Category Archives: Technology

How Analytics 3.0 Will Subvert the Dominant Paradigm

Presenters

  • Susan Grajek, VP Communities and Research, EDUCAUSE
  • Vince Kellen, CIO, UCSD
  • Jenn Stringer, Deputy CIO & AVP, UC Berkeley (not present)
  • John Suess, VP of IT and CIO, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Resources

JS: We’re re-thinking about changing out a lot of tech recently; what does this mean for our analytics?

VK: my background is in data, has been since I was in my 20s. I’ve been in a range of institutions and verticals since then, but higher ed for some time now. The way we go about analytics is archaic! Scale-out streaming technology has come a really long way recently. It’s so much faster than the traditional way of moving flat files around. We’ve got low-cost storage and serverless technologies. Virtually all our mental models around manufacturing analytics is owed to the 20th century. Here are some rules I’d like to put forth:

  1. we need to conceptualize things as verbs
  2. express things with maximum semantic complexity
  3. build provisionally
  4. design for the speed of thought
  5. waste is good
  6. democratize the data

Data analysis should be viewed proximal to the business rules; sharing is power. It requires organizational incentives to make it happen though. I believe that to compete in the 21st century, we need to follow the rules above.

JS: talk for a moment about your research; is analytics going through a paradigm change?

SG: I think it is; I think higher ed is going through a paradigm change. It’s going to be an unevenly distributed change, though. How do you do it proactively and affordably? Many institutions are purchasing predictive analytics tools (29%), and the two-year change in this trend’s influence on IT strategy is significant.

JS: when you look at the stats on these things, you’ll notice that there are a lot of us who are doing them. Our institutions have mountains of data, but much of the data we’ve got has not been incorporated into vendor models. We’ve been using Caliper learning analytics data running in AWS, allowing us to build a 360-degree view of students. When classes make heavy use of an LMS, this is great, but when they don’t not so much. Capturing and processing student data depends on the systems feeding them (i.e. attendance systems feeding early warning systems). Unfortunately, these projects are not typically done in less than six month stints.

SG: the three pillars of Dx are culture, workforce, technology. It’s not just the technology. How do you put together a revolutionary analytics approach that will work with your institution’s values?

VK: if you try to get buy-in all up-front, you’ll never get anywhere. How many of you have experienced data wars in your institutions? (a lot of hands raised). Segregation of duties is job one…the CIO must be able to control stewardship of data. You need to have the inspiration to build the infrastructure to support it. You also need an IT organization to build this without the shackles of the 20th century. I needed to learn my own language!

JS: I didn’t have the same level of authority as Vince. I had to figure out how to work closely with my provost. We needed this to support the provost and academic affairs directly. If you can’t say you own data, you need to know how to work with everyone to make things work properly.

SG: we have an opportunity to rethink the relationship between the data science academic colleagues…how do we not make the same mistakes as we made with computer science departments in years past?

VK: tap into the motivations of your faculty. Support graduate students, support grants, find those common interests or you’re not going to get very far.

JS: about three years ago, we started our internal data science efforts with our undergraduate students. We partnered with the departments and started working on a couple problems. The students were getting experience with real-world problems, like who was going to come to our university so that we can better allocate our marketing dollars to attract the students our efforts would influence. We’ve also been incorporating Jupyter notebooks into our work. We now partner with our CS department and leaning into the research side.

SG: let’s talk about the money. How does this become affordable to most institutions?

VK: for us, it’s clear we need to do more research using pound for pound fewer administrators than we’re used to. We should be running much of this using AI so we can spend more of our money on educating students, which is what taxpayers want. We need to increase productivity of individuals.

JS: we’ve historically spent a lot of money on tools, but usage has not been as strong as we’d like. More open source, more cloud is a more flexible platform that will allow us to move and invest in staffing more appropriately. If you make a dent in student success, it can serve as a significant payback mechanism.

Question: how do you grow your own capabilities? Most vendors say “give us your stuff and we’ll figure out your problems for you.”

JS: we’re trying to move away from that model.

