Let's Rebrand The IT Department As The Collaboration Department

What would happen if the academic IT Department became the academic Collaboration Department?

July 4, 2012

What would happen if the academic IT Department became the academic Collaboration Department?  

Same people but a different mission.

Would a rebranding from IT to Collaboration mean anything?

Every IT leader that I know is committed to ending the break/fix cycle. Dedicated to spend time on strategic / high-value projects instead of fixing broken systems and constantly putting out fires. This goal is as widely shared as it is difficult to achieve.  

Perhaps we need a re-set. A re-start around a different paradigm. A clean slate.  

Technology today is all about facilitating collaboration. Collaboration within and across our institutions. Collaborations around data and ideas. Collaboration on multiple screens on multiple (and mobile devices). Robust collaboration requires communication, flexibility, resiliency, and choice. A collaborative organization provides platforms and tools that allow individuals and groups to connect, build relationships, and form networks. A system built for collaboration pushes people to the front and technology to the rear.

What would be the advantages of re-branding our IT Departments as Collaboration Departments?

Aligning to How Academic Work Now Done: It is useful to ask ourselves if the design of our IT Departments still matches how academic (and knowledge) work has changed. The era of the big enterprise system (from ERP to SIS to LMS) has certainly not ended, but the value of the enterprise system to the end user (students/faculty/staff/alumni etc.) has become more difficult to defend. How many folks make an end-run around the IT Department to use consumer cloud services such as e-mail, documents, storage, and applications? A Collaboration Department could be agnostic about platforms, as resources could be diverted from providing local enterprise services to that of connecting consumer cloud based platforms.   

Because We Only Invest in What We Measure: What do we measure now in IT? Uptime? Service responses? Installed systems? Stored data? New Projects?  All of these elements are important, but they are also all inputs. A Collaboration Department would measure the degree of collaboration within campus and across institutions. How many connections are facilitated? How deep are those connections? To what degree do students, faculty, staff, prospective students and alumni feel that they have the tools, platform and support to find the people and data that they need, and collaborate around these elements? Are we understanding and measuring how people want to connect and collaborate? What hardware and software they want to use for collaboration? What collaboration metrics would we collect, and how would we analyze and share this information?

Incremental Improvements and Small, Fast Failures: A Collaboration Department would be built around the goal of facilitating and supporting communication, not providing, servicing, or supporting platforms. The Collaboration Department may find that an enterprise platform is necessary, but the bias will be for lightweight and agile tools. Consuming a service is almost always preferable to providing that same service. We should aim for constant incremental improvements in our collaborative tools. Small improvements add up. And if we make a small change that makes things worse we have not lost very much, as we will learn quickly and make corrections as we go.   

Does your campus have a CCO (Chief Collaboration Officer)?


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