Friday, December 19, 2014

Enjoy the holiday break

Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, I hope you enjoy the holiday break! As we go into the holiday period, I want to encourage you to find appropriate work-life balance. I know some of us may be on call during the break, but not everyone, and not all the time. Avoid checking into work while you are on vacation. Take this moment to relax.

Work-life balance can be difficult in this always-connected age. Our phones provide easy, immediate access to both personal distraction (Facebook) and work items (email). The temptation to "just see what's happening at work" may be strong, but it ultimately is unhelpful. Remember, if you are always working, you are not working well.

So don't check your email. Leverage this holiday break as an excuse to unplug from work. You'll return to the office refreshed and ready to tackle new challenges.

To demonstrate this good behavior, I do not plan to post new items to Coaching Buttons blog over the holiday break. I'll be enjoying this time with family. I'll see you again in January!
image: dkimber

Monday, December 15, 2014

Top ten posts 2014 (bonus)

I sometimes like to find leadership lessons in unusual places. Looking for leadership lessons through the lens of unexpected sources can be interesting and insightful. This year, I shared a few lessons that carry great leadership lessons, from an atypical perspective:

The AMC show Breaking Bad provides useful leadership lessons, if you look for them. I've chosen five of my favorite lessons: 1. Partner with others; be part of a team. 2. Make wise hiring decisions. 3. Be methodical in what you do. 4. Commit to your decisions. 5. Don't be afraid to take initiative.
More lessons from the empire business: Be consistent. Think creatively. Listen to advice. Watch out for your team.
Before he was governor of the 12th largest economy in the world (that's California, by the way), Arnold Schwarzenegger featured in Conan the Barbarian (1982) about a young man who overcomes adversity to become a notable presence in the world. And it is through this film that Schwarzenegger (as Conan) shares his three leadership lessons, in answer to the question "What is best in life?" (This post is from April 1, don't take it too seriously.)
In an "op-ed" article from August, we can learn about receiving feedback. Here are three lessons I inferred from the article: We don't have all the answers. We need to hear feedback from others. Feedback must be timely to be effective.
Don't let your meetings end up this way. With the increasing trend towards remote meetings, such as through Google Hangout or teleconferences, we need to find ways to keep our remote attendees engaged. Remote meetings shouldn't drift into "us v them" where those who are physically present in the room ignore those who are trying to participate via conference. What things can you learn about running a remote meeting successfully?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Top ten posts 2014 (part 2)

At the end of the year, it's typical to reflect on the milestones we've reached over the last twelve months. So it is during this time that I like to review articles I've shared on this blog, and highlight several via a "top ten" list. I shared five of my "top ten" on Monday; here is the rest of the list. These are presented in no particular order:

A new library for a new generation
At the University of Minnesota Morris, we have been working on plans to extend our library to become a new "learning commons," a destination for both individual and group learning. We have actually been developing these plans for a number of years. Related: The library is not just for books.
Amazon as the new bookstore
"Can you imagine what it would be like if we outsourced our bookstores to Amazon?" It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone working in higher ed that costs are a major concern, and have been for years. This extends even to the books that students must buy for their classes. Universities have long sought new ways to lower textbook costs. Purdue's move to partner with Amazon is an interesting step for higher ed, one that other institutions will seek to emulate—with Amazon, or with other textbook resellers. 
The changing role of the CIO
The role of the chief information officer has changed dramatically over the years. I've discussed this several times, including one article about the CIO of the future. Citing Jerry DeSanto, vice president for planning and CIO at the University of Scranton (PA), chief information officers in the 1990s described their role as Building,Spending, Technical, Physical, Obscure, Functional, User-centric, Operational, Manager. But the CIO of the future must instead embody collaborative qualities: Sharing, Optimizing, Well-rounded, Virtual, Visible, Value-added, Customer-centric, Strategic, Leader.
Treating student jobs as real jobs
In Computing Services, we have always given our student workers realistic work assignments. Rather than use students as cheap labor, we seek to expand the educational mission of the university by giving "stretch" assignments to our student workers, according to their individual capabilities. So it's not surprising (for us, anyway) to see this white paper from Noel-Levitz, about "Enhancing Student Success by Treating Student Jobs as Real Jobs." This brief report (8 pages) describes how institutions may advance student learning: how campus jobs help to prepare students for the post-collegiate working world.
Your tie says a lot about you
How you dress says a lot about who you are as a person. Whether we like or not, our professional appearance often precedes us. What we wear to meetings is often just as important as what we say and how we act at that meeting. And you might not know it, but your tie says a lot about you.