VK: if you’re improving instruction, great! If not, we’ll reverse engineer your work pretty quickly and share our work widely.

Question: how do you put an end to the data wars/data hoarders?

VK: when you unleash a system with a breadth of information that people find useful, it takes on a self-correcting role. Nothing more corrosive than a very powerful person who has something that they need to make come true.

Question: this conversation is about the institution, not the student.

VK: we engage our students liberally. It’s a balance of concerns; we can learn a lot about this from our peers in the medical industry.

JS: through degree audit systems, we’re providing some windows into student data for students.

Digital Transformation: Critical for Higher Ed, or Just Hype?

Presenters

  • Vince Kellen, CIO, UCSD
  • Orlando Leon, CIO, CSU Fresno
  • Helen Norris, VP & CIO, Chapman University
  • Phillip Ventimiglia, CIO, Georgia State University

Intros and definitions of digital transformation

VK: growth…lots of construction! Replacing ancient mainframe systems (found out about that in his interview, haha). I HATE the phrase, personally. I was a consultant in the Web 1.0 days, and I hated it then.

PV: tech is disruptive, for sure. Dx for me is not a strategy, it’s something we do to support the university and student success (and into prosperous careers). We want to enable tech on campus to make things better for faculty and students…make the journey easier to navigate.

OL: we’re all about student success (hey, who here isn’t?). Dx to me is business process innovation (what we called it about three years ago). Now, it’s all about working with our partners and how all the new technologies support higher ed and our students, including digital literacy. Glassdoor says the top skill employers are looking for is cloud computing, and we don’t do that too well now.

HN: smaller, private university…challenges are a bit different but largely the same. I’m a lot like Vince, perhaps not as extreme. I think this is in the progression of what we do in tech. It’s rooted in the strategic plan of the university (i.e. supporting strategic growth and fundamentally different ways of teaching, such as in our pharmacy school).

Specific Innovations at Respective Universities

VK: many components that we’re woking on, especially growth. Online education is a priority for us right now, adult learners in particular. Something that’s important is celebrating our physical space. ERP and analytical infrastructure is important for us, in light of our forthcoming mainframe extinction. I’ll be happy to be out of the data center business. Biggest transformation is in the IT work itself, i.e. homebrew, devops, not as much software development.

PV: supporting student success and progress to graduation. Advising at scale requires technology. We’ve improved grad rates over the last 10 years via technology and data to “move the needle” in small steps, identifying risk factors and looking for what’s next, i.e. “peeling back the onion.” We have a strong team that allows us to quickly integrate new technologies with Banner, up to 40 integrations per year which extends our investments. We were able to more effectively use classroom spaces by looking at our space demand data based on class schedules; this has saved us a lot of money. Looking at the pedagogy (i.e. what we teach), how do we get students across the range of degree programs we offer “digital ready?” One way we do this is by allowing them to do a project with data and visualizations with Tableau. We also have a digital learners to leaders co-curricular program. Project-based learning is a big part of developing and building out our newer curriculum…this will help us “level up” our students’ skills.

OL: business process innovation is big for us, but we’re also looking at blockchain for providing a record of student knowledge that lives beyond their time with us. We’re also looking at a lot of interdisciplinary education.

HN: can you talk about your perspective about how you do innovation while “keeping the lights on?”

OL: we need to be able to carve time out of people’s schedule, prioritizing this, to transform our culture.

PV: you can’t say “these people are innovative, and these people are not.” Everyone in the organization (not just IT) needs to be thinking about innovation. People need a willingness to experiment and step out of our silos, whether it’s enterprise IT, instructional designers, edtech professionals, faculty, etc. and figure out what process will work best for the organization. It’s not a one-person kind of effort…if you do it that way, you’ll hit a brick wall.

HN: VK, can mainframe programmers innovate?

VK: haha, that’s tough! I’d rather frame it in the form of projects and not individuals. For example, we created a cloud optimization center, and that was a pilot fronted by faculty. This led to an NSF grant. I will say this: innovation needs extreme defense and protection; it’s fragile! Need to shield these projects from being pushed into production prematurely…need to let innovation incubate a bit.

