CSG Fall 2012 – Future of the IT Organization pt. 2

Now we’re having a series of point-counterpoint arguments about some issues around the future of IT organizations in higher ed.

The first is about the pace of change. Bernie Gulachek from Minnesota is arguing the point that change in higher education comes slowly and will continue to do so. Applications are up and enrollment is being managed, and until that is threatened our institutions have little impetus for change. Our institutions are not architected for change and we have a hard time affecting outcomes. We’ve had lots of opportunities for change in the last 10-15 years, but we’ve made conscious decisions to not bring about change. We’re now talking about commodity solutions in the cloud because we weren’t able to come together and create our own solutions collaboratively over the last ten years. Change will come incrementally.

Ted Dodds from Cornell  takes the position that we’re in denial – people believe we can duck and cover and the old ways will serve us into the future. The notion that somehow we can protect and insulate our community from the change doesn’t make sense. What he’s seeing for the first time ever is that academic leadership is provoked and engaged by MOOCs. These will undeniable change and affect the business models of our institutions. If we as IT leaders aren’t out in front of and participating in this change we won’t survive.

Charlie Leonhart from Georgetown and Bill Clebsch from Stanford are arguing about efficiency in IT organizations. Charlie starts by stating that the era of big IT is over. When he walks around campus he hears complaints about “you’re too big, you’re too fat, you’re too slow, you have too many people, you’re in my way – you guys suck.” We have basic facts – decimated budgets, needs to cut spending. We require bold leadership. Five point plan – cut spending, do more with less, cut staff positions, let’s virtualize. Get rid of desktop devices. Encourage innovation that drive down costs. Build strategic partnerships. Reduce central services and let users vote with dollars.

Bill starts saying there are 3 tsunamis: Research computation and big data (not building wet labs anymore, but building to support cyberscience); online learning; cloud and mobility. All this takes more money. The dollar savings aren’t there – but advantages in scaling, speed, and response to user. Mobility is a cost, not a cost saver. This is becoming a larger part of our lives – we can’t stop spending more. This is a part of the critical mission of the University – can’t stop spending now.

Elazar thinks we can do both – achieve efficiencies in our organization and use the savings to invest.

Elazar Harel from UCSF and Ron Kraermer are arguing about Bring Your Own Device. Elazar starts by saying that he believes that everybody should be able to bring whatever devices they want and they should work well in our environments. It also means BYOA (apps), BYOC (connectors), BYOP (printers), etc. When you think about this, there are some solutions – we need to be in the cloud with our infrastructure and applications.

Ron asks what business are we in? We’re in the business of delivering an optimal educational experience. We can compromise that technology by trying to support everything. What he plans to do at Notre Dame is lower the cost of textbooks by delivering them on standard devices (iPads), and they’ll train faculty on those devices to develop and deliver content. iPads will dominate the education market, and they can use it to improve the experience.

There’s a general discussion of the emerging roles of vendor relationship managers, service and product managers and technical integrators. The crowd isn’t clear yet as to how much or how quickly the old roles will go away.


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