An appetite for creative destruction: Should the role of senior academic technology officer be modeled on a CIO or a CTO?

Simon Shurville, Tom Browne, Marian Whitaker

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose: This paper seeks to examine the emerging role of the Senior Academic Technology Officer (SATO) in higher education. It aims to consider two existing templates for this professional role derived from mainstream information management and information technology: the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Characteristically, CIOs and CTOs might be expected to have different appetites for creative destruction. The paper seeks to focus on the match between a SATO's own appetite for radical technological change and innovation - that is, for creative destruction - and that of their institution. The paper concludes with some observations concerning role design and appropriate recruitment and selection criteria for SATOs in higher education. Design/methodology/approach: The paper informs its discussion with a micro case study and the outcomes of a virtual anecdote circle comprised of 20 senior academics, administrators, and educational technologists from higher education institutions in Asia, Australia, North America, and the UK. Findings: The research suggests that the preferred model for a SATO is closest to that of a CIO with a leaning towards innovation and change. However, the paper finds that a SATO's personal appetite for creative destruction may be in conflict with the institution's culture, norms and values, resulting in poor outcomes for both. In order to avoid extreme mismatch the paper recommends a realistic approach to the recruitment and selection of SATOs that is aligned with the organisation's tolerance for innovation and change. Research limitations/implications: The paper contributes to the body of research-based literature concerning the strategic management and development of professional scientific and technical staff. Originality/value: Given the strategic importance of SATOs to ICT-driven transformation, university leaders will require evidence to formulate appropriate human resource and performance management strategies for these key academic-related/professional staff. The paper brings together evidence from a highly informed group of stakeholders with active interests in the field using a virtual anecdote circle.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)137-147
    Number of pages11
    JournalCampus Wide Information Systems
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2010


    • Higher education
    • Innovation
    • Recruitment
    • Selection


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