IT Virtual Town Hall - June 24

July 8, 2021

John opened the meeting by reflecting on the journey toward re-engaging in our community and the speed at which things are returning to a more normal state. On June 23, John and the IT senior leadership team met to discuss and finalize FY22 goals. That exercise clarified the next steps for the upcoming fiscal year and provided an opportunity to reflect on all that has been accomplished in the last four years. John expects that FY22 will be the last year of our current strategy and that FY23-FY28 will seek to build on that foundation and assure the continuation of the operational practices that we have created while leveraging technology more fully to advance the mission of Yale.

John expressed excitement to engage with the community over the coming six months to determine how we shape the next five years. The SLT will be working with the IT leadership team and IT staff, more broadly, to finalize each of these initiatives (view all initiatives in more detail on the IT at Yale Teams site):

  • Refining the rate model: IT needs to look at the rate structure of its services. A costing exercise was started last year, followed by an analysis on how rates affect people’s behaviors.
  • Completing Service Level Agreements (SLAs): Foundational to this effort have been discussions around this notion of service ownership, service levels, and understanding colleagues’ expectations of each of our services. This work will set the expectations and agreement for the services that we deliver and that is hugely important.
  • Reengineering knowledge and problem processes: A lot of progress was made on internal processes, including change control, over the last several years. However, Knowledge and Problem are still in a state of needing some additional refinement and finalization. We are trying to accomplish this outcome over the course of the next year.
  • Better alignment between our capital planning process and our asset lifecycle: IT is working through the process of how to align the pace of the capital replacement program to better match the asset lifecycle work that is underway now (with a goal to finalize this over the next year).
  • Incorporating Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) representation into the IT Leadership Council: The Council provides the primary support to FAS, but we are at a stage where we need a better representation of a FAS-specific point of view in helping to advance support for that academic unit. 
  • Ratifying Quality Assurance (QA) practices and documenting our gaps for full implementation: As an underpinning for all the service quality work IT has done, QA is a way to bring standards across the entire team. It can also ensure that the team is using a uniform methodology around how IT assesses the quality of its services and continues to assure that they are meeting expectations. We are looking at the QA practice standards now, and the expectation is that we will do the gap analysis this year for implementation in future years.
  • Completing remaining workplace survey goals and building out an employee engagement model: There is a need to fully realize a few of the FY19 Workplace Survey goals. These topics have had a lot of traction with the leadership team and are things that IT will want to continue to invest in the year ahead.
  • Future ways of working for IT professionals: The last of the major strategic goals for next year addresses outstanding questions about our Future Ways of Working for IT professionals. John is hopeful that we will get some clarity over the next couple of months about the expectations for Future Ways of Working at Yale.

We set out these items as our primary strategic goals for FY22, and there will be more details to share in the coming weeks.

Last week, Yale’s Capital Project Management Group (CPMG) set the table for the FY22 projects. There have been a number of discussions around finalizing the budget for this year, and those decisions are nearly solidified. There are 21 projects that are approved on the list. John highlighted a few of these because they signaled something a little different to him: 

  • Online learning: IT will perform an analysis in partnership with several members of the academic community. The focus will be on questions like: “what do we need to learn?” and “what do we take from the experiences we’ve had through the pandemic?” and “how are we dealing with the expectations that are growing in some of our academic units around non-matriculated programs?” That is important work that will give shape to future years’ investments.
  • Commodity computing: IT has had a really successful managed workstation program for a number of years. The program is due for a refresh due to technology changes and expectation changes in the community. IT will be conducting a more comprehensive assessment of the choices ahead for conduits thought of as commodity computing or desktop or endpoint computing.
  • YaleSites: Yale’s Vice President of Communications, Nate Nickerson, has developed a broader vision for how he thinks about communications alignment to specific audiences and has a desire to leverage analytics in a new way. That intention intersects directly with a strong desire by many units to refresh their content and a need to upgrade our platform. This project will be strategically guided by Nate and his team, and IT will do its best to build out the platform upgrade in a way that supports those long-term goals.
  • Research core software processes: For many years, research cores had managed their operations essentially on spreadsheets. There is a recognition at this point that the complexity of that business model requires a more sophisticated set of tools. We are starting to engage with the research cores to design how that workflow will work and how those business processes need to be supported through technology.
  • Public Safety Data Center migration: With IT’s increasing partnership with the public safety team, we are migrating the distributed Public Safety Data Center assets into the primary University Data Center and helping to ensure they align with the CGS compliance requirements.

