Toward UChicago IT

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About 12 months ago (on 9/28/2015), I sat down with the IT Leaders from across campus for the first time ever to talk about the environment we all work in. It was an interesting first meeting in that when we talked about the kinds of things they would like to see IT Services do better and things we should tackle together. I wrote down what everyone in the room said and have looked at that list over and over again during my first year to drive my thinking as we keep making progress as a campus. What struck me was the consistency with which the IT Leaders listed the things they thought we could all do together and do better — campus-wide ticketing, campus-wide email, classroom standards, and so on … a picture of my notes from that day are below.

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Interestingly enough, one year later most of that list is what we are thinking about as areas of focus in the IT Rationalization program we kicked off at the start of August. The items that aren’t part of IT Rationalization are mainly enabling processes (SLAs) that are being addressed in our current work at redeveloping ServiceNow. It makes me really excited to think we are pointing in the right direction as an IT community.

That leads me to introduce an important initiative that I have been talking about for almost as long as I have been here, IT@UChicago. A simple observation I made upon arrival is that we do not have a structural way to make large decisions together as an IT community. At the end of the day ITS is a service provider, we should be more engaged with the larger IT community to better understand the needs of those we provide services to and for. Crafting a vision for how we come together and do that is at the heart of IT@UChicago. The initiative will be built on four core programs …

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Each of the four build on and support the others. We have kicked off the IT Rationalization, starting with data collection with ITS already. We will be asking all of our campus IT counterparts to do the same thing starting this week. The IT Leadership Council will be formed over the next few months and will bring together the senior most IT leaders from across the campus to form an ongoing shared decision making group. The IT Academy will be formed out of the ITLC to help level the knowledge about core IT for our larger community. IT Events will be planned together to share knowledge, grow community, and highlight the work we are doing collectively and individually.

We have built a new website that I invite you to look at and react to. I felt creating a site that laid out this vision would help not only make people aware of what we are doing, but to also help hold us accountable for doing what we’ve been talking about over the last 12 months. The community was clear with me during my first year, they want to be a part of the future of IT at UChicago and I feel building this initiative this way will allow us to achieve that vision.

Vía Cole W. Camplese http://ift.tt/2cwPCv3

Why are you here and not somewhere else?

A really thoughtful reflection by one of my ITS colleagues. I have always believed that when multiple members of the organization write, it raises the collective intelligence of the whole group. We are a team made up of people who have such a diversity of thoughts, experiences, and insights. When we share our work as a group it amplifies the messages we are trying to communicate to the campus.

Maybe many of us just feel like a cog in the wheel, feeling siloed, and disconnected from any larger purpose – well, yeah, that is kind of depressing. And it begs the question, why are you here and not somewhere else?

Source: Why are you here and not somewhere else? | A Collection of Notes and Thoughts

Cubs Day

Earlier this week I was lucky enough to attend a Cubs home game against the Brewers. What made it extra special was that it was an outing with a bunch of people from the UChicago ITS team. A colleague of mine had purchased a block of nose bleed seats that were to be used as part of a CIC meeting. Too bad for him that the original game got rained out so we were “stuck” with a group of tickets. We decided we would raffle them off to people in ITS.

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What I was struck by, other than the beauty of Wrigley and the Cubs outstanding play, was just how much fun we all had. It was nice getting to sit together as a group and laugh and talk for a few hours. In a lot of ways it was like an extended Coffee with Cole. I got to know some of our staff better than I would have otherwise and made some really meaningful connections. I honestly think those who could make it were extremely appreciative. It has me thinking that we should do this as an entire group next year if we can pull it off.

2016 Excellence Awards

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Last week we celebrated our annual UChicago ITS Excellence Award winners with a small reception in Harper Court. With Lake Michigan as our backdrop, we took time out from all the work we have to recognize the individuals who, nominated by peers, continually show a willingness to go above and beyond.

It was a great event, punctuated by impromptu selfies, some great tweets, and lots of smiles. I have written about the process we used to arrive at our winners and wanted to follow that up with some additional thoughts. After the committee had met and selected the winners from the nominations I asked our team if we could produce a small video that tried to capture the spirit of that selection meeting. We asked members of the committee to reflect on the process and to try and express how fantastic it was to hear our colleagues praise and talk so positively about their peers. The video above was put together by some talented members of the team in less than 12 hours and was showed at the award ceremony.

We do things like the Excellence Awards because we genuinely want to work together in support of our great University. My only regret from the day was that more of our team couldn’t be there. I think everyone enjoyed the time and truly appreciated recognizing each other. We had a great time!

