Friday, February 21, 2014

Five IT Questions Presidents Should Ask Their CIOs

I recently uncovered this article from EDUCAUSE about engaging university leadership with IT leadership. Marty Ringle is President of the NorthWest Academic Computing Consortium and Chief Information Officer of Reed College, and Michael Roy is Dean of Library and Information Services and Chief Information Officer of Middlebury College. Ringle and Roy propose 5 questions that university presidents should ask their CIOs:

  1. Do we have the right approach for IT decision-making?
  2. Are we paying sufficient attention to technology risk?
  3. Are we being strategic in our use of technology?
  4. How do we know we are using our technology effectively?
  5. How can we best support the teaching and research needs of our faculty?

It's hard to pick a "favorite" question from that list (and there's no need to) but I am particularly drawn to the third and fourth questions: "Are we being strategic in our use of technology?" and "How do we know we are using our technology effectively?" I see these are continuing problems in higher-ed, and it's good to see a university president like Ringle asking this question of IT leadership.

Higher-ed often becomes complacent in "how things are" and rarely takes the necessary step back to look at circumstances with a fresh perspective. Decisions made 5 to 10 years ago (or even 1 to 2 years ago) should be re-evaluated. Are they delivering value to the institution? Is this the right direction to take?

If that timeframe seems too short to you, then I challenge your perspective. 10 years ago was 2004. The iPhone had yet to be invented (2007) nor the iPad (2010) and the concept of a "mobile web" was largely unheard-of. The Mozilla web browser had just been renamed "Firefox 0.8" (2004) but most people still used the web browser for visiting websites; while "webmail" was a phrase familiar to many folks in IT, Gmail wouldn't be released until later that year (April 2004). So technology decisions made in a mindset of 10 years ago (2004) probably didn't account for the explosion of mobile devices, nor "Cloud" computing.

IT leaders should ask themselves these 5 questions … before your president asks them of you.

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