IT Trends | Feature
The New CIO: Joanna Young
5 higher ed chief information officers discuss their changing role on campus.
Campus Technology interviewed five CIOs about the perceptions of their changing role on campus, asking them to give examples of how they delegate, mentor, collaborate and strategize more than they used to. In part 3 of our series, University of New Hampshire CIO Joanna Young talks about the rise of the "generalist" CIO. (Missed parts 1 and 2? See the Table of Contents on the top left of this article.)
Joanna Young, University of New Hampshire
Joanna Young is CIO of the University of New Hampshire. Her information technology career includes a decade in executive roles working for property and casualty insurer Liberty Mutual Group as well as in higher education.
CT: You have blogged that the CIO of today is like the CIO of yesterday plus a lot more; that CIOs are now involved from idea to implementation for the systems on which a business runs. How do you keep your finger on the pulse of your institution to understand those business processes?
Young: Through active listening and going to where the internal or external customer stands. By this I mean you have to be present in the forums and channels where they are present, and that can range from meetings and events to social media. You have to listen a lot and talk a little. Don't be afraid to invite yourself places.
CT: Who is it important for you to have the closest working relationships with?
Young: Collaboration is so important; there isn't one particular person or role. CIOs need to be close to the other leaders in the organization. I tend to have the most interaction internally with business unit leaders, whether revenue-generating or cost centers. Luckily with the ubiquity of communication and collaboration tools, it's easier now to connect.
University of New Hampshire CIO Joanna Young explains the No. 1 issue for today's chief information officer: staff development.
CT: Is there a recent project that exemplifies your "CIO Plus" role?
Young: We have recently completed an online "shopping cart" for UNH so people can order items in an Amazon.com fashion. The CIO in me wanted technology that would enable a fast, flexible, quality customer experience. The chief financial officer in me wanted to streamline and consolidate the process and related financial information.
CT: You came to higher education from Liberty Mutual Group. Has that given you a different perspective from people who have been in higher education their whole careers?
Young: I've been reading lately about the rise of the generalist. What I learned prior to UNH was a lot of valuable technology, finance and leadership skills, and more importantly, how to learn and adapt quickly to different business conditions. Recently UNH added a law school, which is now UNH Law in Concord. The merger & acquisition skills I learned at Liberty Mutual served me very well during that integration.
CT: In terms of their structure and business processes, universities traditionally have been more bureaucratic and slow-moving rather than innovative. What have you done to bring a more innovative spirit to your campus?
Young: I would call myself an organized innovator. I'm pretty relentless about planning the work and working the plan. That might not sound innovative; however in a traditionally slower moving industry or organization, you have to institute a process that identifies and prioritizes new products and services, and be aggressive about managing and tracking the delivery (time to market) of those innovations. Project management was foreign to UNH when I arrived; now it isn't. Again, that's a "generalist" skill that was helpful.
CT: You were named to a list of 20 rising stars in higher education IT in terms of social media. Do you find social media valuable for engaging with other IT execs and thought leaders?
Young: Social media, used correctly, can accelerate a person's contribution to their organization. I learn about advances in technology, cool stuff my peers are working on and news from my primary vendors faster on social media than any other mechanism; and therefore I can share and apply it faster. You can find me at @unhcio or my blog at cio.unh.edu. However, social media doesn't replace other collaboration mechanisms, including face-to-face meetings. Social media supports and augments other interactions.
Coming Next: Bruce Maas, CIO at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, talks about the organizational changes that enable him to focus on a more strategic role.
David Raths is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer focused on information technology. He writes regularly for several IT publications, including Healthcare Informatics and Government Technology.