NGSIS web services: Real-time data, real-time results

Academic adviser helps student while at computer

Is a student registered, enrolled in a particular course and succeeding academically? In the past, academic advisors would have to consult multiple computer systems as well as ROSI, U of T’s official student information database, for any recent changes.

Now a new solution, called web services, provides staff with real-time data to help create a seamless student experience.

The solution, introduced by Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration (EASI), provides an instant, secure link to ROSI for specific student information. Currently, U of T divisions rely on large data downloads called batch downloads.

“These batch downloads lead to out-of-date information, a huge duplication of data, and security vulnerabilities – as soon as the download is completed, the data starts becoming stale,” says Frank Boshoff, U of T’s Enterprise Architect. “When divisional applications use web services, they help provide accurate information to students and decrease the number of calls, emails and face-to-face meetings.”

The new approach is based on RESTful services – Representational State Transfer – which is used to build lightweight, maintainable and scalable web services. It allows other authorized systems to access pertinent ROSI data, and authorized systems can update ROSI, potentially saving significant administrator effort.

Batch jobs have to download all records – sometimes thousands – to determine which records have changed. web services works on a record-by-record model and only retrieves necessary records.

While this technology won’t replace batch downloads entirely, it will help when real-time transactions are a priority.

EASI recently introduced web services to the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, and plans to roll them out to other divisions in the near future.

“We wanted to more tightly integrate our local systems with the data from ROSI and other local and institutional systems of record to improve the user experience,” says Dan Pettigrew, Director of Administrative Systems and Associate Registrar at the Faculty. “In the past, staff sometimes had to consult ROSI and other systems manually because the downloaded ROSI data they were seeing was potentially out of date. We really needed a holistic, real-time view of the student experience.”

On the front lines, web services are already making an impact.

“This has been a dream of mine – it makes our jobs easier and the student experience so much better,” says Leslie Grife, Assistant Director, First Year Academic Services with the Faculty. “Now the Faculty’s Academic Advising system connects directly to the ROSI database. And soon several of our other online services will as well. We can advise students with accurate data, helping them to make better informed decisions.”

In the future, the team will work with U of T’s Information Security and Enterprise Architecture to add an extra layer of security, called OAuth 2.0.

“It comes down to getting the right data to the right person at the right time with minimal effort from the user,” says Boshoff. “Web services enable real-time access to data, which improves the user experience, reducing annoyances and irritation for students, staff and faculty. Things work better when they are designed to work together.”

New Course Information System to streamline syllabi, exams process

Professor lecturing to class

It will save U of T instructors and administrators hundreds of hours of work, and is projected to save the University over $280, 000 annually. The new Course Information System (CIS), with core functionality set for completion by the end of 2019, will streamline syllabi and exams processes for instructors and administrators, and help students to make better-informed decisions about their education.

The system, created by Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration (EASI) in partnership with the Office of the Vice-Provost, Innovations in Undergraduate Education, is currently being piloted in three divisions on two campuses.

“In the past, the decentralized process of creating, collecting, reviewing and approving syllabi and exams was paper- and pdf-based,” says Mark Johnston, CIS product manager. “This online system streamlines several disparate processes for instructors and departmental staff, and ensures accuracy and security. Overall, it will free up faculty and staff for more important activities.”

The system is a new product developed by the Next Generation Student Information Services program, which creates technological solutions to provide students, faculty and staff with a supportive educational environment.

It is divided into three modules for instructors to submit syllabi-related materials, pre-exam and final exam details.

When creating syllabi, instructors can immediately see whether they are meeting divisional and University guidelines. They can also select from a list of pre-written, standardized policies and statements, or use them as the basis for personally crafted statements, and the system will help instructors schedule important course milestones around holidays and important University dates.

Instructors can also submit details for their exams, including logistical information, duration and required equipment.

“This system is especially useful for new instructors,” says Johnston. “They might have to submit syllabi and exam details soon after being hired, and just as the term starts, and we’re helping them to quickly navigate the process.”

For final exams, instructors can upload their exam and printing instructions and either submit them for divisional approval or to an approved print location.

The project has been in production for 18 months and has been piloted with the Faculty of Arts & Science, the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering and the University of Toronto Scarborough.

“Our goal is to make the administration of courses easy for instructors,” says Professor Susan McCahan, Vice-Provost, Innovations in Undergraduate Education, and project co-sponsor. “The information needed to set a final exam or create a syllabus will flow through an integrated system. We anticipate that this will allow instructors to spend less time on logistics.”

