A year in review

I’m pleased to share the first IST Annual Report. The 2017 report highlights a number of achievements from the past year and their impact on various areas of campus. The stories we’ve chosen show ‘IT’ is not just about technology and systems, but supporting and engaging our community in their work and study. I hope you find the report both informative and fun to read. Thank you for your partnership, and for helping us deliver state of the art, people-centric IT services and solutions in support of the University mission.

Bruce Campbell
Chief Information Officer

Portal Orientation Widget

Tour guide
Tour guide
8116new students registered for Orientation
7469new students checked in
92% checked in using Orientation widget

Taking the new student orientation experience online

Each year, Waterloo welcomes thousands of new students to campus. Through the Orientation process these students are provided with a balanced introduction to the academic, social and community aspects of university life. It is a key time for fostering campus pride and gaining a stronger understanding of opportunities and expectations. In past years students received information, registered for events, accessed resources, and contacted organizers through different, separate systems and websites, which understandably caused many students to feel frustrated and confused before even arriving at Waterloo.

Enter the New Student Transition and Portal Development teams.

Their collaborative and student-centric approach to improving this experience for new students lead to the development of an Orientation widget within Portal. For the first time, students could access the information they needed, when they needed it, in one spot. Available on the Portal website or through the app, students seamlessly registered for events, accessed pre-arrival checklists and schedules, and were checked-in to events in mere seconds.

The Orientation widget also enabled the collection of real-time data on event registrations and check-ins, and how students interacted with the widget. Over 30 different reports were built and customized to collect and easily share this valuable data with campus partners. But perhaps most importantly, new students felt the widget positively enhanced their Orientation experience, commenting on the ‘tech-savvy’ QR code scanner used to check-in to events, and how easy the Orientation widget was to use.

"The Orientation widget was a key pillar in enhancing the service provided to our students at Orientation this year. The widget expedited the registration and check-in process allowing more time for students to connect with one another instead of waiting in line. 

The Portal team went above and beyond in terms of hearing our needs for a new widget, adapting to requested changes and providing us with the reporting and analytic tools that made obtaining necessary information possible with just the click of a button. "

The New Student Transition team

Waterloo Online Shop

online ecommerce purchases
online ecommerce purchases
18Konline transactions
$1.17Min ecommerce sales
140Kpieces of paper saved

A secure, centralized ecommerce solution

In 2016, Finance and IST collaborated to investigate and select a standardized, central ecommerce tool that would aid in the online collection of revenues, automate revenue reporting, comply with established PCI standards, and help reduce the risks associated with historical, non-standard and unsupported solutions. The Shopify platform was chosen as the base tool for University ecommerce activities, providing an online payment tool tied to a basic registration platform.

In 2017, the Shopify ecommerce service grew significantly to provide support for the sale of services not authorized in other areas. The new University of Waterloo Online Shop, a centralized ecommerce store, provides improved security and manageability of orders, while offering its users a convenient, online solution. Payment information for a broad range of activities (e.g. field trips, transcripts, events/conferences) can be collected and recorded, and comprehensive reports shared easily with individual areas.

Since moving sales to the central online shop, areas have seen a significant reduction in paper processing and departmental foot traffic, as well as the near elimination of risks associated with non-payment. Over $1M in ecommerce purchases were fulfilled through the Waterloo Online Shop in 2017.

"Working with IST on this project has been great. They have really taken on a lot of the “heavy lifting” in terms of project organization and communications with other areas on campus. I am quite confident that the project would have stalled without their help, especially considering the time requirements/demands placed on Finance staff during the Unit4 implementation.

Moving forward, I am glad that they continue to be active participants in this project. Having a collaboration between Finance and IST allows us to ensure that appropriate focus is given to both the financial and technical aspects of the Shopify solution, which, in my opinion, has been a huge reason for the success we have had to date, and is why the solution will continue to be successful in the future."

Tyler Wendland, Manager, Revenue Accounting, Finance


measuring analytics and project reporting
measuring analytics and project reporting
8programs IST is leading/co-leading
42active programs/projects Portfolio Management Group is leading
89active IST programs/projects/initiatives

Working together: smarter, better, faster

Over the last few years, IST and indeed the University, has seen an unprecedented surge in the level of IT related activity on campus, and in response there has been a significant commitment to information systems renewal and infrastructure upgrades. These efforts have included investments in major Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications (e.g., Unit4, Workday, Quest) and systems that support key Waterloo differentiators; the leveraging of cloud capabilities (e.g., Office 365) and information and integration platforms; and a major campus network upgrade. The scale of these efforts identified the need for an updated project and portfolio management tool that could capture all aspects of the work, identify dependencies, and provide increased visibility to the campus.

