User Experience and Other Thoughts

User Experience Grade ADuring these last two weeks I have been focusing on some new client needs and fixing the blog’s user experience while taking a bit of a vacation from writing. I have used this time to get caught up on some reading, do some weeding around the farm and crunch some preliminary research I thought you might find interesting. I have also been ruminating on some topics and a few discussions I thought I would comment on here, maybe even rant a bit.

User Experience

I learned first hand just how easy it is to lose site of the importance of the user experience. That admission doesn’t come easy for me especially given how much of my background includes application performance management and preaching about optimizing the user experience.

My user experience awakening came as a result of moving my websites to a new platform. To make sure I could troubleshoot any post-move issues I did some pre-move performance testing. The pre-move performance numbers stung like a gut shot, really worse.

Somewhere I had lost site of managing site performance and the user experience as I focused on adding features and enriched content. God bless my readers (you guys) for putting up with it because I know I probably would not have. To improve the content of my website, I considered a user flow guide on This helped me out a lot as I could make predictions of what you guys would be searching for on my page, therefore making it easier for you also to find what you’re after. So overall a better experience for you!

So thank you for your patience and tolerance and hope you accept my apology as I am sorry for losing site of balancing your experience with your desire for interesting and informative content.

And so the lesson for me which I hope you will avoid is to never lose sight of providing as good of a user experience as you can. That also means measuring the user experience through the entire stack and withholding changes until you have comfort with any impact on the user experience.


Several recent issues and discussions on the CIO Listserv have interested or bothered me which I just can’t seem to shake. So I am going to share them here because I have received some offline encouragement to do so.

Top 10 Discussions

I have been incredibly impressed by the degree and quality of the discussion on the CIO Listserv around the top 10 issues list. I think Theresa Rowe deserves a great deal of recognition for making this happen and promoting an invigorating debate.

That last point cannot be overstated given these top 10 issues topics have been some of the most meaningful and valuable discussions on the listserv in years. With just a few more to go, my only hope is the group finds a way to sustain the engagement and continues to elevate the conversations to C-level issues.

Vendor Contributions

The disproportionate and emotional reactions to the issue of vendor, or non-CIO, contributions on the CIO Listserv floors me. Goodness knows there are more than a few CIO’s or vendor ‘friends’ who post that are completely opaque as to their motives and agendas.

The real issue the CIO Listserv should be concerned about is that the chances of getting any kind of help from the list are at best 50/50, unless you have a networking question. If the list is to be a resource for assistance why limit the pool of contributors. At least don’t be so sanctimoniousness about it when you live in a glass house.

Personally, I don’t understand why EDUCAUSE and others flood the list with seminar announcement, reminders and EDUCAUSE related posts. I also would rather see more thought leadership and CIO advisory topics even if it is from vendors than read one more networking question.

Four Questions on CIO’s

Those two issues are among the reasons I actively analyze the CIO Listserv and decided to publish the Four Questions on CIO’s: 2011 EDUCAUSE CIO Listserv Analysis report. The other reason is to help elevate the value of the CIO Listserv discussion to make it a more valuable resource to CIO’s.

But if the report is to be more valuable it needs to be more widely read. So to help raise additional awareness, I have drastically slashed the price of the report making it completely affordable at $19.95 for the month of September.

During that time I hope more CIO’s, and honestly their college presidents, will read the report and start to understand the true value of the CIO Listserv as a resource and perhaps what might be holding back their CIO from making a more strategic contribution. Of course I also hope EDUCAUSE will use this as a call to action to make the CIO Listserv more relevant and legitimate C-Level resource and increase the social network collaboration value of the CIO Listserv.

Honesty on Cloud Computing

I find the cautionary comments on cloud computing by some CIO’s to be at best simply naive or at worst plain disingenuous. How a CIO who provides private cloud or government cloud services to a university system whose institutions are using cloud service in nearly every department while holding a commercial interest in a cloud computing software company can offer “economic caution”- please!

I realize many CIO’s have a very narrow scope of responsibility, but the cloud services horse has left the barn a long time ago. Just look at the number of applications and services used by any given institution that are not run on premise and you begin to see the cloud computing adoption level for what it really is – way higher than many CIO’s admit.

Whether it is your SIS, ERP, HRIS, or LMS running in the state, system or consortia offices or your library catalog and research databases, student survey services, financial aid, eBooks athletics site, eCommerce, background checks, and so on you are using more cloud services than you can count on your fingers and toes. For example, the eCommerce platforms you can find reviewed over at sites like are all using cloud-based services now.

For the most part, eCommerce really does seem to be the way of the future.

However, running a successful eCommerce business relies on a combination of a number of online services. For example, eCommerce websites that use Magento must also source a reliable hosting provider to ensure that their website functions at its best. For more information about web hosting solutions for eCommerce websites check out this Magento hosting review.

Ultimately, for many institutions, it is possible you are actually using more off-premise ‘cloud’ services than traditional on-premise services.

So let’s quit posturing on cloud computing maturity or concerns about data and talk about what is really the issue, if there are any issues.

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2 Responses to User Experience and Other Thoughts

  1. ZL says:

    The problem with ERP in the cloud is the complexity of the environment, at least for our institution. At our university we have hundreds of input/output files, API calls, third party integration, etc. – I couldn’t imagine recreating that environment through a vendor.

    There is also the issue of disaster recovery. We have to be able to get our ERP up within 2 hours in the case of a disaster. As a CIO would you feel better in a disaster having your own crew working on a problem with immediate status updates and information or working through a vendor?

    Cloud computing is a great thing, and definitely has a sweet spot, but for large institutions with complex environments it’s a little early to talk cloud with ERP I think. But I definitely agree, community colleges or smaller institutions should consider the option.

  2. The Higher Ed CIO says:

    ZL, I really appreciate your comments because it offers a direct example of many points I intended to make.

    The most salient point, is that cloud does not equal ‘vendor’. There is an incredible number of colleges who get their SIS/ERP/LMS solution from an IT organization at the central state system office, a consortium office or similar university system which I will come back to.

    UPDATE: I removed the rest of my original reply because I incorporated specifics from ZL’s institution and system when it was ZL’s intent to remain anonymous. My apologies to ZL.

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