Jackie Malcolm Bailey on Communicating for ERP Implementations

min read
The Integrative CIO | Season 2, Episode 2

Hosts Cynthia and Jack talk with Jackie Malcolm Bailey, Vice Chancellor of Information Technology at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities about what she learned from overseeing an ERP implementation at her institution.

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Jack Suess: Welcome to the EDUCAUSE Integrative CIO Podcast. I'm Jack Seuss, Vice President of IT and CIO at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Cynthia Golden: And I'm Cynthia Golden, Associate Provost at the University of Pittsburgh. Each episode, we welcome a guest from in or around higher education technology as we talk about repositioning or reinforcing the role of IT leadership as an integral strategic partner in support of the institutional mission.

Jack Suess: Today, we're joined by Jackie Malcolm, Vice Chancellor of Information Technology and CIO at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. Welcome, Jackie.

Jackie Malcolm: Thank you.

Jack Suess: Could you give us a brief overview of your career?

Jackie Malcolm: What a great question. My career has actually taken a very interesting set of twists and turns. I'll go back to when I was a student at Drexel University. I started out in design and merchandising for fashion, and I knew that is exactly what I wanted to do. Part of my journey in education at Drexel University was a co-op and we had to go through and find a job and go through that entire process. What I found was perhaps being in fashion wasn't going to be as lucrative as I thought it was going to be. So I wound up working for a company now GlaxoSmithKline in downtown Philadelphia, and I absolutely loved my experience there. I worked in their marketing department, more specifically in convention planning. That actually spared this thought in my mind. I said, "Well, maybe it's not fashion, maybe it's marketing." So I changed my degree and kind of moved on from there. And so that's where the marketing came in.

Throughout my career, I have always worked in higher education except for a couple corporate America, and I love the mission of higher education. I have worked at large, small, medium public private, faith-based as well as HBCU. So it kind of runs the gamut and each iteration of that continue to help me understand that I absolutely love the mission of higher education. And so my career has spanned all of those different instances, but also has spanned sort of my portfolio. I've had marketing communications, I've had enrollment management, all-inclusive with everything but student accounts as well as IT. As I journeyed through my own educational experience and I said, "Wow, you know, I really like to do something different." So I was at Catholic University, had just gotten my doctorate in educational leadership and I said, "I think I'm ready for something different."

I'm chief marking officer there. And I found this job that was the vice president of enrollment marketing communications as well as the CIO. I said, "Wow! That job is for me." Because when I worked at the University of the District of Columbia, I wound up working in IT. For varying reasons, that's where I landed as a marketing professional. I had such great people around me who said, "You can do this IT thing." I was marketing a portal, an internal portal system, and I said, "I'll give it a go." And I had lots of friends say, "You can absolutely do this, do the marketing, the functional side, and then we as IT will manage the IT side."

Through a number of different layoffs and other things, I became the person who wound up really being integral in building this portal system. I said, "What in the world am I doing?" But it was something that I found to push me. I found that I loved it. I remember that I got an opportunity to do a data center upgrade and I found myself taking pictures of all the wires and how clean it was. I'm like, "Is this me? This is really who I am?" Because I'm a creative, right? I've always been a creative person. I love the field of marketing communications and enrollment management, but this was sort of a new twist and turn.

I have come across some absolutely amazing individuals who sort of poured their knowledge into me and it's all hands-on. And so I went to Buffalo State College and worked there for a number of years and got recruited to come to this job at Minnesota State. It was one of those things where I think sometimes we as women will say to ourselves, "Oh, I don't check all the boxes, so I'm just not going to go for it." And I said, "I'm just going to go for it. I mean, what is there to lose?" What I didn't know there was so much to gain. I am really honored to be able to be in this field of IT and to lead this pretty massive and significant project that we're implementing. We're implementing Workday as our ERP coming off of a homegrown system. It is massive change. It is transformational for this organization and I'm looking forward to seeing where it's all going to go. We are implementing finance and HCM modules and then hopefully here soon we'll be implementing the student module. So lots of exciting work to come.

Cynthia Golden: Sticking with the career topic a little bit, Jackie, what you just talked about in terms of your career has a thread running through it of IT and communication kind of intersecting. Whether you were talking about working in the IT department or enrollment or advancement, it seems like you've had options to lead in these areas. Maybe talk a little bit more about why you chose to lead in IT.

