IT Forum Perspectives

What are CIOs' top-of-mind concerns?

Insights from the topic poll

by Greg Teich

Each year, EAB’s IT Forum speaks with CIOs to determine their most pressing challenges and areas of concern for the coming year. Our goal is to use a topic poll to assess where our research team should focus our energy so that we can provide the best answers and greatest level of support for CIOs' most up-at-night issues.

This year’s topic poll includes 23 high-level topics informed by hundreds of conversations between our research team and CIOs over the past several months. The message from CIOs is clear—higher education IT is in a state of transition, and CIOs need to be adapting to this new environment.

The only constant is change

Below we outline some of the top challenges CIOs scored as particularly top-of-mind, and how we expect these challenges to affect IT strategy across campus.

1. High-performing IT governance

In their responses, members noted that their top concern is achieving effective governance of IT strategy, budgeting, and decision making. In fact, over 53% of our respondents rated governance among their most pressing issues. These concerns were expressed by both our American and Canadian members.

In our follow-up with members, they were particularly concerned with balancing responsiveness and thoroughness: how do we avoid becoming the department of “slow and no” while also stemming duplicative spending?

CIOs want to understand how they can move beyond the basic blocking and tackling of IT projects. Instead, they want to refocus on governance that is strategic in nature. The governance group(s) must design strategies and processes to ensure IT is helping move the campus toward institutional goals.

How well do your top-of-mind priorities align with CIOs' concerns?

2. The evolving role of IT

There has long been a tension that exists between IT maintaining a standard set of services, while finding the time, resources, and appropriate methods to meet the new and challenging demands of their partners across campus.

With the consumerization and commoditization offers of "software as a solution" this trade-off—between maintenance and growth—has grown even starker. The role of IT on campus is changing more rapidly than ever, and understanding this transition from cost center to strategic partner touches everything within the IT organization.

3. Improving business processes

Frequently within higher education, deceivingly nebulous terms like "process" and "system" are used to frame discussions that obscure the true goal. CIOs increasingly have to disentangle the goal and the obstacles preventing IT from supporting deans and functional units. In other words, they must determine:

  • People to get the job done
  • How to order and sequence the job steps
  • Appropriate job tools to use—they must be a business process architect

Of the CIOs we polled, 44% rated business process improvement as a top concern. There was particular interest among smaller private schools, with 75% agreeing this was an up-at-night issue.

4. Technology tools as solutions

There is no shortage of software "solutions" being offered to higher education. However, navigating the process of sun-setting a legacy technology tool and transitioning to a new offering is far more complex than signing on the dotted line. Lengthy evaluations and selection processes are followed by a transition of both stakeholders’ habits and the institution’s data.

The payoff is the efficiencies the campus gains, but they may not be seen for a decade or more. CIOs recognize the bleak picture, and are asking:

  • Can this be fixed?
  • What is the framework for deciding when to move?
  • Once we make the move, how we do we maximize the speed and impact of our newest technology tools?

What do you think?

CIOs are clearly concerned about the transitions occurring in higher education IT. They worry that without a concerted effort, institutions will face even tougher times in the future. Our goal at the IT Forum is to understand the root causes driving these challenges, and help institutions find practical solutions.

Want to be part of the solution? Email Greg Teich at GTeich@eab.com to arrange a scoping call.

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