Today's CIO: Leading Innovation on Campus

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As technology continues to play an increasingly prominent role in all aspects of higher education, the IT workforce is faced with ever-changing needs, demands, and expectations. As IT departments strive to remain flexible and adaptive, while overcoming barriers related to availability of resources and retention, effective leadership is paramount. Introducing the Modern CIO: The Chief Information Officer or CIO is not only responsible for institutional IT strategy and implementation, but also the development of a deeply engaged and cohesive team, within which diversity is encouraged and lifelong learning is the status quo. A report released in the Fall of 2016 highlights numerous qualities and skills today’s CIO should possess in higher education- as expressed by IT employees, managers, and CIOs throughout the U.S. Evidently. CIOs should:

  • Exhibit strong leadership and interpersonal skills. Soft skills are known to help post-secondary graduates attain positive employment and career outcomes. As it turns out, the same can be said for IT leaders on campus. In fact, the top 5 skills deemed most important for CIOs and other levels of management, are all soft skills. Taking the top spot is the ability to communicate effectively.
  • Promote accessibility and diversity. This includes working closely with HR to tailor the hiring processes in alignment with the unique needs of candidates and institutional values of inclusivity. Regular consultation with IT managers also allows CIOs to better understand the diverse challenges faced by IT staff, among which; women, millennials, and minorities are currently underrepresented at all levels.
  • Keep up with Higher Ed trends and encourage others to do the same. Beyond attending IT conferences, participating in formal peer networking, and staying current on higher education trends and events, CIOs are well positioned to encourage employees to follow suit and expand their own horizons. Promoting department-wide professional development is found to increase participation and satisfaction among IT employees, thus improving retention and overall efficiency.

Where Most See Problems, They See Solutions A CIO must remain attentive and responsive to the challenges and developments shaping higher education today, to better understand and communicate the function and value of modern technology to the rest of the campus community. Furthermore, that same proactive leadership has the potential to break down barriers and inspire innovation within the IT Workforce itself. While the three qualities listed only provide a snapshot of what they should embody, it is safe to say that today’s CIO is just a cape short of being a modern-day Higher Ed superhero.


Source Referenced: Pomerantz, Jeffrey and D. Christopher Brooks. (2016). The Higher Education IT Workforce Landscape, 2016. Research report. Louisville, CO. ECAR, April 2016. Retrieved from

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