Beyond streamlining processes, the system will help local academic administrators collect and analyze data to make evidence-based decisions.

“We want to provide divisions and units with a suite of tools that will help align course-related business practices, and help them to better understand the academic activity within their units’ courses and programs,” says Julian Weinrib, Special Projects Officer with the Office of the Vice-Provost. “We believe this will help spur important conversations locally, and ultimately help students to better understand and curate their academic experience.”

Similar to the process of building the student information system, ACORN, the team began the project with extensive interviews across the three campuses.

“We’re basing our development on a user-centred approach,” says Johnston. “It’s important to research, build, test, launch and then start all over again to ensure we’re developing an intuitive and informative system.”

In the future, the team will continue to build out functionality while onboarding new divisions. New functionality will include a detailed class list with students’ names, year, programs of study and photos. It will also include tools for an instructor to create their course syllabi directly on CIS and a syllabus archive and repository. In addition, the system will streamline over 18,000 accommodated tests per year at the St. George campus, and will link to Quercus, eMarks, ACORN and Degree Explorer.

“The promise of CIS is to build out useful, usable tools for instructors, departments and divisions from a centrally supported platform that integrate well across our three campuses and the complimentary systems surrounding CIS.”

Data Dragons Competition: Participants’ perspectives

Word Data Dragons on top of abstract dragon.

You might have heard about the Data Dragons Competition – an event filled with fun, scorching ideas and opportunities to learn.

Join Enterprise Applications & Solutions Integration (ITS) and Planning & Budget on July 5 as six staff and faculty pitch their data science and business intelligence ideas to a panel of judges. The winning pitch will become a sponsored project.

U of T is quickly becoming a leader in business intelligence, which is the process of analyzing and visualizing data to make fact-based decisions. In addition to the competition, staff can tap into the power of business intelligence through the Institutional Data Hub – a rich repository of data relating to teaching, research and service activities.

Data Dragon trophy

See who will win this 3D printed trophy!

Here’s how some of the competitors are preparing:

Anita Chooraman – HR Assistant, Integrated HR, Strategic Initiatives, Division of HR and Equity
Paul Nakonechny – HR Analytics Consultant, Division of HR and Equity

In preparation, we’re taking time to watch Rocky II to Rocky V because those are the movies where he wins. We’re also studying who’s on the panel, scoping out our competition and practicing our delivery on how our project reflects the needs of the University as a whole. This will be an exciting experience because it’s the first event like this, and we’re ready for whatever will come at us!


Mari Motrich – Manager, Systems and Data Analysis, University of Toronto Scarborough

This is a really busy time for the registrar’s office because we’re preparing for both fall and winter courses. I’ve been preparing after work and picking my co-workers’ brains during the day. We have a rehearsal at UTSC at a data analytics meeting, and I’m hoping to get some great feedback there. I’m really excited for the event – to receive feedback on my presentation and to hear the other proposals.


Joseph Peter McNamara – Resource Planning and Analysis Officer, University of Toronto Scarborough

I’ve been preparing by going through dry runs and bouncing ideas off of colleagues. I’ll also be presenting at the same data analytics meeting as Mari – we’re very supportive of each other at UTSC. Overall, I’m going to try to make sure the event is fun, and I get a kick out of answering the tough questions. I like the adrenaline rush and having to think on my feet, and I’ll be sure to have done my homework before facing the fire.

NGSIS Platform Modernization Project: User Acceptance Testing Launches

ROSI testers sitting in front of laptops testing

On June 25, Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration (EASI) welcomed the first group of users to test the NGSIS Platform Modernization Project.

This phase of testing includes initial preparation for registration.

“We were excited to start the first of six phases today,” says Richard Chow, an information technology analyst with EASI, and the testing lead. “Participants are setting up students and courses for future registration sessions, and ensuring data accuracy.”

If a user finds a bug in the system, their names will be entered into a bi-weekly draw for one of two $10 Tim Hortons gift cards.

“We’ve really tried to make this a fun process!” says Kelly Jay, senior information systems analyst with EASI. “We have a piñata, beach balls and snacks at our testing location in 215 Huron St. This is an opportunity for users to see how the system is performing and to also build community.”

Next steps for testing include registration preparation, student enrolment, marks, awards and convocation.

EASI has created a roadmap to measure progress through the six phases.

The roadmap shows User Acceptance Testing progress
The roadmap shows User Acceptance Testing progress – credit Alex Dault

“Testing today went really smoothly,” says Chow. “Everyone could familiarize themselves with the new tools, and we expect all users to adapt to the new system quickly.”

