Recently, Inside Higher Ed and Hanover Research collaborated to conduct a survey of campus chief technology and information officers. One of the survey’s most significant findings was that the majority of respondents believed that, not only did campus leadership consider their central technology unit as a utility, but the central technology unit behaved like a utility. While IT departments are certainly useful (read: critical) to a college campus, what might an institution accomplish if CIOs/CTOs and their staff behaved more like strategic partners?
As a follow-up to its survey, Inside Higher Ed interviewed David Weil, CIO of Ithaca College, and Joseph Moreau, former Vice Chancellor of Technology at Foothill-de Anza Community College District, now senior consultant at Higher Digital, Inc. The objective of the interview was to assemble a comprehensive guide for how CIOs and CTOs could assume more strategic roles on campus.
In this two-part series, we summarize some of the steps Weil and Moreau recommend CIOs take to get a proverbial seat at the table. Below we examine four decisions CIOs need to make in order to become strategic partners on campus.
1. Where Can You Influence the Student Experience?
Students require technology services as much as they require services like tutoring or campus safety. The daily interactions IT teams have with students can give staff a good idea of the types of experiences (positive, negative, etc.) students are having with technology. Analyzing those interactions and determining the ways in which technology can improve the student experience can help IT departments adopt a more strategic role on campus.
2. How Can You Build Stronger Relationships Across Your Institution?
The IT department deals with almost every department on campus. Weil and Moreau recommend that CIOs capitalize on these interactions and foster relationships with important leaders in academics, student services, human resources, finance, and other key departments.
These relationships will be important for CIOs when developing their strategic roles on campus—especially when it is time to implement tactics. Perhaps you’ll need another department to allocate resources to an IT endeavor; relationships are already in place that may make the ask easier.
3. How Do You Choose the Right Technology Partner?
One of the most strategic roles CIOs play on campus is the technology advisor. Choosing the right technology vendor can be difficult (and choosing the wrong vendor can be disastrous), so Moreau and Weil recommend CIOs investigate a vendor’s track record and history of long-term partnerships. They also recommend looking for companies that emphasize partnership and are willing to work with you to achieve your institution’s goals and objectives.
4. How Do You Get Stakeholders Comfortable With Automation and SaaS?
There’s so much that can be done now with automation and with Software as a Service (SaaS). With modern technology and cloud services, CIOs can improve their institution’s business processes, but they must have a clear understanding of what those business processes entail. Moreau and Weil suggest sitting down with colleagues to better understand what their day-to-day tasks look like. CIOs can then determine how automation and SaaS can benefit various departments and use this understanding to help improve processes across campus.
While technology can play a key role in a CIO’s/CTO’s success, Moreau and Weil emphasize that soft skills are those that will make the biggest difference. Being able to build relationships with students and staff can help CIOs influence an institution’s culture and positively impact campus operations.
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