Tag: consumerization of it

Maintaining the Core Mission, Keeping Up With Trends

The mission statement of the UCSB Division of Student Affairs, the organization I work for, has not changed since 1996, as far as I can tell.  Earlier this evening, I was looking at the original website for the division I created in 1996 via Wayback Machine and noticed the exact mission statement we have on our website now.  While our core mission has remained constant, the ways our various units and the division conduct our business have changed throughout the years. Shaped by technological advances including the internet,  infrastructures (virtualization, storage, networks), development tools,  as well as budgetary constraints, mandates and the demands of our students,  I think it’s safe to say our organization went through (and still going through) a technology (r)evolution.  My organization, in my opinion, is an example of how an organization can evolve and keep up with trends while maintaining its mission. This is not to say that keeping up with the trends has not had its challenges and resistance, but guided by the principle of innovation set by our Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Michael Young, we have been generally successful. When I started as a web developer in 1996, Dr. Young shared with me a principle I have used throughout my career. He told me “I’d rather have us moving forward and make mistakes along the way than to stagnate.” This is the same principle that has allowed our division to commit to technology as a key component of our division.

Throughout this period of transformation, I have seen the adoption of new technologies in virtually all aspects of our organization.  Just recently, I compiled a list of the systems (pdf – 4.55 mb) we have developed and implemented throughout the last 15 years along with some legacy mainframe applications we still support.  The more than 120+ information systems/web sites are products of a commitment towards technology that the leaders of our organizations made 15 years ago.  Some of the notable systems in our portfolio include:

  • Integrated electronic medical system consisting of several vendor solutions for  our student health service and counseling services
  • Enrollment management systems including online application status/statement of intent to register, electronic grades submission, academic progress, online application review, online catalog, course enrollment, document management system
  • Student services systems including disabled student program online system (notetaking, proctoring management), alcohol/drug program enrollment management, online advising notes system
  • Online events ticketing, recreation program integrated system including online course enrollment

A part of that commitment is to create a central computing department within the division which grew from approximately 5 staff to more than 40 today. The organizational chart has changed several times throughout the years to respond to the changing priorities and needs.

As the trend towards greater adoption of consumer technologies (social media, cloud, mobile) in student affairs continues, along with the increasing budgetary constraints, changing student demographics and greater financial burdens to students, our organization is now having to adapt to the expectations of our socially networked and mobile students.  This requires a move towards social business, integrating social networking technologies as part of our business processes.  As it was in 1996 when web became a serious business tool in our organization, it took some time for the entire organization to recognize the value of the web. A conclusion I’ve come to given my experience throughout this technology (r)evolution is that the pace of innovation moves at the speed of the organization. Undoubtedly, our organization will continue to remain dynamic and accommodating to new trends consistent with our mission.




Why Higher Ed IT Staff Should be on Social Media

I was talking with someone working in higher education IT a few days ago about social media and why I have embraced it. He told me  “No way will I be interested in social media. If you watched the movie Social Network,  you’ll know that Zuckerberg created facebook so his buddies could get laid.” He also told me “I don’t want to know what some mom cooked for breakfast.” So I asked him if he has a daughter and he tells me he does. I asked him “Who’s going to teach your daughter about how to properly use social media?” and his response was “Not me.” With the realization that I could not convince him about at least understanding social media and that they won’t go away soon, I changed the topic.  The negative attitude towards social media by some IT professionals is understandable given the security and policy implications. In some sense, social media also represents some loss of control when it comes to what and how technology should be used in the workplace.

Based on my short experience using social media, I would urge other colleagues who work in higher education IT to give social media a chance for the following reasons:

  • Keep up with trends. I have observed the following the last couple of years:
    • Increasing use of mobile devices on our campus by students and staff.
    • Increasing requests from departments we serve to use external software services for their business needs.
    • Increasing social media presence by campus departments, student organizations.