We have made a lot of progress on the basic foundations, and these are areas where, historically, we might not have been all that engaged. This progress signals the good work that we have done and how it has built tremendous confidence in your ability to support the missions of Yale.

More to come on all those programs and the other 15 or 16 that were not referenced. John thanked the team for all the work today that has gotten us to this point.

Shifting gears, John spoke about his message the preceding week regarding the return to work. His goal was to clarify the intention of Future Ways of Working and to give the team some actions and thoughts on how to start the discussions. He then reiterated some key points:

  • John expects future flexibility regarding a hybrid work environment. The University’s position on full-time remote or out-of-state work is becoming clearer, but John anticipates that the willingness to enter into a long-term, fully remote arrangement will be a relatively rare exception. Those will be assessed largely based on the necessity of the role and competitive pressures. While the decision for short-term accommodations to return to work is a decision that rests with the IT SLT, the exceptions for full-time remote work or out-of-state work involve a much broader community of people to review and approve those determinations; it is not left to John.
  • The SLT members will align to university expectations around that. There will be a process (it has not yet been defined); John expects to hear more information up about that in the coming weeks. 
  • If you need an exception to the return to work schedule currently in place, please ensure you have discussed this with your SLT member and submittedd389c97bd6fc42a4b961f5ae3a2bd127@thread.tacv2&groupId=f7d76f95-e011-43c0-837e-a7460d5197d1"> IT’s Return to Yale exception form. We are collecting all materials by July 2 so that we can begin the process of review and expect to make determinations about short-term accommodations by July 16. John reminded us that he does not have any clarity on the process or timeline for rare exceptions that may be made for out-of-state or long-term remote work.

John thanked those who have popped in and said hello over the last few days, remarking that it has been nice to just have those quick pickup conversations again. He is looking forward to seeing more of you in the offices in the weeks to come.

Regarding the necessity for registering vaccination completion, John strongly encourages everyone to get vaccinated, submit/confirm their vaccination, or submit their exception by August 1.

John then turned the discussion over to Mark Manton for the COVID Corner update, where he shared the latest data on COVID-19 risk in Connecticut. As of June 24, 66% of people who are eligible to get the shot, those 12-years old and older, have had at least one dose.

Mark shared that the Delta variant (representing 9% of all cases in the US) is another reason why everybody should get vaccinated unless there are medical or other reasons to warrant otherwise. First identified in India, it is a mutation that appears to be more contagious and resistant to vaccines but no more deadly.

The following questions, and John Barden’s answers, were taken from the June 24 virtual IT Town Hall meeting, including questions submitted via Ask John. Additionally, answers to commonly asked Workplace Guidance FAQs will continue to be posted as they are available.

Do we know if the first-floor cafe will be opening when people return to 25 Science Park?

I do not know. I have been in touch with the building management a couple of times on that topic but did not receive an update prior to this meeting. I will do that again today and let you know if there has been a change. 

What is FAS?

Faculty of Arts and Sciences - what we think of as the College, but also includes both undergraduate and graduate populations and our largest academic unit in regards to student count.

Can you please explain the notion of competitive pressures in layman’s terms?

There are some jobs that are extraordinarily hard to recruit for and others that are less so. As we get inquiries from candidates in positions where we view or will view as more challenging to recruit for, we have to be more flexible in those areas. One of those accommodations we may be willing to make - and again, I stress may - is the option to work remotely where we view that as feasible and necessary to do so. The overall institutional leadership is sending a pretty clear signal at this point that we are a residential community, important to the city of New Haven, and we do not really view the notion of national or international hiring across the board for Yale to be something important as a strategic differentiator or desirable for the community we wish to sustain. I understand that some of you will make decisions based on that. While the final guidance on that is not yet settled and will not be until we are settled on the Future Ways of Working, I do think the intent has made that position clearer. However, I will continue to remind people that the flexibility we are talking about did not exist pre-pandemic. I expect the flexibility we do have around the number of days a week and the specific days of the week will continue for the vast majority of you. I hope you see that as some middle ground in terms of how the institution is thinking about this.

Earlier, you mentioned that there was a long-term request form; where is that form? The person asking did not see it in the email.

