WiscNet is challenged daily to describe how we are different than others. Sometimes it’s a 10 Gbps connection to our shared network. Other times it’s that human - an actual, real-life WiscNet human - on the other end of a support line helping to configure a network device.
In recent years, we’ve settled on explaining what it is we do as “connecting people and strategies.” While catchy, it’s vague and desperately needs a story behind it so that everybody can relate.
Maybe you’re familiar with the old story, “Stone Soup.”
Two soldiers returning home from a war arrive in a village and ask for food. When the villagers turn them down, they ask to borrow a kettle, fill it with water, put some stones in the bottom and light a fire. The villagers are curious and begin to contribute to the pot – salt, lard, and vegetables. They create a soup when they come together, and then they eat it together.
Like stone soup, everybody brings something slightly different to the WiscNet story. Whatever the mix, the constants include community, collaboration, and doing something that matters to those gathered around the kettle.
WiscNet began over 25 years ago as not much more than people, a pot, and stones. The first conversations were about networking for researchers in higher education. It evolved to supporting the education networking needs of many universities, technical colleges, K12 schools, libraries, municipalities, and healthcare organizations. Together, we’ve managed to build quite the unique flavor of soup as Wisconsin’s advanced research and education network.
What’s next? What follows here is where and how we plan to take WiscNet over the next five years. The strategies – the sustaining ingredients for the soup – are more interesting and plentiful than ever. WiscNet’s innate ability to connect people continues to make our organization fundamentally different than anything else. The combination of connecting people and strategies – and the exciting work that comes out of that – is now, more than ever, our singular focus.
Dave Lois, Chief Executive Officer, WiscNet
People want to feel connected. WiscNet creates opportunities for our people – our members – to connect and collaborate. We work together to articulate needs and then build connections, advance strategies, and solve the real-world problems of our members. We have seen first hand how a high degree of personal connection – people connections – can become the strength needed to drive innovation and change.
WiscNet’s membership includes a wide range of personalities. We have learned to talk directly with people and offer the same practical, informal assistance that we would offer a friend. We know that we don’t know everything and that no strategy is perfect, however well-intentioned, but we do offer genuine service with our members’ best interests in mind.
Good service engenders trust. Maintaining our reliability starts with the basics. We will continue to ask for feedback and act on that feedback. We are committed, as always, to regular, effective, and open communications among our staff, membership, and board of directors.
WiscNet’s next five years will focus on convening more and better occasions where people come together. We will host and organize meetings, workgroups, events and the annual WiscNet Connections that continue our focus on bringing people together to explore new ways to spark conversations, engender ideas and problem solving, and foster cooperative efforts. Our role is to use our “people knowledge” to steward relationships and networks that lead to collaboration, partnerships, and ownership with and beyond WiscNet.
A Community Area Network of Community Area Networks
WiscNet didn’t invent the Community Area Network (“CANs”) – the idea has been around for a long time. We simply put a name to it and began sharing this strategy with others.
The success of CANs depends on three factors: building a robust optical fiber infrastructure for the community’s shared region, growing a collaborative association of community partners who will grow the network, and sharing resources in new and innovative ways within and among communities.
Pilot projects in Wisconsin communities over the past five years have spawned more than 40 CANs throughout Wisconsin today. These CANs are locally controlled and “scale up” cost-effectively to support diverse organizations, widespread facilities, and advanced applications.
WiscNet’s next five years will focus on becoming a “Community Area Network of Community Area Networks” - the CAN of CANs, if you will. We will serve as the “people” and “strategies” hub for local communities interested in moving forward. Whether the next step is as simple as a community meeting or as complex as developing and sharing full-on services, regionally or statewide, our goal is to make your CAN better, if we can.
Advance Services on Our Networks
We have strategic opportunities to develop WiscNet’s services that will take advantage of our advanced networks. Like the model developed for network services, we will encourage our members and staff to leverage the size, power, and expertise across the WiscNet community to develop new services for our members. We will put the network to new uses. And we are ready now to encourage and support our members to continue “changing the game” to meet their needs by pursuing innovative strategies. We’re committed to a cycle of community engagement, innovation, and advancement that uses our “people network” to create, test, and deploy new services for our members.
We will make a fresh analysis of our core competencies and grow them in order to develop new services for and beyond the network. Our members trust our association to deliver and sustain robust, cost-effective services. While cultivating this trust among our members, we want to develop new services that will make full use of WiscNet’s network as well as our members’ CANs.
WiscNet’s next five years will focus on leveraging the power of the network to provide opt-in, trusted cloud services. We will connect people and and build upon members’ collective wisdom. From ad-hoc discussion groups to workshops and specialized communities, we will support our members in making the most out of being a WiscNet member.
Membership sets WiscNet apart. For more than 25 years, WiscNet has advanced education and innovation by connecting our academic, research, government, library, and healthcare communities. Membership organizations keep the person at the center of the business model and not the product or the service or the transaction. People and relationships are at the core of our everything, from hosting regular meetings to working through technical issues over the phone.
As technology evolves, demands grow, and the way we live and work undergo radical changes, so too do the need for organizations that serve people and communities. Non-profits and healthcare entities now require a network that can support their missions and business models and the connection to people and strategies that will allow them to innovate and pioneer new ideas that benefit the populations they serve.
WiscNet’s next five years will focus on being ever more inclusive and welcoming conversations with new kinds of members. We will continue to increase the resiliency and reach of the community of our networks by growing and delivering valuable services that bring new members and networks of community anchor institutions into our association. We will remain agile, responsive, and trusted to advance the missions of our organizations within and beyond research and education.