Tech alignment ‘single most important’ issue for higher ed CIOs

For chief information officers in higher education who continue to weather the coronavirus pandemic on their campuses, aligning technology priorities with university business goals is essential.

“Our students, faculty, the administration — in fact, the entire university — is very much facing uncharted waters,” Lev Gonick, the CIO of Arizona State University says on EdScoop’s PrioritiesEDU podcast. “The challenge for IT at this point, I think, is fundamentally not only around alignment in the sense of making sure that we’re relevant and engaged and consequential to where the university is going, but also to help the university understand the art of the possible going forward.”

The challenges presented by the pandemic, Gonick says, have tested every university CIO, but universities now need to capitalize on those challenges to chart long-term progress.

“Going forward, our faculty and our students realize that technology, if it ever was a nice-to-have, it’s certainly now a must-have,” Gonick says. “For many, many universities, we’ve been able to upgrade our classroom technology because we realized that we’re going to have to support hybrid delivery of instruction.”

ASU also is developing a “digital backpack,” Gonick says, a suite of ASU-branded software designed so students can access the tools they need, regardless of where they’re learning from.

“We very much have positioned our engagements with management of the pandemic as one of a set of key strategies for leveraging, in my case, technology,” Gonick says. “But we’re also very much focused in on the notion of actually being better than before.”

Before the pandemic, technology was for universities “a piece of the pie,” said Renee Patton, Cisco’s director of healthcare and education industries; now, she said, it’s become the underlying “pie crust.”

“This pandemic really forced a change in how the IT departments were working in higher ed,” Patton says on the podcast. “I think they really had an opportunity, and they’re taking advantage of that opportunity to align around a common vision, mission [and] strategy, instead of objectives for the institution.”

On the podcast:

  • Lev Gonick, CIO, Arizona State University
  • Renee Patton, director of healthcare and education industries, Cisco

Things to listen for:

  • Between universities and K-12 districts, technology leaders in education needed to put 1.5 billion students globally online almost overnight, Patton says.
  • The central opportunity for CIOs at this moment is to “seize the moment to actually overcome the deep, entrenched organizational realities that big complicated organizations always face,” Gonick says.
  • If IT departments have become the pie crust of the university pie, the university network is the underlying foundation of that crust, Patton says. Due to the massive number of devices and users, the need for bandwidth on a university network is more immense than ever and security is more important than ever.
  • On its mobile app, ASU has rolled out a daily health check for students and has since logged more than 4 million daily health checks.

PrioritiesEDU is EdScoop’s regular podcast series chronicling the top IT issues facing higher education leaders, as defined annually by Educause. The podcast is based on StateScoop’s Priorities podcast.

This episode of PrioritiesEDU was brought to you by Cisco.