Focusing On The Initiatives That Advances The Organization

By Scott Studham, VP for IT, University of Minnesota

Scott Studham, VP for IT, University of Minnesota

Technologies and initiatives that helped the university/ to keep pace with the change

Our core mission education and discovery calls for ongoing and deliberate exploration of new horizons. We have to build a strategy that is flexible and nimble to the changing landscape. To do this, we are leveraging forecasting tools--Gartner’s Education Hype Cycle, the NMC Horizon Report, and more-- and engaging our community in an ongoing review of how to best evolve our technology environment to take advantage of technology innovations that drive our mission.

Using a crowd-sourcing strategy, we’re able to rapidly assess and identify new technologies to pilot and incorporate into our environment. We’ve instituted a technology hype cycle management strategy to collect broad input from the University community. This allows key stakeholders (e.g., faculty) to be aware of and contribute to the hype cycle, leading to increased awareness of activities underway across the institution.

A key benefit of the hype cycle method for managing technology through the natural maturation process is that it allows our community to have a common vocabulary. This allows us to minimize the natural tendency to Over react (“peak of heightened expectations”) or become overly cynical about those unrealistic expectations (“trough of disillusionment”).Using this process allows us to have a more rational discussion around technology, rather than succumbing to hysteria on topics such as “MOOCs” or “Big Data.”

However, it’s not enough to just keep pace with change. Part of what the hype cycle enables is a broad awareness of which initiatives/technologies we are truly leading in, where we are doing well, and where we are lagging. It is impossible for any one institution to lead at everything or even do well at everything. This awareness allows us to determine what not to invest in and also where to right size our investments to maximize effectiveness in the areas that are most important to our mission right now.

Finally, through many of our system wide efforts, we are enabling our colleges (not just their IT functions) to move more quickly to keep up with the pace of change. For example, we are currently working to consolidate the University’s 73 helpdesks to a single point of contact. By removing the need for each college to deliver end user support services to students, faculty and staff within that college, we are enabling them to focus their resources on the initiatives that uniquely advance their individual mission.