From the CTO

15 November 2023
By Janet Scannell

With the antagonistic state of the world right now, I appreciate being part of a community where learning from each other, and exploring our differences with a spirit of curiosity, is a shared value. 

A recent Leadership Advisory Board meeting included a discussion of what we want to learn about Generative AI and how we think it will impact staff over the next 3-5 years. I was at a table with four managers, from various corners of the campus. One person felt like it won’t affect Carleton, and another person felt like it will jumpstart the process of writing in unbelievably transformative ways. We had the time and the space to really think about this issue through our varied experiences and perspectives. 

One of the biggest challenges of my position is creating opportunities to have those kinds of conversations. Technology is often a commodity — the wireless exists and you use it. And when it breaks, there are some things that users can do themselves but many situations where they wait on the sideline for the tech folks to repair it. Software design also has limits, which can be a frustration that conversation can explain, and perhaps work around, but which has very real constraints. And perhaps the biggest obstacles are having the time, opportunity, and common vocabulary for deeper conversations. 

With the Workday project there are several ways that those different perspectives are working together more closely:

  • Weekly meetings where the technical and functional participants get together and share perspectives to determine how best to support the features and functions that Carleton needs
  • Monthly meetings of the Change Network which has representatives from nearly every academic and administrative department who can see demos and raise questions about how the move to Workday will affect their department
  • Hands-on opportunities in January/February for community members to experience the upcoming Workday features, including registration & advising (Sign up to participate!)

This third option is the closest to an opportunity for dialog, which I hope many of you will take advantage of. Let me know if you want more information about any of these opportunities. 

Sometimes there is campus curiosity without an easy way to engage it. I have heard that some community members have wondered/worried whether last Monday’s service outage was a ransom incident. I would be glad to offer an opportunity to talk about the source of the hardware failure and how we investigate these types of issues. I could imagine people with questions about how much redundancy we have or with suggestions about how we communicate during and after such events. In other words, I welcome being a community partner as well as a commodity provider. 

With that in mind, some of the IT managers and I will be available for a Zoom drop-in on Wednesday, November 29th at 11am. Please feel free to join us to talk about the recent outage, our ransomware strategy, thoughts about Workday, questions about generative AI, or anything else that is on your mind. And if these times don’t work for you, please reach out to me to arrange a quick call or a cup of coffee. 

I wish you well over the holidays and Winter Break.

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