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3 min read

Social CIO Series: Brian Miller, Davenport University

”The world has already gone social. If CIOs are not there with the rest of the world, we are merely shouting to an empty room about the perils of Facebook.”

Name: Brian Miller
Title: VP of ITS and CIO
Organization: Davenport University

1. Tell us a bit about your organization and what it is trying to accomplish.

Davenport University is a multi-campus, non-profit private university based in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a significant presence in the online learning space. We aspire to be renowned as a quality institution that understands the market better than any other. We focus on preparing graduates to exceed employer expectations, transform communities and excel in the knowledge-driven economy of the 21st century.

2. Tell us a bit about you and how you view your role as CIO.

My background is in software development, primarily through the web. I’ve been the CIO at Davenport since 2008, and my focus has been on using technology to enhance student experiences, lower costs for the core business, and improve overall efficiency for our institution. I spend significant time on strategic planning with other leaders at the institution, and feel that technology is an enabler for most of our strategic goals. Within the IT department, I espouse the values of customer service, innovation and communication. The CIO’s role involves communicating with our internal colleagues in other departments about the value of IT, working with other organizations to explore best practices for IT leadership (which is where I feel social comes into play), looking for ways technology can enable strategic gains for the organization, and seeking ways to innovate within the higher education model.

3. What were the key reasons you started to drive social into your organization?

Consumerization of IT has completely changed how things are brought to organizations today. I contend that a CIO has no choice in whether social media is brought into organizations. Social media just appeared a few years ago whether we liked it or not. So my role as CIO includes finding ways to embrace social. Figuring out how we can use it to engage customers (students, employers, internal colleagues) has been my primary approach and I believe it’s paying off.

4. How did the arrival of social interplay with your organization's culture?

The culture of a university is fairly open to begin with, but there are always silos between teams.

Social helps us break down those silos in several ways.

First, it gives a social context to conversations. There’s no more “water cooler” to chat around when teams are dispersed across multiple locations, so Facebook and LinkedIn provide a nice means for folks to build relationships with peers. Second, social allows us to share learning between teams in an informal way. Davenport currently a social learning platform to encourage unstructured, informal learning in the workplace. This, combined with subject-matter-experts tweeting and posting about new things they’ve learned really accelerates the process of expanding capabilities for our team.

5. How did you mitigate the change management aspects of introducing social?

Social grew organically at Davenport, and continues to do so. With organic growth, we avoid most formal change management entirely.

There are cultural changes, but the nice thing about social today compared to 4 or 5 years ago is the nearly ubiquitous acceptance of social in the personal sphere.

With nearly every demographic using social media in their personal lives, the use of it as a business-communication tool is not as foreign as it once was.

6. What do you see as your biggest social "win" so far, inside your organization?

Having a social learning platform has been our biggest win so far. Hundreds of quick tips and tutorials self-produced by internal subject-matter-experts have been posted and now form part of the employee orientation process. The best part about that tool is that it did not come from within the IT department! If the CIO’s role is to espouse the use of technology to solve problems and the use of social media to break down silos, then the ultimate sign of success is when someone applies those principles to their team with minimal involvement from the IT team.

7. What is your advice to traditional CIO's that are leery of "going social"? Any important lessons learned you would like to share?

My advice is to examine the risks of not participating in social media. Clearly there are risks to participating and those are well-known and documented. Congressmen, business leaders, college interns and others have lost jobs and embarrassed themselves because of errant posts on Twitter or Facebook. But if you look at the risks of not participating, they’re even greater. The world has already gone social. If CIOs are not there with the rest of the world, we are merely shouting to an empty room about the perils of Facebook. If we participate, we can help shape the discussion, drive best-practices and uncover some of those perils for ourselves. If consumerization of IT means we’ve lost control of the enterprise, participation, thought-leadership and guidance become our primary duties.


About Jostle's CIO Series

At Jostle we recognize the importance of leadership in making social collaboration work inside of organizations. In fact, we are so passionate about it that we sought out some of the top social CIO’s in North America to participate in a Jostle Blog series that focuses on the challenges and successes of applying social tools. We are happy to share these success stories with you and we hope it inspires the social champion in all of you. If you know a Social CIO you feel should be included in this series, please contact us at CIO@jostle.me. There is no requirement that they be using the Jostle People Engagement® platform.


About Davenport University

Davenport University is a private, non-profit, multi-location university located at 11 campuses throughout Michigan and online. It was founded in 1866 by Conrad Swensburg and currently offers Associate's, Bachelor's, and Master's Degrees, diplomas, and post-grad certification programs in business, technology, health professions, and graduate studies (MBA). For more info visit www.davenport.edu 

Kelly Batke

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