What's happening in IST

New services, helpful resources, and more

In this recurring article we highlight some of the exciting IT services, initiatives, and/or resources available to the Waterloo campus community. Learn more about how we're working to support the learning, teaching, research, and administrative needs of the University.  

IST Strategic Plan

IST Strategic Plan 2017-2020

About the new plan

Beginning in the fall of 2016 and throughout the winter of 2017, IST has been developing a strategic plan. Framed for IST from 2017 to 2020, the new IST Strategic Plan deals with near term needs and sets the stage for alignment with a new university-wide plan anticipated in 2020. The Plan has two key components: the strategy and the work.


The strategy component includes a Mission, Vision, Goal and 5 strategic Themes. The strategy is more static, and sets direction and focuses the work of the plan.


The work of IST’s new plan is the how of the strategy, comprised of 5 areas for action and involves new projects and initiatives to achieve the strategy.

The strategy and work addresses important campus partner initiatives, recognizes external influences, and deals with internal matters we know we need to focus on. The new plan also recognizes that we have a great deal of operational work (where IST will continue to maintain our commitment to excellence) and a significant body of inflight work, such as the Workday program and the campus network renewal effort.

Strategic Plan components

Vision, mission, goal

IST’s Vision links us back to the University’s strategic plan by enabling the University’s mission through the delivery of exceptional teaching, learning, research and administrative environments.

Our Mission enables the exceptional environments through engagement, incubation, creativity and impact. “Together we deliver” is the goal.

The goal enables IST to focus on working together to foster stronger relationships with campus partners as a group, and be focused on delivering high-quality, valued and savvy solutions and services.

The Vision, Mission and Goal may sound vaguely familiar. They are updated and an evolution of the previous IT strategic plan, focused on IST. They include the more recent needs of our business partners, IST, external influences and those we support.

Our process

The process for collecting the needs, understanding what external influences we need to consider, what we do well, not so well, opportunities, etc.; in other words, the process of this strategic plan, is on IST’s website and can be referenced for further information.

Consultations with students, IST staff, senior business and technical leaders across the University, and results from IST Excellence Canada bronze work lead to 5 strategic, common themes:

  • Data – needs for improved information,
  • Process and Business Integration – a broad campus need to support business process renewal and system integrations,
  • Communications and Relationships – opportunities to improve communications and awareness of our work,
  • Tools and Techniques – the what and the how for IST and how we support those needs, and
  • User Experience – embedding user experience in the work we do. 

Areas for action 

The work of this strategic plan is described by our new goal and the 5 areas for action. “Together we deliver” encompasses the cultural changes that need to occur to execute the strategy, such as training, learning and education, and includes 5 compelling areas for action.

5 compelling areas for action and 1 goal

  1. Taking stock of Knowledge and Information Assets

IST has talent, experience and expertise. The work and services of IST are valued. Clients (employees, students) and IST Staff are not always aware of the best tools, resources and services that are available for a given need/request, and how and when to tap into the talent and expertise in IST. In a complex IT environment, IST is being challenged to deliver with more urgency and agility.

Taking stock of Knowledge and Information Assets will enable clarity, better planning, and better utilization of resources and assets (e.g. existing tools are better utilized).

  1. Delivery – driven, - dependable, - developing and – designed

Delivery of IST services and solutions has become more complex with mobile technology and apps, cloud technology, and SaaS services. The complexity comes with the need to deliver consistently and faster while still maintaining high quality services and innovative solutions. It was acknowledged that sometimes IST does need to be ponderous and less risk adverse, while other times quick and/or interim solutions are fine. The user experience needs to be considered when designing solutions and services. Delivery through incubation is an area to explore for IST.

  1. Data – discovered, - designed, - delivered and – driven

In every external consultation during the IST strategic planning process, data was mentioned. Data is an asset for the organization and IST is well-positioned to facilitate the management of data for the organization. IST’s business partners made requests to advance capabilities across UW for data management, requesting everything from: data discovery (documenting what we have), access, availability, integration by design, focused and timely delivery of the greatest data needs of UW; to: data warehousing, dashboards, visualizations, analytics, and data-informed decision making. Our business partners recognize that foundational elements of data management need to be in place before analytics and data-informed decision making can occur.

  1. Build a framework for Communications

IST is good at communicating incidents and announcing changes. We are good at developing client relationships one on one. Our clients are not always sure what we are working on and it is sometimes difficult to navigate services. It is often hard to provide feedback on services received and know that the feedback is being consumed. IST groups often work indirectly with end users. IST is available and willing to help. We are not always sure of the functions and responsibilities of other IST groups. IST is challenged to tell its story.

