Posts Tagged 'strategic planning'

First 2012 Action — Fire Yourself?

Over the holidays I had a chance to catch up on some reading (thanks not only to a week off of work, but sadly, to a terrible winter cold) on everything from important leadership skills, the changing role of the CIO, and effective metrics; to considerations for cloud computing, virtualization, and bring-your-own-device (BYOD). Expect more on many of these topics, soon. 🙂

Among my reading, one article that really stood out was “Fire yourself this Christmas” by Joel Dobbs. Dobbs takes the idea of year-end reflection to a new level — by firing yourself (and then hiring *you* as your replacement), you have the unique opportunity to see your organization as you once did…from a fresh perspective.

Every organization has an institutional “way”, a history of decisions and their rationale, and established relationships and politics. And it’s immensely helpful to know, understand, and be able to work within these. But there’s nothing quite like your first few months at a new institution, when you have an “outsider’s” perspective, and, as Dobbs suggests:

No ownership of previous failures, no credit for prior successes, no investment in prior decisions- just a mandate to set things right.

As we enter 2012—and soon, the 12-13 budget planning season—recapturing that “newly hired” perspective might just change how we establish priorities, focus our initiatives, and identify new opportunities for improvement and growth. Oh yeah — it might also serve to remind us about what we’ve done right thus far. Dobbs doesn’t focus on this as much, but I believe there’s value in recognizing your strengths, too.

So here’s to an early 2012 “firing”…and developing a fresh perspective for the rest of the New Year.

Mission Critical is *Not* the Same as Core

My favorite quote from the 2011 EDUCAUSE National Conference came from Marty Ringle of Reed College (as tweeted by @stevegoldenberg):

No student will come to our school b/c of our amazing administrative computing environment

True. And yet, we spend an awful lot of time (and money, and resources) focused on our IT infrastructures, enterprise systems, and other “back office” technologies. Why? Because without question, some/most/all of these systems are absolutely critical to running our institutions — without them we have no class schedules, or student records, or…well, you get the picture.

But here’s the thing: while these systems are clearly mission-critical to our operations, they are not *core* to our institutions. They are not technologies/services that we uniquely can provide. They do not differentiate our institutions from one another. And, perhaps most importantly, they do not (significantly) advance our primary mission of educating students. And yet, we *must* provide them.

Or must we??

Are You Doing “It”? (Cloud Computing…What Did You Think?)

Everybody’s doing it. You know you want to, too….

Well, everybody’s talking about doing it, at least. But what is “it,” exactly? Turns out it’s rather complicated, and somewhat subjective. There’s outsourcing. Hosting. Software as a Service (SaaS). Public clouds. Virtual private clouds. And so on.

The “it” I’m talking about, of course, is cloud computing. And we’re definitely doing it at my school. Or, well, talking about it anyway. Planning for it, really. So if you’re planning for “it” too, it’s really important to know what you want “it” to do for you—what your objectives are—to ensure that you pick the right flavor of cloud computing, or right flavor mix, to meet your needs.

Here are my objectives at the moment (subject to change, as we’re currently developing our strategy), as well as some underlying assumptions:

  1. Create an easily maintainable, highly scalable, and environmentally-friendly IT infrastructure
  2. Reduce overall IT infrastructure costs
  3. Focus IT resources on the college’s core “business” – teaching and learning
  4. Increase access to technology resources and services
  5. Promote [my school] as a technologic leader and innovator

Implicit in these objectives is that a fully-implemented cloud computing strategy will:

  • Shift the focus from capital to operating expenses, with an overall cost reduction
  • Reduce the amount of staff (FTE) needed to support and maintain a cloud infrastructure
  • Reduce electronic waste and energy consumption
  • Increase flexibility to meet growing demand or bring new services online
  • Enable campus constituents to access campus services from anywhere

My vision for our institution is a technology-free data center. I want to walk into my data center and see fresh white walls, bright lights, and *no* servers. It’s not that infrastructure isn’t important – it is. It is the foundation upon which all of our services are built, and like the foundation of a house, it needs to be solid, reliable, and secure. But operating a data center provides no strategic advantage for my institution, and I would suspect, for most institutions. By leveraging various forms of cloud computing to realize operational efficiencies, we can refocus our finite IT resources towards supporting activities that *are* core to the institution—namely, teaching and learning.

I don’t know if it’s possible to get to an empty server room (and realize the benefits of such), but we’re sure going to try over the next year or so. Will you be doing “it” too?

@rclemmons on Twitter

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