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.


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.

[CSG Spring 2008] Agile Organization workshop

Thursday morning is spent in a workshop discussing how our IT organizations can be more agile. I’m one of the coordinators and presenters in this workshop, so can’t really blog it. Maybe somebody else will. Presentations are available on the web site at http://www.stonesoup.org/Meeting.next/work2.pres/

Thursday morning is spent in a workshop discussing how our IT organizations can be more agile. I’m one of the coordinators and presenters in this workshop, so can’t really blog it. Maybe somebody else will. Presentations are available on the web site at http://www.stonesoup.org/Meeting.next/work2.pres/