The New Tech Consultants

Katherine GraysonIf you haven't sought them out yet, now's the time: They're your peers, and they're ready to share.

About eight years ago when I moved from covering technology in corporate America to reporting on its use in higher education, I was surprised to discover that though the US business sector relied heavily on the use of technology consulting to meet challenges and move companies and end users forward, higher education did not. The reasons for the aversion to bringing in "outsiders" were many and, frankly, just the idea of opening hallowed halls to interlopers was enough, in many instances. But at that time, much of the reluctance centered on the notion that colleges and universities were not businesses, and students were not customers or consumers. In fact, I can recall being lambasted when, in an early editorial for another higher education publication, I suggested that students were indeed customers, and predicted that colleges would be competing for those consumer constituents on a level previously unimaginable. I added that understanding the critical role of technology would be key to that challenge. Many college administrators were very angry with me. Possibly, some still are.

But the fact is that for so many years, higher ed lagged well behind corporate America in technology use and exploitation. For those of us coming out of the corporate sector, this fact made us seers: We could predict with some accuracy what direction technology would next take on US campuses, and which challenges higher ed would face as it struggled to embrace change.

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Happily, much of academia has not only "caught up" with mainstream America but, because the youth of this planet are now clearly driving technology use and advancement worldwide, many institutions of higher education are leading tech innovation and are recognized as the proving grounds for new technology use. They have to be; their constituency now arrives on campus with that expectation.

All of this brings me back to the issue of consultant use; to the realization that someone may have specialized knowledge that we do not possess but need. And while there are indeed institutions using tech innovation to not only function better, but to attract greater numbers of better qualified students, there are more colleges and universities still in need of solid direction and guidance. And they need that help quickly.

The good news is that the academic legacy of collaboration now extends to tech leadership: Campuses innovating with technology are today's best consultants for schools everywhere and, together with established tech consultancies, they are eager to share what they know. As an IT leader on your own campus, it falls to you to seek out these "new consultants," spend time with them, visit their campuses, and then model and fine-tune their exploits for your own constituency. New students are on your campus right now, and they are counting on a tech-forward institution.

--Katherine Grayson, Editor-In-Chief
What have you seen and heard? Send to: kgrayson@1105media.com.

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