Communication, Collaboration, and Community

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    • #805

      At the 10/11 Town Hall, Brian stated that they are “not proposing centralization” but “more of a coordination”, and that the “resources might not be in Central IT but they are in the room”. Those statements make sense and I believe there are very few people on campus who would disagree that the “three C’s” (communication, collaboration, and community) are good for UNM. Many of us have seen times when the collaborative models have worked and can recall years ago when IT Agents was a robust group of IT professionals who were willing to share their knowledge, skills and experiences. How many times did we talk about pockets of excellence and SME’s? There are examples of true cooperation and collaboration with various IT standards and projects that were successful because the wider UNM IT community was engaged and they were properly vetted. The original wireless standard from around 2008 (?) is a good example of bringing in SME’s like George Kelbley from CS and John Duran from C-IT along with others who had an interest and need for a successful implementation. As the department with the oldest implementation of MS Exchange, we’ve helped others who didn’t have the level of expertise as our sys admin. I’ve relied on my colleagues all over campus for advice and opinions on everything from Dell hardware (Greg Gaillard lives and breathes that subject!) to the best software for event scheduling (EMS, the enterprise solution). For a very long time, we had an expert in creating custom Access database/front ends. She helped many departments with creating new solutions or troubleshooting existing applications that weren’t performing as expected.

      My point is that I do understand and support a model where we are a community that supports one another and helps *where* and *when* it makes sense but I do not think reporting lines need changed for that to happen. I believe a new IT governance structure is absolutely essential for this to work but I am concerned about the Academic Technologies Advisory Board membership. I know that the Ex-Officio members are technical (the two new Directors and the CIO) and I assume that the CARC and VP for Research are as well but it’s very concerning that there is no technical representation from the colleges.

      Finally, I’ve heard over and over again that this initiative “can do no harm”, must not break services, must improve and doesn’t lose, must provide better service, and must allow us to work more efficiently. I also heard Brian say that the TIG report indicated that there are “problems with IT across the board”. As an IT professional in a department with long history of IT autonomy, a consistently high level of satisfaction with IT, and a unique program that includes one of the largest law offices in the state (operating almost 365 days of the year), I’m a little confused about what “problem” in Law IT needs fixed and what “efficiencies and effectiveness” we would gain by changing the reporting structure of our IT staff as opposed to simply exploring opportunities to collaborate and cooperate with other IT professionals on campus.

      Cyndi Johnson
      School of Law

    • #804

      From the TIG report: “It is recommended that the new IT organization have fewer layers of management to bring the senior management of IT closer to the users and the internal IT staff…The goal is to keep management layers to three or less between CIO and the staff.”

      However, in many cases, the current person most likely to be tagged as the ITO reports directly to the Dean of their College. Under the new model, the ITO reports to a Director of User Experience and Engagement (DUEE) who reports to the CIO. This adds a layer of management that currently does not exist in many cases, as does the dotted line to the Provost. This does not seem to be in the best interest of the department they are serving. At the 10/11 Town Hall, Duane stated that the “primary function {of the ITO} and what they will be measured on is how they are continuing to deliver services to the areas they are representing”. I’m having a hard time understanding how a Director can conduct a valid performance review if s/he isn’t even in the same facility as the ITO. Additionally, since personnel files are subject to review when current UNM employees apply for different positions within the University, the ITO’s loyalties will lie with the person conducting the performance review. And what happens when the department’s IT goals don’t align with the DUEE or CIO? The ITO is in the position where s/he is tasked with, and reviewed on, providing services to the areas they are representing yet in the case of a conflict, the ITO can be put in a position where s/he must fight for what’s best for the department, therefore going against the DUEE and CIO. It’s a no-win situation. Policy 3215 Personnel Management Section 5 lists Insubordination (defined as defying authority) as proper/just cause for a personnel action. Some people might say that sounds extreme but as someone who is fiercely loyal to our constituencies, if I’m faced with doing what’s right for the law school but it’s in opposition to what the DUEE and/or CIO direct me to do, I’m probably going to risk my job in favor of the department I’ve worked with for so many years. Additionally, the model of pooling money and allocating it based on FTE puts the Deans in a position of having to ask for the funding to support services (new or old) that might benefit “just” the law school and therefore could conceivably be seen as a lower priority as a service that support multiple departments. Significant financial and operational staff and resources will shift away from Academic Affairs and over to Administration by moving all IT reporting to the CIO. As an alternative, consolidation of IT staff in Administrative units may be the most natural first approach. At the very least, the solid and dotted lines for the ITO reporting need to be swapped.
      Cyndi Johnson
      School of Law

