IT leaders from different institutions discuss how the pandemic has influenced their digital transformation

What’s next for higher ed’s digital transformation?


IT leaders from different institutions discuss how the pandemic has influenced their digital transformation

COVID-19 forced higher education to pivot, transition, adapt, and then some. So, what’s next? Where will digital transformation take institutions and how will that transformation meet the needs of faculty, students, and staff?

During an EDUCAUSE 2021 panel, IT leaders discussed just that.

What did higher-ed IT leaders realize about digital transformation?

Digital transformation “requires us as leaders to change as well–not forcing our comfort levels on others, but making sure we embrace tools to serve them the best we can,” said Sharon Pitt, Vice President for Information Technologies & CIO at the University of Delaware. “[We are] celebrating accomplishments, making sure we show gratitude, [and] having flexible policies and high levels of communication,” she said.

“I think our responses changed over time. At the beginning it was, ‘Get everyone remote, get settled, get the tools.’ I think it evolved over time as we observed and started hearing back from our folks, over that long haul, what they were actually grappling with. and we did have to flex a lot – every organization had to go through that. So every moment in time we’d try to observe: where are we, what information do we have, and what support services do we have in place?” said Michele Norin, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

How can institutions manage changes in staffing that come with digital transformation, especially after employees have become accustomed to remote work and may pursue careers that allow remote work to continue?

“We also know we’re facing a major change in our staffing, whether you call it the great resignation, or call it a career change. We know we have to staff differently, somehow, to make it through the next few years,” said David Seidl, Vice President for Information Technology and CIO at Miami University.

“We can see it. We have The Future of Work Initiative, institution-wide, and in those conversations and in that planning work, it’s starting to bubble up in other places, not just in IT. It’s enough to where it’s motivating people to speak up,” Norin said. “We are not positioned well enough to respond quickly enough to the countermeasures to try and keep them. … A lot of times it’s salary, and they can work remotely, and that’s an opportunity for them.”

“People are rethinking what it is being in a pandemic, what it is they want to do, how they want to live,” Pitt said. “Being able to work remotely and have flexibility is very important, and some are making decisions based on that. We have to be incredibly thoughtful about what the future of work is going to be.”

“I want to remember that every team member is different, with different obligations,” Pitt added. “We need to have intentionality around how it is we ensure communication. How do we support them? the key will be intentionality and flexibility.”

Laura Ascione