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The Chief Information Officer in Higher Education

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This paper was presented at the Clute Institute Teaching and Learning Conference, January, 2006.

This paper was presented at the Clute Institute Teaching and Learning Conference, January, 2006.

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  • 1. 1 The Higher Education Chief Information Officer (CIO) A 30 Year Perspective Ronald Black, Georgian Court University Higher Education exists as a community of scholars dedicated to the creation and dissemination of knowledge and the preparation of future leaders in a global society. For many students there are significant barriers to full participation in this teaching and learning experience. Technology is intended to break down the barriers of time and space and enable more of our students to participate and collaborate with faculty and other students. Certain critical thresholds must be met in order to use technology to communicate, collaborate, and transform teaching and learning. Technology can help the learner to get connected to information and learning communities; expand participation in the teaching and learning process; improve access to learning materials, experts, and peers; and provide new channels for active learning. These new teaching and learning options will require substantial leadership. Technology by itself does not improve or cause changes in learning. Today online learning environments have many capabilities and the potential to widen options and opportunities available to teachers and learners. The key to changing conditions for improving learning is how these options and opportunities are implemented. The value of technology for higher education is proportional to the need for that technology to impact on educational objectives. The current use of technology involves the restructuring and the re-development of new teaching and learning models that match the unique capabilities and features of the technology media. To carry out this complex paradigm shift and address higher education’s challenges the technology leadership must develop effective partnerships and collaborative efforts internally and externally. There is a major need for most colleges and universities to confront the intense local and national competition, to enhance academic programs to meet the challenges of this competition, and to develop new teaching and learning strategies to meet the demands of a global marketplace Leading information technology in higher education has changed significantly since the 1970’s. In fact the title of Chief Information Officer did not exist 30 years ago and today there is no standard career path to the position. CIO’s today have come from the campus technology staff, academic administration, and yes, even from the faculty. The qualifications for a CIO in higher education today vary but are mostly the same as the qualifications for any senior administrative position:  proven leadership skills  strong management skills  expert technical skills  and a solid grasp of all three. Having these very different but very critical skill sets is imperative to lead information technology in higher education today. In an Educause article on Leadership, Carol A. Cartwright, President of Kent State University explains that the Chief Information Officer in higher education must be a “Leader, Manager, and Member of the Executive Orchestra”. She goes on to say “As technologies and IT issues become increasingly more complex, the CIO’s roles as educator and communicator will be even more vital…the CIO must not only be able to perform as an effective soloist, providing the technology perspective, but also must be able to perform in concert with others in the “executive orchestra” placing technology within the big picture of the institutional mission and goals. The Decades The past three decades have seen the role of the CIO emerge beyond the data centers cutting across all areas of the institution expanding into senior leadership roles throughout higher education. In the past, the chief information officer mostly took care of the mainframe computers and the software that was installed for business and administrative processes. The IT staff made sure that terminals and printers were wired but rarely left their “glass walled office” to help users. The advent of the personal computer and the World Wide Web has changed all of that. The technical doors opened for staff and faculty at an outstanding pace. Hardware and software was distributed throughout the campus and user support became a key factor. The role of the IT Director quickly began
  • 2. 2 to change. There was a growing realization on campuses of the strategic value of information technology for teaching and learning as well as the management of the institution. The 1970s The 1970s were dominated by large mainframe computers pioneered by IBM’s System 360/370 product line and an extensive array of sophisticated peripherals. These computers required expansive facilities with raised floors, air conditioning and extensive power requirements. These facilities were called data centers or data processing centers and usually were located in the basements of administrative buildings. As noted earlier, the 70s CIO was often called the Data Center Manager, or DP Manager with primarily responsibility as a technician or computer programmer. The operation of these data centers were dominated by the manager, centralizing all decisions, funding, management, operation, and use through the manager. The CIO of the 70s was charged with maintaining the machine-based records of their institutions with a specific focus on administrative computing. Academic computing was nearly non-existent. In this decade CIOs were primarily concerned about how best to organize staffs, programs and data to accommodate the needs of administrative functions. Most administrative systems were custom designed and programmed by the CIO and the staff of computer operators and programmers. The CIO and staff members were often selected from administrative ranks within the institution or hired from local industry. The