Cloud Thought Leader Web Series – Eric Dirst, CIO, DeVry Inc.

April 23, 2013 Appirio

By Glenn Weinstein, CIO, Appirio (@GlennWeinstein)

We kicked off our 2013 Cloud Thought Leader web series this week with a conversation between me and Eric Dirst, SVP and CIO at DeVry Inc.

These webinars are intended to share real-life stories from executives who, as Appirio customers, have overseen real business transformation using public cloud technologies. It’s one thing to talk in terms of general principles – and I do think the intellectual argument for widely adopting cloud platforms is solid – but it’s even more impactful to hear it straight from the source.

We’ll ask each of the executives we interview in this series to tell us how it went – from their initial decision to adopt a cloud-first IT procurement philosophy, to winning over IT and business teams and overcoming objections, to delivering the first project, to living with and maintaining public cloud-based systems in production for the long haul.

Eric got us off to a great start. Since joining DeVry as CIO in 2008, he’s led a number of high-profile cloud-based initiatives, most notably rebuilding DeVry’s applications systems to dramatically improve the speed and quality of response to prospective students. Cloud technologies now run deep at DeVry, integrating both cloud and on-premise data stores, and pushing platforms like to their limits.

During our question-and-answer period, Eric shared a number of very interesting observations, and I’d encourage you to watch our recording to hear it from him directly. Among my key takeaways:

  • Focus on people, not just technology. Project leadership was the most important factor in their successful initial deployment.
  • Small, frequent releases actually enhance user adoption, because users can consume change more easily when it comes in small doses. 
  • Challenging business counterparts to develop end-to-end services, and own all aspects of those services, has changed how IT is perceived internally for the better, by bringing together developers, solution architects, and others to set and meet goals as a team.
  • Technically minded CIOs (like me and Eric!) tend to underestimate the long-term maintenance costs of customization. Challenge your teams when they suggest non-standard approaches.
  • Build reports and dashboards early in the development process, and iterate on them just as much as you’d iterate on functional user stories.

In the course of our conversation, Eric mentioned a few topics that are covered in columns he’s written for CIO Talk Radio:

Eric helped our listeners visualize how they can transform the role of IT in their organizations. Join us for future webinars with like-minded CIOs!

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