Digital Transformation (from the February webinar)
Q. Are there any plans for a robust enterprise-level document imaging solution for the University?
A. Part of the challenge that we have as leadership is balancing the number of large institutional-wide projects that we can take on and deliver successfully. There are a number of foundational technologies we are addressing right now, including Enterprise Active Directory and identity and access management. I am sure you can appreciate the opportunity to improve a number of our business processes using document imaging as well as electronic signatures. We are putting some foundational pieces in place right now to be able to pursue those longer term, but there isn’t a specific project on the docket as of yet.
Q. What are the things that staff can do to help with this process today?
A. I think it is looking at things with a critical eye and understanding if there are processes that are not the most efficient. We need to begin to take more of the perspective of our students, faculty, or staff, and ask for feedback around IT, to find out if the systems work for them or if there are some challenges.
As it relates to RIT, the goal is to have a number of activities that will allow our staff and managers to get more engaged in RIT. We have key decision points we are working through right now with University leadership, and once we have some direction we will really be able to engage with IT management and staff to hone what this looks like in the future.
Q. What is the vision for leadership alignment across the organization?
A. There are two critical aspects as you think about leadership in IT. One is this notion of engagement with our constituents, building relationships and networks, and ensuring the needs of the constituents we serve are met by Penn State IT. The other is to ensure that the leaders in our organization are paying attention to the development of their staff. In many ways, that’s the most critical role of any leader in the organization – to make sure they are aware of the professional development needs of their team and are doing everything they can to help people achieve those goals.
Q. What upcoming challenges are you most excited about?
A. We have the opportunity to do something here that’s never done at Penn State, and in many ways, not done ever before in higher education. The opportunity to look at how information technology serves a modern university as great as Penn State is incredibly exciting to me. There are going to be challenges and obstacles that we have to overcome, and some difficult questions that we have to wrestle with, but it’s exciting to get up every day and know that we have a really excellent group of leaders as well as an IT staff that is pretty exceptional.
Q. What is the next big “win” that we’ll experience through RIT, and what’s the timeline for it?
A. There are a few that will go largely unseen by the University community. The first is Enterprise Active Directory. That’s going to be a big win that a lot of people aren’t going to notice visibly, but they will realize the benefits of as they interface with different systems. The second is around identity and access management – moving to where we have a single source for people data and access to systems that is tied to a person’s role as opposed to having a series of manual switches that have to be turned on. That promises to be pretty transformational. The third is that I am waiting for the team to help identify the appropriate timeframe to turn on the Google G-Suite for the University community. Not only will we have the Office 365 tools to use and collaborate with, but also the G-Suite tools to collaborate with as well.
Q. You have indicated how important the Business Process Analyst role is. Do you think they are more effective if they are specialized in a particular area or unit or if they have more general knowledge and understanding of the general approach to analysis?
A. I think having both – knowledge of the unit as well as knowledge of the process – is incredibly important. I would hope that all of our business process analysts are using the same tools in the same way so we can ensure consistency across the institution. Having local knowledge is incredibly important, but it’s also important to note to not be so close to the process that you lose objectivity.
Q. How does that translate to the plans for RIT?
A. Kristen Carvaines and Stephanie Kozel have held some trainings to introduce business process analysis to the business analysts at Penn State. We have thought about being able to provide opportunities for folks to become certified, as there is a whole series of certifications around business process analysis. That ties in very much with our workforce strategy. It’s important that, as we help the University transform our processes, we have people who are actually skilled in doing so.
Q. What is the best way to bring light to new technologies and opportunities not currently on the radar of IT leadership?
A. Work with your management if you see a technology emerging that you believe has potential and where you think that potential might connect. If it’s on a larger scale, do you have a group of faculty or student colleagues who would be willing to pilot or champion the use of that technology? There is also the opportunity to let this office know, if you are not finding any other means, about technology potential you see.
Q. As the future of Penn State IT develops, is central IT looking to pull skilled individuals from campus IT to fill roles better suited in a centralized capacity to work at University Park? In general, are we looking to pull skilled folks to work somewhere else within the University?
