Friday, December 19, 2014

Enjoy the holiday break

Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, I hope you enjoy the holiday break! As we go into the holiday period, I want to encourage you to find appropriate work-life balance. I know some of us may be on call during the break, but not everyone, and not all the time. Avoid checking into work while you are on vacation. Take this moment to relax.

Work-life balance can be difficult in this always-connected age. Our phones provide easy, immediate access to both personal distraction (Facebook) and work items (email). The temptation to "just see what's happening at work" may be strong, but it ultimately is unhelpful. Remember, if you are always working, you are not working well.

So don't check your email. Leverage this holiday break as an excuse to unplug from work. You'll return to the office refreshed and ready to tackle new challenges.

To demonstrate this good behavior, I do not plan to post new items to Coaching Buttons blog over the holiday break. I'll be enjoying this time with family. I'll see you again in January!
image: dkimber

Monday, December 15, 2014

Top ten posts 2014 (bonus)

I sometimes like to find leadership lessons in unusual places. Looking for leadership lessons through the lens of unexpected sources can be interesting and insightful. This year, I shared a few lessons that carry great leadership lessons, from an atypical perspective:

The AMC show Breaking Bad provides useful leadership lessons, if you look for them. I've chosen five of my favorite lessons: 1. Partner with others; be part of a team. 2. Make wise hiring decisions. 3. Be methodical in what you do. 4. Commit to your decisions. 5. Don't be afraid to take initiative.
More lessons from the empire business: Be consistent. Think creatively. Listen to advice. Watch out for your team.
Before he was governor of the 12th largest economy in the world (that's California, by the way), Arnold Schwarzenegger featured in Conan the Barbarian (1982) about a young man who overcomes adversity to become a notable presence in the world. And it is through this film that Schwarzenegger (as Conan) shares his three leadership lessons, in answer to the question "What is best in life?" (This post is from April 1, don't take it too seriously.)
In an "op-ed" article from August, we can learn about receiving feedback. Here are three lessons I inferred from the article: We don't have all the answers. We need to hear feedback from others. Feedback must be timely to be effective.
Don't let your meetings end up this way. With the increasing trend towards remote meetings, such as through Google Hangout or teleconferences, we need to find ways to keep our remote attendees engaged. Remote meetings shouldn't drift into "us v them" where those who are physically present in the room ignore those who are trying to participate via conference. What things can you learn about running a remote meeting successfully?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Top ten posts 2014 (part 2)

At the end of the year, it's typical to reflect on the milestones we've reached over the last twelve months. So it is during this time that I like to review articles I've shared on this blog, and highlight several via a "top ten" list. I shared five of my "top ten" on Monday; here is the rest of the list. These are presented in no particular order:

A new library for a new generation
At the University of Minnesota Morris, we have been working on plans to extend our library to become a new "learning commons," a destination for both individual and group learning. We have actually been developing these plans for a number of years. Related: The library is not just for books.
Amazon as the new bookstore
"Can you imagine what it would be like if we outsourced our bookstores to Amazon?" It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone working in higher ed that costs are a major concern, and have been for years. This extends even to the books that students must buy for their classes. Universities have long sought new ways to lower textbook costs. Purdue's move to partner with Amazon is an interesting step for higher ed, one that other institutions will seek to emulate—with Amazon, or with other textbook resellers. 
The changing role of the CIO
The role of the chief information officer has changed dramatically over the years. I've discussed this several times, including one article about the CIO of the future. Citing Jerry DeSanto, vice president for planning and CIO at the University of Scranton (PA), chief information officers in the 1990s described their role as Building,Spending, Technical, Physical, Obscure, Functional, User-centric, Operational, Manager. But the CIO of the future must instead embody collaborative qualities: Sharing, Optimizing, Well-rounded, Virtual, Visible, Value-added, Customer-centric, Strategic, Leader.
Treating student jobs as real jobs
In Computing Services, we have always given our student workers realistic work assignments. Rather than use students as cheap labor, we seek to expand the educational mission of the university by giving "stretch" assignments to our student workers, according to their individual capabilities. So it's not surprising (for us, anyway) to see this white paper from Noel-Levitz, about "Enhancing Student Success by Treating Student Jobs as Real Jobs." This brief report (8 pages) describes how institutions may advance student learning: how campus jobs help to prepare students for the post-collegiate working world.
Your tie says a lot about you
How you dress says a lot about who you are as a person. Whether we like or not, our professional appearance often precedes us. What we wear to meetings is often just as important as what we say and how we act at that meeting. And you might not know it, but your tie says a lot about you.

That may be ten, but that's not the end of the "top ten" list. I'll share a few "bonus" items on Monday!
photo: AASU Armstrong University Archives

Monday, December 8, 2014

Top ten posts 2014 (part 1)

At the end of the year, it's typical to reflect on the milestones we've reached over the last twelve months. So it is during this time that I like to review articles I've shared on this blog, and highlight several via a "top ten" list. These are presented in no particular order:

Higher-ed IT must change or die
Technology in higher-ed is on the verge of major change. 2014 will introduce major shifts in campus technology, and higher-ed IT has no choice but to adapt. In only a few years, our roles will change dramatically. The shifting sands of technology is a key point. For example, only few years ago, everyone wanted iPads in the classrooms; now, Chromebooks have overtaken iPads in education.
It's easier to interpolate than extrapolate
Try this exercise instead: What do you want your IT organization to be doing 5 years from now? What does that IT team look like? What is it focused on? What are its priorities? How is it shaped? Once you've imagined that vision, take a step back. You know where you're going to end up in 5 years. What your next step? Where do you go from here? What are the major milestones you need to reach over the next year, and over the next 5 years, to reach your target?
Master of Science in Scientific and Technical Communication
As I reflected on my Master's program, I commented on a few classes that really stuck with me. If you are interested in the MS-STC program, and want to know what some of the classes are like, this is for you.
Celebrating 20 years in free software
Another reflection, this time on my work in free software. In June, The FreeDOS Project turned 20 years old. FreeDOS is a free version of DOS, a replacement for Microsoft's MS-DOS. FreeDOS dates back to 1994, when I was still a physics undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. While my major field of study was physics, I long held a strong interest in computers and programming.
We are surrounded by experts
The faculty on our campuses have spent years to become experts in their fields. And they are your colleagues. Just as we rely on relationships between our peers in IT to get things done, to call on favors, we can use our connection with campus to learn from our faculty. You might audit a class (often for no cost!) and spend an entire semester to do a "deep dive" on a new skill. Or you might ask one of the faculty to give advice or coaching to pick up a new topic, or to improve an existing strength. If you feel particularly motivated, you might work with a faculty adviser to build a program out of these leadership and management skills, and either complete a Master's degree or acquire a second Bachelor's degree.

