From Information Management to Experience Fulfillment

min read

Ron Kraemer ([email protected]) is Chief Information and Digital Officer at the University of Notre Dame.

Have you thought lately about what you do for a living? Not what your job title is or how you fill your days with activities, but what you or your unit produces that is valued by your institution.

I attended a project-update meeting a couple weeks ago with our campus leaders from Finance, HR, Campus Safety, Campus Services, Facilities, and Auxiliary Operations. As everyone described all of their most important projects, I realized that virtually every project had notable IT components. When my turn came to speak, I almost just wanted to say: “I have little to add; everyone else just described all of my important projects that support university administration.”

A few days later, I was meeting with a group of deans and leaders from the Provost Office to discuss academic opportunities and challenges. The topics included recruiting the best students and faculty, assessing student learning outcomes, maintaining support for research, creating digital content for online use, and designing new learning spaces. Again, almost everything mentioned had one or more significant IT components.

Other recent meetings with University Relations, the Alumni Association, Investments, Student Affairs, and Athletics essentially had the same themes. Each group faces many new opportunities and challenges, and virtually every solution a group seeks will have vital IT components.

I didn’t know if I should shout “hooray” or run for cover. My initial thought was that I should meet with some students and faculty to talk about how these projects would address their expectations. After all, the value of what we do in the IT unit is first experienced by an individual or team that uses our services.

In a conversation with a faculty member, I asked what she expected when using technology. She said: “Just basic things, I guess. What I do using technology should be simple, fast, and fulfilling anywhere, anytime, and on any device.” I talked with others and heard essentially the same things, maybe stated in slightly different ways. For a moment, I thought that these were outlandish expectations, and then I realized that I have exactly the same expectations.

Our IT service future is clear. There will be more new IT projects, and the expectations concerning service satisfaction on each user’s terms will increase.

In the “Internet of Things” era, technology, information, and digital objects are merely the means to an end and not an end unto themselves. IT service has everything to do with what the individuals or teams experience and what they accomplish with what is produced by IT units. IT service is not something we deliver; it is an experience we enable. The essence of IT service is no longer about managing information or technology; it is about what people accomplish with information and technology.

Historically, the IT unit’s ability to deliver has been highly influenced by the costliness of network bandwidth, the availability of storage, and the adequacy of computing power. Today our users have been conditioned to believe that each of these is almost unlimited, and in many ways that is correct. Our IT unit’s ability to deliver is instead increasingly affected by the scarcity of individuals who have the appropriate interpersonal and technical skills and by the end-user team’s knowledge concerning how their business processes data and how workflows operate in a technology-infused ecosystem.

The power to make great IT solutions has become a responsibility that is shared between the IT unit and the business units using the service. There are no central and distributed IT units, whether organization charts show them or not, because all the people who deliver IT solutions are intrinsically linked to one another through data, security, workflow, and leveraged operations. Every unit across campus must have people who care deeply about how solutions are experienced and how information is managed, protected, and accessed.

So what does this all mean for those of us who work in the IT unit?

  1. Virtually every new thing our campuses undertake will have a significant IT component.
  2. Our institutions must become more efficient in the care and feeding of new systems that are being implemented at unprecedented rates. Colleges and universities will need to rely more heavily on the operating units to sustain the systems and to deeply understand the business of the unit and the IT solutions available.
  3. Creating this capacity will require ever-increasing attention to developing talent and investing in our staff so that they can keep pace with accelerating demand, evolving platforms, and innovative approaches.

Since the early 1980s, we have transformed our work from information managementto technology solution implementation to experience fulfillment. Today, IT components are so pervasive and interwoven with every process in the institution that information technology is not distinguishable from what is accomplished withinformation technology.

Over the last few weeks, it dawned on me that my unit was no longer the IT unit and that I am no longer a Chief Information Officer. My unit is the Experience Fulfillment Office, and I am a Chief Experience Fulfillment Officer. To simplify things, I might just want to be the “Chief Experience Officer,” but the “CEO” title is already taken.

As those of us in the Experience Fulfillment Offices relentlessly deliver value, drive innovation, and develop talent within our institutions, let’s take extra care to advance our skills in communications, relationship building, personalized service, creativity, speed to delivery, governance, and simplification. And by the way, let’s always do this with the confidence that we have the deep technical knowledge that is still essential to achieving excellence in experience fulfillment.