CIO Leads Transformation at Denison University

October 14, 2016
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Peter High


Excerpt from the Article:

In her role as CIO of Denison University, Dena Speranza leads a team technologists in support of all campus technology, infrastructure and services. She provides overall vision and leadership for the development and implementation of offerings that support the college mission and strategic goals. Her team manages college-wide information systems and services to provide effective educational technology, administrative systems, and student computing. The team works to build partnerships with colleagues across campus, at peer institutions, and with key vendors to facilitate the liberal arts experience at Denison.

The Technical Services team supports a campus infrastructure consisting of more than 100 virtual and physical servers, more than 1,000 access points, 40TB of storage, and over 300 switches.

Peter High: What are your strategic priorities for the foreseeable future?

Dena Speranza: Earlier this year, the university launched core strategic priorities that are focused on deepening student learning, continuing our strong recruiting of a diverse student body, and positioning our graduates to successfully transition into the professions. These institutional priorities inform the planning and decisions we need to make in our infrastructure and the long-term roadmap for information technology services. I am working with my team, colleagues across campus, and our advisory committees to develop an IT Strategic Plan, which supports the university’s strategic priorities.

This is a transitional time for higher education, as people question the value of a degree and traditional delivery models. In this challenging environment, Denison University is recognized nationally as a healthy and forward-thinking liberal arts college. The faculty and administration are thoughtfully addressing the needs of today’s incoming students and are creating new programs and interdisciplinary offerings that deliver a world-class education with strong mentorship and vigorous career support to our thriving students.

Our strategic priorities in Information Technology Services are being updated in support of recently released institutional strategic priorities. We are assessing the need to become more agile in our delivery models and are developing an infrastructure that is scalable and secure. As a core service provider for the university, our priorities are focused on improving student and employee engagement through an institutional approach that strategically leverages technology. We are expanding transparency into technology decisions, improving communication, increasing collaboration between teams, and identifying needs across multiple constituencies.

Change management is often a challenge for IT organizations, and the continued rapid pace of technology advances makes it even more critical to have open and effective lines of communication between IT and every constituency we support. We are committed to building a culture of trust, information transparency and shared decision-making with a delivery model of excellent customer service.

Strategic initiatives in the foreseeable future are focused on improving service experiences for our primary constituencies including prospective students, current students and their families, employees, alumni, and friends of the college. We look to improve self-service models for workflows and more mobile-friendly experiences. We are developing skill sets around integrating systems and identity access management.

We are implementing tools for organizational effectiveness, and we are focusing on improving administrative business processes, along with increasing access to tools for reporting and data analytics to support decision-making and analysis. We also will continue and expand focus on compliance with regulatory requirements, accessibility, and security. More effort will be devoted to security awareness and digital literacy for both our staff and our students to promote safe practices, reduce risks and maintain compliance.

We have achieved efficiencies by leveraging virtualization and cloud-based technologies over the past few years and will continue to monitor advances in secure and scalable XaaS (Anything as a Service) models to improve our infrastructure and to become more agile to meet growing needs.

Five year strategic technology plans are no longer effective with today’s pace of change and planning processes must evolve into a more rapid update cycle. IT organizations must find ways to scale to needs and stay adaptable while maintaining effectiveness and efficiency. This environment also places stress on existing teams to continually develop skills and to find ways to sunset legacy systems and processes that are draining resources.

Our strategic priorities must also include building risk-tolerance within the organization for innovative solutions that are exploratory and potentially transformational to the liberal arts experience. We also must maintain core services, control costs, effectively prioritize ITS resources, develop talent and plan for succession within the IT organization.

Peter High: Has it been difficult to attract IT talent to Granville, Ohio?

To view the full article, please visit CIO Insight

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