Sunday, November 29, 2015

School Technology Leaders as School Strategy Leaders

Image from: http://www.newmiamiblog.com
I was reading an opinion piece in CIO Magazine speaking about the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) evolving into strategic thinkers and company leaders.  Read opinion here This thinking was in the paradigm of business strategy, and as I read I began to see that this should also be very relevant to educational technology leaders.

No longer should educational tech leaders be relegated to basement offices thought of only as "tech guys".  In reality, many of us wear many hats; technology manager, educational tech integrator, innovator, information specialist, security team member and many others.  While it is sometimes inferred, other times assumed, that technology leaders will be consulted when others deem it necessary, more and more decisions require input from technology leaders from the start of the conversation.

In his piece, Adam Hartung states that CIO's in the corporate environment,
address enterprise issues that affect long-term strategy as well as short-term implementations. They balance the risk of business results with the risk of implementation, and they talk in business terms about what is best for the organization. Like other C-suite residents, they are business leaders first, and functional pros second. The ability to successfully implement a project is just the most basic job requirement. Adding business value is why they are at the C-suite's table.
Lets look at this same thought through an educational lens;

Do school technology leaders address issues that affect long-term strategy?
     Now, more than ever, technology in schools impacts long-term strategies both on the operational and the educational sides of the house.

Do school technology leaders address issues that affect short term implementations?
     Any school technology leader that has changed email services, looked at a new LMS or SMS, even brought in a new program or app to their school has felt the stress and multi-faceted interactions that impact the short-term.

Do school technology leaders balance the risk of business results with the risk of implementation? 
     Of course we do!  Whether you are in the private or public school arena, you have to look at the risk vs. the reward.  You have to ask if this will help your faculty or create a stumbling block, you have to think about the impact on students and look at issues of equity, efficacy as a learning tool, and you always need to look at how long this may take to fully implement.  Will it be an "all in" type implementation or a "phased" approach?  Lastly, one needs to look at the impact on the overall budget in both the short and long term.

Do school technology leaders talk in business terms about what is best for the organization?
     Change business terms to pedagogical terms we have a match!  For years, I have been saying that much of my job is being an interpreter and the language is always changing.  Not only do I need to understand the vernacular of education, but I need to know how to translate technological terms to the educational vernacular and back again.  School is not business (not entirely) and therefore the educational speak is the majority language and I need to be the translator.  By the way, I believe this is how it should be.  Tech should not drive pedagogy, but rather tech should be a tool to enhance what a school is doing.  (That is a separate blog post)

Like other C-suite residents, they are business leaders first, and functional pros second. The ability to successfully implement a project is just the most basic job requirement. Adding business value is why they are at the C-suite's table.
     While the other questions should be fairly easy to answer and agree with, this last part seems to be the sticking point for many educational hierarchies.  Having been at the administrative level for almost 10 years has taken me mostly out of the classroom.  I am a school leader first, and need to look holistically at the institution first, before I look at making a decision for an individual student/teacher/classroom. Getting tech to work, to fit the big picture, make it accessible is a basic job requirement, the job of a tech-guy.  What we must ask ourselves as technology leaders is, what is the value add that we bring to our schools?

Whether you are a CIO, a Technology Director, a CTO or some other title, you are charged with helping guide your school forward, and are strategic leaders in your respective schools.  We are all tasked with bringing the best education possible to our students.  We need to be able to recommend the tools and explain why they are the right ones.  We need to be able to keep our communities safe in their electronic interactions.  We need to be able to recommend new courses and paths of study to our schools, enabling students to learn at the level of their peers around the globe.  There are many schools that have seen the C-level positions in technology and information services at their schools as strategy leaders, yet there are so many more that still see technology as a "bell or whistle", an add-on.  It is incumbent on us, the technology leaders, to continue to strategically guide our schools forward, in-line with our school's visions and missions. I agree with Hurting, CIO's (and other titles) are strategic leaders in their respective institutions, and like our counterparts in the business world, we are high-level essential personnel in all aspects of modern education.

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