Perspectives on IT Governance from the Gartner Symposium

This is the first of my blog posts about the 2012 Gartner Symposium that I’m attending this week. I’m organizing these around themes that have cropped up from one or more sessions. I’m also going to keep these short so I can ensure that I get them out while the ideas are still fresh. Leave a comment or contact me if you have questions.

The first theme for the sessions that I’ve been attending is around the Educational Ecosystem. Universities are working hard on their core mission, vitamin but IT-related changes have created many sources of disruption that are creating a labyrinth where it is easy to lose your way. For example, students can take courses from universities around the world without being limited by their location, demands to make educational resources available on any and all consumer devices, and competition with other education-related sectors and user-generated educational resources.

Here is Gartner’s visualization of this concept:

I like this representation because it is a good reminder that all of these disruptions are happening simultaneously and require solutions that take multiple factors into account.

From the perspective of products and services, Bill Rust, the Gartner analyst presenting one of the sessions, provided this quadrant system to help visualize your current service portfolio:

The Ed Tech Desert quadrant is for services that don’t contribute to organizational efficiency and aren’t requested or desired by users. The Silicon Castle describes tools that focus on back-office efficiency, but aren’t understood by users. The Wild Kingdom quadrant is where services go that are desired by users, but may be too new or too chaotic to be efficient. Finally, the Promised Land quadrant is for services that are desired by users and help the institution function more efficiently.

The next step that Bill Rust took really began to set my wheels in motion. He mapped some of the technologies from the Hype Cycle on to this quadrant system. The result can be seen below:

Things in the Ed Tech Desert are technologies such as Virtual Worlds and attempts to do mobile learning on low-end mobile devices. On the other end of the scale, the development of mechanisms for “Bring Your Own Device” are in the Promised Land because users (students of course, but also faculty and staff) want to bring and connect their personally-owned devices to campus and connect them to the network and university services. Developing BYOD processes and policies will help the institution reduce the chaos that this trend would cause otherwise. The idea of a “District App Store” is creating a localized app store through which the university can distribute free, licensed, and specialized apps to faculty, students, and staff.

In short, what I have really been enjoying at the Gartner Symposium is that we are being presented with concrete evidence of large-scale trends, an interpretation of what those trends mean now and in the future, and simple tools for moving forward. It’s a great way to run a conference.
This is the first of my blog posts about the 2012 Gartner Symposium that I’m attending this week. I’m organizing these around themes that have cropped up from one or more sessions. I’m also going to keep these short so I can ensure that I get them out while the ideas are still fresh. Leave a comment or contact me if you have questions.

The first theme for the sessions that I’ve been attending is around the Educational Ecosystem. Universities are working hard on their core mission, vitamin but IT-related changes have created many sources of disruption that are creating a labyrinth where it is easy to lose your way. For example, students can take courses from universities around the world without being limited by their location, demands to make educational resources available on any and all consumer devices, and competition with other education-related sectors and user-generated educational resources.

Here is Gartner’s visualization of this concept:

I like this representation because it is a good reminder that all of these disruptions are happening simultaneously and require solutions that take multiple factors into account.

From the perspective of products and services, Bill Rust, the Gartner analyst presenting one of the sessions, provided this quadrant system to help visualize your current service portfolio:

The Ed Tech Desert quadrant is for services that don’t contribute to organizational efficiency and aren’t requested or desired by users. The Silicon Castle describes tools that focus on back-office efficiency, but aren’t understood by users. The Wild Kingdom quadrant is where services go that are desired by users, but may be too new or too chaotic to be efficient. Finally, the Promised Land quadrant is for services that are desired by users and help the institution function more efficiently.

The next step that Bill Rust took really began to set my wheels in motion. He mapped some of the technologies from the Hype Cycle on to this quadrant system. The result can be seen below:

Things in the Ed Tech Desert are technologies such as Virtual Worlds and attempts to do mobile learning on low-end mobile devices. On the other end of the scale, the development of mechanisms for “Bring Your Own Device” are in the Promised Land because users (students of course, but also faculty and staff) want to bring and connect their personally-owned devices to campus and connect them to the network and university services. Developing BYOD processes and policies will help the institution reduce the chaos that this trend would cause otherwise. The idea of a “District App Store” is creating a localized app store through which the university can distribute free, licensed, and specialized apps to faculty, students, and staff.

In short, what I have really been enjoying at the Gartner Symposium is that we are being presented with concrete evidence of large-scale trends, an interpretation of what those trends mean now and in the future, and simple tools for moving forward. It’s a great way to run a conference.
I’ve been going to several sessions on Governance at the Gartner Symposium, order primarily because it has been a common topic of discussion related to overall IT Leadership at Penn State as well as more project specific cases such as governance of the Learning Management System (ANGEL).

Jan-Miller Lowendahl, illness discussed IT governance in the education sector, approved especially if a new structure is being put into place. Here are some of his key points mingled in with some ideas from other analysts:

First, a good way to look at governance is to think about investments. Where are we investing our time and money? What are we getting in return? What do we need to do to get or maintain a competitive edge? What should we stop doing? How are we adapting to predicted trends? In this regard, it’s easy to see how governance is directly connected to activities such as developing a service catalog, determining total costs of ownership, defining metrics, analyzing big data, and strategic planning.

Second, there are levels of governance, each with a specific purpose. This is the simplest division: At the highest level, you have the board of directors (Trustees in our case), who oversee the entire mission of the university and ensure that the organization doesn’t do anything to put people in jail, go bankrupt, or succumb to some other catastrophic event. At the IT level, you have a group of the highest-level decision makers who can bring both key information and critical resources to the table. They advise the CIO on major investments and help enable those by contributing what they can from their units. This gets a bit tricky in the typical distributed IT scenario since the CIO doesn’t control all of the IT resources. In those cases, commonly defined metrics and consolidation of institution-wide services are key success factors. Finally, there is a governance group below the IT Leadership group that deals primarily with operational-level issues, short-term issues, or minor modifications. This final group uses the same structures and metrics as the bigger IT governance group so they can communicate with each other and to prepare the more junior staff for higher-level roles down their career paths.

Third, you need some analytic tools from time to time that help these groups step back, get a new perspective, and make some decisions based on data. Here is one example from a real client. In this graph, Jan has plotted a group of services based on their focus on increasing faculty/student experience and their focus on improving institutional efficiency. The size of each bubble is an indication of the cost of the service. Seeing this, the IT staff at the client institution were able to make decisions about working to create a more balanced portfolio. Some other activities included things like asking people to list their top priorities and comparing that to the flow of resources over the past few years to see where there are disconnects.

My fourth and final take-away was that governance doesn’t need to be overly complicated. Often, formality can put people in a defensive mode where they are concerned with their own budgets and lock-down policies instead of considering where a university should be investing its resources. Using more informal language, occasional gamification techniques, and informal get-togethers can often break the ice and keep things positive.

So overall, I thought these sessions on governance have been great for putting many of our administrative processes into perspective. I’m hoping to get more involved in these kinds of activities.

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