Jackie Malcolm: I think where I am in my job journey really was to think about what can I push myself into that will push me or help me grow. I continue to see myself as a lifelong learner and my goodness, as quickly as IT moves, you will be a lifelong learner. I just had a conversation with some of my staff the other day as we're working through this ERP implementation and I said, "My goal is to strive for perfection, but my goal is to also know that we usually don't get to that finite moment in IT, but that's something that we should continue to aspire to look for because what that helps is that continued level of innovation and growth." And so for me, it's important to utilize all of my skills that I've gained throughout my educational journey, but also just through me being a professional.

Cynthia, you mentioned communications. I will always say, and I continue to say this today, my marketing and communications background, I use that probably more than I have ever in any other position within this position as vice chancellor of IT. I continue to write communications, I continue to write messaging because we're maneuvering through pretty significant change management activities. And so I find that I always lean on those skills and it just has never failed me. Absolutely never failed me.

So whether I'm in an implementation, whether one of my offices has a particular communication that we need to send out or whether it's I need to message something to the board or have a conversation with my chancellor, that marketing communications piece is so helpful and it helps you understand what's your stakeholder base that you're talking to because the way in which you message to them frequently will be very different. So it's a skillset that I'm so glad that I have and it's one that I'll continue to hone and grow. And so that's where it all kind of intersects. It always intersects around that marketing communication space, which I'm grateful for.

Cynthia Golden: Well, and I agree with you wholeheartedly. That's something that we have to use all the time and it's really critical.

Jack Suess: I chiming in, I think, Jackie, that you are the prototype of the Future IT leader. I say that because your journey, as we move to software as a service, how we market, communicate...

Jackie Malcolm: That's right.

Jack Suess: ... work on change management are the fundamental elements of success. It's less about, how do you code, how do you pull things together. There's importance there, but these activities of how you communicate, how you work across different organizations, how you understand. So much of what you're trying to do when you get to the student administration piece, especially coming from legacy, is going to be built upon the fact that you understand enrollment management, you understand the processes and can be sort of talking the language that's there. I really think it's interesting how you really are in a way perfect for this position.

Jackie Malcolm: This system is relatively young as it pertains to systems. I came from the SUNY system and it goes from the largest either third or fourth within the nation and it is 33 institutions, 54 campuses. So it's significant in size and we have about 340,000 students that we service at any given time.

Jack Suess: What I think is incredible about this, and you and I had a chance to talk, is this idea that you have both community colleges and four-year schools as part of your system. Thinking about how you can build the next generation system that works seamlessly across those two pieces is I think one of the key elements of future of higher education.

Jackie Malcolm: I would agree with you, Jack, and one of those things we think about as we think about workforce and how do we... We are in public higher education, so we are really here to provide affordable, accessible education for economic viability of our communities very specifically. And so you think about where would a student want to journey and they've got a lot of options within the system, which is great. So you can start with maybe an AA or an AS in a particular institution and we hope that you continue on and grow throughout your educational journey, but part of the reason why we're entering into this ERP is so our students, as they journey through our educational system, can be themselves at any institution. That journey and the things that they interface with should be really synthesized and offering up the same processes, the same look and feel to make their journey just that much more easier.

I think the beauty of technology is we have a wonderful opportunity to respond to what our consumers want. I know some in the field of higher education say, "Oh, you said the word consumer." But they are. This is one of the largest purchases they'll make in their lifetime and we need to treat them as such. And so I think you're right, Jack, in that we need to be looking at what folks are looking for, not what we choose to give them. From a higher education perspective, we continue to hone into places like stackable credentials. What if I just want a micro-credential? But what if I want a stackable degree? Perhaps I've been out of school for 10 years and never finished and I want to come back. What does that look like from a workforce development perspective? I think we've got be really creative.

I think far gone are the days where we just offer two-year and four-year degrees. While they will still, in my opinion, still very much have a place in higher education, I think we need to get much more savvy about the offerings and creative around how do we offer quick credentialing for folks to either upskill, reskill retool, move to a different discipline entirely. I think we are at a wonderful crossroads in higher education to really get creative and innovative purposefully. Part of my thinking around that too is that's just how we respond and should be responding. How do we create a sense of resiliency in our organization so that we are not just being responsive, but we really are there to ensure that we're there for our communities for time to come.

