Information Technology Services concludes campus-wide listening sessions

Oct 05, 2018

A new strategic plan to help guide Iowa State University’s Information Technology Services (ITS) department is in the works, with the help of recently collected feedback from stakeholder groups across campus.

Starting in April, an engagement project designed to gather information about the strengths and weaknesses of ITS was kickstarted by Chief Information Officer (CIO) Kristen Constant, as part of efforts to create a new five-year department strategic plan to replace its predecessor — which expired in 2015.

The new strategic plan will outline how ITS will help further the university’s mission through promoting leadership and services to students, faculty, and staff. And as part of designing the new plan, the last six months were spent conducting listening sessions with university students, faculty, staff, and administrators, the last of which wrapped up in mid-September.

“Some on campus expressed they did not feel ITS was responsive to the needs of all constituencies,” said Constant, who assumed the role of interim CIO last December, and immediately identified the development of a current department strategy as a priority. “Most strategic planning processes begin with an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. I thought the best way to do this was to start campus-wide conversations.”

Ten listening sessions were held between April and September, and were facilitated by University Human Resources Learning and Development Consultant Krisdeena Jansen, who works with campus organizations and departments to improve team effectiveness, develop strategic plans, and provide performance improvement recommendations.

University Human Resources Learning and Development Consultant Krisdeena jansen holds a listening session with a group of ITS staff members in September. Photo by Caitlin Ware

Whether meeting with researchers, members of ISU’s Student Government, or ITS staff, Jansen posed the same core questions to each stakeholder group: What is not working well when it comes to IT, what is working well, and what is needed from IT in order to help each group succeed?

According to Jansen, the results from the feedback sessions were fairly consistent across all groups. A major theme was a general knowledge and appreciation of ITS as a campus resource, from assisting with email and internet to providing web development services and equipment checkout. However, making those resources more readily accessible was identified as an area for improvement. Communication — both within the department and with the campus as a whole — was also highlighted as an area to address.

“It’s a direct link to the people that are being served,” Jansen said of the listening session process. I think it’s fantastic to see a department, especially one as big as ITS, working so diligently to have genuine growth and improvement for the overall campus. The steps that have been taken are really big.”

With feedback from the recent listening sessions in hand, ITS leaders will turn their attention to collecting similar feedback from the Faculty Senate Technology Committee next, before compiling and analyzing the input to establish a first draft of the new strategic plan. The draft will be shared with the campus community for additional feedback and input at a later date.

Throughout the planning process, special attention will be given to the role of ITS in supporting university research. As part of strategic planning, ITS is also developing a more robust governance structure to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency of decision making.

“We need to ensure we understand what people need, but also, they need to understand and believe our intent is to serve their needs,” Constant said. “We really want this strategic plan to help inform decisions. Being inclusive is always slower, but it is also the right thing to do.”