Metatrends Conclusions

Diana G. Oblinger and Joanne Dehoney

This post concludes a blog series describing five “metatrends,” drawn from a review of articles in industry IT press, that affect CIOs in all IT sectors:                


Those in higher education information technology know that attaining maximum operational and strategic value from technology is challenging but rewarding. In “The Do-or-Die Questions Boards Should Ask about Technology,” Paul Willmott states: “Technology alone delivers no value. It’s the combination of a clear strategy, the right technology, high-quality data, appropriate skills, and lean processes that adds up to create value. Any weak link in this chain will lead to poor value delivery from IT.” The CIO role will be critical. As noted in the Executive’s Guide to the Future of IT Leadership: “Although in five years’ time the CIO position will be at least as influential as it is today, CIOs need to do more than ever to earn that influence.”

Today, every aspect of a college or university experience and its operations is supported by technology applications, devices, and systems. These systems generate considerable amounts of data that can feed analytics tools, which in turn can help optimize campus services, improve informed decision making, personalize learning, and intervene with at-risk students. The value lies not in the technology but in the unique attributes of digital resources and their ability to create efficiencies and even transform the way we work and learn. Who better than CIOs to lead this digital future in higher education? But if we believe so, we must be proactive in creating that future.

The industry IT press paints two likely futures for the CIO role. In the bleaker version, the strategic aspects of the CIO portfolio are spun off to others while core operational functions are increasingly commoditized. In this future, the CIO role either disappears or becomes solely operational, no longer positioned in the C-suite.

In the more hopeful future, the CIO role not only retains but increases its influence, in two ways. First, the CIO boldly drives operational efficiency within the IT organization and also via the IT organization for the enterprise at large. Second, the CIO helps guide the institution to achieving its mission in new ways by translating technology possibilities into strategy and by delivering creative solutions that depend on information technology. This is the future EDUCAUSE envisions and the one it works to promote for its members and for the higher education community.

This blog series has outlined five metatrends that CIOs must understand and incorporate into their practices in order to be effective, grow their influence, and prepare themselves and their institutions for the deep changes that are afoot. Although all of the trends include IT considerations, each of them also addresses concerns at a broader, institutional level. The effective higher education IT leaders of tomorrow will understand these trends and be able to collaborate with other institutional leaders at both strategic and tactical levels.

EDUCAUSE has recently developed a series of Resources for Presidents and Senior Executives that can help begin or deepen the conversation about the expanding list of ways in which information technology can and will support the higher education mission. We encourage you to share these resources with your colleagues and begin building our future.


© 2014 Diana G. Oblinger and Joanne Dehoney. The text of this article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License (