successful, including the achievement of the university’s operational goals as well as a very low infection rate. IT staff contributed many advances to online learning, work from home initiatives, and supporting public health measures during this time. He thanked the team for their support in saying that, “I mean it when I say our institutions success was in no small part due to your ingenuity and your perseverance. Thank you.”

I mean it when I say our institutions success was in no small part due to your ingenuity and your perseverance. Thank you. 

—John Barden

Next, John reflected on the exciting news of forthcoming vaccines, and the hope of some return to normalcy by summer 2021. He also noted that community transmission has accelerated, including an increasing number of cases in New Haven and at Yale, particularly for faculty, staff, and their dependants. He feels that it is likely that we will start the spring semester with a higher infection rate than in the fall. However, it is not expected that Yale will make any plan modifications until at least mid-January. Regardless, John remarked that he has a lot of confidence in the operations team, University leadership, and public health leadership to support everyone in the spring term.

All of that being said, the spring term is expected to look very similar to the fall, in terms of operations: academic delivery will be hybrid and faculty and staff (where possible) will continue to work from home. A few modifications to public health measures will be implemented, with the intention of better monitoring and reinforcing core health measures and offering the public health team more flexibility in responding to any potential outbreaks. 

John is aware that many IT staff members would like to get updates on other topics, beyond COVID-19. Following are some of the items John highlighted:

Financial reporting

Through a very broad based, user-led, collaboration (more than a year in the making), we have released a financial data warehouse environment for campus. That capability is long overdue and is critical to supporting our faculty with grants management, as well as our overall financial stewardship. It fills a major service gap for us and really enriches our drive towards improving the analytics environment and data dependency. 

DUO (Multifactor Authentication) roll out 

We are making really good progress with the voluntary adoption of two-factor authentication. We made a conscious decision to slow this process down in March, to ensure that we didn’t cause disruptions for remote workers or faculty who were teaching online. That has proven to be pretty successful.

So far, we are making good progress, but the adoption rate is starting to slow down, so we are starting to do some more targeted communications and are working toward potentially closing the gap with some stated timeframes where people will have to make the transition or will start to lose access. We are getting into a period of time where we will start to make some mandatory changes. Community feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. This is one of those few times where we have actually been able to both improve security and the user experience.

Next Generation Network

We are making really good measured progress and have completed the majority of the major design use cases. A lot of the collaborative work with Facilities, to line up all the preparatory steps for building preparations for the cutover, have really moved along well in the last few months. There’s a really strong working group across all the IT units at Yale. They are working to assure we’ve reached good clarity on some of the remaining edge cases. This is to be expected and is the complicated part that we still have to pin down with a certain level of precision.

Enterprise Monitoring Project

We’re not only making good progress and underpinning some of our Service Quality goals, we’re also starting to show some interim dividends. I heard earlier this week that we’re starting to receive some early warnings from the system that are aiding us in preventing unplanned downtime and it’s great to see progress so early in this endeavor.

We’re making great progress on our balanced scorecard and workplace survey goals, and I know many of you are involved in different aspects of those process improvement efforts. Starting in January, I plan to start to shift more of our conversations towards the balanced scorecard and workplace survey-related work, as I know many of you are interested in our progress.

In short, I would say is that, given all the distractions and new pressures of this year, you really have continued to deliver on our most significant commitments. We have some catching up to do, but that’s not a big surprise given how how much COVID-19 has interrupted things for us. But, with everything that’s happened, I’m just tremendously impressed with the focus and drive.

I also wanted to highlight a change that I see in how we’re doing our work and it’s one that I really appreciate. You’ve heard me mention a few times this notion of people coming to IT with a technology problem. Actually, it’s an expression of something bigger—I see more a conscious effort to step back and help people think broadly in terms of user outcomes, process, and organizational design, which ensure that we’re directionally aligned and making good progress. This may seem like a small change, but it’s not. For me, that shift toward how we help our colleagues implement strategy, not just technology, is critical to us deriving the best possible outcomes. This is a big part of our future, so please keep it up. 

Two weeks ago, IT’s Health and Safety Leader (HSL), Mark Manton, organized an information session for on-campus staff with public health leaders. The intention was to clarify proceedures and offer insight into what’s happening in New Haven and on campus. Given that it was well-received, we’ve decided to continue these sessions into the into next semester. As a result, Mark will provide a recap of those conversations, including any major information or learnings at upcoming town halls.
The following questions, and John Barden’s answers, were taken from the December 15 virtual IT Town Hall meeting. This includes questions submitted via the Ask John survey.

A program manager at the Wright Laboratory asked whether it’s possible for zoom accounts to be issued on a department-level for organizational events, like seminars and workshops.

I remember hearing that feedback once before and I don’t know where we landed in terms of the way in which that works, but I suggest for that individual to reach out to the Help Desk and, if necessary, Mike Macary to see if there is an option that will support their needs.

Regarding returning to campus, when we do return, is there a possibility that we could do hybrid work from home or office in the future?

I am confident the answer is going to be yes on that. Exactly what shape it will take, I do not know. As I have said previously, I expect us to be much more open to flexible work arrangements, going forward, based on what we’ve learned from this experience. We (Yale, not specifically IT) are working through what a long term policy might look like. We made some adjustments to the short term guidance, but there are still some things that people want to try to reach some clarity on for long term guidance: what expectations need to be set and managed, what is the duration of an agreement, and other things like that still need to get finalized in a way that the entire university feels good about.

The way in which you all have worked from home through this event has been remarkable. It has given me a lot of confidence that we have the ability to structure flexible work arrangements that will be good for you, for Yale, and for our work.

Has there been any update on the return to work date? The last update some people heard was January 4. Has that changed or been adjusted?

The latest information can be found on the announcement section of the Workplace Guidance page, specifically, in the Nov. 9, 2020 announcement, which states April 30.

Has Yale discussed any vaccine requirements for return to campus?

We have not. That does not mean that conversation won’t happen, but it is not one that has come up in any of my conversations to date. 

The next IT Virtual Town Hall will be from 9:00 - 9:30 a.m. on Friday, January 22, 2021.

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