Building Bridges (from the June 2018 webinar):
Q. Can you share timelines for the next major structural changes to the organization?
A. The Reimagining IT plan is due to the President Eric Barron, Executive Vice President and Provost Nicholas Jones, and Senior Vice President for Finance and Business/Treasurer David Gray in August. Any changes to the organization will follow the recommendations of the Reimagining IT plan. The plan will then be reviewed by the executive leadership of the institution – vice presidents, deans, chancellors and others – and once we have an understanding and endorsement from the executive leadership, we will introduce those changes to the University. We are constantly going to be tuning the organization to ensure it is structured to best serve the University community.
Q. Do you feel that training can contribute to implementing these concepts with IT managers and others who are leading the organization?
A. Until you move into the realm of management and leadership, you are evaluated on your individual contribution and expertise. Once you enter into the role of leadership, there is a body of science on human behavior, change management, and organizational change that I would contend our managers and leaders need to understand. As leaders, their primary responsibility is to people first. Understanding human behavior and becoming a student of those sciences can help them understand how to become a more effective leader.
Q. You mentioned at the last IT All-Staff Meeting you control only 40 percent of the IT budget at Penn State. Do you see that shifting, and how will it impact college IT units?
A. This is something that has to be discussed with University leadership. I can tell you there are numerous examples in which units have made decisions to overinvest in technology. It is critically important to take a look at this and ensure we have processes and mechanisms in place to ensure we are investing the University’s resources wisely.
Q. What does success look like, and how will it be assessed?
A. A lot of the insights we gained from Chris Lucas and Adam Caimi [from the Office 365 project team] is in many ways what success looks like. To my understanding, this was the first time that we brought such a diverse group together to try to accomplish a project that impacts the entire University. I can see us doing more of that as we come together as a team of teams across Penn State to serve the University. It is a little bumpy at first, but over time that will get better and better as we bring disparate parts of the University together to accomplish a greater goal.
Q. I appreciated hearing the perspectives today and that leadership is seeing a more cohesive IT community. Do you have a sense of whether staff “in the weeds” are seeing this as well?
A. I want to make it a priority to hear from your perspective if this message is getting to you and if you are seeing evidence of change within your respective organizations. The University values diversity and inclusion, and it is incredibly important to me as a CIO to understand as many perspectives as possible. I am looking forward to the conversations I am going to be having with staff in the Coffee and Conversations this summer. You can also send emails to CIO@psu.edu. I would love to hear your examples.
Q. Office 365 is a fantastic project, and very well led and managed. On the near term horizon, there will most likely be an Enterprise Active Directory initiative. Do you see a team being formed for this similar to the Office 365 project, and how we help move people to a central service?
A. I believe that we actually have folks working on an Enterprise Active Directory project right now. We have to continue to practice this discipline of bringing folks together from across the University and engaging students, faculty, and staff members so we have their perspectives. As a service organization, we have to understand the needs of the University in order to provide effective IT.
Q. This is an observation, not a question, on how this ties in to the new Penn State branding through storytelling. Each and every accomplishment at Penn State is a team effort offering support, creative opportunities, and celebrating successes.
A. That is a great perspective. The value of IT at Penn State is a perception by the University community. It is imperative for us to influence that perception by sharing success stories and, more importantly, how they help the University achieve its strategic goals. I appreciate the comment and agree with it wholeheartedly.
IT Is All About People (from the May 2018 webinar):
Q. How do you see middle management’s role in the new proposed look for IT?
A. In many ways, it is where our strategy gets operationalized. As we re-imagine IT, part of the important role will be to serve as a communication conduit. Things you are hearing from your staff and things you are seeing across the organization, can that be communicated to leadership so that we can respond appropriately? In the same way, we need to take messaging from leadership and present it to staff and translate it so that strategy can be operationalized by the folks that have that expertise.
Q. How do we identify the gaps that need to be filled in with professional development?
A. We will have mechanisms in place. Professional development is a shared responsibility between us as IT professionals and those we report to. For managers across IT, one of their primary responsibilities is to their staff and to help their staff develop to their potential.
Q. Penn State has a mixture of cost-recovered and centrally funded IT services. What are your thoughts on a future funding model?
A. I would like to see us get us away from billing for a service that should be our infrastructure. It should be funded as a utility. This is an opportunity for more efficiency and better resource management across the institution. It’s wthin the scope of what we are considering as we are re-imagining IT here at Penn State.
Q. What advice do you have for the newest members of Enterprise IT who wish to develop their leadership skills?
A. Three pieces of advice: Make yourself larger than your role. Share with those around you in your professional network your desire to grow as a leader. Become a student of leadership and pursue those opportunities as you can.