Jack Suess: Well, and building on that, I have sort of felt that the most important kinds of digital transformation are the hardest ones, which are how do we help transform our academic activities?

Jackie Malcolm: That's right.

Jack Suess: Because we know that that requires a significant amount of change. It requires time, it requires a lot of conversation. And so it sounds like right now you're positioned to be in a spot to be helping to guide and/or at least be involved in a lot of those discussions across your system. That's going to be-

Jackie Malcolm: Absolutely.

Jack Suess: That's wonderful.

Jackie Malcolm: Absolutely.

Cynthia Golden: How big of a role is online learning playing in the change you're trying to affect?

Jackie Malcolm: It's very big. I think what we know from higher education is that most of us, many of us really weren't fully in the online game. And then this thing COVID happens and then all of a sudden we realize, wow, we actually can do this. We actually can move quickly. I think the main part for me as far as online education is making sure we truly are doing online education and responding as such and not sort of maneuvering into a more digital space to do these things. I have run the gamut with "digital offerings" being, "We'll just do this class via email." Well, that's not online learning and you're not creating an experience for the student.

Cynthia Golden: Maybe 20 years ago it was.

Jackie Malcolm: Yeah, exactly. And so I think that we need to understand that. We have to go back and understand how did we approach it during COVID. We know we can move quickly. We know we leaned upon our technology pretty heavily. We deploy new technology, both hardware, software, but how do we become intentional and thoughtful in using that technology to really deploy online learning? What do our consumers want? Somewhat fully online, somewhat hybrid, hyflex? And there are others who still want to come into the classroom.

Jack had mentioned we do have community colleges and technical colleges. There are some hands-on pieces that they just really need to have. I just went to one of our campuses and saw an amazing, and I believe it was like a diesel program, really learning how to work on trucks. The trucking business is suffering right now. We're educating drivers and mechanics and influxing them into the economy. But just imagine how difficult that was if you couldn't really get a feel for that engine or that gear shift when you're trying to learn. And so there are those things that really require that hands-on piece. However, they still use technology. We know most of those engines and things are run by electronics and other digital things. And so for me, I think that we'll continue to use our technology ecosystem to be able to support online learning, but really making sure that we're using that in support of what our students are looking for and not just deploying what we think they're looking for.

I also think working with industry, with this amazing industry partners across Minnesota State, and how do we use them to help us with our pedagogy and other things. Understand what in the world do you want from a talent pool. Just asking those simple questions, what are you looking for? What do you need? That is where we can really come in and deploy our skilled student body and really give them what they need and what they're looking for. So it's exciting. I think using technology for all of these things is incredibly exciting.

Cynthia Golden: As you're talking about facilitating all of this change, I am sure that your past background in communication is helping you. Could you say a few words about the kinds of approaches you're taking in terms of change management?

Jackie Malcolm: Right. One of my philosophies is communicate often and communicate many different ways. I think what we have to know is that change is really scary for folks and sometimes people say, "Oh sure, I don't mind change." And then when it really has to happen, it's like, "Okay, but I'm actually fine with change as long as it's not impacting me. So everyone else can change. No problem. I'm on board." So I think really understanding that it's not just about sort of acknowledging that change needs to happen, it's acknowledging that we all have to be a part of that change.

This is my first time working in a system office as opposed to a campus. Just always keeping my campus lens on to ensure that I'm sensitive to what happens at the local level with our campuses. And so for me, it's thinking around, "Okay, I've been a campus CIO, what would I have needed from my system office? What is the communication type that I would've needed?" I have a CCIO advisory, so I meet with a subset of CIOs from our different sectors. That gives me a really great insight into what their needs are and how they need to communicate. Keeping them abreast of all things that are happening and when it's best appropriate to communicate with them is also important.

Through this ERP, we have a change management office, so it's sort of built into this project. Those resources then work with campus resources, change management resources that help to manage change. We do a number of surveying and talking to our campus resources, just kind of getting tone and temperature around readiness of this implementation. So change management while not just about communication, communication is a significant component of change management, but how we ready folks for what's to come is important as well.