HN: what about faculty involvement? At Chapman, it’s hard to get faculty into something that’s different. Give them something new, and they often struggle with it. The human touch is still very important. Face-to-face contact is increasingly important the more innovative the project is. Newer faculty tend to be more open to innovation. How about all of you?

PV: redesigning classes and buyout of time are important, faculty need to get credit for the work they do. How do we make sure we’re raising our people up and providing them the support they need when they’re doing something new? We can’t penalize people for taking a risk (the cameras are always rolling, in the form of RateMyProfessor and other review websites). Working through the kinks in the process is key.

OL: how do you do this well in a smaller environment, Helen?

HN: often there’s less bureaucracy. We definitely have a smaller staff, so we can’t do some of the fun things we’d like to do. We offset that by partnering with vendors and other universities. We have a partnership with a local org that allows us to use their data for machine learning and analytics projects.

VK: at larger universities we have the illusion of larger budgets. We start small too, and we grow from there. We have a lot of faculty doing really cool and wild stuff, so how do I interest them in doing work with us?

OL: is Dx critical or hype?

VK: here’s my problem…innovation is to be focused on an opportunity for another person. I want to make the customer experience better (how do I do that?), OR how do I bend the technology to make things work differently (when all you have is a hammer, every problem is a nail). I prefer to reason from market opportunity backwards. All of edtech is consistently underestimating the last mile of support! You can’t replace molecules with electrons in every case.

HN: my president wouldn’t like the term “Dx,” but is OK with digital innovation.

OL: higher ed needs to shift and pivot. The central valley where we are is particularly at risk for replacement of jobs by technology.

PV: we’re in the 4th industrial revolution, and tech is fundamentally changing higher education institutions. Many institutions are in fact going away and many of the areas that remain are highly tech-dependent. Campuses need to become less resistant to change, and we can help our organizations make that change and serve our students.

HN: is digital disruption like Zoom or Uber?

PV: I came from corporate brick-and-mortar, and it used to be thought that “all that would go away,” but that has not in fact happened. In some ways, it’s increased the value of physical stores…extending the relationship with consumers by providing them with more choices. Overall, I think things are getting better.

VK: we don’t have enough neuroplasticity to change ourselves so much that we can completely modify the way we work; we’re all sitting here in a room, not unlike a cathedral in 1,200 AD! I love digitization, but the disruption we’re talking about is not the same as the green revolution’s or those enabled by Moore’s law. Our outputs have more of a flywheel effect.

OL: we still use paper for performance reviews; we can change that to a digital process, then into a workflow. What’s the next step? Let’s make performance reviews an in-flight thing that we can do in our day-to-day efforts.

HN: final thoughts?

VK: how do humans comandeer tech to influence their social lives. We need to keep the humanistic element in mind as we go through the Dx process.

PV: it’s not one big thing, it’s hundreds of things. We need to systematically address each thing.

OL: you’ve gotta start somewhere, it needs to be top-down and bottom-up with conversations at every place in between.

Innovate from where you are: Supporting, celebrating, and connecting innovators

Presenters

  • Michael Berman, Chief Innovation Officer and Deputy CIO, CSU Office of the Chancellor
  • Mihaela Popescu, Professor of Media Studies, CSUSB
  • Berhanu Tadesse, AVP for IT/Infrastructure Services, CSU Fullerton
  • Max Tsai, Coordinator of Digital Transformation and Innovation, CSU Fresno

Michael discussed the size & scale of the CSU, 3.7 million living alumni! CSU is focused on teaching and learning and economic impact. A single entity, 23 presidents, 24 CIOs, more than 24 IT departments(!)

Innovation Focus Areas

  • Enabling innovation at the campuses (in response to Campus CIOs: “Is there something the system can do that would allow us to be more innovative on our campuses?”)
  • Building innovation infrastructure: building things that will allow us to innovate faster.
  • Fostering a culture of innovation: providing a space for staff to innovate.