A. I want to react to the notion of “central IT.” I know that is a popular term, but I can’t emphasize enough that there will really be three organizational components of IT as we move into the future. The first is what we are calling Enterprise IT, the group that runs technologies at scale for Penn State. The second is the technology expertise needed for specialized IT within each unit. We want to make sure we are aware of that need and ensuring appropriate resources to meet that need. The third is something we want to create – a group of specialists in various technologies that can help us respond to needs within the University, wherever that might be.
Our goal is to ensure that our technology services are run by the very best professionals that we have at Penn State. I think that is critically important to make sure we are providing those opportunities, so we can ensure that our teams are made up of our very best. What exactly that looks like, I can’t answer today, but it’s one of the reasons we are partnering with Human Resources and doing a lot of the Discovery work so we actually understand where those opportunities may exist.
Celebrating Success: Office 365 (from the January webinar)
Q: When will you switch to provisioning new accounts directly into Office 365, rather than into Webmail and then migrating?
A: We are working very closely with the software engineering group at Penn State and with Identity Services on that process. A lot of discussion and programming is taking place to make it happen. Our hope is that new Penn State employees will be automatically provisioned into Office 365 sometime within the next week or so.
Q: When should we expect the UMG aliases and UCS to stop working, and what sort of migration assistance is planned to help units?
A: The UMG’s are already migrated and replicated in Office 365. The Office 365 support team can work with you to change aliases to Office 365 rather than UCS.
Q: Where should we point people if they have questions or need help?
A: Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. That will create a ticket in Service Now.
Q: Is there a plan to sunset existing systems that may be duplicative?
A: Decisions will be made in Phase 2 regarding what can be done, and you will receive communications about those decisions. The expectation is that all of our legacy email systems will be sunset over time. We will develop a plan to do that systematically, so that it is not disruptive to any particular unit.
Q: Are there any lessons learned that may be helpful for other projects of this scope and scale?
A: To me, the lesson we can learn as an institution from this project is that all of our major technology initiatives need to start with people. We need to have the right team in place, have clear objectives regarding what we are trying to accomplish, and have a repeatable process. Then we can apply the technology. It is a recipe I am hoping we can learn and continue to implement moving forward.
RIT Checkpoint: Making Adjustments and Moving Forward (from the November webinar)
Q. Are the results of the Huron report available?
A. I do not believe it has been made available by the President’s Office. President’s Council and the president are working on it, in conjunction with the Board of Trustees.
Q. Who is involved in the December 13 retreat?
A. Members of the original RIT team, as well as our partners from HR and an external facilitator who has expertise in organizational design.
Q. In addition to going to the RIT website, what other things can staff do to stay informed?
A. As we move through the unit discovery processes, providing information, being responsive, and helping us discover factual information that accurately represents the work within each unit will be incredibly important.
Q. Are we now in the discovery phase and will we switch to execution on January 1?
A. We are now in the planning phase. We developed the initial draft of the plan and have been socializing it with the University community. We have been adapting the plan and making adjustments to it. On January 1, we will start the discovery process. The execution phase, or the optimization phase, is planned to start July 1. These are not linear sequential phases. There will be significant overlap in activities.
Q. As we are going through the job profile redesign, there are questions around instructional designers, IT administrative assistants, and staff in the communications realm – folks who support IT. What is the plan on that?
A. These are critical areas we are looking at with the University community in general. As for communications professionals, I believe graphic designers who do design type work are also something we are trying to address in the IT job families.
Q. What is the expectation for IT job reviews for the creation of new positions?
A. We are limiting as much as possible, without impacting growth of the units, those job reviews so we have an opportunity to look at the current state and make informed decisions. We want to be able to hire and promote based on job families that are appropriate for 2019.
Q. How can employees find opportunities to move into new roles within the IT organization?
A. I’m hearing a suggestion: As we consider our strategy to move forward, how can we ensure the IT community is aware when opportunities present themselves? I’ll take that as a recommendation for us to think through so there is a better communications strategy for folks.
Q. How is this going to impact IT services at the Commonwealth campuses?
A. We plan on first understanding the current and future needs of the campuses, and understanding what IT currently looks like. This work is going to start to as early as January 1. We want to be able to provide all IT professionals the opportunity to be able to move and be promoted, to grow professionally and to pursue new job opportunities.
Q. Given the broad spectrum of IT positions, do you have specific plans on how the RIT team will gather information around these positions?
