Mike Russell, CIO of the Virginia Community College system, Kellie Campbell, CIO of Vermont State Colleges, and Megan Cluver, principal at Deloitte, discuss the evolving role of the higher ed CIO.

Oct 27 2022

EDUCAUSE 2022: Panelists Explore Evolving Tech Roles and the Future of Work

As higher education continues to change, IT teams are adapting to support broader business goals.

As staffing shortages, burnout and organizational changes continue to impact higher education IT teams, the roles of the CIO and their departments are constantly shifting. At the 2022 EDUCAUSE Annual Conference in Denver, the “Tech Roles and the Future of Work” session addressed how the changes in higher education impact IT departments, and why leaders are increasingly seeing IT as valuable members of the overall strategic team.

Cole Clark, managing director for higher education at Deloitte, and Megan Cluver, principal at Deloitte, moderated the panel of higher ed CIOs and outlined the changing IT landscape as it relates to higher education.

What Is the Future of Work?

Cluver suggested thinking about the future of work in three parts: work, workplace and workforce.

When considering the work itself, determine what tasks will be performed by machines versus humans. How can technology help in fulfilling the overall mission? Are there instances where tasks can be automated to lessen the burden on workers? Cluver said this could also been seen as a shift from a “build” culture to a “buy” culture, where software applications are outsourced to vendors.

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The workplace is another evolving aspect of work, seen in the rise of alternative work models. As hybrid and remote work continue to gain traction, institutions must decide on the best location to perform work to maximize productivity, collaboration and consistency.

Considering the people involved is also vital when evaluating the future of work. The pandemic accelerated workforce trends that were already emerging, Cluver said. In some cases, it may be necessary to expand beyond the traditional full-time work model.

“We’re thinking about the requirement for skills versus the requirement for degrees, and whether those skill requirements are evolving as the role of IT teams is evolving over time,” Cluver said, citing a report from the Burning Glass Institute that says 46 percent of middle-skill jobs and 31 percent of high-skill jobs no longer require a college degree.

How Do Tech Trends Impact the Future of Work and the CIO's Role?

Deloitte’s 2022 Tech Trends report, Clark explained, is a broad look at where technology leadership is headed. The report focuses on three pillars that apply to IT in general — advancing the enterprise, optimization and projecting the future — but he pointed out a few trends specific to higher education.

Clark explained that there is value in breaking down data silos and sharing data between units for the greater good. Additionally, as higher education IT jobs continue to get more complex, tools like automation and artificial intelligence will only become more critical for optimizing these roles and staying ahead of the curve — especially when it comes to security, Clark said.

IT teams will demonstrate their value to leadership as strategic partners the most when they work toward applying future technology, Clark said. Blockchain is just one example of a technology that is emerging in the world of higher education, with things like digital credentials and transcripts that the IT department can help deliver.

These trends are shaping the role of the CIO of the future, according to Cluver. CIOs today should start with the end in mind, shifting the conversation to desired business outcomes and what it takes to deliver on that mission. They should also build a coalition of leaders to lay the foundation for effective change leadership and broad institutional buy-in.


The percentage of middle-skill jobs that no longer require a college degree.

Source: The Burning Glass Institute, "The Emerging Degree Reset," February 2022

“We see the CIO of the future as functioning in a fundamentally different work environment and in a fundamentally different way than IT would have 10 years ago,” she said.

Institution Merger Prompts Reorganization at Vermont State Colleges

At Vermont State Collegesthree institutions are merging into one, said CIO Kellie Campbell, which means embarking on administrative consolidation efforts. Campbell is combining all the IT teams from the once separate institutions to determine how they can work together under a new shared services model.

“Not only are we changing some of the services and how we’re offering them and strategically trying to position ourselves to serve our organization but we’re also doing that with a ton of people change management.”

To make the IT team part of the transition, Campbell thought about her values as a leader and how they impacted the work she wanted to get done. She prioritized listening to her team, noting their strengths and seeing the situation as an opportunity for growth.

“It takes a lot of emotional intelligence to support change,” she said. “Change management is the most important piece of what we are trying to do.”

This process has given Campbell the opportunity to step back and evaluate the organization’s entire service portfolio while also considering the college community as a whole. Rather than “plugging people into boxes,” she said, she can holistically determine if the team members are exactly where they should be, or if they would be happier or more productive elsewhere.

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“When it comes to the skill sets of the team, I’m finding it’s not as much about the technical skill anymore,” she said. “It’s about who can be agile, who can focus on process and who can lead from their positions. It’s all of these skills that are showing that IT needs to be different for our organization. The technical can be the easy part. Some of these other skills are a key piece as we’re designing our portfolio that we’re looking for.”

Virginia Community College System Moves Toward a Centralized Model

Five years ago, the IT teams of the 23 institutions that make up the Virginia Community College system each had autonomy, said CIO Mike Russell, noting that centralization was not part of the established model. However, the financial resources available at each of the institutions varied greatly, so a change was needed.

“When we look at how we can support the model more efficiently going forward, we started with our security services,” he said. “We would have one security officer for three institutions, and they would share positions.” Over the past five years, the community college system has begun sharing CIOs, CTOs, network engineers, systems administrators and business analysts across institutions.

The previous IT governance model consisted of Russell and 23 CIOs, which was a complex process and not conducive to decision-making, Russell said.

“We changed the model so that no project was an IT project,” he said. “We created a model that was stakeholder-driven. It helped us focus on the problems that we were trying to solve and not on the technologies to solve them.”

For Russell, external forces spur the most change within the IT organization. Drivers like state mandates and cyber insurance requirements are prompting the organization’s digital transformation efforts.

To retain employees, particularly in the cybersecurity space, Russell uses a team approach, allowing individuals with the same job titles to work together to solve problems. But this talent is still hard to find, so the Virginia Community College system has outsourced some of its security work.

Russell said it’s important to give people projects and new assignments that keep them learning. Historically, he said, IT teams don’t know the business, and that should change.

“It’s trying to figure out how to take those two roles so that people who are heavy tech learn the business, and the people who are business learn the tech,” he said. “When you get the two skill sets together, work is more interesting, and you accomplish a lot more.”

Keep up with EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s coverage on our EDUCAUSE event page and via Twitter with the hashtag #EDU22.

Amy McIntosh/EdTech

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