Reflections on my first year and vision for the future

Posted on July 3, 2018 by

I’ve been at U of T just over a year, so it is time for an update on how things have been going. What an incredible first year, filled with amazing people, new relationships and fascinating challenges. There has been lots of listening, accomplishments and plenty of ideas for the future. From a technology standpoint it is an exciting time to be at the University of Toronto as there is a lot of change happening. In general terms, I would say the community here is pushing for  positive change, but is also cautious.  People want to see us build partnerships, deliver and this will lead to the trust we need to take on bigger challenges.

Back in September 2017, I wrote about the next 180 days. I outlined six initiatives that I wanted to focus on, over this time period, and below is an update on these items. It certainly doesn’t tell the whole story, and I will try to share more about that in upcoming posts.

In terms of team alignment and cultural change, I believe we have accomplished a lot in a very short period of time. The leadership team has shared sessions focused on such things as leadership styles, team building, healthy conflict, character strengths and organizational culture. The Directors have one more meeting  scheduled for the fall.  That will complete their commitment for 6 full day sessions,  and I am looking forward to seeing the team further develop. We have had several all staff meetings to work on culture, values and vision and I think a number of new connections have been made across ITS.  I have really enjoyed these events and it has given me an opportunity to meet a wide array of incredibly talented people. It will be interesting to engage the community over the next year and hear if they see any outcomes from the work we are doing within ITS.

Carrie Schmidt is heading up our new education and awareness group and building out the team. I am looking forward to seeing where they take this next, as this is such an important piece for any progressive IT organization. We need to keep the community informed, encourage open dialogue and build understanding of what is possible. We will be presenting a very different view of ITS over the next year and expect more transparency and engagement. Carrie has also promised to keep me focused on getting out a regular blog and that will help.

Our ability to address cyber/information security has progressed, and so have the threats. That means there is a lot more we are going to do. There is an exciting opportunity in the creation of a new Chief Information Security Officer role at the university and the information security council has started meeting (second meeting was June 29th) with a series of working groups. I have very high expectations for this committee, and I think the working group model will get lots of collaboration across the university. Another exciting development we are working on is the creation of shared Security Operations Centre, similar to OmniSOC. Stay tuned for more on that.

When I first came to U of T we had a significant number of inflight initiatives, like Office365, Voice over IP (VoIP), and Quercus. This is a massive amount of change for the organization (both ITS and the community) and it doesn’t even touch all the positive transformation happening in other areas such as EASI. This is all positive change and we are progressing forward. The O365 roll-out went well, but it exposed a number of issues around deprovisioning and outdated desktop environments. The next step here will be helping the organization leverage the possibilities of this new collaboration suite.  We continue to roll out more VoIP phones and divisions are actively engaged in upgrading their local network infrastructure to accommodate this. The new Learning Management Engine, Quercus was piloted in the winter term and will be full production by the fall.

Our work with Kuali is progressing. Curriculum management is moving ahead in some divisions and we are working closely with Kuali on enrollment management. New private sector investment for the company should move the needle forward on this file.

Building relationships with key stakeholders is an ongoing initiative, and I have met with scores of our partners and colleagues. There are a lot of people to meet and the university and many discussions that need to happen in order to build trust around common vision, shared governance and joint accountability  (don’t tell anyone, but this is the best part of my job).

I am really pleased with how ITS and the rest of the community has engaged, and I think the next year will be really exciting. We have a number of new of initiatives including the new CISO, Shared SOC, an HR LME, ITSM and an ITS strategic plan. Stay tuned ….