So we're deploying videos and we do what we call Workday Wednesday where people can sign up and understand particular functionality. We have a newsletter, we've got Twitter. We've got all of these ways in which we communicate, which keeps us on our toes. And sometimes folks say, "Hey, but you're not communicating enough." So we go back and we say, "Okay, what else can we do?" So it's never ending, but certainly we want to be able to make sure our campuses are ready for this level of change. And so whatever they need to get that comfort level, we will absolutely do and we'll always be in concert and in partnership with our campuses.

Jack Suess: It's really interesting in thinking about change management and communication because it really does at the end of the day, get down to how do you find the right way to communicate to everyone? It's always a little bit different, but you have to be really thinking multimodal because one way is never going to hit enough people to be able to really share the answer, share the news.

I wanted to ask a question. I remember you participating in the Diana Oblinger Innovation Forum and you were on a panel talking about how advancing diversity within your IT organization really helped accelerate innovation. Can you talk about how you're putting that to practice in your ERP modernization project?

Jackie Malcolm: I think as I continually think about how I diversify my organization, obviously being a female in IT is extremely important to me. I don't typically see a lot of myself represented across this industry, and so I'm cognizant. I always speak about my journey. I support by mentorship in other ways, females in IT, and absolutely always am grateful for our allies in this space.

Couple of things that I think is important is one, really important succession planning. How do we invest in current staff to get them ready for these leadership roles should they want them? I am always open to supporting and growing staff where they are or growing them into senior level roles if that is something that they want. So the investment in professional development through areas like EDUCAUSE are really, really exceptionally important. And so I continually think about as we move through this ERP and need to really redo the way in which we're doing IT, how do we continue that upskilling to make an investment in them? How do we do really great succession planning? But then how are we also thinking about the way in which we recruit our staff?

And so to your point, Jack, as we think about the way in which IT is maneuvering, which is really less about the nuts and bolts and the programming and more about the SaaS space type of scenario. How do we get those who have a acumen for technology but are bringing some additional skills that typically technologists never really had to have? I call it get from behind the monitor and becoming that partner, becoming that integrated CIO into the organization. My job is to influx ready talent. My job is to increase the different voices. Again, I come from a business background, enrollment marketing communications, that offers a level of diversity to ideation, to conversation. How do we get those who come from non-STEM degrees as we do our recruiting?

Higher education, we're the producers of credentials, but we also like credentials as well. So sometimes we'll say, "Well, for this role we need a four-year college degree." Well, do you? Do you really? Isn't it also equally just as good if I have someone maybe who has got 10 years worth of hands-on experience? So just looking at the way in which we're doing our recruiting is exceptionally important to make sure we can really diversify that pool. I look at diversity in many different ways. It's different ethnicities and languages and genders, but it's also disciplines. It's also backgrounds, it's lived experiences, it's all of that that can just bring some great ideas to the table.

The other thing, the beauty of working in a system, you have 33 institutions where you can tap into talent. There's an amazing swath of talent within these organizations, within these campuses that we get the opportunity to tap into. One thing we were doing was building a vaccination tracking system during COVID and one of our campuses says, "Hey, we're actually on our way to doing something like that. Would you want to leverage what we had?" We wound up building this application with them using the talent that this particular campus had. And so that's another way in which we can diversify. The way in which we do our work is really understanding how do we tap into that talent in ways that are traditional and non-traditional and how we pay attention to the workforce and like I said, in industry and what they need.

The other interesting piece, through this implementation, I am fully aware that some of my talent will get recruited out because we're sort of building talent for other organizations. Our staff decides if they want to move on to another role. I hate to lose good people, but I hope that we've done our job in growing them professionally.

Those are just some of the ways in which I'd like to make sure I'm fully aware of DEI within my organization. Minnesota State has a pretty robust DEI initiative going on called Equity 2030. It really is our efforts to close the educational equity gaps. I take it a step further and say I want to close the technology equity gaps as well, not only for our students and our faculty and staff, but just for our campuses as a whole. There are many facets to this diversity piece that I like to make sure I'm aware of. I frequently have conversation with our vice chancellor of equity and inclusion. That's my way of keeping myself educated and abreast of how I can use some strategies to diversify my organization.