These are only five of my "top ten" posts from 2014. I'll share the other five on Friday this week.
photo: Saad Faruque

Friday, December 5, 2014

Media Collaboration Table

At the University of Minnesota Morris, we have been working on plans to extend our library to become a new "learning commons," a destination for both individual and group learning. We have actually been developing these plans for a number of years.

Although the specifics of the implementation have changed, the general plan is to convert the main level of our campus library into a learning center. Part of the learning commons would be dedicated to a "one help" center, where students would interact with reference librarians, borrow technology for short-term use, and ask for technology help—and as always, check out books. The main learning commons area would be filled with tables suitable for small groups to gather to work on projects. Each space would have suitable power and wireless for laptops and mobile devices. Other areas would provide separate, private space for practicing speeches or similar work.

We aren't there yet, but we are making progress where we can. This week, we saw the installation of a new media collaboration table in the library. Provided by Computing Services and hosted by Briggs Library, we are proud of this new technology addition to student study spaces.


Students can use the table to better collaborate in group projects. Connect your laptop to the display so everyone can contribute to the project. Having a large, shared screen makes group learning easier!

The table is located on the entrance level of Briggs Library. The hook-ups for the display will be installed early next week.

Morris Zimride

At Morris, we use Zimride for sharing rides. At this year's Big Block of Cheese Day, we asked folks how we can improve in technology. We heard that we should advertise more about how Zimride benefits the campus.

We are working on a new advertising concept: images that will be displayed on the digital signage across campus. Here are a few mock-ups from our "Did you know?" campaign:

How Zimride helps our green campus:



Statistics about who is using Zimride:

Monday, December 1, 2014

Planning for the future

Last week, I met with the Morris Campus Student Association to share an update on campus technology, including our status with the campus IT Masterplan. I would also like to share that update here:

In 2011-2012, I led a cross-team working group to refresh our campus IT Masterplan. The previous IT Masterplan was outdated and no longer actionable; it was the perfect time to regroup and analyze our campus technology needs so we could plan for the future. That working group generated a brief document that identified five basic categories of technology needs:
  1. Essential needs:
    Projects and activities that must be addressed immediately. While these are not prerequisites for other sections, the essential needs represent high priority issues, including networks, security, and web.
  2. Structural needs:
    Issues that address clarity in organization and structure, including “where do I go for help?”
  3. Resource needs:
    Budgets and technology replacement strategies for the Morris campus.
  4. Educational support:
    Recommendations that support electronic learning, technology awareness, and research needs of the campus.
  5. Technology services:
    Items that address specific needs and campus projects, such as the learning commons and student printing.

The IT Masterplan outlined fourteen goals for technology investment, grouped under these five categories. You may also think of these goals as vision statements. Within each vision statement, we also listed actionable items: projects that would set us along a path towards each goal.

Here is an overview of the IT Masterplan, delivered in May 2012:

click to enlarge

That's a lot of information to digest, but you can see the vision statements and the action items for each. Along the top, we provide an indicator for calendar year and fiscal year, slotting effort into appropriate time periods as planning and budgets permit. Please note the check-marks next to most of the action items; these indicate completed work. We have been making significant progress in addressing these technology needs. The technology support units at UMM have worked together towards these goals, and we have accomplished much.

An updated version of the IT Masterplan, showing ongoing work:

click to enlarge

This updated version of the IT Masterplan focuses only on open items, and provides a solid framework on which we are building our IT investments and effort over the next several years. Some are long-term initiatives or goals, and others are short-term projects for this fiscal year. This fiscal year planning is especially important today when CIOs must quantify costs related to projects: systems, processes, and staff. We need to be innovative in our introduction of technology, but also remain good stewards to the university budget.

A few highlights from the plan: We continue to expand our universal wireless, which is an ongoing improvement of our wireless network. We have significantly improved our desktop and laptop management through Active Directory; this provides greater flexibility to you, and easier updates and support for us. And we are making substantial progress in the campus website, migrating to a new web content management system. In future, the Library plans to build a new learning commons, which will become the new location for technology checkout and the helpdesk. These future items are shown in purple.

But strategic planning doesn't end here. With technology, we need to keep thinking about the future to avoid getting stuck in the past. So in Spring semester, we will launch a small, focused working group to refresh the IT Masterplan. This will not be a re-write of the IT Masterplan; instead, the new working group will seek to identify technology efforts and strategies that we should change, stop, or start. For example, do we need to refocus how we deliver certain services? We should change these services. Or, are we currently providing technology services that no longer provide value, that are no longer being used? We should stop these services. Also, what new technologies have emerged that would benefit the campus? We should start these new services. The IT Masterplan refresh is shown in orange.

In refreshing the IT Masterplan, we will also work through campus governance, including member participation from Academic Support Services Committee. I also wish the updated IT Masterplan to document our governance model for technology at Morris. Similar to the IT Governance Process used by IT@UMN, our governance model should capture the input cycle (formal and informal), prioritization, and decision-making process that involves Academic Support Services, Planning Committee, Consultative Committee, TechPeople, and others.

Friday, November 28, 2014

When to centralize?

As a system campus, we must balance whether a technology service should be supported centrally or locally. Maybe you have a similar situation, where many campuses or colleges work together within a common framework, yet remain independent.

At Morris, I prefer to leverage (where possible) the Common Good services provided at the enterprise level. We already pay into an "enterprise tax" to support these services, so it makes no sense for me to maintain my own cost pool to support redundant services here when we could divest those services to the enterprise. In many cases, I directed the creation of these enterprise services when I was Senior Manager in the Office of Information Technology, so I already know they are solid service offerings. But where to draw the line between "central" and "local" services? This is the guide that we use:

Central
  • Does the service support multiple campuses?
  • Would an interruption of the service negatively impact the University as a whole?
  • Is there existing demand for an enterprise offering?
  • Is the technology mature, stabilized?
  • Is the service a commodity, where we provide little or no additional value?
  • Does the service require a higher level of expertise?
  • Does it serve a broad institutional need?
  • Does it require a single point of institutional accountability?

If you find yourself answering Yes to most or all of these, then you should centralize the service.

Local
  • Does the service support only a few units, or one unit?
  • Would an interruption of the service only impact the local unit?
  • Is there limited demand?
  • Is this an emerging technology?
  • Is the service for a unique need?
  • Does the service require specialized knowledge?
  • Does it serve a niche, or a singular strategic priority?
  • Does it require local or shared accountability?

If you agree more with this list, then you should consider supporting the service locally.

For example, we have divested most of our web servers to the "managed hosts" and "shared web" services at the Twin Cities. We don't need to support these services with any particular expertise; anyone can run a web server. We don't bring additional value to the university by running the web server, we add value through content and applications. So we let others manage the server, and we focus on the content.

