The University of Montana

Archive for the ‘Strategy’ Category


In Innovation, Strategy on November 3, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I’m working with colleagues to analyze technology trends as part of an IT strategic planning process. One way to speculate on the future is to look at the trajectory of the past. Here’s a little stroll down my own technology memory lane.

“The Zenith SuperSport 286 may well be the harbinger of a new era of laptop computing. It embodies a combination of speed, weight, size and battery life that we’ve seen in no other laptop computer. Zenith’s engineers have come closer to the ideal laptop than any so far.”

Thus begins a glowing product review in the October 17, 1988 issue of InfoWorld.

Zenith SuperSport 286


The SuperSport 286 came with a 286 processor, 64K of RAM and a 20-megabyte hard drive. It was three inches thick, and at 10 pounds was considered lightweight. It cost $4,999. For $600 more you could get it with a 40-megabyte hard drive.

I owned a SuperSport 286, or “Sporto” as I called it. I paid for the extra 20 megabytes. I was proud to be on the front lines of the mobile computing revolution.

In July 2001, MaximumPC magazine reviewed three new digital cameras, calling the 2.1 megapixel Canon PowerShot A20, priced at $499, a “Maximum Kick Ass Product.”

I owned a Canon PowerShot A20. It was a little bulky at 13 ounces, but it produced nice 5×7 prints. I miss the Fotomat huts, but I’ve never missed buying film. It felt good to be an early adopter in the digital media revolution.

This week I bought an iPhone. It weighs five ounces and fits in my pocket. As a computing device, it’s something like 16,000 times faster than the SuperSport 286, and can store 400,000 times more data. A handful of images from the 8-megapixel camera would fill Sporto’s hard drive and reproduce beautifully on a 20×30 poster. I could purchase 30 iPhones for what I paid for my first laptop and digital camera combined.

One might conclude that I was foolish to spend so much for new tools when better and cheaper technology was just around the corner. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. Despite my determination to keep up, in midlife I lag behind the digital natives . . . but only by a little.

Imagine where I would be if I had waited.


NetID as master key

In Communication, Security, Strategy, Systems, Web on February 11, 2011 at 1:58 pm

UM joins federation that will allow campus users to log into external services using local credentials

Every UM student and employee has a NetID login and associated password that provides access to a growing number of web services on campus. The next step is to extend the convenience and security of a single login credential beyond campus.

UM recently joined InCommon, a federation of higher education institutions and partners who have a need to collaborate and conduct business through secure web services. Partners include research funders, government agencies and vendors who provide web-based services to colleges.

Logging into off-campus web services using a local username and password is achieved through federated identity management. UM and other members of InCommon will use standard data formats for identifying users, making it easy to set up trust relationships.  The benefit is that users have one set of login credentials to remember and manage rather than a separate username and password for every system they access. And service providers no longer need to manage databases of user accounts for access control. Beyond convenience and efficiency, federated identity management reduces the risk that your personal information will be compromised or misused.

Don’t know your NetID?

Go to and click on the
“What is my NetID” link

About 200 colleges and universities have joined InCommon, along with about 80 government, non-profit and business partners. The National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation are InCommon members, as are Microsoft, Apple iTunes U, Blackboard, MoodleRooms and the National Student Clearinghouse, all of which provide services to UM students and faculty.

Gary  Trethewey, manager of Directory Services in IT, says he expects UM to have the hardware and software in place by fall to begin taking advantage of federated identity management.

This article appears in the February, 2011 edition of IT’s Bits newsletter.

Two ways

In Innovation, Leadership and Management, People, Projects, Strategy on November 19, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Running a marathon is a worthy goal. If that’s your goal, there are two ways to approach the challenge.

Approach one:

Pick a marathon—say next year’s Missoula Marathon, which starts on July 10 at 6 a.m. The date is set. The time is set. You can lock in your commitment today.

Now, work backwards from the date of the race to plan your training. What will you need to accomplish every week for the next eight months to be ready to run 26.2 miles on race day?

Make training part of your daily routine. Seek out expert advice. Build a support network of kindred spirits to share the journey.

Be aware that some will think you’re foolish and seek to discourage you. Prepare to sacrifice activities you enjoy. Acknowledge that you will feel pain and suffer setbacks. Know that doubt and anxiety will be your constant companion. Success will require that you overcome all of these obstacles.

