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Communications and Moving Targets, CIO Blogging
September 11, 2009
Virtual Coffee Shop presenter was Carolyn Ellis from the University of Texas at San Antonio.
The audio dialogue was scribed by Carlyn Chatfield. The chat dialogue is at the end of the audio dialogue.
Audio Conversations captured during Virtual Coffee Shop:
- How do your communications adapt to moving target dates for your projects?
- Brief presentation in PPT.
- Start rolling out communication plan for project and then you get the word that the project is on hold, cease and desist, etc.
- Here at UTSA, about 30% of our communications are on downtime, outages, etc. and 70% are communications regarding projects.
- For us, project communications are about changes coming, impact, preparation, etc.
- PM life cycle…do you have Project Management offices? Our triggers are:
- Project announced
- Project beings
- User advocacy
- Launch date established
- Go/No go date set
- Delays…can occur any time, bad PR when project has been announced, when launch date already announced, it is WORSE. After the go/no date has passed, well, it’s just priceless to announce the project is now “on hold”
- So what to do
- Early on, just work it into the messages
- After the GO date (few days or one week before launch) +
- Web site updates, Help Desk notified (equip them with talking points)
- Email template to mitigate damage
- Update field support staff
- Contact big stakeholders directly
- NOW Avoid creation of posters/flyers with dates for all projects
- Discussion: Projects defined: they have a beginning and an end. Usually involve multiple areas in IT, also involve multiple departments across campus.
- Rice – Carlyn - hasn’t identified what are formal projects and what are initiatives and changes (lots of communications on those, few official projects like a new network or new email system)
- Miami – Cathy – upgrading Banner, sending announcements coming, will send announcements week of. A Blackboard upgrade 2 summers ago failed and we had to bail out. I had to do a number of communications then, sorry, it’s taking longer than we thought, then later, sorry, it’s not coming at all. Frequently we don’t find out from PMs what they are doing until it’s ready to go live and then they think “oh maybe we ought to tell somebody” and they pull in IT communications.
- UTSA- just beginning to be integrated in PM process. Used to be thrown in as the cherry on top, now actually being consulted in the beginning. We have 2 PMs, possibly more on the way. Communications on the PM side, depends on good PM planning and considering how communications are important in the beginning.
- Size of staff?
- UTSA – staffing: 3 employees under Carolyn; graphic designer, web person, writer– GR/UG population 28,5000.
- Rice – staffing 1 part-time writer under Carlyn – GR/UG population 5,000.
- Miami – staffing 1 person under 15,000
- Albany – no further staffing 18,000
- Alabama – 1 writer and 5 UG students under – 28,000
- RIT – split between everyday and emergence comms. 1-3 students under Ben, graphics outsourced, 16,000
- NCSU – no further staffing, may get intern from PR school. 28500
- North Florida – no further staffing, 16,000
- Anyone else have PMs in IT?
- Rice on part-time PM, not really a good set up
- North Florida - PM – group leadership meeting 1 x weekly, helped much keep track of current projects. However that weekly meeting disbanded. Others felt it wasn’t that helpful. Now just have a web app for weekly status reports.
- Miami – fairly young PM office in centralized office, 2 full time employees, manage a few projects, mostly help other IT unit PMs manage their own projects.
- UTSA – if for most of us PM is a pretty young concept or development,
- Alabama – PM office, we work closely with them and we are fortunate that they pull us in at the beginning. The PM handles specific stakeholder, etc. communications but IT communications group handle broadcast (community wide) communications.
- Albany – does that mean people managing project communications - is that internal comms?
- Alabama – that is exactly correct.
- UTSA – that is the same for us.
- Alabama – there are certain communications tools – student, faculty, etc. channels, probably the same at your universities as well. Those channels don’t change much, and now we just churn them out. We do work with university PR to manage communications.
- UTSA- we do this new thing, the fac/staff versus students channels.
- Albany- Related but a little different for PM office universities, curious – when you are working with the PM, do you ever run into situation when they want to share with broader audience than you think is appropriate?
- Alabama – I’ve been fortunate to lay down the law in my pseudo-ivory tower and it’s my way or the highway. There are definitely issues that come up, maybe a political or institutional issue comes up, but we really don’t have a lot of cheese to go around so usually we get everything worked out.
