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Professional Opinion

5 factors for successful technological innovation

Critical success factors for technological innovation: an IT leader’s perspective.
University Business, May 2015
T. Wayne Dennison is vice president of information technology and chief information officer at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind.
T. Wayne Dennison is vice president of information technology and chief information officer at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind.

The incoming classes at most schools want ubiquitous technology, and expect it to be available when someone uses their cell phone, tablet, laptop or other device.

IT leaders are charged with fulfilling the campus community’s needs and must do so within budgetary constraints, while continuously scanning the technological environment to make certain that advances are being properly leveraged at a sustainable rate.

IT leaders face a number of concerns when addressing technological innovation. These include:

Leadership support. Support for technological innovation at the executive and administrator level helps foster a campus culture where innovation is encouraged, allows for some level of risk, and strengthens the overall potential for success. A willingness of an organization to allow some amount of trial and error is needed because not all innovative efforts lead to success.

Having upper-level support gives IT leaders the freedom to take risks when pursuing cutting-edge solutions for their campus and gives IT personnel the latitude to experiment.

The campus benefits from these endeavors through an increased potential to find viable creative solutions.

Stakeholder involvement. Involvement of faculty, staff and students helps to map technological innovation efforts, which is crucial to the direction of technology on college campuses. A fundamental element of stakeholder involvement is communication; therefore, IT leaders are always searching for effective ways to communicate their ideas.

Ultimately, the goal of the communication is to solicit the input of faculty, staff and students regarding technological initiatives and to garner their support.

Training. To sustain ongoing use and stimulate future expansion of technologies, training is paramount. However, over time training tends to become diluted by the daily activities of the campus community and is further eroded by the turnover of knowledgeable faculty and staff.

The knowledge base that has gradually developed over time can be depleted. On the other hand, new training opportunities may be realized through the infusion of new personnel and the new perspectives they bring with them.

Resources and financial support. It is important for IT leaders to budget for technological innovation; otherwise, you can easily get caught drifting in a rapidly moving current with little control of your destination. IT leaders cannot take too many chances in terms of innovation because that can be costly and have an adverse effect on their budgets.

However, playing it too safe can put IT leaders behind the curve and cause them to fall short of meeting technological expectations.

Support from campus community. Skill level of faculty, staff and students helps determine the success or failure of a technological innovation because it impacts the adoption and use of the technology. Users’ ability and acceptance of the technology are integral to adopting the process.

But if the technology is too complex or has little support from the campus community, a lack of adoption may impede the probability of success. Regardless of how beneficial a technological innovation can be to an institution, the benefits of that technology cannot be realized without the commitment of the campus community.

Rapid changes in technology require higher education institutions to stay current to address the needs of an evolving audience. Increasing expectations may be attributed to the technologically savvy environment in which we live as well as to the advances in technology that are occurring on a continual basis.

To help meet the challenges of this changing environment, IT leaders must continually seek new ways to be innovative, wisely invest their scarce resources, and fully leverage new technologies to realize their maximum value.

T. Wayne Dennison is vice president of information technology and chief information officer at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind.

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