The Digital Revolution by Perry Hewitt, Chief Digital Officer, Harvard University


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  • early to the web, which means I got to make a lot of mistakes. Back in 1999, here was the first thing you do when launching a website: write a check for a million dollars. To Sun.
  • BoxesData centersPeopleStack upon stack
  • The health of the herd, not the coddled pet.
  • Era of unparalleled competitionConsumer as beneficiary
  • Not all problems are solved
  • How we use the cloud
  • Mobile services –Spin up web applications quickly for test projects
  • Access to third party services in this case measurement
  • Streamline display of social publishing
  • Spur innovation among students and faculty
  • So, we use the cloud to power learning experiences for people worldwide. The edX platform, created in 2012 by Harvard and MIT, is hosted in the cloud. Our ongoing program,, HarvardX for Alumni, is available to our 375,000 alumni worldwide, and uses the edX platform. And in this first instance of the course, we are learning more about the need for customization specific to the learning needs and preferences of alumni. When we customize, we will use OpenedX, a derivative platform that allows us to add, subtract, and experiment with new modules quickly and flexibly — in the cloud.
  • The API makes available catalog information about 12.3M items in the Harvard Library collection. Next step: the usage of those items —including times checked out, times put on reserve, etc.Stanford Prize for Innovation in Research Libraries (SPIRL) 
  • Speed to market to disrupt major industries“But the next wave of financial technology innovations, built by firms such as Kensho—using ultra-modern software paradigms and secure cloud computing—will bring the accessibility of consumer technology to the enterprise, and put high-end computational capabilities in the hands of non-programmers. Millions of hours now wasted on spreadsheet manipulations will be saved, and the high-priced professionals currently mired in those tasks will be freed to dive straight into the high-value endeavor of asking important questions and finding needed answers.”
  • Bowery allows developers to seamlessly use a cloud development environment locally, saving 40% of their time that is now used installing and configuring software. Without the cloud, Bowery would be near impossible to build.
  • Speed – watch your release cycles, rebudget quarterly, website on monthly release cycles. Culture eats strategy for lunch. Map of tech making impact – am I experimenting and using these? . Competitor mapping – are you changing the way you look at your competition. Higher education is at a critical juncture, which we at Harvard are meeting by internal disruption. But any information based business will face daunting new competitors, powered by the cloud
  • The Digital Revolution by Perry Hewitt, Chief Digital Officer, Harvard University

    1. 1. The Digital Revolution : how the cloud enables innovation, (and everybody wins) Perry Hewitt perry_hewitt@harvard.ed u
    2. 2. We paid for, named, and nurtured our pets. h/t Peter Coffee
    3. 3. But now we’re maintaining our web infrastructure more like a herd of cattle. Photo credit: AmberSky235
    4. 4. Source:
    5. 5. enterprise enablement
    6. 6. campus innovation
    7. 7. The LibraryCloud API makes available catalog information about 12.3M items in the Harvard Library. The aim is to make everything libraries know available to everyone on the web, and to enable and encourage the collaborative development of these apps and many
    8. 8. Developers are creating more complex and distributed applications with terabytes of data and multiple independent services. Isn't it time their development environments caught up?
    9. 9. 2 parting thoughts
    10. 10. student empowerment 1. Make sure your culture’s caught up to speed of tech. Innovate, iterate, rinse, repeat . 2. Get ready for what cloud will do to as well as for your
    11. 11. thank you Perry Hewitt @perryhewitt