Marketing the Value of IT in Higher Education

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Meeting expectations is passé. Today, it's all about exceeding expectations. Most colleges and universities understand that IT is integral to their function; however, few administrators truly understand the value of IT. This lack of understanding holds many universities back from capitalizing on information technology and the expertise of IT professionals. Technology pervades and facilitates nearly every university activity, from the library to the classroom to the administration buildings. IT leaders in higher education must package and market the value the IT department has and can deliver. Knowing that IT adds value to the campus is not enough. We must be able to both define that value and communicate it effectively to the President, Board of Trustees, and other university decision-makers.

We should look to the marketing folks for lessons. Not only are they adept at promoting a school’s brand, they are masters at promoting their value to the rest of the organization. Remember, marketing is not a department; it is a part of the university. Most IT organizations have never won awards for their marketing prowess. However, if IT doesn’t market itself well to the university, who will?

The best IT approach is not necessarily “the way it has always been done”—especially not for universities looking to provide cutting-edge opportunities that attract and retain the best students and faculty. Don’t be afraid to challenge conventional practice. Dell, for instance, shook up the computing world when Michael Dell decided to sell computers directly to consumers instead of sticking with the old complicated distribution channels. Superior technical knowledge has been IT’s security blanket for many years; but it’s time to evolve. IT professionals must be leaders without solely focusing on technology.

Furthermore, capitalize on brand recognition. Many college and university students are familiar with and utilize the impact of personal branding, and IT should take a cue from them. If your university colleagues have consistently positive experiences with IT, they can become IT advocates for your president. For instance, IT leaders at Providence College in Rhode Island mobilized efforts to update the college’s website, which has been well regarded across the institution and their constituents.

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