Approach two:

Do some runs when you have spare time. When you get distracted or feel discomfort, stop until your motivation returns. Most importantly, wait for the day when you’re sure there’s no chance for failure before you commit to the goal.


Advancing the operation of the University through technological innovation is a worthy goal. There are two ways to approach the challenge.

Motivation 3.0

In Innovation, Leadership and Management, People, Policies, Strategy on August 5, 2010 at 7:05 am

Autonomy is an innate psychological need in humans. Our basic nature is to be curious and self-directed (at least until our parents and teachers break us).

In our jobs, we are most motivated and productive when we have autonomy over what we do, when we do it, how we do it, and with whom we do it. So says author Daniel Pink in his new book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

Pink borrows from the software world by dubbing the carrot-and-stick approach to management as “Motivation 2.0.” Most organizations have been stuck in this mindset since the industrial revolution. Pink argues that it’s time to upgrade our thinking about management to adapt to a new world that demands more complex, right-brained work.

We need “Motivation 3.0,” he says.

“Motivation 2.0 assumed that if people had freedom, they would shirk – and that autonomy was a way to bypass accountability,” Pink says. “Motivation 3.0 begins with a different assumption. It presumes that people want to be accountable – and that making sure they have control over their task, their time, their technique and their team is a pathway to that destination.

Here’s how a few organizations have put motivation 3.0 principles into practice:

In the 1930’s and 40’s, 3M adopted a policy that staff could spend up to 15 percent of their time working on projects of their choosing. One result of the policy was the invention of Post-It Notes. The company has made a few dollars off that innovation.

Not many organizations followed 3M’s lead. Google is an exception. Google has a 20 percent time policy – meaning that employees can spend 20 percent of their time working on any project they choose. In a typical year, half of Google’s new offerings emerge from this period of pure autonomy. Gmail, for example, was the product of the 20-percent policy.

At W.L. Gore and Associates (makers of GORE-TEX), anybody who wants to rise in the ranks of management can do so by assembling a team of people willing to work with them.

Meddius, a healthcare technology company in Virginia, adopted a policy called ROWE – Results Only Work Environment. Employees have no schedules. They can come in at 11 if they want. They can take off for their kid’s soccer game at three in the afternoon. No guilt. No icy stares from co-workers. Employees are still interdependent and accountable to project deadlines and sales goals, but after a six-month trial period, the company made the policy permanent.

Universities prove the power of Motivation 3.0. Universities have flourished for a thousand years because faculty have tremendous autonomy. That autonomy drives them to learn, to create and to make the world a better place. Not a lot of shirking going on.

But parts of the university still haven’t upgraded. Staff employees are predominantly managed in a “Motivation 2.0” system in which control is more important than creativity, innovation and making the world a better place. 

Give staff more autonomy over their tasks, their time, their techniques and their team and see what happens. The results might surprise you.

Questions of innovation

In Innovation, Leadership and Management, Strategy on June 11, 2010 at 9:48 am

By Jessica Carter, Program Manager in UM’s Extended Learning Services

The World Innovation Forum came to UC 330 earlier this week, and there were a lot of big ideas for such a small room.

The session topics were varied – from marketing to leading change and from green strategies to design – but I discovered that they all had something in common. Each session generated questions, ideas, and new ways of thinking about our organization and the work we do, both collectively and individually. Rather than relay the pages of notes I scribbled from the Forum, I thought I’d share a question or two from each of the sessions I attended. Hopefully, they’ll generate additional ideas and ways of thinking for you:


Andreas Weigend (former Chief Scientist of talked about current innovations in marketing, specifically how the conversation is becoming more important than the message. Innovative marketers are inviting and facilitating consumer ideas and feedback and then responding. Going one step further, they’re providing platforms for consumers to connect with each other, not necessarily with the organization (although the organization is paying attention and listening). He highlighted the evolution of e-business (focus on organization) to me-business (focus on consumer) to we-business (focus on community). This got me thinking…

  • How can we better connect feedback and ideas (from our many “consumers”) to innovative actions?
  • How can we better connect our “consumers” (prospective students, current students, alumni, etc.) to one another, in essence creating a community?

Redefining limits.

Ursula Burns (CEO of Xerox) shared her experience leading change and innovation at Xerox. Xerox is typically thought of as a “copy” company, which is a fairly limiting description, especially as the world becomes increasingly paperless. But she’s redefining those limits and leading Xerox as an “information management” company. By taking the organization’s core competencies, technologies, and services and using them in new ways, she’s fostering innovation and growth. This got me thinking…

  • How can we redefine the limits of our individual roles to foster innovation and growth?
  • How can we redefine the limits of our departmental roles to foster innovation and growth?

