Since 2007, the Michigan Information Technology Executive (MITE) Forum has helped IT leaders in education find answers and exchange ideas related to IT management, vendor relations, enterprise software problems, and much more. The MITE Forum (pronounced “Mighty Forum”) is a community of practice for senior information technology executives in Michigan, primarily from K-12 through higher education.
“People at the CIO level have a lot of common concerns–not just technical, but organizational, financial and strategic,” said Don Welch, Merit Network’s president and CEO. “There wasn’t previously a consistent way for CIOs in the Merit community to reach each other to network, share knowledge and form collaborations. The MITE Forum helps provide a forum for those kinds of interactions, and I’m proud that Merit has been able to help facilitate the group.”
The MITE Forum has quarterly in-person meetings, as well as online discussions. In-person meetings are usually attended by 20 or more IT executives from around Michigan. Don Welch initiates the start of each meeting, and all of the attendees actively participate by asking questions and providing suggestions.
“The format is that we go around the room, and each participant either shares a best practice that they are proud of or describes a problem that they currently have. All participants then discuss it. They either ask questions to understand how they might implement something similar at their institution, or they give suggestions and work as a group to come up with a recommended solution,” Welch said.
The meetings are open-ended and last as long as necessary for attendees to get answers to their questions.
“The format is ideal since everyone brings up a topic and then the group discusses it,” said Tim Chavis, executive director for information technology service delivery at Lawrence Technological University. “You can always bring at least one item which is a hot button to discover what others have or are about to do and get feedback. Or bring up something positive you’ve done where others may benefit. After a particular item is discussed, it just rotates to the next person for something else.”
“There have been many instances where the item I was going to ask is brought up by someone else who is having the same issue. There have also been topics that weren’t even on my radar which eventually surfaced down the road so I had someone to contact. Some of the side discussions that result from a particular discussion can even be therapeutic since we’re all in pretty much the same situations.”
While some executives may see each other at events or conferences, the MITE Forum provides a regular meeting and format for executives to discuss issues.
“The MITE Forum provides a scheduled collaboration opportunity for the technology leadership of Michigan institutions of higher education, K-12 and library systems,” said Michael Zimmerman, chief information officer at Macomb Community College. “While this group of leaders all individually desire to partner on initiatives and discuss what technologies have worked or which have failed to meet expectations, knowing who to contact is not often obvious or they simply don’t find the time to reach out to their peers. The MITE Forum provides the attendees a consistent means to network with their peers, seek open counsel on upcoming projects and identify cost saving partnering opportunities. The very fact that it is scheduled months ahead of time allows attendees to lock it in their calendars and maintain their attendance commitment. This alone is a big reason the MITE Forum continues to be well attended and provide value to member institutions.”
“The topics are always relevant, and the discussion is spirited,” according to David Zenz, executive director for information technology services at Hillsdale College. “One fellow told me it’s one of the best uses of his time. I would have to agree.”
Each meeting deals with a variety of IT subjects and issues. During a recent meeting at Washtenaw Community College, some of the topics included: how to create an IT advisory group on campus; recommended tools for automated security monitoring; ways to monitor the performance of desktops on campus; wireless access in dorms; information technology audits; replacing Banner with Desire2Learn; and improving help desk performance.
MITE Forum attendees have found the suggestions and feedback from others at the meetings to be very useful.
“First time attendees always come back,” Welch said. “They say they find it incredibly valuable.”
“I think each person takes with them an insight or solution to an immediate problem or issue they have been working on,” Zenz stated. “The MITE Forum has been great for building relationships. I now know several folks quite well, and from time to time called them for advice or collaboration on some project.”
“Specific to Macomb Community College, I attribute many cost saving outcomes (and cost avoidance!) to my involvement in the MITE forum…and the Merit member community at large,” according Zimmerman. “It has fostered many great institutional relationships which have reduced costs through shared training, project partnerships and Datatel-specific collaboration that joins several smaller clients into a much larger constituency with some real influence on our ERP provider.”
The MITE Forum has also sparked beneficial partnerships between organizations.
“Macomb Community College and Henry Ford Community College were both able to reduce the cost of their independent document imaging projects by negotiating with the vendor/provider as a larger, single entity and by aligning vendor consulting engagements to share travel costs,” according to Zimmerman. “Collaborative process/design discussions between the institutions also helped each adopt the best practices of the other; it was a win-win for all involved.”
Because of its emphasis on education, the group is excellent for executives who are new to the challenges of managing IT services in a campus setting.
“Most of my career has been in health care IT, so the MITE Forum happened to be my first networking opportunity in education,” said Chavis. “MITE has been an invaluable networking opportunity with IT leader colleagues who willingly give lessons learned, vendor agnostic opinions on products, and management approaches to everything from governance to budgets.”
“It’s a very open group without any side agendas whose goal is just to help each other. I have saved countless hours researching issues by just listening to what others have done. Even though in some way we come from competing organizations, you’d never know it by the actions of this group.”
Any information technology leader is welcome to attend an in-person meeting and to consider joining the MITE Forum. For details on the next meeting and registration, visit the Merit events web page.