need for special skills that differed from skills found among traditional administrators set the stage for salary challenges in higher education. These new positions required special salary scales that deviated from the standard salaries of higher education administrators. Most often these salaries were 20 to 30 % higher than the standards because of the skill requirements and the fact that computing was new to higher education. This was an especially difficult problem with public institutions with fixed salary scales set at the state level. Private institutions had much more flexibility in setting salaries. The key to these new positions was the fact that a new data processing CIO or staff member’s key characteristic was technical knowledge not institutional knowledge. The mission of the 70s data processing centers within higher education was that of service, accepting priorities for system modifications, updating and creation from the functional department manager. These systems ranged from accounting, personnel/payroll, or student records based on a silo of data files unique to the system. Little or no integration of data took place. Given that all data and information was processed on a single computer most data centers operated 24 hours per day which led to large staffs of keypunch operators, computer operators and computer programmers. As the 70s came to an end a significant transition began to take place in the data centers. Higher education administrators recognized that computers could be useful no only to automate functional administrative areas but also to serve as “management information” systems. The CIO was challenged to move from a data processing methodology to an information systems methodology. Talks began to take place concerning “integration” of data and information moving toward a common institutional database replacing the silos of files. This perspective was prompted by computer system vendors providing database management technologies and methodologies for implementing integrated management information systems. The role of the CIO changed from one of data base manager to database manager. With this transition, the CIO was faced with a new set of challenges that changed the service role of the institutional technology organization. These challenges including the conversion of file systems to database systems, the determination of “ownership” of data and responsibility for entry and updating, the authorization to view, change and delete data, and the establishment of priorities for using an integrated, common database within the institution. Meeting these challenges demanded that decisions be made with implications for the entire institution. The CIO of the 70s was not prepared for this new role. The 1980s As the 1980s approached the evolution from a data and service approach to an information and decision making approach has sparked lively debates between the CIO and technology users. To implement this transition the CIO was faced on replacing the main-frame computer with the new minicomputers. In an effort to focus on information, smart terminals or personal computers operating in terminal emulation mode began to become the user preferred computing tool but this brought further challenges for the CIO. Academic departments found value in the
  • 3. 3 personal computer and its use in the classroom. Suddenly higher education found a new technology tool to not only support and enhance administrative computing but found that the use of this new technology will assist in increasing enrollment. As the capabilities of the personal computer become known administrative and academic users began to assume responsibilities that were once held by centralized data centers, changing the managerial/organizational equation. This new generation of computer users forced the decentralization of technology decision-making, acquisitions, and application development. In other words the CIO lost control, and the end users relished in their glory of taking over technology direction. This transition for the CIO and the technology organization was significant. Minicomputers and personal computers were finding their niches throughout the institution as the CIO was seeking solutions to the problems of increased staff requirements for decentralized system development and maintenance. The rationale for a single computing vendor concept was changed as multiple vendors initiated strategies to infiltrate higher education. The home grown administrative systems were being replaced by vendor-designed software and support, once again changing the role of the CIO to one of decision maker and implementer from one of operations manager and programmer. The CIO’s role shifted from “data processing manager’ to the new role of “information manager”. Madeline Weiss points out in the September/October issue of CIO Magazine “It is the CIOs job to lead the development of information policy that will enable the assimilation of information and supporting technologies …” This new orientation for information technology and support systems will create new niches, new challenges, and new visions for the CIO. The CIO is challenged with the role to develop new information systems to serve all administrative and now academic departments, meet the challenges, and realize the visions as we enter the 90s. The 1990’s to Today The creation of the Management Information Systems department where technologies were decentralized throughout the institution focused on user involvement and use of the technology with limited interaction with the CIO or technology staff. The transition from a period of acquiring and installing technology to one of expanding its uses and integration throughout the entire institution began to take hold in the 1990s. The CIO began to be an active player in assisting the institution’s leadership team to use technology in the ways that best suits the campus culture and meet the institutions systematic needs. Moving into the 1990s the technology organization made some movement back toward centralization, without much success. The computer user still retained control of their technology and independence but the CIO reestablished technology