Archive | Technology

The Changing Face of Higher Education Technology

Across the nation, higher education technology departments are working at a feverish pace to ready themselves for the onslaught of returning students and the deluge of connected devices they wield. Five years ago most of the previous sentence wouldn’t have made sense. I remember sitting in college classes as a senior, in 2009 looking around the room and seeing a large percentage of students were using laptops to take notes and research facts in the classroom, with a tiny percentage also owning some other connected device (smartphone, PDA, etc.). I also remember sitting in the same classroom four years earlier and the percentage of students using computers in class was significantly lower. Now, four years removed from my senior year of college, the number of connected devices on campuses nationwide is staggeringly high. A white paper, written in 2012 by CDW-G, estimates the ratio of connected devices to students is as high as 3.5:1. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to imagine the ratio is drastically higher today.  I have at least 6 connected devices in my office at any given time and students living on campus are likely to have more devices than that given the proliferation of smart TVs, gaming consoles and media players over the last two years.

University IT departments are preparing for this blitzkrieg of bandwidth-sucking devices by increasing internet connections and placing stricter security measures on campus networks. Millions of words have been written on the subject of BYOD in the classroom and in the enterprise; but it’s important to also remember the effects of BYOD on network utilization. Network Admins everywhere are placing enhanced security devices in the network to compensate for the vulnerability brought by a surge of connected devices with suspect, if not sub-par, security measures.

Any device connected to the network represents a potential vulnerability to malware and viruses; we all know this. Connected devices such as gaming consoles, apple TV’s, smartphones, tablets, iPods and other media players represent increased vulnerability to networks. More and more equipment, configurations processes and procedures are necessary to protect networks, keep users connected and manage bandwidth. The higher education technology landscape, much like any enterprise technology landscape, has drastically shifted in the past five years. It will be interesting to come back to this post in five years, and see how archaic this really is. The good and the bad of working in technology is things never stay the same. I look forward to watching the landscape grow even further, and the new challenges it presents.

 

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Technology Leadership Series: Building Successful Teams

One of the best moves a CIO, CTO or technology manager of any level can make is to build a strong, competent and complete team.  While this idea seems to be common sense and commonplace it’s more integral to the success of the organization than it seems. There are endless books, blogs and seminars on the topic of team-building strategies, compiling successful, high-performing teams isn’t difficult.

 Hire people who are smarter than you. As a leader, personal insecurity shouldn’t be part of any decision making process, ever. Not being concerned with individual perceptions is important. Any true leader knows it is the team, not the leader who is the catalyst for success. Surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you, who make decisions differently than you and whom process information differently than you will allow more creativity into the decision making and brainstorming process.

Insist on all team members being an excellent cultural fit. Every company, intentionally or not, has a company culture. Making hiring decision based on company culture is imperative. With rare exceptions, every employee contributes to team morale and culture. Each employee being highly skilled and competent isn’t enough. Each team member must contribute positively to the success of the enterprise as well as the company culture.

Clearly define expectations and roles. Few things contribute to high turnover, low morale and under performing teams than unclear expectations. It’s nearly impossible for employees to stay motivated while working towards a moving target of poorly communicated expectations. It’s simple to increase team productivity; efficiency and morale by ensuring team members are clearly understanding all expectations. Making smart hires and developing employees are important but nothing will keep employees engaged longer and deeper than clearly defined goals and expectations.

No one person is capable of doing everything, no matter how much we try. Leaders aren’t leaders unless they have followers, it’s important to ensure teams of followers are assembled in the best way possible. Hiring competent, intelligent and diversely talented people who are committed to the values, goals and culture of the organization; and then clearly and plainly setting reasonable expectations are the ingredients to strong, engaged, effective and successful teams.

Each Friday, for the next several months, a new post will be released with another key characteristic of what it takes to be successful in technology leadership. These posts are in no particular order; I’d love for you to provide feedback and let me know if you think I’m missing something, or if you’d like to see a particular trait addressed please feel free to email me, or leave a comment. I’m hoping this will be a useful dialogue about what is necessary to become a successful technology leader.

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Technology Leadership Series: Emotional Intelligence

The individualized vision of the “Perfect Leader” is highly subjective and its definition can be surprisingly diverse from person to person. While there are many attributes and actions that are commonly associated with high performing leadership, one of the most understated in my opinion is emotional intelligence.

