Changing Face of Education

By Theresa Rowe, CIO, Oakland University

Theresa Rowe, CIO, Oakland University

Complex Talent Management Environment

My role has changed significantly over the years. Certainly colleges and universities are under increasing attack, making cyber security an extremely important initiative. Additionally, industry and regulatory compliance, such as PCI­DSS and HIPAA, add more work to the security landscape. Security is everyone’s responsibility; Even if there is an Information Security Officer on staff, the full responsibility for data, technical services, and communications security must be led by the CIO.

“We have implemented a new recruitment solution that we hope will help us better reach transfer, graduate, and international students”

The chooser/user economy, with its emphasis on quick use apps that are easily discarded, has changed the volume of software that is used on campus. More time is spent on IT procurement and contracts, as there is a software and solutions explosion. There is an experience and maybe a generational difference on software / solution selection and utilization. The idea that the university will centrally select applications that are used uniformly throughout the organization is increasingly challenged. But every department cannot purchase their own hourly time­keeping system, for example, or we lose efficiency, effectiveness, scalability, sustainability, and ability to support. The purchase of a broadly used solution requires evaluation of all those factors, but that approach is increasingly challenged.

We spend much more time on talent management. Traditional human resources practices do not attract and retain the technically talented workforce needed to make the environment work successfully. We are spending time on all resource factors, including:

1. People ­ how do we reach out, identify, and attract the talent we need, when we used to be able to sit back and wait for people to apply.

2. Knowledge ­ we may have the full­time employee headcount, but with the pace of technology change, we need to measure organizational knowledge separately. Each new technology solution (and there are now hundreds every year) may come with a new knowledge base. Establishing whether the knowledge exists on staff, who and how to train if it doesn’t, and how much a person needs to know to be effective in the platform, is an ongoing effort.

3. Initiative capacity ­ there are times when we propose new directions to our team, only to be greeted by sighs or silence. The truth is that there are times when a usually motivated team lacks enthusiasm for a new project. I go back to the Star Wars scene where the characters are just trying to get on top of a trash pile in a compactor; when staff are overwhelmed, another exciting new project is just one more thing on the pile of stuff that is overwhelming.

4. Adaptability ­ the pace of change requires an IT staff that is adaptable and excited by change.

Change acceptance is a career necessity for success in IT, but we’ve noticed that some of our early career professionals fail to thrive during their first big technology career shift. Some late career professionals fail to demonstrate the energy to learn something new. We are constantly assessing the adaptability of our staff.

Time and organizational capacity must be assessed; When the above factors are considered, do we have the time and organizational capacity to proceed? If we don’t have it in our current talent pool, how can we attract that talent? It is a much more complex talent management environment from the traditional human resource view.

Business Transformation in Education Market

Our number one goal in our university strategic plan states:

“Foster student success through a robust teaching and learning environment supported by comprehensive students’ services.” We are engaged in several projects to help us achieve that goal. We implemented a first effort progress­to­degree online and mobile service for both students and advisors, and we are now implementing an upgraded software solution that should provide even better insight on degree progress to students and advisors. We have implemented a new recruitment solution that we hope will help us better reach transfer, graduate, and international students; We seek to attract students who believe they will find success at our university. We are also changing our scheduling and sequencing methods. Behind these initiatives, we are implementing analytics solutions that will enable better use of data to make degree pathway decisions.

IoT and Changing Campus Life

Digital content, mobile devices, and the Internet of Things are all impacting network infrastructure and to some extent the storage environment. We expect “things”, particularly mobile data gathering devices, to be very important in research, particularly medically related research. These devices and other contact creating system demand long term and managed storage, often described as a challenge involving “big data.”

The communications network is expanding at a pace that is difficult to predict. We expanded our Internet connection to 10 Gig this past year, and saw immediate growth. Mobile devices and IoT devices expect easy network connectivity, but this is increasingly challenging in our environments, where we generally need to know who is on the network in order to answer regulatory compliance. Connectivity of devices has to be both easy and trusted, so as to not disrupt service to all. We are struggling to figure out identity management and security of devices in a trusted network; Not all the solutions are yet known. For example, a significant network service for those living in residence halls is lifestyle communications, which often includes gaming. But gaming systems have recently shown to have serious security and privacy vulnerabilities. Just as we had to learn about anti­virus and anti­malware for our desktop computers in the early 2000s, we have to learn what security protections are needed for gaming systems, smart watches, and other devices. 

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