Higher education is confronting challenges that will change the way leaders--including campus CIOs--make strategic plans

4 keys to being an integrative edtech leader

Being an integrative edtech leader requires careful attention to some critical components needed for your institution's success

An integrative campus CIO is someone who finds creative ways to bring value to all stakeholders, says the higher-education technology group EDUCAUSE. Or, as Chris Campbell describes this concept, an integrative edtech leader “connects the dots” between various campus departments and their strategic goals with the aid of technology.

Campbell, who is the CIO of DeVry University in Chicago, is helping to drive digital transformation at his institution. For instance, he and his team have partnered with the provost and the head of admissions to develop an automated “nudging” system for meeting students when and where they need assistance, and they’ve created a user experience team that is making substantial improvements to how content is delivered through the university’s learning management system.

Related content: Communicating IT’s value to campus stakeholders

Being an integrative edtech leader involves recognizing opportunities where you can add value across the enterprise and then effectively communicating these ideas. According to Campbell, here are four keys to doing this successfully.

Develop a reliable IT infrastructure.

Simply recognizing opportunities isn’t enough. Campus CIOs have to be able to convince leaders of the value of their ideas, and that requires earning leaders’ trust. This process begins with building a sound and reliable IT infrastructure and demonstrating the ability to deliver what you promise.

“You have to take care of your own business first,” Campbell says. “You need to ensure that the tools and systems used across the institution are stable and available. You’re going to have a very difficult time earning a seat at the table if there’s constant chatter about outages or challenges in the delivery of technology projects.”

Understand the business of your institution.

To bring value to their institution, campus CIOs also must understand each department’s key business needs, challenges, and objectives.

“As technology leaders, we have to understand the business of the university before we can understand how to apply technology effectively to meet strategic goals,” Campbell explains.

Cultivate relationships.

Understanding the business of the institution involves listening to department heads, faculty, students, and other stakeholders to learn their key needs and challenges. “You need to be able to collaborate and build strong relationships across the institution,” Campbell says. This can happen both informally and through structured opportunities, such as meetings, committees, focus groups, and surveys.

Like many campus CIOs, Campbell serves on the president’s cabinet at his institution along with the heads of other departments. The cabinet meets every other week to discuss challenges, opportunities, and solutions for meeting the university’s strategic goals. But Campbell also spends time developing personal relationships with his colleagues from other departments.

“There are a variety of tacks I take to help foster relationships across the university outside of our cabinet meetings,” he says. “For instance, I spend quite a bit of time with my leadership team in the technology department surveying new and emerging technologies, and we use those findings as opportunities to interact more casually with other leaders at the university.”

Campbell calls leaders’ attention to emerging developments that could represent new opportunities for their departments, or sometimes he simply listens to the challenges they’re facing and collaboratively brainstorms ways that IT can help.

Look for opportunities to help others.

“Keep your eyes and ears wide open as you’re developing relationships with colleagues,” Campbell advises. “Find opportunities where you can help them meet their needs. Perhaps they mention a capability they’re looking for in a particular course. You or your team might be able to find a solution for that and bring it forward. Even if it doesn’t get selected, just contributing to the process helps you become a trusted partner in their mind.”

The user experience team is a good example of an idea that grew out of a casual conversation that Campbell had with the provost.

“We were discussing how we might deliver curriculum in ways that students want to consume it,” he recalls. “That led to the formation of a user experience team. We recognized that students might prefer to consume information in different ways. Some students would rather watch a video, others might like to read text. We’ve identified ways to give our students options in how they consume the materials. For instance, they could choose to attend a live lecture, watch a recorded lecture, or read the transcript.”

To be an integrative leader, he concludes, “you have to build trust and relationships, and you have to look for opportunities to offer value to the institution. That’s how you become a business leader at your college or university: You help the organization win.”

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