U of T launches digital workplace training: Office 365, SharePoint, Tableau

Icons for Microsoft Office Products, Skype and Tableau

Do you want to learn more about Microsoft Office 365, Outlook, SharePoint or Tableau? Now, U of T is offering in-person and online training to help staff get up to speed with online services that are defining the future of the workplace.

From July to August, HR & Equity’s Organizational Development and Learning Centre (ODLC) will offer weekly full-day training sessions on Office 365, including Skype for Business, Teams and OneDrive. They will also offer monthly SharePoint and Tableau sessions throughout the summer.

“There’s been a high demand for these courses, and now we’re providing consolidated, comprehensive training resources,” says Luke Pereira, learning resources and web coordinator at ODLC. “We have a dedicated Office 365 trainer and we’re also offering online courses, so staff can figure out what training best meets their needs.”

The online courses include curated training videos offered through Lynda.com. All U of T staff and faculty can now log in to Lynda.com for free using their UTORid to advance their professional development.

“In the past, some staff might not have been able to attend in-person training sessions, and there were hundreds of training videos to navigate through,” says Mark Seymour, acting director of ODLC. “We’ve simplified the process with selected videos for Office 365 Basics, Skype, SharePoint and Adobe Creative Cloud.”

The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development is funding the pilot program through eCampusOntario, providing free Lynda.com subscriptions to all Ontario colleges and universities for two years.

“A great place to begin exploring Lynda.com is by accessing the technical skills resources for just-in-time and just-enough learning, which is part of our everyday work,” says Laurie Harrison, director of online learning strategies. “As staff, we’re consistently asked to use new tools and software, and to learn and grow.”

In the future, the ODLC team will implement Success Factors, which is a new staff learning management system. The system will be a one-stop-shop inventory of learning opportunities for U of T staff, and will allow users to create online learning material or links to external online learning sources such as Lynda.com.

“We now have a plethora of communication and collaboration services. The real key now is taking advantage of all of them and using them effectively across the organization,” says Marden Paul, director of planning, governance and assessment with Information Technology Services.

Pereira agrees.

“Staff training will continue to be an evolving process, and we’re eager to see where this will take us. We’ll measure our success with this first iteration of courses, collect feedback and constantly enhance our offerings.”

For more information, visit ODLC.

Top 5 reasons to attend U of T’s Data Dragons Competition

Word Data Dragons on top of abstract dragon.

Kevin O’Leary might not be there to offer words of wisdom, but U of T’s own dragons will choose the winner of the Data Dragons Competition – an event where brave competitors will pitch their data science and business intelligence ideas to a panel of judges.

Join Enterprise Applications & Solutions Integration (ITS) and Planning & Budget on July 5 as six staff and faculty take centre stage and try to convince the dragons that their ideas should become reality. The winning pitch will become a sponsored project.

“This competition is an opportunity for the outstanding analysts in our community to turn data assets into information that will make the U of T experience even better for our students, faculty, and staff,” says Trevor Rodgers, assistant vice president of Planning & Budget and one of the dragons.

U of T is quickly becoming a leader in business intelligence, which is the process of analyzing and visualizing data to make fact-based decisions. In addition to the competition, staff can tap into the power of business intelligence through the Institutional Data Hub – a rich repository of data relating to teaching, research and service activities.

Here are the top five reasons why you should attend:

  1. Learn something new beyond your specific field of interest, including data visualization, predictive analytics, machine learning and data management.
  2. Gain motivation from the presentations to implement a business intelligence solution in your area, and brainstorm ideas for the next competition.
  3. Meet new people with similar interests, or potential collaborators for your next project.
  4. Stay relevant with the latest technology and data trends and stay up to date with your peers and industry trends.
  5. Learn from presentations, including how to withstand the pressure of the powerful Dragons!

Register Now! Space is limited.

Who
The Data Dragons Panel:
Judith Chadwick – Assistant Vice-President, Research Services
Cathy Eberts – ‎Executive Director, Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration
Heather Kelly – Senior Director, Student Success
Richard Levin – Executive Director, Enrolment Services and University Registrar
Susan McCahan – Vice-Provost, Innovations in Undergraduate Education and Vice-President, Academic Programs
Trevor Rodgers – Assistant Vice-President, Planning & Budget

Pitchers:
Andrea Armstrong – Senior Policy Advisor, Enrolment Services
Anita Chooraman & Paul Nakonechny – HR Assistant & HR Advisor, HR Strategic Initiatives
Dr. Mahan Kulasegaram – Assistant Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine
Joseph Peter McNamara – UTSC: Office of Business, Operations & Strategic Affairs
Mari Motrich – UTSC: Office of the Registrar

When
July 5, 2018
9 – 11:30 a.m.

