Had a great time presenting about being a CIO at a community college at Acuta a little over a week ago. There may be challenges, but there are also amazing opportunities working in a community college IT group. It is quite rewarding to go home feeling like your work is helping someone make a better life for themselves.
Too many times I see occasions where IT professionals are touting the newest technology, the latest tool, or the “cool” innovation. Don’t get me wrong, I love new toys as much as the next guy, but I think all too often we focus on the cool at the expense of the important. Innovation is vital to the success of our organization, but releasing the latest gadget is not always the best way to be innovative. Sometimes using an existing tool in a new way, or to full potential, can provide the greatest innovation.
Lately I have determined that there are two areas where increased focus can lead to great things:
- Setting and meeting expectations
When you set expectations, and then meet them, it provides a true opportunity to see where time is available, and where innovation may occur. All too often we are reactive to the newest requested item. Unlike some companies we have multiple technologies, tools, and customers we have to support. It is easy to get lost in the “urgent” request/need. When we set an expectation for how we handle “emergencies”, and how to manage projects, then we are able to be a proactive organization, not reactive.
Culture is more vital to the success of the IT organization than most people realize. I have seen more traditional companies scoff at tech companies who have a deep focus on culture. In many cases these traditional organizations only see culture as a means to reduce pay or as a nice bonus. What I have found is that focusing on the culture of the IT group provides a workplace where people are enthused about their work and feel empowered to make a difference. Culture is not telecommuting, or time off, or even how projects are managed. Culture is how we interact and work together to pursue a common goal. It is how we empower employees to accomplish their work and feel a sense of ownership.
The new technology, the cool tools, are always fun and innovation can definitely come from something new. I just see more and more that real innovation comes from the people you have and how you encourage their talents over any particular tool.
Recently I made a rather large transition in my career, I became a CIO. For years I have worked as a developer, team leader, and eventually Executive Director. When preparing to make the transition I did not think it would be tremendously different from my previous work. Although there are a lot of similarities, there are also a number of changes from my previous life.
In 3.5 weeks I will be speaking at the annual SEDUG conference about being a CIO in Higher Education. I hope to share information that might help others determine if they want to become a CIO, or how to better serve as a CIO in their organization.
When I think about the topics I want to cover, and how I want to present the information, I immediately think about a few topics:
- Providing focus and leadership to your team
- Three keys to success as an IT leader: collaboration, transparency, communication
- Dealing with legacy decisions
- Setting the right tone
- Preparing to innovate
I am sure as the event approaches I will think of more topics to cover. I am also sure that I will try to impart some of the great wisdom passed to me by amazing leaders and friends like Kevin Roberts (Abilene Christian University), Phil Komarny (Seaton Hill University), and David Kim (Central Piedmont Community College).
If you happen to be attending the SEDUG conference stop in and listen, heckle, question and we can all learn together.