In 1997, Indiana University, which serves about 100,000 students on eight campuses, became one of the first academic institutions to elevate the job of CIO to a strategic position reporting to the president of the university. In 2007, IU made another notable decision by choosing a former CIO as its president.
What has followed is an example of how a president, a CIO, and other enterprise leaders can engage their community and propel it forward through a technology-powered organizational strategy.
The strategic plan
Indiana University’s president and its CIO now share a vision for the university. But they are not alone. The institution’s strategic plan was developed with input from more than 140 representatives from across the university, as well as the University Information Technology Committee and the CIO’s office. (Though the IT organization is centralized, individual campus needs are addressed by regional campus organizations headed by a campus CIO, who dual-reports to the campus chancellor and the central CIO.) In addition, the university conducts annual surveys to get input from students.
Instead of trying to lead in all areas of IT, IU aligned its strategic plan with university priorities and focused on a few key areas where it can excel and achieve distinction. The strategic plan has four key elements: Faculty and Scholarly Excellence, Student Success (which focuses on education and student living), Effective Community (which focuses on communication and collaboration within IU), and Engagement Beyond (which focuses on IU’s mission in the state of Indiana and its standing and impact as an international university).
As part of that plan for IT, IU implemented a cyberinfrastructure, which it defined as "computing systems, data storage systems, advanced instruments and data repositories, visualization environments, and people, all linked together by software and high performance networks to improve research productivity and enable breakthroughs not otherwise possible."
To manage its financial and student systems at reduced cost, IU has been a key proponent of Kuali and other open-source initiatives. IU developed its own network operations and control software and uses it to manage gigapops in the region, bringing funding, jobs, and recognition to the IT department.
is another major initiative, bringing the university’s services to many mobile devices. IUPodcasts allow users to experience IU content in a rich multimedia format from anywhere in the world.
To encourage faculty to innovate in the use of technology, IU established a fund to support course or curriculum redesign, including rethinking how courses are taught, how technology can enhance the teaching and learning processes, and how classroom and learning space designs can support new teaching practices.
IU has created a technology-enabled virtual campus community, so its students can study, work, collaborate, and have fun. And it collaborates with many other academic institutions to share resources and produce academic cloud computing resources that benefit all. Sakai, Kuali Knowledge Management, EVIA, HathiTrust, and open-source grid computing environments are promising examples.
Additional helpful insight from the Indiana experience is available from an article written by president Michael McRobbie and CIO Brad Wheeler, “Three Insights for Presidents and CIOs,” as well as a recent IU report, “Economic Engine for Indiana.”
— Mansur Hasib has served in CIO/CISO and other leadership roles in the public, private, and education sectors.