Strategy and technology help CIOs transform higher ed
- Technology is transforming business processes in higher ed, but it is not the end-all
- Being able to deliver the strategic vision across campus is essential to a CIO’s success
- Explaining the purpose of technology and how it benefits the institution helps build relationships with senior leadership and business units
Q: In your opinion, how is the role of the higher ed CIO evolving?
A: I see the higher ed CIO evolving as more of a strategist, being more involved in the other business units, and performing process analysis. I see the higher ed CIO as transforming the business process using IT and technology but being aware that technology is not the end-all. We still have people, we still have process, and all of those things need to be grouped together and be congruent for the CIO to be successful.
Q: What challenges are CIOs facing, and how are you handling those challenges at Waukesha County Technical College?
A: Technology is moving at a fast pace and, as educational institutions, we move a little slower than a business would. We need to become more agile in terms of implementing technology that we use, so we can deliver services at a faster pace.
I think the cloud is really making us change the way we do things. We’re looking at what we do differently, seeing how the cloud has helped the business units and how it impacts our strategy going forward. It is making us be more business-focused than IT-focused.
Q: How do you keep your team motivated?
A: I keep my team motivated by encouraging them to think like a CIO, to get away from that traditional view of IT and look at things from a management perspective, so they can get a vision of the future and how we're going to drive processes. I think that having input into the strategic vision, they're more likely to come on board than not.
Q: Do you have any tips for developing a good working relationship with your senior leadership?
A: Yes. I think the best tip, what has worked for me, is always explaining, especially to the senior leadership, the purpose of technology, and how technology can help the business be more effective and more efficient. It's not to replace people or things for the most part, but it's to make their working environment more flexible and give value to our students. It’s paramount to remember our mission is to educate students. So, if we can take our complex processes and make them easier for our staff to use, we can spend more time focused on students.
Q: Do you have any advice for working with different departments across campus?
A: Different departments have different needs. And sometimes standardization doesn't always work between business units. But we have to go into the business units with our strategic vision in mind, figure out what they need, figure out how to do it, and just have a conversation. Maybe there's some technology that we find for them to create more efficiency in what they're doing. We sit down and have a conversation and get their feedback instead of trying to throw technology at them, or them picking their own technology and asking us to deliver it.
Q: What soft skills are essential to the role of the CIO?
A: Being able to deliver your strategic vision across the campus. It is that soft skill of speaking to everybody on campus, whether it's a student group, or a staff group, or a community group. You have to find the right message for them, so they can understand exactly what IT is trying to do and what the end goal is.
Q: Do you have a mentor, and if so, how has that relationship been beneficial to your career?
A: Yes, I have a mentor that's also in a technology field. In fact, they're in the private business area, which helps me out a lot because, even though our verticals are different, technology is the same. We talk about the same processes, the same experiences, either good or bad, that we both have as CIOs in these different verticals. Additionally, I’m mentored by an individual that works for a global company as their diversity and inclusion leader. This really keeps me grounded and in tune with the personnel aspects of leadership.
Q: Do you have any tips for finding a good mentor?
A: I would say find someone who has the experience, and the background in management and in providing services, and is a good visionary, and is a good strategic person. I think those are the qualities that I would look for.
Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring CIO?
A: For an aspiring CIO, I would tell him or her that the main goal is to drive processes while envisioning the future. To stay caught up on, not necessarily in the technical minutiae of things, but how these things could affect the business, either negative or positive. Make sure that when you develop your strategic initiatives, and your mission and your values for your IT department, that they are congruent and fit into the larger strategic vision and goals of the campus.
Have your processes solid. Have your thoughts coherent when you go talk to people. Don't try to make technology the number one priority for the business. Technology is a builder of efficiency and effectiveness. It is not the end-all of everything. You have to work with technology and the business. If a CIO can figure that piece out, I think they'll be successful.