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How the Social Campus Enables Tomorrow's Workers Today

Allen Bernard | Jan. 31, 2013
Collaboration is the key to getting anything done. Social technologies are all about enabling that collaboration. Combine social with mobile and sprinkle in technologies like VPNs and SSO, and the idea of 'social' moves to a whole new level, as two higher education CIOs attest.

The change was so quickly embraced that it took Komarny by surprise. He knew Exchange wasn't popular, but he figured an entrenched technology such as email would be hard to move away from. He gave everyone a year to move to the new system. It only took four months.

Because the campus is now mobile, Komarny runs 70 percent of his infrastructure on Amazon Web Services and plans to move more. He's also taking advantage of his new mobile infrastructure to run Seton Hill's LAN though a social layer provided by Enterasys called isaac, a machine-to-human social interface that lets Seton's IT team manage its network remotely and intuitively. The university has also teamed up with four other colleges to share log files and data on factors such as latency so all can benefit from each other's knowledge base.

"When it comes down to it, [the network] is the only that's going to be left here," Komarny says. "Probably in a year, all I'll have here is a network and Internet connection. Everything else is going to be in one or another cloud."

Everything students do now is on the iPad. Teacher evaluations are submitted before the student even leaves class if they want. The school's portal lets all databases report through a single interface, flattening silos and saving time and money across the board.

"We're able to monitor and communicate with our community so efficiently. Things that used to take weeks, to get data back from our students, faculty and staff, we can get it back in a few hours because they go through the same interface to get to all their resources," Komarny says.

Despite Technology, It's Still a People Problem

These benefits, as great as they are, are not just a matter of expanding your use of Wi-Fi or buying everyone an iPad, warns technology-change consultant Michael Krigsman, president and CEO of Asuret. You have to actually change the underlying process to make it a social/collaborative experience. "You don't buy 'social'," he says. "It's a verb. You have to drive a change in the organization that social will help enable."

If there is no behavioral change to coincide with adding social capabilities, then you're just wasting time and money to fix a business process that was probably working. This is why Joanna Young, CIO and associate vice president of finance at the University of New Hampshire, looks to put together "collaborations of the willing" to help drive change-technology and otherwise-at UNH.

Young's challenge four years ago upon joining UNH was much different than Komarny's. For Young, it was about flattening silos and getting the most out of a legacy infrastructure in new ways.

 

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