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Celebrating FY20 Project Team Excellence

Posted Date: 15 Apr 2021

Effective Date: 15 Apr 2021

The spotlight was on individual and project team excellence at Northwestern IT's March 2021 Extended Staff Meeting, where staff members and teams were recognized for rallying together throughout this challenging year with a shared commitment to continue delivering excellent service and support to the University community.

After presenting Northwestern IT's 2020 Employee Excellence Award, Sean Reynolds, vice president for information technology and chief information officer, welcomed Julian Koh, associate director for Telecommunications and Network Services, to announce the winner of the FY20 Q4 Project Team Excellence Award— the Cisco Voice Platform Migration team.

FY20 Q4 Project Team Excellence

Through a detailed, multi-tiered, nearly decade-long effort, the Cisco Voice Platform Migration project team modernized the University's telephone service. Scoring high in several categories, including Impact, Savings, and Flexibility, the team was honored with the FY20 Q4 Project Team Excellence Award.

FY20 Q4 Project Team Excellence Award
fy20 project excellence award winners
fy20 project excellence award winners
fy20 project excellence award winners

Koh noted the project's collective depth and breadth, as the University's original phone switches dated back to the mid-1980s and had undergone years of upgrades resulting in a hybrid analog/Voice over IP telephone switch. The configuration required a vast infrastructure, taking up space on both the Evanston and Chicago campuses and requiring miles of wiring dedicated to all University buildings.

In 2012, Cisco's bid to provide a new upgraded, stabilized, and unified voice platform was selected. Implementation started in late 2016, and migrations continued for three years, culminating with the last location, Crown Center, coming online in summer 2020.

The project resulted in massive system and infrastructure changes, realized cost and time savings, and made possible standardized reporting and metrics. Upgrading tens of thousands of phones and phone lines and cleaning up more than 3,000 abandoned lines along the way, the project accommodated an expanded scope to include additional achievements. For example, the team completed a data cable audit of the Chicago and Evanston campuses, moving everything to a new cable ID system and enabling tracking circuits and services on both the data and voice networks—this meant touching every single room with any network or phone wiring, in every single building, to re-label wiring.

During implementation, the project scope and work continued to grow, including the unexpected need to replace the University's voicemail system on short notice and needing a new system for tracking phones for E911 and emergency calls. The team also introduced Cisco's Jabber soft client to enable remote calling, a valuable asset this past year when most University staff moved to remote work. The complex work required extensive cross-team collaboration, and Steven Dal Santo, the project manager, led more than 20 Northwestern IT staff members through the project's successful completion.

The team included: Alexander Wilson, Charlotte Aines, Chris Fabri, Chris Hart, Christine Ganjani, Dave Christensen, Don Kato, Doug Dickerson, Javier Solis, John Valcich, Kathi Dal Santo, Kevin Grattan, Kevin Hall, LeDonna Nubin, Louis Patyk, Matt Wilson, Michael Millet, Mike Rykowski, Regina Bailey, Romualdo Deleon Briseno, Russell Haley, Ryan Mitchell, Sarah Hall-Baumann, Tony Adcock, and Torvis Robinson.

Next, Reynolds returned to cap off the staff recognition portion of the staff meeting by announcing the FY20 Annual Project Team Excellence Award winner. Focusing on resilience and adaptability as common strengths among all three FY20 quarterly project team projects, Reynolds thanked the following teams for their award-worthy efforts—Kellogg Information Systems (KIS) Data Center Transition Project (Q1 winner), Our Northwestern Transition (Q2 winner), and Cisco Voice Platform Migration (Q4 winner).

Annual Project Team Excellence

In the end, the FY20 Project Team Excellence Award went to the Kellogg Information Systems (KIS) Data Center Transition Project. Overall, the project was a highly complex endeavor and scope of work, and it resolved several external complications from logistics to facilities issues. Led by Michael Korby, manager of cyber service operations, the project showcased strong collaboration with the Service Operation Center and Telecommunications and Network Services teams partnering closely with the KIS group.

The PTEA committee was particularly impressed with the project team's strong display of Northwestern Behaviors; most noteworthy was their excellent collaboration with the Kellogg School of Management. The project team understood both the school's immediate and long-term requirements and successfully partnered with them to complete the project in a fashion that exceeded expectations.

The project work involved relocating the KIS data center equipment from the Jacobs Center to the University Data Center in Evanston. Not only was the project successful, but the team managed to complete the work earlier than expected, all while incurring hardly any new costs—and critically—avoiding any burden on the customer. There was no downtime for any system, and no need to reconfigure or remap IP addresses. The project team's efforts resulted in a seamless transition for faculty, staff, and students, allowing them to reap the benefits of the improved infrastructure and security offered by a dedicated data center.

Through the project, Northwestern IT built a model for future integrations across the University, bringing to light the expanded and enhanced scope of client services centrally available to Northwestern schools. The KIS Data Center Transition Project provided Kellogg with a host of significant cost-saving benefits. Advantages gained included: 24/7 centralized internal systems monitoring, 24/7 support access to their hardware, utilization of Northwestern IT's existing disaster recovery plan, and 24/7 monitoring by the University's central resource instead of employing an external service provider. 

Ten individuals worked on the project, including seven from Northwestern IT—Michael Korby (project manager), Dan Daley, Manuel Riveron, Jerry Hall, Chris Fabri, Ryan Kelly, and Chris Hart—and three from KIS—Alecia Suplemento, Juan Geracaris, and Matt Topolinksi.

To learn more about the Project Team Excellence Award—including how to nominate a project team—visit the Inside IT Staff Recognition page.

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