But in another example, we have maintained several research systems, and continue to run them at Morris. These are specialized systems that support local research. We may need to provide unique configurations that benefit research at Morris. So we choose to maintain those systems locally.

Friday, November 21, 2014

About Unizin

We've been talking about Unizin for a while now, as the University of Minnesota recently joined the Unizin consortium. But some of you may not be entirely clear on what Unizin provides for us. So I wanted to take a moment to provide my viewpoint.

At its core, Unizin is a consortium of higher education institutions working together, to help educators share information with each other. Unizin focuses on digital content development and data analysis, tools that educators can leverage to improve teaching and learning. In the end, Unizin allows people who are using different learning management systems to share course content with each other.

We use Moodle for our learning management system (sometimes also called a course management system). So as an educator, you probably know how to set up and manage your courses in Moodle. But a colleague at a different institution may use a different LMS, such as Blackboard. There are several LMS's out there. Here's a quick rundown from Delta Initiative of the most popular systems:

(click to enlarge)

Maybe you are teaching an introductory course, and you have developed a set of learning material and quizzes that really helps your students to learn the content. You decide to share your work so that colleagues at other institutions can benefit from the outstanding work you have done. But how can you contribute your course concepts if not everyone is running Moodle? How can other educators using different LMS's import your learning materials and quizzes?

Enter Unizin. Because of Unizin's focus on open standards and interoperability, educators who want to share course concepts with others will finally have the opportunity to do so. Unizin strives to foster a community more concerned with creating and sharing content and improving outcomes, across multiple LMS's. Unizin is about providing common infrastructure to support educators who wish to share and collaborate on course development.

From the Unizin frequently-asked questions, many people in higher ed will benefit from Unizin:

Instructors
They will be able to share their own teaching content and gain access to a repository of shared digital content, from campus colleagues and others at member institutions. Unizin will allow them to assemble and deliver this content to students in a range of ways. Likewise, analytics will allow for clearer assessments of student learning.
Students
Learners will have access to the materials and thinking of the best minds in their fields. Instructors will be able to approach and assess learning in new ways – ways that reflect digital lifestyles and learning, and that take individual needs and experiences into account.
Instructional technologists and support staff
They will gain access to a large and growing toolkit to help faculty transform and improve their teaching practice. Flexibility and adaptability of the environment will not only ease the job, but also ensure greater faculty support.

Our participation in Unizin gives us an opportunity to participate in the national conversation about sharing course development. I look forward to the University's partnership with Unizin.
image: Unizin

Monday, November 17, 2014

What not to say

I recently came across one of those "lists" articles, "Nine things never to say to your boss." I find this an interesting example of intercultural and intergenerational communication. As per usual, I prefer to break up the list into themes:

Saying no
"That just isn’t possible." "I don't know." "But we've always done it this way."
In any organization, results matter. Don't put up roadblocks; instead, try to find the solution. From the article: Always speak to your boss in terms of what can be done. For instance, rather than saying “We can’t get this done by Friday,” say “We could definitely get this done by Monday, or if we brought in some freelance help, we could meet the Friday deadline.” When you talk to your boss, think in terms of solving problems for her, not in terms of putting problems on her plate.
Just complaining
"I need a raise." "I can’t stand working with ____." "I partied too hard last night, I'm so hung over!"
No one wants to hear complaints. If you must issue a complaint, you'll meet with success if you frame it with a solution. For example, if you are asking for a raise, first talk about how your work has benefited the organization. From the article: Even if you have a friendly relationship, he’s just as likely to react with (unspoken) disdain as sympathy. Maintaining a solid veneer of professionalism will pay off when it's time to discuss promotions.
Not my problem
"But I emailed you about that last week." "It’s not my fault."
Take ownership for what you do. We all make mistakes; how we respond to them defines who we are. From the article: Are you a whiny 8-year-old or a take-charge professional? Assume responsibility and take steps to fix a problem that you did, in fact, create. And if you are being wrongly blamed for a problem, saying “Let’s get to the bottom of this” or “What can we do to make it right?” is much more effective than saying “It’s not my fault.”

Not convinced? These themes are commonly identified by business leaders. Your campus chancellor or president (or CEO, if you're in industry) doesn't want to hear about problems, they want solutions that help them meet their bottom line: whether that's helping the campus, or driving profits. Be empowered to step forward and contribute. Similarly, retired General Electric CEO Jack Welch shares ten behaviors that can damage your career. They fall into similar categories: Saying no ("Resistance to change"), complaining ("Being a Problem Identifier vs a Problem Solver"), and avoidance.
image: hujikari

Friday, November 14, 2014

Total cost of ownership

When it's time to replace your laptop or desktop, we work with our customers to help them order a new system. Typically, we encourage systems get replaced about once every four years, but that's really up to the division or department. Some users just don't push their systems very hard, so they can go a little longer before they need a new laptop or desktop.

But when we do order a new computer for you, we typically do so from a standardized list of pre-configured models. I wanted to share a brief reflection on why we purchase these standardized models of laptops and desktops at Morris.

In short, it's about reducing cost. By purchasing many of the same models, we reduce the variety of laptops and desktops, making it easier for the helpdesk to support you. This means real savings to the University. From a University of Minnesota cost savings report (not linked online, sorry) about strategic sourcing, from June 2010, the institution has saved more than $1.2 million by purchasing standard desktops and laptops from Dell and Apple. That's the largest savings in that report by far, and a little more than the sum of all other savings in that report. So that's very encouraging.

The report also recognizes the work we have made in reducing costs:
"Collegiate IT Directors have established University wide standard models for desktops and laptops. These models are configurable and designed to meet the vast majority of end-user computing needs. Greatly reducing the number of models purchased has two major benefits: negotiated cost savings with Dell and more efficient and cost effective support processes."
This speaks directly to reducing cost—referring to the Total Cost of Ownership. The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of a desktop PC is more than the initial purchase price. For example, we currently plan about $800 for a standard Dell desktop computer. (New models usually come out in summer, so we estimate a round number for budget planning purposes.)

The total cost is important to keep in mind. The purchase is a small part of the overall cost. For example, you might find an off-brand desktop computer for around $700. But that $100 purchase savings doesn't necessarily mean a lower overall TCO. According to Gartner (2008), the cost of purchasing a desktop PC may be only $1,200, but over four years, the TCO could be as much as $5,867 per year. Other costs that contribute to TCO are largely staff time, and include imaging the PC, managing & supporting the PC, and general reliability.