Innovation mini-grant program has been very successful: 29 projects funded at 14 campuses for a total of $222,500 distributed. We also have cloud credits from AWS and Microsoft Azure. “Innovate at the core so that campuses can innovate at the edge.” We do community building, including a webinar series called “Innovate Live!” an innovation cafe, AWS webinar series, Cal State Tech Conference (which attracted over 400 attendees this year)…more info here: www.calstateinnovate.org

Mihaela Popescu talked about extended reality at CSUSB. Mission is to explore the technological affordances, design and implementation principles, and impact of immersive media for learning while promoting high-impact practices for students. We wanted to build open-source solutions for what we were building. We do all XR experiences (360 video, AR, VR. We built an immersive media and learning lab so that students could participate in high-impact practices: build and learn. How to produce assets on a shoestring? work with faculty from art (3d assets), music (3d sound design), and other faculty as SMEs. We built a VR experience for nursing, a fully-designed environment where students practice a discharge process; Ambrosia: gamified fully-interactive, multi-player archeological artifacts in experiential situations; cyber security experience; VR for public good: GenCyber, Native American Art, In|Dignity Exhibition.

Berhanu Tadesse talked about CSU Fullerton’s investment in innovation projects (stipends are provided for coursework). We have an organization to support this! All projects are tied to strategic goals. Examples include Adobe integration into digital literacy programming, iTuffy an AI-powered chatbot to address basic student questions about services on campus. A video was shared that described the iFullerton app, the iTuffy chatbot, and other support services.

Max Tsai talked about what’s happening at CSU Fresno, through the lens of limited resources. Started with very little resources! We built up our innovation, resource and development/hub of digital transformation. Getting started was hard…we looked at ourselves like a startup (limited $$ and staff resources, early times for the tech we wanted to work on). We revised our product line so it would support student success. We did technology support well, so we built on that strength, investing in people and building up the culture around that. We also collaborated with multiple campuses to leverage the skills we didn’t have on our campus…this went a long way toward building up our team’s skills! Doing the work is great, but you really need visibility to grow your team. On top of this, we work with vendors as partners…we don’t want to be just their customer, we want to be their VAR (Value-Added Resellers). As an example, we helped AWS with the RoboMaker project.

The keynote this morning (Steven Johnson) set things up nice: by providing people with a place where they can play, we can accomplish a lot through experimentation and innovation, while simultaneously keeping people’s careers fresh. In our central office, we have a small team that isn’t so much about doing innovation, as it is about enabling folk on our campuses across the system to do the innovation. How to take this home for use on your campuses? Top-down commitment helps, we built this into the system-level strategy; a bottom-up approach is to find people doing innovation across your system. Find those innovators and bring them together…having that support and exchange will go a long way. If you’re going to build it, you need to find a way to include everyone…i.e. it’s no good if you have a small group of “innovators” while the rest of the team is “doing the real work” of keeping the lights on. Max described the role of the innovation architect (building capacity) and innovation engineer (building operational support) at CSU Fresno…these roles balance out needs.

It’s Complicated: Leveraging Complexity Science to Support Large-Scale Initiatives

Presenters

  • Gerard Au, Deputy CIO and CISO, CSU San Bernardino
  • Stefan Fletcher, Director of Administrative Policies and Special Projects, University of Wisconsin System Administration
  • Raghu Chagarlamudi, Senior Director, Higher Education, Student Lifecycle Solutions, Huron Consulting Group
  • Felix Zuniga, Campus Engagement Partner, CSU Office of the Chancellor

Resources and Downloads (via EDUCAUSE website)

Started with a poll, asking attendees how complex their institutions are. Most responses (77%) said very complex. Second poll asked “in one word, makes it complex?” Responses generated a word cloud. There’s an article in EDUCAUSE about complexity: networks, emergence, self organization/social coordination, feedback sensitivity and agility to improve people, process and tools.

Felix and Gerard talked about scale of the CSU, and Stefan talked a bit about UW, including the return on investment (23 dollars to every dollar invested). Raghu talked about Huron’s scope (2,900 consultants, so yeah that’s kind of big).

Applying the Principles

UW SIS restructuring project: address enrollment and financial challenges, expand access, maintain affordability, create new opportunities, join 2 year and 4 year comprehensive universities.

