While sitting at home, waiting for the cramps around my mid-section to pass today, I paged through an old notebook, stumbling across notes from a conversation with a friend. I recall the conversation as if it was just yesterday, amazed at how long it has really been since we spoke. As I reviewed my notes, I realized that I hadn’t ever blogged them. His responses to a simple question I posed undoubtedly were concepts I wasn’t quite ready to understand at the time.

The question I asked him was, As a brand new CTO, what are your top 5 priorities?

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His responses, imperfectly remembered, appear below:

1) Collaboration and Building Relationships: The key job of a CTO is to build relationships with those who are impacted by technology, and explore relationships with those who will be impacted. In fact, technology can impact everyone’s workflow and work processes. But nothing will happen, no matter how gifted you are, unless you first build a relationship. As you might imagine, it is also important to collaborate with campus leaders, as well as departments and district staff, to achieve goals.

2) Conduct Needs Assessment: Not just one needs’ assessment, but several that address every aspect of the District’s needs as they relate to technology. For example, network assessments to obtain maps of the network; server management; disaster recovery and business continuity plans; professional learning and implementation. Remember that, as someone once said, a variety of factors combine to ensure success. You need to know where the District is at in each of these areas before moving forward. You also need to identify critical factors for success and key performance indicators that allow you to better communicate information to others. Some popular needs assessments include LOTI, Clarity.

3) Infrastructure and Data: This seems obvious, but ensuring that the District has adequate infrastructure in place before beginning widespread instructional initiatives that rely on technology is a must. For example, ensuring that you have 100% wireless, adequate bandwidth at the local area network (a.k.a. LAN such as a campus), wide area network (WAN, district-wide connectivity), and Internet connectivity (e.g. if you have a small “pipe” to the Internet, it won’t matter if you have 10gig to the desktop). Another key component is assessing how identity automation occurs, if at all. Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions, multi-year equipment and/or infrastructure replacement, eRate funding also fall into this area.

4) Budgetary Planning: Often, at the District level, there may be some money earmarked for technology but it’s no guarantee. If your district is going to move forward, you need to have a multi-year technology funding plan that is sustainable, and then ensure you constantly take stock of your inventory to ensure you’re not caught by surprise. You also need to learn how to pull funding from a variety of sources, collaborating with other departments and campuses to get the funding needed to match technology solutions to organizational needs.

5) Staffing: Building a culture that works, that ensures kindness and accountability is important. Nurturing staff with professional learning opportunities is important, as is evaluating stated vs real job description, setting metrics, and developing service level agreements (SLAs). It’s important to, as John Maxwell says, “staff your weaknesses.” The CTO doesn’t have to be a network engineer, VM Server manager, data systems integration, or whatever, but be able to hire someone who CAN do that job.

and, of course, another key area is shown below:

6) Communication: You must be able to communicate constantly with others about what is happening, what you’re doing (and your team is doing) or risk people making up their own stories. To achieve transparency, create a web site, publish your key performance indicators, create short videos that capture what is happening and WHY it’s important.

These 5+1 priorities are critical for CTOs. That’s probably why you’ll find them reflected in the CoSN CTO CETL Framework.

What would you add?

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure