How college CIOs brace for back-to-school (with video!)

Enterprise IT stands to learn a lot from higher-ed CIOs, who are on the front lines in tackling demands for connectivity, service, security and innovation.

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The summer race against time

All of this activity is forced to occur in an ever-narrowing window of opportunity.

Once upon a time, university campuses emptied out for the summer, giving IT time to do its work in peace. No more. Adult education programs, online learning courses, weekend sessions, summer camps for high school students and younger -- they all contribute to a round-the-clock IT environment that makes it difficult for CIOs to schedule implementations and upgrades.

"There are no downtimes," says Purdue's McCartney. "As the university moves to a more continuous twelve-month operation, opportunities for inadvertent conflicts only grow."

Deborah Corwin Scott - CIO at WPI

Worcester Polytechnic Institute CIO Deborah Corwin Scott says her team races against the clock to install or upgrade campus technology in the summer months.

Deborah Corwin Scott, CIO at WPI, says her team likewise is under significant time pressure in the summer months.

"As soon as we finish commencement, that's our opportunity to get into some of the buildings that have been occupied all year long, such as the dorms, to add new technology and do upgrades and repairs," Scott says. "The classrooms also are idle a little bit right after graduation, and we can upgrade all of our classroom technology as well as get into some of the other academic spaces," she continues. "We only have a short window because then we get into the summer term and the summer programs, so it's quite a tight schedule."

If there's no downtime in the IT schedule, that almost always means there's no summer break for the CIO either. When asked what his summer vacation plans are, AU's Swartz responds incredulously, "Are you kidding me?"

VSU's Haugabrook says, "I got one day vacation and it actually wasn't a full day. I think I worked until lunchtime and then I got the rest of that day," he chuckles. "That was my vacation."

As for Bryant's LoCurto, he says never really disconnects, even when on vacation. "For me, being able to connect is a stress reliever," he says. "If I wasn't connected for a couple of days, I'd be uneasy. A vacation means being able to work, just not in the office."

-- Additional reporting by Tracy Mayor

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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