leadership. According to a study released by KPMG, LLP (1999), one of the leading professional advisory firms in the world, titled “Transforming Higher Education: At the Gateway of the Knowledge Economy,” higher education must transform to meet the needs of the emerging knowledge economy. The study analyzes trends and provides a perspective on how the CIO can operate in the new century. According to the study, the changes facing higher education are, (a) an increasing diverse student body, in terms of age, race, gender, work, background, needs and interests; (b) students who are no longer mastering bodies of knowledge for a single career are acquiring the skills needed to access information, solve problems, and communicate; (c) students who are less likely to be learning at the workplace, home, or on the road; and (d) students, parents, employers, and policymakers are increasingly evaluating education in terms of a return on investment. As we begin the 21st century the CIO is faced with revolutionary change, requiring institutions to reassess market position, and embark in new technology directions. Universities are often at the leading edge in the use of technology for research but the CIO has been slower to apply leading technology in the classroom, and slower still to apply it to the administrative side of the institution. The challenge of the future is to explore and use the power of technology in teaching students and running the operation. The Internet is fundamentally changing relationships, blurring the lines between teachers and students. It is a new economic order, based on a new currency called knowledge, which fundamentally changes the playing field. The result is new rules of competition, with new requirements for the faculty, new challenges for the CIO, and new demands for higher education. The debates are growing more intense about higher education's ability to respond to the needs of the knowledge economy. Consultants Michael G. Dolence and Donald M. Norris estimate that a new campus would have to be opened every eight days in order to meet the demands of the full-time equivalent enrollment of one- seventh of the workforce at any point in time. The solution they see will not be more college campuses but a variety of providers and new types of facilitators, learning agents, and intermediaries with far greater competition and
  • 4. 4 choice. They continue to stress the transformation from teacher-centered strategies to learner-centered strategies. Learner-centered strategies are built around learner objectives, accommodate learner restraints, are self-paced and self-motivated, and provide for individual learning styles. Massey and Zemsky cite a similar challenge for higher education technology. They observe that the demand for technology-based teaching and learning programs will grow over the next decade, and that information technology will change the teaching enterprise. Jane Marcus of Stanford University discusses the development of conceptual models based upon factors affecting faculty adoption of technology as part of an article by Steven Gilbert in Change Magazine (1995). In her model, technology adoption is considered a function of available resources, the perceived value of the innovation, and communication with other early adopters. Her research provides evidence in support of the model, indicating that social/contextual variables are as important as resources in encouraging adoption of technology. A significant technology transformation in higher education is the methodology used to help students get the education they need to remain competitive in a rapidly changing world. The transformation of teaching and learning and the creation of learning communities will be driven by the rapid change of skill sets required, the cost of education and training, and the explosion of adult learners. The CIO ,must recognize the blurring of the lines between the 18-21 year old student to an adult population that will be pursuing degrees in non-traditional ways, seeking professional certification or getting training to improve job skills. These students need greater flexibility if they are to be able to handle their course work while working. Net-based virtual learning centers have created new ways of teaching in which exchanges among students are as important as the exchange with the teacher. The best way to teach adults online is to form learning communities, to get students working together in collaborative groups. This capitalizes on the strength of technology (Martin, 1998). Using technology for teaching and learning is an adventure with unpredictable outcomes. The Changing Role of the CIO The Chief Information Officer is a fairly new position in higher education. In fact, it was not until 1980 that the title CIO emerged as a new senior level position. William R. Synott, speaking at the 1980 Infor’80 conference and quoted in a Computerworld article (October 20, 1980 identified the need a new high level corporate officer as the Chief Information Officer or CIO. He further documented the role of the CIO in a book with William H. Gruber, Information Resource Management: Opportunities and Strategies for the 1980s. The CIO concept grew out of the information resource management concept of the late 1970s. Today the CIO continues to be linked directly with information resource management. Over the past thirty years, the title for those in charge of college and university computer centers has varied. Some were called directors of data processing or computer center manager and others, director of management information systems. In the 80’s and 90’s titles included assistant or associate vice president or assistant or associate vice provost, or assistant or associate vice chancellor of information technology, indicating reporting to a vice president level position. Until the late 1990s most technology leaders reported to a cabinet member or a senior staff position. It was rare that they reported to the President or was a member of the president’s cabinet. Changing Organizational Structure As noted earlier, the early 1970s presented large mainframe computers that everyone visited to get his or her information. This was very