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Episode 44

transformed: Strategically Transforming IT

In this episode, Anne Pacione – CIO at St. John’s University – shares best practices and lessons learned from efforts to strategically transform the IT organization in service of the school’s mission and strategic plan.

Transcript Remove timestamp hyperlinks:


Joe Gottlieb: (00:01)

Welcome to Transformed a Higher Digital podcast focused on the new why’s, the new what’s, and the new how’s in higher ed. In each episode, you will experience hosts and guests pulling for the resurgence of higher ed, while identifying and discussing the best practices needed to accomplish that resurgence. Culture, strategy and tactics, planning and execution, people, process, and technology. It’s all on the menu because that’s what’s required to truly transform. Hello, welcome and thanks for joining us for another episode of Transformed. My name is Joe Gottlieb, President and CTO of Higher Digital, and today I am joined by Anne Pacione, Chief Information Officer at St. John’s University. Anne, welcome to Transformed


Anne Pacione: (00:54)

Thanks, Joe. Happy to be here. What do you wanna talk about? 


Joe Gottlieb: (00:58)

Well, I would love to talk about your experience strategically transforming it, but first tell me a bit about your personal journey and how it’s shaped your, your perspective and vision for what you do, what you know, what’s your background? 


Anne Pacione: (01:14)

Well, I, I came to higher ed after spending my career in the financial services and insurance sector. So a bit of a shock, a bit going back in time. Uh, things that I, I would’ve expected to, to be in place. Uh, were not functioning little bit like a, uh, mom and pop IT organization. Um, but it also presented tremendous opportunity and was very exciting, uh, is very exciting to kinda see things change from, from the ground up. And frankly now with everything going on with debate around college value of a college education and talk about, you know, student debt and should they go to college, it really is a very interesting time, um, to, to, to be leading, uh, the IT organization within a university. 


Joe Gottlieb: (02:15)

Well, that’s excellent. So yeah, you, you mentioned the, the disruption. There’s so much going on in higher ed today, and the need for execution in it could never be, never be higher, and yet it’s in the context of the kind of changes that, that really are, I, I important to help a higher education sort of cope with some challenges and get to the next level. Um, I imagine when you got, you, you were, you’ve been at St. John’s now about 10 years, but you’ve been in the, you’ve been in the CIO for about four years. So, so since we’re gonna focus on strategically transforming IT and your experience with that, I imagine the first thing you need to do is to understand the perception of the IT organization at St. John’s when you first got involved. Tell me a bit about that. 


Anne Pacione: (03:01)

Yeah, a a little bit of what I get myself into , but Right. Um, it was, it, it was very operation. We were very operationally focused, meaning just keeping lights on, uh, servicing computers, running data center. Uh, very little thought about where do we go, how do we get there? Um, and at the same time, the world around us, the, the, the rate of innovation, the consumerization of technology was just exploding. Um, and so when I came, you know, it was when I sat in the seat, I, I thought to myself, okay, this is the perception. People come and they say, and my, my laptop’s broken, or, and I, I don’t have printing resources, but we really needed to ensure the operation was there, but then change so that we were thinking bigger and that we could be ahead of what the business might need and, and shift and, and think more strategically about technology and where we were gonna be in the future. 


Joe Gottlieb: (04:06)

Makes sense. And so it, it sounds to me like, you know, the, the organization was not really thought to be particularly strategic, uh, nor was it operationally excellent. Is that a fair assessment? 


Anne Pacione: (04:23)

Right. And, and at the same time, the, the folks in the organization spent their time chasing issues and, and therefore did not have the capacity or the time to even think about what I would I do next. It was always, how do we fix what’s broken? And so I sat down and, and, and looked at, at the organization as a whole, and there were, there were two things that I, I really needed to, to look at. And, and one was first, okay, how are we perceived as an organization to the business? I, I wanted them to see it as a partner, not just to help fix, you know, initially I wanted to fix things so that people saw the value, but then broaden that so that they would include me in, in the business strategy and the business conversation so that I could show where it could add value. 


