educationtechnologyinsights

The Evolving Role of IT in the Education Landscape

By Robert Evangelista , Associate CIO, IT Services, University Information Technology , University of Rochester

Robert Evangelista , Associate CIO, IT Services, University Information Technology , University of Rochester

1. What are some of the major challenges and trends that has been impacting the education space lately?

Major challenges from an IT perspective are around supporting the Faculty and Student experience.Our users want ubiquitous access to their daily IT needs from anywhere on or off the campuses.Couple this with growing IT security needs, funding gaps, and fast-changing technology advancements, it then pushes uson what and how to move forward.This in turn drives us to leverage effective governance models and very controlled prioritization of service delivery.

"As IT becomes more challenging, leaders will need to set well-defined goals and strategies, model relevant architecture, and continue to challenge individuals to make a positive difference"

Trends typically are around the need for mobility including providing wireless data across the campuses, higher speed networks, augmenting cellular coverage, application delivery outside of the legacy lab environments with items such as End-User Computing, mobility apps, and portals that are mobile friendly or device aware.

2. What keeps you up at night when it comes to some of the major predicaments in the education space?

Thinking of what’s next in IT and trying to be sufficiently ahead of the challenges,and prioritizing the operations within budget.

Operational excellence; meaning keeping the services up and running, even during upgrades, patches, or hardware / software repairs.

3. Can you tell us about a latest project that you have been working on and what are some of the technological and process elements that you leveraged to make the project successful?

The project getting most attention these days is the replacement of our student information system.The overall project has been years in the making with IT working with the business leaders who are sponsoring the change and IT assisting in its enablement.From my perspective, the primary take always with a project of this magnitude is how to maintain the team’s effort and enthusiasm over the many months the project had spanned, staying within budget and handling the vast amount of work that comes with such a large undertaking.Moving from a Mainframe based service with many shadow systems and years of organically grown workflows,to a highly structured SaaS solution has many technical, process and people challenges.Overall, we really can’t change the technology much, and we have to work within its confines, but you can and must appropriately manage the ‘people in the trenches’ and those who are leading the work effort. We are fortunate to have excellent individualsmanaging this transformation, who are outstanding at building relationships, maintaining perspective, providing focused project management, preserving well-defined change control, assuring data accuracy and consistency, as well as balancing the meeting of milestones.

4. Which are some of the technological trends which excite you for the future of education space?

Advances in our Students Systems including learning management, student information and management, as well as distance learning.Leveraging technology where it makes sense in support of the business and to provide better outcomes.

5. Would you like to give a piece of advice for the CIO community as to how should they approach this industry?

It really doesn’t matter what industry you work in, to me it comes down to managing the team, motivating the team, and incentivizing the team to support the business and excellent customer service.This is a culture that really needs to be set at the top.Leaders must balance relationships and results, surrounded yourself with good people, treat them appropriately, empower them, and trust them.As IT becomes more challenging, leaders will need to set well-defined goals and strategies, model relevant architecture, and continue to challenge individuals to make a positive difference.

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