similar to the people systems in many organizations; the knowledge was stored and protected at the top. As technology progressed, access to the mainframe computer and the data stored there became easier to obtain. Soon, smaller midrange computers were connected to the mainframe and the smaller personal computers (PCs) could communicate with the mainframe and with each other. Some portability of information was now available. This transference of control of the information was mirrored in organizational structures as technology networks began to link the people and the technology. Computers on each person’s desk allowed a vast improvement in the relationship between the administrators, faculty, staff and the CIO. In Us, A Theory, the authors begin their discussion of technology networks with the statement. “ For 25 years, we have been giving voice to the idea that ‘the network is a form of organization,’ the evolutionary successor to hierarchy-bureaucracy” (Stamps & Lipnack, 2004, p.1). Viewing an organization as a network is viewed as a
  • 5. 5 method to derive better ways of working together. While hierarchical organizations are limited by their structure, a networked organization is released from this constraint. Many higher education institutions are in some degree of flux between traditional hierarchical structures and the enabling technology network structure. Using the analogy of computer networks to describe higher education organizations as networks brings to light some interesting insights. Many different computer network topologies are in existence today, but most topologies depend on some centralization of authority and responsibility. Personal computers frequently have only one connection to the network. Other nodes have multiple connections to the network and provide alternate paths for accessing or sharing information. Technological systems have created the possibility of greater connectivity and the expanded ability to involve more people in the learning process. For this to be a value-added component in adding to the body of existing knowledge, higher education systems for teaching and learning as well as administrative management must become aligned with the technology. If these two elements are properly aligned, the CIO will have the advantage of better knowledge and collaborative thinking at his disposal. Information and Knowledge What is the difference between information and knowledge? Bollinger and Smith (2001) stated, “Information is processed data and can reside within computers. Because of the far-reaching effects of globalization, it is increasingly available to everyone”. Furthermore, Bollinger and Smith define knowledge as “the understanding, awareness, or familiarity acquired through study, investigation, observation, or experience over the course of time. It is an individual’s interpretation of information based on personal experiences, skills, and competencies” (¶ 14). Knowledge management has characteristics of a strategic asset to an organization and this information contributes to the competitive advantage of a company (Bollinger & Smith, 2001). Explicit and tacit knowledge allows knowledge sharing to expand within an organization through various channels such as networking, teaching, leadership, and mentor roles. Cai (2006) stated, “The knowledge management systems built upon these approaches included three types of functions: the coding and sharing of best practices, the creation of corporate knowledge directories, and the creation of knowledge networks”. Technology demands, leadership changes, and bureaucratic regulations create dramatic shifts within the institution including facilitations and control to decentralization information technology. The paradigm shift away from routine academic and administrative systems to knowledge sharing management supports technology networking through as a new emerging form of technology leadership. The emergent leadership model requires strategy, measurement of real time, a focus on decisions, and adoption processes and procedures (Mankins, 2004). Furthermore, the CIO and technology teams in the global academic world depend on collaboration and networking to accomplish knowledge sharing. Decentralized leadership occurs over global networks through virtual reality. Hales (2002) stated, “New managers engage in team leadership, negotiating integrated effort across boundaries, inspiring and promoting organizational learning, and conceiving, instigating and facilitating change” (p. 55). The new CIO role allows more freedom from hierarchical analysis, which allows more room for creativity and innovation. Knowledge management allows the CIO to share their skills and knowledge with others and simultaneously, this dynamic learning allows employees to add to their knowledge base. Additionally, the faculty and staff working in networked teams use their social skills to acquire new knowledge, and share acquired knowledge with each other. The cyclical process allows the CIO to stay on the competitive edge of innovation in the global environment. Technology Transformation The transformation of information technology in higher education has gone from a period of acquiring and installing technology to one of expanding its uses and integration throughout the entire fabric of the institution. Brian Hawkins in “A Framework for the CIO Position” reports “The need for the CIO position in academia really began with the need to manage and coordinate computing and information technology services with the dramatic influx of microcomputers and networks in the earl-to-mid 1980s.” In “The Chief Information Officer in Higher Education” a report authored by James Penrod, Michael Dolence, and Judith Douglas highlights the result of a survey conducted in 1989. The report identifies that the new position of CIO has the line responsibility for the units