There is a standing process for this and the University; we did not create anything new for that. More importantly, what I would suggest is to have a discussion with your supervisor and your SLT member. While they don’t hold the decision, they need to support it. If you are going to submit something before you do the paperwork, please have a discussion first. Talk it through with your supervisor and your SLT member to make sure that they view it as feasible - that will matter in terms of how the institution’s assessment making a determination about that.

Is there any plan to slow down IT? Any moments to catch our breath after racing for over a year? Many have Paid Time Off (PTO) to catch up on.

Yes, and you should take your PTO. We have been saying that for a couple of months. I know things are still crazy busy, and some of you are in a position, especially if you’re working on some of the return to campus efforts or COVID control pieces. There is a flood of work, and it would be very hard to disengage right now, and I understand that. However, there are a lot of you who are not in those kinds of critical path positions right now for the return, who could and should take a break. For those of you who are in those critical positions, yes, we need to figure out how, as we round through the worst of the crushing workload that is here right now, you can get some downtime. If you feel like you can’t take a break, and you feel like you don’t have an avenue to even have the discussion, please raise it through your SLT member or contact me. I’ll help, but we are trying to make sure that we’re bringing in the right support to spread the work out the best we can. I appreciate and recognize that some of you have been working awfully hard for a long time, but I also know that you really do need to tend to yourselves as well.

Several questions have come in regarding similar topics like ventilation and spaces.

Please visit the Workplace Guidance page, as well as the Facilities and EHS FAQ pages.

When we return to Science Park, will the bathrooms and elevators have restrictions on the number of people? 

We’re approved for full occupancy as of August 1. We expect no restrictions in bathrooms or elevators as of that date. 

Are there any guidelines for staff traveling internationally during the summer months for vacation? 

Please see university travel guidelines posted on Yale’s COVID-19 website.

Doesn’t Poorvu bridge the FAS/ITS gap? The ex-ITS staff at Poorvu served in that capacity previously, right?  

Poorvu’s mission addresses a specific slice of support for faculty academic delivery.  FAS, however, is a large and complex organization with many distinct needs and goals across teaching, research, and administration. While both Poorvu and Central ITS perform many critical functions, there is an opportunity to aid in broadening the FAS voice at the table, to better reflect the comprehensive needs of their faculty, students, and staff.

You keep saying short-term exceptions. Why is there no push for full-time remote work?! What is the overall philosophy behind the University’s unwillingness to support fully remote work? 

As discussed over the last several meetings, our institution has not yet finalized our long-term Future Ways of Working. However, as discussions have unfolded regarding the overall direction, it is becoming clear that we expect full-time remote work to be a relatively rare exception for the reasons noted over our last few discussions. Please review prior messages on this topic [my memo last week, and the previous town hall recap]. I suspect we will have more clarity on the final decisions about future ways of working in the early part of 2022.

Will masks be required at all times in 25SP? 

Review the New Yale Masking and Distancing Requirements for July announcement, sent on June 29, for more information.

For the long-term request…where is the form? We did not see it in your email. 

Please discuss with your supervisor and SLT member first, who will work with you to determine feasibility from an IT operations perspective and guide you to the appropriate form(s).

A number of questions were asked in relation to Vaccination. Where can staff learn more?

Visit the Workplace Guidance FAQs page for more information. 

If possible, could there be some accommodation for equipment?

Visit the Workplace Guidance FAQs page for more information. 

Has EHS checked the building’s air quality and signed off on it? This has been a concern for years in this building.  

Our building (25 Science Park) received updates, as needed. Learn more on the Facilities website.

Have managers of staff been instructed to [repeatedly] encourage staff to return to the office before their assigned dates? Or is this pressure originating entirely from the managers themselves?  

Every team member should have an assigned date at this time based on the published schedule. If you wish to return early you may. There is no broad-based press to have people return prior to the planned date for each group.

Do you have any data on the percentage of people who are excited to return who have offices with doors they can close, versus those who are operating in open floor plan spaces? 

We do not have this data at this time.

Is there any progress on creating career paths/advancement for people not interested in management?  

Yes. For the last few months, SLT members have been working through an initial career path model for IT professionals. That model gives significant weight to individual contributor roles. I expect we will begin to discuss and roll out more information on this in the fall.

John closed the meeting by thanking the team and reminding them to keep the questions coming.  

An Outlook invitation will be sent for the next IT Virtual Town Hall on July 29.