You may have run across this person before. They seem to be calm regardless of the circumstances, they never lose their temper, and they always make a deliberate effort to listen to the views and opinions of their team. These qualities reflect an individual who has been able to leverage emotional intelligence to their benefit. More importantly, this method of leadership has perhaps had a more beneficial impact on his or her direct reports than anything else.

So what exactly is emotional intelligence? It is loosely defined as the ability to manage and understand not only your own emotions but the emotional state of those in your presence. Someone with a highly acute sense of emotional intelligence will be able to quickly analyze their emotional state to understand what they are feeling, what it means for the given situation, and how their emotional state may affect others. When a leader loses their temper, they are not only creating an unnecessarily tense environment, but they are communicating that they have lost control of the situation. Gifted leaders never allow this to occur. They recognize the warning signs and channel this energy into more deliberate, actionable leadership.

It’s my opinion that emotional intelligence is an absolute for true leadership success. Leaders need to set the example for their teams and have the ability to operate and execute in the most stressful situations. The absence of self-control in situations such as these can lead to reactionary actions and a “shoot from the hip” type approach. Neither of these are recommended during periods of high stress and pressure. While some leaders have developed a strategy to manage and maintain their emotional state, it may take time for those who are new to leadership to hone their self-awareness. Before you can move to understand the state of your teams on an individual basis, you must have an acute sense of self.

In conclusion, working with diverse teams and personalities will invariably lead to challenging interpersonal situations. Strong leaders will be able to quickly recognize these instances and be able to apply their emotional intelligence to mitigate the situation. To get started, leaders should focus on honing their skills as it relates to empathy, self-awareness, self-regulation and of course, social skills as they relate to communication and conflict resolution.

Each Friday, for the next several months, a new post will be released with another key characteristic of what it takes to be successful in technology leadership. These posts are in no particular order; I’d love for you to provide feedback and let me know if you think I’m missing something, or if you’d like to see a particular trait addressed please feel free to email me, or leave a comment. I’m hoping this will be a useful dialogue about what is necessary to become a successful technology leader.

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Technology Leadership Series: Managing Expectations

As we’ve already discussed, one of the most important characteristics and skills a CIO, CTO or Technology Manager can have excellent communication skills. One of the ways great communication skills are manifested is in managing expectations, internally and externally.

A good CIO will be able to do internal marketing of their department’s ability to help a company reach their goals and objectives. A great CIO, however, sells the department without overselling it. There’s a subtle difference, but a great CIO must understand the limits of his or her team and set realistic timelines for project completion. The difference between a good CIO and a great CIO is the ability to understand limits and not to overcommit resources.

A great technology leader understands the best way to avoid overselling their department is to build a team capable of thinking fast on their feet, and able to develop solutions and strategies to help the organization accomplish its objectives. A great CIO must have the ability to inspire his or her team to provide a viable solution to every problem. On my team we don’t say no to any request, we offer at least one solution for every request allowing the customer to make an educated decision as to whether or not they would like to pursue it further. By constantly challenging team members with high expectations they know and understand what is expected of them, allowing them to focus on meeting deadlines and project requirements.

Each Friday, for the next several months, a new post will be released with another key characteristic of what it takes to be successful in technology leadership. These posts are in no particular order; I’d love for you to provide feedback and let me know if you think I’m missing something, or if you’d like to see a particular trait addressed please feel free to email me, or leave a comment. I’m hoping this will be a useful dialogue about what is necessary to become a successful technology leader.

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Technology Leadership Series: Management Skills

Technology Leaders, CIO’s and CTO’s must be more than good manager  to be successful. However, it’s difficult to have success in an organizational leadership role without having strong management skills.  Management skills extend beyond some of the typical roles of a manager one might think: scheduling employees, hiring applicants, ensuring adequate coverage and meeting goals. Strong management skills include a dedication to not only improving their individual performance, but also the performance of their team. Successful leaders develop the talent they manage, preparing them for future advanced roles within the company. Successful leaders motivate their team to accomplish more than expected, and exemplify excellence as the standard.

In college I worked in retail and food service, arguably two of the worst managed industries. I’ve had terrible managers that used their authority to manipulate and coerce employees; but, I’ve also had several incredible managers who motivated me to be a better employee and person. I can recall one day, while working in a restaurant, I was vacuuming carpet and I saw the store’s General Manager walk out from the restroom with a cleaning cart. Jokingly I asked what he was doing, and didn’t he have someone to do that for him, since after all he was the manager. He smiled and explained the cleanliness of a bathroom can have a impact on a guest returning to the restaurant. Even cleaning a bathroom can increase the restaurant’s success; his job as a manager was to increase the restaurant’s success even if it meant scrubbing toilets.