A. We are going to use industry best practices to assess skills and what people are currently working on. There is a measurement methodology the team is developing. It will allow us to have better insight into ensuring we have the right people in the right roles doing work that supports their particular unit.
Q. What is the timeline to finish the job description updates?
A. This will be an ongoing process. It is something that will continue to evolve as the plan rolls out across the University. As an institution, it is something we should continually look at, that profiles are up to date and that we have pay that is appropriately competitive with the market.
Q. The Gartner report mentioned Penn State IT is behind industry standards for compensation packages. Is there any more update on the plan for working through this?
A. Not at this time.
A Learning Culture (from the October webinar)
Q. How do we support or reward those who actively participate in learning cultures to keep reinforcing the benefits?
A. It’s important for managers to recognize those contributions and reward them, whether by tangible means or just by acknowledgement. One way we can help lead is to take opportunities for introspection in front of our staff and in front of our teams on things we may have done. Ask for feedback on what went well and what didn’t go so well. As leaders, it’s imperative for us to be able to demonstrate and model some of that behavior in order to be able to encourage that and see it take root within our culture.
Q. Will there be a learning plan to help guide employees through their growth opportunities?
A. Professional development and a learning plan for each individual is something that should be collaborated on and be a regular part of your conversation with your manager. I would encourage managers to begin to think about how you begin to develop a learning plan with your staff. In developing guidelines and approaches, a simple conversation would be a good first step.
Q. Has consideration been given to establishing a baseline expectation for how much time staff should spend on learning?
A. The pursuit of growth and professional development could look very different for each person. Ensuring that every IT employee at Penn State has the opportunity to pursue professional development, and that they have a manager alongside them who is helping them think about their career progression, is an important conversation.
Q. How can managers provide learning opportunities to staff that are more equitable than the first-come, first-served model that is often used?
A. One of the characteristics of a professional is that they’re responsible for their own growth and to seek opportunities for that growth. We need to think about what we’re interested in, the contributions that we’d like to make to the University, and the knowledge or expertise we need in order to make that contribution. Then we can have the conversation with our manager about an opportunity to pursue to make that happen. I think that would go a long way toward moving away from the approach where only a select group have the opportunity for professional development.
Q. How can people know what learning is the right learning and what is worth pursuing?
A. I trust you as professionals to have an understanding of what opportunities you believe will expand your knowledge and your insight. Even if you’re exploring an area that you’re not quite sure is a good fit, you’re still learning about yourself and about something that will inform your future direction.
Q. Are middle managers being trained to receive these “crazy ideas” you mentioned in the webinar?
A. When we talk about a learning culture as an organization, it is about the entire organization. Middle managers play a key role, as do our senior leaders and our executive leadership. Every day there is something new on the horizon that has the potential to make a positive impact on the University. How can we ensure that talking about them is a normal part of our conversation?
A good first step would be sharing knowledge or insights from industry periodicals or technology journals and thinking about possibilities that some of these potential technologies could have here.
Q. I would love to take more calculated risks in implementing more innovative technologies; however, I work at a smaller campus with a limited budget. Failure usually isn’t an option, and because of this I have become more reserved. How will Penn State One IT address this?
A. Reach out across the organization. See if anyone has thought about a certain idea or a particular technology. Creating this concept of One IT across Penn State will enable us to be able to reach out and to share ideas and to think about ways that we can actively pursue them. I’m currently funding a couple of innovations within units that evolved from a conversation with a chancellor, or with IT leadership, or with faculty in a particular unit. I appreciate the fact that maybe in the past those opportunities may not have gone as well as what you may have expected, but it doesn’t mean that we should quit.
Q. If feedback is a gift and failure is feedback, then failure must be a gift. But annual evaluations often list failures, noting specific issues that led to the failure with recommendations for improvement. Will this be taken into consideration when doing future evaluations?
A. It’s important that we have balanced conversations, that employees are learning from mistakes and that we have this culture of seeing mistakes as a learning opportunity. I’d be interested in an approach where there’s a conversation between a manager and their staff, and that both have the opportunity to contribute toward the same questions: what went well with your job responsibilities over the past year, what are some things that you thought you could have done better, and how can your manager help you. It empowers employees as professionals to think critically about their own performance. Our staff should never be surprised by what they hear at a performance evaluation. It should be a conversation that goes on 12 months of the year, not just when we’re doing performance evaluations.
