#SBUDoIT All Hands Reflection

Earlier this week we held a DoIT All Hands meeting in Frey Hall. I can’t say for sure, but I think we had somewhere around 150 or more people there. The turn out was great and I really appreciated seeing so many now familiar faces. I am not a huge fan of large All Hands meetings, but when done right I see the value. This one was designed as a combination of a recap of the past year (my first on the job) and a look forward to where we are headed, what our priorities are, and to do a deep dive into the new DoIT Values. We decided to create a video to help communicate these things so we could reuse it across various media and in other venues. I am particularly proud of the team that produced the video. I thought it was a great way to kick off the meeting.

We decided to kick things off with a full five minutes of timed slides highlighting service awards, new hires, retirements, and a whole bunch of pictures from my first year on campus. I timed it to “Truckin'” by the Grateful Dead to keep it light. It was a way to share lots of stuff, show off the human aspect of who we are as an organization, and help people smile.


I was struck by the thoughtful attention and questions that emerged from the session. I thought the questions were very good and were aimed at the more strategic level … they were stretch questions for the most part and people seemed engaged. It is such a difficult thing to balance information with interactivity … we got close, but I do think we can do a better job.

We sent out a survey following the event and have gotten solid feedback (keep it coming). A little early insight from the feedback includes the notion that we need to have a more diverse set of speakers (something that I recognized as I was putting the finishing touches on the agenda). We will do a better job at that going forward — and that means I would like to see people from all parts of DoIT contributing in the future. I also see that people want to do more of these … some even suggesting every month … I can’t pull that off, but we could settle into a good pattern of twice a year with some other events mixed in as well. Several people want to expand it so we can have some break out sessions and I would like to explore that. All in all it seemed as though people were pleasantly surprised with the time we spent together. Always room to improve and I listen to that feedback critically.

What I really tried to do during my update was to contextualize how and why our DoIT Value statements are actually a very important driver of our organization. For each statement I tried to hit home at least three examples of why that value is important and how we are manifesting our work through them. Some are easy to get, like “communicate,” while others like, “grow” are much more nuanced. I think I spent more time with grow than any of the others … I am particularly interested in focusing quite a bit of energy in building a strong organizational foundation around that value.

At the end of the day I had a blast talking to everyone. It surprised me how much energy was put into the event and the intellectual toll it took on me that afternoon. It was time well spent, but it was draining. The networking time afterwards was also a highlight — lots of people stayed and talked to me and each other. A huge thank you to everyone who attended and who put so much effort in making the time together worthwhile. The great news is that we will be getting together again in a few weeks at the first annual DoIT Football Tailgate — that should be a great time!

A Year of Posts

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 12.02.06 PMIt is hard to imagine I am arriving at my one year anniversary of joining Stony Brook University. Yesterday marked one year since I walked out of my office at Penn State for the last time after 15 years and in the next nine days it will mark a year since I walked into my new office at SBU. I am going to work on a reflection, but for now I just want to share that this space has been helpful for me to work through some ideas in public. And while I didn’t write as much as I hoped, I did get at least something out each month — I did get 52 posts in for the year so I guess an average of one a week isn’t too bad. There were times when I even got some comments and that is something I truly appreciate and hope for more of. I am starting to see other people around DoIT use the SB You platform to write and reflect — that also makes me smile as it is one indicator of an engaged organization. Perhaps over time more of us will find voices either through original posts or through the act of leaving comments.

I think using a platform like this is a great illustration of our DoIT Values, number one in particular, “Communicate: We are committed to engagement, communication, and sharing information with a human voice.” With that in mind I will commit to writing and sharing more and I hope that each of you consider how you can show a belief in our shared value. It doesn’t have to be through blog posts, but finding time to share your view of how we do our work in an authentic way is a critical part of what we do.

Delighting People

Running through my feeds tonight and came across this quote from Seths Blog

Do your work, your best work, the work that matters to you. For some people, you can say, “hey, its not for you.” Thats okay. If you try to delight the undelightable, you’ve made yourself miserable for no reason.

