2023 Year in Review

Posted on Monday, February 26th, 2024

A message from our Chief Information Officer:

First, I would like to give a huge thank you to all of you for your outstanding efforts over the last year to support our three campus communities. When I first joined U of G in August, I set a goal to speak to every information technology (IT) leader, dean and associate vice-president about what they do and, for those who consume our services, what they valued, how they felt about the service provided and what gaps they perceived in how we support and manage IT. Here are my top three takeaways:

  1. Our IT community is a valued partner. Our people are valued contributors. We enable our academic, administrative and service delivery communities to do their work and I heard lots of ideas about where there were opportunities to use more and better technology. In terms of support, I heard that people typically want more support not less, but I did not hear one complaint about the quality and the commitment of the people who step up every day and support our partners! A ton of positive feedback.
  2. We offer a diverse range of services across our University locations. IT really is a microcosm of our larger society, from Athletics and Ancillary Services, to teaching and learning technologies, Physical Resources, Student Housing, Information Security, library systems, Lab Services, Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) hospital systems – the list goes on and on. All those things need modern, efficient and digitally focused services built around the needs of students, staff and faculty. We do an amazing job providing technologies to support the diversity of functions that make up the University of Guelph.
  3. We have exciting opportunities ahead of us. We have a tremendous opportunity to help construct the University of the future. Digitalization in its truest sense; turning the University into a digitally enabled learning and research enterprise. To realize the University’s strategic plans, we must build a technology roadmap and an organization that can respond to what we have been asked to do.

Finally, on that note, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the strategic plan(s) of the University and how they relate to each other. We hear a lot about U of G's Our Time strategy, strategic transformation and the IT strategy. We need to do a better job communicating what the purpose of these strategies are and how these three initiatives work together to create a roadmap for delivering on the University’s vision, mission and values. I look forward to working with all of you over the coming months to help build our part of that roadmap and demonstrate how we can use these strategies to guide our work.

Migration to Microsoft Single Sign-on (SSO)

In February 2023, CCS began migrating Single Sign-on-based systems to the new Microsoft-based Single Sign-on (SSO) service. The new SSO service requires multi-factor authentication by default, which serves to further bolster the University’s security posture. The largest and most critical apps were prioritized and completed, with the remaining apps on target to be completed by March 2024. https://uoguelphca.sharepoint.com/sites/ccs/SitePages/Timeline-of-Migrations-to-Microsoft-Single-Sign-on.aspx

MFA deployment complete

The deployment of multi-factor authentication to all University accounts was completed in late 2023, including organizational accounts. This was a significant undertaking requiring user support from IT personnel across the University. A shared success by all!

New/updated security policies and guidelines

Important updates were made to several Information Security policies and guidelines to further protect U of G. Updated policies include the Acceptable Use Policy, IT Asset and Data Disposal Policy, Cyber Security Incident Management Policy, and the Vulnerability Management Policy. New/updated guidelines include the Information Security Standard for Network-Connected Video Cameras and the Security and Risk Assessment Process.

SentinelOne replaces McAfee for endpoint security

In 2022, CCS implemented SentinelOne security software on all workstations and servers to enhance security across the University. This past year, SentinelOne was implemented more broadly, becoming the security product of choice to improve endpoint security at U of G.

Migration to private IP space

The migration of all U of G-network-connected devices to private IP space began in 2021 with a bulk migration that successfully transitioned 90% of devices. These included endpoints, Internet-of-Things devices, printers and servers. In February 2023, CCS prioritized the migration of the remaining 10%, partnering with 46 IT groups and University partners to successfully migrate 2,300 additional devices. The remaining 630 devices are on track to be completed in mid-2024. This initiative will improve the security posture of the institution as it enforces controlled access to University resources from the internet via controlled entry points (such as firewalls).