Q. What is your vision for managers in this culture that we’re setting?
A. Through Reimagining IT, we’re thinking about professional development for the entire organization. This starts from the onboarding of a new employee all the way through their progression at the University. Do we have a plan to onboard new employees?
Do we have a plan for developing staff along their professional careers?
Do we have a plan for helping people who think they want to be a manager understand the role and how their responsibilities have shifted?
We’re laying this out and want to plan accordingly to help our managers.
Q. We all have talents that we use both inside and outside of the work environment. Can you give us some insight or strategies on how to best utilize all our talents?
A. My initial reaction is to think creatively. The line between personal and professional lives blurs more and more. It’s important for managers and their staffs to have a relationship where managers know the whole person with all of their strengths, not just the person that shows up to work Monday through Friday. Providing opportunities for each of us to be able to contribute to our work professionally, with all of the strengths we offer, is part of that relationship.
Working through Change (from the September webinar)
Q. How can project leadership assist during the organization transformation?
A. We will need the thought leadership and discipline of project managers to understand how to work within units, and how to track tasks and milestones. On a broader scale, everyone can find ways to be part of the process by providing feedback and asking questions. It is important for us to hear the questions so we can be sure the changes we implement are good for Penn State.
Q. What changes can we expect to see with Reimagining IT?
A. After we delivered the plan to the executive leadership of the University, we met with the deans, chancellors, and the academic leadership as well as with President’s Council. Between now and Thanksgiving, we are going to have conversations with deans and their senior leadership teams to talk about the plan, and hear their questions and the opportunities presented by reimagining IT. At the IT all-staff meeting on Oct. 3, we will preview the plan, provide some detail around where we are going and give our IT professionals insight into what impact it will have on them. On Oct. 10, we are hosting a Reimagining IT Summit for top leadership of the University to share questions and feedback, and help to advise us on steps moving forward. We will be piloting the plan with six units starting in January in a people, process and technology approach. There is a lot of opportunity for us to do amazing things for the University.
Q. Where will people go to get information and stay updated on what is happening?
A. The reimagining IT website, RIT.psu.edu, will go live at the all-staff meeting, so information will be there. We also want to ensure the management of the organization is communicating what it hears from my office to staff and also passing information from staff up to my office. We recognize that we cannot communicate enough with the University community as we move through this change.
Q. For those less involved in enterprise projects, how do we contribute and prepare for this?
A. Continue to do what you’re doing. Nothing is going to change until you hear directly that something is going to impact you directly. Look for new opportunities even as you think about Reimagining IT from your perspective: How would you reimagine IT? What would you address that you see as pain points? We all have a voice in this and have the opportunity to communicate where these opportunities are and to be able to maximize the impact IT has on the community of Penn State.
Connecting with our Purpose (from the August webinar)
Q. How can we become more relevant to the student and faculty experience?
A. About 7 percent of IT personnel and financial resources support the teaching mission and less than 1 percent of our IT personnel and budgets support the research mission. Moving those figures to more appropriate numbers is the most practical way for us to become more relevant to our faculty and students.
Q. Where do you envision those figures being as we move forward?
A. They will vary over time. It is not something where we are able to flip a switch and all of a sudden we can position more resources to support the teaching and research missions. I would envision those numbers at closer to 20 percent as a goal. This is something we can measure and demonstrate how we support the University community.
Q. What steps are being taken to help faculty realize we are professionals and not just people in the basement keeping the network alive?
A. Building relationships is how best to enable that process to happen. One of my primary responsibilities as a vice president is to be the champion for IT among executive leadership, to help them understand how IT can be leveraged in ways that are more strategic and differentiating for the University. Building relationships with faculty, managing IT in a professional manner and telling those stories in support of teaching and learning that differentiate us as an institution are critical.
Q. Do we utilize focus groups of faculty and students to solicit what innovations are most needed or desired to facilitate their goals?