Those standard models keep the same configuration, no matter when we purchase them. A Dell model "6789" computer purchased in summer will have the same configuration as a Dell model "6789" computer purchased the following spring. But in off-brand computers, that is rarely the case; specific internal components could differ on models sold in the same year, depending on upstream supplies. This makes it very difficult to support our users, if one computer needs different drivers or different configurations than another computer of the same model, purchased in the same year.

All of this isn't to say that you can't buy a particular computer that isn't on our standard list. We make exceptions for our customers all the time. For example, one user needed a specific laptop for ergonomic reasons (the Dell laptops aggravated her carpal tunnel) so we helped her find something else. But in most cases, people just need "a Windows laptop" and they don't really care what system it is. That's when we turn to the standards list and purchase a default configuration.
photo: 401kcalculator.org

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Nadella's karma

I wanted to share this article from my friend Steve McCaa about Nadella's karma.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella aims to position Microsoft as the "tools provider" for new business. But as McCaa correctly points out, the future of business software is not going to be on the desktop; it's going to be in the Cloud, as Software as a Service (SaaS). There's the rub. From McCaa's article:
Take a look at the technologies that are coming out to develop web services, the life blood of SaaS. The most innovative, cool technologies are all *NIX first. NoSQL, Node.JS, Ruby, Python in all these cases Microsoft had to bribe the open-source community to port their products to the Windows platform. And even then Microsoft’s developer tools don't support these technologies.
(emphasis mine)

Microsoft feared in the 1990s that the Web would eventually displace the desktop. If you haven't accepted the conclusion yet: Cloud is the future—and as Microsoft feared, the browser is the new platform, not the operating system. It no longer matters if you're using Windows, Mac, Linux, or some other thing, as long as you have a standards-compliant web browser. Microsoft needs to shift gears quickly to remain competitive. McCaa concludes, "When I see Microsoft releasing tools that are designed to enable the interface between SaaS providers who they compete with I will believe that they might have a future in enterprise computing."
photo: Microsoft CEO gallery

Monday, November 10, 2014

Budget challenges in higher education

Higher education faces particular budget challenges. As we have seen in various articles, hundreds of thousands of people emerge from college with a modest amount of debt yet no degree. Higher education must reduce the total cost of the university degree. The FDIC describes the issue in plain language, from a 2012 report: "The average annual cost of higher education has increased dramatically in the last decade. And with education debt continuing to rise along with the increase in costs, many people face a tough financial situation."

This pressure applies to the University of Minnesota, as well. A month ago, the U of M Board of Regents approved President Kaler's budget plan. Among other things in the proposed plan, the new budget would continue the U of M's partnership with the State where the University will freeze resident undergraduate tuition in 2013 and 2014.

At the University of Minnesota, we are working together to reduce administrative costs, to make higher education more affordable to all Minnesotans. It is a worthy goal, and I encourage everyone in IT@UMN to find new efficiencies, to reduce costs. "Simplify, Standardize, Automate" will get us only so far; we need to be innovative to explore new options that extend higher education while lowering the cost.

However, that puts us in a unique position. Higher education will not receive an increase in funding in the foreseeable future. In the past, higher education might have experienced wage freezes, or temporary budget freezes. In particularly tight budget bienniums, the University saw an overall decrease in funding, only to have that funding restored within a few years. But the past is in the past. Do not expect funding levels to rise. We will need to do more with less.

Usually, I'm not a fan of the phrase "do more with less" but in this instance, I believe we can do it. We just need to think creatively about how we deliver solutions to our campus. Don't be afraid to question the status quo. Look for new ways to achieve goals. Can we leverage other services, provided elsewhere within the U of M system? Are we really providing value in each of our services, or would it be better to "outsource" any of our systems to the Cloud? I challenge each of you to look to your own work systems, to find opportunities to reduce cost. I know we can do it together.
photo: Tax Credits

Friday, November 7, 2014

Your tie says a lot about you

How you dress says a lot about who you are as a person. Whether we like or not, our professional appearance often precedes us. What we wear to meetings is often just as important as what we say and how we act at that meeting. And you might not know it, but your tie says a lot about you.

The necktie is an important, but often overlooked, men's accessory. An article on the BBC discusses the importance of selecting the right color tie: what the color of your tie says about you. As the article notes, "experts say that no matter the audience—clients, staff or even children—picking the right tie colour can help get your message across."

Here's a summary:

tie color: Red
To signal that you're in charge, use a shiny red. A matte red or patterned red conveys the message more subtly. From the article: "It’s not a coincidence that many politicians wear red-coloured ties with light shirts and darker suits. … Darker reds, such as a burgundy, can help build trust, while lighter red and pink ties can be more of a statement about your personal style and be associated with creativity."
tie color: Purple
If you're looking to convey confidence, consider a purple tie. "Traditionally a sign of royalty and wealth, purple is becoming more acceptable in the workplace."
tie color: Black
Typically a staple for formal affairs and evening events, black can look sophisticated. But beware appearing arrogant or overdressed for business. From the article: "It’s often smarter to stick to grey shades, added Woodman. A grey tie can help give you a more sophisticated look without seeming pretentious."
tie color: Green, or tie color: Yellow
Green is not often popular in American boardrooms, so you may consider yellow instead. From the article: "Yellow is a traditional tie colour in countries, including England, which can signal assuredness, along with radiance and vitality. … Yellow ties can make you more approachable to colleagues because it’s a vibrant colour that’s symbolic of the sun."
tie color: Blue
If you want to reassure others in a meeting, wear a blue tie. From the article: "Blue ties are a good investment because the colour reminds people of the sky and ocean, which has a calming effect, said Lindsay. … Patterned blue ties tend to give off a classic professional feel and can be worn in a global business environment without sending the wrong message. A subtle blue can be “soft and introspective” while a cobalt or royal blue can help you stand out just the right amount, she said. “Dark blues are often reminiscent of well-respected pilot uniforms. Navy blue is a trusted colour and gives us confidence."
tie color: Brown
Brown signals that you are friendly and work well with others, but it's not for everyone. From the article: "A more relaxed wardrobe of friendlier colours such as tan, brown, earthy colours, salmon and yellow works for people dealing with other people such as sales, teachers and the service industry. … Make sure the brown tie does not look too plain, because it can signal a dull personality. A beige tie can sometimes come across as too relaxed."
photo: Giorgenti

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Unlimited storage comes to the University

The University of Minnesota has used Google Apps for Education since about 2008, when I remember taking part in an early pilot test. Since then, we have rolled out Google Apps to everyone in the U of M system, replacing our aging email and calendaring systems with Google Apps. This has led to increased satisfaction of students, faculty and staff - and reduced costs in IT while improving efficiency.

As time goes on, Google expands the Google Apps service. And last week, we heard of another benefit coming to the U of M. From the announcement via the Office of Information Technology:

As of Thursday, Oct. 30, Google began to offer Google Drive for Education to University of Minnesota Google accounts. Drive for Education provides for unlimited storage and enhancements to Google Drive, Gmail, and Google+ photos.

Some of the benefits of unlimited storage include:
  • No more worrying about how much space you have left.
  • No need to monitor your email capacity.
  • Frees up time previously spent trying to clean up, purge and filter things or delete things you might want to keep.
  • Store as many Google Drive files, Gmail messages, and Google+ photos as you need.
  • Drive for Education supports individual files up to 1TB in size.
  • Upload documents that you want to share in Drive instead of attaching to email.
  • Departments and researchers can store and share large amounts of data, and share with with colleagues at other institutions.
It is recommended that users review the Acceptable Use and Data Security policy information for private and sensitive data, export controlled data and intellectual property. The University of Minnesota and Google have negotiated contractual terms and conditions that protect the privacy and confidentiality of University student, faculty, staff, and alumni data in the U of M Google Apps suite of services.

Users also should be aware of copyright regulations and infringement ramifications when sharing files, as outlined in the Google Terms of Service.
  • Google respects the rights of copyright holders, and requires that users have the legal right to upload and share the contents of their files on Google Docs.
  • Google provides information to help copyright holders manage their intellectual property online.
  • Google responds to notices of alleged copyright infringement and terminate accounts of repeat infringers according to the process set out in the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Visit the Google Drive Help Center and Using Google Drive at the University to learn more about Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

For more information about Google Apps for the University of Minnesota, please visit the Google Apps Overview on the Email Services website. For additional assistance or questions, contact Technology Help at (612) 301-4357 (1-HELP on campus), or help@umn.edu.
image: Google.com

Monday, November 3, 2014

Employers are looking for critical thinkers

From a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, employers today now find themselves looking to hire recent graduates who demonstrate critical thinking skills. You might define critical thinkers as “forming your own opinion from a variety of different sources.” Too often, new hires have a tendency to use the first answer they find, perhaps from Wikipedia or a Google search, rather than delve into several information sources on their own to build a full picture of things.

It is no longer enough to talk about your history and regurgitate stock answers. The article mentions interview questions where candidates must show how they would tackle business problems, such as whether it makes more sense for a company to make or buy a product, and why.

A particular excerpt from the article which I found interesting:
Colleges’ capacity to mold thinkers has been a topic of heated debate. Richard Arum, co-author of “Academically Adrift” and “Aspiring Adults Adrift” as well as an NYU sociology professor, is a prominent critic of how schools are faring on that front.

“Schools have institutionally supported and encouraged [a] retreat from academic standards and rigor,” he says, adding that he thinks colleges have allowed students to focus on their social lives at the expense of academic pursuits.

According to research detailed in those books, students rarely study on their own for more than an hour a day, and most don’t write in-depth papers that require sustained analysis.

For their part, students seem to think they are ready for the office. But their future bosses tend to disagree. A Harris Interactive survey of 2,001 U.S. college students and 1,000 hiring managers last fall found that 69% of students felt they were “very or completely prepared” for problem-solving tasks in the workplace, while fewer than half of the employers agreed.
Fortunately, I work at a liberal arts university where we do teach critical thinking skills. And we have started to match our undergraduates with real-world student-work experience on campus. Rather than use students as cheap labor, we seek to expand the educational mission of the university by giving "stretch" assignments to our student workers, according to their individual capabilities.

This is a key moment for many colleges and universities. The success of a higher education degree is often judged based on how well it prepares students for life. Students (and by extension, universities) cannot be successful if our students lack critical thinking. I am glad Morris provides a strong liberal arts background to every student.
photo: Sam Howzit

Friday, October 31, 2014

Big Block of Cheese Day 2014

When I moved to Morris in 2010, I wanted to find a way to connect with campus. The IT Director / Campus CIO position had been vacant for several years, so most of the students, faculty, and staff were unaware of my role and how I can help find the right "fit" for campus technology. I looked to history for my inspiration. In 1837, President Andrew Jackson's supporters gifted him with a wheel of cheese weighing 1,400 lbs. Jackson put this cheese in the Entrance Hall of the White House and invited the people of the United States to come into the White House and eat the cheese, and thereby meet the people who represented them in government.

I decided to host my own "Big Block of Cheese Day," to invite the campus community to share in a wheel of cheese, and thereby meet the person who represents their campus in technology. Food attracts people, so I was sure to get some folks to stop by. But an IT guy handing out food will only get you so far. So I drew on my English-Scottish ancestry, and decided to wear my kilt. An IT guy wearing a kilt was sure to advertise itself. And it did!

I've hosted a "Big Block of Cheese Day" every year in the Fall. This year's "Big Block of Cheese Day" was another great success! In a little over two hours, people had completely consumed the 12 lb wheel of cheddar.

It was tons of fun, and lots of students, faculty, and staff turned up to have some cheese and talk about campus technology! We talked about printing, accessibility, mobile devices, wireless, Zimride, and other topics.


I also shaped the event by asking folks to comment on a hallway "idea board," where they could suggest a technology need they would like to see addressed on campus. If they didn't have time to write on the board, they could instead put a "star" next to an item they agreed with. This idea board forms part of our IT Input Cycle, which we continue to leverage every year.


I'd like to thank everyone who helped in making Big Block of Cheese Day such an engaging and informative event. And special thanks to Elizabeth Sunde in Catering who found a wonderful, tasty cheese to share!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cheese is coming

my tartan: the Duke of Fife, modern
When I moved to Morris in 2010, I wanted to find a way to connect with campus. The IT Director / Campus CIO position had been vacant for several years, so most of the students, faculty, and staff were unaware of my role and how I can help find the right "fit" for campus technology.

But my challenge was How do I introduce myself? You can throw a party, but it's pretty sad if no one stops by. Instead, I needed to find a "hook" to interest people.

I looked to history for my inspiration. In 1837, President Andrew Jackson's supporters gifted him with a wheel of cheese weighing 1,400 lbs. Jackson put this cheese in the Entrance Hall of the White House and invited the people of the United States to come into the White House and eat the cheese, and thereby meet the people who represented them in government. According to White House history, the cheese was consumed in two hours, and the White House smelled of cheese for weeks. You may have heard this story in TV's The West Wing, and it was a real thing.

I decided to host my own "Big Block of Cheese Day," to invite the campus community to share in a wheel of cheese, and thereby meet the person who represents their campus in technology. Food attracts people, so I was sure to get some folks to stop by. But an IT guy handing out food will only get you so far. So I drew on my English-Scottish ancestry, and decided to wear my kilt. An IT guy wearing a kilt was sure to advertise itself. And it did!

