Thursday, October 15, 2009

Summary of Session with the College CIOs

Courtesy of Team Action

College CIOs Interview Summary- Team Action

On September 30, 2009, four college Chief Information Officers (CIOs) visited our class: Erik Hege, Beth Sandore, Paul Hixson, and John Rossi. They were representing the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Campus Library, College of Aces, and College of Law, respectively. In the interview, we brought up ideas of management discussed in Drucker's The Essential Drucker. Drucker discusses three essentials of a business: profit, productivity of employees, and social responsibility. From the guests, we learned that each of these areas is co-dependent on the other and plays a large role in the overall university dynamics.

Since the university is a non-profit organization, the measurement of success is not necessarily based on profit as a monetary value, rather "profit" can actually be defined through different measures of "success". For example, "profit" can be defined as students learning through the use of new information technology or faculty receiving more funding for advanced research based on technology. Comparing the university to a business gives us a different perspective based on the fact that not all businesses are centered around financial profit. For example, the faculty and staff are not only employees of the university but are also clients. The university helps students with their education and the faculty with their research. Therefore, it takes both of these aspects towards its goal alignment.

The most important factor stressed throughout the interview was communication. Communication needs to not only occur within the individual department, but also externally across departments or colleges. For example, the CIOs need to communicate with the IT staff inside and outside their department in order to be most effective. This relates to the idea of feedback and how integral it is to the success of a group. The CIOs stressed the necessity of implementing early and frequent communication, so that if something important goes wrong a framework exists to solve it. The whole panel was very adamant about working as a cohesive unit. This has a lot to do with how their actions affect their relationships with each other and the campus as a whole. Case in point - they have lunch every few weeks. It would be interesting to note what changes would happen if different departments would implement a strategy like this.

An interesting question brought up was whether or not there is a goal disparity between the individual departments and the university as a whole. In response, the CIOs said that if each department works to improve that individual department while still considering the needs of the other departments. The campus as a whole benefits. In response, we asked them about how their jobs differed as a result of the different departments or schools that they were each serving. John humorously went on to say that he constantly deals with people who argue for a living, so it is a particular challenge to please the panel of CIO's and the University of Illinois Law School. To deal with this conflict of interest, John went on to make another point about balance - he needs to keep in mind the future and the other colleges when making decisions specific to the Law School.

When we were wrapping up the interview and opening up the topic for discussion to the whole class, one of the most interesting points came up - how technology is being implemented more and more into classrooms across campus, and what students' thoughts are on this. Despite the mix of opinions received, Erik noted that for innovations, some things just need to be tried before they can get it right. We believe that this ending point incorporates one of the main overall themes of the Designing for Effective Change class - success results from perseverance and the willingness to take risks, even though some initiatives might me unsuccessful.

There were a couple of notes for improvement that we observed through being the first group to conduct an interview. First, we did not get into what our class project was during the interview. Mentioning this might have steered the conversation in a more student oriented direction. Furthermore, we should have noted in the beginning that not everyone on the interview panel had to answer each question. This might have helped us to have time to ask more questions. Finally, before going into the interview, and also admitted by Professor Arvan, we were not sure how we could relate the role of a CIO to our project or even to our readings.

Despite these setbacks, important lessons about communication and the intricacy of balancing different, sometimes conflicting objectives, were learned through conducting this interview. All things considered, we believe our interview was successful.

No comments:

Post a Comment