a blog about technology management

Monday, day 8 (if you count the weekend)

Day 8 opened with discussion on e-scholarship by Chuck Henry, president of CLIR and JQ Johnson at U of Oregon and Frye alum.  This was  not the most pressing topic for me since it was library-centric and publishing-centric.  But I did get a lot of good references from Chuck on Humanities examples of e-scholarship like

  • Parker Library @ Stanford – scanned and indexed manuscripts
  • Roman de la Rose – digitizing 150 of 200 versions of the manuscript
  • Nines – 19th century studies online scholarship
  • TaPoR – environment for text study

Something in the discussion made me take note of Stacey’s blog post on library stats software.  Something to follow-up on with the library.  I think this is the package we have explored.

JQ focused on the Open Access model of e-scholarship.  Again, not a topic close to my heart but a few things jumped out like

  • arXiv.org – an open archive of e-scholarship in the sciences
  • opendoar.org – directory of Open Access repositories, search them all

The afternoon brought James Hilton, University of Virginia VP and CIO.  He was an energizing speaker and I was writing furiously during his session.  He framed his talk around the fact tht the fabric of inquiry is changing — what questions we can ask and the ways we can answer them.  For example when the Large Hadron Collider is running again it will generate 3 million DVDs of data per year.  The four areas of computation, visualization, simulation, and technology-enabled represent the key areas affecting inquiry.

He then dove into how we navigate these disruptive changes.  He highlighted looking at things as essential vs. strategic.  I think this lens will be very relevant for me.  For example, email is essential but it is not strategic.  And if something is essential and commoditized it lends itself to be outsourced so that you can direct resources towards strategic endeavors.  More on that in a bit.

James also touched on the “Does IT Matter?” book.  He noted that because IT is mature enough now investment in IT alone does not give a strategic advantage.  He framed it as, does oxygen matter?  It doesn’t give us a strategic advantage but it sure is hard to live without it!  He also warned that IT will become irrelevant if it is not aligned with the institutional mission.

He then moved into the need to embrace emergence.  The world is emergent and not planned.  We need to work in an emergence mode: we know where we are (starting point) and we then pick a direction to go.  But we don’t define an endpoint — we don’t know where we’ll end up.  We operate in a “fine tune as you go” mode and need to have a comfort with ambiguity.  We need to develop a discipline of refining based on experience.  Another mantra he uses is “tomorrow is better than today.”

We need to ride the current disruptive currents at play in higher ed IT.

  1. Unbundling
    1. taking that which was whole and breaking it up into parts
    2. mass media: 3 networks in the old days to 100s now
    3. content: iTunes unbundled the album into songs
  2. Demand Pull
    1. people can get what they want when they want it
    2. mass marketing vs. search
    3. lecture vs. exploration
  3. Commoditization
    1. people’s appetites have gone up but so has capacity
    2. the US steel industry failed because they ignored a Japanese process for making cheap steel (because it was cheap), then the Japanese process continued to improve and stayed cheap and it then killed the US steel industry
    3. fashion: cheaper, lasts not as long
    4. U of Phoenix: drives down labor cost and scales up
  4. Consumerization
    1. email
    2. networks: airport brought wireless to the masses
    3. software: if google apps can be class and role aware, it can do 90% of what a CMS does
    4. user support: outsourcing helpdesks to PerceptIS or Presidium (people had mixed results with them)
    5. storage: amazon backup $0.02 a week for 1GB backup, why are we providing storage
    6. passing the enterprise altogether and going straight to consumers
    7. computers: this was the big discussion point. he’s set the path to reduce the number of public labs over the next 3 years

The computer lab issue raised a lot of discussion. They found that 99% of the new students had computers and students were using the labs for web browsing and word processing — activities done easily on their own computers.  They started transforming some of the lab spaces into student spaces — a nice way to repurpose the spaces.  They’re also planning to use virtual labs to deliver applications to students.  There will still be a need for specialized labs for software that isn’t common (unbundling).  It makes me think we need to look at our labstats and see how our spaces are being used.  Student learning spaces are more strategic than the commodity computing need in my opinion.

He wrapped up with the advice of identifying your values and steering by them.  He emphasized power (influence) over force.  He likes to think of leading as “enrolling them with a vision.” However, you can’t enroll everyone so you need to get a critical mass of support for changes.

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