Where
Governing Council Chamber (Room 214)
27 King’s College Circle
University of Toronto
M5S 1A1

NGSIS Platform Modernization Project kicks off User Acceptance Testing

Animation of car travelling on road

Having converted 2 million lines of code and executed over 1,300 test cases, U of T’s Information Technology Services is excited to announce that User Acceptance Testing for the NGSIS Platform Modernization Project will begin in late June.

During this phase, over 100 ROSI users from across all three campuses will put the new platform to the test using their business process expertise.

“EASI and Information Technology Services have done a great job at setting up the new infrastructure, security and code,” says Sinisa Markovic, assistant university registrar and director of operations at Enrolment Services. “Now, as users of the system, it’s our turn to test it and ensure a smooth transition to the new system.”

Donald Boere, registrar of Innis College, agrees.

“This is the exciting part for end users of ROSI. EASI has assembled a team of functional users who will work together to run those complex ROSI transactions they know so well through the new platform.”

The Platform Modernization Project involves structural changes to ROSI to improve system performance and capacity, and real-time integration with enterprise systems.

So far, the project has involved over 30 staff members from EASI, Information Security and Enterprise Architecture and Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions. They’ve built the new system and are now testing its integration with other systems, including ACORN, ROSI Alumni Transcripts and ROSI Express.

“This project is the culmination of lots of planning – it’s one of the largest University-wide initiatives undertaken since the original implementation of ROSI,” says Cathy Eberts, executive director of EASI. “It requires a lot of user feedback and it’s truly a partnership between information technology and our divisional end-users.”

User acceptance testing will run from June to September, and will follow the basic flow of U of T’s academic cycle. Users will attend workshops related to their business areas and will work with specific checklists for each ROSI module.

The goals are to review a wide breadth of execution paths, uncover specialized business processes that may not have been tested, and confirm the usability of the web-based application.

“We’ve combined our strategy, based on best practices, with a solid test plan,” says Mike Wyers, quality assurance lead at EASI. “Richard Chow, an information technology analyst at EASI, created the test plan and is a true subject matter expert – he understands the big picture and details of ROSI – so the test plan will help us collect feedback at every step of the process.”


Benefits of the NGSIS Platform Modernization Project:

    • Permits 15,000 students to access the system via ACORN simultaneously versus the current 700
    • Provides new option for PDF output
    • Allows for a modern file management interface
    • Opens up the potential for live integration between divisional systems and ROSI
    • Helps U of T stay at the forefront of technological innovation

Next steps for the project include performance testing and go-live planning.

“As part of the performance testing, we’ll simulate 15,000 concurrent registrations. The current system can only handle 700,” says Philip Millenaar, project manager with EASI. “We’re also planning several dry runs to test out cutting over to the new environment – we want to make sure that we’re a well-oiled machine before the go-live date.”

What can testers expect as part of the process?

“Beyond testing the system for specific business processes, we want to ensure the testing is fun,” says Eberts. “We’re offering rewards, and it’s a great way to bring the ROSI community together.”

Learn more about the project.

 

U of T to create new comprehensive budgeting tool

Close up of hand writing with pen

For over 25 years, it’s been used by business officers to keep track of annual salary commitments. Now, U of T is working to replace its planning and budgeting application to support a more comprehensive compensation planning process.

U of T’s Planning and Budget Office, in partnership with Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration (EASI), is currently assessing alternative software applications to make the annual compensation planning process more informative and efficient.

“The existing home-grown application, called the B6, was developed at a time when the University’s budget was a much more centrally-managed process,” says Trevor Rodgers, assistant vice-president of the Planning and Budget Office. “Divisions and departments now have greater responsibility for long term planning, and the new tool will provide them with the information they need to operate in the current environment.”

The new tool will provide finance partners with an opportunity to generate detailed five-year compensation forecasts, and allow managers to create “what if” scenarios to make accurate projections. It will have an intuitive interface, multi-year analysis and reporting, monthly data downloads and a detailed, multi-step workflow for reviews and approvals.

So, how will the new system be selected?