Anne Pacione: (05:16)

And the second piece was looking internally within the organization and saying, okay, who’s on the team? And who of the staff is willing to take that strategic journey? Who can think along those lines? And then who’s skilled to help maintain the operations? And, and how do we kind of take people that are gonna look further and divide those job responsibilities so they don’t get dragged down by the day to day. And the folks that are doing the day-today are skilled enough and continues to get upskilled for the new day to day Right. As we evolve. And so 


Joe Gottlieb: (05:56)

We Go ahead. 


Anne Pacione: (05:57)

No, and so what we did is we, we looked at a whole and, and, and started to look at the capacity within the organization, 


Joe Gottlieb: (06:03)

Right? So, but, and some of these folks were your peers, right? Fr from the prior, in the prior regime. So the regime had, its, uh, well, the regime, the, the, the, the organization had its trajectory, and as we’ve just said, uh, there was an opportunity to improve it, but you were all, you were all part of it under a prior leader, and now you had to, you had to secure, um, really the commitments and trust of some of your former peers to get this rolling. 


Anne Pacione: (06:32)

Yeah, that’s right. I mean, to be honest, I felt like the organization was at a fork in the road. You know, we, we had to transform, we had to be at the forefront of, you know, the digital transformation. We had to be leaders in that space. Um, the institution depended on it. And so when, uh, the positioning came open and they were doing the interviews, I said to my boss, I really think you should bring somebody in from the outside. I guess that’s the corporate mindset. Bring somebody in from the outside, help them shake up the organization. We’re gonna have to look at everything. And her response to me was, well, they’re not gonna do that , so you can have the job, or you can report to one of your peers. And I said, you know what, uh, I’ll throw my hat in the ring and here I am. 


Anne Pacione: (07:19)

And important at that point, you know, when I got the position after saying, what did I get myself into , I realized that I needed my peers to also stay, and, you know, they needed to help with this. And so first it was kind of building that internal trust, shedding some of the things from before and, and just kind of getting on board with the vision and the mission and how are we gonna build this? And once I could do that leadership team, then it was, okay, now externally, now we really gotta do the campaign and, and meet with the unit, the, the, the university leaders and the business unit leaders and, and try to say, okay, this is a new it. Let’s, let’s talk about what you’re, what you wanna do and what’s on your radar and, and what are you thinking about. 


Joe Gottlieb: (08:12)

Yeah, that seems it would be very important. So on average, people in IT seem to always be needing to at least maintain the understanding that it has got to be part of the overall strategy. So in it, we, cause I’ve, I’ve been in it a lot of my life too, right? I’ve been in technology at least. Um, we have this burden of that kind of burden of proof burden of, of, of articulation, of expression, of securing and understanding, right? For it to be what it could be. Otherwise, the default is not nearly as interesting and not nearly as valuable. So I imagine you had to le you leveraged that with your peers because, uh, undoubtedly they were all quite steeped in that same puzzle, right? So leveraging that then, how did you stimulate this, this necessary, um, understanding that digital strategy, digital operation should be, should be a servant to the institutional strategy, and therefore they should be one and the same, and how can we have a different dialogue around that? 


Anne Pacione: (09:25)

Yeah, I mean, that’s the, uh, the balance of the cio, right? Like, you know, everything has to be running well before somebody wants to talk about something else. And it is, is uniquely positioned because we see it all, right? So we’re interacting every, with everyone from, they have an issue to, I need you to be part of the solution. And so, um, it, it, it’s really about how, and for us, it was how I reorganized the organization and how I looked at the, the staffing. And we, we actually created this, um, mnemonic called Epic for, for the staff, which did, for Innova, uh, efficient, professional, innovative, and collaborative. And that was something that was key for everybody to know. And so what that did is we looked at the skillsets of all the folks. We actually asked everybody believe or not, to redo their resume. 


Anne Pacione: (10:27)

And it wasn’t to reapply for the job, but it was just to get a sense of where did folks wanna go in their career? You know, what were their interests? What were their strengths? What was things that may be overlooked? And then to shift it to say, okay, you’re, we have operational, we have infrastructure operations, we have technology services. They, those groups have to focus on a day to day. If those things don’t work, you can’t have a strategic conversation. They need to work and you need to make sure the folks on this team are, are marching to the same customer facing, I need to provide a high level of service. And then on the flip side, we created a strategy, architecture and strategy group that had an emerging tech team underneath. Therefore, that group could take, okay, hey, this is the latest technology, these are the trends, this is what we might need to do, give Vett and even work as far with the academics and the faculty to kinda look at new things and pilot things so that they weren’t distracted with the day-to-day somebody else was worrying about the day-to-day. 