- Miami – our tech staff are SO glad they don’t have to handle communications that they usually go with what we recommend.
- UTSA- agree with Alabama and Miami, it’s not that the tech staff is scared, but they would prefer me to do more as CYA efforts.
- Albany – more CYA concern than perhaps we need. But then I look at the group and think “they are SO not going to want to get this message.” I can usually take responsibility of someone is mad about
- Rice – never know when someone is going to feel like they “of all people” should have been told way in advance something was going to be down.
- Albany – when you try to get faculty engaged, it is more difficult to get responses from them on what is or isn’t going to work about downtime windows. But is there ever a time when everyone is going to be happy that service is down?
- ALL: no!
- Albany – can ask them, when can you get your oil changed in your car if you are driving it all day long?
- North Florida – maintenance window every Sunday morning, tell every new faculty, staff when they come on board and train them correctly.
- Alabama – trying to beef up DR, emergency preparedness. Trying to increase our capability and more robust testing, DR (disaster recovery), trying to meet that need and community need by beefing up our armaments. We are fortunately funded for that and getting support from the provost.
- Rice – you are the second university that I’ve heard in this stage. I just send a copy of my crisis communications binder to them, would you like a copy? It is only IT communications, not university wide. Would that help? Alabama – most definitely!
- UTSA – had some grandiose ideas then got caught up in other channels.
- Albany – if you don’t have regular things to put out there. Our web site is in an horrible mess and we don’t want to drive anyone to it, that should change in the next few months, but for now, we don’t want to start up the blogging if we can’t keep it up and support with supplemental info.
- UTSA – CIO is hoping the select points he’s targeting will build up IT plant, infrastructure support. Using active directory and subscription to keep blog private.
- Rice – not pushing with our VPIT because I have to do all his writing and I don’t want to be blogging for him.
- Albany and UTSA – agreed, most IT communicators will be doing the writing.
- Alabama – what’s taking shape for us is that our CIO has a message and there is a lot he wants to communicate. What we’re looking at is a scheduled blog for him, where he’s available at a certain time to answer questions (comments on blog). Haven’t figured out if will be live or just what, but the rest of the time, his blog would be more crisis/outage, up-to-the-moment what’s going on in IT. It would all be “from the CIO” but mostly it would be a feed from the communications director.
- UTSA- we’ve got our feeds, too. Twitter, web sites, etc. External blog for outage announcements, have Internal blog and internal newsletter. One thing we are missing is a more personal blog and that might not ever happen.
- Albany – but maybe the most important thing is the internal blog. How much gets filtered down? The CIO is next-door, I know what she is thinking but I have to remind myself that not everyone else is so tuned in. Internal staff might actually wonder, what keeps her awake at night. That’s really important for morale and internal relations.
- UTSA – yes, I think that is what our CIO is anticipating.
- West Florida – have a very aggressive CIO as far as communiciatons. Only have 60 IT central staff, but he has a monthly Java time, like a coffee shop where he answers questions. He has an internal blog only for IT staff. He has an external blog with montly themes. He has a quarterly update that goes to executive staff. He is building support for IT initiatives. When you DO have a no-go situation like you described, there is a lot more understanding at the high levels due to his communcations. The staff is very supportive and appreciative of that coffee time.
- UTSA – we have about 180 IT central staff. It’s hard to get everyone together for an all-hands meeting. But we’re going to try a twice-yearly meeting. West Florida – not much action blogging back to him, though.
- Alabama – we’re in a hard place, like so many, with more on our desks than we can handle, so why are you pulling me away from my work with a mandatory coffee and donuts time when you’re going to yell at me at the end of the week for missing deadlines?
- West Florida – coffee times are strictly voluntary. …Coming out of a year where we haven’t had any meetings, so these new sessions are well received.
- Miami – we have a number of employees who wonder how in the world we can spend money on donuts or pens when we are laying off people.
- ALL – agreed!
- UTSA – we’re shifting out focus, instead of mugs and food, we’re trying to improve morale with a bigger flow of information.
