Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Taking Things Away

This past weekend, I caught a Tweet by my good friend Nancy Hays (@EDUCAUSEEditor) mentioning Thomas Friedman’s latest missive “Do You Want the Good News First?” Friedman describes changing economic conditions as our world shifts from one based on one-to-many exchanges to a world where central authority has been eroded and decentralization rules on a massive scale. Friedman’s points are simple: first, that we need to recognize those shifts and embrace them; and second, we must continue to build a strong economic foundation by investing in education and research which, together with a prudent immigration policy, will allow us to take better advantage of these shifts.

So, just what are these shifts?
As CIO’s we are not immune from these forces. We have to focus a little less on the traditional responsibilities of resource allocation and policy enforcement (i.e. gatekeepers) and become stewards of innovation and conveners of important conversations on campus. We also have to stop doing things that matter less in order to invest in things that matter much more. Some of our collective opportunities include:
  • Email and storage services – if you are not out of these businesses yet you are late to the game. Microsoft and Google are ready for you.
  • BYOD is a real possibility – but proceed carefully in concert with your students and faculty. We’re not too far from the day when we can begin decommissioning most of the large computing labs that have been built over the past fifteen years.
  • Data centers – cloud computing is becoming more viable so start your research now. At some point in three, five, or seven years it will be time to decide that we no longer have to run large data centers when Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM can provide utility services that scale at an incremental cost.
As we take things away, it is critical that the underlying resources be shifted to those things that are real differentiators for higher education. Your campus network, its backbone, and its connectivity to the world has never mattered more as online collaboration between faculty and students drives revolutionary changes in learning. And having accurate and timely information, flowing from centrally supported administrative systems, has never been more important for academic and administrative decision-makers. Forward-thinking CIOs will be the ones who stop doing lots of things in order to shift scarce resources to these critical areas.

1 comment:

  1. To your list of things "that have never mattered more" for higher education, I would add identity and web services. As decentralization accelerates and federation becomes commonplace, these technologies will be increasingly important.

    One of the more interesting "big picture" questions to me is: "What happens after the incremental wins and hype are gone, and ALL services are available via the cloud?" I have my own opinions, but am interested to hear yours and those of your followers.

    Your blog's background image contains lots of clouds :-)