Anne Pacione: (11:33)

So to really be thoughtful about how to reimagine the organization, how to, how to split that, and really to make sure that the people that wanted to be there and wanted to do the work and your star performers were really rewarded and put in a position that made them happy, made them want to come to work, right? And that you also had the ability to upskill people that maybe didn’t have a chance, right? Hmm. And make sure that they had the skills that they needed to be successful. And then if you have everybody sort of marching to being epic and you keep repeating it, then you know, when things come up, it’s like, were we part of that? Were we the most efficient? Did we think about this innovatively? You know, were we professional? Um, and were we collaborative? 


Joe Gottlieb: (12:20)

I like the mnemonic, uh, epic as a, as that reminder of, you know, what are our principles? How, how should we be performing in these jobs? Right? It really is the how. And I also, I, I wanna recognize the way that you used the resume exercise to trigger not a threatening your job. You know, everyone has to reapply for their jobs. You de-emphasize that, right? So the, because I think I’ve never heard it handled in a subtle way that way was, you, you, you harnessed it as a skills inventory update and an interest reflection update. You, you are really, the two things that you emphasize there make a lot of sense to me, which is let’s, let’s, let’s reorient around what people are thinking right now about, about their careers and their current capabilities and interests. And that’ll help us to form these new organizational units that, as you said, need to balance progress on, on strategic change and operational delivery, which those are different skill sets, and some people have both skills, but most people do not mo and and often most people don’t have the both interests, right? So I think that’s a really practical, practical step that others could leverage. 


Anne Pacione: (13:42)

Yeah. A bit of a corporate going back to the corporate world, bit of a corporate group. I, I, I will say some actually did, did kind of question it a bit, but, um, but it also lets you kind of see who your star performers are because sometimes, um, people are buried within the organization and they don’t see how they can get ahead or feel recognized. And ironically, you know, we did all of that and we really were able to put in the new structure and reward those star performers and it all kind of went into place right before covid. So it positioned us really well because then, you know, as everybody knows, the pandemic hit with people leaving, everybody was kinda happy, you know, and really excited about this new change. And, and they could see the change, right? They, they didn’t feel like they were coming to the daily grind anymore. Right. There was purpose for what their job was at all levels. 


Joe Gottlieb: (14:45)

Interesting. I I, I just, I I, I don’t wanna get stuck on this, but it’s a really, I really think it’s a practical thing. I imagine you found, when you mean by people, um, finding who the star performers were, this exercise seems like it allowed people to step forward through what may have been in, in any organization, a political haze, your reputation is based upon what others think about you. It gave them the opportunity to advance their shiny resume. This is, this is who I am. And, and, and you as a, as a, as the new leader of the organization, taking a fresh look or, and having your team take a fresh look at people and see who is hungry, see who is putting themselves forward, um, versus maybe going through the motions, cuz there’s always a mix. 


Anne Pacione: (15:34)

Yeah. And, and, and that spills over back to the operations side and the customer facing side of things. Right. You know, now you’re looking at, you know, those people that are, are, are having, or are that willing to work with our business units. Um, and, and you can’t, you can’t have the conversation with the business units about the future unless you actually fix their problems or that they perceive that they’re getting a level of expected service. I mean, let’s face it, technology’s like lights now, right? When you walk into a room, you expect the lights to go on. Yep. The same with technology. When things don’t work, people are very dependent. In fact, people could probably work in the dark as long as they have internet, right? And so, you know, you’re, yeah. And so you’re, you’re, you’re sort of expected to have that level of service and, and need to have that, um, imbalance that so you can have like the larger conversations. Um, totally. Now, 


Joe Gottlieb: (16:38)

Go ahead. 


Anne Pacione: (16:39)

No, and then we sort of spilled over to kind of talk about how now do we extend that further to the governance world? 


