November 07, 2012

New Report Shows Higher Education CIOs Are at Risk of Irrelevancy

Message to CIOs: Adapt or Die!

Colleges and universities are faced with almost existential challenges posed by the stagnant economy, rising costs, massive open online courses (MOOCs), and turbulent technology. University CIOs are confronted head-on with threats from cloud computing, pervasive mobile devices, and students accustomed to user-centric social computing. But, according to a report sponsored by Enterasys, even in this hostile environment CIOs can remain relevant and actually thrive.

Applicable to CIOs in all industries, Innovation and Transformation: Going Beyond the Social Campus is a research project conducted by prominent blogger, analyst, and consultant Michael Krigsman. It provides a roadmap for CIO relevancy. Krigsman defines social campus as an institution that combines cloud, social and mobile technology with organizational transformation to dramatically increase responsiveness and innovation. The report is based on interviews with eleven of the most innovative university CIOs and describes how they must become more acutely responsive than ever to the business needs of their schools. The findings are backed up with extensive data, case studies, and examples.

Krigsman presents a transformation blueprint based on the lessons learned from the CIO interviews. The transformation process begins with building the right infrastructure; one that provides strong wireless and wired connectivity and can easily accommodate mobile device support including BYOD. The next step is to provide the right applications and services. With the right infrastructure and applications in place, the IT organization now needs to transform into a catalyst for educational advancement, rather than a mere provider of technology. Krigsman shows how this structured approach aligns the business goals, strategy, and technology to meet the threatening challenges facing the university.

“As we migrate and leverage cloud solutions, launch mobile apps, and provide anywhere-anytime access to information, we must build upon a core foundation of quality service,” notes one CIO. “If we think about digitizing and providing online education — it has to sit upon a solid modern infrastructure and architecture to be able to run. One of our primary focus areas is modernizing that infrastructure here.”

Fostering informal relationships with institutional leaders is proving to be the key. At Sinclair Community College, IT meets regularly with every academic and administrative department to discuss needs, options, and solution rollout strategies. Sinclair’s CIO/COO, Ken Moore, describes it as a partnership relationship. Lisa Davis at Georgetown works with other senior managers “to really frame the discussion of what are Georgetown’s goals, how do we align this with our strategic values and goals.”

Dave Waldron, CIO of St. Edward’s University, notes that engaged faculty are more likely to support IT when it deploys new technologies. Krigsman summaries: “CIOs who institutionalize listening to constituents gain an understanding of their needs, which can cultivate strong relationships and positive feelings among users. Gaining an accurate sense of stakeholder objectives and challenges is an essential step in creating solutions they will accept and embrace. CIOs should take the lead in inviting stakeholders to trade ideas and participate in decision making.”

A CIO who participates in the institution’s goal-setting process begins to think deeply about broad policy questions that can create competitive advantage for the institution. At Seton Hill, CIO Phil Komarny found that access to the top is: “… a very key part of being able to infuse or change a higher education university or higher education model…. You’re going to need that leadership or that high level buy-in to be able to make this dramatic kind of change.”

About The Contributor:
Bob NilssonDirector of Vertical Solutions Marketing

Bob Nilsson is the director of vertical solutions marketing at Extreme Networks. In this role, Mr. Nilsson leads the Extreme Networks strategy and programs for vertical markets including Healthcare, Higher Education, K-12 Education, Federal Government, and Hospitality. He has over 30 years of experience in marketing IT systems to Global 1000 companies worldwide. Before joining Extreme Networks Bob was VP Marketing at Clear Methods. Prior to that Bob held senior marketing positions at Digital Equipment and HP. Bob holds an SB degree in EE from MIT and MBA from Columbia Business School.

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