What is a Chief Information Officer? The Chief Information
Officer, or CIO, is the position to which I have been appointed at
Butler University. Because I am Butler's first CIO, I want to share
with you how I conceive of the CIO role in a university.
At Butler, the CIO leads the Information Technology (IT)
area and, in cooperation with others, oversees the creation and
implementation of the university's information technology strategy
and policies. Our strategy and policies must ensure that we use
technology effectively to meet the university's various objectives.
But how do I, as CIO, plan to accomplish that? And how do I ensure
CIO stands for "Chief Information Officer" and not "Career Is
to build bridges. Bridges can change the world we live in by
allowing people to do things that before were impossible. Bridges
speed the flow of traffic, cause people to take different routes,
and link diverse groups. Bridges eliminate real barriers of
geography and influence people's behavior.
For example, the 5-mile Mackinac Bridge, one of the longest
suspension bridges in the world, connects the lower and upper
Michigan peninsulas. The Mackinac Bridge changed the area forever,
eliminating such nightmares as 23-mile lines of cars awaiting ferry
passage between the two sections of the state.
Just as a bridge spans rivers and arches over impassable gorges,
today's technologies can span the barriers of time and geography.
This can only work, however, if we can also bridge the other
barriers that divide us such as knowledge and special
We need to build bridges at Butler. We need bridges between the
various areas within Information Technology (IT) staff;
between the IT areas and faculty, students and staff on campus; and
between the faculty and the administration. Bridges must also be
built between the staff and systems specialists within the various
university departments, so that we can streamline activities
between these units.
We must stay abreast of what is happening outside our own
environment, so we must develop additional bridges between the
university and others in and outside higher education.
We need to build, through training and other opportunities,
bridges between the staff and faculty who are uncomfortable with
basic PC technology and ever-changing new technology. And we need
to build a bridge of understanding between reality and the
unrealistic expectations which some have of technology.
I must help us find the right balance between the technology
interests of the various Butler groups and the funds available to
the University for all of its pursuits.
Bridges, both literal and figurative ones, can help shape Butler
and its use of technology. However, a bridge alone is of no value.
It must have roads or pathways that take people where they want to
go. People ultimately make the world a bit different by using
bridges. At Butler, it is the faculty, staff, and students working
in conjunction with the people in Information Technology who
will deliver on the promise of information technology, not the CIO
or the technology itself.
As CIO, how do I help build these bridges? Well, if it were the
kind of bridge that spans rivers or highways, one would call the
best architects, engineers and city planners. They would
collaborate to develop the bridge best suited to the specific site
and the population's need. Then the planners would work to sway
public opinion to obtain the funding needed to build the
That is exactly how the information technology "bridges" at
Butler will be built: by calling together the best staff and
"engineers" in IT and in the various colleges and departments: we
have considerable talent at Butler. Together, we will address the
issues at hand and work to gain support for our ideas. Some of the
bridges I help create will be formal new processes, but many of the
most useful "bridges" may well be the informal contacts between
As CIO, I must influence technology decisions by linking
specific departmental objectives with university-wide goals. For
example, we must select from the myriad of technology options those
that are best for our institution. We can't create every "bridge"
imaginable, and the "bridges" we do build will at times require
Butler's constituents all to travel on a new route. I must provide
leadership by making timely and sometimes unpopular decisions about
where we do or do not choose to deploy our resources. I must also
work with the Cabinet on what is realistic and get the IT staff to
move in the direction that the university's needs dictate.
Constructing real bridges is a laborious, complex and often
dangerous process. The Mackinac Bridge, which opened in 1957, took
four years to build after having been debated for decades. Five
workers died while constructing the bridge. Building technology
"bridges" within Butler will also involve risks and take time,
patience, and fortitude.
But once a good bridge is in place, it continues to serve its
constituents long after the original builders are gone. And, over
time, many bridges become works of art in their own right.
While the exact shape, size, and location of information
technology "bridges" to be built at Butler is undefined at this
point, now is the time to get them on the drafting board for
discussion and action.
S. Kincaid, 8/6/2001