Five students show the freebies they picked up at Adobe Red Tent Day.
ITS and Adobe kicked off their partnership with a Red Tent Day in September 2016.

During the 2016-2017 fiscal year, the Office of the CIO and its units led efforts on the Carolina Service IT Work Stream, provided Adobe Creative Cloud to students and faculty members, and launched a project portfolio.

The groups within the Office of the CIO also assisted the Athletics Department with using big data to cultivate a larger audience, enhanced web accessibility, supported a state audit, improved the Alert Carolina system, helped with the unc.edu redesign and much more. Please read more about these and other efforts in the post below.

Provided Adobe Creative Cloud for all students and faculty

More than 13,000 students and faculty members have activated licenses for Adobe Creative Cloud since ITS provided the software suite to students at no additional cost in September 2016. Carolina’s partnership with Adobe empowers the campus community to create and manage content with these powerful tools across platforms and in a secure way.

In addition to the licenses available for students and instructional faculty and staff, licenses are available for $20 a year for departmental purchases.

ITS staff crowd a conference room listening to a presentation.
ITS staff listen to an update on Carolina Service in March 2017.

Carolina Service IT Work Stream moves to implementation planning

ITS and representatives of the University’s IT community have completed the initial design plan for the information technology functional area within the University’s Carolina Service initiative.

Carolina Service is the UNC-Chapel Hill initiative to create more efficient and effective ways of delivering services and sharing resources. In addition to IT, the effort includes the following functional areas: human resources, finance, research administration and communications. In short, Carolina Service will help the University determine how to best deliver services to those who need them. Phase 1 of Carolina Service includes administrative units as well as centers and institutes reporting to the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and the Provost.

“We are fortunate, as we work to transform IT service delivery at the University, to be working collaboratively with our distributed IT partners and leverage service excellence among all project participants,” said Chris Kielt, Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer. “Our goal is better service for all our stakeholders, and we can get there working together as this process has demonstrated.”

Collaboration is paramount

Working on the design portion of the IT Work Stream are members of an Executive Design Team, which is comprised of IT leaders from the Phase 1 units, and members of Service Design Teams, made up of IT staff from the Phase 1 units. Desktop support and server administration were the first services reviewed by Service Design Teams.

“The Carolina Service project has been a surprisingly great opportunity to push my department to continue service improvement by further leveraging central services,” said Chris Williams, Student Affairs IT Director and a member of the Executive Design Team for the IT functional area of Carolina Service. “Now my team can continue to focus our resources on the unique needs of our 17 departments.”

Furthermore, he said, “The most valuable outcome so far is that we all have a new awareness and perspective on how central IT and departmental IT work collaboratively to serve the mission of UNC-Chapel Hill and all the departments. There will always be room for improvement, but the IT community at Carolina has worked hard not to duplicate services over the past five to 10 years.”

Mark Ingram, the University Development Office’s Infrastructure and Technology Manager, who also serves on the IT Work Stream Executive Design Team, said he has enjoyed the experience of working with other problem solvers on the initiative. “The collaboration between ITS and the departments for Carolina Service has been on a level I’ve never seen in my 23 years with the University,” he said. “I am thrilled at what we have been able to do so far as well as the feedback we were able to give in a safe environment.”

The power of continuous improvement

The IT Work Stream of Carolina Service continues years of work of other activities focused on developing collaborative solutions to better serve the University’s technology needs. Most recently, the IT Excellence project in 2016 established a benchmark of ITS practices against industry best practices, detailed customer feedback on 40 services, and conducted an organizational readiness assessment with staff.

Looking forward

The next steps for the IT Work Stream are to communicate the overall design plan with the campus community and then move into implementation planning, working again with the Executive Design Team and the Service Design Teams.

Launched new project portfolio

In September 2016 ITS created its first project portfolio, based on staff feedback from the 2016 IT Excellence project.

Staff asked for more transparency into the project prioritization process and to clarify priorities, as staff felt over allocated on project work. The portfolio process involves staff creating a project charter for every proposed project, which includes scope, timeline and resource information (both staff hours and capital resources). The ITS senior leadership team goes through multiple rounds of reviewing the proposals and prioritizing projects based on resource availability until there is a list of approved projects for the year.

In the first year of the portfolio, 66 projects were proposed and 31 were approved. The group with the most approved projects was Infrastructure & Operations, with 11. Without this process, ITS may have over committed to more projects than were feasible.

“Some groups within ITS are involved with many of the projects, so one way this process adds value is to decide early in the year what we are and — just as importantly — what we are not going to work on,” said Candace Reynolds, Special Projects, Office of the CIO. “Staff can also visit the portfolio site to see what projects are happening across ITS and read the project charters. We are early in our portfolio journey, but fiscal year 2016-2017 was a great start.”

ITS Digital Services assists with unc.edu redesign

With a launch of the new unc.edu in early 2018, Digital Services provided extensive insight and guidance on the technical portion of the project to the central Communications organization during fiscal 2016-2017.

Adobe bus ad contest highlights partnership with University Development Office

Along with the University Development Office and Adobe, ITS co-sponsored a student design contest. Participants were asked to submit bus ads in support of the upcoming fundraising campaign. Out of numerous entries, one winner was selected and her designs — including a full bus wrap — will be unveiled in Fall 2017.

Kenan Stadium packed with spectators for a football game
Kenan Stadium. Photo by Jeffrey A. Camarati, UNC Athletic Communications

ITS assists Athletics with big data to expand audience

ITS and others are helping the UNC-Chapel Hill Athletics Department to use “big” data to cultivate a broader audience and thereby, significantly expand revenue.