Principle 1: networking

  • Reduce siloing
  • Broaden communications network

Principle 2: emergence

  • Ensure autonomy
  • Ensure operational stability of receiving institutions

Principle 3: Self-Organization & Social Coordination

  • Roadmapping sessions (vent frustrations, no formal agenda)
  • Faculty networking (discipline-level discussions re: curriculum/programming)

Principle 4: Feedback Sensitivity

  • Decision making needs to have a feedback loop that allows for guidance clarification (tuition increase was used as a scenario).

Principle 5: Agility

  • Full project a response to unintended consequences (i.e. declining enrollment)
  • Redesign of academic structure (current & transfer students, receiving institutions, data conversion, etc.)

Felix talked a bit about the CSU’s “Graduation Initiative 2025,” which includes as goals large improvements of graduation rates, transformation and innovation, shared services and achieving economies of scale, organizational communication and effectiveness. Some current major initiatives include: Common Human Resource System, data lake project, ERP API integration Layer, and systemwide procurement. Historic successes include common network initiative, data center migration (Utah to Bay Area), and PeopleSoft finance centralization. Money saved from these intiatiives were freed up for use at a campus level.

Gerard talked about CSUSB’s approach and priorities to meet the goals mentioned by Felix. Campus Strategic Plan, WASC reaccreditation, GI 2025, etc. CSUSB is also moving from quarter to semester conversion, which encompassed advising, budget, communication, curriculum development, faculty affairs and student support services. How do we manage these things? Via the alphabet soup of systemwide committees! The also happens via campus and IT governance. CSU also puts on an annual tech conference that helps get everyone together. We also have a Slack team that piloted in 2016, which has 1,500 members and 110+ public channels. The Slack team was a great tool for communication among folk across the system. Having a platform for organization like this is crucial to solving problems quickly.

Gerard talked a bit about a tool CSUSB uses called “officevibe” to improve communication and career pathways for staff to provide feedback on how to be successful in their environment. The feedback was incredibly helpful. Felix amplified the importance of having good communications to support change management, especially for the larger, multi-year projects like the CHRS (Common Human Resources System).

Key Takeaways

  • Strong project coordination
  • Clear vision
  • Complexity principles can be applied at any scale
  • Complexity can drive change and innovation!

Developing IT Governance and Portfolio Management Processes to Govern Projects

Presenters

  • Kelly Block, AVP for Administrative IT Services, University of Illinois Central Administration
  • Michael Hites, CIO, Southern Methodist University
  • Sarah Sage, IT Project Manager, Southern Methodist University
  • Cynthia Cobb, Director, Portfolio and Process Management, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Teena Newman, Director of PMO, Southern Methodist University

Nice packet of supplemental information was provided for participants of this workshop.

IT Planning in Higher Education: pretty new to campuses. We have some catching up to do compared to our peers.

Strategy sets a destination, governance provides a route.

  • Allocation: who, why, how
  • Defines: processes, components, structures, participants
  • …for making decisions regarding the use of IT

ITG is useful for creation of scorecards; mandatory versus customer-requested project hours (shows technical debt and staffing levels); on-time performance (on budget/off budget); opportunities for vertical and horizontal collaboration and communication encourages better decisions and improves relationships; transparency.

Positive Factors for ITG Effectiveness

  • Active design of ITG
  • Ability of ITG participants to describe ITG accurately
  • Frequency of participation, providing input, etc.

Governance, Portfolio and Project Management

Group discussion on participant’s challenges and successes with IT Governance and PPM

  1. What works well?
  2. What are areas for improvement?
  3. How would you like to see things change?

What works well?

  • Transparency: post minutes to LMS
  • Make sure it’s customer-focused
  • Communication: “roadshow” describing why governance process is useful and necessary.

What are areas for improvement?

  • Informative versus action-oriented
  • Accountability
  • Improving metrics: urgency (mandated versus anecdotal need) and measurement of actual impact
  • “Whole institution mindset”
  • Managing sheer volume of projects & resources

A repeatable, rational process to collect ideas, select initiatives, prioritize among them.

