Help! My hair is on fire

Help! My hair is on fire

Key takeaways

  • Thoughtful technology choices and forward-leaning company planning have given Ellucian’s technology teams the tools to keep our workforce productive and connected around the planet.
  • Ellucian understands the path to digital transformation is tough. And it just got tougher with the coronavirus (COVID-19.) Ellucian is actively engaging its customers and sharing insights to help all of us rise above challenges.
  • The IT business unit has strong partnerships across the enterprise.

At Ellucian, I lead critical information technology teams that are focused on our enterprise business applications and oversee all of our end-user support. With the worst pandemic of our lifetime going on, why is my hair not on fire? Why spend time posting to social media now when my business needs me more than ever?

Because there is no fire. Thoughtful technology choices and forward-leaning company planning have given our technology teams the tools to keep our workforce productive and connected around the planet.

Many of my industry peers are not so fortunate. They rapidly establish plans to increase bandwidth at their in-office data centers. They spend time daily navigating the global supply chain to buy additional firewalls and routers to increase work-from-home capabilities. At Ellucian, we made the quick pivot to work-from-home and did not miss a beat, thanks to years of thoughtful technology spending on single sign-on, multi-factor authentication, and cloud collaboration software. Some 60 percent of the Ellucian workforce was working remotely prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. When our leadership team made the call to protect our communities and workers, the whole company was efficiently working from home within 48 hours.

Mathew and team on a group call

My objective is to share with you some of the “secret sauce” behind Ellucian’s ability to go “all-in” for our customers as higher education reels to meet the demands of rapid digital transformation in the wake of social distancing orders. Let’s step through three things I see as enablers to success in our current world. Spoiler alert: there is no magic technology you can buy.

First is leadership. Plain, simple, good old-fashioned leadership. This leadership did not begin with a global pandemic—although I am immensely proud of the quick, forward-looking actions our executives have taken to ensure our health, safety, and stability. Leadership has evolved over Ellucian’s decades in the business. I spent a good amount of time looking for my next professional opportunity before signing on at Ellucian. In the end, leadership at Ellucian was my deciding factor. My interview process allowed me the opportunity to meet with several business leaders across the organization. What I found was the willingness for leaders to listen, be vulnerable, transparent, and express their desire to partner outside of their domains to improve the business (more on the partnership between leaders and IT later.) That is rare and critical to how we manage during these unprecedented times. This is why Ellucian uses the phrase #PowerOfTogether both internally and with those across the higher education community. Leadership and teamwork combine to give us an advantage when times are tough, and we strive to improve in advance of our customers’ needs.

Mathew and team

Second is the power of cloud-based technologies. We provide it to our customers, and we consume it voraciously across the enterprise. I am aware that “cloud” is a buzzword, but there are those who truly use cloud as the strategic advantage that it is. For example, we have pushed to ween ourselves from on-premise data centers and to utilize strong infrastructure platforms from AWS and software from Salesforce and SAP. The objective in our cloud strategy is to further intensify our focus on that which matters most—building thoughtful, insightful higher education solutions that, in turn, help institutions focus on their students’ education. We understand that the path to digital transformation is tough. And it just got tougher. We are actively engaging our customers and sharing our insights to help all of us rise above the challenges to meet our mission of #customerfirst, #peoplefirst, and #cloudfirst.

Lastly, I alluded to why I work at Ellucian—strong partnerships across the enterprise between technology and business. This is no longer the IT department parodied by such classics as Office Space and The IT Crowd, but more like the department at the end of the book The Phoenix Project, when IT becomes a critical part of the entire business chain through DevOps collaboration. We make technology decisions in partnership with our business teams. We respect that the business needs to act quickly in order to respond to our customers. We respect that security, compliance, data integration, and operational intelligence comes from thoughtful information technology operations. Fail to follow this, and you end up trying to lock down and support the technology purchases made without IT. Data gets stuck and is unable to inform management, and technology spend spirals out of control as duplicate, unintegrated solutions get duct-taped together. Having thoughtful leadership that sees the advantage of this marriage is a game-changer.

Mathew speaking

Now is the time to have conversations at the top of your businesses to establish cloud-based technology plans born out of the working partnership between business leaders and technology teams. When you do, your business will thrive and your customers will get the attention they deserve.

About the Author
Mathew Chase
Mathew Chase
Vice President, Information Technology

Mat works for Ellucian as the head of the Enterprise Applications and Services team for its corporate information technology group. He is based out of the Reston, Virginia office in support of his global team.