Joe Gottlieb: (16:45)

And that’s where I was gonna jump next. So I know you one of the pivotal structures in a strategic IT organization, is IT governance? And so tell me a bit more about how you set that up, how you set the mission and tone for that, how you involved, because it plays a really important role in this organizational change. 


Anne Pacione: (17:09)

Yeah. I mean, you don’t wanna be, and always asking for money because mm-hmm. , you know, what I say is it’s not really my budget. I mean, yes, I manage the budget, but it doesn’t go to me or to the folks on my team, right? These are things that are consumed more broadly. And I, I think that you have to kind of look at it to say, okay, how do you get the right buy-in for, for the priorities? So, you know, the first part was really just kind of going back to the operations. Um, there was a level of fiscal responsibility that I had to prove. So there was a lot of work we did internally to kind of look at our operational expenses, the dependence of legacy technology, and how do we really focus on shedding those expenses and investing in things that we like, that we need that are specific to the IT operation. 


Anne Pacione: (18:08)

Then what we did is we looked, okay, so now there’s the big things, right? There are the things that the university needs to invest in. So I’m not asking the university to invest in my data center, I’m asking the university to invest in something related to creating more efficiency for the business processes, right? And so we established this governance model where we looked at academic, we looked at security, we looked at, um, administrative, and we rolled that up into a technology executive committee, which was the senior most leadership in the university. And they would get input from all these subcommittees about what their priorities or what they felt they needed from a business perspective. And it also allowed those units. So for administrative governance, for example, there was conversations around scheduling, right? And conference services wanted scheduling product, and the registrar wanted scheduled pro instead of buying two products, right? 


Anne Pacione: (19:07)

And this could both plans, instead of buying a dozen products, right, could we find a solution that could meet the needs across making things more cost effective for the university? And so those groups would have those debates, it would rise up to this technology executive committee. And a recommendation would be, and really the technology executive committee, the good thing about this is they, there was a lot of credibility built into that. So when something big king, there didn’t need to be a whole conversation. Of course they ask questions, but then you’re coming to very big items, things that are institutional priorities. So the biggest one was, you know, a, a transformation of our E R P system, which we are in the process of. And that is something that came up, was endorsed by technology executive committee. And bigger than that is the announcement for that. And the tone for that from a university perspective was sent out by the technology executive committee. Again, not it, and sending this out, this is something that yes, as an IT organization we’ve led that we shepherded through, but that was ultimately the tone was set at a very executive level within New York University, which, you know, gains credibility, gets people on board and, and just allows for a better successful project, 


Joe Gottlieb: (20:24)

Right? So you mentioned prioritization, and obviously when you have the most, the senior most leadership in this technology executive committee, uh, an interesting thing happens in, in my experience, they are operating as a team with a shared mission to deliver all, you know, to govern all the technology needs of the entire institution. And therefore they, so they simultaneously have the entire obligation of the, of the institution, and they must confront the finite resources available to deliver technology to the institution, right? So was that truly happening? Where, where whereby you established this, this, um, I know, uh, Steve Jobs talked about the reality distortion field. This is the reality enhancement field, right? Where you literally come to grips with, okay, this is what we have to work with. And so for example, in the case of the E R P project, it was, it became evident, I imagined the technology executive committee that this was gonna require more investment and yet they owned and grappled with, but I want to hear if this is true, I’m making this up a little bit. Um, what had to be sustained with current budget and what priorities could also be advanced that may have been secondary to E R P at the time, but still important and they all fit within the slightly enhanced budget that, that, that was addressing this total need. Is that a fair way to approximate it? 


Anne Pacione: (21:58)

Yeah. Yes, for sure. And, and I think the important thing is, you know, in terms of governance not taking lightly, right? And so there’s a lot of things that get done, and there’s actually a lot within it, especially in terms of maintaining that operational excellence and managing the budget among the fiscal pressures that was done without going through that process, because we just did it, we were able to manage it. So when you have that moment in which they know that these things are not only discussed at a business unit level with a lot of collaboration, but are also not asking all the time, like really truly being the investments that are needed, there’s already a, a notion that what’s coming to us is generally important and and necessary. And so, but you have to sort of balance that so you’re not nickel and dime all the way up because if they see everything, then they’re gonna get the fatigue or kind of keep asking for money. Like you have to kind of get everything in place within your own organization so that you’re viewed as that strategic partner, that strategic advisor, and that leader that’s bringing that all together, 


Joe Gottlieb: (23:23)

Right? And so I wanna just emphasize that one of those points in there that you made, which was that, that that sort of collaboration with the business units in the presence of the IT governance function really makes the job easier from the standpoint of transparency and shared and aligned needs. And it, it, it, it’s just easier to deal with the fact that certain things are pet projects and have to be suppressed and other things are critical and have to be advanced, right? And, and, and there’s always choices to be made and you do your best, but transparency makes it, I think, an order of magnitude more, more functional and sustainable. 