The value of green.

Joel Makower (the “guru of green business practices”) talked about green strategies and how most organizations are committing “random acts of greenness” instead of pursuing a complete strategy. He also talked about a new era of green – it’s no longer about doing something green because it’s trendy, reputation-building, or simply the right thing to do. Organizations are now using green strategies and innovations to add value. He posed a simple question, which I now pose to you:

  • Green “wins” only when green = better. So, how does green = better for the institution?
  • Or, what green strategies and innovations can we develop (individually and collectively) to add value to the institution?


Robert Brunner (founder and CEO of Ammunition, the company that designed Fuego grills, Barnes & Noble’s nook, and dr. dre’s beats headphones) shared some of the amazing design work he’s done, and asserted that the things you do or make define you and your relationship with your customer. He also made an intriguing point: it is often simple details that entirely define a product or service. He challenged the audience to “matter” to customers, to create a bond through a meaningful relationship, hopefully influenced by innovation. This got me thinking…

  • What simple details can we add, change, or remove to influence how we’re defined?
  • How do we “matter” to students, alumni, donors, the community, etc? And how could we pursue innovations that create a more meaningful bond?

So, any new ideas or ways of thinking out there?

UM to webcast innovative speakers

In Innovation, Leadership and Management, Strategy, Training on June 7, 2010 at 8:37 am

In case you missed it on the campus calendar or in today’s Missoulian, UM will be webcasting many of the presentations from the World Innovation Forum taking place in New York Tuesday and Wednesday. This is a great opportunity to hear from thought leaders in technology, education, marketing, business, environment  and design.

Here’s the schedule of events that will be webcast in UC 330, with a little added information about a few of the speakers I’m looking forward to hearing:

Tuesday, June 8:

  • 9-9:45 a.m.: Michael Howe presents “The Customer Is the Driver.”
    • Michael is an innovator in the health care field, earning Fast Company’s distinction as one of the top 50 people who will change how Americans work and live over the next 10 years.1:15-2 p.m.: Andreas Weigend presents “Marketing and Web 2.0.”
  • 1:15-2 p.m.: Andreas Weigend presents “Marketing and Web 2.0.”
    • Andreas is a behavioral marketing expert and former Chief Scientist at where he developed data-mining techniques and other applications.
  • 3-4 p.m.: Biz Stone presents “Social Networking.”
    • Biz  is a co-founder of Twitter and has published two books on blogging, including: Who Let the Blogs Out? And Blogging: Genius Strategies for Instant Web Content

Wednesday, June 9:

  • 9-9:30 a.m.: Brian Shawn Cohen presents “Next Wave of Technology Innovation.”
  • 9:30-10:30 a.m.: Wendy Kopp presents “Realizing Educational Opportunities for All.”
    • Wendy is founder and CEO of Teach for America, a national corps of outstanding recent college graduates who commit two years to teach in urban and rural public schools and becomd lifelong leaders in pursuit of educational excellence and equity.
  • Noon-12:45 p.m.: Ursula Burns presents “A Conversation With the CEO of Xerox.”
  • 12:45-1:30 p.m.: Joel Makower presents “Strategies for the Green Economy.”
  • 1:30-2 p.m.: Jeffrey Hollender presents “Building a Better World.”
  • 2:30-4 p.m.: Robert Brunner presents “Innovation & Design.”
    • Robert, former Director of Industrial Design at Apple Computer, founded Ammunition in 2007, a design company focusing on communicating strategic innovation through product design, and its brand and surrounding experience.

More on the event

Why does it matter?

In Innovation, Leadership and Management, Network, Strategy on June 4, 2010 at 10:48 am

The University of Montana has been a partner for seven years with major research universities and other entities to build a high-speed network connecting Seattle to Chicago across the Northern part of the U.S.

On Thursday, about 60 people gathered at the UM Law School to celebrate the completion of the network and look forward to additional collaborations and innovations made possible by the 10-gigabyte network. The event was the Northern Tier Network Consortium’s  “Golden Spike Event.”

In preparing for the public celebration, UM Executive Vice President asked one question of us over and over: Why does it matter?

Hopefully we provided some answers to that question on Thursday.

