The Silicon Review
A Chief Information Officer is a senior executive in an organization that handles the Information Technology and computing systems to support day-to-day operations. Digitization of assets and parts of ongoing operations enable organizations to bring about greater efficiency, accountability and most importantly, flexibility to adapt to change. The same is true for an institution of higher learning.
Staffordshire University is a public university located in Staffordshire, England which was awarded Gold in the UK government’s Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) recognizing the highest standards of learning and teaching in the Higher Education sector. Established in the early part of the twentieth century, the University has successfully maintained high standards and adapted to every kind of technological disruption to produce industry-ready graduates with accomplished careers.
In conversation with Andrew Proctor, Pro Vice Chancellor – Digital at Staffordshire University.
Q. What do you think are the main qualities to become a successful CIO?
The first key quality to become a successful CIO is the ability to communicate exceptionally well at a variety of levels. Leadership is often about sense-making and storytelling, preparing people for an exciting but challenging journey and taking them with you. It is a given that CIOs can understand new and emerging technologies, but it is vital that they can explain the opportunities these present in a way which makes sense to their specific business or organization and resonates with people.
The second quality is people leadership. In order to ensure any IT or digital function and the wider organization is driving business growth and innovation, it is vital to use leadership to establish a culture and environment for all staff, regardless of their role, to be innovative, creative, courageous and to embrace change. A core part of leadership is the creation of a platform that enables talent to flourish.
The third quality is business acumen. In order to establish corporate credibility and be able to translate digital opportunities into realistic organizational benefits, CIOs need a deep understanding of the sector they work within as well as their specific organization. Using their business acumen, CIOs are outcome-driven and not solely focused on technology. Additionally, a great deal of digital transformation isn’t about technology, it is about people, culture and fresh approaches. The CIO has a key role to play in this space, to identify ‘softer’ aspects of the business that would benefit from change.
These three distinct qualities complement one another exceptionally well because transformation is never about one person – it is an organization-wide endeavor. Therefore, the ability to build and sell a compelling vision of the future that makes sense within the context of where the business currently is and needs to be, and then creating an environment in which people are central to achieving this vision, is pivotal to any CIOs role.
Q. How do you manage the partnership between IT and the rest of the operations of the Institution?
A successful CIO will re-position an IT function from a legacy approach – a simple service provider that focuses on business-as usual and waits to be told what is required by the rest of the organization - to a proactive strategic partner that identifies opportunities for change across all business functions and works across the organization to help deliver and embed them successfully.
This means that IT cannot be introverted; it needs to embed itself throughout the organization to ensure it understands business strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. IT must help all areas of the business to develop nascent, potential ideas into compelling cases for change. An IT function that is seen as constantly adding value to the business and driving it forward is an essential trait in the modern era.
Q. How do you define success for the new CIO in the first 12 months and the first 5 years?
A successful CIO within their first 12 months will have established themselves as a credible organization-wide leader who has positioned digital as pivotal to future success and who has created a sense of excitement about the opportunities presented. This needs to be twinned with the successful delivery of at least one piece of digital innovation that acts as a showcase for the ‘art of the possible’ and is a catalyst for further change.
Within five years a CIO should have delivered significant change covering culture, process, and technology that has delivered real business outcomes.
Q. Can you talk about the nature of your role at Staffordshire University?
The Pro Vice-Chancellor at Staffordshire is essentially a ‘Chief Digital Officer’ role with broader functional responsibility. This role has been positioned to drive forward our 2030 vision and strategy which places digital at its heart. It is widely recognized that the future success of universities will be based on ability to meet the rising expectations of customers by offering more modern and personalized products and services. Increasing business agility and the ability to respond to changing markets and legislation is also pivotal – much of this requires the adoption of digital culture and processes.
We’ve become known in our sector as digital innovators – we were the first University in Europe to migrate fully to the Cloud, the first University in Europe to launch an AI-based digital coach and assistant for our students, and the first University in Europe to launch a degree in Esports.
One of the highlights of my time at Staffordshire University was when our internal team beat other private sector companies to win a UK award for innovation. Two years prior to this, they had been viewed internally as an insular, reactive department and unheard of externally. This award signified their huge journey – using their talent, passion and creativity to deliver an exciting student-facing App that makes the education sector sit up and take note. It was hugely rewarding to watch them receive their award and for them to acknowledge what I had seen from the first day I met them – that they could deliver incredible technological solutions.
Meet the path-breaking CIO of Staffordshire University, Andrew Proctor
Andrew Proctor joined Staffordshire University in 2017 to establish and lead the UK education sector’s most ambitious digital transformation. In 2019, Staffordshire made him the first Pro Vice-Chancellor (Digital) in the UK. As a member of the University’s Executive team, Andrew’s role is focused around delivering transformation across the University with direct responsibility for Digital Services, Technical Services, Estates, and Commercial Services. During his tenure, Staffordshire University has been acclaimed for becoming one of the most digitally innovative universities– one of only three in the world to be accredited as a Microsoft Innovative Institution. In 2019, Andrew was listed at number 6 in the Top 100 UK CIOs.
Andrew has over 10 years of digital leadership and transformational experience across the public sector. In a previous role at West Midlands Police, the second-largest police force in England, Andrew was responsible for establishing them at the vanguard of digital innovation via the use of Mobile Apps and analytics.
Andrew graduated with an honors degree in Software Engineering from Staffordshire University and also holds a Diploma in Leadership and Management.