      • #820


        I hope you don’t mind my moving your two threads together, along with Chad’s.  I think the general theme here is formal reporting lines versus informal collaboration efforts.  By grouping these together, my hope is to make it easier for folks to identify the topic, avoid duplication, and keep comments related to this important conversation in a single place. Let me know if I am misreading the common issue and I will adjust.  You both covered a lot of important aspects in your comments and I am working on responding to keep the conversation going.  Will be back shortly!

    • #822

      Hi Cindy,

      I think there are good arguments for and against centralization, and I don’t believe there is a clear “right” answer. On the other hand, I believe both models are entirely capable of success as long as the community is engaged and involved in making it work and has some sense of common purpose. Given the President’s directive to implement the TIG report and the centralized model it recommends, my personal responsibility is to support that initiative in a way that doesn’t compromise the quality we have delivered over the years.

      I have enjoyed the connection to purpose that the decentralized model has provided, and have had the pleasure to work in a very supportive environment with many talented staff who are passionate about serving faculty and students. It is these relationships and connection to mission that have made our technical services meaningful, and it is these qualities that we must preserve to the best of our abilities through the transition.

      You make good points in calling out the excellent work that collaborative working groups have accomplished over the years. I am optimistic that these restructuring efforts represent a return to that level of shared engagement on initiatives of mutual benefit, and I am appreciative of Duane and Brian for the extraordinary communication and outreach that they are engaged in to steer us in that direction. The model I see proposed, is actually quite similar to the recommendation that college / academic IT managers and directors gave to Ratnakar when he came to campus.

      From what I have seen, the School of Law provides excellent service to its constituency, and has devised ways to meet the differentiated service needs of its faculty and staff. I wouldn’t characterize the School of Law as an area full of problems that need fixing. Rather, I believe that the School of Law has significant expertise and specialized knowledge that it can contribute to the larger organization, and I look forward to working with you all in whatever way my initiatives can align with and support yours. Reporting structures aside, the IT Officer model seems designed to create the kind of collaborative community of technical professionals that you cite, and an extension of the good work that the Academic IT group has been involved in over the summer. From that perspective, I am optimistic.

      It is certainly a realistic and pragmatic approach for the School of Law to watch and see how these initial efforts go. I also think that there are real benefits that the School of Law can realize through participation (both informal initial collaboration, and perhaps later integration). One of area of benefit that comes to mind is the access to a greater depth of staffing resources. We have all had the occasion when a critical employee is ill, takes another job, or simply wishes to take some extended leave. One benefit I see from the larger organization is more resiliency in the staffing of our services. The other significant benefit I see is more continuity of services across organizational lines, and more awareness of and alignment between central services and distributed support. More awareness of how the services my team manages align with the greater university needs and initiatives is a good thing.

      While there is always room for improvement in all of our areas, there is also much more that is right with what we are doing than the TIG report states. With Central IT in particular, I have seen consistent focus on continuous improvement initiatives, with positive results in many areas. As Duane and Brian have said, we have deep technical expertise on campus with very dedicated employees in all areas. I am looking forward to the opportunities for collaboration and growth as we move ahead. We all have much to learn from each other, and I believe faculty, staff, and students will be the beneficiaries if we do this right.


    • #824

      Cyndi and Chad,
      Thank you for bringing to the fore one of the most complex and challenging features of the new structure.
      Since the early days of loosely structured collaboration across units to initial attempts to structure UNM IT governance as a more formal expression of that healthy collaboration, Law has always spoken consistently and clearly to the risks inherent to a more monolithic reporting structure.

