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Episode 22

transformed: The Future of the IT Department

Higher Digital has just published the next installment of its new audio interview feature, transformed. Every other week we interview experts on higher education, digital transformation, and the challenges and promises represented by both.

This week, Joe Gottlieb welcomes Wayne Bovier, Higher Digital co-founder and CEO, to discuss a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “It’s Time to Get Rid of the IT Department.” Listen to the episode to hear Wayne’s insights on the future of the IT department in higher ed.

Joe Gottlieb: (00:02)

Welcome to transformed a Higher Digital podcast focused on the new whys, the new whats and the new hows in higher ed. In each episode, you will experience hosts and guests polling 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. My name is Joe Gottlieb, President of Higher Digital, and today I am joined once again by Wayne Bovier co-founder and CEO of Higher Digital. Wayne, welcome back to transformed


Wayne Bovier: (00:54)

Thanks, Joe. It’s awesome to be with you today. What are we gonna talk about? 


Joe Gottlieb: (00:59)

Well, you recently read an article and I read it too. And you responded to this article, and so I wanna talk about that. The article was titled “It’s time to get rid of the IT department” run by the Wall Street Journal on November 27th, just not too long ago, written by a gentleman by the name of Joe Peppard, who’s a research scientist at MIT, the Sloan School of Management, and also happens to be, looks like he’s been active in the healthcare world delivering IT solutions to healthcare. So this article, you know, calling for the elimination of the it department and that triggered some thoughts on your part and so much so that you wrote a post in LinkedIn as a response. So let’s talk about that. What do you say? 


Wayne Bovier: (01:50)

Yeah, that sounds great. Where exactly do you want to start? 


Joe Gottlieb: (01:54)

Well, why don’t we do Joe some justice first by trying to grasp and summarize some of his main points? Cause I think he comes from a place that we would identify with, but perhaps we wanna shape some of the way people interpret where he was coming from. So why don’t we start with how you might summarize the article? 


Wayne Bovier: (02:15)

Great place to start. He starts out by, you know, defining and starting with the history of IT, you know, the, and this goes and just to be clear, his article, really, iit was a broad brush across multiple industries, right. So it wasn’t a statement just for higher education or healthcare or anything like that. It was a broad kind of position. And so, you know, I think he rightfully captures a couple key dynamics that are happening. I think there’s some, you know, I have some critical thoughts which we’ll get into here shortly, but, you know, I think his approach and understanding on some of the nuances is probably fairly spot on, you know, when you think about, you know, the beginning of IT, the creation of the IT department, you’re talking, you know, probably sixties 70, right? 


Wayne Bovier: (03:19)

As we, as we moved a little bit more from the mainframe days into something as more of the personal computer days you needed to have professionals that were responsible for your equipment. Right. And so they had a particular role and one that was very service oriented, right. So it was managed many ways by a trouble ticketing system. So if you had an issue, you opened up a trouble ticket, IT’s job was to, you know, they had probably some level of prioritization, but it was very basic. But they got to it, you know, depending on the urgency, right. And their, their priorities, they would come and fix, right. So they would react as an organization. And so, you know, you fast forward to today where every company’s a software company, right. Every company or institution, right. 


Wayne Bovier: (04:12)

We’re focused on higher education, everyone. And every department is not only operating using technology and software, and hardware for that matter. But it is, you know, in many cases, a competitive advantage, right? So the question is how do you take to me, how do you go from right as an organization or an industry you go from, you know, an IT organization that was a service reactionary type of organization to something that is more meaningful and modern. And I, and I think at the highest level, that’s really what he was trying to drive at. It’s, you know, in order to be, if I’m running a department or division of a big company, how do I stay competitive? Right. You have to be faster to the market. You gotta be more nimble in, in taking feedback from your consumers, your end users learning from that, modifying it and getting a new version out in the marketplace. Right. So, so I think, you know, I think he broaches the subject in a way that it’s rooted in a lot of realities, both historical and current. So I’m gonna stop here for a second. So, Joe, what are your, what are your reactions to that? Cause there’s other things that I think he touches on that I think is good as part of the summary. 


