In Kevin Kelly’s TED presentation (2016), he reminded us that many previous technological advancements were predictable. That is to say the general concept was predictable; however, the specific technologies that emerge were nearly impossible to predict. Kelly offered the idea that the creation of mobile phones was predictable but the idea of smartphones and the ways they are used today was not. As leaders, it is vital for us to be aware of emerging technologies and how they can be best utilized. Having the latest and greatest is not the objective or the measure of success, but truly utilizing them to maximize the advancement of the organization to the fullest will be the measurement of success.
The advancement of technology has given us a plethora of information and data. Most of this information and data can be at our fingertips. David Weinberger (2011) questioned, “if the networking of knowledge is making us smarter or stupider.” Though somewhat contradictory to my previous week’s blog, the emergence of technology can improve our abilities and move our teams forward; it is capitalizing and harnessing of the power of the technology that is the difference maker. Kelly (2016) explained why smart cars could benefit us by not driving like a human. Smart cars are not distracted or emotional. They can process information more quickly as humans as well. The distraction comment Kelly made struck me as something worth noting. When I think about advancements in technology, I think of how very little we do to utilize the technology to its fullest. Returning to the conversation of Google discussed in recent weeks, Google can be a powerful tool, but it is also easy to be lost and taken down a rabbit hole only to never return to the reason you were using Google in the first place. I see this being something we, as leaders need to try to help our organizations avoid.
I reflect on my early days in higher education as a freshman admission counselor. The majority of communication and interaction I conducted with students and families was in person, on the phone (an actual landline in the office or by using a calling card at home), or by mail. Email was used, but sparingly. As time went on, the development of cellphones, email, and the internet vastly changed the landscape. Texting and social media are all now additional ways to communicate with students. Admission offices followed corporate sales teams’ lead with the creation and implementation of Communication Relationship Management (CRM) systems for the specific use of recruiting student. A 2014 Hanover Research submission offered market trends and research on the use of technology by institutions of higher education. Two-year-old research can be considered old by technology advancements standards, but the themes of the research still hold true. Colleges and universities are looking to data and analytics to drive recruitment.
Schools often pay for services such as retargeting to market to students and use data collected when students visit their website. Many schools use the data to create personalized PURLS and individualized digital viewbooks. With each of these different initiatives the need for managing data and using data analytics to drive decisions is becoming a challenge. Hanover Research (2014) stated, “Getting a better handle of this data is a new area of concentration for colleges and universities.” Weinberger (2011) presented Amazon as an example of how the effective analyzation of data can lead to meeting the needs of a customer. He went on to add we need to continue to learn how to evaluate information and knowledge.
Forbes (2016) offered Gartner’s 16 new technologies, and of the 16, three were focused on data or analytics (Data Broker PaaS, Personal Analytics, and Smart Data Discovery). Interestingly enough, Wikipedia’s list of emerging technology mentioned very little about new technologies focused on data management. On the other hand, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, & Byers offered a different view. At the Internet Trends 2016 Code Conference, Mary Meeker mentioned data and data management numerous times, focusing on data-driven business, data collection, data networking, and data leveraging. In the presentation, data leveraging was described as the “next big wave.” Looker CEO Frank Bein as quoted by Meeker said, “Data is moving from something you use outside of the workstream to becoming a part of the business app itself. It’s how the new knowledge worker is actually performing their job.”
Data and data management will need to be a priority for leaders to effectively adapt to the ever-changing and evolving world of technology. Jobs and duties will continue to change with the emergence of new technologies and industries such as higher education will be no different. Leaders will need to change existing positions or create new positions to effectively manage and utilize data to drive institutions forward. Leaders will also need to evolve and adapt as well. Relying on others to understand big data and analytics will not be enough. Being a driver of change and the use of data will be a requirement.