Last month I got a tour of the offices of a campus computing unit.
While walking around the computing offices, and meeting some of the professional technology staff, some questions kept nagging at the back of my brain.
- Do I understand what I am seeing?
- Do I understand what someone who works on the database, data warehouse, or business intelligence team does all day long?
- Do I know enough about the work of the infrastructure or applications teams to ask half-way intelligent questions, to understand the pressures and constraints that they live under, to see the world through their eyes?
- Does a learning guy like me, someone who used to be a professor and still feels comfortable debating theory, share a common language and understanding with the professionals that design, run, maintain, and support the critical information and technology infrastructure on a modern American campus?
- How can someone like me who has worked for 15 years in academic technology not truly understand what he is seeing, and is my understanding getting worse with each passing year?
- Is the world of campus technology too complex, too pressured, and dynamic to really wrap your head around without working full-time in a campus technology unit?
My strong sense, from talking to IT directors across many campuses and sectors (private and public schools) is that the demands on campus IT staffs are growing at a much faster rate than the funding for campus technology.
That CIOs and CTOs and Directors are seeing an explosion in the demand for technology services at the same time when the tolerance for any interruption in technology services has all but disappeared.
That the pressure to provide ever higher level of services while managing under tight budgets and a competitive hiring and retention environment is giving everyone in academic IT leadership lots of stress.
How can those of us that did not come up as developers, system admins, or database administrators understand the campus IT environment?
What are the opportunities available to us to understand the daily, lived work experience of those professionals that make our campus IT system run?
How do we talk about what we might not really understand?