Collaborating with partners in one’s own industry often breaks new ground. Therefore, measuring outcomes can be hard. “We were looking for measures of success, and we found that we sort of redefined them as we went along,” says LMU’s Griffin.
One way to ensure that a partnership succeeds is to mind your partner’s goals. For example, while both LMU and Bowdoin wanted a new disaster recovery solution, they needed it for different reasons. Given Maine’s rough winters, Bowdoin would need LMU’s services frequently for short periods due to storms that cause power outages several times a season. LMU, on the other hand, would mostlikely need Bowdoin only in case of a large earthquake or terrorist attack. The LMU campus is near Los Angeles International Airport, which has been targeted by terrorists in the past, including an attempt, thwarted by U.S. authorities, to bomb the airport on New Year’s Eve 1999.
The partners designed each other’s emergency sites to reflect the frequency and magnitude of their needs. For instance, LMU would need the ability to conduct all classes remotely for several months in the event of a major disaster. As such, it would need to retain access to one semester of a fully-populated course management system. Bowdoin, however, had no such need. Each scaled its storage plans accordingly.
If the CIOs in a partnership have a good relationship, their goodwill will trickle down to their teams.
“We had mutual respect for each other, and I think that transferred quickly,” says Bowdoin’s Davis. Gaer and Krause are friends and had worked together in the past. “That really helped, having the familiarity from a cultural as well as a technology level,” Gaer says.
As their teams got to know each other, they developed close relationships.
Griffin and Davis helped transfer the energy of their friendship to their teams by bringing their managers to Snowmass, the birthplace of the project.
“We did some bonding over frisbee, golf, rafting and hiking,” says Griffin. “As much as electronic collaboration is great, it helps to meet people face-to-face and get a sense of what kind of sushi they eat, or if they prefer Fenway Park or Dodger Stadium.”
Griffin says that because collaboration with a peer organization is still a new concept, IT staffs tend to view it with caution. It takes enthusiastic leadership from the CIO — and a few gung-ho staff members — to get things moving.
“There was some trepidation at first,” Griffin says. “But I have a couple of people who saw this as exciting. Sometimes it takes a few people who look at the world differently to make a collaboration effort like this contagious.”
— C.G. Lynch