The CIC TechForum 2007 Experience - Indianapolis, IN

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I'm back and finally feeling a little more organized (only a little). I had the opportunity to attend CIC-CIO TechForum this year and I have to say that it was the best one I've ever attended. Though I have only been to two others (2001 and 2003), this year's is definitely my favorite thus far. The theme of this year's TechForum was "Developing IT Leadership for Today and Tomorrow" - a perfect precursor to my next endeavor, the ITLP program, which begins in November. It was a great, and very timely, theme. From my perspective, I enjoyed the recognition of "people behind the technology" and that you can't really deliver IT services at a high caliber to your users without good and motivated people behind such services. Technology happens because of the people working hard to deliver it. Below is a summary of the sessions I took in.

Wednesday, October 3
Keynote Speaker, Brian McDonald, MOR Associates
I finally had the opportunity to hear Brian speak - I can't think of a better way to have kicked-off this conference. He was great - realistic, enthusiastic, inspiring. For some, his keynote was a refresher in their respective ITLP experiences. For me, it was an introduction to a new phase and journey into developing a more leaderful and leaderly self. His talk was interactive, as attendees participated in answering key questions about leadership, why it's important, what's being developed and why it's important. I also had the opportunity to meet and speak with Brian on Wednesday evening - many thanks to my colleagues (and mentors) Jim Vuccolo and Jim Leous for setting that one up. ;-)

Professional Development Track: Bridging the Gap between Internal and External IT

*Multiple Channels: Building an IT Community Across Campus – Scott Leeman, Iowa: excellent presentation about working across campus to connect central IT information to the IT community and thus to users. They use a secure IM/Jabber system across campus, which I thought was very interesting. There is proactive dialogue with different departments, fostering an IT community. They also have IT community round tables, which help to further develop the feedback and community aspect.
*The Ambassador Model: Cultivating Local Experts at Iowa – Aprille Clarke and Kyle Gassiott, Iowa: Another great presentation, and a nice transition from the first one for this session (noted above). Aprille and Kyle summarized two programs they have instituted at IOWA: the SITA program (Student Instructional Technology Assts)
ICON College Admins. - Iowa Courses Online - course management. With SITA, students are housed in the unit and work on projects based w/ faculty. Both undergraduate and graduate students participate, so a variety of disciplines are represented. The ICON Collegiate Administration program is a branch of the ICON (Iowa Courses Online) project, Iowa’s enterprise course management system. The program helps to create local experts to perform administrative tasks that would have normally been performed by central IT.
*Bridging Relationships: View from Two Leadership Styles and Cultures” – Janda Hankinson and Renee Shuey, Penn State: Janda and Renee did an excellent job at capturing the different and unique aspects of their respective leadership roles - and how they differ - within ITS. Both Janda and Renee also shared how they have harnessed their respective ITLP experiences - how they have brought the experience back to their staff, their environment, etc. They discussed the value of collaboration, building relationships/connections/trust with staff, adjusting to different settings and knowing when and how to use your personal style. Recommended reading included The Five Levels of Listening by Stephen Cubby.

ITIL Track: ITIL and Project Management

*ITIL and the Project Manager – You Can’t have one without the Other” – Andrea Stevens, University of Michigan: Good presentation that captured their implementation of ITIL process improvement; good overview of project management and how a project can absolutely sink or swim without it, and how planning communication is crucial to the entire process and helps to determine the success or failure of a project.
* Project Management Framework and Links to ITIL Processes – Barbara Stimpson, University of Wisconsin - Madison: UW-Madison's Division of Information Technology (DoIT) created a project management framework. It combines industry best practices, the experience of DoIT project managers, and customer perspectives. The PM framework is publicly accessible, and audience members/other CIC institutions are invited to collaborate and share, to help continue the improvement of these processes.

I hope to check it out once all of my travel is over and done with at the end of Oct. It would be cool, I think, if ITS could have a more centralized project management tool - one that could be flexible and adaptable for units' needs (centralized but distributed). Just a thought I would like to explore at some point.

Professional Development Track
Mentoring Panel

* Janda Hankinson
Penn State

* Cathy O'Bryan
Assistant Director, User Services
University of Wisconsin-Madison

* Ben Arnold
Help Desk Team Lead
University of Iowa

* Ron Thielen
Enterprise Architect
University of Chicago

This was a great panel discussion about different mentoring experiences. Interestingly enough, those on the panel who have been mentored are often mentored by people who don't even realize that he/she is a mentor. The moderator, Garland Elmore, Deputy CIO, Indiana University, seemed really fascinated by this aspect of mentoring. Both Cathy and Janda talked about their ITLP experiences as well, and shared some insights about coaching and mentoring, as well as coaching vs. mentoring.