Before I started using twitter last year, I didn’t realize there was actually a term for this phenomenon and it is not unique to our campus.  This trend is called “consumerization of IT” and is defined on Wikipedia as “trend for new information technology to emerge first in the consumer market and then spread into business organizations, resulting in the convergence of the IT and consumer electronics industries, and a shift in IT innovation from large businesses to the home.”

  • Understand our customers.  How can we serve our customers if we don’t know their mindset and tools they use? By just observing the communication between students and our staff on facebook and the general conversations on twitter, IT staff can learn a lot about issues/trends that cannot be found anywhere else.
  • Professional Development. Every day I log onto facebook, google+, twitter, youtube, slideshare and other social media websites, I consider them as free learning opportunities. I have only attended 2 conferences the last 4 years due to lack of training budgets but I have used social media as my personal learning network (PLN) and have learned a lot about mobile web development, social media and leadership.  When I read blogs by experts in technologies and higher ed, I find insights than typical articles and websites would often reveal.
  • Be Relevant and credible. As more of our customers demand to use consumer technologies, inevitably, appropriateness and policy issues will come up for discussion.  Would I  really be credible as an IT professional if I don’t even know how these technologies work? Part of the reason why I spend so much time on social media is to research how they work and how they relate to our business, including what issues to consider. If I have to take the position of rejecting a customer’s proposal to use an external service, I want to be able to credibly tell them the reasons for my position. On the other hand, if I do approve their proposal, I need to be able to assist them in using the service that is consistent with university policies and in ways they may not have thought of.
  • Keep up or get left behind. I was told a year ago that social media is a fad and so is Skype so I shouldn’t bother investing any time/resources investigating it for business use. I was also told students do not use mobile devices. Ironically, part of what motivated me to be on social media is to find out for myself on whether what I am being told are actually true. Given the pace at which consumer technology changes, it is a challenge to keep up. I generally spend up to 4 hours most nights just learning new technologies including mobile web and social media and I still feel as if I am behind. In some ways, I consider the time I spend on social media as career investment. I don’t know what IT will look like five years from now but all I know is that the convergence of social media and the enterprise will be even greater than what it is today and I want to be in a position where my knowledge lie in both areas to be employable, competing against our current students who will have entered the work place and who have far greater knowledge about consumer technologies than I do.
  • Learn about hobbies, personal interests; connect with folks with same interests. While I hear stereotypes about IT folks as not being too sociable and have no lives, all the IT folks I work with have some outside interests/hobbies. I spend my weekends watching sports and it’s fun being able to watch the games with others that are in different cities, states and in some cases, other countries.

Social media definitely have some pitfalls but I think the benefits outweigh the risks. For anyone working in higher education, not just IT, the days of questioning the values of social media in higher education is long gone. If we are to stay relevant and provide quality customer service, we need to do our part to understand the current needs of our customers and future trends so that we are prepared to adopt them rather than reacting.

What other reasons should higher education IT staff be on social media?



Cloud Computing Resources

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Trends in Student Affairs Technology: Implications to IT


photo by esharkdesign.com

There are many articles on the web that predicted the convergence of consumer technologies and the enterprise, often referred to as consumerization of IT. This is a trend that was offered by Gartner as early as 2005 and as this blog post suggests, consumerization of IT was born when IBM PC was announced in 1981. Higher education, including student affairs, is faced with the reality of having to adapt to the new demands of technologically dominated world.  This new reality are driven by 1) student population and younger workforce  who grew up in the age of internet and with the expectation of open access to internet resources, 2) increasing budget cuts and external mandates leading to re-organizations and reliance on technology for automation,  3) more technology choices provided to the workforce via consumer technologies/services like social media, cloud and mobile computing  4) faster pace of changing  technologies  and adoption of these technologies by business units with or without IT involvement. The pace by which student affairs business units embrace technology, specifically consumer technologies, in my career, is comparable only to when I started working as a web developer for student affairs in 1996 when these same business units started realizing the value of the web. Below are some personal observations from the last couple of years  as a technology service provider in central student affairs IT.

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