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Making Decisions in a Sea of Change

CIOs need information to do their jobs, but it's not always easy to get the right kind of information to lead proactively.

I was speaking recently to a colleague, a former CIO, who said to me, "IT people are basically very conservative."

My friend wasn't talking politics. "They don't want to make a mistake," he explained. "They have responsibility for huge, complex infrastructures upon which their entire institution depends. So they're pretty conservative when they have to make a decision."

That was an eye-opening insight for me. I associate technology with change; so IT leaders, it stands to reason, embrace change, don't they? But there's a difference, I realized, between being open to change and making decisions in the midst of change. Being a CIO must be like captaining a ship in a constant storm--you have to be aware of every swell and gust, but if you change direction every time the ship rolls you'd capsize pretty quickly.

(If I didn't get the sailing technicalities quite right, forgive me. I'm not a boating person, but was inspired by this month's leadership column, written by our friend and contributor from Harvard Business School [MA], Stephen Laster, a lifelong sailor--see "Project Rescue: So Close and Yet So Far".)

So what does an open-to-change, yet conservative CIO need to do his job? Drumroll, please.... Information! But not just any kind of information. IT leaders need to know what's happening a couple of years out, so that they can plan in a proactive, not reactive, way. This kind of grounded intelligence is not always easy to obtain.

Which is why I am so excited about three sessions that we have planned for Campus Technology 2011, our 18th annual conference to be held in Boston, July 25-28. We approached three companies whose work has enormous impact on higher education--Google, Microsoft, and Apple--and asked them to give our attendees access to someone within each organization who can share information about future technologies the company is developing, to better help you do your jobs.

The companies responded. Alfred Spector, vice president of research and special initiatives at Google; Cameron Evans, national and chief technology officer for Microsoft; and Bob Trikakis, the education development executive at Apple, will each hold his own "Conversation With the Future" with CT 2011 attendees.

These will be real conversations: no PowerPoints, just a frank, 90-minute give-and-take with the audience about where each company believes technology is heading in higher education. You ask your questions; they answer them. They might even ask you a question or two. To keep these conversations as intimate as possible, each is being limited to the first 100 people who sign up when they register online. (The conversations will also be recorded for future viewing.)

Check out the entire conference agenda. Everything--keynotes, workshops, breakout sessions--is designed to give you solid information and insight to guide your institutions through the storms ahead. Please join us.

About the Author

Therese Mageau is the former editorial director of THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at [email protected].

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