May 02, 2013

The Campus Cultural Shift with the Consumerization of IT

CIO Innovation Sessions at Interop. Register NowThis is a repost from  Phil Komarny is the VP/CIO of Seton Hill University and will be presenting in booth #1026 at Interop 2013 in Las Vegas, May 7-9.  Please register today to attend his presentation as outlined below.

The ‘Consumerization of Information Technology’ has been a very hot topic since the first paper about it was published in a LEF journal in June of 2004. The term consumerization is defined by Wikipedia as the growing tendency for new information technology to emerge first in the consumer market and then spread into business, education and government organizations. Historically new technologies are delivered to an organization by its leadership to perform a necessary business function. This delivery method is not very collaborative or open and makes it very difficult to take full advantage of the proliferation of new mobile devices in the market.

This shift away from a very controlled, closed, and sometimes downright unwelcoming networking environment has escalated quickly since the emergence of the smartphone and now the tablet. While some organizations and their IT leadership shun this disruptively innovative way to manage their computing environment, others are embracing the change and focusing more on the ‘innovation’ and less on the ‘disruption’. Ultimately leading to a mobilized work force that is supported by an open portal that provides fingertip access to data that they need to be successful in their roles.

Mobile Learning @ the Hill

In this post I would like to explore what that consumerized model has done for the ‘campus culture here at Seton Hill University.

With the launch of our Mobile Learning @ the Hill program in the fall of 2010, which issued a MacBook Pro and an iPad to every student, we dove head first into the deep end of the consumerized pool.

This heralded the beginning of the shift in our campus’ culture. Almost overnight Seton Hill went from a tightly controlled, ‘Control-Alt-Delete’ culture to a collaborative and open, ‘Cloud/Mobile/Social’ one. This shift toward a more consumerized environment, one that would not only support the iPad, but would mimic the experience that a customer has when they open a new Apple device and… turn it on… and… it… just… works.

That experience has been extrapolated out into every application we develop, and every service we deliver to our community. This consumerized vision is hyper-focused on the user and the experience they have interacting with your computing environment.

Below I will outline six key factors that were required for, or were a direct result of, our adoption of a consumerized, Cloud/Mobile/Social culture.

It all starts with community. A portal that brings your users into your environment through a single sign on point is imperative. You must define your community, nurture it, and provide a stable and killer user experience. For example, we use our portal as a framework to deliver customized applications that can leverage multiple data stores that at worst, create efficiencies, and at best create aligned business processes that lead to an efficient organization.

Clear and Focused Vision
Today’s CIO needs to have a much broader vision of their organization. This broadened vision also needs to be able to penetrate the most hardened business unit silo to understand their pain points with current technologies. The CIO must understand the relationship of business units and how their processes effect one and other. This deep understanding of the business coupled with a strong technological vision can produce a language of engagement that the CIO can use to translate technology into new efficient and collaborative processes. Armed with this new ‘language’ the CIO can now set a vision that needs to continually reiterate it so that it stays clear and understood. A clouded vision can lead to something that Christine Comaford (@Comaford) calls the “critter state”. This can paralyze staff members and can bring any innovation to a screeching halt. Even if the vision is not fully accepted by everyone, the fact that it is clearly defined will diminish the fears of change.

Sidenote: I recall a video I once watched about Steve Jobs building NeXT. At 7:15 of the video he starts to speak about being the keeper and the reiterator of the vision.

By moving from a closed, wired, client/server environment to the cloud, delivering UX on mobile devices and enhanced via social interactions, the CIO now has a platform to engage users at a different level. The creation of new processes now becomes very collaborative, open and transparent. By better understanding the users, and their pain points, the CIO can now work openly, across multiple business units, to collaboratively create a process, that not only creates efficiencies, but also can lead to new business models and revenue streams.

Policy & Governance
This new paradigm gives you the ability to move away from a centralized, hierarchical and intensely controlled environment to one that is hyper-focused on the users’s experience. We quickly move away from policies that are inflexible, rigid and are very slow to change by creating a shared governance model that leverages collaboration. This open environment drives rapid consensus around updated policies and provides the foundation for your new culture to grow upon, instead of being stifled by rigid, inflexible and outdated policies.

A strongly secured computing environment is, and always will be paramount. Let’s face it, we all like to sleep at night. What has changed with the consumerization effect is that security can be just as effective while being much less intrusive. We have also found that when you place an iPad in a users hands and they interact with it a sense of ownership is created. This sense of ownership has lead our users to a deeper appreciation of device security.

Staff Development
These times of change call for changing roles. The workforce must be adaptable and understand the new vision and how their current skill-sets align with it. As more and more of our virtualized infrastructure is moved from on campus data centers to private and public clouds the need for skills that are closely related to those currently leveraged as a developer are very necessary.

With this change in culture you also have the ability to engage your users on a different level. Before the shift at Seton Hill the use of technology and how it is supported on campus wasn’t rated very high by our students. Frustrated by antiquated computer labs, limited access to resources, spotty WiFi, and no sense of community, I must say I couldn’t blame them.

Below is the result of a challenge that I issued to our Director of User Services, Scott Miller (@SHUSolutions). The challenge was to improve our customer service and educate our users, not just support them. During our last student satisfaction survey, Information Technology and our Solutions Center were ranked #1 & #2. His attention the the users experience show in this outcome.

About The Contributor:
Phil KomarnyCIO of Seton Hill University

Phil Komarny has been vice president for Computer and Information Technology at Seton Hill University where he served as the institutional catalyst in initiatives which positioned the school as a leader in strengthening learning through the use of mobile technology. In this role, Phil also provided daily support of the University’s entire technology infrastructure, developing new software and website applications and managing institutional use of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and podcasts. In 2011, Komarny was selected by the Pittsburgh Technology Council in the non-profit category as a finalist for the CIO of the Year. Next month Phil is taking on a new role as CEO of Robots and Pencils, Inc.

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