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Cross-campus innovation and collaboration among CU IT organizations

Groups from CU Boulder’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) and System Administration’s University Information Systems (UIS) came together recently to explore the skills and knowledge of working innovatively across and within our organizations.

OIT/UIS Innovation Short Experiment Proposal Pitch - Attendee Reaction to Robot Ralphie

An innovation retreat was held April 6-7, 2017. 76 team members from OIT and UIS attended, participating in activities and discussions geared toward creating a shared culture of innovation and collaboration.

Organizational change expert Howard Teibel led the day and a half session, focusing on lessons from Pixar and Disney Animation’s president Ed Catmull, documented in his book Creativity, Inc.

Through lessons learned at these iconic institutions, attendees were shown how to overcome barriers to innovation by applying Catmull’s 8 mechanisms for creativity. These are:

  • Dailies, or solving problems together
    • Daily meetings in which team members critique each other’s work and offer constructive ideas in a safe and engaged environment.
  • Research Trips
    • Go out into the world and research your idea for innovative ways to implement it, rather than being derivative of the work of others.
  • The Power of Limits
    • Set reasonable limits on your work so it doesn’t balloon out of control. These may include setting deadlines, identifying the level of detail needed, etc. This doesn’t mean that you sacrifice the quality of your project, just that you determine up front what quality looks like.
  • Integrating Technology and Art
    • Art and technology are fully integrated and play off of each other, pushing each other to greater innovation. 
  • Short Experiments
    • Try out innovations with smaller proofs of concept before committing to long-term projects.
  • Learning to See
    • Move beyond your perception of how things should be and allow yourself to see things as they are.
  • Postmortems
    • Come together as a group to identify what did and didn’t work and create lessons learned.
  • Continuing to Learn
    • Keep learning new things to stay fresh and push yourself.

Next Steps to Innovation

It was great that the departments came together to learn about collaborating and innovating, but what comes next? Was this just an opportunity to network, learn and go back to the status quo?

Not for these teams! Attendees dove right in to apply one of Catmull’s 8 mechanisms right off the bat – Short Experiments.

A call was put out for innovation proposals addressing real-world CU IT problems. The work had to include collaboration between the two groups and the application of two or more of the 8 mechanisms. It had to be scalable, transformative and further the campus or CU’s strategic goals. The winning proposal would receive $500 for each team member and time during work hours to complete their project.

Six teams submitted proposals. Three proposals were selected to move to the semi-finals, which were held Monday, July 17, 2017. The semi-finalists included:

Congratulations to Robot Ralphie for being the voter’s choice! The Annual Cross-Campus IT Conference had the next largest number of votes, followed by OIT/UIS Shared Database Services.

The Robot Ralphie team receives the cash and work time.

But wait…

The judges determined that all three proposals were so important to collaboration between the teams they decided to fund all three!

The OIT/UIS Innovation Retreat and short experiment proposals were so successful, all four campus IT departments are already talking about how they can keep the momentum going and strengthen collaboration. And when the Annual Cross-Campus IT Conference team completes work on their proposal and presents their findings in the next few months, innovation through collaboration may become the way of life for CU IT!

Honorable Mentions

Thank you to the submitting teams who did not move to the semi-finals. Here are their creative innovations.

Team Members
CU Skills Bank and Q and A Forum
Kerry Havens (lead) – OIT Associate Director for Endpoint Support and Identity Access Management
Jason Armbruster – UIS Enterprise Architect
Jenny Brucker – OIT Director of Organizational Effectiveness and Engagement
Dave Goldhammer – OIT Identity & Access Management Program Manager
Milap Sharma – UIS Director of Enterprise Development
Sought to implement a web-based forum for CU IT peers to share knowledge and skills to aid each other with solving problems. Would include a skills database to allow access to experts in the field, work samples and a forum to exchange ideas.
Desktop Software Resource Library
Donna Sewell (lead) – UIS Senior PeopleSoft Developer
Bob Sudo – UIS Associate Director PeopleSoft Applications
Justin Suzuki – OIT Software Strategy & Licensing Program Manager
Proposed creating a software information database allowing procurement and support teams to enter information about software to aid users with making informed decisions about the software they are considering or searching for.
Building Consistency in Company/Sponsor Data
Gwen Evans (lead) – OIT IT Program Mgr. - OVCR
Jason Armbruster - UIS Enterprise Architect
Jon Budoff - Program Manager– IT Service Management (ITSM) Tools
Nicole Carleton – OIT
Nalini Kaplan – OIT Program Director of Enterprise CRM
Bob Sudo – UIS Associate Director PeopleSoft Applications
Proposed implementing data matching consistency across systems that house information about companies and organizations that engage with CU by creating a single ID across all systems. Also, purchase 3rd-party sources of company/sponsor reference data to remove the administrative burden of maintaining publically-available information. The proposal also included allowing for the addition of sponsors and companies that do not match external reference data as needed by CU.

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