I had an uneventful flight into Orlando, despite waking up before 4am. I got my hotel shuttle, was able to check into my room early, and took a nap. I then got to the convention center around 1:30pm, got my registration badge, and hung out waiting to see anyone I might know. Sure enough, I found some people and we grabbed a quick lunch at the buffet at the Rosen Center hotel.
My first real event was the CIO Constituent Group meeting. Luckily, they let non-CIOs like me participate as well. What Theresa Rowe, the CG leader (and co-winner of the EDUCAUSE Community Leadership Reward) does is put table signs on each table, with topics for the table to discuss, and the idea is to move from table to table every 10 minutes and take on a different topic. We ended up not doing that, and just shifting from topic to topic at the table we were at. We were discussing IT organizational partnerships for a while, then budgets, then a discussion about the state of higher ed. I participate because it’s usually a great set of people in the room and lively discussion.
As happens at these conferences, I was looking for people I know, which I inevitably find. I ended up going out to dinner with a few friends, meeting up with people at Senor Frog’s, a silly tourist restaurant, but the conversation was good. I then went back to my hotel and fell asleep soundly at 9pm.
Which was good because I basically woke up at 4am. I tried to get back to sleep but was mostly unsuccessful. I took the opportunity to get up and go for a run, which was nice but extremely humid. Showered and made my way to the convention center–I walked and the heat and humidity was again pretty awful. Missed the first few minutes of the opening keynote by Clayton Christensen, which was about disruption and how it will affect higher education. I like the concept of “disruption” a whole lot, actually. Sometimes the best way to bring about organizational change is with a bold new initiative. Two of the examples he mentioned were Digital Equipment Corporation and Dell; the latter a case of an industry holding on to the minicomputer model for too long, and the latter a commodity PC company who outsourced more and more of their product cycle to Asustek, who now produces their own computers and sells them more cheaply. I thought of us as higher ed institutions outsourcing various things we don’t think are our “core competencies”. If we do enough of that and all we’re left with is a brand, that brand can be superseded easily. But if we don’t change, our dinosaur business practices will also leave us in the dust from innovators who either provide a new product or the old product more cheaply.
I then went to “Funding Technology: Replacing a Broken Model“. This presentation wasn’t what I hoped it would be but they did make a clear case for instead of saying something like “IT is 7% of our budget” to shift the discussion to “The 7% of the budget we spend on IT enhances and supports the other 93% of our budget.”
At 1:30 I took a special opportunity presented to Frye/Learning Change alumni and CIOs to participate in a panel to talk about the most important characteristics of the next EDUCAUSE President and CEO. We sat in two groups and went through a list of characteristics the search committee created, and chose our top three most important areas of expertise, and then took one of those and expanded on it to discuss examples of things that would demonstrate the characteristic. It was an interesting activity, and I was with a group of very interesting people who it was great to meet or get to know a little better.
At 2:30 I split my time between the Small Colleges constituent group and the “Why CIO is the Best Job on Campus” presentation. I went to the latter because I’ve found the speakers in the group to be very funny, and interesting, and they are more than willing to share hard-won knowledge about the profession and their work. It’s always great to hear people talk about what they like about their job and to encourage people to work up the ladder to being a CIO.
Then I went to “Building Institutional Partnerships: Reaching Across the Quad“. This was another panel, with two of the same panelists from the CIO panel. It was very good, talking about how to manage and reach out. I particularly liked the suggestion about ending partnerships when the other person loses interest. You don’t just let it languish, you talk to the person and either reenergize and reprioritize the project, or you close it down for possible reactivation later. This makes sure you’re using the organization’s time correctly.
After that was the conference party. I took some time during that to meet with one of my semi-official mentors and catch them up on where I’m at and seek advice. I actually did that with a few people this conference, and everyone was so helpful. I hope to be able to provide advice to more people someday.
After the conference party I caught up with some of the Twitter #edu14 crowd and crashed a few vendor parties. It was actually some great networking and discussions–riffing on themes of disruption, IT support, delivery models, and the use of social media. A slightly later night for me but still in bed at a reasonable hour.