The first "Big Block of Cheese Day" was a great success. We shared a 12 pound wheel of cheddar and discussed campus technology: what people were using, how they were using it, and how I could help them in new technology. I ran out of cheese after only two hours.

Based on the success of that event, folks asked if I would do another "Big Block of Cheese Day" the following year. So I did—and again, it was a huge success! Even more people stopped by. I also shaped the event by asking passers-by to comment on a "hallway board," where they could suggest a technology need they would like to see addressed on campus. If they didn't have time to write on the board, they could instead put a "star" next to an item they liked. This hallway board formed part of our IT Input Cycle, which we continue to leverage every year.

As things go on a university campus, if you do something two years in a row, it becomes tradition. I have hosted a "Big Block of Cheese Day" every year in the Fall. Students comment that "Cheese Day" is a lot of fun. From my end, it's great to meet people on campus. And I love the opportunity to solicit ideas and "needs" via the hallway board.

This year's "Big Block of Cheese Day" will be on Friday, October 31—Halloween! Join us in the Student Center next to Higbies, from 10:00am until noon. We'll have a big wheel of cheddar and crackers. While you're there, drop a comment on the hallway board. To get the conversation going, we'll start the board with the five IT priorities identified by the TechPeople community of practice group. And yes, you'll get to see me in the kilt.

I hope to see you there!
image: Jake's Direct

Wireless and the public spectrum

A colleague shared an article from NetworkWorld, discussing the implications of the FCC decision on Marriott hotel that says it's illegal to interfere with public airwaves.

It's important to understand the issues on both sides. In short, people want to be free to use the electronics devices they have. A popular mode is "MiFi," personal WiFi hotspots that allows your laptop or tablet to access the Internet through your phone's 3G or 4G network. On the other side, “Any devices brought by students will interfere as the spectrum is fully used by the school’s wireless,” according to Austin College network and operations manager Thomas Carter.

So you may ask, why is MiFi a problem? As the article explains: mobile titans like Verizon and AT&T pepper the landscape with Mi-Fi devices, and get steamed when students bring classroom Wi-Fi to its knees with iPhone personal hotspots all on channel 2 at power well beyond what our own APs put out.

In other words, these MiFi devices are all communicating on the same wireless channel, which interferes with other devices on the same channel—including university access points.

The article quotes Pete Hoffswell, network engineer at Davenport University in Grand Rapids, in reminding us, “That’s an open, public spectrum that’s available to anybody.” According to Hoffswell, network administrators will just have to grin and bear it, where this type of interference is concerned. WiFi is a public airspace, and universities will need to be careful not to tread the line, as Mariott did. Mariott addressed the wireless congestion by sending de-AUTH packets, effectively "jamming" the MiFi devices until guests abandoned MiFi in favor of the hotel's controlled wireless network.

Friday, October 24, 2014

You are not Steve Jobs

I found this article at Help Scout and found it interesting. I was going to use it on my research blog, Open Source Software & Usability, but decided it was a better fit here at Coaching Buttons. We are now starting another input cycle to listen to our campus constituents, to learn what new tools will best support the teaching and learning mission.

While campuses want to be engaged and part of the decision-making process, Apple and Steve Jobs viewed the landscape differently. Rather than consult with customers, Apple pioneered new opportunities, exploring innovative new product ideas. Granted, this was not always successful; one only needs to look at the Apple Lisa and the Newton for examples. But on balance, Apple has found success.

At Help Scout, Gregory Ciotti writes about Why Steve Jobs Didn't Listen to His Customers. The article begins with this memorable Jobs quote: “It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them.”

The article is filled with examples and quotes and scenarios typical of Apple's attitude to new product innovation:
The Benefits of Sheltered Innovation

How can people tell you what they want if they haven’t seen it before? If we ask them what they want, we’ll end up doing Swan Lake every year! –Cirque du Soleil

Any innovative company struggles with how much to listen to customers. Most realize that you cannot trust them to tell you what your next new product will be.

How can you get ahead of the curve if your customer feedback mostly consists of today’s popular ideas?

Do Customers Really Know What They Want?

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” –Henry Ford
The article concludes with the reminder "You Are Not Steve Jobs." As much as some of us like to think otherwise, not everyone is the next Steve Jobs. Often, customers won't reward you for failing to consult with them. From the article:
If customers were asked to improve the music listening experience back in a day where CD players ruled, they likely couldn’t have envisioned the iPod. But then again, you probably aren’t producing the next iPod.

But the Jobs method cannot apply across the board to all companies, which becomes pretty apparent when analyzing the results of Apple practices being employed at less similar companies.
So how can you gather input from your customers? Find out what customers want without directly asking them. Ask lateral questions that target how people use tools, how they teach classes (faculty) or how they learn best (students). What sort of things grab their attention? Where have they had trouble understanding, and what elements had the strongest lasting impact? By asking questions in this way, you may gain valuable insight to how technology can serve your campus.
photo: Wikipedia. Original uploaded by Matt Yohe (CC BY-SA)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The U of M and Unizin

I wanted to share this update from the Office of Information Technology, about Unizin.
By now you’ve probably seen the Provost’s message regarding the University of Minnesota joining Unizin. Over the next one to three years, we’ll determine if Unizin membership is a good fit for the University of Minnesota.

Unizin benefits Higher Ed by collectively owning (buying, developing, and connecting) academic technology solutions. As members of Unizen, we can choose whether or not to leverage their solutions.

The primary motivation for the University joining Unizin is our great interest in preserving faculty ownership of course content, and to ensure access to learning analytics remain under the control of faculty and our institution.

The first of many solutions Unizen will offer is the "Canvas" Learning Management System (LMS). While Canvas is of limited interest to us, the opportunity to test the system is likely something we will pursue later this year as part of our ongoing exploration of many new tools. While most tools we look into will not become offerings, investigating new solutions is key to our process of HypeCycle management.

To be clear: our commitment to Unizin does not mean we are moving away from Moodle to Canvas. We remain committed to Moodle and to its evolution for the foreseeable future. Any change in this position will come only after substantial consultation and engagement of the University community.

For more about Unizin, check out their FAQ page.
image: Unizin

Monday, October 20, 2014

Work better by taking breaks

Writing for The Atlantic, Derek Thompson describes A Formula for Perfect Productivity: Work for 52 Minutes, Break for 17. Perhaps you find yourself getting distracted while writing a document, or responding to email. These tasks often require us to think, to exercise decision-making. And doing so can be hard work.

Thompson writes, "Many of us have a cultural image of industriousness that includes first-in-last-out workers, all-nighters, and marathon work sessions. Indeed, there are many perfectly productive people that go to the office early, leave late, and never seem to stop working. But the truth about productivity for the rest of us is that more hours doesn't mean better work. Rather, like a runner starting to flag after a few miles, our ability to perform tasks has diminishing returns over time. We need breaks strategically served between our work sessions."

