From the CIO

From the CIO

Kelly Block serves as Interim Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the University of Illinois System.

For more information about Kelly, visit About the CIO.

Recent Posts

(Reprinted in part with permission of

I’d like to see a dashboard for the student that provides not just the daily facts like assignments and due dates, but also personal and comparative progress bars that show how they are similar or different from their peers. We already have the data available to tell a student that 75 percent of the students that had their course load this semester graduated on time. We might be able to tell them the most likely employers for people with their current GPA. With mobile phones and beacons, we know who is studying where, and while it borders on creepy, it provides a way to find the right place to study any time of the day.

In higher education and in government, there is often a different group of administrators for each function. The same state government knows my driver’s license, registered vehicles, LLC information, professional registration, yet I must know either the physical location or the website for each of these so that I can do them separately. My son attends two colleges, so he has registration, financial aid, advising, ID card, payment, learning management systems and all sorts of other services duplicated. This unnecessary duplication drives students crazy.

Shouldn’t all of the available services be available to the student in one location? This does not mean to simply make a portal or a list of links. It means integrating the data so that it can be used together. There are already companies that use near field communication for payment in the cafeteria, and if Hilton can let you open the door with your mobile device, then why not residence halls? Theoretically, I should be able to register for class, transfer my financial aid to the bank, receive my football tickets, and open my door from the same device that I just used to ordered dinner and an Uber.

This is all in the realm of the possible, and states like Illinois are making it a priority. The Illinois’ “smart state” initiative is trying to simplify working with government on behalf of the citizen. Many universities have integrated gateways and new ID card systems that support some of these functions. However, as our students mention on what seems like a daily basis, some is not enough. We need a concerted effort to empower students to use their own data to personalize their higher education experience inside and outside of the classroom.

What are you doing to improve the student digital experience at your campus? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Posted by Michael Hites  On Jun 22, 2017 at 1:02 PM

Planning is a continual and integral function at Administrative Information Technology Services (AITS). AITS utilizes the strategic plans of each of our universities as well as trends in emerging technologies to guide the development of our departmental strategies and priorities for our work.

The current AITS Strategic Plan for FY16 – FY18 is a three-year IT plan that evolves with collaborative input alongside other strategic plans throughout the University System.  In addition to the plan, our actions are driven by our stated values, which are:  Leadership, Stewardship, Customer Satisfaction, People, Integrity, and Learning.  Finally, the AITS Strategic Directions below were developed to prioritize work toward making administrative IT as simple and beneficial as possible for the customers. 

Since the original plan was developed in 2012, a number of things have changed throughout the University System, and the information technology needs of faculty, students, and staff that AITS supports has changed. Stay tuned for future posts regarding some of the biggest challenges we’ve faced since beginning the strategic planning process at AITS and what opportunities we believe lie ahead for enterprise administrative IT at the University of Illinois.

Comments, questions and other feedback regarding the AITS Strategic Plan for FY16 – FY18 are welcome at any time.

Posted by Wendy Bertram  On May 22, 2017 at 1:37 PM

Since the original AITS Strategic Plan was developed in 2012, a number of things have changed for the University of Illinois System, its universities and AITS. As well, the information technology needs of faculty, students and staff that AITS supports have changed.

The AITS Strategic Plan for FY16-FY18 reflects this changing landscape through its goals and initiatives. The top issues affecting information technology in higher education have evolved quickly over the past four five years since the original plan was created.

EDUCAUSE annually publishes its Top Ten IT issues derived from research by leaders in higher education IT. The most recent Top 10 list for 2017 has changed dramatically from 2012 and coalesce into four related themes:

  • Successful Students
  • Effective Leadership 
  • Data Foundations
  • IT Foundations

For 2017, AITS is ahead of the game. When comparing EDUCAUSE’s 2017 list to the AITS FY16-FY18 Strategic Plan, one can expect to see some overlap. Out of the 10 issues, AITS has stated initiatives that address four of these issues and are actively pursuing their completion. Check out the topics below to see how AITS is combating these concerns.

Information Security: Developing a holistic, agile approach to reduce institutional exposure to information security threats.

AITS Initiatives:

  • Audit and compliance capabilities have been improved.
  • Implementation of more secure infrastructure to protect user and administrative accounts from theft and exploitation by attackers.
  • Prevention of installation, spread and execution of malicious software on user and infrastructure platforms.
  • Enhance network monitoring apparatus to further discover and alert upon potentially compromised accounts and computing systems.

Student Success and Completion: Effectively apply data and predictive analytics to improve student success and completion.

AITS Initiative:

  • Begin feasibility study for the replacement of the Banner ERP system.

Sustainable Funding: Developing IT funding models that sustain core services, support innovation, and facilitate growth.

AITS Initiatives:

  • Pursue new revenue opportunities where they are beneficial and cost-effective to the University.
  • Partner with other organizations to investigate offering shared services to the university community that are cost-effective.
  • BPI Shared Service will expand fee-based services, providing units able to cover costs with more timely services for a fraction of the cost of similar services offered in the external marketplace.
  • Analyze and develop a support and ownership model for all shared services. Where new resources are required for AITS, identify the source of new resources or the associated tradeoff with current services.

Data Management and Governance: Improving the management of institutional data through data standards, integration, protection, and governance

AITS Initiatives:

  • Promote and support IT governance that is empowered, accountable, and transparent in order to better support the mission activities of the University. Continue participation with the UIC, UIS, and UIUC IT Governance committees.
  • Perform a periodic assessment of the Information Technology Priorities Process.
  • Enable Self Service Business Intelligence (BI) for the University community.
  • Update Development Process for Business Intelligence (BI) and Data Warehousing (DW) solutions.
  • Develop a service model for Business Intelligence solutions. Complete an internal inventory current dashboard tools and create capabilities matrix.

For a full review of AITS’s initiatives, action items and their statuses, please view the AITS Strategic Plan Annual Progress Report for FY16-FY18. Comments, questions and other feedback regarding the AITS Strategic Plan for FY16 – FY18 are welcome at any time.

Posted by Michael Hites  On Apr 19, 2017 at 12:10 PM

Recently, I participated in the Quick Takes as one of 30 IT leaders asked to talk briefly about strategy. In this version of CIO Quick Takes, they asked  the question: "What is your strategic focus for 2017?" 

We use an early 2000’s vintage ERP, and we are an institution where business process and data custodianship is determined on a department-by-department basis. Yes, we have mobile applications, web portals, and first-rate integration between applications. We don’t have students that say, “Alexa, register me for Computer Science 125.” I also can’t say “Alexa, stop” in meetings where everyone instantly becomes quiet and is never offended, but that’s beside the point. Our challenge is to re-focus our business practices around our students so that admissions, registration, advising, housing, concert tickets, extracurricular activities, parking, and career searching are not only blissfully intuitive, but integrated in a way where you don’t need to know what a bursar is. I want my daughter to spend no more than a few sentences with Watson to apply for college and get her scholarships, then four years later, I want to hear “Alexa, get a me job starting June 1, 2022.”

Be sure to check out the full article, "CIO Quick Takes, What's your Strategic focus?", to see what other IT leaders are focusing on this year.

Reprinted with permission of

Posted by Michael Hites  On Apr 04, 2017 at 9:14 AM