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Finding Opportunity: Growth & Vision for Higher Ed CIOs

Technology leaders share vision and insight
University Business, July 2017

CIOs from five institutions spoke candidly at this roundtable discussion about managing campus technology, building a talented IT team and other common challenges during the TeamDynamix Client Summit, held in Chicago from May 15-17. 

The panel also discussed managing the increasing demand for education technology on campus, resource optimization and talent management, communicating the value of IT, and the importance of building a personal network and leveraging peer collaboration to succeed.

Moderated by:

Ian Khan, Futurist, TEDx Speaker, PMP

Param Bedi, CIO, Bucknell University

Rhonda Spells-Fentry, VP, Enterprise Technology/CIO, Prince George’s Community College

Ray V. Lefebvre, VP of IT and CIO, Bridgewater State University

Kenneth Libutti, CIO, Palm Beach State College

Tom Pagano, CIO, Johnson County Community College

Ian Khan: The first question I’d like to ask is around resource optimization: How do you build a high-performance team?

Param Bedi: One of the things I look at whenever we’re filling positions or creating new areas is the institutional priorities. The staff who come are bringing such unique perspectives that kind of challenge how we do things, and that helps us grow. I tell my new staff in the first six months to act as consultants, because you’re coming from the outside—you have no baggage in the organization and you can see things that we can’t.

Ian Khan: What are some specific traits you’re looking for with talent management?

Tom Pagano: 1. You have to know what you have, then you have to supplement that. How are individuals going to fit in with the folks already there? 2. It’s very important to have the raw technical skill set, but actually assess whether it’s practical, whether it’s hands-on. 3. Culture—are they going to fit in? You want to make sure there’s a good fit and good growth potential.

Ian Khan: How do we make sure that what we do within IT is communicated the way we think it should be?

Rhonda Spells-Fentry: The first thing is don’t lead with the technology. Most of our functional users couldn’t care less what technology we deploy as long as the needs are met in the business unit. What is important and necessary for our students, and for faculty and the enterprise? That helps increase the perceived value of the technology on our campuses.

Tom Pagano: When I started this job two years ago, TeamDynamix had been implemented in certain areas of the college, but not fully implemented. There was an undercurrent of fear about their time. I had to sort of pause and take some time to talk with small groups. I explained that if we don’t show that we do certain things, folks just don’t know about it. The trick is we have to tell it in their language. We have to tell the story.

Ian Khan: What are the key building blocks of a stellar PMO office?

Ray V. Lefebvre: If you leave here today with one bit of advice from me, let it be this: If you haven’t established a project management office, please do so. If you’re already doing it, continue to invest in it. As a CIO I sleep better at night knowing that I have a project management team in place and we have a project portfolio.

The secret of building a stellar PMO is to do it slowly. Invest in PMP certification—have the right training and professional development. If you invest in project management, it pays dividends. Also, have passion—be a champion. If no one’s a champion, it’s not going to go anywhere.

Param Bedi: PMO has helped us organizationally to make sure that we’re following the decision process as we move through the different iterations of a project. And it’s made our governance extremely strong. Now we have visibility into everything that we’re working on at different levels, on the academic side and the administrative side—visibility we did not have before we had TeamDynamix in place.

Ian Khan: How do you prevent atrophy within the PMO?

Ray V. Lefebvre: One way is project success celebrations. Invite anybody who worked on any project in IT, both the IT people as well as the users from all different departments. Keep that fire alive. Recognize project management—put it in the forefront. I would almost call it a culture of project management. You have to cultivate cultures. You have to feed it and invest in it and recognize it.

Ian Khan: How do you take a framework such as ITIL and ensure that it’s truly embraced and adopted?

Kenneth Libutti: Being able to capture the demand collegewide through a ticketing system, and then manage the work being done, is very important. Show not just how to handle the demand coming in but also how much work is being put into these ideas, because often we don’t realize how much effort it takes. A big part of what we have to do, not only for service management but project management, is to give estimates about how much time certain things will take to accomplish.

Keep track with a tool like TeamDynamix—keep track of work and time management, or what we call “work management.” We don’t want to know how much time you took for lunch or for a break—we want to know time on task for tickets, and time on task for regular work that you’re doing, and time on task for a project.

Ian Khan: How have you collaborated with other schools to share ideas, and how has this tangibly impacted what you have done on your campus?

Rhonda Spells-Fentry: Definitely networking is critical. I would encourage everyone to get out, establish an organization or a group, and just start meeting and talking. And push that down in the organization—the directors get together, the deans get together, the CIOs, the vice presidents, right to the lowest level of the organization. You meet people, exchange information, see what systems you have in common, reach out and we say we will keep in touch, because we all are dealing with all the same problems.

Kenneth Libutti: Empower people to work together. The best way to collaborate with folks is by allowing them to have a way to get you ideas. There are people at the front line—in the admissions office, in the accounting office—who have some great ideas, and we have to give them the method to get those ideas surfaced and actionable.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, visit