Elective Compliance

I’ve had the privilege of working on both sides of the aisle in higher education over the course of my profession. Most recently, I moved from serving a public institution as CIO to becoming a vendor, providing software and services to other C-Level higher education professionals. This transition provided periodic insights to common challenges at institutions and why they happen. It has also become very clear why companies often want to sell to everyone in an institution except IT.

IT’s role is to fit the technology desired by its constituents into an overall technology structure and vision for the business. When selling to a CFO or a director, all a vendor has to do is discuss what a “tool” can do, and how such a tool will help the user accomplish tasks with less effort. When selling to IT, all of the shiny functionality (which is what sales usually promotes) becomes irrelevant. The reality of the sale instead comes down to institutional policy, connectivity to other systems, expected data requirements, security, etc. 
Although each stakeholder has a role to play, the sales process can generate divisions within an institution. If and when various personalities and power struggles arise during the sales cycle, the result is not just a frustrated sales person. Instead, there is a risk of unsatisfied team members who believe that their opinions are always ignored or that good tools do not exist, along with an IT operation that grows tired of dealing with dozens of such requests every month.

If, as CIO, one feels that these issues do not seem to go away, consider creating an operation that builds relationships with vendors and seeks advice, and then connects vendors with functional end users within the organization. A culture like this will make everyone in your institution feel that the IT operation is progressive, and they will in turn help IT formulate the process in the only way that is possible: Elective compliance.