by Matt Egan

Imperial College CIO Mike Russell discusses the challenges facing IT leaders in further education, and offers advice to new CIOs

Sep 29, 2016

Imperial College CIO Mike Russelltells CIO UK’s Chloe Dobinson about some of the challenges facing IT leaders in further education, as well as offering advice for new CIOs.

In an exclusive interview recorded at the 2016 CIO Summit, Russell opens up on the difficulties of supporting vendors through the move to the cloud. He describes customers in the student body that thrust innovation on the IT function, requiring careful consideration of a wide variety of ideas.

He describes a situation in which his end users expect great personalisation and enhanced user experience in their private and commercial dealings, and push those expectations on to their education provider. This is a challenge that Imperial College is striving to meet.

But he acknowledges that further education can be a change-averse sector, with powerful groups within the College who need support to embrace change. You need to be flexible, and to show benefits to get benefits, he says. And you need to show the benefits to the end user before you can get buy in for technology.

Going digital

Russell talks about Imperial’s drive to go digital, talking about the College’s burgeoning ability to deliver coursework and critical imformation through mobile apps. But he points out the inherent dichotomy of being a CIO: you have to keep the lights on before you can drive forward transformation and innovation. You need to earn the right to talk about digital transformation, according to Russell. Do the basics first, he says.

In this interview Russell espouses the value of community events such as the CIO Summit. Everyone has a story, and you can learn from that, he says.

And his advice for new CIOs? Be clear about what you are trying to achieve, and do the basics first.