Looking back at 2020: CIO Year-end reflection

Posted on Monday, December 7, 2020

In the blink of an eye, 2020 is nearly over. Back in 2019, I was initiating conversations about imagining our digital future. Then 2020 began with Information Technology moving into a new, collaborative workspace, imagining the possibilities for collaboration in the space and starting an institutional dialogue about working remotely and goals for digital transformation. 

Our collaborative workspace in January 2020

Our collaborative workspace in January 2020

our workspace throughout the pandemic

Our workspace throughout the pandemic

Seemingly overnight, we were tasked with the momentous challenge of moving the University to a virtual environment. Information Technology was at the forefront to guide changes and allow the University to continue its mission.  Ensure business continuity. Initiatives planned to be delivered over months or years were fast-tracked to be completed in weeks or days. We pivoted to quickly deliver the equipment and infrastructure for our community to learn, teach and work from the comfort of home. On a single day, the University infrastructure was able to sustain over 21,000 Microsoft 365 connections, and more than 53,000 connections on our key learning platform, Brightspace. We have students connecting from over 170 countries! We are living a new digital reality! 

Through collaboration we helped transform the way the University operates, and we continue to deliver meaningful change. The IT governance model and community’s engagement helped with quickly prioritizing, reviewing, and actioning critical decisions triggered by the global pandemic. Support for staff and students was made more accessible with improvements to the Wellness hub and we facilitated the integration of chat resources and tools through existing institutional solutions. The community’s quick adoption of security measures like MFA provided additional security to our online environment. Additionally, partners approached us for technological solutions for the Lees COVID-19 testing centre, physical distancing solutions for queue management and resource bookingvirtual fairs and tours, and more! We also actively listened to our professors and delivered specialized software development, more scientific computing seminars and institutional access to high-demand tools like Zoom and MS Teams. The future looks promising to be rich in projects built on collaboration. 

We are building on the momentum of change by imagining a bright and bold digital future for uOttawa. In these unprecedented times, innovative thinking and agility are required. Our employees are our most important resource for transformational initiatives. They steered seven weeks of consultations to gather community feedback and develop the Digital Campus Transformation Plan, which aligned the University’s technological vision with Transformation 2030. They bridged new partnerships with the Faculty of Medicine, Protection Services and Facilities. Additionally, our first ever student coordinator and champion were appointed to connect with students. Personally, I have been learning and participating in discussions to develop male allyship training.  

We want our entire community to be involved in building the digital vision. 2020 has proven that collaboration facilitates the intersection of University functions with technological transformation to deliver faster, effective and impactful change. 

a group video call

One of our many Digital Campus Transformation Plan consultation sessions

The pandemic fast-tracked our plans for the year and challenged us to do more. I’ve only shared a small sampling of the amazing work accomplished this year. We have undergone a digital transformation enabled by our University IT community. Bravo to you all, it’s been amazing to witness and participate with you in building our vision for the future.  

As we finish the year, still working remotely, I’ve realized I took in-person meetings for granted. The silver lining, however, has been meeting more of the community, creating connections and getting to know my team. In my efforts to connect to the team more, we developed new ways of meeting, interacting and checking in with one another. So, it was the greatest honour, and honestly one of this year’s top highlights, to be nominated by my team for a Leadership award for employee wellness. You are all inspiration of hard work and dedication, and the way you embrace and run with our ideas is what makes Information Technology so successful. I am in excellent company! I love my job, my team and the uOttawa community. I hope we get more opportunities to meet and cooperate in the new year! 

People sit in a virtual lecture hall over video call

New ways of meeting and sharing ideas 

We wish you all a safe and restful year-end with your loved ones (whether they’re near or far). (For a little holiday merriment, check out the IT executives’ holiday hijinks and some well wishes in our snowman video and our snowball fight video). In what has been a very busy year for everyone, take the time to disconnect, spend quality time with loved ones and reach out to those who may need support during the holidays.  

Thank you to all those who collaborated with us throughout the year, your partnership helped create meaningful and enduring experiences for the community. Looking forward to a new year and all the promise that it holds. Happy holidays and all the best in 2021.  

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