Some of you may recognize this as a variation on the Pomodoro technique, which I first heard about in a software development context. Pomodoro requires breaking a task into manageable "chunks." Set a kitchen timer, typically for 25 minutes, and use that dedicated time to work on the next chunk.

The formula referred to in Thompson's article says "the highest-performing 10 percent tended to work for 52 consecutive minutes followed by a 17-minute break. Those 17 minutes were often spent away from the computer."

Just as occasional vacations are necessary to renew our energy, to bring new focus and fresh perspectives, you also need to take regular breaks throughout the day. Take a walk, or look out your window. Do something that isn't in front of a computer. Use this moment as an opportunity for play, to distract yourself from the immediacy of what's in front of you. When you return to your desk, you will be better prepared.
photo: David Svensson

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Millennial culture

An interesting article on Elite Daily discusses how Millennial culture differs from those before it, and how that will change the way we work with others. Written by Lauren Martin, a self-described Millennial or "Gen-Y," the article includes 50 things about Millennials that shed light in managing the new generation. But 50 things is a long list to quote, so I have grouped them into themes here, with a few samples from the original article:

Millennials prefer to do it their own way.
"We play by our own rules. We don’t take the first answer given to us. We don’t care about getting into trouble. We hate that “old boys club” sh•t."
Millennials are motivated by passion, not the job or the paycheck.
"We’re willing to work for nothing if it means being happy… Despite being in debt. We refuse to hate what we do. We know there’s always a better way. We want careers, not jobs."
Millennials know what they want, and will ask for it.
"We have social media on our side. We have less to lose and everything to gain. We have that “f•ck you” attitude. We are trying to beat the system, not just work with it."
Millennials grew up with technology and learning on their own.
"We know technology a hell of a lot better. We’re more educated, by the book and the street. We don’t have to go to college to get ahead."
Millennials bring a modern outlook.
"We’re getting married later and working younger. We’re listening to our women. We want freedom more than anything else. We know they need us more than we need them."
Millennials seek satisfaction in life.
"We know what makes us happy. We know what doesn’t make us happy. We learned from our parents mistakes. We have each other."
photo: Steve Wilson

Monday, October 13, 2014

Are you a bad boss?

It took me until my second job before I experienced a bad boss, which makes me luckier than most. But I decided to learn from the interaction, and dedicated myself to avoiding the mistakes I found prevalent in his behavior. I feel that has made me a better supervisor, a better manager, a better director.

The ability to learn from others' mistakes is an important life skill. We don't have time to make all the mistakes ourselves; sometimes, you need to learn from what others are doing, even it's to not do what they are doing.

Lisa Quast wrote in Forbes about How To Spot A Bad Boss Before You Accept The Job Offer. It's an article written for those about to enter the job market, to help you identify the bad behaviors in your interviewers, how to recognize the bad bosses before you take the job:

  1. They’re late for the job interview.
  2. Their office is unusually disorganized.
  3. They ask illegal questions during your interview.
  4. Other employees avoid the hiring manager.
  5. They don’t focus on the job interview.
  6. They don’t ask difficult questions.
  7. They keep changing the topic of conversation to talk about themselves.
  8. They display anger management issues.
  9. They can’t clearly communicate what it will take for you to be successful in the position.
  10. They don’t have a clear vision with goals and objectives for their department.

But I would like to turn this around, to convert these "bad boss" qualities into "leaderful lessons." Distilled from Quasts's list, here are my themes to be a better supervisor:

Be respectful of others.
How you interact with those around you is a direct reflection of your leadership style.
Engage with those around you.
It's all about relationships, and relationships are currency. Don't remain distant; talk with people, get to know what's going on.
Maintain focus.
There is an appropriate time to check email or update your Facebook status, and that time is not when you are in a meeting or talking to someone. Stay in the moment, and give all of your attention to the discussion.
image: Clip Art Free

Friday, October 10, 2014

Update: U of M is retiring UThink Blogs in June

I wanted to share this update about the UThink blog service, from the Office of Information Technology and U of M Libraries. I shared similar updates in July and March. Note that the date has changed: The University had planned to retire the UThink system at the end of this year, in December 2014. Now, the date is moved back to June 2015.
This is a reminder that the UThink blog system at blog.lib.umn.edu is in the process of being retired. Due to feedback received from various stakeholders, we have extended the date of retirement to the end of June 2015.  Hopefully this will give everyone still on the system the time they need to find alternative platforms.

Other key dates in the decommission process:
  • The ability to create new blogs or sites on the system was removed on July 3, 2014.
  • Existing blogs will be accessible, including editing capabilities, throughout the 2014 fall semester and the 2015 spring semester.
  • Full system decommission June 30, 2015.
You are encouraged to consider alternatives to UThink now. Please see UThink Migration Strategies for more information on possible platforms and migration assistance.

Please refer to the original announcement for additional details about the retirement of UThink.

Questions and comments should be directed to Technology Help at (612) 301-4357 (Twin Cities 1-HELP), help@umn.edu, or uthink@umn.edu.
image: UThink

Engage your audience

George Bradt at Forbes writes with this advice for those about to give a presentation: Big Presentation? Don't Do It—Have A Conversation Instead. We should all be familiar with the phrase "Death by Powerpoint." It's when you are bored to tears by a presenter droning on, aided by an endless supply of Powerpoint slides.

I rarely find Powerpoint slides to be engaging. I prefer to use a bare minimum of slides. What slides I include tend to be visual aids: a photograph or chart, with very little text. Presentations should avoid distractions.

The first rule of using Powerpoint is: Don't use Powerpoint. To that end, Bradt recommends an engaging conversation with the audience. This makes the audience think, makes the audience part of the experience, and leaves the audience feeling differently. Citing Mike Broderick at Turning Technologies, Bradt shares these tips:

Think about the questions you can ask your audience to help them get down the road. What questions will engage your audience, to start them thinking more deeply about the topic? What will "hook" them?

Leverage polling or some other technique to disarm the audience. In my meetings, I have used affinity exercises and "dot" voting to great effect. Anonymous polling allows the group to quickly reach a consensus, and they are more likely to ask follow up questions.

React to surprising answers. Take responses seriously, and adjust the conversation to take new ideas into account.
photo: mine ("How not to use Powerpoint")

Monday, October 6, 2014

Technology is not a learning outcome

At my campus, I work with faculty and students to leverage technology in support of teaching and learning. That's our mission in higher ed: to support instruction. Technology in higher education is in partnership with faculty and students.

