4. Creating collaborative environments: “I had an interesting talk with Jill Albin-Hill, vice president for IT at Dominican University, and something she said struck me: ‘I want to be so involved with other departments, to know their needs, goals and staff so well, that if their VP left, I could fill in—not be an expert, but at least step in and be able to provide effective solutions,’” said Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County at the Campus Technology conference. “And that’s what needs to happen in colleges today: working as a close team where IT is not a separate section, but the foundation for all departments.”

IT leaders at the AWS conference also agreed, emphasizing that collaboration across campus stakeholders (admin, faculty, and investors) is what drives buy-in and support for major projects and new technologies. “The biggest challenge we see is in stakeholder buy-in and meeting their needs,” said Carozzoni. “This includes working with procurement to make sure our grants stay safe, as well as all legal contracts are met.”

Therefore, noted Frazier, “It’s critical to let everyone know it’s not just about cloud migration, but as an opportunity to move forward and stay ahead of the times. IT is extremely excited about the cloud and is one of its biggest proponents, so we work hard to engage the entire community, like DDA and SysAdmins.”

Innovative IT departments are also collaborating with multiple institutions to improve student performance across campus.

5. Developing a whole new mindset for disruption: Frazier emphasized during this summer’s AWS conference that when IT plans to announce a major rollout or transition to a different technology or platform, the announcement does not come out of the blue without any warning, explanation, or test runs. Instead, IT departments like Harvard’s focus first on lower exposure areas and test/experiment to prove the technology’s value and mitigate concerns to stakeholders.

But outside of knowing how to announce a potentially disruptive project or implementation, it’s also critical to understand a new scaling mindset to keep ahead of disruptive trends. “Remember that it’s not just a problem to solve, but how to solve in scale,” he said. “The mindset needs to change from ‘what’s the overall cost to solve the problem in three-to-seven years?’ because that’s too late! You won’t get far fast if your overall deadline is years from now. Instead, see initiatives like cloud migration as a list to check off items, allowing your department to complete tasks as early as tomorrow, even if they’re small ones. This is the new mindset: immediate step-by-step to get it done now.”