Ryan Petersen is Editor in Chief of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education. Photo Credit: Matthew Gilson

Aug 05 2010

The Great Collaborators of Campus IT


Top IT managers at colleges and universities understand all too well that today's challenging economic climate has forever changed the way they do business.

Success today takes extensive collaboration and consolidation. For example, Purdue University had 44 e-mail systems, 67 data centers and no standard way to manage computers and peripherals when Gerry McCartney joined the university as CIO four years ago.

McCartney says carrying all that IT overhead simply became untenable.

“It seemed crazy to me,” he says. “It's like running the U.S. Air Force where every pilot has a different plane. To do our jobs better and be more operationally efficient, we have to reduce the number of planes, so we can have a better Air Force.”

His solution for Purdue has been to reorganize campus IT groups so that they collaborate on projects and consolidate equipment, software and services to save money.

Instead of choosing and buying their own hardware and software licenses, individual departments now standardize on equipment to simplify management and lower overall support costs. For more information about how institutions are thinking creatively during these challenging budget times, read “Survival Strategies.”

Straight from the Top

In Ohio, the call for change came two years ago from Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric D. Fingerhut, who wants state agency and education officials to work collaboratively to create a streamlined bureaucracy that will produce new graduates for the local workforce. Ultimately, Fingerhut says, those graduates will start new businesses and help revive the state's economy. He firmly believes that none of this can happen without strong leadership and participation from IT.

Some early initiatives include a statewide VMware program that promises to save $130 million over three years and a $1.5 million investment in a private cloud for storage and data backup for the five main technology organizations within the chancellor's office. To read more about Ohio's ambitious program, read “Ohio's Higher Ed Engine.”

For information about technology products and services for higher education institutions, check out our revamped website at the21stcenturycampus.com.

Collaboration is also important as institutions prepare their disaster recovery plans.

“Disaster recovery really needs to become part of the culture or the DNA of an organization, because to have a successful program, you really need collaborative efforts across your organization,” says John Snider, manager of disaster recovery services for the University of Minnesota.

For more insight into how colleges and universities are working collaboratively to develop such plans, read “Rethinking Disaster Recovery.

At Elon University in North Carolina, collaboration is key to implementing classroom technologies. In fact, a weekly meeting between the head of learning technologies and the director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning helps the technology staff and the professors share ideas on how best to deploy new classroom technologies.

“Since the center has the faculty's pulse, my regular meetings with its director help the IT department discover technology needs that might not be communicated via traditional paths,” says Christopher Waters, Elon's assistant CIO. For more on Elon's innovative approach to classroom technology, read “Building the Smarter Classroom.

Our hope is that these examples of collaboration and consolidation will offer insights into approaches that can help your institution manage IT more effectively during these challenging times.


Ryan Petersen,
Editor in Chief

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