One of the three pillars of the EDUCAUSE five-year strategic plan is expanded partnerships and collaborations. The NACUBO strategic plan includes a similar priority surrounding partnerships, and the ongoing relationship between EDUCAUSE and NACUBO stands as a model for important, effective partnerships in higher education. The 2017 EDUCAUSE/NACUBO Enterprise IT Summit was the fourth year of this event, which brings together leaders from IT, business, and finance to foster deeper understanding across these functional areas and how they can work well together.
This year's summit focused on how cross-enterprise relationships can address institutional challenges and what college and university leaders can do to foster those relationships. Particular attention was paid to improving analytics initiatives, driving better understanding of IT costs and value, and evolving the future of higher education. The goals of this year's summit were articulated in a recent article in NACUBO's Business Officer magazine:
As a CBO I need the humility to know that I don't have all the answers, or know how all the ingredients for successful technology come together. By leveraging as sounding boards my CIO, other members of our respective teams, and outside experts in the IT field, my decisions can be as thoughtful and informed as possible.
Four key themes emerged from the presentations and discussions at the summit:
- Nurture your partnerships
- Improve analytics and data governance initiatives
- Provide leadership for aligning unit efforts with institutional goals
- Consider the value as well as the cost of IT services
Each of these themes is supported by specific recommendations, and, taken as a roadmap, these principles can help colleges and universities cultivate the kinds of relationships that are increasingly important for higher education's future.
Nurture Your Partnerships
Colleges and universities are often quite siloed, making the kind of collaborative effort required for inclusive, cross-enterprise decision making difficult. The words of summit participants illustrate the value of partnerships across campus:
"Technology is a team sport. We are not here to serve ourselves but the institution."
"Our 'aha' moment was realizing this is our project — not mine or yours."
"This is extremely valuable because even though we don't have it all figured out, we know we will figure it out together.... From the CIO chair, this kind of relationship has to occur with every one of my cabinet peers."
- Position big projects as campus-wide efforts.
- Use empathic listening.
- Communicate clearly, widely, and frequently.
Improve Analytics and Data Governance Initiatives
Analytics can provide critical information about how well the institution is meeting its goals and advancing its mission. But an analytics initiative can be successful only if it is a careful collaboration that takes in a broad cross-enterprise set of stakeholders that may need to include IT, business, finance, institutional research, academic leadership, student services, and academic units.
"Decision by anecdote is [a] common methodology in a lot of places because we don't have information. We have data, but we don't have them organized into the information that we need."
"So many analytics programs start at the speed of light, and then we discover that we didn't do the data governance, we don't understand the culture, we don't know what the data mean, and we don't know what it means to share and have access to data."
"Higher education has a beautiful opportunity: We have the smartest people in the world working for us. How do we go from guinea pigs to learning and applying it? We don't have the answer yet, but we are getting closer."
- Work on the fundamentals first.
- Focus analytics efforts on the institutional mission and strategic objectives.
- Develop a culture of data-driven decision making.
Provide Leadership for Aligning Unit Efforts with Institutional Goals
IT and business leaders can have a strong positive impact on their institutions if they come together to focus on alignment between institutional and unit goals. Alignment of strategic goals helps guide decision making for both the day-to-day work of keeping the institution running and the work of innovation.
"We don't have a business school with one set of goals, an engineering school with another set of goals. We have institutional goals, and we all work toward these goals."
"We attempt to do something innovative because of the potential return for the achievement of our mission. We try to make smart bets, buttressed by information."
- Use institutional goals as drivers for decision making on an institution-wide basis.
- Understand the functional unit's perspective.
- Consider IT service management processes to align IT with institutional goals.
- Be willing to fail.
Consider the Value as Well as the Cost of IT Services
As funding becomes more limited and competition for funds increases, it becomes more important for IT to demonstrate the value and impact it brings to the core mission of the institution. When talking about technology with institutional leaders, focus on the value that IT brings to teaching, learning, research, and the bottom line at the institution.
"The CIO has to get out of the IT space and have more conversations about the business, know the financial and academic leaders, and know their language.... The conversation should start with the question, what are you trying to affect with the mission? How can technology enable that?"
"It is incumbent for the CBO to understand the CIO world to the degree that the CBO understands IT's contribution to the mission. The CIO is an enabler for all the contributors to the strategic mission."
- Guide conversations so that they focus on the mission and goals.
- Focus on the CIO-CBO partnership.
- Use governance to engage the community.
- Measure and benchmark.
For more about the outcomes of this year's summit, read the full report, Cross-Enterprise Partnerships: Serving and Succeeding Together.
Betsy Tippens-Reinitz is director of the Enterprise IT Program at EDUCAUSE.
© 2017 Betsy Tippens-Reinitz. The text of this blog is licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0.