CSG Fall 2012 – Future of the IT Organization

Ron Kraemer from Notre Dame and Steve Fleagle from Iowa are leading a workshop on the future of the IT organization – what’s changing in IT and how will it affect us?

Steve starts by talking about drivers of change in higher ed. We live at the intersection between higher ed and IT – there are things that happen on each side that will drive our organizations to change.

IT drivers of change include cloud computing, the consumerization of technology, personal cloud (more than just storage, but the glue that links devices, information, people, and services), identity management, migration from the PC as the most common method of accessing IT, widespread availability and value of large data sets,  high demand for skilled IT staff, business-driven IT, the success of disruptive technology (encouraging innovation), the rate of change will continue to increase. Access to click-stream and other data logs and how and whether to share them will also be interesting. Social network tools are increasingly important.

Higher ed challenges include the growing scrutiny and criticism of higher ed, financial pressures, growing enrollments, increased competition for research funding, likely market disruptions, and other challenges including a culture averse to change. Startups don’t have the same constraints, and are starting to receive funding from venture capitalists and some states. Students are flocking to these alternatives and some faculty are starting their own companies in this space. Some universities are responding (e.g. Coursera and edX), but alternatives are gaining traction – StraighterLine, Western Governors University, Excelsior College, Udacity. What happens when universities start accepting transfer credits from StraighterLine or MOOCs, or employers start taking those credits in place of degrees? There are emerging corporate universities that are training employees. Greg notes that higher education isn’t just one sector, it’s multiple sectors – community colleges are different from universities.

Ron Kraemer notes that states are decreasing their funding for higher education, but want their influence to increase. The difference in private institutions is that funds come from the benefactors that support us – they want influence too, but they bring resources along with it.

What Ron thinks about: Am I burning up my staff? Are we as efficient as we can be? Can we maintain quality as we are spread more thinly? Are we taking enough time for professional development? Does the current organization structure meet our needs? – for how long? How can we create a more comprehensive view outside IT? Why do most outside IT think this is easy?

Several folks note that our needed skill sets are changing and we need more skills in procurement, contracts, and business analysis.

One comment is about how computer science departments aren’t training people for our industry – where are the new people going to come from?

Mairead Martin is leading off a series or presentations on organizations. She asks to what extent do our organizational structures allow us to respond to change?  Traditionally stability and job security brought and kept people in our organizations – that’s no longer the case. Process management has become big – project management, ITSM, etc. It still takes us a long time to recruit and hire people. Investing in staff well-being and organizational resilience is important – how do we help our organizations through tough times? Diversity is an issue too. Kitty notes that our younger staff aren’t necessarily seeking security – they’re far more willing to move on if they’re not getting what they’re looking for. There’s some talk about career ladders and Ron notes that perhaps we shouldn’t have traditional ladders but flatter and flatter structures where the technology contributors can have influence on decision making processes. Shel notes that there’s more job stagnation in higher-ed IT than any other IT organization, which leads to people defending old technologies that are no longer the right ones to champion. Ten years with one skill set is no longer a viable skill set in IT.

Shel Waggener from Internet2 now is talking about cloud services and the impact they are having. At the scale of Google, Amazon, or Microsoft the scale changes how we approach our roles. “This is a tsunami… the potential upside is so big its hard for me to imagine any large research university that wouldn’t want to be involved” – Richard Demillo. Education is scaling similarly.

Our constituents don’t care about our organization. What it’s like today to get it: campus identifies a need, contacts IT, makes a case on why it’s needed, begin requirements process, realize project is bigger and more expense, cut scope, scrape more resources, finally see early prototype, start testing, fix bugs, deploy. Takes months or years to do that. What they really want from IT – the magic iPhone app! – Google idea to find app, install on device, start using new app – takes minutes. You can’t download an enterprise app, but what is an enterprise app now? An aggregation of many of those small apps.

We were too slow to adapt individually – we don’t have the time anymore. We have to find ways to work together to influence vendors. Our current organizations aren’t adequate to make this change. We have to find a way to involve our staff in the business changes that are happening in our institutions. In the past you could stop procurements of new waves of technologies – they are going to get steamrolled by the wave.

Major investment is flowing into cloud services for commercial offerings that can be adapted to higher ed use. 70% of higher ed IT spend is on people. The only leverage you get from Moore’s law is on the 30% left.

Shel outlines the Net+ process of aggregating demand for cloud services.

Sharif from Notre Dame is talking about the Cloud Compromise. He uses Box as an example – it doesn’t handle groups well. What kind of compromises are we willing to take to use cloud services? Another example – Notre Dame turned on Google Sites for everyone – started getting errors when people started uploading content into Sites. Found out from Google that there was an undocumented limit to uploads for an enterprise into Sites. Google raised the limit for Notre Dame, but is that good enough? A comment is that we should get used to things not being perfect. Options – Wait and watch and see if the problem recurs or intentionally fill up a site until it hits the limit to make the point or pay Google for better service. Bruce notes that different providers respond to different pressure points – perhaps we can find the way to collectively stuff the ballot box with specific vendors. There’s an observation that we can influence smaller vendors but not the larger ones like Google.


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