It matters to higher education by attracting significantly more research dollars, and attracting and retaining top faculty and researchers

It matters to people living in rural areas who will benefit from better access to quality health care.

It matters to K-12 teachers and students who will be able to access resources on the network that individual school districts could never afford.

It matters to the state for the economic development is enables.

And as UM CIO Ray Ford told the Missoulian, it matters for the technologies that will be developed in the years to come that we can’t yet fathom.

If you missed it, here’s the Missoulian story.

Technology and the final four

In Governance, Innovation, Leadership and Management, Policies, Strategy on April 22, 2010 at 10:39 am

Governor Brian Schweitzer announced the final four cost savings ideas submitted by Montana citizens this week. Three of the ideas selected by the governor call for reductions in technology spending.

The tech targets are:

  1. Extend computer replacement cycles from four years to five. The entry also suggests that laptop computers are more expensive than desktop computers, and that perhaps departments could implement a shared laptop pool.
  2. Stop subsidizing Blackberries.
  3. Consolidate servers and data centers to reduce electrical consumption.

The fourth idea was to reduce the number of vehicles the state keeps in its motor pool, and to encourage employees to drive their own cars for work-related trips.

The release from the Governor’s office says that more than 1,000 ideas were submitted as part of the Montana Accountability Partnership. It doesn’t say how the four finalists were selected, but if there is a strategy beyond saving money, that strategy appears to be to stifle mobility.

Meanwhile, the New Media Consortium has released its 2010 Horizons Report highlighting emerging technologies that will have the biggest impact on higher education. Number one on the list is—you guessed it—mobile computing.

The report says this about mobile computing in higher education:

“People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to. Life in an increasingly busy world where learners must balance demands from home, work, school, and family poses a host of logistical challenges with which today’s ever more mobile students must cope.

“. . . virtually all higher education students carry some form of mobile device, and the cellular network that supports their connectivity continues to grow. An increasing number of faculty and instructional technology staff are experimenting with the possibilities for collaboration and communication offered by mobile computing. Devices from smart phones to netbooks are portable tools for productivity, learning, and communication, offering an increasing range of activities fully supported by applications designed especially for mobiles.”

It’s great to ask citizens for ideas to make government better. It’s also great to make policy decisions grounded in the realities of today and with an eye on the future.

Super Bowl stories

In Innovation, Leadership and Management, Strategy on February 3, 2010 at 2:38 pm

In honor of Sunday’s Super Bowl, I offer two stories:  one about talent, one about team.

Both involve innovative thinking that made a difference.


The Indianapolis Colts have perhaps the most talented person in the league at his position. That of course would be Bill Polian, the team’s general manager. Polian is responsible for assembling the talent you will see on display Sunday, including the other most talented person in the league at his position, Peyton Manning.

Colt’s owner Jim Irsay gets credit for identifying Polian’s talent for building successful teams, and for finding a creative way to lure him away from another organization. In 1998, Irsay traded a draft pick to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for Polian. (see story)


Before the 2002 Super Bowl, The NFL asked New England Patriots coach Bill Bilichick whether he wanted his offensive players or his defensive players introduced before the game. He said neither. The NFL pressed him to choose. Bilichick stood firm.

After the offensive players of the star-studded St. Louis Rams—dubbed the “Greatest Show on Turf’’—were introduced one-by-one,  the Patriots entered the Louisiana Superdome as a team. The Patriots won that day, and won two more Super Bowls over the next three years.

In all but one Super Bowl since, players have entered as a team, not as individuals.

Opposite approaches to design

In Innovation, Leadership and Management, Strategy on January 28, 2010 at 9:59 am

There’s no contrast quite like Apple’s approach to design vs. Microsoft’s approach to design.

Apple’s Steve Jobs introduced the world to iPad yesterday. The presentation opened with this quote from the Wall Street Journal: “Last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it had some commandments written on it.”

Harvard Business Review blogger Roberto Verganti says the hype is validation of Apple’s innovation process.

“Insights do not move from users to Apple but the other way around. More than Apple listening to us, it’s us who listen to Apple,” he explains.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is running an ad campaign for Windows 7 in which one ordinary computer user after another tells us: “I’m a PC, and Windows 7 was my idea.”

Microsoft’s user-centered approach to design produces safe, incremental improvements. Apple’s visionary approach to design produces breakthrough innovations with occasional spectacular failures.

I have a choice to make as I start to design the next IT website.