Anne Pacione: (24:07)

Yeah. And, and at the end of the day, especially with technology these days, you need more and more functional business leaders on board. And so the transparency is key because you never want on both sides of the fence, right? You don’t want a business unit lobbying over, Hey, we want this, you wanna implement it. At the same time you don’t want it doing the reverse. So by having the structure in place, you have a place for conversation where thoughts about, well, I have this gap, this is what I’m looking at, and others weigh in on it. And then this, this collaboration of a joint proposal, right? And, and so it, it doesn’t feel like things are being tossed over fence. And I mean, to be honest, this is, this took a few years to get into place . Sure, it’s not as easy and, and you have to have a lot of buy-in. But then when people start to see that, the key is when they see the t the technology executive committee would call the t c put the money where their decisions are, then all of a sudden it doesn’t become unit X going saying, I want this technology. Cuz now when they go up to the CFO office at the annual budget, this, the, the, their office is gonna say, well, does this go through governance? Right? And, and, and so it it, it funnels things in, but then you automatically have the buy-in 


Joe Gottlieb: (25:29)

That that’s per that last example, you know, did it go through governance? You established the new rules of the game and rules are good, right? Rules are good, particularly in what might otherwise be left to very chaotic political, um, emotional decision making, right? Rules are very good. And so when people say, oh, we’re playing by the rules, I guess I know, I know now how to engage, I know how to play by the rules. And so it’s like any game that has rules, you can compete hard. Like, so business units will say, all right, I gotta make a good strong case for this to happen. And I it is gonna be examined, uh, from on the basis of synergy for the entire institution. And it is, we are gonna look for that’s right. Synergies, uh, where we can get one system instead of two, just which, you know, which is always better if we can get there, right? 


Joe Gottlieb: (26:18)

Okay. So if the e r P project was a great way to articulate or demonstrate or speak about how you could get a strategic thing moving forward in the context of this governance, right? Let’s talk about the other side of the balance, which is maintaining the infrastructure. So, um, talk a little bit about what you were doing along the way to make as good a use of your, you know, your, your basic budget as possible, keeping the lights on or, or as we’ve said now, doing things that are more important than keeping the lights on 


Anne Pacione: (26:56)

. Um, so, you know, the bulk of our, the bulk of the budget when it came into the position really was consumed by legacy communications, technology, old maintenance contracts. Things have just been maintained over probably decades, honestly. And the first, the first fiscal year that I was c o the budget, the operations got cut 10%, which is just 


Joe Gottlieb: (27:31)

Huge welcome board. 


Anne Pacione: (27:33)

Yeah. , find me, find me a few million. Um, so we, uh, we actually worked with an outside company and, and it’s important to note that you, you, you also have to take stock as what you’re gonna be good at. And, and what can things be done outside that people and other companies can just do better, right? Like, what do you wanna be in the business of doing? And so we worked within with the company that could really look at our contracts and really put forth some RFPs and some competitive things in the process where incumbents had to respond as well as potential other partners and vendors. And really look at what they did is they not only looked at it from just pure contract, but also from a architecture perspective. Like maybe we wanted to, at the time we wanted to really be more VoIP enabled, right? 


Anne Pacione: (28:33)

And so mm-hmm. what companies could get us there. And we completely overhauled our contracts in the communications and, um, some incumbents lost and we got fantastic savings there. And that savings that we generated there then allowed us to move into, get into AWS to move important resources there, which gave us more resiliency, more coverability, better security. We were able to kind of look at things that we were doing. So we had previously managed our own service desk, which was very difficult at peak times. We couldn’t scale. Um, you know, we had trouble finding and training people. We out were able to outsource that again to a company that did, does that for their business, right? So they were much better at it. And just in general up our security, our, our SOC using mans sock using security technologies and just kind of taking that money and reinvesting it to the point that some of of these things that we were struggling to do with the limited resources we had could then be managed from an outside way. 


