Cut to the Core

Katherine GraysonPare 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," Sannier asserts.

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: kgrayson@1105media.com.

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