Joe Gottlieb: (05:42)

Yeah. Look, I think that the history of it is fascinating and it would be hard for any one article to truly net it all out. But, you know, even back in the mainframe days and I’ll pull a little bit of a rank on you here that, there was already, you needed an IT organization to handle mainframes. And back then it was, you know, the only industries that were really leaning in with technology could, could even begin to do that., and, and that’s why technology in that era penetrated different verticals at different times. Right. And because ultimately had to be better understood. And it could only be understood originally by for example you know, the banks that had plenty to, to, to benefit from automation and governments obvious a couple of examples, including military, but, but the point about the article about being a service organization and handling computers and being kind of reactive and kind of, and not particularly strategic is another element of the history of the arc of it. 


Joe Gottlieb: (06:44)

So that’s for sure something that developed, and that’s a million miles from what we love to have, which is a business driven business savvy, agile technology capability, which of course has to be occurring within the context of the business, but that is a, you know, no matter whether you that’s an ideal right, that we’re gonna talk about, and there’s plenty of reasons to pursue that. And it’s achievable in certain contexts, but it’s, you know, it’s to criticize something. That’s not that just because it’s not that right, but everyone, if you blow that up, if you blow that up and we’re gonna get into this, right, you’re gonna be removing something you need, even though you are pursuing something you want and could benefit from more, but then you have one thing versus another. And so I think that becomes the part of this that makes this hard. 


Joe Gottlieb: (07:47)

The other thing I would say is we believe a hundred percent in this business driven mindset. In fact a recent podcast with your co-founder Colleen Baker in that podcast, we were going over the fact that we hate IT projects because they shouldn’t be called projects. They should be called programs or, or continuous offerings. And we hate IT being the adjective, because that makes it an, it pro it shouldn’t be, there shouldn’t be any IT projects, but for utility things that IT should be delivering so that they can deliver the business projects enabled by it enabled my technology. Right. So all this becomes a little bit of a shell game of semantics, but I imagine that’s part of where we’re gonna be headed. 


Wayne Bovier: (08:34)

Yeah. That, that that’s exactly right. And there’s a couple things I wanna point out that this article also touches on. And, and one in one thing in particular that I found fairly inflammatory had to do with his very bold statement. I think it was his third or fourth paragraph where he talked about, you know, if you have a set, if you have an IT organization, you cannot be agile, I’m paraphrasing, but essentially that’s what he said. Right. When you, and, and I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna earmark that. I’m gonna come back for just a second, you know, when you talk about an IT organization, right. And you go back to, you know, yeah. There was, you know, a staff wearing white lab codes managing the mainframe, right. Even before the personal computers. Right. And the process. Right. Because it was so expensive, right. 


Wayne Bovier: (09:24)

At that time the staff was expensive. Many of them had PhDs, right? Like they were white lab quotes, you know for them to probe the mainframe, they had to get everything correct., and so they’re, that’s where waterfall. Right? So for those in the audience, you know, the development methodology, historic development methodology was called waterfall and waterfall was, make sure you got every, you, you, you, you sequence it out, you know, based upon function. Right. And each function had to be thoroughly complete before you could move on to the next. Agile takes all of that, mushes it together and, and does smaller kinds of, you know, iterations where there’s more, more team effort around that. Yeah. Joe, did you have something? 


Joe Gottlieb: (10:11)

Well, I just, I think just to help that along for our reader, our listeners, why waterfall, the, the concept of waterfall is you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re before the water falls and therefore the features delivered, you’re doing all the research up front about your requirements, and you’re making a big bet that you’ve gotten that. Right. And then you go build it and then you deliver it as a waterfall. And so if you, these deliveries look like waterfalls in terms of their, their arrival, in sequence, whereas agile is more open to iterating and getting feedback along the way, which may change your mind on what you’re gonna do, because you may be learning that something has less value or greater value, or is harder or easier than you thought, but at least you’ve got rudder control. You’re iterating, you’re moving forward. You’re not betting the business on something that someone thought of and thought was correct, and building it and, and increasing the risk that you get it wrong. 


