Managers in Information Technology met for a one-day retreat in the spanking, new Learning Crossroads building to start working on their new strategic plan on July 4. CRX, as the building is called, was an appropriate setting for Information Technology too, is at a crossroad. The digital vision that it will craft will shape the technological direction of the University for the next three years.
Inspiration was set by CIO Martin Bernier, Provost David Graham and Design Officer Chrystia Chudczak. Throughout the day, Martin challenged the group to think big and to take risks, and have the confidence to offer technology ideas that have a user-centric view that could lead to big results. There is a need to drive change, not only with clients but also among ourselves. Opportunities will evolve that otherwise, we would not be able to capitalize on. In choosing the direction we will aim for, we need to question at each point along the way, the added-value we bring to the table. This can lead to meaningful partnerships with faculties and services in addressing business challenges they face. So it’s a question of not only seeing the risks but rather capturing the opportunities.
Dr. Graham spoke eloquently of many related issues regarding higher ed from the University’s culture to 7th century history to the importance of delivering the right technology for our students, professors, researchers, and staff and truly was enlightening. This prepared everyone to reflect on the realities of higher education as well as how critical the user experience can for those doing their teaching, learning, research and work at the University. Though touching on very serious considerations, there was nonetheless a humorous moment during the question period when a manager inquiring a question also had his cell phone ring at the same time. It proved the point that technology follows us everyone and it is important for it to be as simple and easy to use as possible.
Most of the managers were unfamiliar with design thinking, which is a different way of approaching problem solving and can lead to innovation. As Chrystia went through the design-thinking process steps – empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test – blank faces gradually turned into understanding on this different way of approaching things could deliver valuable results. The notion of agile was clearly present in this process and that was a familiar concept. One of the key points made was that involving everyone who touches a problem would lead to a significantly better solution. Suggested reading: “Design Thinking for School Leaders” by Alyssa Gallagher and Kami Thordarson.
Michel Lapointe, Deputy CIO, led an exercise to identify IT trends to factor when formulating the new strategic plan. A more notable one was the Internet of Things; some University stakeholders are already asking Information Technology to plan a significant increase for expected deployments in the near future.
In the afternoon, the group broke up into teams of four to propose strategies relating to 12 themes: IT maturity model target, talent management, governance, relationship management, digital, innovation and agility, portfolio management, information management, security, operations/service model, Infrastructure, and cloud strategy. The day concluded with managers using dotmocracy to identify what they considered top priorities for each theme.
For the next steps, the executive team will assess the results in the upcoming week. More consultation with the community will follow.