The request for proposals was issued on February 2, 2018, and four vendors were selected to present their systems to the core project team, comprised of 15 participants from across all three campuses. The selections were then narrowed down to two and those vendors presented a proof of concept on May 22 and 23.

“We’re really happy with how the proof of concept presentations went,” says Darshan Harrinanan, project manager at EASI. “Both vendors demonstrated an excellent understanding of the University’s needs. Attendees were fully engaged and excited about the possibilities – we’re confident that the solution we choose will provide the University with all of the tools it needs.”

The core project team and 15 additional evaluators will use the systems for 20 business days and then the team will reconvene to make a final decision on June 18.  Development is scheduled to begin shortly after.

”We envision a more robust tool that will meet divisional and departmental needs for accurate multi-year resource planning,” says Rodgers. “It will also better support the University’s long range budgeting process.”

Stay tuned for more updates!

EASI Retirements 2018

Congratulations to three of our staff who will be retiring between May and June 2018. We have been fortunate that you have been part of the EASI family and have accomplished so much.

Learn more about each retiree below, and please join me in wishing them all the best on their next adventures!

Cathy Eberts
Director, Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration


Charanjit Bajaj – Senior Production Coordinator

Charanjit Bajaj – Senior Production Coordinator
Joined U of T: August 2, 1988
Retirement: September 1, 2018
Last day in the office: May 25, 2018

Describe your background and how you arrived at EASI
In the early 1980s, I started my career in IT operations at TD Canada Trust, and then I moved to Toronto General Hospital. I joined EASI (formerly Business Information Systems) in August 1988 as a Production Co-ordinator, and it was a small and friendly department.

During the migration from the legacy system to SAP, I created all production background jobs in SAP for various modules like FIS, HRIS and Payroll. I take pride in adding that I was part of the team that developed and implemented the ‘Off-Cycle Pay’ module in SAP, an achievement for which our team was awarded the 2015 U of T Excellence Through Innovation Award. Outside of work, I enjoy cooking, walking and investing.

What will you remember most about EASI?
I’ll remember the friendly and supportive environment. Everyone was always very helpful. We started off as a small family with Business Information Services, and we transformed into a big family with EASI. I’ve been with EASI for 30 years, and it’s been a wonderful journey. I’ll really miss everyone.

What will you remember most about U of T?
When working here, I felt like I never left university. I loved my regular summertime walks around campus and seeing ambitious students who were at the beginning of their journeys. It’s been really exciting to work in this environment.

What do you plan to do in retirement?
I plan to keep healthy, go on lots of walks and I’m going on a Caribbean cruise in August. I also plan to play with my grandchildren a lot and visit the east and west coasts. Beyond major trips, I’ll develop my cooking hobby by making mouth-watering, savory dishes – I find cooking is a tonic for both body and soul. My wife and I are going to learn French together as well, so I’ll be busy!

What words of wisdom would you pass along to others?
Do what makes you happy and be helpful to others! 


Patrick Boal – Information Technology Specialist

Patrick Boal – Information Technology Specialist
Joined U of T: April 1, 1997
Retirement: August 31, 2018
Last day in the office: July 3, 2018

Describe your background and how you arrived at EASI
In an earlier age, I studied to be a journalist and went to work in the business press on monthly magazines – I never knew I would work within the SAP universe. But, I taught a course in computer science at a high school as a favour for a friend, and this small reference on my resume led to an all-expenses paid opportunity to become an SAP consultant. This was how I first came to U of T, where I eventually chose to stay full time in 1997.

What will you remember most about EASI?
Friday afternoon lunches at New Ho King. The “gang” (a rotating cast of characters but often including Svetalana Opachevsky, George Mammoliti, Kim Chan, Andrey Pletnev, Darshan Harrinanan and Alex Dault).

What will you remember most about U of T?
The camaraderie of my colleagues, the leadership of Cathy Eberts, and winning my VPUO award for Distinguished Service in 2016 (shaking hands with former CIO Bob Cook was a true honour and privilege). I really enjoyed working with the many divisions across the University, including Financial Services, Facilities & Services, and the folks at Vice-President of Research & Innovation.

What do you plan to do in retirement?
I plan to continue with my writing and I have a new book coming out this summer called Living Gods. I’ve also published a novel called, Dying Gods which is a modern retelling of the dying god myth based on the medieval story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Dying Gods is currently available for purchase at a reasonable price on Amazon.ca.

I also plan to spend time in the Dodecanese in Greece visiting friends and just plain relaxing.