  1. Governance

In the context of this strategic plan, governance covers how and who makes what decisions; how work is prioritized and aligns to UW, department and IST goals; where IST is a leader, partner, doer; where the federated model can exist; and how risk and compliance are managed and monitored. Two areas of governance often discussed during our consultations: tools – managing organic to enterprise grow of tools such as email, SharePoint, ePortfolio; and data – facilitation, collaboration, privacy and security standards. The number of large projects we have on the go in IST is unprecedented. Governance enables IST to focus on the most critical work.

What's next

Over the next few weeks, we will confirm the work for each area for action, receive feedback from campus and complete the plan documents. And of course, we have to execute the work of the plan. Look to our website where we will be publishing the strategy and the work and providing progress updates.

Connie van Oostveen and David Kibble welcome your discussion, comments and feedback. 

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What is it?

Mattermost is an open source communication tool that allows members of individual groups, departments, and the campus community to effectively collaborate and chat in a more informal setting than traditional methods. It is similar to a tool called Slack that you may have heard of or used before. Teams and channels can be created, which allows for more focused discussions. It also allows searching of all shared message contents over time. You can think of Mattermost as a forum—a digital agora for people to gather in groups, talk, share, and connect around topics. There is usually a blend of personal and work discussions that help keep groups connected even when they're apart.

Cool features!

Mattermost supports sharing documents, source code, LaTeX, and links within a scrolling log of chat. People are able to message others directly (to get their attention) or simply have a discussion with anyone who happens to be in the chat at any given time. Mattermost has clients for Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, and Linux (as well as a web client).

One of the real strengths of Mattermost is the availability of integrations and bots to allow chat sessions to connect directly to other systems and to automate tasks on a user’s behalf without leaving the chat window.  Mattermost is branded as a Slack replacement so if you find integrations that work with Slack, we can often find a way to make them work in Mattermost.

One of the popular integrations in Mattermost today is ‘giphy’—an integration that queries the popular GIF website giphy.com and responds to the current chat channel with a picture to convey a sentiment. As an example, typing “/giphy great job” into a chat window responds with this picture:

Man with two thumbs up and two other thumbs beside his headOn the surface this might seem goofy, but in practice it adds some excitement to the chat experience and keeps those in the channel engaged. Groups also have more practical integrations that notify them of changes to source control systems; track system issues; and even the ability to kick off Skype for Business calls directly from your Mattermost chat session.

How do I get it?

After pilots with research groups in the Faculty of Engineering and IT support groups across campus, IST has commenced a soft launch of Mattermost. If you believe you could benefit from a team chat service, we are inviting people to register that interest with IST through RT. As we understand campus interest, we will plan a more complete rollout over the coming months.

Fun Fact: Mattermost's CEO is a proud University of Waterloo alumni. Ian Tien graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science, Computer Engineering

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IST is pleased to announce the launch of Qualtrics, a powerful online enterprise-class survey system, to support the needs of our campus community with respect to secure, confidential surveys for all use-cases.

Features of this new service include:

  • Create questionnaires from scratch or using pre-made questionnaires.
  • Access to a vast library of question types and response options.
  • Ability to produce and edit detailed reports and export to multiple formats.
  • Data is stored and backed up in a Canadian data centre.  
  • File upload add-on: additional feature allows respondents to upload files with their survey response(s).

This service is available for all staff, faculty and graduate students. For more information, visit our Qualtrics page in the service catalogue.

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UWaterloo Scholar

What is UWaterloo Scholar?

The University of Waterloo is using OpenScholar, an open source software solution built on Drupal, to provide dynamic and customizable personal websites for Waterloo faculty and researchers. Faculty and researcher personal sites are offered on a self-serve basis and are built using the WatIAM userid of the faculty member or researcher.

Why UWaterloo Scholar?

Easy to create and maintain websites
It takes seconds to create a website. Friendly user interface that makes it easy to maintain websites from anywhere through a web browser, without any technical expertise.

Open source and strong community
Built on top of Drupal and a full stack of open source tools and technologies. Used by many academic institutions worldwide.

Scalable solution
A multitenant architecture that allows academic institutions to host thousands of websites in a single instance of the application.

Benefits of UWaterloo Scholar

This new service will allow faculty members and researchers to quickly and easily build personal websites using an interface that is logical and intuitive, and does not require previous programming or coding experience.

Faculty and Researcher sites deliver a secure, professional environment for the promotion of academic work and achievements, while fostering online collaboration opportunities and providing an enhanced end-user experience for site visitors.

The easy to use site tools and features allow users to self-manage their content, creating site sections unique to the needs of each user. Whether it’s building a robust Publications library, creating an interactive blog post, or advertising upcoming events or workshops, the Waterloo Faculty and Researcher site template will meet your needs.

Get started on your new UWaterloo Scholar page today!

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