Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, May 19, 2011

First StaffWorks technology conference sparks ideas

The first-ever StaffWorks Technology and Best Practices Conference drew top managers and staff members together Tuesday to the Stephen M. Ross School of Business to share technology and process innovations already happening around the university.

The conference, developed by a Voices of the Staff team, focused on staff-to-staff sharing of ideas to make technology best serve U-M's core mission going forward.

A conference highlight was the Leaders and Best Practices panel, which brought together university leaders in Blau Auditorium to take questions and share experiences. Several panelists agreed that technology can be used most effectively to maintain U-M's position if policymakers stay aware of evolving technology, avoid redundancies that waste resources and lead in adopting new, effective technologies.

Panelist Laura Patterson, associate vice president and chief information officer, said keeping an eye on what businesses are doing is smart for organizations that want to adopt the best technology.

"Corporations are ahead on this because they are constantly trying to improve the bottom line. I usually look at other universities as well. We need to be constantly looking outside the university and seeing what we can learn from other best practices," she said.

Responding to a question on how best to guide technological innovation, panelist Laurita Thomas, associate vice president for human resources, said, "I think it is important that leaders have a vision and that they know how to create shared vision in others and know what we want to accomplish, what outcomes we want to gain, and then see what technology helps us get there. I think technology creates opportunities for us we might not have ever dreamed of."

The central theme of the conference was “for staff by staff.” This information sharing was highlighted by more than 60 poster presentations and 15 speaker sessions featuring innovations by staff members from around the university. The topics ranged from new green computing practices to using communications technology to pool the experiences of burn care nurses to better serve patients. Poster presentations are available at the conference website.

"What's happening today is very consistent with the core mission of the university to raise ideas, to share ideas and to replicate ideas so we can be an even better institution than we are," Thomas said.

Panelist Tony Denton, chief operating officer of U-M Hospitals and Health Centers (UMHHC), said a challenge for leaders moving forward is recognizing the overlap in some communications technologies and to optimize choices "so we make wise investments."

NextGen Michigan is performing important work, Patterson said, as it focuses on technology that the university needs to maintain its position as a top research university and medical school. Also, she added, is important for prospective students to know that U-M is a technological leader among its competitors.

Other panelists contributing to the presentation were Jocelyn DeWitt, chief information officer of UMHHC; Rowan Miranda, associate vice president for finance; Martha Pollack, vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs; and Ted Hanss, chief information officer of the Medical School.

The conference was attended by more than 300 staff members and was sponsored by Information and Technology Services, Medical Center Information Technology, Office of Finance, Office of the Provost, Ross School, and University Human Resources.