Information Systems & Technology (IST) reorganization

There is a book by Marshall Goldsmith titled “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”. While the book is about leadership, the title is very relevant as to why organizations need to reorganize from time to time. IST’s reorganization was called “Organize for Success”. That was quickly shortened to “OFS”. The reorganization was done to position IST to best implement the initiatives in the UW IT Strategic Plan, which lays out the vision, mission, principles and values, priorities and architecture foundations for the next 5 years to advance the state of IT at the University of Waterloo. There was some discussion about the timing of the OFS. Should it run in parallel with the IT Strategic Plan or after it? The decision was made to do the reorganization in parallel as a lot of consultations were planned and this would take time. This was a good decision. The reorganization started in October 2012 and ended in November 2013.

The following objectives were identified before the reorganization started:

  • Align IST organization design with the campus-wide IT Strategic Plan (hence the name ‘Organize for Success’).
  • Engage key stakeholders in broad consultations, and foster a sense of partnership.
  • Review existing services and processes in IST.
  • Best practices analysis and comparison of other universities and their IT organizations.  
  • Communications plan and a series of staff and campus information sessions to provide progress reports on the project.
  • Create a Client Representative role to provide an access point for services, new project planning, escalations, advice and guidance.
  • Common set of services with tailored service level agreements (SLAs) required. 
  • Create a usability team and renovate core systems in terms of user experience.
  • Create a Project Management Office.
  • Deploy a knowledge base and incent employees to contribute content.

The outcomes of the reorganization include:

  • A newly organized Technology Integrated Services Group, combining two existing groups (Networking, Computing Systems Services).
  • Two new IST groups were created, Enterprise Architecture and Portfolio Management. Colin Bell is the new Director of Enterprise Architecture. Dave Kibble is the Director of Portfolio Management.
  • An enhanced Information Security Services group which now includes Identity and Access Management (IAM) staff that used to work in Information Systems.
  • A newly organized Enterprise Systems group.
  • A new management team in all the IST groups, to help with strategy, service, and staff development. Training will be provided to the new management team, including ongoing mentoring.  
  • 61 of 163 IST staff had no change in their jobs. 74 staff had a change in supervisor only (role identical), and 28 staff were mapped in on incumbency (at least 60% incumbency level).

The process for the reorganization is summarized below:

  • There were 12 expressions of interest positions which were only available to IST staff. The positions were advertised to IST staff in June, staff expressed their interest in July and August, and interviews were held in September. Staff were required to submit a resume. The jobs were posted on an internal IST website, and staff expressed interest by filling out an online form. This worked very well.
  • If a staff member was already doing a newly defined role for 60% or more of their time the staff member was mapped into the role.   
  • New positions were identified and advertised to the campus. These were identified as immediate need, 6-12-18 months out. Not all positions have been filled.

There were many lessons learned, including:

  • You can never do too much communication. Ensure regular communication with staff and provide ample opportunities for feedback during the process.
  • Meetings with staff association provided opportunities for staff to express concerns.
  • Ensure to engage key stakeholders (faculty, staff and students) early in broad consultations, and foster a sense of partnership.
  • Engagement from Human Relations/Staff Relations early in the process was very important.
  • Talk to others who have done a re-org - lessons learned from CECA’s reorganization and other universities were very helpful.

While the reorganization project has officially ended with a project closure presentation to UCIST, IST will continue to make changes to make improvements. These include:

  • IST will continue to refine and evolve the organization based on client needs and opportunities with the federated model.   
  • IST will continue to inform IST staff about new roles in the two new IST groups, Enterprise Architecture and Portfolio Management. This will help staff understand and develop workflow in IST.
  • Training has been provided to the new management team. Training has been organized by Organizational and Human Development (OHD).

There are projects underway that will benefit from IST’s new organization design, including:

  • Create Service Level Agreements (SLA) with stakeholders: faculties, academic support departments, Library. Also, create Service Level Expectations (SLE) for IST core services and core applications. Some areas may require an Operational Level Agreement (OLA).
  • Implement a new request tracking system. Benefits include creation of a knowledge base, usability, and metrics.
  • Implement an asset management system.
  • Implement IT best practices.

As the project lead for the reorganization there are some thoughts that I would like to share.  The “expression of interest” process was stressful for all involved. IST Directors conducted the interviews, and partnered with another Director.  Learn Visio or some other software that allows you to create and edit organization charts. It’s hard to know the perfect timeline for a reorganization. Some staff felt it took too long, some thought it was quick. Some wanted to provide more input and be more involved in determining changes. I thought that the 13 months for such a large reorganization was reasonable. I wouldn’t want it to be any longer.

Thanks to our guest blogger, Bob Hicks.

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