Continuing the IS Associates Legacy

Jim Davis

Jim Davis, UCLA’s Chief Academic Technology Officer and Vice Provost, Information Technology, first came to work at the university in 2000. Shortly after his arrival, Davis got involved with IS Associates, which was at the time sponsored by the UCLA Anderson School of Management, recognizing the tremendous value of the organization as both an educational forum and networking opportunity for IT leaders. Davis discusses how UCLA’s Office of Information Technology (OIT), as the new sponsor of IS Associates, has continued Anderson’s legacy of success and shares what types of exciting programming and projects the organization has planned for the future.

Building on the Anderson Legacy

For over three decades, the UCLA Anderson School of Management helped the IS Associates grow into a highly impactful organization with a large, dedicated group of members. “The Anderson school has left a tremendous legacy with respect to IS Associates, about 35 years. Much of the programming focused on the role of IT in business,” said Davis.

With Davis at the helm, OIT became the new sponsor of the IS Associates in 2013. “OIT is involved with how the students, faculty and staff are interacting with technology; we’re not just focused on the technological infrastructure itself. We’re involved with research, education, mobility, privacy, public-private partnerships and community partnerships. We’re also involved with IT roles that span all kinds of disciplines … So it became kind of a natural to expand into this office. The transfer over to here enabled us to keep the Anderson connection as strong as ever. But now what we’re able to do is – in ways that weren’t so organizationally easy to do at Anderson – is reach out around the campus and talk with other disciplines like engineering,” Davis explained.

OIT Launches New IS Associates Website

One of the largest projects OIT has undertaken since it became the new sponsor of IS Associates is a complete reboot of the organization’s website. Davis welcomes all members of IS Associates to the new and improved site, which allows users to share their thoughts and ideas, provide commentary about past meetings, connect with other members, learn about upcoming events, and stay up-to-date with the latest trends in business and technology. “If you are going to be an IT organization, you need a way to interact with information technology in modern ways. Our website is about being able to interact with others through multiple devices, whether it is your mobile phone or your computer. We also would like the site to be a resource site. One of the things the IS Associates is about is the new technologies that are affecting us today, and we hope the site will allow members to learn about these kinds of things. We’re also looking for feedback on the site and on the programs,” Davis said.

Managing IT in a University Setting

Davis finds that managing IT at an institution of higher learning in many ways parallels managing IT in the corporate world. “From an IS Associates standpoint, I find that there are quite a few similarities. When one looks at the infrastructure of the campus, especially on the business side, it’s almost all very similar, which is one of the reasons why I’ve participated and been with the IS Associates for a very long time. I can actually learn a lot,” said Davis.

However, unlike commercial enterprises, UCLA often leverages IT for research and educational purposes. “Where it’s different is the research and educational side of things and where we start using IT in those two particular areas. However, there are many companies out there that really do depend on innovation. We’ve actually found a lot of crossover with the entertainment industry because it is reliant on innovation. They’re always changing how they do things. We’ve copied a lot there,” Davis noted.

In addition, UCLA tackles the issues of privacy and security much differently compared to business firms. “One of the things I’ve seen that is strikingly different is that, especially as a public institution, we’ve always been about the openness of information and data,” said Davis.  “Companies are talking a lot about ‘Bring Your Own Device.’ We’ve been talking about this for over a decade, but we’re in a much different place. We spend a lot of time worrying about privacy, whereas companies have treated BYOD as a means of managing privacy and intellectual property.”

Another important characteristic that distinguishes UCLA from commercial companies is its commitment to the philosophy of shared governance. Davis noted, “Where companies can do things in a much more top-down fashion, we can’t. We’re much more about collaboration and consensus between the faculty and administration.”

Under Davis, OIT Expands Focus

After working for the university for nearly a decade as Vice Chancellor IT and CIO, Davis was promoted to the position Vice Provost, Information Technology & Chief Academic Technology Officer in 2010. With this new appointment, Davis and the Office of Information Technology concentrated their efforts on implementing and overseeing new IT programs in correspondence with UCLA’s mission of education, research and civic engagement. “The big difference, for us, has been the word ‘program.’ We use program to mean when you’re directly involved with the teaching of students, or working with the faculty that are teaching the students,” explained Davis. “We also use program to mean when you’re more involved with the research, meaning the programs the faculty are conducting with respect to their own individual research projects … That’s why we changed the office. We wanted to get more involved in those kinds of things and less involved strictly with the IT infrastructure.”

Davis’s commitment to fulfilling the university’s ambitious mission statement ultimately inspired him to establish a partnership between OIT and IS Associates. “As a public university, part of our charter is to work with the public. By simply working as an institution in conjunction with IS Associates, we are bringing industry together with the university and vice versa,” Davis explained.

Student Programming: Bringing Two Sides of the Workforce Together

In the near future, IS Associates hopes to develop and deploy programs that give students and IS Associates members a chance to connect on a deeper level. “We would really like to expand the student programs, and student programs to us don’t just mean recruiting events and career fairs. It’s about understanding the profession from the student’s perspective and understanding the students from the professional’s perspective. What’s most important is really looking at the two sides of the workforce and bringing them together,” Davis remarked. Currently, the organization holds a Student/IS Associates Member Networking Night on an annual basis. Eventually, IS Associates hopes to facilitate mentorship opportunities as well as internship and scholarship programs.

IS Associates: A Catalyst for Collaboration

Davis also plans to initiative collaborative projects between IS Associates member companies and UCLA. “We have a long history of collaborative projects. Working with the students to educate them about illegal file sharing, especially of entertainment media, is one that stands out from the past. In the future, we hope to work with L.A. County and Orange County to do things like workforce training and smart manufacturing,” Davis shared.

The IS Associates allows UCLA to establish strong relationships and engage in meaningful conversations with each of the member companies. “Everyone always says that networking is important. To me, yes it is. But it’s actually those relationships that allow us to do some of those larger, more collaborative things together. We can take on large-scale projects as IS Associates that bring the university and the companies together for the area as well as the profession,” Davis remarked.