The Changing Role of IT Administrators on Campus

Increasingly, IT leadership is as much about understanding and implementing the technology as it is about evaluating risk, providing solid project management and serving as an advocate for change.

Imagine working in an IT environment that spans buildings, city blocks and sometimes miles, where end users live onsite, expect 24 x 7 x 365 Internet access and get to choose their own desktop or notebook computing environment. Unlike the corporate world where IT sets and enforces standards, IT instead negotiates, pleads and expects that its end users will as often work within its “suggested usage” guidelines as they'll hack into the system for fun, siphon off a little bandwidth and pass viruses quicker than they can swap MP3 files.

For most corporate IT professionals, that scene sounds as appealing as working a fast-food fry machine. But it's a typical scenario at institutions of higher education, regardless of size or budget. Between putting out constant fires and increasing institutions' viability to students and faculty alike, it's a role that's become increasingly more important and vital. But being smart about IT on campus isn't easy.

That's where we come in. CDW•G's new quarterly publication, EdTech, aims to provide technologists at institutions of higher education with options, strategic insights, case studies, and analysis of IT expenditures and projects. Increasingly, IT leadership is as much about understanding and implementing the technology as it is about evaluating risk, providing solid project management and serving as an advocate for change.

While that's a tall order, it's something that IT, as an organizational structure, is uniquely equipped to handle. Why? More than anything else, IT is the art of making things work together within complex operating environments combined with applying systematic discipline to troubleshoot when things that are supposed to run don't.

This issue is packed full of anecdotes, analysis and insights from leaders in the field, such as Lawrence S. Bacow, president of Tufts University. In a column on page 13, Bacow discusses the role technology plays not only in enhancing the learning experience, but also in helping to bring students and faculty closer together.

In “Stepping Up to the Challenge ” on page 21, EdTech tackles the changing role of IT and the CIO in most campus environments. Rather than viewing technology as merely an expense, more and more institutions place IT at the crux of advancing the school's broader strategic goals. Turn to page 29 for brass-tacks advice on how to turn a wayward tech project around . Joseph Zucchero, the CIO of General Parts and the former head of program and project management at The Casey Group, lays out the signs that a project is heading toward disaster and shares intervention techniques for getting back on track.

No one can predict when catastrophe will strike, and when we added a story on disaster recovery to our lineup, we had no idea that Hurricane Katrina would hit the southern coast in late August. The first consideration for any campus is making sure that its people are safe. Once that's taken care of, the next order of business is ensuring continuity of operations and recovery. For more on best practices from your colleagues, read “When Disaster Strikes ” on page 56.

As you will see in this preview issue and in future issues, we will deliver actionable information that's relevant to your campus environment. And we hope it will make your job as an IT professional a little easier.

Lee Copeland is editor in chief of EdTech.

Oct 31 2006

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