OpenEd audiovisual upgrades to enhance teaching and learning

The Open Learning & Educational Support (OpenEd) Classroom Technical Support team completed several projects this year to enhance teaching, learning, communication, collaboration and inclusivity:

  • 14 classroom upgrades which included the integration of cutting-edge audiovisual (AV) technology such as interactive displays and upgraded projectors, while reducing trailing-edge technology and deprecated old systems. They also restructured classroom interface layouts to enhance collaboration and engagement and enhance accessibility features to accommodate diverse learning needs.
  • More than 30 projects that resulted in significant departmental AV upgrades and retrofits, which included classrooms and meeting rooms in the College of Biological Sciences, College of Social & Applied Human Sciences, Ontario Veterinary Collge, Ontario Agricultural College, Gordon S. Lang School of Business, Guelph Turfgrass Institute, Athletics, Hospitality and administrative areas.
  • AV enhancements to support various renovation projects including the Woods Centre Renovation Project and the College of Arts MacKinnon Improv Building Project.

New U of G homepage

CCS worked with Communications & Marketing to launch a new U of G homepage and develop a web roadmap for 2024. The new homepage is built on the new content hub platform, a collaborative content management system (CMS) powered by Drupal 10. Historically, the U of G website consisted of hundreds of smaller websites, all powered by their own CMS. The content hub-based homepage is another step toward the vision of consolidating as much U of G web content into a single location. This will minimize the time and effort required to maintain backend content management systems and enable content marketers to create a more streamlined experience for website visitors.

Enhancing the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) Experience

Many OVC upgrades and improvements, including:

  • Implemented eMedley, a curriculum management and advanced scheduling tool for use across the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program. eMedley is a comprehensive platform for health sciences programs that tracks student learning, pre-clinical and clinical experience, patient assessment and more.
  • Audiovisual upgrades and improvements to many OVC classrooms to elevate the teaching and learning experience.
  • Development and deployment of myriad automations, web forms and lists across all administrative processes as part of the OVC Service Hub. The ‘Service Centre’ allows for a streamlined and improved experience for users seeking support in various areas (administration, finance, technology and external relations).
  • Redeveloped all OVC departmental websites and incorporated them, along with the OVC faculty profile pages, into the U of G content hub, allowing for an improved user experience.
  • Installed four Microsoft Teams meeting rooms in OVC, in partnership with Computing & Communications Services.

New CCS Software Catalog

The Computing & Communications Services (CCS) software distribution service delivers centrally licensed software to U of G users. These software products are available to eligible users through the newly redesigned CCS Software Catalog. Using existing tools such as Microsoft SharePoint, Forms, Lists, OneDrive and Power Automate, CCS has been able to significantly improve the end-user experience of acquiring software, including simplified processes for software requests, downloads and billing. CCS was also able to eliminate its previous reliance on Kivuto OnTheHub software, resulting in cost savings and a more streamlined experience. https://uoguelphca.sharepoint.com/sites/ccs/SitePages/software/software/catalog.aspx   

New modules added to Experience Guelph

The Experiential Learning Hub added two new modules to Experience Guelph this year, including the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) Externship module to manage the recruitment process for OVC externships, and a job module to help students with disabilities navigate the employment process and transition to the workplace.

Digital innovation initatives

  • Through collaborative engagement with all on-campus digital signage partners, the Digital Innovation Team selected a new digital signage content management system that meets the current needs of the campus and provides a platform to grow and mature digital signage going forward.
  • The team also completed two digital innovation proposals this year: Digital Wayfinding and Digital Campus Tours. Both proposals were unanimously supported by the IT Governance Council (ITGC) for funding, and implementation for both projects has begun.

Migrating Gryph Forms to vendor cloud

In late 2023, CCS kicked off work to migrate the on-prem Gryph Forms environment to the vendor cloud. Once complete, this migration will help solve tactical and strategic challenges, including mitigating non-compliant server issues and redirecting analyst time from maintaining the technical platform to focusing on launching new digital business process solutions.

Improving workflow for cases of academic misconduct

Computing & Communications Services partnered with staff from the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences, the Office of Quality Assurance, University Secretariat and external vendor ZEN Business Process Solutions to create an online workflow process for submitting and reviewing cases of academic misconduct. Historically this process was completed by emailing Word or PDF documents around manually. This new solution, powered by U of G’s Gryph Forms platform, provides an easy-to-use online form, automatically routing the completed form to the right people for review and approval. The new process also provides automated reporting capabilities, streamlining the workflow for staff in the Student Judicial Services office.

