CIO Kevin Boyd shares how he led his IT Department to become a mission-driving force at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business
By Aine Cryts
When he started as Chief Information Officer (CIO) at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Kevin Boyd wanted to harness the power of information technology (IT) to really drive the school’s mission—to create knowledge with enduring impact, and to influence and educate current and future leaders.
His priorities for the IT Department were to build a foundation of stable, reliable applications and infrastructure, provide consistently high customer service and satisfaction, and lastly, continuously improve. Before long, members of his team as well as leadership and professors at the Booth School of Business would learn that their new IT leader was going to execute on that vision.
Recent proof: The IT Department was mentioned prominently by a Booth School of Business professor when he was being honored for receiving the 2014 John Bates Clark Medal, awarded biennially to a trailblazing American economist under the age of 40.
Make Time to Recognize
Shortly after starting as CIO, Boyd kicked off quarterly staff meetings for his extended team, which numbers nearly 50 people supporting programs in Chicago, London and Singapore. Each meeting starts off with recognizing successes for five to 10 minutes, and that’s how Boyd begins his smaller weekly team meetings as well.
“We always make time for recognition,” said Boyd, who is proud of his team’s having reduced employee turnover from 50 to less than 10 percent during his tenure.
Communication is one of Boyd’s passions; it’s been a huge focus of his over the last couple of years at the Booth School of Business. For example, he added quarterly meetings with the Booth student leadership groups to address their technology concerns and communicate with them about upcoming technology initiatives. He also envisioned and appointed a “technology liason” who meets regularly with all Booth departments to discuss the work they have in progress and prioritize new initiatives.
“I wanted to have a lot more transparency about how work was prioritized,” Boyd said. “We also spend a lot of time ensuring that our messaging is well thought out, and really try hard to step up the professionalism of the department overall.”
Knocking Down Silos
Beyond articulating his goals, Boyd—for whom working full time in academia is a new experience—has set out to make the IT team feel fully integrated within the school’s larger academic community. In order to accomplish this integration, he invites guest speakers from across the school, from departments as varied as Alumni Affairs to Executive Education, to present at IT’s team meetings.
“Otherwise, our department would be very siloed,” Boyd said.
Still, he insists it’s not one big thing that helps him communicate his mission for IT at the Booth School of Business. “It’s a lot of little things,” he noted. “I have weekly one-on-one meetings with my direct reports, and I expect them to have regular meetings with their team members.”
Prioritizing Career Development
Boyd has focused, too, on investing in his people and really spending time learning about their career aspirations. Individual career development planning has enabled him to work with his team members to help them develop in their current positions.
“What people have seen is we’re following through with [our career development planning],” Boyd said. “We’re putting the time and money behind it, where once there was no budget for training and no structured process for developing a career path. Today, we’re making the time for people to do this. And people have started to see it. People are being promoted from within; they’re moving into new roles on other teams.”
Case in point is a young woman who began working with Boyd as his Assistant. It quickly became apparent in Boyd’s career development conversations with her that within the IT team she wished to grow into a Business Analyst role. Boyd’s advice for her was to create a development plan that included classes and books about business analysis and requirements gathering, in addition to shadowing people currently in such a role. Within a year, a Business Analyst position opened up. She applied for the job, and she got it.
“For her, this was a terrific move,” said Boyd, though he hated to lose her as his Assistant. “It’s wonderful for the organization to see us ‘walking the talk.’”
Aine Cryts is a freelance writer based in Boston, Massachusetts.
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