I’m not going to wax poetically about it, but it does raise some interesting thoughts given we have a DoIT value that stresses our intent to work to delight our users. Specifically …

3. Satisfy: We will work to delight our customers in the innovative delivery of our solutions and services.

Maybe it is an important thought to recognize that it can’t be done all the time and accept that? I’m not sure if that is defeatist or realistic. I wonder what people think.

The Case for IT Values and Principles

IT Principles can accelerate a University’s progress to a new model characterized by collaboration, trust, and a focus on enabling the effective utilization of technology. If a University is to realize a goal of viewing IT with a more global perspective, we require substantial trust and collaborative implementation efforts that transcend organizational units and stakeholder groups. New governance structures, metrics and transparency will continue to build a unifying culture for IT. This culture should be typified by a set of accepted IT principles. It is incumbent upon us, as leaders of IT at Stony Brook University, to care deeply about having an excellent set of principles. Having them allows us to operate under a shared set of values that guide decision making.

A principle is a rule or guideline that provides clear direction and expresses the values of an organization. A world-class IT principle connects to business success, is specific to the enterprise, is transparent to all, and is detailed enough to drive trade-offs. — via Gartner’s Guide to Creating World-Class IT Principles

A series of IT Principles must be developed. Below is a first cut of IT Principles to be shared more widely for comment, edit, and adoption from the community:

  • We will align IT resources and plans with the University’s Strategic Plan.
  • We are committed to responsible stewardship of human, financial, and environmental resources.
  • We are committed to collaboration, communication, and sharing information across social platforms with a human voice.
  • We will encourage innovation, even where concrete business benefit is not initially apparent.
  • We will always consider open source, cloud-based, and vender hosted offerings in the selection of solutions.
  • We will actively hire great people, develop the growth of our staff, promote a diversity of voices, and support our staff.
  • We will maximize value and reduce cost through collective sourcing and campus-wide adoption of enterprise services that can be adopted and costumed regardless of platform or device.
  • We will work to delight our customers in the delivery of our solutions.
  • We will work collaboratively to provide a responsive IT environment that enriches and enhances teaching, learning, service, and research.
  • We will identify risks, implement proactive security measures, and be consistent with policy and law.


It is critical to test principles against day-to-day routines and behaviors or we risk creating a well-crafted but empty set of statements that don’t change anything. Below are three steps we should do to test our principles prior to wide distribution:

  1. Convene your leadership team — Review your newly minted principles with your leadership team, then ask everyone to take out their calendars and choose three different upcoming meetings. At least one should be a standing meeting.
  2. For each meeting, imagine what will be talked about — In those conversations, what responses, decisions or processes have to be changed as a result of respecting the new principles? Perhaps, as a result of your principles, you should cancel an upcoming meeting, because holding it goes against a principle (such as, if you are holding a meeting on the design of a system without customer input and have a principle that states that all systems will be customer-driven). Or maybe you have to eliminate a series of steps in the development of a new project, because you have a principle that states that you will become more agile for certain projects — and you know that you cannot respond at speed unless you change the way projects are run.
  3. Make, reverse or change decisions — Cancel unnecessary meetings, change the agenda of the meeting, change the processes, eliminate steps and undertake all necessary changes to ensure the principles are adhered to.

Communication of IT Principles

Effectively communicating our principles is the necessary next step in gaining adoption and participation. Our goal is to our decisions be guided by these principles so it is critical that our staff at all levels know them, respect them, and act with them as their guiding framework. We should take action to introduce them and make them part of the ongoing culture of the organization. Some ideas include:

  • Blog posts from various staff members expressing “test cases” for or against select principles.
  • New signage that clearly states the principles in all of our working environments.
  • The use of individual principles during meetings that fall within a given context.
  • When talking to people, use the principles as an example of how a decision was made.
  • Constantly review the principles and make them a point of annual conversation.