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ITS has hired Brenda Carpen as the department’s first Director of Project Portfolio & Change Management. Carpen’s first day in her new role for ITS was February 1.

Brenda Carpen
Brenda Carpen

Carpen assumes this newly created position after serving as IT Project Manager for ITS’ Infrastructure & Operations division since July 2016. She’s worked for UNC-Chapel Hill for more than a decade and in project management for 16 years. She holds an MBA from Carolina. Carpen will now oversee ITS’ existing six-person Change Management team and will report directly to Mike Barker, Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer.

“While many of the University’s most important efforts have a natural fit with ITS’ operating divisions, not all do,” Barker said. “And some projects and efforts that do have a natural fit in an ITS operating division benefit from — or require — a particular kind of attention that is best accompanied with the kind of engagement Brenda and her team can deliver.”

Change Management gains broader scope

Last week the Change Management team moved from ITS’ Enterprise Applications division to report to Carpen within the Office of the CIO. Change Management will now support projects across the ITS organization.

Carpen is well known and respected within Carolina’s IT community. She has managed high-profile projects impacting the entire campus, including the rollout of Microsoft 365, 2-Step Verification and ServiceNow. She also managed the decommissioning of the ITS-hosted Andrew File System (AFS) and more recently, the Oracle 19c upgrade. Before she came to ITS, Carpen served as Project Manager for the School of Medicine’s Office of Information Systems for 5 1/2 years.

Will improve project implementation

The creation of the Project Portfolio & Change Management team benefits ITS and the University, Carpen said. Providing professional project management and change management expertise on projects will enable ITS to better prepare campus members and partners for change, improve project implementation, and deliver project benefits sooner and with less friction. Her team will provide its skill set to manage project planning and expectations, ensure projects have the appropriate resources, and figure out timelines and goals.

The Project Portfolio & Change Management team will work on projects that have campus-wide impact and high visibility. One of Carpen’s first priorities is to assess where her small team will have the greatest impact.

“We are going to focus on projects where we can provide the most value,” Carpen said.

The Project Portfolio & Change Management team, she added, will be transparent about why it selects the projects it does.

New phone system is first project

First up for Carpen and her team is a project to move the University’s phone system from Verizon to AT&T, which will provide new and enhanced phone services and will affect 18,000 campus phone lines. The project will require collaboration with IT partners across campus to ensure end users have a good experience with the transition to a new phone system.

Brenda Carpen discusses ServiceNow with the IT community
Brenda Carpen discusses ServiceNow with the IT community in 2019

“I’d love to use this as a template for how we get involved in projects going forward and how we can demonstrate value to the organization — not only to ITS, but to our IT partners, the University and the people who are working on the project itself,” Carpen said.

Her team can take on the responsibility for project communications and change management and enable ITS staff to focus on the part of the project for which they have expertise — usually incredibly complex technical aspects.

Collaborators will benefit

Along the way, those collaborating on projects will learn some project and change management skills and share those skills with their respective organizations.

“Hopefully we as a University can develop a community of practice around project management and change management,” Carpen said. “That will be a huge benefit moving forward.”

If a position overseeing ITS’ project portfolio sounds vaguely familiar, until a couple years ago, ITS had one person — without a team — whose role was to identify and prioritize projects across ITS. When that person, Candace Reynolds, left for another job at Carolina, the position remained vacant.

Shortly before the pandemic struck, ITS was in the final phases of recruiting for a re-envisioned position of Director of Project Portfolio & Change Management. Because of COVID-19, that position and nearly all personnel actions were put on hold for a year. Over that year, Carpen remained committed to ITS, the University and to the conviction that this director and team would provide valuable support to ITS and the campus community — whenever hiring could resume. Barker said he’s grateful for Carpen’s patience.

Naturally, Carpen is excited about her new role. She looks forward to bringing awareness to the projects ITS is working on and leveraging her skills to help IT partners and their constituents plan for projects that may affect them. She’s eager to transition the Change Management team, give the team a broader scope of projects, and “understand where we as a team can add value for ITS and the University,” Carpen said.

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