Capturing value from technology
- Understand the problem you’re trying to solve with technology
- Ask questions—talk to potential users, vendors, stakeholders
- Technology’s value is ultimately in its impact
During my career, I have had the opportunity to work with not only CIOs and technology professionals, but CEOs, CFOs, provosts, and other higher education leaders. When they asked about technology, it was important to remind them that “it’s not just about the technology, it’s what you do with it that counts.” Rather than starting with the technology, college leaders should focus first on their institutional challenges. Are they challenged with raising institutional efficiency and performance, improving learning and student success, advancing innovation, or something else? Once you understand what you are trying to achieve, it is easier to find a technological solution to meet those goals.
As you evaluate any potential solution, remembering that “it’s not just about the technology but what you do with it that counts,” consider:
- The technology: Take the time to understand the technology—how it works, where it fits, what the downsides are. Implementing a new technology is an investment in time and resources, so be comfortable with a solution before endorsing it or signing a contract. Attend conferences to explore your options, request a demo, and ask how a solution will help you meet your goals.
- User needs and experiences: To bring value, a technology must meet users’ needs, whether those users’ are students, faculty, staff, or administrators. This means the technology must have been designed with a deep understanding of those needs. Beyond meeting their needs, users need a positive experience or they won’t use the technology, no matter how good it is. Talk to customers already using the solution and ask the how the technology is meeting their specific needs and the kind of experience it provides for their users.
- The system and integration: College campuses are complex. Nothing stands alone. Everything must fit together in a system, such as resources (funding, personnel), policies, culture, data quality, and security. Many of the elements are outside of IT’s control. Be thoughtful about how a new technology fits in to your environment, how data is handled, as well as how it will integrate with your existing applications.
- The community: You are probably not the first one to adopt a particular solution. Learn from the community. Ask “who else is doing this?” Explore the lessons they have learned. Look for case studies, references, or communities of practice. Many institutions will be happy to share their experiences so you can make your implementation as smooth as possible.
- Commitment: Implementing a technology can be complicated. You need partners—internal and external—who can help make it all work. Those partners need to be committed to the same goals, both in the short- and long-term. True partners will make your priority their priority. Achieving your goals requires more than knowing how to install software—it takes a partner who understands the complexity of higher education and the users you serve.
- What’s next: Technology changes rapidly. Make sure any solution you invest in today will continue to benefit your institution in the future. For example, ask vendors to share product roadmaps and their vision for where the technology is going next. Don’t forget to ask about their partner networks which may be key to their strategic growth plans.
- Ultimately, it isn’t just about the technology, it’s what you do with it that counts: The value is in the impact, not the application itself. Let me use student success as an example. Of course, you need the back-office systems. You need degree plans, alerts, dashboards, and analytics. But ultimately, those elements are only a means to an end. What your institution really wants is the impact of the technology. It wants the results, such as improved retention and completion, reduced time to degree, and improved prospects for lifelong career success and economic vitality.
To get the most out of your technology investments, today and in the future, I hope you’ll keep these seven considerations in mind. Technology is exciting, especially when it helps you meet your goals.