A. In the process of developing the plan for reimagining IT, we spent six months engaging with the University community through a series of focus groups. We envision this as being the future of the IT relationship with the University community. We will be introducing a new governance strategy, and relationships will be a critical part of that. All major service pillars within IT will have an advisory committee of faculty, staff and students who represent consumers of that service. We intend to make our relationships a more strategic part of how IT delivers value to the University.
Q. What do you consider the most challenging issues for IT transformation?
A. This is a big institution with a lot of complex change. Ensuring that we are moving at an appropriate pace, applying good sound rationale for why we are making changes, and engaging with the University community so there is a continuous feedback loop on the effectiveness of changes are some of the steps we can engage in to ensure we are moving the University through a fairly substantial change in the way that is the least disruptive as possible.
Q. How can we better engage with and listen to students and faculty?
A. It’s about building relationships with students and faculty. Get out from behind your computer and go and meet with faculty. Be very intentional. The Teaching and Learning with Technology staff goes out in the HUB and talks to students, asking them questions about how technology can better serve their needs. It Is affirming to get a sense of the impact IT has on the lives of students, faculty and staff.
Q. How can we provide advancement opportunities for IT professionals?
A. It is part of the reimagining IT plan to review the IT job families. My understanding is most of the job families have not been reviewed since 2004. Do we have opportunities in the job families for people to move into the managerial track or the technical track? Can we recognize individuals who are the thought leaders but not interested in managing people? Understanding the professional goals of our staff is something I am encouraging our managers to think more about. Professional development of their staff is one of their primary responsibilities.
Q. How can we best serve the administrative staff of the University?
A. Not to diminish the roles of administrative staff in supporting the business of the institution, but it is important to understand staff are here to support the work of faculty and students. It Is critically important to recognize the balance in that relationship. As we look at the investments in teaching and learning, research, and the administration of the University, we want to have balanced investments across those portfolios.
Q. Have we considered being guest speakers in courses related to our individual skills and fields?
A. I know a number of IT professionals who are part-time faculty or have an opportunity to go in and share their perspectives in courses. I am not familiar with the processes, but those practices are in use widely. I would imagine your dean or chancellor or a faculty member you know could advise you on what those opportunities look like. It is a great way for us to give back to the student community.
Innovation: Whose Job Is It Anyway? (from the July 2018 webinar):
Q. Do you envision a time when Penn State IT could implement what Google does, allowing their employees to spend 20 percent of their time on innovation?
A. Many of you have heard me say that we are overinvesting in commodity technologies, and in many ways we are robbing our capacity as an institution to focus on the new and the things that are innovative. I can envision a day where we really do focus on innovation, when it becomes a core part of how we differentiate Penn State IT from other institutions. What that looks like and how and when that happens, I can’t answer at this point.
Q. What are your plans to minimize bureaucratic hurdles that strangle innovation?
A. Having a bureaucracy that gets in the way and having processes that are not about moving quickly and create a problem in the organization are critically important to address. A part of understanding change is knowing our faculty and students and where they sit in the change adoption curve, finding the innovators who are willing to get messy and willing to make mistakes and willing to see things maybe not deployed in the way we originally envisioned.
Q.How do we create an environment that is about continuous learning?
All of those things are critically important for us to be able to move to a point where we see innovation as an opportunity to excel and an opportunity to differentiate.
Q. Do you have plans for possibly moving IT at Penn State from dedicated tasks and positions in our locations and units to something more fluid that allows IT staff to work toward their strength and benefit other areas at Penn State?
A. I think it’s fairly safe to say that the way we are currently structured means we cannot be as agile or as responsive as our institution needs us to be to leverage technology. Whatever model we use for the institution, I think it’s imperative to make sure we can move at the speed and agility that technology is requiring of us and the institution demands of us.
Q. Our technologies and especially our learning technologies are sometimes far behind those in other universities. How do we remain competitive and innovative where we aren’t even current?
A. I met some professionals in a Coffee and Conversation session a couple weeks ago who every day fix data errors from one system to another. I am confident that these professionals have far more to contribute to this University than dealing with the sort of challenges that we have created in our technical environment.
Q. How can we take some of the amazing innovations that we have in parts of the University in support of our teaching and learning mission and scale those so they are available to everyone?
It’s shifting away from this unit-centric focus on innovation and thinking about these technologies that we know transform education and scale them in incredible ways to move the Penn State forward.
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.