Wayne Bovier: (11:07)

Yeah. And, and, and there’s another that’s exactly right. There’s another element associated with this, which is time. Right. So waterfall tended to be like 18, 20, 24 months before you got something out. Right. So, you know, as you’re, as you’re building or creating something that’s digital in, in nature software nature, right. The more time that you spend the higher, the risk is right., that in terms of that, you’re, you’re gonna get it right, right. Or wrong for that matter. So anyway, so I think, you know, I think he, you know, the, I think, again, getting back to kind of agile, you know, one of his main points is that you can’t be agile with an IT organization. And, you know I mean, first of all, on the face of it, that’s just not true. I mean, we’ve experienced that. That’s just, you know, I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna speculate on his motivations on this article or at least I’m going to try not to, but that one in particular really gave, you know, even though he touched is on a variety of good things, I think that really out of the gate almost discredited the article for me, because it’s just not, it’s just not true. 


Wayne Bovier: (12:20)

Now, the other side of the coin is also a big pain point, which is, you know, and he’s exactly right, which is the business, right? And the business is a real, you know, small bee, right. It could be any department. It could be, you know, in the case of higher education, right. It could be an enrollment office, it could be a financial aid office. Right., they don’t have enough deeper understanding of how it or technology software is, is, is integrated. It’s built, it supports it, it’s, you know, the end of life. Right. And, and in particular, when things are being upgraded right, or replaced inherently, you know, there’s a time gap between whatever solution you’re using and whatever new one you’re going to adapt, right. Let’s say it’s a five year Delta, when, but 10 years later, when you’re moving to something new, you inherently have to change your processes. 


Wayne Bovier: (13:22)

Because, you know, you’re because a lot of times there’s automation, there’s features and capabilities built into the software that are making, which should make your process easier, faster, quicker, and really what’s really struggling. where organizations really struggle is the consumption of this new technology and really making it work., not because it is centralized or they’re just a barrier. It really has to do with resistance to change in general, but also, but also a technology, you know, a, a, a siloed view of, of the technology capabilities. I don’t know, Joe, what, what’s your reaction to that? 


Joe Gottlieb: (14:09)

Yeah. Yeah. So I think what we’re talking about here is there’s no avoiding the fact that information technology is a specialized skill, just like teaching a specific course is a specialized skill or being a financial aid expert, or an enrollment you know, executive slash team looking to, to, to, to bring in, bring a new crop a freshman, right? Like, so all these things are specialized skills, guess what to be successful. You have to collaborate to make those skills come together and to formulate new business capabilities that execute your business strategy. So as an institution, you’re only as good as how effective you are at doing that. Now we’ve seen lots of it. Teams are very successful with agile, but it’s, and by the way, that even successful with cutting through to make agile serve the business, but they’re successful. And this is part of what we do all day long. 


Joe Gottlieb: (15:12)

They’re successful because they’re successful at collaborating with stakeholders and making technology an ingredient to business evolution. That’s driven by strategy, as opposed to this utility that gets served up. People are generally not very satisfied with it. They complain, meanwhile, they’re off running the business, making revenue, teaching students, getting new students. And there’s a big disconnect, and there’s just this tolerated tension. That’s not, that’s not success, but success is putting in the hard work and then sustaining the hard work of this collaboration across these specialized skills. And that’s just hard. And until you do it, you can’t extract from this. So that’s one thing that’s going on. Right. And if, if you, if you accept that reality, that, that, okay, it’s just, things can be hard, but I could know what to do to accomplish that and unlock that value then that I think sheds a lot of great light on how to think about where it goes. 


Wayne Bovier: (16:12)

Yeah. That, that, that that’s right. And, you know, and this, this touches on another, and this is age old classic debate. Right. Which is centralization versus decentralization, you know, it’s, and, and he you know, I, I always envision the pendulum swinging mm-hmm right. Yeah. And he pushed, did all the way to one side. Right., and the reality is you gotta have both and you have to strengthen both., because, you know, should you expect a division or department to understand the enterprise strategy, enterprise wide strategy of our, of our capabilities when you’re in, when you’re essentially in a silo? No, somebody’s gotta own, how do you, how does what’s the user experience, right? You have all in, in higher ed, you know, one of the more complicated industries in terms of overall technical ecosystem, right. Is in terms of vendors and options that you have, it’s really bloody complicated. 


