For the study, researchers interviewed 10 CIOs and one CTO known for their responsiveness to customers and going “beyond the social campus by participating in an executive capacity with the business issues of higher education.” Each CIO also makes significant contributions in critical areas, such as students retention, student recruitment, fundraising, reduced costs and higher operational efficiency, and greater classroom innovation. (More information about the CIOs, their institutions, and the critical areas of contribution can be found in the report.)

The report aims to distill their wisdom and experience and present a road map to “transform higher education” by applying modern technology, innovation, and dedication to the customer.

A road map for transformation

For an innovative CIO to be a “catalyst to help the institution evolve,” the report suggests a four-point plan based on lessons learned from the CIOs interviewed. The road map aims to align business goals, strategy, and technology to meet the challenges faced today.

Point one discusses how CIOs need to build the right infrastructure—planning that requires a CIO anticipate his or her organization’s needs over a “relatively long time horizon,” explains the report.

These decisions must balance anticipated organizational needs, budget, and expected usable life cycle for each piece of technology under consideration. The choice of on-premise or cloud software deployment also might have a significant impact on infrastructure decisions.

According to the report, components of a higher-education infrastructure portfolio typically include:

  • Local (and/or cloud-based) servers and storage
  • Wired and wireless networking with flexible access to institution resources
  • Strong mobile device support, including robust BYOD capabilities
  • Voice communications
  • Network security and access control
  • Infrastructure to support online learning and collaboration
  • High-speed internet access
  • Disaster recovery
  • Project management capability

Point two discusses providing the right applications and services, because, although infrastructure is the foundation, “if the CIO cannot provide useful applications, the credibility needed to support innovation and transformation will remain unattainable.”

The report notes that application and service portfolios in higher education typically include:

  • Back-end applications, such as ERP, financial systems, human capital management, and business intelligence
  • Administrative tools, such as course selections systems for students
  • Online learning applications, including remote teaching, and learning management systems
  • Collaborations tools such as video conferencing, activity streams, and instant messaging
  • Email and other communication tools
  • Apps for movable devices and phones

Point three highlights how CIOs can transform the IT organization by creating an appropriate organizational design and “cultivate the right cultural dynamics. Because a strategic IT group functions differently than one focused primarily on feeds and speeds, the CIO must shape the dynamics within his or her organization.”

The first step to transforming the IT organization is developing a service-oriented culture within IT, says the report. This culture should deviate from the “historic attitude of IT as insular and unresponsive.”

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