People First Technology

By William Ingram, CIO, Belmont University

William Ingram, CIO, Belmont University

When I arrived on Belmont’s campus almost three years ago, I had many ideas about implementing cutting edge technologies that would benefit the campus community. For instance, wouldn’t it be ideal if students could make any campus payment using Apple Pay or stream cable TV to their mobile devices anywhere on campus. While these are both great ideas and providing those to our campus community would definitely be a win, I can now look back and understand that focusing on products before people would have been a mistake.

After taking some time to meet with faculty, staff, students and the 50+ members of our Library and Information Technology Services (LITS) team, I could see that the untapped potential was in our people and not some new technology. Based on this, I began working with my direct supervisor, Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness Dr. Paula Gill, to develop a plan that would tap the potential of the LITS team to create a new organization that could consistently deliver the services our campus community needed. The result of our efforts was the development of a strategic LITS Technology Plan that identified four areas where a focus on people and processes would allow us to provide new services that the university needed.

While this process was stressful at times, there were many benefits. The main benefit of the process was realizing that most of the knowledge, skills and abilities we needed to be successful existed in the people we already had. It was just a matter of putting them in the right places and providing them necessary support. This process also allowed us to identify people with the skills needed for two new departments, Information Security and Instructional Technology. These new departments would focus on people in a different way by allowing us to provide new services to students, faculty and staff.

With all of the new tools and services offered by security vendors, information security can quickly become a place where the focus shifts from people to products. However, the technology plan provided the framework for us to approach information security in a way that maintained a continued focus on people while ensuring the confidentiality, integrity and availability of Belmont’s data. Often, team members can see the information security director as the person who frequently says ‘NO.’ As a result, users adapt by either not involving information security in decisions or involving them too late in the process. To avoid this, a key part of our new information security director’s job is to build relationships and help users find innovative ways to meet security requirements. As a direct result of our focus on people during our reorganization work, we were able to identify a director level employee with the experience, organizational knowledge and core skill set to fill this position.

Instructional technology was another focus area where people were crucial. Our goal was to provide the training and support that our faculty need to implement sound pedagogical practices and useful technological tools into their courses. Since this was a new department with many new expectations, we needed to find a person who could become a trusted partner for our faculty. We found someone who had the skills, personality and vision that we were looking for after an extensive search. His approach to our faculty has allowed us to build an essential bridge between IT and faculty and has produced several key wins for our university.

"The first area we focused on was organization. Our goal was to ensure that the right person was in the right place doing the right job"

The final way we focused on people was providing consistent delivery of technical support for our 1,000+ faculty/staff members. Before, technical support requests involved contacting different departments in IT until finding the person who could effectively resolve your issue. Our goal was to build a one call IT service center that would allow users to call a single number to request information, report an incident or ask for help. Consolidating IT support this way would also provide more efficient service for all faculty/staff.

Our people focused approach in these four key areas lead to some key technology-related wins for the university. These included:

• Launching the first Belmont IT Service Desk

• Implementing a hybrid course academy that provides the pedagogical foundation for faculty to develop more effective online courses

• Launching our first university-wide information security awareness campaign

While I continue to remain excited about many different technologies for the future of our campus community, I know that our focus on people and processes first has laid a solid foundation for future IT success on our campus.

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