Wayne Bovier: (17:14)

And if you are really concerned as a president or CEO of your digital experience, whoa, you got like 30 systems, you have to stitch together that that has to be somehow coherent 30 systems that from, you know, many different vendors using different technologies use in different databases, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Right. So there has to be a, a stronger centralization., and what we normally see way often is your centralized technology group, better lack of a better description. Your it organization has to become more strategic. They can’t just be technical, like just turn the widget and it turn it on, support it. They gotta start to think about, you know, where’s our systems, where are they going? How, you know, how is this meeting, the business’s needs or not. Right., what is our user experience? You know, 10, well now I guess it’s, you know 14 years ago, right? 


Wayne Bovier: (18:21)

When the iPhone came out well, that totally changed the paradigm for everybody and every industry right now, you really need to understand how us, you know, how it looks on a small device, right? There’s more innovation that’s gonna, that we can’t predict that’s gonna happen in the years to come and you need to be, you need to be ready for it, the decentralization and last point, and I’ll, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll take upon it back to you. You know, the, the decentralization is the same thing with the, on the business and departments. They have to take a step forward and, and understand and appreciate the technology in the complexity versus, Hey, I’m just gonna tell you what to do, and you’re gonna do it for me. Right. It is here’s my job require, or here’s my requirements. Here’s what I, what I want out of a particular job or software or solution, and, and, and work with me and, and help me understand how we build it. How do I prioritize it? How does it align to the overall corporate level goals? Right. And so, so this is a dynamic that has, we, we see it on both sides, that it can’t be, oh, just blow up your centralized organization and decentralized every that’s gonna, that’s gonna turn everything into a disaster., and, and the same thing with true, right? If you decentralize everything, it’s gonna slow down some of your nuances in the business, 


Joe Gottlieb: (19:41)

So true. You know, this it, so it’s the specialization of, of skills. And then in a context of centralization versus decentralization, and like you pointed out, if you swing too far on a pendulum, you’re gonna wind up with something that’s not gonna work. The analogies I like to use are, are these, would you ask your head of advancement to do their own accounting?, and then just, you know, send it whatever form they like, whatever accounting form, they like just send it in and we’ll figure it out. Would you ask, you know, your, you know, one of your academic deans to, to do, you know, their own building management, no, you, you, you’ve got specialized resources to do these things and you need standards so that the whole can actually achieve leverage just the first thing. And the reason why, you know, actually in a country, in a nation, right, there are certain jobs that free enterprise won’t just make happen. 


Joe Gottlieb: (20:39)

The, the nation has to step up and do some utilitarian things that nobody wants to do, but that are critical to a society functioning properly. Right. Same thing is true of a business, right? There are certain things, both from a business side, like accounting, but also on the technology side, like it services, right. That no one’s gonna bother getting right for the entire organization. And in fact, it’s this governance and standards that, that involve a, a, a, a give to get right, a, a really important give to get you give up some flexibility to get sustainability of service levels. right. And, and for example, and this is when we talk, help our customers really adopt a discipline of enterprise architect or the discipline of coordinating software purchasing, or the discipline of thinking about digital strategy in the large, as in support of the overall institution strategy. These are things that have to be proactive and can’t be accomplished if you let all flowers bloom with a hundred percent freedom, which is the pendulum wing all the way to decentralization. 


Wayne Bovier: (21:50)

Yeah, yeah. That, that that’s exactly right. You know, and the other, the other, one of the other things that, that, that pops in my mind, right. So you and I come from the software world, right. We spent, we spent our careers in, in software. I’ve, you know, I was a product manager for many, many years. Right. I think in a product manager. Right. And so for industries like higher education, and there are other industries that are like this, that it, it well in your, in our software companies, right. There’s that role of product manager, which essentially is the semi tech literate person that kind of understands at a higher level, the technologies that come Plex cities, the architecture, the user experience, but also understands the business, right. Marketing sales, right. What are the top line messages? Right. And so you know, for industries that don’t have that discipline that’s really what we’re talking about many ways, right? 


Wayne Bovier: (22:50)

Is that you gotta, you, you know, essentially there’s a new role that is needed that, you know, eliminating it or not is irrelevant to this. Right. You need to have somebody and they can sit either in an it organization or the business, but this concept up the product managers that, that understand a suite of solutions, let’s say again, say, stay on enrollment, right. In IED, I’m an enrollment product manager. Right. So my job would be to understand not just the enrollment solutions that we have today but understand the broader market landscape what’s going on in the enrollment software space work with the business leaders and really understanding what problems we need solved using technology, and then working with it to really start to prioritize and figure out a best way to, to get there. Is it custom? Is it configuration? Is it a new solution that we need to swap out? Right. Like, so this is a role that really is, we’re used to our careers., but many industries aren’t no. What, what’s your reaction to that? 


Joe Gottlieb: (24:05)

Yeah, no, I wanna build on that because it’s so powerful concept, but it is not intuitive. It is not obvious, like you said. Yeah. We’re used to it because we’ve been U you know, we’ve been utilizing, we’ve been product managers, we’ve led product managers. We’ve, we’ve, we’ve partnered with product managers in this cycle of delivery of value. And product we’ve always said is that they’re the CEO of the product. They have to understand the whole 360 degree picture to therefore maximize the value of the product. And when you think of it that way, it helps you expand your mind to the, the, the different disciplines they have to pull together. But you’ll also find, and as you companies grow larger, you’ve got teams of product managers and they, they, they, they, they focus on aspects of the portfolio. And how does this portfolio now work together? 


Joe Gottlieb: (24:55)

A portfolio of products that each might be broken down into feature groups, right? That you might have teams of product managers leading. I wanna, I wanna translate this though, beyond the level of an it product manager. So it’s a for sure best practice we help. Many of, of, of our customers, at institutions adopt the it product manager concept to completely up level the service, the holistic capability that an it organization can deliver. But on the best days when we are truly working with an institution that really is strategically minded and, and, and sort of has business driven technology, where technology is doing their bidding as a result of how they’re driving their institution forward, the product manager starts at a business capability. So like, like where you started it, and then you ended up, I think you ended up talking about someone who would be a great asset to deliver solutions for enrollment. 


Joe Gottlieb: (25:58)

And that’s that first level up leveling, you know, product manage, deliver awesome enrollment solutions, but above that, that person should be serving under the best conditions, an enrollment product manager that perhaps the Dean of enrollment is, is leaning on. And perhaps it is the Dean, right. That’s ultimately responsible probably has to be it if that’s the way that they’re structured. Right. But this person is thinking about enrollment capability and, and that are, those are that’s the business function, it’s business process. It’s, it’s people and it’s technology coming together, right. To, to address the enrollment and implement the enrollment strategy, the institution in the concert, in concert with the rest of the strategy. Does that make sense? 


Wayne Bovier: (26:39)

Yeah. It, it, yeah. It totally, yeah, it totally makes sense., you know, another way, you know, so just kind of let me build on that and, and, and let me, let me take this concept to the next level, right. And again, I’m gonna bring this back to the article, which is eliminate, you know, your centralized it organization and decentralize it, move it, move it in you into the business. Well, you know, there are a lot of shared services that every organization has, right., a, a certain percentage of those shared services are what I would consider strategic strategic advantage. It’s something that is, you know, if it goes out, you’re really, really hurting as a business and so on and so forth, and really what we’re highlighting. And we haven’t called out in terms of this new role of product manager is really, what’s the, what’s your operating system of your organization? 