Digital accessibility support  

  • The CCS Digital Accessibility Resource Team (DARC) facilitated and supported the compliance process for websites and social media across the University, in alignment with U of G’s overarching government AODA compliance report (AODA = Accessibility for Ontarions with Disabilities Act). Many units expended significant effort to bring their digital assets into alignment with AODA guidelines, resulting in a better user experience for all.
  • The DARC team also relaunched their monthly digital accessibility newsletter to provide tips and tricks for digital content creators.

Process improvements in the College of Arts (COA), Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) and Ridgetown Campus

  • Streamlined the use of FootPrints for IT help requests for the colleges and continued development of standard operating procedures.
  • Created Sharepoint ‘framework‘ intranet sites for COA, OAC and Ridgetown, including a site that centralizes IT service information and establishes a single point of contact for IT support.
  • With help from Computing & Communications Services (CCS), the Ridgetown IT team migrated Ridgetown and Ridgetown business development centre websites to the CCS Managed Servers environment.
  • Further developed partnerships with various departments to enhance the shared IT model. These partners include Classroom Technical Support, other college IT leaders, and CCS teams including Network Infrastructure, Web & Development Solutions and Client Productivity.
  • Created a high-level Ridgetown IT plan that aligns with broader IT priorities as well as the outcomes from the 2022 Ridgetown IT Review. The team has also begun execution of some IT Review recommendations.
  • Automated various manual data processes at Ridgetown to create efficiencies.
  • Developed some template Microsoft Planner boards for staff onboarding and offboarding.
  • With the help of Classroom Technical Support, Ridgetown IT completed an audiovisual technology audit of Ridgetown classrooms. Web conferencing was also improved in other areas within these colleges as well.

CCS server upgrades and enhancements

Many improvements within the Computing & Communications (CCS) data centre, including:

  • Decommissioning of 200 end-of-life servers in the University data centre, thanks to great efforts from both CCS and distributed IT teams. Approximately 165 servers remain to be decommissioned.
  • Expansion of server capacity, electrical upgrades, modernizing VM deployment processes, decommissioning the NetApp storage array, and adopting a modern, cloud-based solution for off-site server backup storage.
  • Purchased a new central storage array to underpin the Managed Servers service, planned to be operational in early 2024.
  • Added support for Microsoft SQL server 2022 and migrated multiple clients.
  • Rebuilt and deployed a new Oracle APEX application platform which underpins many custom Human Resources and Finance operations.

New change management process for CCS Technology Operations

Adopted a common, standardized change management process for all Computing & Communications Services (CCS) Technology Operations infrastructure teams. This ensures cross-team awareness of upcoming changes, allows better impact assessment and consistent change documentation. With CCS managing a wide variety of technologies and with the challenges of an ever-changing cyber security and capability landscape, the change management process helps us to optimize and schedule multiple non-conflicting maintenances in the same window to keep our systems stable and secure.

Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) system and process enhancements

  • Completed the onboarding of all OVC hospital centres onto the ezyVet medical records system. OVC operates multiple hospital centres, which include the primary care, companion animal referral, large animal referral, field service and community care hospitals. A multi-year effort is underway to bring these somewhat independent units into more coordinated pieces of a larger whole. Leveraging the same technology tools across the board is an important part of this effort. Onboarding the primary healthcare hospital onto ezyVet this year was a substantial step in this process.
  • Implemented a new Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS), allowing for the secure transport of medical imaging.
  • Upgraded medication dispensing infrastructure with a new server, software and control cabinets.
  • Several data enhancements including:
    • The development of a harmonized clinical data warehouse for use supporting clinical research across the college. Using this warehouse, the team subsequently developed an AI enhanced medical record search tool in partnership with ABC Intelligence.
    • Worked with Institutional Research and Planning (IRP) to begin rearchitecting OVC’s administrative data warehouse within the University’s data lake infrastructure.
    • Migrated OVC’s reporting services from Sequel Server Reporting Services into the IRP/University Tableau instance.