To that end, I wanted to share this item from the Center for Teaching Quality. Originally posted in 2013, where it garnered 4,000 views on Flickr and over 500 shares/favorites/retweets on Twitter, Bill Ferriter's hand-drawn image reminds us that Technology is a Tool, not a Learning Outcome.

Bill's image asks the question "What do you want kids to do with technology?" and answers the question with this list of right and wrong answers. A few are listed here:

"What do you want kids to do with technology?"
Wrong answersRight answers
  • Make Prezis
  • Start blogs
  • Create Wordles
  • Raise awareness
  • Start conversations
  • Join partners
Photo: zzpza

Friday, October 3, 2014

The library is not just for books

Melissa Ezarik at University Business describes the modern campus library: "While still a place where one can study, today’s campus libraries are active spaces that offer so much more." Campus libraries are no longer just about books; they form the center of a learning commons filled with collaboration spaces that make it easy to study and learn in groups. From the article:
… Collaboration spaces “tend to look less like board rooms and more like small restaurants, with chairs and tables that can be moved around easily.”

… Reference areas have evolved, too. Rather than rows of single computers, these are often spaces where a discussion is taking place about materials pulled up on a large screen.

… There’s also likely to be a mix of hard and soft chairs, rather than a space crammed with as much seating as possible.

… Signage that helps users get where they need to go is still prevalent, but it may well be in interactive, digital form.

… Today’s libraries are, overall, designed to be friendly places that draw in the campus community.
I also encourage you to click on the slideshow contained in the article for a look at the new library model.

It is interesting to compare this with the library learning commons we are trying to build here: At the University of Minnesota Morris, we have been working on plans to extend our library to become a new "learning commons," a destination for both individual and group learning. We have actually been developing these plans for a number of years.

Although the specifics of the implementation have changed, the general plan is to convert the main level of our campus library into a learning center. Part of the learning commons would be dedicated to a "one help" center, where students would interact with reference librarians, borrow technology for short-term use, and ask for technology help—and as always, check out books. The main learning commons area would be filled with tables suitable for small groups to gather to work on projects. Each space would have suitable power and wireless for laptops and mobile devices. Other areas would provide separate, private space for practicing speeches or similar work.

Also in University Business, Elizabeth Millard describes 8 ways colleges can design technology-rich spaces, points for planning technology-rich academic enhancements such as the learning commons. Her advice:
  1. Put together the right team, right away.
  2. Get creative with funding.
  3. Put the backbone in place first.
  4. Consider key furniture decisions.
  5. Design social spaces, not lecture halls.
  6. Create a demo lab first.
  7. Provide ample faculty training and support.
  8. Consider the effects of BYOD.
And again, we are following this advice in building our own technology-supported learning spaces. This semester, we will unveil a modernized study area in our 24-hour study room & computer lab, in the Student Center. This initial effort is meant to be a demonstration of similar technology-enhanced spaces we might create elsewhere on campus.
photo: timetrax23

Monday, September 29, 2014

The changing role of the CIO

The role of the chief information officer has changed dramatically over the years. I've discussed this several times, including one article about the CIO of the future. Citing Jerry DeSanto, vice president for planning and CIO at the University of Scranton (PA), chief information officers in the 1990s described their role as Building,Spending, Technical, Physical, Obscure, Functional, User-centric, Operational, Manager. But the CIO of the future must instead embody collaborative qualities: Sharing, Optimizing, Well-rounded, Virtual, Visible, Value-added, Customer-centric, Strategic, Leader.

Along similar lines, a multi-part article series starting with the March issue of Campus Technology describes The New CIO. Interviewing five CIOs in higher education, the article discusses the changing role of the CIO to Strategist, Change Leader, Digital Guide.

A few quotes that capture the changing role of the CIO:
"Patterson: There is definitely a shift in the role of the CIO from someone who manages technology to someone who manages change."

"Patterson: Now we are moving to the next paradigm of technology driving change, which is cloud and consumer-driven. As far as the CIO choosing the technology you use — that role is gone. That is why I see the CIO as the person at the table who leads the organization in strategic change."

"Crain: The focus of a CIO in higher education is certainly changing. For years we have focused on the "T" (technology) in IT and only recently have we really begun to really focus on the "I" (information). I believe that this trend toward the "I" will continue with the explosion of big data and the Internet of Things."

"Young: Collaboration is so important; there isn't one particular person or role. CIOs need to be close to the other leaders in the organization."

"Maas: At UW-Madison, we have consciously separated the role of operations leader for IT from the CIO, to allow the CIO to work more strategically on mission-critical services. A chief operating officer is responsible for IT operations and reports directly to the CIO. It takes time, effort, organizational development and extensive relationship building to shift the focus of IT services to align with emerging needs of the university."

"Maas: I see mentoring as a key role of the CIO. We have highly talented individuals throughout our university and often all they need is some encouragement and support to take the next step."

"DeWitt: The CIO has finally moved significantly away from a focus on plumbing and toward a focus on information, which of course is the essence of the CIO title."

"DeWitt: To be successful, the CIO has to build communication channels to all constituents, both formally through governance structures and informally by being open and responsive."

Friday, September 26, 2014

I don't know

We all get put into tough situations. It's part of our job as IT leaders to get asked the hard questions, to solve the big problems. In higher education, this happens all the time; faculty ask for help on projects or research, or ask "why" and "how" questions about how technology can help them. When someone presents a really tough issue, I find it's best to take a step back and work with them through the issue. How can we make this a more strategic solution, something that solves your problem but will work for others, as well. Through this partnership, we build a relationship based on trust.

Likewise, if I don't know the answer, I try to find a way ahead. I never want to say "We can't do that" or "I don't know." On this topic, Selena Rezvani writing in Forbes discusses Five Alternatives To Saying "I Don't Know," to avoid getting stumped in front of an audience. Use these openers to keep moving forward:

“Let me be sure I understand which information you’re looking for…”
From the article: "It also allows you to hear more details of the issue at hand so that you can react to a smaller piece of the puzzle rather than one large, ominous request."
“Based on what we know today, my thoughts are…”
Rezvani suggests that "By framing your response this way, you convey to your listeners that you have a limited understanding of the topic, but that you’re willing to make an informed guess."
“That’s a timely question, because I’m currently gathering XYZ information…”
"As you return from vacation, let’s say, and are getting up to speed on what happened in your absence, it’s fine to convey that you are “in the process” of getting informed."
“I can answer that in part, but would like to consider it further and get back to you.”
"Postponing giving a full answer—until you have all of the facts—can buy you credibility."
“Great question.  I’m just not familiar enough with XYZ to hazard a guess.  Let me connect you with…”
"Gently explain why someone else is the better go-to person and set a timeline for contacting the right people or uncovering the information."
photo: Hilary Perkins