  • 6. 6 of academic and administrative computing, and voice and data communications. the report highlights the fact that in higher education the CIO must focus on the institution’s educational mission, which translates to supporting teaching and learning, research and scholarship, as well as improving administrative systems. Today as it was in 1990, the CIO position is significantly shaped by the primary mission and culture of the institution. Mark Cain points out in “The Rise of the CIO in Higher Education”, “No longer merely a purveyor of hardware and software, the CIO could also be called the CCA, Chief Change Agent, of the institution. Important, mission-critical student services such as Web registration enabled by technology. Processes are being re- engineered, Web forms are replacing paper forms, and arcane manual procedures are being eliminated. Staff time can be reclaimed; the occasional position can even be eliminated. Higher education institutions are actually collecting money with technology: tuition and fees, spirit wear sales receipts, alumni donations, etc...” The CIO is increasingly being recognized as a key senior administrator in colleges and universities. This will continue to be driven by institutions realizing that academic and administrative technology is critical to support the institution’s strategic development. The 21st century CIO will be expected to advance the use of technology by the faculty and students providing increased value to the academic programs. Through collaboration with administrators, faculty and students, the CIO’s role will extend far beyond the traditional boundaries of information technology requiring leadership across the institution. Conclusion Organizational stewardship in the coming millennium will require more effective decisions at all levels of the organization. The distinction between leadership and management will again become less distinct and the need to capitalize all employees’ abilities will be a requirement to survive and thrive in the global marketplace. Peter Drucker notes that “economic growth can come only from a very sharp and continuing increase in the productivity of the one resource in which the developed countries still have an edge (and which they are likely to maintain for a few more decades): the productivity of knowledge work and of knowledge workers (Drucker, 1998).” Today’s higher education institution is becoming increasingly complex. The internal forces are pushing for change in academic programs and further use of technology in the classroom, as well as, the external forces pushing for new ways of assessing the institution’s performance, demanding that intuitions strategically use technology in all phases of administration and academics. Technology is a major fact in whether or not the institution can survive these demands. Students today expect computers, Internet tools, laptop programs, wireless and integrated networks so that they may effectively collaborate with other students, the faculty and the administration. As a result, more CIOs in higher education report directly to the President and serve on the President’s cabinet. Mark Polansky, managing director and member of the advanced technology practice of Korn/Ferry International in New York City, noted in CIO Magazine in his article, “The CIO Top 10” that:  “The number one requirement for the position of chief information officer is leadership. This is the quality that is not only in every search specification but most frequently comes up first an most emphatically as in “What we really need is a leader.” The CIO in higher education has evolved, from the mainframe era to the Internet era. The successful CIO in the 21st century college and university has advanced from technology planning to strategic planning as knowledge management is recognized as the core component of strategic planning. The CIO’s role will continue to be challenging and stimulating as the CIO’s contributions are acknowledged by all higher education stakeholders.
  • 7. 7 References Bollinger, A. S., & Smith, R. D. (2001). Managing organizational knowledge as a strategic asset. Journal of Knowledge, 5(1), 8. Retrieved December 9, 2005, from University of Phoenix ProQuest database. Cai, J. (2006, Jan-Mar). Knowledge management within collaboration processes: A perspective modeling and analyzing methodology. Journal of Database Management, 17(1), 33-49. Retrieved December 9, 2005, from University of Phoenix ProQuest database. Cain, M. (2002). The rise of the CIO in higher education. The Edutech Report 17, February, pp. 4-5. Cartwright, C. A. (2002). Today’s CIO: Leader, Manager, and Member of the Executive Orchestra. Educause Review, January/February, 2002, pp6-7. Dolence, M. G., & Norris, D. M. (1995). Transforming higher education: A vision for learning in the 21st century. Washington, DC: Society for College and University Planning. Drucker, P. (1998, November). The future that has already happened. The Futurist, 32 (8). p.16-19. Retrieved December 9, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com. Earl, M.J. & Vivian, P.D. (1998). The new CIO: A study of the changing role of the IT Director. London: Centurion Press. Gilbert, S. J. (1995, March/April). An online experience: Discussion group debates why faculty use or resist technology. Change Magazine. 42-45. Hales, C. (2002, Mar). ‘Bureaucracy-lite’ and continuities in managerial work. British Journal of Management, 13(1), 51-67. Retrieved December 11, 2005, from University of Phoenix EBSCOhost database. Hawkins, B. L. (2004). A framework for the CIO position. Educause Review, November/December 2004. KPMG, LLP. (1999). Transforming higher education: At the gateway of the knowledge economy. New York, NY:KPMG, LLP. Mankins, M. C. (2004, September). Stop wasting valuable time. Harvard Business Review OnPoint Article, 37-45 (2005). Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation. Martin, C. (1998). Net future. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, Inc. Massey, W. F. & Zemsky, R. (1995). Using Information Technology to Enhance Academic Productivity. Washington, DC: EduCause Penrod, J.I., Dolence, M.G., & Douglas, J.V. (1990). The Chief Information Officer in Higher Education. Professional Paper Series No.4, CAUSE. Boulder, CO: Cause. Polansky, M. (2001). The CIO top 10. CIO Magazine, September 15, 2001. New York: CIO Magazine. Stamps, J & Lipnack, J. (2004). Us A theory. Retrieved December 9, 2005, from www.netage.com.

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