Top 10 Myths About Higher Ed CIOs - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // IT Strategy
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Wayne  A.  Brown
Wayne A. Brown

Top 10 Myths About Higher Ed CIOs

Higher education CIOs are doing fine, thank you. Let's dispel some falsehoods.

No. 5 – A large percentage of higher education CIOs have recently been hired from outside of higher education. But according to survey results, this is not some new phenomenon. The wave of non-higher education CIO hiring occurred several years ago. In fact, in 2013 only 26% of CIOs had worked outside of higher education in their last position. In addition, the CIOs from outside of higher ed have been in education longer than those who "grew up" in higher ed. On average, those who worked outside higher ed in their previous role had been in their current higher education CIO position an average of nine years. In contrast, the CIO who had worked in higher education in their last position had been in their current higher education position for seven years on average.

No. 4 – Internal candidates for the higher education CIO position are not competitive. But in fact, 45% of the 2013 respondents to the CHECS survey had been employed by their institution before they were selected as the CIO.

No. 3 – Higher education CIOs are not aligned with the mission of the institution.  Over the 10 years I've surveyed higher education CIOs and their IMTs, I've observed that these two parties are often on the same page about the importance and effectiveness of the CIO role.

No. 2 – More and more frequently, the higher education CIO is responsible for areas outside of the IT department. In 2013, 66% of the CIOs were only responsible for the IT department. Another 12% had responsibility for the library and 8% were responsible for research. The other 14% of the respondents were, in 1% increments, responsible for a wide variety of other areas in the institution.

No. 1 – And 180 degrees in the other direction, the higher education CIO is becoming irrelevant and will be relegated to a maintenance role. In 2013, 68% of higher education CIOs indicated that over the last three years they had spent more time on institution and IT department strategy than any other activity. Seventy-three percent of the IMTs confirmed this assertion.

Dr. Wayne A. Brown is the founder of the Center for Higher Education Chief Information Officer Studies Inc, a non profit organization focused on contributing to the education and development of higher education CIOs.

These five higher education CIOs are driving critical changes in an industry ripe for digital disruption. Also in the Chiefs Of The Year issue of InformationWeek: Stop bragging about your Agile processes and make them better. (Free registration required.)

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User Rank: Author
1/10/2014 | 5:11:41 PM
University CIOs and tenure
I would have guessed (correctly) that university CIOs have longer tenures -- if only because a college town typically offers an appealing place to live, and being around people who are learning can be quite energizing.

Of course, academia has its own special brand of politics. Any former university CIOs care to chime in on that factor?
User Rank: Apprentice
1/9/2014 | 4:12:13 PM
Re: The CIO's boss
Good question Shane. In fact, there has not been a statistically significant difference in effectiveness between CIOs who report to the President and those who do not. As a former CIO, I do believe there are lots of good reasons for the CIO to report to the President.
Shane M. O'Neill
Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
1/9/2014 | 4:03:10 PM
The CIO's boss
Good information here Wayne. I'm wondering if CIOs who report directly to the university president (or the CEO) are more effective in their roles. Having a good relationship -- or at least a relationship -- with the king would be an asset, no?
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