Q. Is there a strategy statement for IT at Penn State?
A. We are developing our strategy around re-imagining IT, which is something that will be presented to University leadership in August.
Q. IT staff have been through and will continue to go through a great deal of change. How do we make sure that staff stay engaged and feel connected as we continue to rapidly evolve?
A. It’s important to recognize that we need to get used to change as a regular way of doing business. We should constantly be willing to tune the organization to make sure it is aligned with the needs of the institution. It is incredibly important to explain why we are changing, what we hope to accomplish with the change, and how we will measure whether the change is effective. We need to have good communication and provide folks the opportunity to hear what is going on and ask questions.
Vision for Penn State IT (from the April 2018 webinar):
Q. One of our greatest challenges has been managing our project portfolio. How does the Senior Leadership Team decide what does or does not get worked on?
A. I don’t believe it is the Senior Leadership Team’s role to decide what we do or do not work on. This is where governance comes in – engaging the University and establishing governance that helps us to decide as an institution what our priorities are and leveraging the University’s strategic plan as a framework. Under Jen Stedelin’s [senior director of Strategic Operations] leadership, we are putting together a new approach to governance. Part of that will be a structured process for decision-making on IT projects that will help us make sure we have the right resources to ensure we can start the project moving forward.
The other part of this is how we execute projects. There is no reason why we can’t leverage consultants and contractors outside the University to help us move faster and more efficiently. I want us to be able to think with a more open mind about ways to leverage resources outside the University to accomplish our tremendous workload.
Q. Can you elaborate on innovation on the individual, team and department level?
A. At the individual level: Are we looking at our skills and our contributions and continuing to strive to become better at what we’re doing, learning and understanding better ways in which to do our jobs?
At a team level: Let’s say a team is responsible for a firewall. Is that team on a regular basis asking if this firewall is running at its maximum efficiency? Is there anything we can do to make it more efficient, to make it easier to manage, to make it more effective on behalf of the University? Having that conversation and implementing those innovations and decisions is continuous improvement: setting a mindset that we will always try to think of ways to do things better.
At a department level: If there is a suite of services the department is responsible for, does that department have the appropriate engagement with the University community to ensure the services are always meeting the needs of the institution?
Q. How can we do a better job at showing the value of the data we have access to but which we have not thought through its value to business intelligence?
A. One of the reasons we can’t leverage data as a strategic asset is it is disorganized. It doesn’t follow a common definition; it doesn’t follow any kind of data governance. It’s not accessible to the people who need real time access to it. Jon Crutchfield [senior director of Business Intelligence], Betty Harper [associate vice provost for planning and institutional research] and the Business Intelligence steering committee are beginning to develop a strategy around data governance, which will include an institution-wide data dictionary. Once we have the data organized and structured in a way we can leverage, we can begin to use modern tools to tell a story and leverage the institutional data to help differentiate us.
Q. Is hiring outside consultants an option to temporarily deal with critical vacancies?
A. Yes, absolutely.
Q. How do we balance innovation and security?
A. It is a question of risk. One of the things I appreciate with Don Welch [chief information security officer] and his perspective on institutional risk is framing this appropriately and making sure we are applying the right level of security to the appropriate risk. Ensuring that our level three and level four data is secure according to regulatory standards is our first priority, because that data is of the highest value to the institution. Whether it is sensitive research data or personal data, that has to be our priority. Finding a balanced approach to ensuring that the University is secure while enabling innovation is the job of IT professionals. It is not our job to decide whether we are willing to take on the risk on behalf of the University. That is why have an Audit and Risk department and an Office of Information Security, to establish those policies. Our job is to empower and to help our faculty colleagues to innovate, yet have enough knowledge and understanding of what they are trying to accomplish so we can make sure the University is protected appropriately.
Q. What is the status of the Data Summit and next steps?
A. We have been working since the Data Summit [in fall 2017] pulling together the data governance and data framework strategy. We are going to be socializing that to a number of business intelligence leaders around the University. We are planning a second Data Summit. We fully intend to engage that community and continue to position them to help us with what is critical work on behalf of the institution.
Q. Do you have any strategies to share for improving communications between leadership and the rest of IT staff?
A. People need to understand direction and strategy. It is the role of management to provide insight into strategy. We need to make sure communications are circulating from my office through the organization, across Penn State, and from IT staff to my office as well. This webinar is an example. We recently launched a new Penn State IT website. I have a new website that is designed for communication. We are going to be sending out a newsletter and updates regarding changes and plans that are underway. So it is a multipronged approach. You may have heard that we had our last meeting of the ITLC. One of the critical aspects of that group was building a sense of community and collaboration. We will have another opportunity for the management of IT to get together and communicate and solve problems together.