That may be ten, but that's not the end of the "top ten" list. I'll share a few "bonus" items on Monday!
photo: AASU Armstrong University Archives

Monday, December 8, 2014

Top ten posts 2014 (part 1)

At the end of the year, it's typical to reflect on the milestones we've reached over the last twelve months. So it is during this time that I like to review articles I've shared on this blog, and highlight several via a "top ten" list. These are presented in no particular order:

Higher-ed IT must change or die
Technology in higher-ed is on the verge of major change. 2014 will introduce major shifts in campus technology, and higher-ed IT has no choice but to adapt. In only a few years, our roles will change dramatically. The shifting sands of technology is a key point. For example, only few years ago, everyone wanted iPads in the classrooms; now, Chromebooks have overtaken iPads in education.
It's easier to interpolate than extrapolate
Try this exercise instead: What do you want your IT organization to be doing 5 years from now? What does that IT team look like? What is it focused on? What are its priorities? How is it shaped? Once you've imagined that vision, take a step back. You know where you're going to end up in 5 years. What your next step? Where do you go from here? What are the major milestones you need to reach over the next year, and over the next 5 years, to reach your target?
Master of Science in Scientific and Technical Communication
As I reflected on my Master's program, I commented on a few classes that really stuck with me. If you are interested in the MS-STC program, and want to know what some of the classes are like, this is for you.
Celebrating 20 years in free software
Another reflection, this time on my work in free software. In June, The FreeDOS Project turned 20 years old. FreeDOS is a free version of DOS, a replacement for Microsoft's MS-DOS. FreeDOS dates back to 1994, when I was still a physics undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. While my major field of study was physics, I long held a strong interest in computers and programming.
We are surrounded by experts
The faculty on our campuses have spent years to become experts in their fields. And they are your colleagues. Just as we rely on relationships between our peers in IT to get things done, to call on favors, we can use our connection with campus to learn from our faculty. You might audit a class (often for no cost!) and spend an entire semester to do a "deep dive" on a new skill. Or you might ask one of the faculty to give advice or coaching to pick up a new topic, or to improve an existing strength. If you feel particularly motivated, you might work with a faculty adviser to build a program out of these leadership and management skills, and either complete a Master's degree or acquire a second Bachelor's degree.

These are only five of my "top ten" posts from 2014. I'll share the other five on Friday this week.
photo: Saad Faruque

Friday, December 5, 2014

Media Collaboration Table

At the University of Minnesota Morris, we have been working on plans to extend our library to become a new "learning commons," a destination for both individual and group learning. We have actually been developing these plans for a number of years.

Although the specifics of the implementation have changed, the general plan is to convert the main level of our campus library into a learning center. Part of the learning commons would be dedicated to a "one help" center, where students would interact with reference librarians, borrow technology for short-term use, and ask for technology help—and as always, check out books. The main learning commons area would be filled with tables suitable for small groups to gather to work on projects. Each space would have suitable power and wireless for laptops and mobile devices. Other areas would provide separate, private space for practicing speeches or similar work.

We aren't there yet, but we are making progress where we can. This week, we saw the installation of a new media collaboration table in the library. Provided by Computing Services and hosted by Briggs Library, we are proud of this new technology addition to student study spaces.


Students can use the table to better collaborate in group projects. Connect your laptop to the display so everyone can contribute to the project. Having a large, shared screen makes group learning easier!