      There are good reasons why grassroots collaboration across departments and knowing the ‘right’ insiders at UNM IT has for the most part proven effective over the years; especially in view of initial attempts to create a governance structure that over time became more about information dissemination rather than addressing campus-wide challenges or new initiatives. I attribute the drift to a number of things, not the least of which is the increased complexity of what all of us have had to face over the last 10 years.

      In the Town Hall discussions many of us on stage (especially those who knew how to use a microphone :> ), described how the last 8-10 years put our teams in the position of doing more with what we had, but in a different way than what we knew from the past.

      Sure, business cycles over the years have prompted similar departmental adjustments where strategies like subsidies and surcharges had to change, but for me at least, the 2008 financial crisis and consumer disruption alongside the dramatic expansion of online learning and how to research and teach differently represented a new type of pressure within departments where efficiency didn’t mean better managing a stack of services with more than two 9s of uptime; or timely access to relevant information. That was my mantra for years and in a manner of speaking PC and displays were part terminal, part specialized resource that for some could be more powerful tools. Soon those ‘some’ became most faculty students and staff and the shift came at the worst possible time for those of us heavily invested in managing our respective environments through standards, policies and tools that defined what was possible and how exceptions could be managed.

      For Anderson we felt a nudge to reimagine a traditional stack of administration-focused services as something to let UNM IT work on so that our group could focus on handhelds, extended displays and 64-bit software and etc. It required a leap of faith and trust that in many ways were grounded in the grassroots experience we’d been working with for years.

      I won’t tell the same story that put everyone to sleep at the Town Hall again, but I want to be clear that the Anderson approach was and has always been a deliberate strategy to solve for what faculty, students and staff were asking for.

      It certainly wasn’t the only strategy or the best one, but ultimately it worked to the degree that we are now able to support a broader range of services than many might have imagined possible a few years ago.

      During our slow and steady migration up the stack with UNM IT helping us plan and implement each step, the grassroots relationships we knew well continued to support how other short term initiatives were addressed. We’ve always worked collaboratively across departments, but when a big next step such as OneDrive was defined as a UNM standard, we worked with the UNM IT security office on how properly approach the adventure/standard and focus our attention on helping people learn the tool.

      I took the time to reiterate some of what I shared at the Town Hall about Anderson’s journey so that Law’s well-stated concerns can be seen as appropriate and worthy of further discussion. We arrived at where we are today by working with UNM IT in a way that engendered the trust that others haven’t experienced. The structure that’s being put together has to reflect that trust and commitment to service that is efficient, effective and preserves department specific investments. Moreover, it can’t take 5-6 years as it did with Anderson.

      Perhaps that’s what I’m trying to get across. Not only is there an on-campus precedent for doing what the new structure implies; at this point UNM has to find a way to more efficiently structure the relationships that have worked well for ten or more years. The ‘who you know’ approach has a time cost that can be inefficient and occasionally frustrating. Of course the key is that the new structure is setup to facilitate and streamline what worked well and at the same time surface new opportunities to become more efficient and deliver better differentiated services.

      In my opinion this is another important facet of what Duane means by, ‘Do no harm.’ Beyond preserving critical differentiated services, ‘Do no harm,’ means, ‘do not undermine relationships that work and support SMEs who know their stuff so they can maintain their expertise.’

      For example, one of Anderson’s major differentiated services, our VLab for specialized teaching environments, will soon outgrow our capacity to support all that we imagine it can do as well as what we’re being asked to consider. We’ve always know that it could deliver any number of VDI solutions, but our resource constraints have always focused us on the focused problem it was designed to solve. Put another way, we simply can’t tackle any more within that system without a UNM IT partnership. The new structure formalizes that as a service OLA and provides more direct and efficient access to IT SMEs as well as other ITOs across the table.