Anne Pacione: (29:47)

But we were able to fund that because we looked at all these legacy contracts and, and we extended that through and just really made a point of what are these things that we’re doing and that that’s costing us extra money to maintain these legacy things, right? Technology, contract services and let’s renegotiate or sunset or decommission or whatever, and take that money so that we can further optimize our own operation because we’ve now extended the team without hiring anyone, right? We’ve leaned on vendors. So it really was the first time when we started doing it, it was really eye-opening, the amount of savings that we can get. We just continued that through. And again, this was all it optimizing experience and, and creating like, Hey, now we have better security and audits now, now we have better resiliency and there’s all these good things happening. Oh, you didn’t ask me for any money and you cut your budget. Okay, well that’s good, right? I’m not saying it’s good to cut budget, it was painful, but , but it allowed us to, again, earn that credibility that we were being fiscally responsible in the context that we had to be. So that’s really, that’s really how we, how we went through that process. 


Joe Gottlieb: (31:04)

And that’s a process that’s ongoing, right? I mean, so this is a matter of managing a portfolio of not just services supported by technologies, supported by contracts and spend, um, but it’s an ongoing changing portfolio, right? So that you’re, you’re always hunting for, okay, who are the next candidates that might benefit from, uh, a refresh? 


Anne Pacione: (31:29)

Yeah. And, and it, it’s challenging, right? Cause technology’s changing very fast. And not only that, companies, there’s a lot of acquisitions and mergers for these smaller companies and just changes in, in how technology is being used and, you know, what’s going on in the consumer world that’s driving, I mean, Amazon is just, they innovate and it all trickles downhill. You know, everybody expects that same experience, right? Um, so you, you are constantly, constantly doing it and things are, I mean, even just as simple as, you know, video conferencing, I, I, I think, you know, pre pandemic Zoom, no way near had the footprint that they have today, right? And so looking at all those things that are leapfrogging each other, and, you know, it is about keeping up and, and creating that operational excellence because all this all sounds good, but along the way, right, the moment that hiccups occur and you have issues or something fails, there’s immediate pivot. And so you have to kind of constantly balance that and try to just keep the organization moving so that when you have these, you know, dips or failure points, that it doesn’t start to drag down to the ultimate goal of what it needs to do. We need to continue to be leading it. We need to stay ahead so that we can provide the service, look towards solutions, know what’s out there, and that all has to be done. We have to be able to recover from these moments where something’s not working and everybody’s panicking. 


Joe Gottlieb: (33:13)

Well, and that’s where your relationships with people, particularly stakeholders, uh, pay off, right? Where’re where, where you’ve secured an amount of trust and a, and a and a, an amount of latitude to resolve things that are gonna happen. Um, whereas in the, before you maybe established those relationships, that, uh, fuse would’ve been shorter. Make sense? Is that, is that Yeah, 


Anne Pacione: (33:35)

Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, that was, that was key, right? You, you, you have to present yourself as part of the solution, as the strategic leader. And you know, it’s, it’s easy when the leaders remember all those wins so that they can say, okay, yes, we know, right? Um, and yeah, with, without, without that, you have no runway, right? Right. Like, you, you have no, no time to say, okay, I’ll fix that. Right? And so it, it’s, it’s political capitals, political chips that you just have to always garnish and just hold onto and use when you need to and continually just make sure you have the relationships. 