The table is located on the entrance level of Briggs Library. The hook-ups for the display will be installed early next week.

Morris Zimride

At Morris, we use Zimride for sharing rides. At this year's Big Block of Cheese Day, we asked folks how we can improve in technology. We heard that we should advertise more about how Zimride benefits the campus.

We are working on a new advertising concept: images that will be displayed on the digital signage across campus. Here are a few mock-ups from our "Did you know?" campaign:

How Zimride helps our green campus:



Statistics about who is using Zimride:

Monday, December 1, 2014

Planning for the future

Last week, I met with the Morris Campus Student Association to share an update on campus technology, including our status with the campus IT Masterplan. I would also like to share that update here:

In 2011-2012, I led a cross-team working group to refresh our campus IT Masterplan. The previous IT Masterplan was outdated and no longer actionable; it was the perfect time to regroup and analyze our campus technology needs so we could plan for the future. That working group generated a brief document that identified five basic categories of technology needs:
  1. Essential needs:
    Projects and activities that must be addressed immediately. While these are not prerequisites for other sections, the essential needs represent high priority issues, including networks, security, and web.
  2. Structural needs:
    Issues that address clarity in organization and structure, including “where do I go for help?”
  3. Resource needs:
    Budgets and technology replacement strategies for the Morris campus.
  4. Educational support:
    Recommendations that support electronic learning, technology awareness, and research needs of the campus.
  5. Technology services:
    Items that address specific needs and campus projects, such as the learning commons and student printing.

The IT Masterplan outlined fourteen goals for technology investment, grouped under these five categories. You may also think of these goals as vision statements. Within each vision statement, we also listed actionable items: projects that would set us along a path towards each goal.

Here is an overview of the IT Masterplan, delivered in May 2012:

click to enlarge

That's a lot of information to digest, but you can see the vision statements and the action items for each. Along the top, we provide an indicator for calendar year and fiscal year, slotting effort into appropriate time periods as planning and budgets permit. Please note the check-marks next to most of the action items; these indicate completed work. We have been making significant progress in addressing these technology needs. The technology support units at UMM have worked together towards these goals, and we have accomplished much.

An updated version of the IT Masterplan, showing ongoing work:

click to enlarge

This updated version of the IT Masterplan focuses only on open items, and provides a solid framework on which we are building our IT investments and effort over the next several years. Some are long-term initiatives or goals, and others are short-term projects for this fiscal year. This fiscal year planning is especially important today when CIOs must quantify costs related to projects: systems, processes, and staff. We need to be innovative in our introduction of technology, but also remain good stewards to the university budget.

A few highlights from the plan: We continue to expand our universal wireless, which is an ongoing improvement of our wireless network. We have significantly improved our desktop and laptop management through Active Directory; this provides greater flexibility to you, and easier updates and support for us. And we are making substantial progress in the campus website, migrating to a new web content management system. In future, the Library plans to build a new learning commons, which will become the new location for technology checkout and the helpdesk. These future items are shown in purple.

But strategic planning doesn't end here. With technology, we need to keep thinking about the future to avoid getting stuck in the past. So in Spring semester, we will launch a small, focused working group to refresh the IT Masterplan. This will not be a re-write of the IT Masterplan; instead, the new working group will seek to identify technology efforts and strategies that we should change, stop, or start. For example, do we need to refocus how we deliver certain services? We should change these services. Or, are we currently providing technology services that no longer provide value, that are no longer being used? We should stop these services. Also, what new technologies have emerged that would benefit the campus? We should start these new services. The IT Masterplan refresh is shown in orange.

In refreshing the IT Masterplan, we will also work through campus governance, including member participation from Academic Support Services Committee. I also wish the updated IT Masterplan to document our governance model for technology at Morris. Similar to the IT Governance Process used by IT@UMN, our governance model should capture the input cycle (formal and informal), prioritization, and decision-making process that involves Academic Support Services, Planning Committee, Consultative Committee, TechPeople, and others.