We are all in this together!
It’s been six months since I was appointed interim CIO for Michigan State. It may sound cliché, but what a difference a half a year can make. In my post last month, I talked about considering alternative approaches, views, and perspectives as we transform our university’s information technology environment. Taking my own advice, I spent some time in recent weeks to reflect on where I see IT at MSU today versus where we must be in the future. A future that must foster innovation for MSU programs, research, and education.
In October 2015, we set out on a path to strengthen, align, and innovate Spartan technology. Almost a year and a half later, we have made significant progress in strengthening the core technologies MSU’s central IT department (IT Services) provides. This was an important and necessary first step to regain the trust of our campus partners and fill the technical debt that forced some colleges and departments to invest in locally-run systems.
We need IT infrastructure and services that can address a range of specialty needs and promote specialized innovation while also providing cost-effective, commonly-needed core services centrally. How do we do that? By aligning resources (personnel and budget) to the most effective and best use. We are one institution with all our technology interconnected. We must invest in and operate ALL technology together.
Can you imagine the amount of strength and innovation we could gain by aligning the efforts of local and central IT talent together? What if, say three years from now, in 2020 we could form a trusted partnership where local and central IT truly work together to build a model that leverages economies of scale, shared resources, and consistent sets of practices? At the same time, offering flexibility of choice, specialized technologies to propel particular competitive advantages, and experimentation of new technologies for innovation.
The IT environment at MSU is a shared responsibility between local units (colleges, departments, divisions, etc.) and the central organization, IT Services. Commodity needs, complexity of operation, relative benefits of standardization versus multiple platforms, and technological diversity are some of the factors to consider in the appropriate balance of local and central initiations. Notice I said “and” not “versus” here.
Implementation of technology should not be thought of as only local or central. Collaboration, coordination, and communication between central and local planning, decision-making, and work activities are critically important.
We at times focus only on what needs to be fixed and take action to fix it ourselves. Not a bad approach for an individual, but not necessarily efficient or effective for an organization of MSU’s size, complexity, and broad pursuits.
There are key roles to be played by every individual, unit, and central services in the development, use, and support of experimental and production technologies. We need to spend some time clearly describing what ONE IT looks like—aligning versus duplicating, structuring ourselves to encourage technology innovation where it is needed most.
I was encouraged in this One IT approach by the presentations and discussions at the February IT Exchange meeting. This last meeting drew a tremendous turnout from the IT community with great questions and engagement surrounding broad technologies to better MSU. We discussed some difficult topics and concerns were raised professionally and effectively in a manner that works towards a solution. Thank you to everyone who participated.
With your help we will continue to improve, develop stronger partnerships, and become One IT.
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