In 2017, IST selected TeamDynamix (TDX), a leading portfolio and service application, and initiated the first phase of the roll out: capturing the full suite and status of IST projects and initiatives, and administering six pilot projects. Today, staff can report on and view approximately 100 efforts while project teams are able to easily track risks and issues, manage tasks, and build schedules. The tool will continue to evolve our Portfolio and Project management practices over the coming year, extending the capabilities of the tool such as capacity planning and utilization, annual planning, procurement processes and implementation beyond IST.

"TeamDynamix helps us standardize our portfolio and project management practice across IST to a baseline that our teams can follow, bringing a level of accountability, visibility and measurement that previously wasn’t there. We're able to provide our business partners with a more complete picture of what’s happening and how we’re doing. Internally, we can use the information to support decision making."

Connie van Oostveen Manager, Portfolio/Strategy, IST

The Waterloo Studio

media production services
media production services
$100Ksavings over next five years
50%rise in output of video content
3screens/backdrops to choose from

Bringing your media production goals to life

For Media Production Services, 2017 was a year marked by significant growth and change. The Waterloo Studio team moved and settled into a new unique facility, while also updating key production technologies, including new interchangeable backdrops (white, black and a new portable green screen), a new teleprompter, and 4K video production. High quality and inventive production work in the new facility has translated into a 50% rise in the output of creative instructional content and promotional videos produced for faculty and staff campus partners.  

Investments in the TV Broadcast Transmission service saw the formation of two new partnerships. The first, with a local IP video distribution service (Dejero), enabled Waterloo to easily connect to any broadcaster in Canada. The second, with a third-party satellite provider (TV2G0), grants Waterloo the ability to transmit world-wide. Waterloo benefits not only from an all-around higher quality service, but from a savings of $100K over the next five years. 

"Recent efforts by IST to transition us to an IP-based video distribution service saved us considerable budget dollars and have made the University of Waterloo more competitive in the media landscape. The services provided by IST have greatly strengthened Waterloo’s media relations efforts by helping our experts become more accessible to broadcasters and therefore more relevant to journalists worldwide."

Matthew Grant, Director, Media Relations, University Relations

Accessible Information Management (AIM)

Managing student accommodation requests
Managing student accommodation requests
12 296accommodation requests
11 681requests for alternative testing
3524requests for notetaking services

Improving accessibility for Waterloo students

With the aim of providing a convenient, efficient, and confidential online support tool for students with disabilities, AccessAbility Services (AAS) partnered with IST’s Departmental and Campus Applications team to implement an integrated, user-friendly, and secure solution. The result of this collaboration is the Accessible Information Management system (AIM), which has transformed the way in which AAS services are provisioned across campus. AIM facilitates applications, appointments, case management, academic accommodations, and offers an interface for students to interact virtually with AAS staff.

IST then provided an in-depth review of business processes, identifying areas for improvement, and opportunities to implement technical solutions in AIM. Through these efforts a Notetaking Services module was launched. Benefits include automated communications, earlier visibility into which courses require note-takers, and a user-friendly note transfer mechanism for students. AAS has been able to repurpose the time previously spent on service administration to focus on much needed note-taker recruitment efforts. 

In winter 2018, AAS will launch a module for students who require textbooks in an alternative format. The focus will then switch to developing a Faculty Portal that will improve the experience for instructors with students requiring accommodations. This continued partnership has ensured AAS is in a position to leverage a modern and efficient information system to provide invaluable support to Waterloo students.

"IST's support in launching a new software system that helped make AccessAbility Services more accessible for students was invaluable. IST was a true partner throughout this process, taking the time to thoroughly understand our current processes and help us envision a new way forward. They genuinely cared about what was important to our unit and ensured the solutions provided were in alignment with our goals. They were with us each step of the way to ensure we were confident in using the system to its fullest capacity. My experience has only been positive, and I am grateful for the ongoing support that IST has to offer."