Windows 11 Self Service

Made Windows 11 available for self-service upgrade as the first phase of the institutional migration to Windows 11 from Windows 10.

Experiential Learning Hub launches Tactic

Tactic is a booking application that helps manage various resources including desks, meeting rooms, marketing resources and parking for co-op employers.

Alumni Affairs & Development (AA&D) system enhancements

  • Migrated from end-of-life physical servers to the virtual environment within the CCS data centre for our Cannon CRM landscape. Also upgraded to the latest application service pack.
  • Implemented first phase of MakeGivingHappen Peer-2-Peer giving platform to support Athletics team fundraising and Giving Tuesday campaigns.
  • Went live with new AA&D Training and Reference site on SharePoint, replacing the previous Drupal-hosted site.
  • Developed Microsoft 365/PowerAutomate integrations to automate Azure DevOps work item creation for data requests and technical onboarding and offboarding processes.
  • Implemented Outlook integration tool to automate documentation of fundraising and engagement activities in Cannon CRM.

Research Services Office uses OnePlace Solutions to manage email storage challenges

Continued work on the implementation of OnePlace Solutions, an Outlook/SharePoint integration tool to replace multiple Microsoft 365 email accounts and centralize storage. The team is near completion of the permanent archiving of nearly 300 GB of email.

Program Management Office (PMO) continues to lead the way for change management at U of G

Offering several well-attended courses through Learning & Development, the PMO continues to foster and support a culture of change at U of G. These courses help increase the likelihood of project success and address the impacts of projects on people and teams.

The IT Governance Council (ITGC) is the main governing body responsible for prioritization of the University’s strategic IT initiatives. Below we describe progress made on ITGC-approved projects this year.

Human Resources Management System (HRMS)

The multi-year, highly anticipated HRMS project will be going live in 2024. The project will replace an aging, legacy system with a new cloud based integrated HR solution. The project team continues to reach many milestones in the journey toward a successful go-live. These milestones include:

  • Collecting and preparing HR data to prepare for cutover to the new system.
  • Completion of key payroll testing with successful comparisons to legacy systems.
  • Organizational change management activities including executive presentations and continued leveraging and engagement with the Change Champion network for awareness and assistance in the transition to the new system across the University.

For more information, please visit the Human Resources Management System Project website.

Student Information Systems (SIS) Refresh

This multi-year project is aimed at enhancing technology and digitization to improve the student experience. In addition to various process improvements to address capacity and resourcing and several enhancements to WebAdvisor, the team also saw the completion of two important projects:

  • Slate – U of G’s new admission CRM tool: An admission customer relationship management (CRM) tool will help advance the University’s strategic enrolment efforts by leveraging modern, user-friendly technology that has many benefits. These include providing admission staff with the necessary tools and data to support prospect management, while at the same time dramatically improving the experience of applicants through improved admission processes. The new solution, Slate, is now being used by U of G and the University of Guelph-Humber for prospective student recruitment and by the U of G’s international team for applications and admission decisions.
  • CourseLeaf SYL – launch of the new course syllabi tool. Syllabi is a course outline management software solution that will provide faculty and instructors the opportunity to create and revise course outlines. Syllabi was launched in 2023 within the Guelph campus and the final few departments will be transitioning to the system by fall 2024.

Research Administration and Information System (RAIMS)

The Research Services Office (RSO) continues to move forward on the multi-year RAIMS project. This system will improve business processes and automate manual workflows for the management of research proposal submissions, research awards and contracts, animal care services, human ethics, biohazards, radiation safety and conflicts of interest. The request for proposal (RFP) for a Human Ethics module was completed and implementation is progressing well and will continue through the winter and spring 2024 semesters. Work also continues on the RFP preparation for the Animal Care & Facilities Management module.

Launch of SAP Concur expense claim system

SAP Concur, U of G’s new expense claim system, was launched in early 2023 and has provided a modern, automated, user-friendly solution to improve and streamline the process for submitting expense claims.

Once again, I want to thank each one of you. These are YOUR accomplishments documented above and you should be proud! I know I am proud to have the opportunity to lead such an amazing organization.

Rob Devries
Associate Vice-President & Chief Information Officer

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