Redefining the I in IT

Coby Culbertson, Chief Technology Officer, Dubuque Community School District

Coby Culbertson, Chief Technology Officer, Dubuque Community School District

As with the private sector, an organization’s Information Technology (IT) department is a vital entity that provides an essential service to support the organization’s mission and goals. Across the PK-12 education landscape, this can be characterized as supporting (and continually improving) the instructional and operational needs to ensure that stakeholders have the appropriate technology resources needed in educating tomorrow’syouth.

Even with the past couple of challenging years, there have been those who are espousing that the IT department is on its way out; I would contend quite the opposite is true now more than ever.

Technology is the lynchpin of any modern organization and PK-12 education is no different. From students using techbooks (laptops, Chromebooks, or iPads) both in and out the classroom as a learning tool to controlling the heating and cooling of facilities, there is not an area where there is not some sort of dependency on technology to instruct and operate. Without dedicated IT professionals working diligently behind the scenes to ensure interoperability and connectivity, many of the activities that rely on technology would not be possible for the staff and students of the organization.

However, IT departments also needto recognize that they must be positioned to provide best in class, timely support and embrace transformational change.

For those of us who work in PK-12 IT, it is important to remind ourselves why our department exists and what our department means to the organization. Simply put, both the why and what of the aforementioned statement has to be grounded in providing service. IT departments are, first and foremost, a service unit of the organization and its customers are the end users who rely on the services provided. Without this customers base, the IT services would not be needed; take a moment to reflect on thatstatement.

It is important to make sure as IT professionals we are practicing positive problem-solving, being creative and resourceful in solutions/suggestions, providing empathy, and finally embodying the tenacity to do what needs to be done to serve our customers. The key word here is serve; we serve at the pleasure of the organization and not the other way around. Each of us are ambassadors for our respective IT departments and our actions can either reflect positively or negatively both on ourselves and the IT department.

"It is important for us become effective, innovative change agents for the betterment of our fellow team members, the department we belong to, and those we serve in organization"

Therefore, IT departments need to redefine the “I" in IT, from focusing solely on the information aspect to championing innovation to bring about transformational change for the organization. As a department, this can only be done by instilling the importance of accountability, continuous improvement, and mutual understanding of what is best for the customers we serve.

It is paramount of all IT leaders, to paraphrase Henry Ford, to build and maintain a team who has an infinite capacity to know what cannot be done. Team members need to embrace a growth mindset and demonstrate a more innovative approach of “why can’t we” rather than “we can’t, or we won’t”; to be blunt, quit making excuses and take the “no” out of technology.

So, as we embark on redefining the “I” in IT, it is important for us become effective, innovative change agents for the betterment of our fellow team members, the department we belong to, and those we serve in organization. This will be an ever-evolving process and not accomplished overnight; think of it as a constant journey that we are all on together.

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