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_code admin_label=”Code”]<center><blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>People in C-suite jobs aren’t all bad. <a href=”https://twitter.com/colecamplese”>@colecamplese</a> you’re ok in my book! U + <a href=”https://twitter.com/UChicagoITS”>@UChicagoITS</a> = ? <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/pals?src=hash”>#pals</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/bffgoals?src=hash”>#bffgoals</a> <a href=”https://t.co/LWLfBHoZXO”>pic.twitter.com/LWLfBHoZXO</a></p>— Eric Frazier (@ettufrazier) <a href=”https://twitter.com/ettufrazier/status/760224174564601857″>August 1, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script></center>[/et_pb_code][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row admin_label=”Row”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text admin_label=”Twitter Text” background_layout=”light” text_orientation=”left” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]

Selfies, Tweets, and Retweets

One of the things I really liked about the event was that people stopped and took a picture with me after I handed them their award certificate. That was a fun surprise and ended up being a really nice way to pair each person with a tweet provided by the person who nominated them. We will be releasing the pictures along with the text of the tweet that accompany each winner over the next couple of weeks with the hashtag, “#ITSExcel” … thanks, Barry!

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2016 Excellence Awards Remarks

Good afternoon everyone. Thank you all so much for coming today.

The IT Services Excellence Awards are an annual recognition program where recipients are selected by nominations. Awardees are team members that have had a broad impact on IT Services, on the University of Chicago, or nationally regardless of their position in the organization.

The nominees are staff that have the most visible and positive impact in the areas of technology, service, and management to our collective work.

This year is no different, all of the nominees exhibited excellence in their work and were recognized by their peers for doing so.

In the past, I was never a huge proponent of organizational award programs, largely because I never won one, but as I have grown in my career I now see the absolute need to systematically find ways to recognize and reward people that consistently go above and beyond.

The winning of an award is often viewed as a destination that one arrives at, but being a part of our process is what has left a lasting impression on me.

We are working in an environment where so many of us are being asked to do so much on any given day that it can become easy to not stop and take the time to recognize the work our colleagues do. Taking the time to appreciate effort and to nominate someone for that effort is a wonderful show of understanding. An understanding of how hard it is to make an impact. An understanding of how much it means to the rest of us. An understanding that we are part of a larger community that deserves extra effort. To me, that is the real reason recognition like the Excellence Awards is truly important.

I mentioned that the process has left a lasting impression on me, here’s why. It has shown me that while there are challenges within our organization, there are also groups of people who care deeply about what we are trying to do for our University. Regardless of engagement scores, watching the level of enthusiasm people brought to their nominations further reinforced to me what is at the foundation of IT Services – a commitment to serving this amazing Institution.

At the end of the day you all make me very proud to be a part of this team and I want to sincerely thank the recipients for their tremendous work and for being recognized by your colleagues. I also want to thank those who took the time to nominate and to passionately tell the selection committee why those nominees are worthy of these awards. You all lifted the spirits of the committee with your passion.

And finally, I want to thank and recognize the committee members as well for taking the time to help make today happen. Our 2016 Excellence Award winners are:

Alan Takaoka, Anna Van Dellen, Cameron Spencer, Cheryl Johnson, Daniel Yu, Debbie Bomba, Dylan Westring, Eric Frazier, Eric Harrell, Hector Martinez, Jason Edelstein, Jessica Sandy, Kathy Cosgrove, Katie Kranz, Laji Thomas, Linda Turner, Manuel Amparan, Marc Vincent, Mark Bieri , Matt Zurek, Mike Pry, Mike Strode, Moid Syed, Pat Hickey, Patty Kim-Celmer, Rafael Sanchez, Ramu Pedada, Roberto Vera, Rodney Henderson, Ryan Harden, Sandeep Guntaka, Sherif Hassabo, Shontay Grant-Pinder, Tina Flowers Morris, and Tony Juarez.


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Recognizing Ourselves

A few weeks ago I was part of a team that got to review the ITS Excellence Award nominations. There were about eight of us in a room reviewing dozens of submissions from our peers across the organization. Probably one of the most postiive meetings with my team I’ve been a part of since being here.


The notion of recognizing our own work is one that pays deep dividends in the long run. The fact that members of the team take the time to reflect on the work of one of their colleagues and fill out a nomination speaks volumes to the kind of team we have here in IT Services. It means people care about each other and have the capacity to recognize their work. I like that.

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On more than one occasion those of us in the room mentioned how great it could be if the people we were reviewing could hear the amazing things not only the nominating person wrote, but the overwhelmingly positive remarks that often flew around the room from the committee. When it was all said and done, we walked out of the room feeling really great about our team, our work, and what we were accomplishing. Together.

3 Things you can do with UChicago Voices today

What I really like about a blogging system is that it is truly a platform for digital expression. What I mean by “platform” in this context is that it allows you an easy to use environment to publish digital content. UChicago Voices is built on WordPress, a blogging system, but I like to think of it as a publishing engine. With that in mind, what are a few things you can use it for today? If I were a student getting set to wrap up the academic year, here are three things I would consider launching with Voices before it is time to head home for the Summer.


Start a Blog

This sounds like a no brainier, but giving yourself a place to write during the Summer months is a long term gift. Not only can you cultivate a habit of ongoing reflective writing, you will be building a living and searchable repository of your Summer experiences. A space that you can share in the moment that belongs to you, not trapped in FaceBook, Tumblr, Snapchat, or somebody else’s space is a really powerful thing. A blog space is personal to you and you control what you write, share, comment on, and everything in between. A blog is a great place to capture the things you are doing outside of the traditional academic experience. If you are reading a great book, have seen a great film, or taken a road trip try and put into pictures and words how that experience impacted you. The evidence you build of your experiences will provide an interesting backdrop to the months spent away from UChicago.

