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MATC faces demand for less paper and more integration

Editor’s note: This is the first of a series of columns in which Byron Glick will ask Wisconsin CIOs for their views and advice on IT leadership and the challenges they face.

The good news for David Wallace is that 95 percent of his customers want more of what he has to offer. The challenge is to make sure his organization is ready to meet that demand.

David Wallace is the CIO of Madison Area Technical College. Ninety-five percent of the students want more of their college experience online. There are the usual suspects of lecture notes and lab assignments, but this demand goes much further. Students at MATC want grades, transcripts, financial aid, fines and even tests online.

If it used to have a paper trail, they want it electronically. To make matters more interesting, even some things that never made it onto paper need to find a home in cyberspace.

For example, the whole classroom experience is being translated onto the network. There are degree programs that do not require a student to ever set foot on an MATC campus unless they want somebody to hand them a diploma when they’re done. Making sure MATC is ready for all this and has the information technology it needs is David Wallace’s job.
A little over two years ago, MATC realized that its relationship with technology was changing. Officials created the CIO position reporting directly to the college president to bring information technology closer to the executive management of the college.

David is the first person to fill that position. While he’s always been interested in education and teaching, most of his career has been in private industry with experience at Rockwell Automation, Plexus Corporation, and Compaq Computers. The disciplines he learned in those assignments have been a foundation for his contributions at MATC.

“It’s the old `Plan your work, work your plan’ approach,” he says.

When David arrived, MATC already had a large IT effort with an on-line presence in the MATC Web site, a number of experiments with online education and back-office applications to support all the administrative functions. Putting those all together under a single student-accessible umbrella hadn’t happened.

Since his arrival, MATC has begun to focus on using Blackboard, an educational portal, and tying to the Web-based applications in the latest versions of PeopleSoft back-office products. David has also created a department focused on MATC’s public and internal Web sites.

Rolling out this much technology means as much work on the people side as with the bits and bytes. David relishes that effort. When asked what he’d be doing if he wasn’t in technology, process engineering was the quick response.

MATC students’ strong appetite for technology is forcing some changes on campus. David feels as much responsibility to help people respond as he does to figure how all the technology will work.

“You can’t just go out and buy software,” he says. “If we don’t look at the processes as well, we’ll miss a major value-add for the college.”

He expects that the next 10 to 15 years will require that kind of split focus until everyone in the workplace has the same level of comfort with computers that his middle-school-age daughter has. She’s already designing Web sites, and when he got this job, her first reaction was to go online and look at MATC’s. She immediately began offering helpful suggestions.

A good people/technology balance requires that David keep an eye out on the technology side as well. He watches the usual new-millennium technologies of wireless, security, and document management. Adapting to the priorities of his new industry and following his own interests as well, he also spends a chunk of his time looking at new technologies such as test-taking and in-class quiz applications designed for IPACs and Palm Pilots. He has strengthened the MATC relationship with Hewlett-Packard’s higher-education efforts.

MATC, like every other organization, faces many technology challenges in the next decade. The challenges may be as big as moving all the administrative applications onto the Web or as small as switching from floppies to USB drives. Every one of those challenges comes with technology components and people components. With David Wallace as part of the College Council, MATC’s executive leadership team, the college is well-positioned to respond and thrive.

Byron Glick is a principal at Prairie Star Consulting, LLC, a planning and program-development consulting firm in Madison, Wis. He can be contacted via e-mail at or via telephone at 608/345-3958.

The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.

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