The Athletics Department’s efforts also lay the foundation for additional campus groups, including The Rams Club, University Development and Performing Arts, to likewise reach and engage audience members and donors.

ITS is enthusiastically participating in Athletics’ project, serving on two tiers of leadership committees. ITS also helped launch the initiative. This effort will demonstrate the importance of data analytics.

ITS Digital Services enhances web accessibility

ITS Digital Services began educating the University community about web accessibility and making adjustments to websites managed by ITS. This includes recommending and implementing a new web-safe color palette, providing consultations to various campus groups and presenting to webmasters about web accessibility.

In addition, the group updated ITS, Digital Services and Heelium demo websites to conform with accessibility recommendations. Also, Digital Services is building with accessibility-in-mind during the design/development phases of new web initiatives.

Supported state audit

During the fiscal year, an ITS project team and many staff members across the organization contributed substantial time and effort to support the North Carolina Office of the State Auditor IT General Controls Audit.

The IT General Controls Audit is based on ITS’ compliance with ISO 27002, which is an information security standard that UNC schools have committed to follow.

Prior to fiscal year 2016-2017, a project team was created to begin gathering information in preparation for the audit. The team continued to meet through the first quarter of fiscal year 2016-2017.

NCOSA auditors began gathering information and held introduction meetings in December 2016. They worked from offices at ITS Manning from February through May 2017.  Three auditors were on site during that time, and two additional auditors came in April 2017 to assist with the IT General Controls audit for four schools.

During the field work and testing phase between February and May, ITS had 62 meetings and 200 information requests. Many staff members across Enterprise Applications, Infrastructure & Operations, the Information Security Office, Communication Technologies and User Support & Engagement participated in meetings and information gathering. About 20 people across various schools also participated in these efforts.

The audit covered the following topics: access control, contingency planning, security management, configuration management, application security and segregation of duties.

Improved Alert Carolina system

ITS, Campus Safety & Risk Management and Communications and Public Affairs implemented significant enhancements that streamlined and automated more of the Alert Carolina Emergency Notification System.

With a project nickname of One Button, these improvements to the emergency notification system enable faster activation of the system during emergencies.

Formally called Initial Emergency Notification Automation, the project consisted of updating the technology behind the emergency notification system and adding new software to integrate the existing services that comprise the Alert Carolina system into a single portal.

The updated system uses one color-coded button to activate each of the five different types of predefined scenarios, such as armed and dangerous, major fire/hazmat or tornado warning. Pushing the button sets into motion a series of processes that previously were done manually.

ITS Digital Services expanded custom web development

ITS Digital Services and UNC Creative collaborated to streamline web development work on campus. The arrangement enabled UNC Creative to focus on its design expertise and ITS Digital Services to beef up services, including custom development.

ITS Digital Services assumed responsibility of all web development, web hosting and website support for UNC Creative clients. UNC Creative discontinued these services to focus on creative strategy and design.

Launched new format for employee newsletter and boosted readership

After surveying staff members about what they wanted in their employee newsletter, ITS Communications redesigned Monday Morning News with a greater emphasis on project updates, at-a-glance resources and links, and brief news items that staff could quickly read and then get on with other work. Monday Morning News also moved to an every-other-week distribution after two years of weekly distribution.

As a result, readership soared. By some estimates, email newsletters across industries have average open rates of 60 percent and click rates of 15 percent. ITS’ newsletter usually maintains an open rate exceeding 70 percent. Combining open and click rates, readership percentages are typically in the 80s. The last Monday Morning News issue of the fiscal year reached 93.8 percent readership.

Vendor management saved money and added value

During fiscal 2016-2017, ITS’ vendor management practice continued to gain additional value by working with its vendor partners.

Since ITS created a position in 2015 to focus solely on vendor management, ITS’ vendor analyst/manager has worked in conjunction with ITS Finance and campus Purchasing Services to approach their efforts holistically.

With this approach, ITS looks far beyond the transaction and matches the community service goals of the vendor with that of the University–working towards internships, inter-University partnerships, scholarships, better tools for the digital marketplace, etc.

One example is partnering with a digital media vendor so that students can develop digital literacy skills that can give them an advantage in the job market. Another is receiving a gratuitous monetary investment from a vendor for consulting work to enhance the safety of the University’s data.

In addition, the vendor management practice has been able to find material savings in ITS’ contracts by working closely with vendors and by better understanding the marketplace pressures.

In the first contract in which it was involved, the vendor management office saved more than $500,000 by closing a bid and restructuring it to introduce competition.

In addition, the office attained savings of more than 50 percent by coordinating the annual renewal for virtual software maintenance for departments within the University. Vendor management also co-terms contracts to achieve maximum savings and contract management efficiency.

ITEC enables collaborative solutions

Technology leaders across campus come together in the Information Technology Executive Council (ITEC) to find collaborative solutions for some of the University’s most pressing technology needs. ITS has continued the extraordinary partnership we have had with ITEC by working with the IT Excellence project and now, Carolina Service IT Work Stream.

“It has been amazing to be a part of this work,” said Susan Kellogg, Assistant Vice Chancellor and Deputy Chief Information Officer. “There has been no us versus them; rather everyone, ITS and ITEC, have looked for tomorrow’s solutions that we can pursue today.”

Because ITS has been working toward these solutions over the past seven years, the Carolina Service Executive Design Team found that there weren’t major changes needed or huge savings to be had. Instead, the opportunities were focused on efficiencies that would bring more value to all of Carolina. Most likely, ITS will continue this work forever. Because technology changes so rapidly, there will never be a shortage of opportunities to minimize cost and maximize value.

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