The Higher Education Chief Information Officer (CIO)
Over the past 30 years, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) in higher education has evolved from a departmental manager to an institutional leader. The title for those in charge of college and university technology has varied, too. Some were called directors of data processing, director of computer services computer center manager or director of management information systems. Through the 1990s and into the 21st century, titles began to change to assistant or associate vice president or vice provost, reporting upward to a vice president level position. Until the late 1990s, most technology leaders reported to a cabinet member or a senior staff position. It was rare that they reported to the president or a member of the president’s cabinet.
The Paradigm Shift
Technology demands, leadership changes and bureaucratic regulations create dramatic shifts within the institution, including facilitations and control to decentralization information technology. The paradigm shift from routine academic and administrative systems to knowledge sharing is supportive of technology networking as a new emerging form of technology leadership. The emergent leadership model requires strategy, measurement of real time, a focus on decisions and adoption processes and procedures (Mankins, 2004). The new CIO role allows more freedom from hierarchical analysis, which allows more room for creativity and innovation. Additionally, the faculty and staff working in networked teams will use their social skills to acquire new knowledge and share acquired knowledge with each other. The cyclical process allows the CIO to stay on the competitive edge of innovation in the higher education environment.
The transformation of information technology in the higher education field has gone from a period of acquiring and installing technology to one that is expanding its uses and integration throughout the entire fabric of the institution. Brian Hawkins’ A Framework for the CIO Position, reports, “The need for the CIO position in academia really began with the need to manage and coordinate computing and information technology services with the dramatic influx of microcomputers and networks in the early-to-mid 1980s.” In higher education, the CIO must focus on the institution’s educational mission, which translates to supporting teaching, learning, research and scholarship, as well as improving administrative systems. Today, as it was in the 1990s, the primary mission and culture of the institution significantly shapes the CIO position.
The CIO is increasingly being recognized as a key senior administrator in colleges and universities. This will continue to be driven by institutions realizing that academic and administrative technology is critical to support the institution’s strategic development. The CIO in the 21st century is expected to advance the use of technology by faculty and students to increase each academic programs’ value. Through collaboration with administrators, faculty and students, the CIO’s role will extend far beyond the traditional boundaries of information technology requiring leadership across the institution.
The CIO in higher education has evolved, from the mainframe era to the Internet era. The successful CIO in the 21st century college and university has advanced from a technical manager to a strategic leader as information technology is recognized as the core component of intuitional strategic planning reporting to the president and a voting member of the president’s cabinet. The CIO’s role will continue to be challenging and stimulating as all higher education stakeholders acknowledge the CIO’s contributions to the higher education mission.
Hawkins, B. L. (2004). A framework for the CIO position. Educause Review, November/December 2004.
Mankins, M. C. (2004, September). Stop wasting valuable time. Harvard Business Review OnPoint Article, 37-45 (2005). Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation.