Visions and Prioritization
We recently started an engagement with a consulting group to help us develop some project management processes. As we’ve been working through all this, one of the consultants asked me what my vision for IT my current institution is. I’ve had a few other people asked me similar questions, and I thought it might be interesting to share my thoughts here (plus later I can just give folks this URL).
It’s worth noting at the start that is this is a vision of IT at a specific institution that brings with it certain assumptions and cultural norms. I think many of these things can translate to other institutions, but it isn’t some kind of universal vision of IT in higher education. With that, my vision for IT at this institution includes:
- supplying services and infrastructure that empower the institution to provide a differentiated learning experience,
- designing and implementing a network infrastructure that enables students, faculty, and staff to attach whatever device they need to the network and access any software or service they need to get their work done,
- supporting IT services and technology that encourage faculty to explore pedagogical approaches that best meet the needs of our students,
- integrating best of breed solutions to meet business imperatives,
- providing a high calibre analytics platform to promote data informed decision making at the institutional, departmental, and individual level, and
- delivering to students, faculty, and staff a superior customer service experience that supports their focus on business and educational issues.
This vision combined with the values and culture of my institution informs our thinking about the kinds of projects we should do and how we should prioritize them. These guiding principles include focusing on projects that:
- help the institution recruit, retain and graduate students,
- address at least one of the institutions nine key levers of success (as defined in our strategic plan),
- speak to one or more of the the characteristics of a Marianist education (pdf link),
- bring something unique or innovative to the university (i.e. is the project really cool and does it push our boundaries in higher education as a whole),
- fit our institutional risk profile, and
- have a functional area willing to participate fully in the project.
The last component of this is some “technical” considerations that help us match all of the above with our resource realities. We tend to explore solutions that are cloud based and mobile first so that we can be more nimble in meeting institutional needs. We focus our time and efforts on data integration rather than monolithic systems and preference solutions that support our single sign-on/identity management platform (in our case the Internet2 Shibboleth project). We’re also careful to understand the implications of sharing student data with outside providers (our Registrar’s office has to approve any non-directory information, and we review all contracts and privacy policies before engagements are finalize).
All of this acts as a set of filters through which projects and initiatives pass before engements are finalized. That doesn’t mean every single project we do matches exactly with all the things above, but it does mean we’ve at least been intentional about what projects to take on.