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In the latest instalment of our interviews speaking to leaders throughout the world of tech, we’ve welcomed Chris Campbell, CIO at DeVry University.


Tell us a bit more about the business you represent.

DeVry University strives to close our society’s opportunity gap by preparing learners to thrive in careers shaped by continuous technological change. It serves and empowers learners who want to succeed, particularly those who lack the options to do so within the traditional higher education system. Through innovative programs, relevant partnerships and exceptional care, DeVry empowers students to meaningfully improve their lives, workplaces and the communities they serve.

Being the CIO, what do your day-to-day responsibilities look like?

My responsibilities fall around the idea of connecting the desired outcomes of our business to the technology we use to drive that forward. So, a big part of my responsibility is paying attention, listening, being firmly aware and entrenched in the strategic priorities of the university and assuring that we are driving road maps around our technology ecosystem that will support those both now and in the future.

Secondarily, the table stakes for any CIO are the stability or reliability of our technology ecosystem. If you don't do that well, and if you don't do that consistently, then you're not going to earn the opportunity or even earn the right to be strategic in your day-to-day. On both a daily basis and weekly basis I am asked to relieve bottlenecks in various initiatives or things that are going on.

Finally, I have strategic responsibilities around information security. I maintain close alignment with our company risk practices and collaborate with our CISO when it comes to executive cyber awareness along with the Board of Trustees cyber awareness.

What does the future of information security look like and how does that impact what a CIO does?

There are monumental shifts that have happened in both security and technology. It’s the CIO's role to have a feel for those shifts and mitigate both the positive and the negative aspects. While I've got my eye on technology, I collaborate with and rely on other university leaders to communicate about what they are experiencing in their departments. It’s then the CIO’s role to ensure we are thinking about what that could mean as far as necessary steps for the university.

Artificial Intelligence will certainly impact the CIO’s role, but I would tell you it's only an accelerator. The CIO's role has been evolving for quite some time with heavier reliance on technology and the evolution of the executive teams where comfort with technology is increasing. Ten years ago, a CIO was just a person in the back room that very few interfaced with unless something was broken. In today’s world, CIOs often report to the Chief Executive Officer and/or are on the executive team. They typically are involved in strategy and even drive strategy due to the ubiquitousness of technology in almost all businesses.

At DeVry University, we leverage technology to amplify the CARE provided by our colleagues for our students and peers. When I think about AI, I think mostly about applied AI in our daily work, and personal, lives. I think it's going to be how we identify all the opportunities from existing and future partners and leverage those into applied applications in an appropriate way that mitigates risk.

What frameworks do you use for managing technical debt?

To us at DeVry technical debt looks different because we don’t do a lot of application development. We use a variety of guiding principles to drive our technical debt remediation. It’s something that evolves. The biggest challenge is that some stakeholders are more worried about the next value creation vs the maintenance of the previous value creation. That's where the true challenge is.

We find the best way to manage technical debt is by keeping a robust backlog and finding opportunities, when doing related work, to reduce the debt footprint. This requires robust inventories of customizations, integrations and data management.

How do you decide whether something is so painful that it merits a full rewrite?

The simple answer is when it's going to take me more time to fix it than to just do it from scratch. However, I would argue that you may have waited too long. The CIO’s role is to see that coming and perhaps be able to rewrite a module or start a total rewrite as part of accomplishing current initiatives.

The thing you have to look for is how to ensure the business does not stop evolving just because you need to refactor. So, we're always on alert for refactoring opportunities. But you are going to come to a point that you just have to say, look, if we want to generate business value and not erode that business value, we are going to have to take a pause or at least reconsider how we move forward.

Nevertheless, all things come into play. How many resources is it going to take to maintain it, both from the technology teams as well as stakeholder teams? What's the reliability? The cost and is that cost increasing or decreasing? The right answer might not be a rewrite. The right answer might be a shutdown or a migration. Therefore, you have to consider all of those things.

How does your technical organization work with the other operational components of the company?

At DeVry, what drives us the most is our collaboration. We do it through a variety of venues. We build those collaborations and those relationships. We're fortunate to have strong relationships among our stakeholders in all aspects of the university, from the student facing groups to the back-office groups. In our case we have been working together for many years and have developed strong partnerships.

AI comes to mind and cybersecurity. Those are the two biggest trends that consume the most time and, they intersect substantially. Data also continues to be top of mind for most organizations including DeVry.

At DeVry, we are focused on using technology to amplify the outcomes of our hard-working, caring colleagues and students. That includes utilizing AI with automation to communicate with our customers, when and where they need it. Our digital care engine is critical to us and how we employ it to support our students. It’s facilitating the great care our advisors and faculty already give. For example, how do we support our students who are doing their homework at 10:00 p.m. when our faculty and advisors are offline?

Do your technical teams or do you use log analysis as part of your role? If you do, how do you find this helps day-to-day operations?

Log analysis is essential to our operations. That is the day-to-day, how we drive reliability and ensure our environment is secure. We use all kinds of log analysis for our cyber security processes and controls. We also use log analysis for our data center infrastructure, cloud and networks and that's a key part of how our teams work.

What can we hope to see from your business in the future?

You’re going to continue to see DeVry University as a thought leader and a driver in higher education. I'm passionate about how we leverage technology to extend the human experience and prepare our learners for that kind of world. I think it comes back to technology is not here to replace anybody but rather transform a role or position. And you will see DeVry continuing to help prepare and improve our student outcomes as well as today’s marketplace.

If you've enjoyed this article why not read our Interview with CTO, Phil McParlaneor What is Data Governance next?

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