2020 Educause Top 10 Issues: #10 is The Integrative CIO

The Top 10 Issues of 2020 for higher education technology were announced at October’s 2019 Educause conference. Each year I share my thoughts on the issues, from #10 to #1. Feel free to review all of the issues on the Educause website: https://er.educause.edu/articles/2020/1/top-10-it-issues-2020-the-drive-to-digital-transformation-begins 

#10 Issue: The Integrative CIO
Repositioning or reinforcing the role of IT leadership as an integral strategic partner of institutional leadership in supporting institutional missions.

In the dark ages of late 2018, I was asked, with much side-eye, via Twitter, “What does Integrative CIO actually mean? Simply shoving 2 words together by committee is Newspeak. #EDU18” My response at the time still stands:

To me it means someone that learns about each area of – for us – the university and works to bridge gaps, provide needed (key word) support/solutions and adds level value. In lieu of mandate and control, the CIO acts as an extension of the school/college/business best interest.

Let’s face it, from a business perspective, many (not all and not even most) of us have been focused on overarching university strategy for several years, at a minimum. Whereas IT used to be more of a (literal) man ‘behind the curtain‘, focusing inward and basking in the limelight of being the connector and runner of all network and communication, it’s so much more now. Or it should be. As technology people, puzzles tend to be a thing for us anyway. If you are forward-thinking and future-proofing yourself, you can most likely recite your university’s vision and strategic plan from memory and effortlessly continue with a layman’s terms elevator speech on how IT is supporting the over-arching strategy by investing and implementing in a way that contributes to the business bottom line. Those connections are alive and continuously swaying to meet need, fill gaps and provide value. These connections are our puzzle pieces. How can we creatively and efficiently solve or support better, easier, smarter, faster? All university goals enjoy a technology connection. And as an Integrative CIO, you walk into every room ready to listen, learn and connect the dots. No dots to connect? We store it away for future connections.

“The biggest challenge for the Integrative CIO is changing the trajectory of IT value from infrastructure management to innovation management.”

According to Educause, “The biggest challenge for the Integrative CIO is changing the trajectory of IT value from infrastructure management to innovation management.” I feel it. And mostly, that involves an executive level that either understands innovation and all its pieces/parts OR is open to learning about the concept and its endless possible positive impact. Some leadership of today doesn’t grasp the positive value that can come TO AN ENTIRE INSTITUTION from one effective integrative CIO. Many can’t see a technology leader as more than a possibly charismatic phone and internet provider. Some might be open to experiencing something new from their CIO and, frankly, some just cannot or will not. The answer isn’t always finding your right-fit institution that is ready for you, but sometimes the answer actually is exactly that. Like stars aligning? An Integrative CIO, to get the most bag for the buck, needs a reciprocally ready institution. And then? The sky’s the limit.

Universities – don’t settle for old school technology leadership or fall for regurgitated ‘bestseller’ concepts. You know ‘the why’, you may hear ‘the what’ but insist on ‘the how’ and a proven record of executing ‘the how’. All the way to ‘the done’. That’s how you find your ‘the who’.

Many can play an Integrative CIO for a few meetings, but not as many can actually deliver in the role. That said, even via weekly #CIOChat sessions on the Twitter, more and more of us are ready for any challenge.

Until next entry…

This year Educause introduced something new into their Top 10 write-up. They have added forecasting and tangible steps to improve in the issue areas. It’s more than a list now – it’s a learning tool! See for yourself: https://er.educause.edu/articles/2020/1/top-10-it-issues-2020-the-drive-to-digital-transformation-begins

Similar past posts:

The Value of an Arts and Sciences Foundation to a CIO

CIOs Driving the Institutional Improvement Train

Know the future with palm leadership, a new style for today’s CIO