Oct 07 2019

Who Are Your IT Stakeholders? Different Projects Need Different Players

Centralized departments, college-level directors and academic technologists should all have a voice in campus IT initiatives.

From creating a data governance program to improving network security to integrating new technology, one message has remained constant: Various education stakeholders must be involved. However, the term “education stakeholder” is a broad term, and IT leaders may need clarity to understand who they should include in project planning

At the same time, not all groups need to be involved in every project. The reality is that too many cooks in the kitchen can bog down progress and make it impossible for IT leaders to move forward on campus initiatives. 

Understanding who can and should be asked to join an initiative planning committee can be complicated

Let’s take a look at two of the most common IT initiatives — and which campus stakeholders IT leaders should ask for input to ensure a successful project from start to finish. 

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Cybersecurity Affects and Involves All

Multi-stakeholder cybersecurity frameworks are not a new concept; they have been accepted by higher education institutions and by international cybersecurity frameworks, including the National Cyber Security Strategy Good Practices Guide and the University of Oxford’s Cybersecurity Capacity Maturity Model for Nations

“The cybersecurity challenges that a nation faces are broad and interrelated,” according to a 2018 report by social justice organization Global Partners Digital. “This, in turn, necessitates an approach that leverages a broad set of expertise and engages a diverse set of stakeholders in the [national cybersecurity strategy] development process.”

While on a smaller scale, universities function as entire ecosystems in many of the same ways as cities, states or nations, and can benefit from taking a similar approach to cybersecurity.

Where the nuance lies is in understanding how to communicate with different stakeholders and in what capacity. 

For end users, such as faculty, staff and students, many of whom have only the most basic understanding of cybersecurity, the messaging will need to be concrete

“Creating a cybersecurity strategy that serves as a framework for decision-making requires a concept simple enough that people can hold it in their head,” Don Welch, interim vice president for information technology and CIO at Pennsylvania State University, writes for EDUCAUSE Review. “The strategy description must fit easily on one PowerPoint slide.”

The goal of communicating with users will be to make sure new measures stick. After all, cybersecurity cannot just be hardware and software solutions; there has to be a culture of risk awareness on campus for the framework to succeed.

Awareness campaigns can be a helpful tool to inform campus users. For example, IT leaders at the University of California, Santa Cruz developed informative posters on cyber hygiene best practices to help students and faculty understand how a data breach could be as destructive as any other emergency.

College department leadership will need to be consulted as well, so that IT leaders can work with them to disseminate this training information to the rest of their department and keep information updated. 

Meanwhile, with the number of projects on their plate, top level administrators may not have the bandwidth for lengthy discussions on cybersecurity initiatives, especially if IT leaders need to pause to explain some of the more complex jargon

When speaking with university presidents and other high-ranking officials, IT teams should address how current cybersecurity gaps will impact campus functions and what the next steps are to address them.

“What I want to know is where our greatest vulnerabilities are and what are we doing to minimize those in a cost-efficient manner,” Georgia State University President Mark Becker tells Deloitte in an article on the company website.

To move the process forward, IT leaders can focus on three specific areas of a network breach: the financial impact on the university, how operations will be affected and any reputational damage the school may incur. Outlining these three areas will help administrators understand the urgency to upgrade cybersecurity solutions, and likely spur leaders to jump on board with any IT suggestions

Classroom Technology Integration Requires Clear Communication

For classroom technology integrations, communication with professors and students is essential. 

This does not mean senior leadership will not be involved — far from it. Again, they will ultimately need to be sold on funding any new technologies IT would like to integrate; however, a major focus should be communication between students and faculty. After all, they will be the ones using new classroom equipment on a daily basis. 

It is important to keep in mind that a successful technology integration will improve how students access and interact with courseware, while keeping the classroom functioning smoothly for faculty members. 

As Laura Lucas, the learning spaces manager at St. Edward’s University in Texas, told EdTech, the first and most important step is to address end users’ needs. 

Whether through an online survey or open discussion with user representatives, it is crucial to ask questions that can identify what issues are present in the classroom from both a learning and teaching perspective, and what technologies could address those issues. 

At Indiana University, for example, IT leaders conducted an intensive classroom needs analysis to get a clear picture of what students and faculty would need from an active-learning classroom. 

The findings of this survey, “will pave the way for a classroom master plan that will focus on long-term opportunities to create active learning environments rather than matching seat numbers with enrollment,” EdSurge reports

No matter what project IT leaders on campus may be working on, they will need the support and insight of other campus populations. As universities move increasingly toward smart city-style integrated services, this collaboration will only become more important, and building these relationships now will go a long way in future endeavors.

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