This past June, Lafayette College’s Division of Information Technology (IT) Services had the pleasure of hosting over 150 CIOs and other technology leaders from the top 70 liberal arts colleges in the country for the annual Consortium of Liberal Arts Colleges (CLAC) Conference.
"I believe we must evolve from departments built around legacy technologies to become service-oriented organizations that are tightly aligned with the institution's mission"
The consortium's mission is to explore the use of information technology in the context of liberal education and to serve as a forum for the exchange of ideas among its members. CLAC also develops robust opportunities for communities of practice to enrich one another through collaboration.
While the conference program included many wonderful presentations given by staff from the CLAC membership, it also featured two dynamic keynote speakers who brought provocative perspectives from influential positions in the tech sector. Each speaker commented on the massive disruption that has occurred across multiple sectors of the economy and around the globe, raising questions about how we lead in such disruptive times.
After hearing each of them speak, I was left with a renewed sense of the strategic importance of IT in the ongoing national conversation about the future of higher education. But, how can we ensure that we are serving our institutions appropriately? Are our IT organizations well-positioned to operate in this environment? To answer these questions, I believe there are three main themes to consider: organizational evolution, collaborative infrastructure, and transformational leadership. So what do I mean by organizational evolution? As I look around at the higher education IT landscape, there are still many organizations that have the same structures as they did in the 1990s: User support, Network/Systems, Instructional Technology, Administrative Computing, etc. These units, or ones similar, have been around for a long time. But rarely do I see organizations with names like Data Management Services, Process Improvement Consulting, Pedagogy and Instructional Design, or Private Cloud Services.
Making the shift from an organizational culture that focuses on providing specific technologies to one that focuses on a services-oriented approach requires more than changing a department’s name. It requires a major culture shift within the organization, coupled with a strategy to train and align staff to meet this new mission.