Wayne Bovier: (27:39)

How do you prioritize, how do you communicate? How do you work through certain, certain things? And one of the things that I think is critical, again, eliminating your it department is not going to help you as a, as a large or small organization or a company or higher education institution on absorbing new technology. How do you make decisions? Because we know this is, you know, a, a foregone conclusion that more innovation and more technologies on the way, right., you’re gonna have more options, right., you’re gonna have more decisions to make for your business., and so how do you get successful? How do you choose, how do you prioritize and how you choose that over other solutions? How do you, and, and how do you make that, that type of technology, successful? And so to me, this is where the concept around, you know, how do you, you know, scale your agile organization, right?, we have our own sea change capabilities where essentially we’re taking agile principles and scaling the concept all the way to the CEO, right? Because the CEO, the president also has to be more digitally literate, technically literate than they ever have going forward, because you’re gonna need to make strategic decisions. And, 


Joe Gottlieb: (29:04)

And less anyone start to panic about the CEO and the president plugging into an agile team. What we have found is those, those individuals, and, and even many below them, typically the way organizations are typically structured, don’t need to plug smack D into that agile team, but what they do need, and our, our approach helps them accomplish is the guidance they need to serve as go as, as provide the governance and the strategic prioritization of what gets done to accomplish. That’s the strategy and the plan of the institution at any given time. That’s right. And therefore they need to be consulted with, they need to be iterated with in a way that they can consume and engage so that they can provide that guidance. And we can stay in alignment. One of the biggest things that we see that’s so track in all industries, but it happens a ton in higher ed. And we talk about why, because of the organizational complexity, the governance structure, the portfolio of technologies, the different departments, all of which are doing amazing things, serving students, right. But you th shake it all up. And on average technology, isn’t really a effectively channeled and leveraged in alignment with what leadership wants to accomplish at any given time. And 


Wayne Bovier: (30:28)

So it’s about, yeah, mostly misaligned. And I it’s 


Joe Gottlieb: (30:31)

About bringing this together. 


Wayne Bovier: (30:32)

And, and I think, look, I think, you know, you’re rightfully sensitive about, you know, any listener about the word agile, right. And CEO on that. But the, but the reality is, and, and the main point here is that everyone in the tire business, whether it’s central it or the business is everybody has to take and deepen their understanding of technology and what we’re trying to accomplish and their needs to be alignment. And so this is, this is fundamentally where I have a problem with the article of eliminating your central it organization. Is it doesn’t help alignment. It doesn’t, it doesn’t further, it doesn’t solve the problem really fundamentally that it, that a organization ha 


Joe Gottlieb: (31:23)

Well, do, do you like having wireless access to internet everywhere on campus and, and frankly, anywhere in the world? Yes. Do you like having accounting systems that can roll up and produce your financials at the end of the year and quarterly and monthly, you know, yes. This, these are the arguments for standards, right? I mean, you, you wouldn’t, if blew up accounting, you wouldn’t have that. You could no longer close your books. Right., if you blow up it, you will no longer have the utilities that you’ve come to rely upon at the scale at which your institution has required them. And, oh, by the way, there’s gonna be more and more and more of those. And so this is actually gonna grow, not shrink. And it doesn’t mean we should shrink away from the challenge of being business driven. So that’s the part of Joe’s article that we really like, right. 


Joe Gottlieb: (32:11)

Which is, yes, technology has to be driven by the business need, but blowing up the it organization will set you backwards, not set you forward in that very mission. What you have to do is you have to confirm on the collaboration required to have business be that’s exactly right. The driving force and the active customer, not the passive customer, the active customer of technology. Right. And there’s a big distinction between active and passive. Right. And so if you ask those, the CEO, the president, do you wanna do you wanna come to scrum meetings? Heck no., do you, do you want all of your lieutenants to report that technology is doing the work that you needed to do to achieve your mission as an institution? Heck yes. So what lies in the, in, in the gap between those things, right? You can bet that making sure that institution leaders have their opportunity to steer is critical to this being solved and a, a well funded, well, provisioned IT organization that serves the different stakeholders across the business in the institution is essential. 


Joe Gottlieb: (33:29)

While also maintaining the utilities that have to actually continue to grow and deliver more for less let’s let’s let’s remember it. Many other sectors has been forced to deliver more with less every year. And, and they should, by the way, they should be delivering more with less because there’s technology leverage there’s advancement in automation. But if you can’t harness the advancement in automation, you can’t do more with less. This is why we are advise people to, to not customize your software, because you lose your ability to get leverage off of new innovation coming from your technology suppliers, if you fork and do something so unique to your institution, that it can’t be sustained by your supplying technologists by, by your, by your vendors. Right? And so this is a, it’s a nuance that is often lost on people because people say, well, shouldn’t I be customizing this to have maximum competitive advantage, cuz I’m an institution that’s special. 


