Create And Encourage Greater Integration Across The Traditional IT Silos
During the last 10 years, the work of the higher education CIO has moved from a focus on a “connectivity race” whereby success was publicly defined by rankings as the “most wired” or “most unwired” to an era of massive systems and application upgrades and roll-outs (ERP systems, cloud email systems, elearning platforms, bandwidth and WiFi expansions) to our current day emphasis on“business-driven outcomes” such as student success analytics, learning Outcomes and relationship management (CRM) applications – all supported by IT reporting teams and sophisticated data extraction and manipulation tools.
Essentially, higher education CIOs and their teams have moved from hugging hardware to messaging data. While this transition may have been a struggle for some of our traditional staff members, the benefit has been that IT is no longer just a commodity-driven utility. We are now central players in both the operational and strategic decision-making matrix of our institutions. We’re at the table with high-stakes players across campus as well as on the radar of our Boards of Trustees. This is a brave new world that requires both the highly-refined technical skill sets of the old “IT shop” with a new set of enterprise-class communication skills.
The higher education CIO needs to be able to lead his or team internally while effectively managing relationships and IT issues externally. On the internal side, all operations are now adding “enhanced and vigilant” security practices to their routine duties. In this age of global campuses, massive external threats and incredibly effective “social engineering” security scams, our efforts to reduce this risk must be a primary goal. In addition, the pressure to provide greater levels of bandwidth to support a vast array of fixed and mobile devices with personalized and power applications is probably the most significant value-added customer-focused opportunity for higher education IT.
On the external side of IT, the higher education CIO must be ready to respond to questions and concerns about the state of information security, the role of IT in protecting and advancing institutional reputation, the tools and services that support student recruitment and the “big data” analytics and reporting systems that contribute to student success. Each one of these requires a 2-minute elevator speech because that’s pretty much all the time you’ll get to shape understanding as board members and major donors encounter you throughout your travels.
As CIOs, our work with our internal team demands that we create and encourage greater integration across the traditional IT silos so that we can move from the neutral role as a technology utility to the much more value-driven roles as an enabler of educational and research innovations as well as an enterprise decision-support partner.
Perhaps our greatest internal challenge is in empowering our IT staff to think in terms of “total solutions” rather than silo based services or technologies. However, on the external side, I’m very much convinced that our greatest challenge is in sustaining effective communications with our stakeholders - particularly as we strive to help them understand the threats and opportunities that higher education IT faces in these disruptive times.
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