Cut to the Core
- By Katherine Grayson
Pare away those contextual IT burdens now, if
your institution is to thrive-- or even survive.
When Adrian Sannier, Arizona
State's university technology
officer, wrapped up his Campus
Technology 2008 keynote in Boston
on July 29, he left in his wake a room
packed with attendees who resembled
007 martinis: they were shaken, not
stirred. To say they were "stirred" would
mean that his address (a tirade of
enlightenment) had merely nudged
them to consider something they had
not pondered before. But these folks
sat mouths agape, furiously taking
notes as Sannier slammed revelation
after revelation out of the ballpark. He
shook them so ferociously, they were
moved to sprint back to their campuses
and institute drastic change at once.
What did the man say? You can
head here to experience 73
minutes of vision and fury you won't
soon forget, but here are highlights:
Much of Sannier's epiphany is about
"moving from context to core"-- a controversial
mandate he concedes is difficult to meet, but utterly critical if your
higher ed institution is to survive. Colleges
have been spending money on IT
forever, he maintains; they were first with
e-mail, Ethernet, and the internet, to
name just a few groundbreakers. "But
that's over," he proclaims. "It's all just
‘electricity' for us now."
In other words: These technologies
are now background, whereas the
delivery of teaching and learning consists
of "core processes" which Silicon
Valley guru Geoffrey Moore defines as
"the ones that differentiate [your institution]…
everything else is context."
Moreover, says Sannier, it is now the
elimination of context that "liberates the
resources to do everything else." And
with that tenet as beacon, ASU has
moved from a "cottage industry of IT"
(where technologists cling to control of
every deployment), to a culture of redirecting
dollars and human capital to
only what ASU students expect the
institution's technology to do best.
Gone is the internal e-mail system,
gleefully handed over to Google, which can do it better,
faster, more economically, and with all
the collaboration gizmos that will keep
ASU technology advancing exponentially--
no longer linearly, initiative by initiative,
falling farther and father behind.
On the heels of this e-mail handoff is
finance/ERP, the institution as ISP,
support, even networking-- anything
that is context; anything that someone
else can do better, and for less money.
"We have to stop thinking of vendors as
vendors, and think of them as partners,"
Where Niall O'Connor took a faltering Apple to soaring
new heights with his Concept of 1,
"viciously, ruthlessly collapsing noncore
activities to only one of each,"
Sannier insists that higher ed must
steer by a Concept of 0: "If it's context,
don't do it at all! Get someone else to
do it; someone bigger, richer, and more
powerful than you." After e-mail went
to Google, he says, ASU realized an
immediate $400K savings annually, and
instantly redirected IT resources to T&L
initiatives that would set the university
apart from its competitors.
"We have to do this," the CIO states
plainly, adding that schools no longer
have the luxury of investigating such
decisions for months on end. The
keynoter's final word? "MOVE!"
--Katherine Grayson, Editor-In-Chief
What have you seen and heard? Send to: email@example.com.
Katherine Grayson is is a Los Angeles based freelance writer covering technology,
education, and business issues.