CUSTOMER STORY: ZACH LOCH, CIO
Making the grade at East Carolina University with
CIO Zach Loch leads strategic advancements to meet university goals
Founded in 1907, East Carolina University (ECU) is one of largest universities in North Carolina and home to several undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools, including medicine and nursing. The university’s 30,000 students are supported by a faculty of more than 2,000 talented professionals, academics, scientists, researchers, artists, and educators.
Critical to the operations of this top-ranked university is the Information Technology and Computing Services (ITCS) department. Leading the group’s roughly 200 employees is Zach Loch, whose career at the university began as a student in Computer Science. He later returned to work in the ECU IT department and is now the university’s CIO. To drive the university’s leadership in IT, Loch and his ITCS team strive to improve teaching, research, learning, and productivity for faculty, students, and staff through the effective use of information technology.
Zach Loch, CIO, East Carolina University
With Info-Tech’s best practices research, workshops, guided implementations, and expert counseling, the university has advanced major initiatives including Project Portfolio Management, Data Protection, and IT Governance.
Leveraging expert advice to accelerate IT performance
Supporting the technology needs of a large public university presents a unique set of challenges. Loch explained that, unlike a business operating in a specific industry, the university’s operations span myriad industries: “We are in education, but we also need to support things like housing, dining, a police department, entertainment, and busing and transportation. Any industry segment you can think of is represented in some way, shape, or form at the university, and we need to support all of it.”
To successfully meet the school’s wide-ranging technology needs, ITCS leadership is committed to optimizing IT strategy, decision-making, and processes. In recent years, the team has leveraged the research and advisory services of Info-Tech Research Group. With Info-Tech’s best-practice research, workshops, guided implementations, and expert counselling, the university has advanced major initiatives including project portfolio management, data protection, and IT governance.
Improving the effectiveness of IT processes with guided support
One of ITCS’s first engagements with Info-Tech was a Project Portfolio Management (PPM) Guided Implementation – a multi-phase advisory service to help formalize processes and strategy related to the management of IT projects. “We needed Info-Tech’s help to assess our PPM maturity level and identify how we could improve project intake and prioritization. It was a valuable engagement, and receiving an Info-Tech report at the end of the process was particularly beneficial. Now, we have a good project intake structure and general project management has also improved,” explained Loch.
More recently, ITCS engaged in a Guided Implementation on IT Governance where Info-Tech experts helped the team design a framework to ensure consistent decision making around IT priorities in alignment with the university’s needs. Loch explained, “We didn’t have a good structure for governance around IT projects. Info-Tech was able to guide us through crafting a framework that was specific to ECU, but that also adhered to principles of good governance and leveraged what had been done at other universities. We’re excited about it. I’m looking forward to improved engagement, not only related to prioritizing projects, but also identifying what strategic projects might be missing from our list.”
“The IT Staffing Assessment was really beneficial. In addition to figuring out where people are spending their time, it was also a way for employees to provide feedback. From the areas that are working well to the areas that need improvement, we’re able to move forward based on what showed up on the survey results. We want to make that survey an annual process”
Analyzing feedback from teams and stakeholders with diagnostic programs
Info-Tech’s diagnostic programs have also delivered critical insight to ITCS. For example, the department completed Info-Tech’s IT Staffing Assessment, which identifies where IT staff time is being spent and whether it’s being used effectively in a comprehensive report that provides the foundation to guide improvements. “The IT Staffing Assessment was really beneficial. In addition to figuring out where people are spending their time, it was also a way for employees to provide feedback. From the areas that are working well to the areas that need improvement, we’re able to move forward based on what showed up on the survey results. We want to make that survey an annual process,” said Loch.
For additional help with challenging initiatives, ITCS has appreciated having access to Info-Tech experts. Loch noted the value of unbiased advice from an Info-Tech advisor with experience as a CIO: “Being able to leverage a partner with industry expertise is so valuable. The advisor provided his perspective on what he’s seen or done at other institutions. We bounced ideas around and asked questions. He also gave us homework to do, and he wasn’t afraid to push back a little bit and tell us if he thought something was not a good idea. I really like that.”
A commitment to IT excellence and industry leadership
Dedicated to improving IT performance and effectiveness, the leaders at ITCS have additional initiatives in their sights, including the development of a cloud strategy and enhancements to IT service management and IT asset management. Engagements with Info-Tech on these projects are underway as the team looks for guidance on next steps. Loch reiterated his appreciation of the Info-Tech philosophy: “I like the ‘periodic chart’ [the Info-Tech IT Management & Governance Framework showing 45 methodologies for improving core IT processes]. I like the idea that you pick the ones that are most important to your organization, and then you have access to a prescriptive plan on how to achieve it. You have the choice to do it on your own, or you can do a workshop, or you can do a guided implementation through analyst calls.”
As an IT leader, Loch values his larger role in the higher education industry and the IT profession. Loch stressed the importance of staying connected at that level: “Sometimes, we can get wrapped up in everything that we have going on here and lose sight of the bigger picture – industry trends, where higher education is going, and best practices around higher IT concepts. Talking with IT professionals and leveraging their experience, especially in consulting roles with other universities, helps us get out of our own bubble and understand how the world is moving.”