Dr. Baz Abouelenein is the Chief Information Officer at Kansas City Kansas Community College (KCKCC).  Over the past few years, he has worked with executive leaders, faculty, and stakeholders at KCKCC to ensure a collaborative, transformational environment where technology is used to its full potential. The Huffington Post has recognized Dr. Abouelenein as one of the top 70 social CIOs globally and EdTech magazine has named him as one of “The 13 Most Social Higher Education CIOs on Twitter.”

What new IT demands are you getting from your university?

The demand for Information Technology is as high or higher than it has ever been.  Our users have become much more technically savvy and our computing environments have become more complex.  IT  leaders, particularly CIOs, must understand the new and emerging technologies to support the coming higher education evolution.  They must be able to translate the vision of the institution into well-defined goals and objectives.  When I think about new IT demands at KCKCC, the following topics come to mind:

  • IT funding.  IT professionals are constantly asked to do more with less.  I have witnessed, like many other CIOs in higher education, tight budgets due to troubled financial environments despite the increasing demand for IT services and new technologies.  At KCKCC, we had to adopt a strategy of delayed maintenance and replacement of technologies to stretch available budgets. Although it works financially, it leads to a backlog of work and possibly functionality failures that will soon need to be addressed at a large scale.
  • Governance.  Process improvement and strategic planning are on top of CIOs’ list to provide the most value for academic institutions.  It makes perfect business sense to rely on IT governance committees to participate in the decision making and engaging function unit leaders in best applying IT solutions to function problems.  While I do believe that the input provided by these governance committees is extremely important, the final IT decision should remain in the hands of CIOs.
  • BYOD.  The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and consumerization of IT movements, in general, mark the beginning of a new era for CIOs in higher education.  We, at KCKCC, are keen on riding the wave while mitigating the risk of security breaches and consuming too much bandwidth.  You, obviously, don’t want your users to freely stream Netflix movies or Pandora music on campus network without controls.  It is therefore the responsibility of the CIOs and IT governing committees to develop a policy for deployment and management of these “foreign” devices connecting to campus network.  We are still thinking how to “Control and manage what we don’t own.”
  • Internet Bandwidth.  It is beyond any doubt that BYOD led to new challenges, one of which is Internet bandwidth.  There is a constantly growing need for faster and reliable connectivity campus-wide.  To achieve this goal, higher education IT units must find ways to optimize and expand available bandwidth.  At KCKCC, we are using a solid VLAN design and are in the process of replacing our core switch so we can further use  bandwidth utilization technologies such OpenFlow and packet shaping.

What ways have you found to simplify the way you provide services?

The growth of institutions of higher education is limited only by imagination and IT’s ability to deliver.  Institutions of higher education expect IT units to always demonstrate the “art of the possible” and become an effective enabler to achieve strategic goals.  Recent years have brought about many disruptive technologies to campuses such as: social, mobile, analytics, and cloud (SMAC).  It is then our obligation, as CIOs, to empower users to innovate and gain higher productivity from these technologies.  This means that we must demonstrate flexibility without jeopardizing IT best practices.  I found that the best way to simplify the way we provide service is to engage our user communities and consistently respond to their issues.

What about simplifying the business processes themselves?

I think it is going to be fascinating to see how higher education evolves over the years to come and what that means to business processes.  The role of IT in this evolution has never been more important.  We are currently working on enhancing our Student Information System (SIS) in a way that will optimize the student advising process to support the college’s strategic goal to enhance student enrollment and retention.  We also recently rolled out a fully automated transcript request process for our current students and alumni. 

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