ITG Components

  • Purpose & Scope: what needs to be governed? Topics, functions, summary topics; units & colleges; strategy/operations/service levels, performance measurement. Definitions will add clarity to the process! Identify the subject material.
  • Participants: determine who should advise versus who should make decisions; consider existing groups/positions/functions. If things are run through a transparent process, then they’re easily defensible. Determine specific roles (advisory/decision-making, group sponsors, chairs/leads/owners, governance office/portfolio management). Key element is how the structure connects everyone and connects to other decision making processes. Over time, it’s important to identify/review/repurpose/dissolve committees.
  • Decision-making: set specific decision points; set policy & standards; project selection & prioritization; resource allocation (resources have to be connected to decision points, incentives for participation). Has access to resource pools. Funding model components for consideration: base funding for enterprise/campus services; project funding for one-time initiatives; ancillary funding for college/department level services; fee for service (use-based chargeback). Need clear review and decision points for projects. Define a process for exceptions. Projects that are 10%+/- on their estimates go through a exception/review process. Have a mechanism to limit our work-in-progress. Review every few years.
  • Structure:
  • Communication & Coordination: transparency about the process, requires dedicated staff!

Portfolio Management

Collection of projects grouped together to facilitate effective mgmt of that work in order to meet strategic business objectives. Main activities of a portfolio manager are:

  1. Facilitating project selection and prioritization
  2. Scheduling and resource management
  3. Managing (aka monitoring and controlling) the portfolio
  4. Providing project management standards and guidance

Other activities include:

  • Facilitate ITG; manage resources; manage portfolio; ensure project success.
  • Portfolio manager has lots of activities! Many are centered around communication.

Spent some time reviewing forms and processes

  • Project proposals
  • Project summary and rating
  • Portfolio strategy and rating
  • Priority details
  • Budget Impact and Ranking for New Projects

Challenges

  • Estimating costs & benefits
  • Sponsor buy-in to process
  • Keeping up/not becoming a bottleneck
  • Not becoming too heavy
  • “We don’t have time for this” argument

0 to PPM

Work > Portfolio > Projects > Systems

Work

  • ID all the types of work done your org
  • Define high-level categories (“buckets,” split between project & operations)
  • Start with PMBOK definition, then customize for your org
  • Numbers are just a guideline
  • Projects for PM activity get broken into different levels (“bracketing” of time, hours, risk)
  • Inventory will allow you to populate your portfolio
  • Assign ownership; institute status/reporting/guidelines/cycles; set expectations from upper management for reporting
  • Time reporting: record effort expended to make assessments (resource availability, project health, scheduling new work, staffing levels)

Portfolio

  • Controls flow of work
  • Establish proposal template, clear process for submission, review groups, etc.
  • Set up regular reporting cycles
  • Show value quickly
  • Keep it simple at first!
  • Set expectation that this is the system of record
  • Establish prioritization and scheduling process; communicate priorities; regular review cycle; tools & reports

Projects

  • Select PMO model: supportive, controlling, directive, optional service provider; staffing options, executive support, culture, evaluate org pain points, identify states
  • Develop standards: best if designed by group; lighter the better; use PMI (or other org) as a starting point. Develop as a group! Have a PM toolkit, SDLC standards. Build the PMO! Hire discipline over personality. Adopt systems as appropriate to your processes (Box, TeamDynamix, whatever you need).

PMLC

Origination > Initiation & Planning > Execution > Closing

  • Origination: document business case & project proposal for review & approval.
  • Initiation: develop project charter & communication plan; formalize & communicate goals, deliverables, participants and roles.
  • Planning: Develop detailed and complete work plan, including finalizing tasks, assigning resources, setting schedules, and gathering estimates.
  • Execution: do the work; execute, monitor and control the project and communication plan.
  • Closing: tie up loose ends, hand off results, assess project performance and release team.

Agile: value delivered iteratively, high trust collaboration, self-organizing teams, focus on MVP

Hybrid: any combination of PMM, work measurable and focused on milestones and/or key deliverables.