Over the past dozen years or so, technology managers in higher ed have grown more educated and become more visible in the industry. However, many feel that this group has never been looked at as equals in the industry. We have several organizations that represent us, including an AVIXA council, “Technology Managers Council.” There are other associations, with CCUMC coming first to mind, and conferences, such as UBTech. So, I was initially a little surprised to learn that a new association, the Higher Education Technology Managers Association (HETMA) had been launched.
HETMA was launched earlier this year by Joe Way of California Baptist University and BC Hathchett from Vanderbilt. Since I know Joe fairly well, I gave him a call to try and better understand the goal of the association.
Joe dove deep into where this started and what they hope for the future. Joe and BC were asked by a vendor to travel to their headquarters, take a look at future products and give feedback. They were accompanied by about 10 other tech managers. Joe says that the experience was amazing. They were able to look behind the curtain of marketing and see what was happening. He also reports being critical of products when needed and letting the manufacturer know what he needed. Months after the trip Joe was amazed to see the manufacturer return with a product that was based on the comments of the visiting tech manager group. Joe and BC began to discuss the experience and how it would be valuable to have others involved and informed. Hence, HETMA was born.
Joe reports that the association is not intended to replace or duplicate any of the organizations that already exist, but to serve a currently unfulfilled need. He wants to create a place that manufacturers can turn to in order to get feedback and information. HETMA is also intended to give a voice to the educational institutions that are not large enough or not in populated enough areas to get regular visits from manufacturers. One of his thoughts for effecting this change would be to host an online conference, where participants could hear from manufacturers about what is on the roadmap and be able to give feedback. Joe and BC are also planning on having a meetup at InfoComm.
HETMA is also intended to provide resources to higher ed tech managers. One idea that BC and Joe have is to do a research project into staffing of tech managers at higher ed institutions. For tech managers who are on one of the many mail lists, this question comes up at least once a year. People have collected anecdotal data and they have created surveys, but there has never been a professional report developed from these discussions that one could bring to their administration in order to have a staffing discussion. HETMA is hoping to be able to create such a report.
Another possible project would be to develop white papers for higher ed tech managers. Joe and I discussed the numerous wireless presentation products that are available. We can (and often do) ask our colleagues about these, but it is difficult to put together clear comparisons from people who have used the product. HETMA could possibly put together a group of people who have used various products. Together they could develop a list of features and discuss how they work, compared with how they are advertised.
Joe and BC intend to never charge anyone with a .edu address to access the material or be part of the association. They want this to be a resource that is open to everyone. This will require some sponsorship. We discussed whether there was any problem with this, in the sense of manufacturers wanting to sell to the group in exchange for sponsorship. Joe felt that he would not be too concerned about this. He feels that when manufacturers begin to understand the purpose of the group, they will see value in it. They too will get value from the group, other than just a list of sales leads. They will get ideas about what makes their products valuable, directly from the people who are using them.
We also discussed integrators and what their place in the association might be. At the moment, Joe reports that they are not quite sure about that. They are focused on creating an avenue to get out the voice of the tech manager. So, if there are ways integrators can get involved to hear our voices, he is interested. There are some preliminary thoughts about this. For example, Joe and I have been rather vocal about our views on AVaaS in higher ed. We talked about how this would be a good venue for a integrator to work with a group of tech managers to develop services in this area that would be beneficial to everyone. This is the ideal example of how tech managers could help create value for themselves, and for the industry.
In an effort to be clear that HETMA is not trying to take over, or push aside other organizations, they have a list on their website of other organizations, conferences, training and media. HETMA is intended to add value to these already established groups, rather than take away from any.
While this new association is really aimed at letting tech managers have a voice, it will also provide real value to any integrator, designer and manufacturer who wants to listen. It will tell them exactly what they should provide to us, if they want to provide amazing services to higher ed. Go check out their website and follow them on social media (hetma_org), to learn about the association will do next.