Joe Gottlieb: (34:20)

So you mentioned architecture also. So when you talked about, when you talked about reviewing this portfolio of legacy contracts and then hunting for potential, uh, pockets that you could then remediate with some fresh, better contracts, delivering more value for money with, in the, and in the end, saving some money and delivering higher value, which is a great outcome. Um, you also mentioned architecture, and so architecture is a, uh, we might have touched on it earlier as part of that whole strategic thinking of, of discipline, right? The way I like to think about it, architecture in particular, technology architecture is when you’re thinking about something new, the good medicine to take is how is it gonna fit with our architecture? Or do we need to extend our architecture to accommodate this thing without losing ground on the discipline that is gonna keep us sustainable? Right? And of course, technical debt is the opposite of that behavior, right? Exactly. You, you, you grow, you grow technical debt when you, when you rush or you accumulate a patchwork of things that don’t talk well with each other, or you implement something, um, with customization when you maybe should have known better, and now you’ve got this fragile thing that’s hard to maintain, like all the above. Right? So h how has architecture been a discipline that’s shown up a, apart from some of that sort of that fresh look of contracts, but sort of your ongoing review of things? 


Anne Pacione: (35:51)

Well, every, everybody has those things that you mentioned, right? Yes. You have done 


Joe Gottlieb: (35:56)

All those things. 


Anne Pacione: (35:57)

Yeah. You know, something, something broke and it’s like, well, 10 years ago somebody wrote that customization that nobody knows how to read the code anymore. , right? It’s not processing, right. Um, yeah, I mean, I tend to think, you know, for us the way we got there is there was no looking at the overall blueprint of the house, you know, so I would say we were really building a new house, and we, we used the house analogy a lot because you need to have the architectural diagrams, you need to have the blueprint before you built anything. And, you know, taking all of those things, it’s like, we’re going move into this house, right? So let’s, from the beginning look at what do we want to look like and what those, those things are that need to be in that drawing. And then you sort of take the pieces that, that fit into there. 


Anne Pacione: (36:51)

And you know, I I think that along the line, as you do that, you, you establish some principles. You, you establish some best practices, you know, you start to increase your knowledge base so that everybody’s aware of these things. And now as you add things to there, you’re looking at that, you know, it, it’s not, it’s not static, it’s not done. Once we have to continually keep, keep doing it. We have to continue to look at it. I, I will say it was very, architecture was a really difficult term, something that I am very familiar with from past experience, but something that was really very new for a higher ed space, and it was really difficult for the team to kind of grasp what that meant. It was almost too pie in the sky or not tangible enough. And so, you know, we layered the emerging technology and the digital strategy concepts on top of that. 


Anne Pacione: (37:46)

But in essence, it’s when you’re doing something, you don’t wanna go back to time where, okay, this person did this, this person did that, and just sort of all kind of came together and you had this spaghetti mess, right? You really wanna make sure that what you’re doing sort of aligns with a larger drawing of, of what you’re trying to do. And you can do it in a way that, you know, in the future you’re gonna foresee. So one of the things a lot of it organizations talk about is data integrations, right? More cloud solutions, more data coming in and out, you know, and, and I’m not gonna say that we did this perfectly, but we, we do kind of think about, okay, what’s that integration strategy that we’re gonna have? And think about that now because the development teams are, are building all those integrations, but we have to kind of have that blueprint or else you’re just gonna gonna have data coming in and out and you’re not gonna know, right? And that’s where like one area where architecture and around data, like that’s really key. And, and having a, a team that thinks about it, not necessarily the teams that are gonna have to consume it or use it, but think about that more broadly is, is really critical. Because otherwise you’re just gonna get point solutions, built on point solutions, and you’re gonna end up in the same spot you started. 


Joe Gottlieb: (39:02)

I love it. You know, I, I love the house analogy, but, uh, we have to give it a little bit of help, right? When I think about the house analogy, I think about, all right, you want a blueprint before you start building the house. But, but what happens in reality is you build your house, you occupy it, and then you’re remodeling all the time. And as you remodel, right? Good architecture discipline means that you are, you know, you are, you’re doing things and you’re still fitting back into the electrical system. You’re still fitting back into, um, uh, the, the, the structural, you know, the weightbearing structure of the house. So you are, you are thinking about, you know, hvac, uh, that the house has, and if you extend, you extend those things. If you buy an e an electric vehicle, you may have to upgrade your electrical system, but that an analogy works, right? Sort of data integration. It’s like, okay, I got, I have electricity flowing, but now I’m adding a new domain, a new, you know, a new data dimension. How is that gonna fit and be equally sustainable as it was before? Um, okay. So I wanna get to our last topic here is, you know, how did you know when you’d turned the corner in strategically transforming it? 


