Crossing the Chasm
By User9147039-Oracle on Feb 24, 2013
For the better part of 20 years during my time at Apple and Sun, I had a very hardware-focused view of the world. And while I had occasion to interact with "line of business" leadership within various education concerns, I was mainly traveling in CIO and IT leadership circles. But during my last three years at Oracle, I've been exposed to the real possibilities that technology holds for educations, especially now in a time of deep introspection in the industry given the multitude of pressures (political, social, and financial) being applied at present.
What strikes me as one of the great "misses" (and at the same time opportunities) is the chasm that exists between IT leadership and functional leadership within most of education, especially in the developed economies around the world. With a few rare exceptions (see the article from former Cal State Northridge President Jolene Koester Information Technology and Tomorrow’s University: A President’s Confessions and Advice) IT is still viewed with the same skepticism and "necessary evil" attitude as 10+ years ago. This is no where more evident than in the position of the IT leadership role at most education institutions, usually reporting into a business and finance leader or, worst, into an academic officer. While exceptions exist, the organizations that treat IT as integral to the institution's future success are those where it reports directly to the president or a chief operation officer (or equivalent).
But even in the absence of wholesale change in this regard, a lot could be done to cross the chasm between IT and functional leadership in education, with the goal being an evolution in the use of IT from the transactional to the strategic. I'll be the first to admit that my profession hasn't exactly contributed to this evolution in all cases, but there are a number of efforts underway to advance this cause. Over the past 20 months I've attempted to redirect the advisory council that we host and are fortunate enough to have some leading education institutions from around the world participate) to focus more around transformation in education through technology vs. input and strategy around specific products. I intent to make Affordability, Accountability, Transparency (and how technology has the power to enable all of these "virtues") the primary themes of the upcoming meeting in June, and to continue to entice CFO's and other line of business leadership within the member institutions to participate along side their IT leaders.
Additionally, our largest user group, the HEUG, is founding an executive advisory group (EAG) made up of both IT and functional leadership, to attempt to address exactly the same issue - how do we begin to think about technology in the context of where education needs to be in the next 10 years to meet not only address the pressure and issues that are present-day problems, but more importantly to address what we see as the needs and demands of society in the next decade.
There's no question we could be a lot more, and this is an area that I'll be talking about in future blog entries throughout this calendar year