What words of wisdom would you pass along to others?
If you have young children, take time off to spend with them when they are young.  You won’t get a chance to do that again.


Danny Mak – Technical Solutions Architect & Coordinator

Danny Mak – Technical Solutions Architect & Coordinator
Joined U of T:  December 14, 1987
Retirement: June 30, 2018
Last day in the office: May 18, 2018

Describe your background and how you arrived at EASI
During my 30 years at U of T, I worked at the Faculty of Engineering, the Research Services Department and then EASI. I was part of the team that built the Research Information System and My Research On Line, which was the first AMS central administrative web-based system. Since joining EASI 18 years ago, I’ve progressed from SAP developer, system administration, upgrade and migration projects, and architecting solutions. In my free time, I watch the Jays, Raptors and Leafs. I also cook, and my current Candy Crush level is 2,409!

What will you remember most about EASI?
I enjoyed working with my project teams, small and large. Everyone was very cooperative and it was fun to achieve a common goal. When I needed support, management was always there and I want to thank my colleagues and friends for such a great work experience.

What will you remember most about U of T?
I’ll remember the friendly working environment and having the choice to experience the city or campus during lunch. I’ll also remember walking to a Blue Jays, Raptors or Leafs game after work. And I’ll remember never missing my pay, thanks to EASI (just joking).

What do you plan to do in retirement?
I plan to travel to Asia during my two-month stay in Hong Kong. I also plan to finish all of my mini home projects, practice Tai Chi and take a professional nutrition and cooking class…and lots more…

What words of wisdom would you pass along to others?
Know your strengths and weaknesses and do things that you really enjoy doing. Always prepare and keep yourself updated on new things – opportunity will knock at any time. Try to develop “humour” as one of your character strengths. It helps teams work better and it will keep you healthy.

On the road to revolutionizing U of T’s human resources

Road with arrow as centre line

It’s a technology plan that’s expected to save U of T $1.5 million annually and create a cohesive, efficient digital workplace.

Over the next five years, the new Human Resources Technology Roadmap, launched in September 2017, will modernize U of T’s HR systems – creating seamless team collaboration and efficiencies across the University.

“Our plan is to meet our employees’ and administrators’ needs by using technology to transform HR at U of T across the technology landscape,” says Cathy Eberts, director of Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration (EASI) and HR Technology. “The benefits of this program are far reaching – including shared service delivery models, lower administrative costs and improved evidence-based decision making.”

The program’s projects include service desk software, a new document management hub for HR, improvements to ESS and MSS, a new staff learning module, incident management and workplace safety software, and more.

This project plays a key part in achieving Vision: HR 2020, an initiative that will help U of T keep pace with local and global changes, while at the same time accommodating legislative reform, technological advances, demographic changes in the workforce, and shifting ideas about work itself.

“These technology investments will advance our broader goal of ensuring best-in-class HR service delivery,” says Kelly Hannah-Moffat, vice president of Human Resources and Equity. “We want to create a modern client experience and move from basic administrative operations to a strategic vision, providing the most flexible service model to employees.”

In addition to creating a more modern client experience, implementing advanced technological tools will help HR increasingly focus on strategy-based services for employees.

“Traditionally, HR has been a very reactive service provided to employees and managers once something has already happened,” says Sean Suleman, executive director of CAHRS & Workplace Investigations. “When tools and technology can start to alleviate some of our time spent on administrative tasks, we can turn our minds to building strategic HR business partnerships, and move from reactive to proactive.”

The service desk software is a key component in implementing this consistent and strategic experience. It will help to streamline over 40,000 HR service requests annually.

“If you have a simple question, like a request for an employment letter, your phone or your computer can act as your HR practitioner,” says Suleman. “This will free up the HR practitioner to do the more strategic work.”

Many of the applications also offer self-serve options, so clients are independently empowered to complete basic HR functions, thus furthering the streamlining process.

“We’re making major changes to ESS and MSS to streamline the vacation process – from requesting and approving to tracking,” says Erin Jackson, chief human resources officer with Human Resources and Equity. “We also have another application that will allow managers to quickly build consistent USW job descriptions from a catalogue of pre-written, pre-evaluated descriptions.”

How will the team measure the plan’s success? The HR Reporting and Analytics Centre of Excellence will make costing and trend analysis easy and help the University understand the changing business and operational needs of all staff.

“It’s an ambitious project, and we’re trying to do a full sweep by 2020,” says Moffat. “This program will not only modernize our systems and create a more integrated user experience, but it will also help U of T excel as a leading employer.”