Joe Gottlieb: (34:30)

And I wanna, I wanna beat my rivals and be better at delivering you know, learning and, and outcomes. Well, you should should be thinking about how to be competitive, but you should build upon sustainable technologies and the way that you deploy them and then make sure your business capability aspires to be competitive with your rivals versus hope that you can customize software and get into the, the business of doing your own thing there be because you don’t have, have sufficient specialized resources to, to, to mine that shaft, you just don’t. And therefore, while what you thought customization was the, the Nirvana, you gotta dial that back just enough and alter your strategy to make your business capability competitive. That means being an active customer of technology and then collaborating with your vendors and your it organization to make it sell. 


Wayne Bovier: (35:25)

Yeah. Yeah. I think I, I, I think that’s right. And, and one of the other things I, I want to clarify that you said in terms of, you know, technology in general should be delivering you more value for less cost over time. That’s just, that’s just how technology is right? Every time you buy a laptop every three years, you’re, you know, you might be paying the same price, maybe a little bit less, but the, the amount of of computing power you’re getting is significantly more than it was three years ago, right., one and a half times, right? According to Moore’s law or whatever, two, two times. Right? So, but one of the, you know, one of the things when it comes to you should be as an organization doing more or, or delivering more, there there’s a rub where we always find issues, which is that. 


Wayne Bovier: (36:17)

And again, it doesn’t matter if it’s centralized or decentralized in terms of it, but your velocity, I E the amount of people you have to do the job and the expectations and the requirements that are sitting on top of are almost always out of balance your velocity and the amount of your throughput and, and creating new software, delivering something is always way less than the expectations from all the different departments. Right? So one of the more important things is how do you align what your requirements and what your business needs are to your throughput, right. And do you need to surge a developer? Do you need, right? And this is where I think the author Joan talked about a, and he’s right about where this is gonna go, that you, an organization, an institution eventually will have a pool of it, resources. 


Wayne Bovier: (37:15)

It probably won’t be significantly. It shouldn’t be significant less. It probably be more people than they have today, but the, the pool is more agile, right? Mm-hmm , and, and a small, a not big a on agile, right? Is that as the business, strategic cha, as the strategy changes from year over year, as new competition shows up or new market dynamics, you you’re gonna have to move your business. Well, your pool of resources should be a singular pool. And maybe last year, most of that was on enrollment this year. It’s about alumni relations, right? And so you need to be able to move your pool of resources around, but it also needs to be in better alignment with what you’re needs are, and your expectations are to your capacity to de deliver capabilities. 


Joe Gottlieb: (38:05)

I I’m so glad you clarified that. I wanna clarify even further, right? So we said a couple things, first of all, technology’s advancement and your ability to deliver technology., and by the way, those are no easy tasks to start with, but it should keep advancing every year. So on a, on a, on a relative basis, you should be able to do more with less by Moore’s law alone, but there are other advancements that you get systemically in the industry, like, you know, automation, software being easier to adopt and things like that. And practice should continue to evolve. That said, we’re talking about a domain I E technology or information technology, if you prefer that is taking on an increasing role in every business on the planet and every consumer, every household. So let’s be clear that while pound for pound, you should be getting more outta technology each year. 


Joe Gottlieb: (39:01)

You’re asking more of it because it’s occupying a greater aspect of your personal life, your family life, your business life and of in the case of higher ed, right? The way education ISED. So all that’s true that would argue therefore for an increasing budget, particularly, unless your institution is reducing scope, getting smaller, you’re gonna have to keep investing more because you are growing. And you’re also asking in every place you’re already present with technology for the role to expand because you and you’re getting business advantage. Now, if you don’t know what business advantage you’re gonna get, that’s on you, you gotta figure that out. And that’s about good strategic mindset, Vivi institution strategy, and digital strategy. And then one more piece you’re. So, right then that on average, though, even with budget increases, there’s gonna be to do than you have the capacity to fulfill. 