A successful CIO must be proficient in directing and supervising people, projects, resources, budgets, vendors and other business partners is essential. In addition, great management skills entail team building, motivation, coaching and mentoring. Great managers ensure priorities are set appropriately and projects are completed on time and budget. . People with great management skills take advantage of delegation to ensure all work gets done and to engage team members in the success of the organization.  Organizations require excellent managers to be successful; the level of management skills in an organization’s leadership can be a good barometer of the organization’s health.

Each Friday, for the next several months, a new post will be released with another key characteristic of what it takes to be successful in technology leadership. These posts are in no particular order; I’d love for you to provide feedback and let me know if you think I’m missing something, or if you’d like to see a particular trait addressed please feel free to contact me, or leave a comment. I’m hoping this will be a useful dialogue about what is necessary to become a successful technology leader.

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Technology Leadership Series: Communication

The ability to intelligently and articulately talk about a strategy or a feeling in a clear and appropriate manner is an absolute must of any leader, especially a technology manager. Good communication is the foundation for success in any organization. Communication affects everything from task lists to the culture of the team. Communication prompts motivation by providing information to employees regarding the task they are to perform, or how to improve their performance. Communication is the source of information to all team members; allowing them to participate in decision-making process as it helps identify and assess alternative course of actions, if necessary. Communication plays an imperative role in altering individual’s attitudes. An individual who has been properly communicated with should have a better attitude than an individual who has not been properly communicated with.

Communication is more than just disseminating information. Great communication skills require great listening skills; to be a strong communicator one must also seek and accept feedback from peers, subordinates and customers. One of the most important things a technology leader can do is successfully alter the course of direction based on feedback. There is nothing worse than forcing an idea through against all common sense and feedback.
More than just written word, one-to-one verbal communication and public speaking. Much of what is discussed over the next few months, in this series, will have to do with healthy communication; which is why it was chosen first. Communication skills properly frame all other parts of an organization: communication the vision and direction the organization is to take, informing employees their role in advancing the company, managing expectations and time frames and so much more.
Each Friday, for the next several months, a new post will be released with another key characteristic of what it takes to be successful in technology leadership. These posts are in no particular order; I’d love for you to provide feedback and let me know if you think I’m missing something, or if you’d like to see a particular trait addressed please feel free to email me, or leave a comment. I’m hoping this will be a useful dialogue about what is necessary to become a successful technology leader.

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Technology Leadership Series: Introduction

Today I’m beginning a multiple part series on what makes a successful CIO. I’m hoping to explore, in dpeth, the individual personality factors and job responsibilities required to succeed in technology leadership. Whether you find yourself in the role of CIO or CTO, or not, these traits can also be applied to successful leadership within your organization and especially on your team.

At no point in history have organizations so greatly relied on technology to connect them, make themselves more efficient, manage information systems and warehouse data like they do now. With this in mind, the role of the CIO is arguably more important now, than it has ever been. These decisions of a CIO will impact just about every department within an organization. CIO’s have to demonstrate business acumen, leadership and teambuilding skills; traits that extend beyond a keen understanding of technical systems and operations.

Each Friday, for the next several months, a new post will be released with another key characteristic of what it takes to be successful in technology leadership. These posts are in no particular order; I’d love for you to provide feedback and let me know if you think I’m missing something, or if you’d like to see a particular trait addressed please feel free to contact me, or leave a comment. I’m hoping this will be a useful dialogue about what is necessary to become a successful technology leader.

 

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My InfoComm Disappointments

Last week, I wrote about the best things I saw at InfoComm 2013. Today, the subject are a few duds, for me at least. These products aren’t necessarily poor products, but products that either are not fully ready for market, or not quite ready for any application of mine. It’s a short list, but it represents multiple manufacturers and vendors.

1. Enterprise level wireless display streaming

There are more than a few companies, AV or otherwise, offering solutions for “enterprise level” wireless desktop display. Some of the true AV heavyweights all the way to 802.11 wireless companies are offering software and hardware designed to allow users to wirelessly display their device (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone etc) to projectors and flat panel displays. Obviously this represents a huge need in the AV market, specifically for me in Higher Education. Wireless display would be a huge boost for my conference rooms and boardrooms, since often these rooms don’t have any technology built into the existing tables. Unfortunately, the downside is these devices aren’t capable of handling high frame rate. Static content looks great, simple PowerPoint, SpreadSheets, word documents are exceptional. However, animation in powerpoint, youtube videos etc are all lacking at this time.