      No doubt the transition will be a challenge and more work. It is a risk at many levels, especially given the current financial constraints across campus in every area. More than that, we all know this is a 5-7 year project not unlike reimagining best of breed HR and finance systems into an ERP. Can top level administration sustain and support what’s being proposed. We believe they want to and have to, just as we have to step up and figure it out no matter how the lines are dotted.

      At this point Cyndi is secretly smiling at my fuzzy optimism saying, ‘there he goes again,’ but I do have a final comment that I believe captures remaining concerns.

      When Alex and I sat down with Duane and Brian I quickly made it clear that the Director of the group would have to be tough as nails and organized. As important, the ITOs would have to be a high performing team and self-directed. In my opinion the concept won’t get the traction it needs without people stepping up to those positions with that mindset.

      Making it happen won’t be easy, but given the current financial realities UNM faces, the structure as supported by current leadership is a risk worth taking.

      I will be honest and state that I too expect to experience some initial tension between my loyalty to Anderson and as an ITO, the additional time committed to broader UNM commitments. However, our journey has built enough trust and for that reason among all of the others we’re willing to give it a shot. We know that trust that the focus will be on service, service as delivered and supported by others across campus who care about getting this right; the same people who care enough to visit this site and state their concerns.

      I want to figure this out in a way that works best for now and will become better. I want to continue to know a bit about hardware and be useful in that way. I want to have these types of conversations with Cyndi and Chad to maintain healthy perspective. I believe the proposed structure provides that opportunity. It isn’t TIG, not as I see it. TIG was a useful nudge to get organized. What many of us are seeing is Duane and Brian and others take what’s useful and shape it to make sense at UNM. I don’t think that piece will change and I believe it’s the right approach.

      Hopefully this perspective is useful. I think it’s worth a conversation or two with coffee in the old-school way to make sure that the people who will make this happen are fully engaged.

      Thanks for wading through my perspective.


    • #825

      Hi Cyndi and Chad,

      As always, thank you for your thoughtful input.  You bring up an important topic and, as Greg points out, one that is definitely at the forefront of our efficiency and effectiveness approach – reporting lines.  The formal creation of the ITO positions and having them report to the newly created Director for User Experience and Engagement within an evolving IT organization is a major upfront change here at UNM, and I firmly believe the discussion on this topic is worthy of additional attention.  I am both excited about the direction and sensitive to the concerns of pitfalls we need to avoid. My hope is that the approach we are taking to realize the benefits of this structure make both the excitement to improve and the sensitivity to “do no harm” evident.

      Elisha identifies that there are good arguments to be made for both consolidated reporting and distributed administration with better governance, and I agree. What I appreciate most about the consolidated reporting is that it establishes the authority to organize and work together efficiently and effectively as a unified IT team, across all lines, while simultaneously affirming and expanding an IT organization-wide commitment to meet and exceed needs from diverse areas of campus.  While this can be done in other ways, the formal lines give us the best opportunity to leverage the IT talent across UNM in an organized and accountable way to benefit both the individual units and the institution as a whole.  Dean Peceny did a very nice job of articulating his strategy for improving IT services in the College of Arts and Sciences over the last five years and then relaying his vision of the opportunity that the current situation creates.  I think he says it well and I believe our approach is in alignment.  You can see the clip from Dean Peceny at our 10/05/2016 Town Hall (at the 38:00 time stamp).   

      As I stated in Town Hall and you reference in your post, a major goal for the ITO will be ensuring that the needs of the area they represent are identified and met.  This will be a goal that the ITO is measured on; however, the shared accountability for achieving this goal goes well beyond the ITO and, when coupled with advisory and governance, permeates through the entire IT organization and to myself as CIO.

      You bring up the important point that technology needs around campus vary.  I agree there are unique needs due to the variety of work we do at UNM; we truly are a city within a city.  That being said, we cannot have a cookie cutter approach for all technology services.  We want to take the best of the best, have consistency where it is possible, but also enable flexibility where it is warranted.  We will work through the ITO to understand the needs and determine solutions collaboratively.  In doing so we will seek to leverage existing knowledge, address improvements where needed, and simultaneously work to avoid unnecessary duplication of services where we can. 

