The School District C-Suite Opportunity Hiding in Plain Sight: Analysis of the Secret Sauce
CFOs, CBOs and CIOs have an unprecedented and mission-critical opportunity to unify within their districts. The influx of federal and state funds to schools throughout COVID certainly increased the visibility of how important the CFO role is to ensuring school function and continuity. Concurrently, the CIO or CTO role was often swiftly elevated to a significantly higher status as schools nationwide quickly responded to the vast number of technology-based needs created by COVID.
Schools are not the same as they were. Thus, a business-as-usual mindset within executive ranks will no longer suffice. Long gone are the days in which the technology department’s role primarily focused on break/fix, desktop support, and basic networking. The CIO’s team, especially as we move past COVID-19, is now woven into the very fabric of the organization through data, systems, applications, network infrastructure, user support and more. Fundamentally, the opportunities for deeper coordination between the CIO and CFO within a school district are seemingly endless. However, there are a few collaborative and symbiotic aspects that make up the “secret sauce” for organizational success.
Secure and Reliable Data and Systems
Generally, the Chief Financial Officer is charged with multi-year, enterprise-level planning that aligns school missions and goals while accounting for risks such as budget fluctuations and planned and unplanned expenses. CFOs are continually pressured to make accurate, timely data-driven decisions, especially within larger school districts who are making billion-dollar decisions. The secret sauce in this scenario: a partnership between the CFO, who needs timely data, and the CIO who can implement cutting-edge data applications and infrastructure while delivering accurate, secure, and timely data to inform critical decisions. Successful execution requires trust, understanding and empathy between these two executive leaders.
An important example of this relationship relates to data speed, accuracy and security. Typically, there are higher costs for faster and more accurate data. Business Intelligence tools can display more complex data sets and integrate a larger number of systems to aid with decision making. While speed and accuracy are important, planning for security is a key ingredient to this CIO/CFO relationship development.
Fiscal Impact and Trust in Zero Trust
As highlighted in this District Administration article, CFOs have many reasons to care about cybersecurity. Costs resulting from a breach or cyber incident are significant – not to mention other concerns including credit ratings, insurance premiums, and the potential impacts of losing trust within a community. This rising threat was highlighted in a recent iboss post authored by iboss Senior Vice President Richard Quinones. Considering the significant security concerns, implementing the Zero Trust Architecture can help secure our students and data. This approach, now being implemented across government organizations, also requires a successful CIO/CFO partnership. It is imperative these roles work together to lay out a plan and endure if it is funded and supported.
Realistically, the secret sauce boils down to acknowledging and acting upon the unprecedented value in the CIO and CFO relationship. The education space continues to evolve at a rapid pace. These C-suite leaders are wise to leverage their mutual strengths to benefit all students, staff and communities.
For more information about iboss Zero Trust Edge for K-12 and the entire Education sector, please visit iboss’ site for Education.
Blog by Greg Ottinger, Ed.D.
Greg Ottinger is a native San Diegan who has spent the last two decades as a teacher, researcher, and executive leader focused on creating incredible outcomes for learners of all ages. Most recently, Greg served as Chief Business Officer for the San Diego Unified School District. In this capacity he led and supported operational (finance, IT, Education Technology, transportation, nutrition, facilities/construction, enrollment, charter schools, custodial, maintenance, and school police divisions), for the second-largest school district in California. Greg serves as a senior education advisor for iboss.