Jack Suess: Thank you.

Cynthia Golden: So title of our podcast is The Integrative CIO. When you think about that, what does it really mean to you, Jackie, and how do you work to make that real, that integration?

Jackie Malcolm: For me, it means having a seat at the table. Frequently, we haven't as CIOs, probably a decade more ago, and you think about in higher education, we've got the advancement person, the HR person, you've got the president, you've got the student affairs person, the academic affairs person, and all of their work is supported by technology. But how frequently have we seen the CIO not at the table? Well, how are we having those conversations around how we leverage our technology in support of teaching and learning and supporting academics and supporting all that happens on a campus? How are we having those conversations without having an inner role in the room?

And so in my mind, that's what really truly being an integrative CIO is, being integrated into the business and being a part of the decision making process. Many are still not. And so I do have conversations with my colleagues who are not on cabinet or in those leadership roles and finding ways in which they can partner and have conversation with their colleagues, even if they don't sit on cabinet, get into those one-on-ones, have those conversations be a good partner, a trusted partner, and one that people can come and get found advice from.

I always say is we as CIOs trying to get to the table, being at the table, but making sure that your voice is heard, making sure that you really help them understand the importance of technology and how do you do that in a way in which they can understand the value piece that comes out of having it at the table.

For me, it's really being integrated into the business and being that business partner across the organization. What that translates into though is we become sort of these mini experts in all of these different fields. You know, I need to be able to speak to the head of enrollment around their funnel and their CRM that they're using and what that means and I need to speak to the head of student affairs and when they're thinking about orientation, what application are they going to use when we were in COVID to do orientation online and how I deal with athletics and what I need to know about what division we're in, what technology we need. And then I think of advancement and the technologies that they use to bring in and track donors and dollars.

So I think about all the technology that's really needed for all of that. I always say, how could you not have this type of role integrated, truly integrated into your business and be a part of the conversation and the decision making. So it's a unique opportunity. I am grateful that I am at the table. I have a chancellor who is exceptionally knowledgeable around IT, certainly enough to be dangerous, but I appreciate it because when I have conversations, he understands and knows where I'm coming from. I will also say that is usually not the norm. And so you have to also be able to be that translator of business value and goals and be that translator of what that technology can do to help create success. Ultimately, in my mind, technology is one of the reasons why our students can be successful in what we do, so it's absolutely important.

Cynthia Golden: It's been a great enabler.

Jackie Malcolm: Yes, absolutely.

Jack Suess: Frankly, I don't think there is an institution or a system making a bigger bet on technology than Minnesota State. And so the fact that they've selected you, you're a key factor in their long-term success because this project is really going to drive a tremendous amount of change in the way that they operate and function over the next decade. It couldn't be done without someone like you there. Any last comments that you have before we wrap?

Jackie Malcolm: I would say one thing in regards to the ERP and the level of change that Minnesota State is going through. I have the honor of leading this massive implementation. It is nice to know that I walked into this position with this sort of moving forward and I always say kudos to Minnesota State for being this bold and courageous. This is big change and there's a lot riding on it and making sure we're successful. I want to step out of this process ultimately and saying we can be a thought leader in this space. I'd like to think that we are going to be change makers in the field of higher ed tech.

We are the largest system maneuvering through an implementation of this type across the nation. It's significant, and I fully understand that others are going to want to come knocking on our door and ask us lots of questions because we do the same of other organizations. So I would say again, it's wonderful to see a system of this size really ready itself for organizational change, for digital transformation. It's exciting to be a part of this work. I come in here every day and sometimes I say, "I got chosen to do this work," and like I said, "I'm so honored and grateful for it."

Cynthia Golden: Well, we'll be watching...

Jack Suess: Yes.

Cynthia Golden: ... and rooting for you for your success.

Jackie Malcolm: Thank you.

Cynthia Golden: Thank you for joining us. It has been a pleasure to have you as part of this podcast.

Jackie Malcolm: Thank you so much.

This episode features:

Jackie Malcolm Bailey
Vice Chancellor of Information Technology
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities

Cynthia Golden
Associate Provost
University of Pittsburgh

Jack Suess
Vice President of IT & CIO
University of Maryland, Baltimore County