I am a Pittsburgher, “born and raised” as we say in the Burgh. Pittsburgh is well known in the sports world for our major league teams and many championships (the City of Champions in 1979). Pittsburgh is also known as a bit of a comeback city, moving from the 1900’s equivalent of today’s Silicon Valley to the Steel City of the mid-20th century, then to rise from the ashes of the meltdown of the steel industry by embracing an “Eds and Meds” strategy, leveraging our strategic advantages of world-renowned medical centers and world-class institutions like the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University.
I am fortunate to have worked in my home town for two of those institutions, first with CMU and most recently, as the first CIO for Duquesne University, arriving on campus in late August, 2014.
"We also established the Tech Partners d-list to inform key campus partners of our work and how it might affect their areas of support"
The Office of No
As CIO, I am responsible for the overall management and strategic planning for all University IT services and directly responsible for the central IT organization, Computing and Technology Services (CTS). As part of the CIO search, I was informed that CTS had less than a stellar reputation within the university. CTS had gained a bit of an “Office of No” reputation, appeared to be somewhat siloed and unresponsive to the campus’ IT needs. CTS was viewed by some as providing unreliable services and a bit of a “black hole” by the administration in terms of where the funding was going.
The people of Pittsburgh are known for their strong work ethic and family values. That is what I found when I arrived at Duquesne and started to work with the CTS team. The organization appeared siloed, primarily because there was a lack of communication and transparency within CTS. That lack of communication and transparency extended to outside of the organization as well.
Today, CTS is viewed by many as a valued campus partner. For many of our campus community, we have moved from being the “Office of No” to the “Office of Know.” We got there by performing assessments, becoming a more transparent organization and by improving our efforts in communications and collaboration with both the campus community and the Higher Ed IT community.
Model the Behavior you Want
Communications—We started by improving communications within CTS. I established open office hours for staff to schedule one on one meetings with the CIO. This was a great way to meet with staff from all levels of the organization and hear their ideas and concerns. We also established monthly CTS All Staff meetings so that we could meet as a group and established a format to the meetings; announcements, updates, featured presentations, trip reports and hails and farewells (for new or departing staff). One of the biggest payoff efforts was what we called CTS Insights. These were presentations by staff members of our four directorates introducing themselves and their work to all of CTS. CTS is approximately 70 staff members organized around four directorates (IT Infrastructure, Customer Support, Administrative Applications and Information Security). I heard from several staff at the end of these insight presentations that this was the first that they knew what another group in CTS was doing.
As for our external communications, I embarked on a series of “listening tour” meetings with key department and school leaders to learn about their IT issues and concerns. These meetings provided great insight into what improvements we needed to focus on in the short-term. We also established the Tech Partners d-list to inform key campus partners of our work and how it might affect their areas of support.
Collaboration—In order to improve collaboration within CTS and to provide some staff resource time to some critical areas, we established “virtual teams.” Virtual teams are essentially time slices of staff dedicated to service or project efforts. These cross-functional teams helped to break down some of the silos around within CTS and improved communications both internally and externally.
To improve collaboration with university partners, we started working with departments on number of common projects. These projects included developing enhancements to our HRIS, improvements to our recruiting CRM, helping to convert to a cloud-computing model for our school of business, supporting capital project requests with our school of nursing and improvements to our campus residential network with our office of student life.
Transparency—A few months after establishing the Tech Partners d-list, we invited them to participate in monthly face to face meetings to discuss IT-related topics with the goal of building an IT community at Duquesne. At these meetings, we share issues, concerns, solutions and project plans with the goal of building an IT community to support the IT needs of the Duquesne community.
Assessment—Beyond the feedback we have received via our listening tour and Tech Partners venues, we have gathered more formal benchmark data through the EDUCAUSE Core Data Service and through the Tech Qual+ survey (sort of a 360-degree evaluation for IT services. The data from these efforts have provided us with valuable insights to improve our services and keep them relevant for our campus community.
We have also received less formal (anecdotal) data in terms of our improvements over the last two+ years. One came from one of our Tech Partner meetings, where a faculty researcher said “we don’t hate you guys anymore.” That statement showed that we both had made noticeable improvements and that the relationship had progressed to a comfortable stage. Another came from a dean that said “we aren’t talking (negatively)about CTS anymore” showing we have made progress in our responsiveness. Another comes from one of our Associate Provosts. The context comes from my CIO search interview where I mentioned that is it hard to have strategic conversations if services are viewed as unreliable. I used the phrase the “trains need to run on time.” When I asked in the interview about the perception of the campus IT services, the answer I received was that “we would just like the trains to run on time.” Now when I see the Associate Provost, I am told that “the trains are running fine,” a nod to our ability to provide solid IT services.
Office of Know
While it is hard to quantify if we have achieved the “Office of Know” status, we think we are getting closer. If recognition is a valid metric, we have a CTS staff member that won a President’s Customer Service Award (2015), CTS staff members that participated in teams that won two President’s Service Awards (for Innovation and Teamwork) in 2016 and two CTS staff members that won our division’s service award (2016 and 2017).
A few thoughts that we have used on this journey:
• Keys to providing solid services—Routine things need to happen routinely and every service deserves an owner.
• Keys to change—“You can’t manage what you don’t measure” and “culture eats strategy for breakfast”- Drucker.
• Keys to relationships—You own the reputation today that you deserved three years ago, trust is earned and while data is king, relationships are the coin of the realm.