Being a Higher Ed CIO is a complex and often misunderstood job, as anyone who follows the blogs of any Higher Ed CIO can attest to. This misunderstanding has led to a few frequently propagated myths about the profession, myths that can be counterproductive to progress. Here are the top five myths about Higher Ed CIO’s that seem to be kicking about the edusphere, and the truth behind these myths that might have you thinking twice about how vital and difficult the Higher Ed CIO’s job truly is.
1: “If We Just Had a Great CIO, Everything Would Work And All of Our Problems Would Vanish!”
While it can be very easy to search for this kind of miracle pill, a single charismatic and go-getting leader will not solve all of an institution’s IT problems. Tech troubles can be complicated beasts involving multitudes of other sub-issues, issues that a CIO might influence but not completely control. Budgets, institutional priorities, institutional allocations, other high-level personalities; these and other troubles can contribute to systemic IT issues that not even a “golden” CIO can solve. While a good CIO can help to address some facets of these issues, simply hiring a “miracle” CIO will not solve them entirely.
2: CIO’s Are Only Around to Monitor and Troubleshoot the IT Environment.
Thanks to developments in monitoring technology (as well as the ever-changing needs of Higher Ed), the role of the CIO is shifting. According to a 2015 survey, CIO’s currently spend up to 27% of their time working on business strategy rather than IT-specific issues. What’s perhaps even more telling is the projections of how this will change even more in the future; the same study reports that CIO’s would like to spend up to 72% of their time strategizing. CIO’s are increasingly getting involved in the big picture, and seem to want more involvement on that level.
3: Higher Ed CIO’s Have an Easier Job Getting Other Departments on Board with Their IT Plans Than Their Non-Higher Ed Counterparts.
CIO magazine’s 2015 survey found that 54% of surveyed business leaders see the IT group in their environment as an obstacle.
In the modern era, it has become more and more clear that technology is key to productivity and innovation. In that case, it would stand to reason that institutions dedicated to learning and innovation would be fully onboard with providing the most up-to-date technology to support their environment. Unfortunately, this idyllic worldview isn’t exactly how things work in practice. CIO magazine’s 2015 survey found that 54% of surveyed business leaders see the IT group in their environment as an obstacle. To make matters worse, 47% of surveyed business leaders report seeing CIO’s fighting with other C-level execs in vicious turf wars. With such industry-wide adversarial conditions, it’s a marvel that the Higher Ed CIO is able to accomplish any small task, much less the large institutional tasks that keep Higher Ed IT running.
4: Higher Ed CIO’s Are Just “Head Geeks,” People Who Know Technology Very Well but Have Little Understanding of Other Areas.
This particular myth is a little old-fashioned; while it was perhaps once true that the CIO mainly knew systems and tech, these days that’s simply not enough to keep an environment current. IT is such an integrated part of an institution’s business model that the CIO must not only have a strong command of her systems, but also a working knowledge of finance, security, law, academics, project management, identity management, business management, and risk management… quite the gamut of knowledge for one individual! CIO’s need to be well-rounded experts, and Higher Ed CIO’s doubly so since their environments are often the keystone to success for an institution of higher learning.
5: Because of the Growing Technology Demands in Higher Education, the CIO’s Budget is Generally Increased to Match.
University budgets being what they are (fickle, fleeting, and notoriously tight), the CIO might be constantly asked to deliver more and more on an ever-thinning shoestring. Current trends in higher education all look towards the digital: distance learning, cloud sharing, flipped classrooms, etc. All of these rely strongly on an intense IT presence in and around the classroom, a presence that must grow in kind to bolster such activities. Despite this increased demand on systems, the CIO might not necessarily receive an increased amount of monetary support to bolster such programs. This basically means that Higher Ed CIO’s are being asked to spin straw into gold (and they’re running out of straw). In our book, that pretty much makes them superheroes.
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