      Our guiding philosophy in all of this is not to negatively impact the things that are working. Specifically, we will not touch any distributed service until the service can be analyzed and understood. Even then, changes will only be made when opportunities for improvement are identified and approved.  The ITO will be critical in working collaboratively with the area they represent, the staff that report to them, and with other ITOs and IT professionals to identify and assess these service improvement opportunities.  The organizational structure will facilitate this.  While we will not always have 100% agreement on direction, we will absolutely have a well-vetted assessment with informing input from the people delivering and using the services today so that our advisory and governance groups can make educated decisions where needed.   We would expect greater alignment between centralized efforts and departmental needs than we have seen in the past by virtue of better governance and more formal yet collaborative approaches between Central IT Directors, ITOs and functional stakeholders in the schools, colleges and administrative areas.
      As we meet with folks around campus, we are fortunate to be identifying common ground very early on with a number of campus leaders and technology managers who share a vision for how we can improve IT efficiency and effectiveness.  Their support is allowing us to identify our initial ITOs in a way that is representative of campus and helpful in laying a solid foundation that we can build on. All areas of campus may not be ready to identify an IT officer immediately, and that is okay.  We have designed our onboarding of ITOs in a staggered approach that will allow for some areas to onboard later in the fiscal year when more foundational work has been completed and there are less unknowns and more defined answers to the questions you raise. 
      Finally, you mention funding.  The funding committee will be tasked with looking at how to fund IT services on campus in a more thoughtful way.  While they will look to fund the core from our existing resources and minimize the related fee-for-service, they will also have to give consideration to funding the unique needs of specific areas where cost sharing across the institution may not make sense. I suspect the model for funding those emerging needs will look much like it does today.  For shared services, I would expect that we will come to the table through Advisory together to seek funding.  For truly unique needs, I would suspect that the Dean or VP may identify the funding source or they may request funding from a higher level in the organization.  Regardless, these activities will be coordinated in an aligned way to target needs and outcomes and avoid duplication.
      I tried to thoughtfully cover all the key topics you have raised.  Please let me know if I’ve missed any.  I appreciate the opportunity to discuss these important issues with you and welcome additional feedback from you and others.

    • #828

      Duane, Elisha, Greg – thank you for your historical perspectives (which provides context to those of us who are new, or newish to UNM) and for the discussion of opportunities that are ahead of us. I look forward to continuing the discussion of approaches that are available to the UNM community.

    • #829

      Elisha, Greg and Duane,

      Thanks for your feedback to my posts. I haven’t taken the time to reply because of more pressing tasks but do appreciate the thoughtfulness of your replies.

      I think anyone who knows me is well aware that like many of you, I’m strongly committed to UNM but as I originally pointed out, my first loyalty is to the law school. My struggle is to see how changing the reporting structure would benefit law. Obviously, I am not opposed to changes that would facilitate more resources in core services already provide by Central IT. I’d be happy to provide input on which core services I believe need additional funding and personnel, and I speak for all the law IT staff when I say that we are willing to participate in focus groups as appropriate. Those of you who have been around a few years know that Law has always been an active (and often outspoken) member of the UNM IT community. I’m open-minded and although my posts might come off as being from Negative Nelly, I absolutely see the benefit of a collaborative community who work together for the betterment of UNM IT – the “common purpose” that Elisha addressed. I do support any initiative that will address issues with how core services are funded and provided. Where we differ is seeing how this approach fits into our environment which is simple but highly integrated – and working very well. At last week’s IT UNM meeting, Brian stated “There will be exceptions, different reporting structures, everything is open to be discussed”. That gives me hope that there are opportunities for us to “sit at the table” and be a full participant in a way that benefits both law and the overall UNM IT community. Both Jerry and I have been here for many years and as the former Field Agents Manager, Jerry has a unique perspective and experiences that would greatly benefit this initiative. Having the IT Officers meet regularly as a group as well as with the entire UNN community (or at least a significant subset thereof) is very close to the original intent of IT Agents, if I’m not mistaken.

