The Importance of an IT Strategic Plan

Article by Ilee Rhimes
Originally published in a different format

Message from the CIO

Ohio State's Office of the Chief Information Officer was established in 1998 to provide a focal point for the university's Information Technology planning and implementation. The CIO works with faculty, student and staff advisory committees and groups to develop direction, then coordinates support and services through its affiliated units: the Office of Information Technology, the Student Information System Project, Technology Enhanced Learning and Research (TELR), and University Network Integrated Telecommunications System (UNITS). Ilee Rhimes, Jr. was recently appointed as the Chief Information Officer. The following is his first message to the university community.

I am pleased to be able to start the new millennium as the Chief Information Officer at The Ohio State University. Having arrived in November, I'm just beginning to formulate a mission statement, but I can tell you that it will be definitive, growing out of the existing Information Technology strategic plan and consistent with the university's recently adopted academic plan.

Technology has become strategic and mission-critical to the competitiveness of any institution. It has moved from being a tool to an engine that can drive the transformation of an institution. The effective use of technology can make a competitive difference.

A CIO should lead, advocate and serve as a catalyst in defining and implementing a shared vision for leveraging technology to transform and improve the quality of teaching, learning, research, information systems and operating support. The CIO engages in strategic planning with key campus constituents and external partners to ensure broad commitment and support, especially for an integrated IT plan.

A strategic plan for Information Technology gives us the ability to spend the resources on the right priorities. Our IT planning process entails first defining the current environment, then defining the future state, where we think the institution should be technologically in the coming years. If we can idealize where we want to be in three to five years, we can work to identify the goals and resources that will take us there.

The IT plan has to be a living document. Because technology changes so quickly, it forces us to look at the plan often, making adjustments and reviewing priorities regularly. Fortunately, we have an academic plan to support, which gives us a guide. The academic plan drives the IT strategic plan, and every one of its initiatives should have defined links back to the academic plan. As we come up with initiatives, we'll see which parts of the academic plan are supported by the strategic plan.

Perhaps expectations from an increasingly proficient and knowledgeable user base will mitigate the requests for resources. It is no secret that we are under severe constraints related to the fact that demands for service are increasing more sharply than the funding resources available. We need to effectively use every dollar we get. That's where the strategic plan enters the picture. It can help us to identify the strategic initiatives needed to move efficiently toward the goals we've set for ourselves.

The bottom line is that an Information Technology strategic plan is a critical component in the university's success. A plan enables us to create an IT environment that empowers students, faculty, staff, business partners and lifelong learners. It gives us a shared vision for where technology is going on campus and how to use it for the benefit of all members of the extended university community.