Build a Photo Journal

Many of the pictures we take end up in other places online — Flickr and Facebook for example — and never end up in a place that we ultimately control. Voices is a great place to take, share, and manage your collection of Summer experiences. Again, the gift of doing this in a platform like Voices is that these photos are in your space, not in the hands of a corporation. The other benefits are much like the notions inherent in starting a blog. You will be actively challenged to not only take great photos, but to share the ones that matter to you and the audience that you will ultimately create. Taking the time to care about which photos get shared is a different experience than simply shooting selfies and sharing into Snapchat.


Create a Digital Notebook

I’ve used blogging platforms for years as a “personal content management system,” especially to create and organize notes. To make it easy to use for keeping your course notes together, create a private blog and set up categories for each class you are taking. Each note gets a category related to the course you are taking. There are some really positive affordances in using a blog as a digital notebook — search is a breeze, all your notes are stored (and managed) in the cloud, you can easily mix media by adding photos and video to your otherwise text notes, and by using categories for your classes, you can quickly and easily filter course specific notes. I have seen this done across an entire academic career and having access to 4 years of notes in one digital place is quite impressive.

So there are three quick thoughts on things you can do with Voices this Summer. I hope some of that is helpful.

IT Services All Hands Reflection

This time last week I was finalizing my slides for the IT Services All Hands meeting. I was trying to figure out how to cram six months of observations and forward facing action into 60 minutes and still leave some time for Q&A. I was also wrestling with the level of transparency to provide into the (typically) more opaque stuff within an organization — things like budgets, constraints, staffing levels, and the stuff that usually stays in the back office. I’ve believed that for a very long time that open is truly like an opacity slider that moves from transparent to opaque and that there is a time and a place to be very thoughtful about how aggressively you move that slider.

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I decided to move the slider as close to transparent as I could without creating any problems. In other words, I believe I shared the realities of the organization as I see them. And that is an important point to focus on, “as I see them.” What makes that important is that I am seeing ITS with very fresh eyes and from a different vantage point than the members of the team. I see my day to day struggles first hand, but most of the time, not theirs. I know the strain and stress many are under, but I feel it differently. I can show empathy, but there is the reality that I probably have a different view on things. Having these kinds of conversations pulls our perspectives closer together.

By being as honest and open as I could I was trying to create a shared sense of understanding of where we are as an organization. My feeling is if we all understand where we are we can better shape how we talk about our environment. Knowing that we are dealing with financial pressures helps us all better contextualize why it is not the right time to make that hire, make that investment, or take on that project. Knowing reality together allows us to see the organization through a similar set of lenses.

I also wanted to share just how transformative our work is to UChicago right now. Within the next five years we will have completely replaced our primary ERP environments, will have made massive improvements to our network infrastructure, and completely reinvented our service management and delivery approaches. And those aren’t pipe dream promises. We have already moved to WorkDay for HCM, are in the second phase of PeopleSoft Student, and working our way into a new Financial system. The network team is at the start of an incredible initiative to overhaul the campus network to make it faster, more reliable, and advance our stance in cyber research infrastructure. Tie that together with our complete reimplementation of ServiceNow and the ongoing work to redesign our customer service approaches and we are in the middle of something extraordinarily exciting.

A part of the conversation that went too quickly, but is of great importance is how we manage our teams and use our Values as part of the decision making process. I hope I was able to reinforce how our Values truly do matter and how we are living those at work every day. I shared a model for advancing staff empowerment that deserves a longer post in and of itself, but the slide that I used is below. My goals are to improve on boarding, reduce time to productivity, provide staff with a framework for success, greatly increase engagement, and radically reduce turnover. I believe all of those are tied together in a systematic process that starts even before a new staff member is hired. There will be much more coming in the next couple of months with regard to this work.

Empowerment Process

There was actually so much more that we covered. All in all, I really enjoyed the time we spent together. There were some really hard questions that I tried to answer. Some I was able to with depth, while there were others that we had to agree that there is more work to be done to get to an acceptable answer. I left feeling energized by the level of engagement and even more committed to delivering on the promises that I’m making to this team and that we are making to our University.

The after hours get together at the Pub wasn’t too shabby either.

Growing Voices

Just a quick post to note that Voices has crossed over the 50 sites and 300 users threshold. While that is still small, it is interesting to note that this has happened without really any publicity at all. There was a Chicago Maroon article, but that didn’t share the URL for the service. I am hopeful that we will see an uptick in use for the Fall Quarter. I think once we start to work more closely with faculty partners we will see enhanced growth. From experience, that is when things start rolling. I want to challenge the IT Services team to look at novel ways they can use the service for a couple of reasons … first, I believe a tool like this can lead to intergroup discovery in ways that are sometimes difficult. Additionally, I think if we discover interesting ways to use the service it makes promoting it that much easier.

For now we will use word of mouth as we continue to see how people are using the service.

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