The Digital Transformation

By Pete Young, CIO & SVP for Analytics, Planning and Technology, University of Maryland University College

Pete Young, CIO & SVP for Analytics, Planning and Technology, University of Maryland University College

Dynamic Role of A CIO

The role of the CIO has evolved dramatically to one of Chief “Innovation” or even “Ideation” Officer. No longer is the CIO role confined to technology and operational domains. The CIO is often uniquely situated in an organization to understand the challenges across functions, and see opportunities for value creation. Be that in data, technology, process, or even product.

Cloud Computing For Education Industry

We saw the value in cloud computing early on, and consequently moved to a completely cloud-based operation globally more than two years ago. The greatest benefits we have seen are increased agility and flexibility, as well as liberation from many of the routine operational activities that had consumed staff time. As a result, our team is now engaged more in solution design and strategic work.

Effects of Proactive Data Usage

Data analytics and enterprise visibility are the strategic advantages that we have as a direct result of our investment focus and belief in data-driven decision making. We built an enterprise wide, centralized data platform and analytics practice in order to support our Institution's decision making needs. We collect data from across our entire Institution, from prospective student engagement, to classroom activity, to financials and other data to create a unified view and analysis.

"Innovation is hard work and requires a deliberate focus for value to be created"

It is this strength that led us to spin off our Office of Analytics into the for profit company, HelioCampus, that now serves UMUC as well as other higher education clients.

Innovations that Improve Student LearningInnovation can be a tricky thing—it does not happen by magic. Innovation is hard work and requires a deliberate focus for value to be created. Without attention and resourcing from executive leadership, truly valuable progress is difficult to create or maintain. Some of the most interesting innovations to watch will be the application of data and technology to the learning environment, so that learning outcomes can be improved and replicated. Student’s needs are not uniform, so being able to adjust the learning experience, or personalize it–at scale–and consistently improve student learning will be critical for the success of institutions going forward.

Changing Role of A CIO

I see the role of CIO becoming more about “Innovation” or “Ideation.” I have been fortunate enough to work for an Institution with great vision and appetite for new ideas and ways to solve problems and reach our goals. I have spent a lot of time in the past two years developing new ways to fulfill our mission, both from a technology perspective as well as a business-model and commercialization perspective. I see this role continuing to evolve as we redefine what it means to be a public institution in the future.

Keeping Pace with the Disruptions

Many of the strategic shifts we have made such as cloud-first design, pervasive data analytics, and buy vs. build emphasis have enabled us to be more agile, adopt new technologies faster, and become more opportunistic, since our investment approach does not require multiple years to depreciate fixed assets. We can iterate new solutions in a way to make adjustments quickly and not wait until large projects complete, only to realize we need to adapt or change the solution.

Digital Campus

Given the nature of being primarily an online institution, this is an area where we may have an advantage. I don’t have a large campus infrastructure to maintain, but our classrooms and services do have to be available globally on a 24x7x365 basis. Our students are learning at all times of the day and night, and all days of the week. The cloud based distributed computing model we have adopted allows for this to be done economically on a global scale.

For Budding CIOs

The best advice I can give to a budding CIO is to understand the needs of your customers and the challenges of the broader higher education industry, and be creative in finding ways to help make your institution and your products stand out and be relevant. Technology is simply an enabler to deliver what we do - educate students - and understanding how we can do that more effectively, at lower cost, is truly valuable.

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