Thursday, October 4

Robyn Render, Vice President for Information Resources and CIO, University of North Carolina, General Administration
I actually didn't take too many notes on this one; however, Robyn discussed "Leadership without Authority." In summary, doing such is focusing on leadership and not on management - and we all know there is a difference! She outlined how leading and not managing creates opportunities for technical and organizational leadership - I thought that she had a lot of good things to say, and I recommend a review of the .pdf of her presentation. Likewise, there is a podcast. Both are available via the section of the program for Thursday's agenda.

Professional Development Track
Moving to Management

Presentation 1
Moving to Management: Lessons Learned Along the Way, Chris Payne
Manager, UITS IT Training & Education, Indiana University

Presentation 2
Transition into Management: Navigating the Neutral Zone, Craig Rosenberger
Team Leader, Student Academic Records Systems, Michigan State University

Presentation 3
Lifesaving Tools, Resources, and Coaching Methods for Managers, Gale Stafford
Application Service Manager, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

These were a great set of presentations (my notes are a core dump here from the notes I took at the session). For the first, Chris talked about being shocked out of your comfort zone - welcome to management! It's fundamentally different from being a staff member. There are new/different perspectives and responsibilities that you have to adopt. Keeping focused on the larger view/having a broader perspective. Staff want and need a leader.

Navigating the Neutral Zone
Craig Rosenberger
Michigan State University

Change vs. Transition (book - William Bridges - Managing Change)

Neutral Zone - fuzzy edges, irregular, changing shape, gray interior - and there is more than one!

Entering the Zone - grieving; anxiety, self-doubt; disorientation; weaknesses emerge; overload.

Surviving - have a sense of humor; apply the skills that got you the new position in the first place; commit to the change; accept ambiguity; get involved.

Surviving continued - mentors and support system - very important!

Leaving the Zone - can't define it but I know it when I see it - ownership replaces stewardship; comfortable in your own shoes; on to the next transition!

Thoughts on Style - "You only succeed when they do." Don't micro-manage! Observe the Golden Rule. Keep promises. Acknowledge your "learning experiences" (failures if you don't learn from them!). Lead by example - leading by example is unavoidable. Advertise your people's successes. Distribute credit freely. Be aware of generational differences.

The third presentation by Galen Stafford shared tools, resources, and some coaching strategies that have helped him during his first 18 months as a manager. He manages the campus e-mail service at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. So, it's not surprising that he talked about e-mail as an effective communication tool - some of us would beg to differ, but his point was that you can use e-mail effectively vs. just using it - there is a huge difference between the two - use it conscientiously. Galen also talked about the value of building strong communications skills, project planning, and work habits along with building technical skills. I liked some of his coaching tips/strategies - about acknowledging good work but when someone does make a mistake, it's important to lead someone to improve for the next time - look for opportunities to continue to raise the bar.

Closing Plenary Session Panel
First 100 Days as a CIO...and Beyond

* Brad Wheeler, Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer, Indiana University
* Gerry McCartney, Vice President of Information Technology and CIO, Purdue University
* Ron Kraemer, Chief Information Officer and Vice Provost for Information Technology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

One word: AMAZING! I really enjoyed this panel and it demonstrated to me that Penn State's CIO is in very good company with like-minded individuals. What I valued and appreciated most is that there is a collective realization (and growth to) that the technology we deliver means nothing without good people and leaders behind it - and that it can't be delivered well or continue to move forward. I like that this leadership perspective isn't just contained to ITS at Penn State, but that some of our peer institutions are on the same wavelength.

Have to note this: When Ron Kramer noted that he no longer carried a PDA, many people clapped in the audience - myself included. I thought it was interesting, but I also saw it as one of his strategies for balancing work-->life, as well as balancing the way in which he works. I thought it was interesting to note.

Travel back to State College via Indianapolis Airport and Dulles Airport
This will be shared in another blog entry! It was interesting to say the least, but a testament to the cross-team work that can and does happen in ITS.

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thanks for sharing your experiences. I agree this Forum is great because it facilitates sharing across the CIC. It's so nice to see that our peers share the same issues. For those who didn't attend, the session materials are now on line

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