Jennifer Gillies, Associate Director, AccessAbility Services

Cyber Security Risk Assessment

Securing data stored in the cloud
Securing data stored in the cloud
11Kaverage # of malware attachments stopped
49Kaverage # of phishing attempts quarantined
900SSL certificates issued

Know the risks, keep your data safe

In 2017, building upon an established privacy and security impact assessment (PSIA) model, Information Security Services (ISS) instituted a more comprehensive Cyber Security Risk Assessment process, designed to help evaluate and support the security risks associated with the implementation of new initiatives on campus. A growing university-wide adoption of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud-based applications necessitated the process be robust but adaptable, capable of providing the campus community with as much support as needed to effectively manage the risks associated with their initiatives.

After a Business Impact Assessment (BIA) has been completed, ISS staff, in partnership with campus experts in key departments including IST, Finance, Procurement & Contract Services, Secretariat, and Office of Research Ethics, provide cyber security guidance in the areas of request for proposal (RFP) development and reviews, documentation and contract reviews, and security testing.

ISS advised on 24 new initiatives in 2017, half of which used the new process.

"It was a relief to find support through UW’s Information Security Services. Right off the bat, they raised important questions that I hadn’t considered before and pointed me to useful resources to clarify what I needed to consider when designing our website. They also helped me review pre-existing contracts to identify where I need clarification or more information. I wish I’d known about them sooner."

Kelly Grindrod, PharmD, MSc, Assistant Professor, School of Pharmacy

Skype for Business (S4B)

Cloud communication infrastructure
Cloud communication infrastructure
200KSkype audio calls made
208% increase in Skype accounts created
$27Ksavings in equipment costs

Enhancing infrastructure communications

Originally implemented on campus in 2013, Skype for Business (S4B) helped address a gap in available online connected technologies for staff and faculty. Now, with over 29,000 active accounts and it’s growing suite of tools, S4B is changing the way staff, faculty, and students engage and collaborate online.

For Waterloo’s Co-operative Education & Career Action team, S4B is integral to the efficient and effective operation of their co-op interview process. In October, staff used the tool to conduct 760 online interviews and logged over 990 hours with the conference feature.

It’s convenience and ease of use made it an inherent choice for the new Student Service Centre, a current project that saw the removal of legacy desk phones from Student Success Office (SSO), Registrar’s Office (RO), and Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA), and the migration of their full communications experience to Skype for Business. This work increased the total number of enterprise voice users to 350, a gain of 150 users since 2016, reflecting a trend that is certain to continue.

"Skype for Business has drastically decreased the number of support calls we get during interviews. Using a single URL to join employers and students has cut back on issues with "Accepting Friend Requests” or not having the correct userid to share a webcam with. It also allows us to provide immediate client support as we do not need to rely on a third party to assist us."

Shad Lusted, Technical Support Specialist, CECA

Agile Innovation Platform

Centralizing key communication and collaboration platforms
Centralizing key communication and collaboration platforms
Confluence38 000 pages spread across 91 collaborative spaces by 468 users
JIRA10 000tasks across 37 projects in use by 319 users
Mattermost92 000posts spread across 27 teams created by 377 users

Centralizing key communication and collaboration platforms

IST’s Information and Integration Management team worked this past year to centralize key communication, collaboration, and information management tools, providing campus with an agile, innovative platform capable of supporting a broad range of work. The platform is comprised of three tools: Confluence, which allows teams to create shared knowledge bases; JIRA, a tool for easily tracking and managing shared tasks; and Mattermost, a real-time chat tool that allows for a number of integrations to keep teams in sync. Using one or all three of these tools, the platform has improved the way teams like The Embedded Software Group, CEL, IST, and IQC work by changing how they work.

Groups can easily create linked rich-text pages and track team tasks. There is support for LaTeX and git source code repositories, and changes in git repositories can reference work tasks. Commenting and discussions can be attached to pages, PDFs, and images, and a diagraming tool, draw.io, allows for in-browser drawing.

Perhaps most importantly, the centrally offered platform is facilitating the formation of meaningful connections with colleagues, not only from across campus, but within the group or department as well. Increased opportunity for communication, collaboration, and information sharing translates into success at all levels.

"The industry standard for agile software development management, JIRA facilitates our sprint planning meetings and scrums, helps estimate tasks through story pointing, and calculates our average velocity providing a better idea of what we can realistically accomplish in a given time. Jira has helped us prioritize the constant stream of development requests we get and deliver results in a more timely manner, which means happier customers."

Andrew McAlorum, Director, Client Services

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Andrew McAlorum
Director, Client Services