Community Update - December 23, 2020

December 23, 2020

As many of us prepare to leave for a much-needed holiday break, I’d like to reflect on this extraordinary year through the lens of the Office of the CIO and on behalf of our UBC IT colleagues.

2020 will be known as a year of responsiveness at a time when we did not have control over many outcomes and needed to accept a degree of uncertainty. Much of our ability to succeed this year was a result of the collaborative partnerships we have across IT and the broader university, and in the resiliency of our 500+ IT workforce. In a year that has been punctuated by experiences that have affected us physically and mentally, it is important to reflect on what’ve accomplished. Here are a few noteworthy milestones from 2020.

In January, UBC launched the UBC Community Health and Wellbeing Cloud Innovation Centre (CIC). UBC is the first CIC of its kind in Canada, tackling problems or opportunities that matter to the community in the areas of Health and Wellbeing, providing subject matter expertise and CIC leadership to drive innovation and provide digital solutions. At the conclusion of its first year, UBC’s CIC has a number of proof of concept projects underway, as shared on the UBC CIC website.

In March, UBC moved quickly to remote teaching, learning, and working based on the provincial health order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It demonstrated how quickly we were able to transition, and how critical our IT infrastructure and staff were to the community at this time. From making Zoom accessible to everyone to finding creative ways to deliver a meaningful virtual graduation, our efforts resulted in ensuring faculty, staff, and students could continue their day to day UBC activities, in an unfamiliar, off-campus situation.

We contributed to UBC’s Strategic Plan through the implementation of an ambitious system renewal of our HR, Payroll and Finance systems in November, a project that spanned several years and involved many of our IT staff as well as our colleagues in HR and Finance, and indeed from the entire UBC community. On the first Monday of November, UBC faculty, staff, and student employees logged into Workday, our latest cloud application, fully supported by Integrated Service Centre support staff. To date, we have more than 18,000 Workday logins, 8,500+ job applications, 98,000+ financial journal entries, and 43,850 views of Workday knowledge base articles.

Cybersecurity and data security continue to be institutional risks for UBC. As noted with many other higher ed institutions this year, COVID-19 researchers were targeted and we had to be especially vigilant as we saw a mass exodus of our faculty, staff, and students off-campus to a remote environment that is highly dependent on gatekeeping to access virtual UBC networks. Thank you to the UBC leadership for helping impart the importance of information security, whether it be through promoting our information security training or sharing how to report phishing emails. All of these efforts reinforce that information security at UBC is everyone’s responsibility.

While COVID-19, Workday, and cybersecurity took much of the spotlight this year (and rightfully so), there were a number of other achievements that deserve their own accolades. In September, we launched MS Teams and OneDrive for Winter Term 1 as part of our roadmap to offering Office 365. Researchers were invited to apply for digital research infrastructure resources (Sockeye and Chinook) and learned more about research data management through a series of events this fall held jointly between the Advanced Research Computing team, the Library, the Research Commons and the Centre for Scholarly Communications. Our Enterprise Data Governance team created a new community of practice with the Data Stewards training program, ensuring that institutional data remains protected.

Lastly, our award-winning UBC Studios received industry accolades for their work, scoring awards from the annual MUSE Creative Awards, and the Telly Awards.

An extraordinary year requires extraordinary effort. Each of the IT professionals at UBC has played a significant role in helping the UBC community, and I would like to offer my thanks during a time when we have all been tested, mentally and physically, to deliver our services and support.

May this December bring everyone a moment of reflection, gratitude, and appreciation for what we’ve achieved and challenges overcome.

Happy holidays.
Jennifer Burns
Associate Vice-President, Information Technology and CIO