- NC State – see my notes in the chat archive on our blogs, twitter, etc. We are using fireside chat sessions, videos can be previewed. Not much interaction from community back to CIO. On twitter, he isn’t following anybody, but what kind of message is that sending? Generally, his tweets are “in a meeting, topic is…”
- Florida – the blog responses – you are so right. Because of the level of seniority of the person writing the blog, most employees are hesitant to write back.
- UTSA – our CIO is definitely soliciting feedback. We’ll see how that all pans out.
- Albany – take a look at NCSU’s blogs listed in the archive, nicely done!
- UTSA – I can understand the mindset about putting out less so there is less for people to negatively react to, but we have to overcome that mindset if you want your CIOs to blog.
- NCSU – yes, but you can set the tone with your blogs. Buffalo – trying to guage how comfortable our CIO is with blogging. English is his third language, and he is very friendly and outgoing but is always checking himself to make sure he is communicating correctly what is on his mind. Because of this, he’s not excited about being taped, recorded, etc. Central
- Michigan – our CIO started his blog long before I came along. He’s been doing video podcasts, they are relatively well-produced 10-minute TV shows we put out once a month. He goes out into the residence halls and talks about what’s the latest iPhone app, or what’s the latest thing on campus happening right now.
- UTSA – I’d be interested in the analytics on that.
- Central Michican – it’s the same for the blog, want to know what it’s really driving or what kind of intereste it’s drawing. His blog is password protected, so only people on campus can get to it. But the podcasts are public.
- Albany – ITComm list – Kevin Reeve started up a thread that had a lively following, and Carlyn and I asked him if he’d be interested in hosting a coffee shop talk on web site redesign. He’s kindly agreed to share ideas and share ideas at the next coffee shop. Everyone, go in to the chat and indicate if you are managing your university’s web site.
- Carolyn - UTSA:Hi!
- Carlin - Rice:good thing I'm on mute, I'm laughing out loud. Thanks for your candid comments, Cathy!
- Sylvia Maxwell:Do you engage the campus or seek approval from senior management as part of setting a "go" date
- Carolyn - UTSA:The Project Manager is responsible for setting this date with input from stakeholders
- Carlin - Rice:LOLOLOL!
- John (NCSU):I didn't speak earlier (which is FINE) :-) , but for the record NC State, we have three FT people (one manager, who does a lot grunt work with us, one person who focuses on the technical communication and another who focuses on the marketing aspects of communication) and we have 30,000 students and about 7000 faculty
- John (NCSU):Our CIOs blog: http://oit.ncsu.edu/blog/77
- John (NCSU):Our OITs Twitter account: http://twitter.com/mhoit
- John (NCSU):We've also done video "fireside/keyboard side" chats with our cio (vids are at the bottom of the page): http://oit.ncsu.edu/infoplease/video-transcript-oit-powerhour-sessions-interview-dr-hoit
- Carlin - Rice:Sylvia's CIO sounds dreamy (from a communicator's point of view)
- Cathy McVey Miami University:I need to sign off now - thanks for all the great ideas!
- Ben Woelk -- Rochester Institute of Technology:In my corporate life as a communications consultant, we worked with a Fortune 500 company during a bumpy transition to WindowsNT. The key thing we did was producing a monthly newsletter talking about the IT services and how the deployment was progressing. The most important thing we did was to be honest with the users about the pain they would experience and what they could look forward to. This helped to increase our credibility.
- Sylvia Maxwell:Thank you from West Florida. On to my next appointment.
- Duane - Central Michigan:techtips.cmich.edu if anyone is interested
- John (NCSU):John at nc state
- Carlin - Rice:Thanks everyone, I'll send out the audio summary soon so you can edit it before I post on the wiki. John (NCSU):(managing web site)
- Carolyn - UTSA:We manage the web site for OIT
- Ben Woelk -- Rochester Institute of Technology:manage content for security issues only
- Duane - Central Michigan:No for me at CMU
- Carlin - Rice:Rice IT communications team manages IT and VPIT web sites here
- Alison - Univ of North Fla:I manage the IT web site at UNF Lisa-UAlbany:Leading a redesign at UAlbany
- John (NCSU):thanks for organizing this!
- John (NCSU):correction to above when i said "our OIT's twitter account" that's our CIO's twitter account of course.. we do have an IT account at http://twitter.com/ncsu_oit
- Carolyn - UTSA:Thanks everyone!