      Brian also talked about switching from an authority model to an accountability model, where ITOs are accountable to the business units they support. I’m a little surprised that IT staff don’t already feel that they are accountable to their units. Personally, while I report directly to the Dean, I feel as though I have hundreds of bosses including not only our students, faculty and staff but also our adjuncts, external community partners including members of the NM Judiciary, practicing attorneys and our alumni to name just a few. Sure, the Dean is the ultimate *authority* but OTOH, UNM has a tradition of faculty governance – a fact brought up quite often in faculty meetings. Anyway, perhaps my experience at the law school is unique but knowing many of my IT colleagues from other units, it seems highly doubtful that we are the only ones who feel responsible for providing excellence to our constituencies.

      Again, just to be perfectly clear, I support more collaboration across campus and have no problem with participating in this and other efforts that will benefit the greater UNM IT community. I simply don’t see what good comes from changing the reporting structure.

      Cyndi Johnson
      School of Law

    • #809

      Communication, collaboration, and controls: The October 11th Town Hall panel noted that there have been recent improvements between their units and Central IT as far as two-way communication, and collaboration on projects. The work seemed to be department initiated, mutually directed, and not enforced. So, a good foundation is forming there.

      The Q&A noted significant issues with the dual reporting line itself, and I also fear that if we focus too much on that, we could lose momentum on the two areas that improved during the summer – communication and collaboration. Communication and collaboration are generating wins, the dual-reporting could halt that progress. Particularly with departments that have established, functional IT units.
      While the dual reporting might on its face create some new channels of communication, one could anticipate that a forced implementation could also create or re-inforce backchannel communications. So for the greater good of the Efficiencies and Effectiveness effort, perhaps we put the dual-reporting (a Control) on the backburner, and front-end changes we can make to improve Communication and Collaboration. Once those are healthy, UNM may have eliminated the need to enforce a control, or at least its implementation will be less disruptive.

      I believe the collective question at the town hall was ‘what do we want to do here?’ and what I heard throughout was ‘improve communications.’ If we focus on communication, collaboration will follow, and then whatever other large structural and governance changes UNM chooses to make will be easier to implement, because at that point, UNM will know itself better than it does presently. If we do need to pivot for something like an economic downturn, or to adopt a major new technology, the organization will be in alignment, change is easier.
      Dual-reporting seems out of alignment with the communication/collaboration relationships that UNM is re-developing, as it’s ultimately a control, and if enforced as one of the first deliverables, it won’t have – within a faculty-governed institution – a durable foundation. As we saw at the Q&A, internal pressures are beginning to form, and will become difficult for us as staff to manage.

      Duane and Brian have attended an intimidating number of meetings for this effort, which is seriously commendable and shows the power of communication, and its importance to this campus. In that spirit, if we first find ways to create and maintain long term communication at UNM, that sets the stage for the success of anything else that follows, which is why adding a separate left navigation topic to the discuss site, and maybe even tasking a committee to improve communication (and maintain it), could pave the way for other successes. As a campus, we could use the Discuss site Communication topic to propose technologies, processes, meetings, anything that re-starts conversations that have gone dormant over the years.

      The larger issue that dual reporting invokes, and it’s one which every University struggles with, is how to implement controls within an academic-lead environment that has its own constantly changing demands and expectations? Faculty have protections of tenure, but with that the expectation to teach and produce research; academic units have their own individual accreditation demands; there’s NIH, NSF, general grant coordination; libraries and clinics have very specific requirements, the list is long. The dual reporting in effect creates staff-administered governance and controls over academic departmental operations. The pros/cons of academic governance are another conversation – the first-order problem is that dual reporting makes staff (the ITOs and IT units) in some part the enforcers of academic governance. That puts anyone untenured, like IT staff, in a no-win situation when asked to control the academic side of a faculty-governed institution.

      • This reply was modified 7 years, 7 months ago by darruti.
    • #816

      Hi Chad,

      I’ve merged your topic with Cyndi’s, because I think they are related.  I will work on providing some input as quickly as I can.

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