January, 2017 CIO Update
As the New Year comes into full swing, Educause (the primary professional organization for Higher Education IT) has released its Top 10 Issues list for the coming year. This year’s list and associated materials are particularly helpful in contextualizing our priorities and initiatives in Technology Services with trends across higher education, and the list also is illustrative of our alignment with the priorities outlined in VCU’s Quest for Distinction Strategic Plan.
Below are the Top 10 Issues for 2017 with some thoughts on where we are at VCU:
1. Information Security: Developing a holistic, agile approach to reduce institutional exposure to information security threats
This is always a major concern for us, and we continue to approach this issue from many directions. We have recently updated information security policies as well as baselines and standards in application development, web publishing, and other areas. We continue to use a risk-based approach to prioritize where we invest resources in terms of scanning, monitoring, and blocking. We collaborate with other institutions and will be doing more of this to avoid further costs and gain economies of scale where we can.
This links directly with Quest for Distinction (Theme 1, Goal 1). We continue to invest in improving how we utilize Banner and other systems that improve services to students (financial aid has and continues to be an area of emphasis). We are also collaborating with the Office of the Provost on initiatives to improve institutional assessment, provide more data to advisers to identify and serve at-risk students, and to implement processes and tools that will rationalize course scheduling and course offerings to help students move through their programs of study more quickly.
3. Data-Informed Decision Making: Ensuring that business intelligence, reporting, and analytics are relevant, convenient, and used by administrators, faculty, and students
There are multiple efforts across to VCU to enhance the availability and usability of data to inform improved decision-making and allocation of scarce resources. One major initiative for this year will be the implementation of SAS Visual Analytics to help deliver useful dashboards to different constituencies.
4. Strategic Leadership: Repositioning or reinforcing the role of IT leadership as a strategic partner with institutional leadership
With the CIO reporting to both Administration and Academic Affairs, Technology Services is a support organization that lives in both the administrative and academic worlds. Increasingly we are participating in business process analysis and planning in addition to just facilitating and supporting technical solutions.
5. Sustainable Funding: Developing IT funding models that sustain core services, support innovation, and facilitate growth
As VCU begins the process of implementing a new budget model, it will be critical for Technology Services to demonstrate exactly what the funding we receive provides and clearly explain the consequences of reduced funding. Our work in IT Service Management, particularly around the Service Catalog is critical here. Where we charge for service, we also need to be completely transparent about the costs associated with service provision. This also becomes more relevant as service provision shifts from a capital expense model, where large amounts of hardware or big software systems are purchased/replaced every number of years to a model (cloud services or software as a service) where the expense is an annual operating cost and nothing more.
6. Data Management and Governance: Improving the management of institutional data through data standards, integration, protection, and governance
Data governance continues to develop under the leadership of the Data Information Management Council (DIMC). A data stewardship model has been developed; a data classification model has been implemented; and business processes and data flows have been extensively mapped. This work will continue to be a huge challenge for Technology Services as well as all those who handle VCU’s critical data.
7. Higher Education Affordability: Prioritizing IT investments and resources in the context of increasing demand and limited resources
Technology Services and its partners across both campuses continue to work to standardize systems and platforms where possible to drive economies. IT Governance helps to avoid redundant projects and systems and drive cost-effective solutions. This also links directly into finding new ways to leverage technology to contain or even reduce administrative overhead.
8. Sustainable Staffing: Ensuring adequate staffing capacity and staff retention as budgets shrink or remain flat and as external competition grows
This continues to be a challenge as state budget allocations shrink and the Richmond area market for IT professionals strengthens. The work being done in the HR Redesign Project will be critical in helping us continue to be an attractive place for IT professionals to grow and develop. Enhancing opportunities for professional development and providing an excellent place to work will be key to continue to recruit and retain talented IT staff.
9. Next-Gen Enterprise IT: Developing and implementing enterprise IT applications, architectures, and sourcing strategies to achieve agility, scalability, cost-effectiveness, and effective analytics
We have seen a fair amount of this in terms of changes in the marketplace. The monolithic ERP system is being replaced over time by an integrated set of best-of-breed solutions; most but not all applications are purchased as cloud service; infrastructure is becoming a combination of on-site and cloud-based solutions. The role of IT staff therefore is evolving from managing software and hardware to managing vendors (and still customers). VCU’s IT enterprise continues to evolve and change more quickly as the technology changes accelerate.
10. Digital Transformation of Learning: Collaborating with faculty and academic leadership to apply technology to teaching and learning in ways that reflect innovations in pedagogy and the institutional mission
This is an area that will be key to our future here at VCU. Technology Services can and must play a key role in continuing to leverage technology to improve learning outcomes and drive student success and satisfaction. This goes way beyond providing the learning management system, outfitting classrooms with media equipment, and putting courses on-line. This is even more interesting at VCU, where there is so much diversity in terms of types of course and curriculum. We will continue to collaborate with the Office of the Provost in this area.
I urge you to read more about the Top 10 issues on the Educause web site, and I also urge you to think about ways we can work through these issues and continue to contribute to VCU’s mission.