Oct 31 2006

CDW-G's IT Leadership Awards Highlight Industry Innovators

Institutions of higher education can learn from innovative IT leaders who have the vision to implement comprehensive technology solutions that support organizational goals and meet ongoing challenges.

How do you keep campus technology secure? What's the best way to replace a legacy infrastructure without interrupting the work of faculty and students? What are the key elements of a university data warehouse?

Ask higher education IT leaders such questions and these pros will tell you that the key is to look beyond an individual technology to uncover comprehensive solutions that will further a school's mission and goals. You can secure the best servers, computers, software and networking for a project, but without a technology plan that is tightly linked to the institution's business plan, those tech tools won't be as valuable or effective as they should be.

The innovators who are receiving the inaugural CDW•G IT Leadership Awards understand this concept very well. (Two awardees are featured in this issue, and we'll spotlight the Pedagogy & IT Practice award in our August / September issue.) They've led their schools through well-rounded technology initiatives that have produced tremendous rewards for their campus communities. (See “Bright Ideas ” on page 20.)

Take Margaret Krol, who received CDW•G's Best Business Case Award. As the interim associate vice president, Administrative IT Services, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Krol led a team charged with overhauling the school's aging infrastructure, while simultaneously revamping its processes for today's world of online admissions and registration.

The technical details were daunting: The to-do list affected just about every piece of technology on campus. The project also required the input and assistance of university staff members from a number of departments.

To obtain that help, Krol's team used project funds to pay the salaries of those employees, enabling their departments to hire temporary replacements to handle day-to-day work. As a result, the project team had the undivided attention and expertise of representatives from every corner of the campus. That helped ensure a smooth implementation and established ambassadors throughout the campus who could spread good will about the project.

The project was finished months ahead of schedule, without service interruptions, and the budget came in $6 million lower than anticipated.

We presented our IT Pop Quiz Award – in which we asked IT leaders to devise a solution to a campus notebook PC security and network authentication challenge – to Robin Manke-Cassidy, technology support analyst, coordinator for Arizona State University's Technology Office. With 6,000 security incidents reported each year, her team had its hands full.

The team implemented a network access control system in the residence halls that scans every device as it tries to access the network. This ensures that the devices are in compliance with security policies. If they're not, the devices are placed in a quarantine area and run through an automatic repair process.

The project has lessened the workload of the IT team, since security incidents have seen a 75 percent drop so far, and it has helped keep the network clean. In addition, the project has empowered students, faculty and staff by educating them about the security repair process.

These projects, as well as those of the Pedagogy & IT Practice innovators in our next issue, are outstanding from a technological standpoint and provide valuable lessons to schools around the country. The initiatives would not have been as successful without leaders who had the vision to see beyond simple tech tools to technology solutions – solutions that can support and enhance the mission of every institution of higher education.

Chris Rother is group vice president, CDW Government Inc., a leading technology provider to government and education based in Vernon Hills, Ill.


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