Exception: Barco Clickshare– Barco’s solution is great, it works well, handles higher frame rate than competitors; the only downside is for me it’s cost prohibited at an advertised price of $4900.00 per location.

2. Lampless Projectors

Managing technology in 100+ rooms across three campuses isn’t incredibly easy. Especially when dealing with projectors that are unmonitored, meaning they aren’t capable of reporting status or information back. I was really excited to see the evolution of lampless projection, this year, in hopes I could ditch my supply of extra lamps in favor of quality laser projectors. However, while there were more manufacturers and options this year for lampless projection, I was still incredibly underwhelmed. Great strides are being made in projectors to accommodate more ANSI lumen capabilities in a small chassis, however, the lampless projectors all seemed dim dull and lacking color profiles necessary to be useful in my applications. I’m really hoping to be able to migrate to lampless projectors one day, I’m just waiting for them to have more robust color, higher brightness and contrast and have crisper images.

What did you think? Were there any products or ideas that stood out at this year’s InfoComm that might not be “completely ready?”

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My Take: InfoComm’s Big Winners

InfoComm this year was a blur. Last year I did UBTech and InfoComm and felt like I had way too much free time. This year, to correct this, I decided to load up on meetings and stay as busy as possible to make the most of the InfoComm experience. I wrote a little, last week  about my time in the CTS prep class and subsequent test; and the inherent value of continuing education. I feel the best approach to the InfoComm experience is to balance a little better between the Show Floor Only mentality, and the Load Up on Meetings stance. This year’s InfoComm was the largest show on the east coast, and it was massive. Here are my top winners from this years’ show.

  1. 4K
    We all remember the incredible consumer demand centered around the introduction of 3d displays and projectors a few years back; this year’s big staple for all manufacturers was 4k. Unlike 3d, I think 4K/8K will enjoy far more stable demand in both the consumer and professional AV markets, especially once content beyond digital signage and computer generated signals become more prevalent. The caveat is, if this content doesn’t become readily available, 4k/8k will wind up serving a very niche market. In my opinion, the two winners for 4K at this years’ show was LG’s 84″ 4K monitor, and Christie’s 4k 60hz projector. I would love to own both these pieces, but have to wait until the cost comes down.
  2. MS Lync Integration
    Shortly before last year’s show in Las Vegas we began implementing Microsoft Lync; and I went to InfoComm looking for all the AV I could possibly integrate with Lync to enable it to be a full UCS for our campus. I was incredibly disappointed, and almost frustrated to find out there were no real AV appliances ready to integrate with Lync. Around that time, Vaddio released the Easy USB line of professional USB peripherals for computer based web conferencing: Webex, Skype, Google +, MS Lync etc. This product line represented a solution to a few of our problems at an affordable price point. This year, however, I was blown out of the water by Vaddio’s Huddle Station and Group Station integrated approach to computer based Web Meetings. I look forward to implementing this product line to address a number of needs we have in conference room video conferencing capabilities.Additionally, Crestron was a big winner in this space. They debuted the Crestron RL system designed to integrate Lync for professional Video conferencing. With solutions for single and multiple displays, and system control and automation, Crestron as made incredible strides to reaching the those using Lync. I’m really interested in seeing this product in action in a live demo.
  3. Cloud Conferencing
    Two years ago I was hopping on an elevator in my hotel to head to my room after a long day at the show; I noticed the group standing next to me all had red badge holders (exhibitors) and saw them eyeing my green badge holder (education customer) and my heart sank. I really didn’t know if I could handle another sales pitch, especially on an elevator with no escape or distraction. As it turned out these fine people were from a startup called Blue Jeans Networks, allowing users of different VTC systems to meet seamlessly in the cloud. Cloud Interoperability Providers represent a tremendous benefit for organizations with different methods of VTC to be able to connect with each other. This year there were several other key companies in this market. I look forward to seeing how cloud interoperability grows and becomes more affordable.

There were lots of other great things that I would love to buy and use, but aren’t great fits for my particular application requirements: Projection/Display mapping technologies, waterproof speakers, speakers that looked more like art than actual speakers and a host of fantastic other products. Sometimes I wish I could win some sort of AV lottery and just have all this great technology.

What were the three best things you saw at InfoComm?

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