May 18 2016

A Strategic Approach to IT Is the Best Bet for Colleges

IT leaders have a key role to play as colleges prepare for the future.

We hear the term “strategic initiative” so often, it may be in danger of losing its power. Yet, I believe we still have good reason to talk about strategy and to keep it at the forefront of enterprise endeavors. This may be especially true for IT, on which so many campus priorities depend.

In a March 2015 report, “Technology in Higher Education: Defining the Strategic Leader,” EDUCAUSE and Jisc (its U.K. counterpart) conclude: “The IT leader of the future is one who brings strategic focus to the role of IT in higher education.”

For IT, what does it mean to be a strategic player? The answers may vary, but they likely share a common theme: Technology will continue to transform the campuses of the future, and institutions that adapt to this reality wisely are the most likely to succeed.

Strategic CIOs are more than intermediaries between IT and top administrators, according to Aletha Noonan, CDW•G’s vice president of higher education. In her column “How the CIO’s Role Has Changed in Higher Ed," she writes, “The CIO must now take a closer look at how the IT department aligns with the institution as a whole. That task requires understanding the institution’s key issues, strengths and weaknesses before proposing IT-driven opportunities.”

That’s a role CIOs are eager to pursue, according to a CIO magazine survey. Already, CIOs spend a portion of their time on business strategy, and many want to dedicate significantly more time to this endeavor. Making sure CIOs have a proper place at the planning table is ultimately a win-win. Their knowledge is invaluable as institutions evaluate current infrastructure, future needs and emerging solutions.

Kim Reid, a principal analyst with research and advisory firm Eduventures, believes that strategy and technology are intertwined. In her column, “In the Fight for Retention, Strategy Should Lead the Way," she writes: “Higher education must take a deep breath and ensure that coherent strategy comes first. Technology has two roles in supporting strategy: to investigate and diagnose the root causes and to enact strategy.”

Strategy may be a buzzword, but that doesn’t make it any less vital. As the role of technology continues to expand, strategic integration is the best way to ensure we take full advantage of new tools and new solutions.


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