Yale Library's approach to IT decision-making and more at IT Leadership Team meeting

March 4, 2021

The IT Leadership Team met on March 4 and discussed the following topics:

IT Portfolio Planning at the Yale Libraries

Dale Hendrickson, Senior Director, Library IT, shared Yale Library’s approach for navigating IT decision-making. This approach, developed by Dale and his team, ensures that the Libraries are effectively defining decision rights and accountability of IT service delivery.

The Libraries IT guidance model clarifies where decision rights are established and includes: the Information Technology Steering Committee (ITSC), advisory group sponsors, advisory groups, and working groups (as needed). The ITSC is the decision-making body of the structure. It also assigns priorities, approves policies, and more. While developing this model, Dale’s team focused on defining service domains (around 13 initially) for service delivery to clients (Yale Library Staff) and patrons (the ultimate users of Library). These service domains encompass all the applications that are required to support the service.

Dale has found that this approach supports the Libraries in prioritizing initiatives, creating executive awareness, ensuring that technologies can be supported, and creating accountability. Ultimately, he would like to align these efforts to the Cultural Heritage IT Pillar more closely, as major initiatives are put forth.

Journey to a Mature QA Testing Practice

Netal Patel, ITS Shared Services, outlined her journey to develop a mature testing practice and debunked the perception that testing slows things down or increases costs. QA testing benefits include:

  • Identifying potential issues early in the lifecycle phase, which helps to reduce costs and increases service reliability
  • Allows test repeatability for ongoing testing of releases
  • Increases in test coverage levels and quality (higher confidence)
  • Minimizes dependency of 100% manual testing and reduces testing times
  • Implements testing standards and shared practices
  • Promotes organization, productivity, efficiency across the project team

QA testers have an understanding of business needs, technical needs, and downstream impacts. Two areas the QA team has recently engaged include:

  • The NGN Program, overseen by Jan Eveleth, benefits from automated availability testing of 80+ standard applications as the University deploys the NGN network in each building.
  • The University’s COVID Response Project, led by Kathleen Omollo, received support and is now meeting 1-2 times a week to optimize their plans, test data, and more. Kathleen observed a decrease in issues when releasing new features as a result of receiving this support.

The testing team has been working on functional, automation, and performance testing projects across IT. Netal encouraged community members to partner with her team to plan for QA testing early in the lifecycle phase and to collaborate on incorporating testing standards and shared practices into their plans. Reach out to netal.patel@yale.edu for QA Testing Support needs.

The Yale Mobile App Store

Harry Shyket, Interim Manager, Custom Applications, Enterprise Applications, ITS, discussed one of the team’s offerings—the Yale Mobile Application Deployment Service. This service, which has been greatly enhanced since Harry started working in IT in 2016, primarily supports phone and tablet apps developed in the iOS App Store and the Google Play store.

Harry’s team has advanced the process of requesting an app, including ensuring that requesters have a maintenance plan, necessary approvals, proper branding, accessibility, and more. One of the team’s goals moving forward is to get in on the process earlier, to provide guidance and support leading up to the app’s launch.

The team also relies on guidance from the Mobile App Steering Committee, which includes: Custom Application Development, Office of General Counsel, the Office of Public Affairs and Communications, the Office of the University Printer, and the School of Medicine Office of Communications.

For more information, visit the Yale Identity Mobile Applications page and the Mobile App Deployment page on the IT website.

The Next Generation Network Project Update

Jan Eveleth, Program Director, NGN ITS, provided an update on the Next Generation Network project. This initiative provides Yale with modern network technologies to advance Yale’s teaching, research, and health service mission. In addition to ongoing work to increase network security features over the next 2-3 years, there is work underway to support the building transition process.

This process includes five steps, including:

  • Engagement: Partnering with building occupants.
  • Discovery: Identifying building-specific systems, applications, and devices.
  • Advance Prep: Modifying targeted systems, building network design, and installing NGN equipment in tandem with the current network.
  • Transition to NGN: Transition of specialty devices, followed by all wired and wireless services. Once the transition is complete, the building is on the production NGN network and ready for the final step.
  • Remove the old network: Once the production NGN network is live, the team returns to remove the old network equipment, cabling, etc., ensuring a clean/stable network system in the building.

Sometimes, due to space or fiber constraints, NGN can’t be stood up next to the existing network. The NGN team manages these ‘hotcut’ situations (or near-simultaneous disconnections of one system to another) on a case-by-case basis.

Primary challenges for the NGN building transitions include:

  • Solid and continual engagement with occupants
  • Network unknowns working with a legacy network, such as finding unexpected equipment
  • Diversity of devices, groups, and locations on the network

The team has completed all building pilots and anticipates transitioning around 350 additional buildings to the NGN network. The current focus is to complete transitions for all buildings in the Medical Campus.

Ask John Anything

Is the University trying to address work from home policies in the coming months?
We want to strengthen the practice of flexible work arrangements at Yale and envision what that means for the University. Each large group is collecting feedback from their staff, including IT (our Remote Work survey was distributed today). This information will help us to gauge preferences and shape the University’s thinking on remote work. It’s unclear what that timeline looks like, but this should help to clarify our next steps.

Are there other departments that are further along in solidifying their thinking around remote work?
A couple of organizations outside of Yale are thinking more aggressively about this (e.g., Cornell), where many of their administrative units will not return to campus. Those examples are more focused on cost savings. However, Yale is more concerned with looking at the benefits from a programmatic perspective and as a way to give staff more flexibility. The idea is not to create a global workforce that is entirely remote. However, we’re looking for a balance, and by-and-large we want to have people feel and be a part of the educational and research experience that is core to Yale’s culture.

Is Yale fielding applicants who would be entirely remote?
If someone is working elsewhere in the US, there isn’t much urgency to relocate them immediately. However, we’re putting some time limits on remote work arrangements and plan to re-address this when the pandemic is no longer a factor.

The next IT Leadership Team meeting will take place on March 31, at 9:00 a.m.

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