Community voices shape IT@UofT

Posted on November 26, 2018 by

Since the summer, we have been focused on leading the Information Technology Services (ITS) strategic planning process. The plan, once developed, will forge the direction for IT at the University. Strategic objectives and initiatives will focus on ITS. The vision, pillars and guiding principles are resonating with the rest of the University community. They can use this to help shape their own direction and plans to better enable alignment. We are hearing a strong desire to work more collectively and collaboratively and the notion of IT@UofT is resonating. That is why it was so important to hear the voices, experiences and stories from the divisional/faculty IT partners, valuable colleagues in other areas across all three campuses, in addition to our community within ITS.

Over the summer, we used the visioning input from over 250 members of the community to lay the foundation of our vision, pillars and guiding principles. During the fall term we vetted this at multiple meetings and a roadshow of sorts (information sessions, consultations, community engagements, steering committee meetings, workshops and more) with members of the community including stakeholders, staff, students and faculty. To date, 613 people participated in the myriad of phase 2 – community consultation activities. The best part of this stage was meeting people and hearing their fresh ideas about the vision, strategic pillars and guiding principles that form the foundation of the plan.

It was also a wonderful learning experience with 72 digital moments/stories created. These stories looked three years into the future and projected how IT can help enhance life for students, staff and faculty. I recently presented the concept and workshop, along with Gayleen Gray, AVP IT at McMaster University, to our CIO peers across Canada and it was a lively session with positive feedback and a desire to create their own digital moments. I’m eager to share our digital moments with you. Stay tuned.

Transparency and two-way communication is key to the work that we do and provides insight in how we can do better and continuously improve. This phase was no different. Throughout the process we welcomed questions and feedback and community members’ thoughts on envisioning the future.

We polled participants after each session and survey results were encouraging and positive. A few highlights include:

  • The digital stories part was especially good. It was nice to see active contributions from some of the less vocal members of the community.
  • I think the overall approach was helpful and engaging – especially in this stage of the process. I am interested in seeing how this evolves over time and what kind of consensus is reached.
  • Kudos on really engaging activities to get us thinking about the language and vision of the process. Really enjoyed them, especially the digital moments one.
  • I think these are great relationship building exercises that help disrupt stereotypes and strengthen community.

Community members have spoken up! Sue McGlashan, information security architect in ITS said, “A wonderful side effect of the ITS strategic planning exercise has been the concurrent breaking down of silos between “us” and others at U of T while together with them we develop our vision and outline strategic pillars and initiatives. I think ITS is now seen as a key partner in helping other units at U of T achieve their goals.”

Julia Smeed, innovation projects officer, Student Life added, “I appreciated that Laurie and Bo took the time to consult with all of the stakeholder groups and I was pleased to be invited to participate along with my colleagues. The interactive activities planned as part of the session helped us to understand the strategic vision for IT at the University and to provide meaningful feedback from our perspective.”

Initial survey results in early November showed that 85 per cent of those asked agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “I am engaged and excited about the future direction of ITS.” Similarly, 86 per cent of participants agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “I found this session valuable and engaging.”

Next steps include ITS leadership meetings, steering committee meetings, a few more community meetings and finalizing the vision, strategic pillars and strategic initiatives.

Thanks to those who have participated along the way, your involvement is crucial to the success of this plan.

Learn more about IT@UofT and upcoming phases and milestones. I’ll be sure to provide updates as the plan progresses.