Anne Pacione: (40:11)

Well, um, you know, one of, one of the passion topics that I have is really about our student experience and just knowing that times our students get the runaround, it’s, it’s, it’s not streamlined. And how can technology and trying to talk to the business units about using technology to enable that and, and to make it, make it better. And, you know, we, we talk about a lot about that internally within it, you know, we have some visuals that sort of depict that. And so a new president came on board, uh, a president that wasn’t particularly technical. Um, you know, he probably uses it in his, you know, regular life, but is, is not a big tech person, which is fine. Um, and it was, you know, my turn to, to meet with him. And I, I thought about, you know, this is an opportunity, right? 


Anne Pacione: (41:04)

W what am I gonna talk to the president of the university about? He’s, he’s just been on board, maybe a month or two, he’s kinda meeting with it, okay, it’s a leader. I gotta kind of figure out what this is about, but certainly not gonna be interested in theater center, tall cloud technologies, mobility like that, that’s not his, his speak. And, um, so I, I, I talk with him about the student experience and, and I think that he expected that the conversation would be technical in nature, and it was the complete opposite. I started out with, well, I would like to talk with you about the student experience, and here are all the different services, right? Not, not focusing on technology services that a student would consume and the different points. And there’s a wheel, and we can use technology to enable, but we have to fix it because the students get the runaround. 


Anne Pacione: (41:56)

You know, we know we’re a little disjointed, um, whether it’s business process, whether it’s technology, whatever it is, we have to streamline it. And, uh, we had a great conversation and, and not one that I think he was expecting, Hmm. But it was an opportunity for me to say, Hey, I, I see it from where I sit, you know, I interact, spent all this time, you know, talking to the leaders and, and looking at these things and, you know, we’re in, it’s in a really strategic position. I I’m not your operational person. I’m the person that’s gonna help you go to the next step. And he initiated a university strategic plan, you know, as all new president would. And I actually was, uh, nominated to be the co-chair of the student experience committee. So this for me was like, okay, it wasn’t, it wasn’t gonna be, I had the opportunity to lead, to bring together business leaders. We could talk about things we wanted to do, not just take orders. Like, okay, we talked about this is what we need to do. Can you deliver this? I had the opportunity to shape it, have input, um, and to share, you know, from where we sit, what we see. And, and for me that was really important because that meant it is important. They have a strategic seat at the table, and they’re gonna help drive change and change has to come from adopting and using technology. 


Joe Gottlieb: (43:22)

Well, it’s a great culmination of all that, uh, effort put forth to, uh, to transform the, the organization. So, you know, in summary, what, what three takeaways would you give our listeners, um, on this topic of strategically transforming it? 


Anne Pacione: (43:39)

Um, you know, first I would, it has to start with the people in your organization and making sure that they’re, they’re doing their jobs and that they have the tools that they need to. So, uh, who do you have in, in what role does it fit for their goals professionally? And, you know, even how do you help them achieve success? Um, second I would say is you really wanna empower your team to make decisions and, and for them to run operations. So as a leader, I need to be doing the strategic thinking and helping create those relationships. So it makes the life of the organization easier in a sense. But what that means is I also can’t get dragged into the day-today, and I need to depend on my team to make those decisions, to drive the operational excellence. And then I think the third thing I would say is, you know, think about change management within the organization and your ability to support that. Because change management is something that as IT professionals, it’s ver it is something we talk about a lot. We understand it, um, but it’s also something that’s hitting the business and we have to be able to explain it. And so, you know, making sure that you’re aware of change management, you’re implementing those change management organizationally for your IT organization, but you’re also able to extend that and educate your business partners on what that means and how they can also manage it. 


Joe Gottlieb: (45:29)

Great summary. Anne, thank you so much for joining me today on Transformed. 


Anne Pacione: (45:35)

Thank you. Thank you for the conversation. 


Joe Gottlieb: (45:38)

You bet. And thanks to our guests for joining us as well. I hope you have a great day and we look forward to hosting you again on the next episode of Transformed.

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As president of Higher Digital, Joe supports customers with strategy development, change management, and strategic operations. He is energized by the complex challenges and profound opportunities facing higher education and is motivated to have and share discussions around these topics.

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