Joe Gottlieb: (39:59)

And that’s where strategic focus becomes. So key. And your example, where you say, you know, this might, this year might be an enrollment next year might be on advancement. I forget that analogy. You use the examples, but that’s so fitting because I’d rather do one thing really well and advance it forward with coherent focus and my, all my resources delivering then spread peanut, buttering my resources across a hundred projects, each of which deliver a tiny bit of progress, but no breakthrough capability that yields value to the business. And so we have to confront the reality of this, this finite capacity. And we have to make hard choices about where we’re gonna aim it. So we have business outcomes that are accomplished, and then we move on to the next most important thing. And sometimes you’re right, you have to surge and lean in hard. If you have to accomplish some big things simultaneously, let’s say in one period, but that’s the nature of the beast. And that’s back to what role the CEO, the president, the Dean, the organization structure has to play to be responsible about connecting business strategy to technology. 


Wayne Bovier: (41:04)

That, that, that that’s exactly right. I I’m, I’m gonna, you know, jump in here as well on, you know, again, going, bringing this back to the article, eliminating your it department and decentralizing everything still doesn’t address a, a, a fundamental problem, which is today, right? And I’ll, I’ll talk about higher education. Pretty much every single higher, a higher education institution I’ve ever been exposed with has the same problem, which is you have a central it organization servicing a variety of different silos right now. There’s no, there’s no mechanism in place, no process in place., but no decision making mechanism in place for most of these institutions that says, okay, enrollment has a request. Alumni services have a request who decides what gets prioritized right now, most of this is whoever yells the loudest, whoever has the most political clout, whoever has the best relationship, right? 


Wayne Bovier: (42:11)

And at the end of the day, you know, everybody’s frustrated with it because their, their stuff’s not getting done quicker. It’s not being prioritized so on and so forth. Right. And so, so I think, you know, if I, regardless, a any organization going forward has to do a better job of align and modifying, right? This is the other thing is modifying their alignment around their priorities that tie into the strategy and ultimately allow, you know, enable the it organization to say, ah, that doesn’t fit in our, you know, the, the, the strategy coming down from the president, that’s gonna get deprioritized right there, there, there needs to be a mechanism to be able to help around that. Does that make sense? It does. 


Joe Gottlieb: (43:01)

And I, I think that’s a great place to land this plane to steal a a line from one of my favorite podcasters rich role., you know, don’t, don’t get rid of your it organization, just tell it what to do and give it the air cover that that’s the strategic priority. And, you know, with that, I think we’ll see a lot greater success versus the very typical challenges that we see., any, any final thoughts you know, if our listeners took three things away from this, about how they should be thinking about it, how would you summarize that? Well, 


Wayne Bovier: (43:37)

The first thing that comes to mind was just triggered by something you said, right? I think that there’s, there’s another responsibility here that I would add on, which is you, you as a leader, right. If you’re not an it, you have, there has to be bidirectional. You have to listen, you have to ask and listen for advice about whatever problem, right. Get out of the solution business, right. Stop solving the problems with the technology work, with work with IT as a partner I also think, you know you can go very heavy handed with process and methodologies, but I think you, there needs to be a more centralized strategy that engages with all the major stakeholders, including, and especially your digital leaders. Right., and, and bring them into the conversations about what problems you have., there may be solutions or capabilities. 


Wayne Bovier: (44:36)

We already have a license that we don’t need to add more complexity on it. Right. And so and then I think, you know, getting back to this article is that, you know, both needs to happen, right? Both the centralization needs to be strengthened. It needs to be given more authority. We didn’t even touch on budgets, but, you know budget, right. Decision making strategic engagement, right. Needs to be part of your centralized it organization. And then, you know, your de you know, your decentralized part, you know, the business leaders have to have a deeper appreciation across the enterprise., but they also have to have a deeper appreciation of their technology ecosystem as it stands today, and why it is what it is, and not just be, not just blame it or whatever for not, not delivering. 


Joe Gottlieb: (45:28)

Well, I think that’s well said Wayne, and a good place to stop. Always a pleasure chatting with you. So appreciate you joining me today. Thanks also to our guests, for joining us. And we wanna wish you all a great day and we’ll look forward to hosting you again on the next episode of transformed.


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About The Host


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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