Enterprise IT Perspectives on the 2016 Top 10 IT Issues

min read

Enterprise IT Perspectives on the 2016 Top 10 IT Issues

Members of the EDUCAUSE Enterprise IT Program Advisory Committee considered four of the 2016 Top 10 IT issues that are particularly relevant to enterprise information technology. Below they describe how these issues are addressed at their institutions and what opportunities the issues present for the future, and they provide advice for enterprise IT leaders who are tackling these issues. The following committee members shared their thoughts:

  • Mark I. Berman, Chief Information Officer, Siena College
  • Geoffrey Corb, Deputy Chief Information Officer, The Johns Hopkins University
  • Kyle Johnson, Dean for Information Technology and Services, Chaminade University of Honolulu
  • James M. Maher II, Executive Director of Information Technology Services, Saginaw Valley State University
  • Leslie Riester, Director, Special Projects, Portland Community College
  • Angela M. Svoboda, Associate Vice President for Digital Effectiveness, Information Technology, St. Edward’s University

Issue # 5: Institutional Data Management

Improving the management of institutional data through data standards, integration, protection, and governance

How is your institution addressing this issue?

Svoboda: A data access and delivery team with representation from multiple campus offices discusses data issues such as standards, naming conventions, definitions, and governance. We have been able to methodically address issues where data integrity is lacking.

Berman: We brought in a consultant who talked about the importance of data definitions. We are working to be sure everything is clearly defined and everyone understands the definitions.

Riester: We have data custodians who are in charge of data standards in each of their areas. They meet regularly to work toward consensus.

What advice would you give others?

Berman: Make sure the data is consistent as you move toward a data-driven culture. You need a data dictionary, and you need to make sure people stick with it.

Maher: When looking at vendor-provided reporting solutions, make sure to assess current data customizations and how well end users know their data.

What are the biggest opportunities for the future?

Svoboda: There are opportunities to use data as a campus asset and to build an understanding of the importance of data for decision making and predictive analysis.

Riester: There’s a leadership opportunity for the IT organization in these conversations, particularly related to data governance and security.

Issue # 7: BI and Analytics

Developing effective methods for business intelligence, reporting, and analytics to ensure they are relevant to institutional priorities and decision making and can be easily accessed and used by administrators, faculty, and students

How is your institution addressing this issue?

Berman: Historically, our decision making has been seat-of-the-pants, but we’re starting to move toward data-informed decisions. We have the data, but we don’t have the tools to work with it yet.

Maher: We recently purchased a new reporting infrastructure to put the data in the hands of the decision makers. Not every department has the skillsets to be report writers and data analysts, so we enable those who have that talent to help interdepartmentally.

What advice would you give others?

Svoboda: Analytics is critical, but without institutional data management and without a strategy for analytics, the efforts will fail. To get started, work with the offices—such as institutional research—that are onboard with business intelligence..

Berman: Work with institutional leaders to show the value of data-driven decisions. If people start asking for analysis, that’s a big step toward a data-driven culture.

What are the biggest opportunities for the future?

Svoboda: There is an opportunity to collaborate across the institution to define the questions most important to the college/university.

Riester: Community colleges are very focused on access, but access by itself doesn’t ensure student success. We have the opportunity to analyze what will help students be successful.

Maher: Analytics has the potential to solve a lot of the issues we’re facing by helping us make decisions to align better with institutional missions and with what students need.

Issue # 8: Enterprise Application Integrations

Integrating enterprise applications and services to deliver systems, services, processes, and analytics that are scalable and constituent centered

How is your institution addressing this issue?

Johnson: We have a group focused on system integration. We’ve moved past a world where we use one monolithic system for everything. Departments find systems they want to use, and they need to be able to share institutional data to be successful. They often come to us late in the process and ask us to integrate something they’ve already purchased. We continue to work hard to get involved very early on.

Svoboda: We assessed the state of identity issues that affect integrations and created a multiyear strategy and roadmap. We also created developer standards for data and business process integrations.

Maher: We're minimizing customizations and cleaning up our data. We now understand the difficulty of integrating solutions into our ERP. We convey that to stakeholders and build it into project costs and duration.

Riester: Enterprise vendors sometimes go right to the end users, and the IT organization doesn’t get involved until users need integration. We try to market ourselves as people who want to help, so that we can be a part of the process from the beginning.

What advice would you give others?

Svoboda: Work to fully understand what people mean when they ask to have systems integrated. Educate them about identity integrations, data integrations, and business process integrations.

Corb: What was once hardcore development and software engineering is becoming systems integration, and you have to find the technologies that make it easier to do those integrations. With new systems to integrate and expectations for quick turnaround, it’s important to know the technological options and understand the possibilities.

Johnson: Not all systems are housed on campus, so you need authentication that allows for the system to live somewhere else. Whether you use Shibboleth or some other authentication system, it needs to work for both on- and off-campus systems.

What are the biggest opportunities for the future?

Svoboda: Standards such as those developed by Internet2 are helpful.

Berman: With every IT acquisition, try to meet more than one need. Consolidation of IT resources and support can improve the overall efficiency of the institution and decrease the need for system integration.

Johnson: Standard data definitions that we can use between systems will help make things more plug-and-play. Every system integration is still work, but agreeing on definitions would help.

Issue #9: IT Organizational Development

Creating IT organizational structures, staff roles, and staff development strategies that are flexible enough to support innovation and accommodate ongoing changes in higher education, IT service delivery, technology, and analytics

How is your institution addressing this issue?

Maher: We’re going through every service and thinking about what its future is going to be and whether a cloud solution is appropriate. Our goal is an infrastructure that’s fluid and flexible so that we can shorten “time to market.” And every year we put together a training plan to address staff skill issues related to upcoming projects.

Svoboda: We are rethinking our organization every time we have a vacancy. About half the time, we restructure a vacant position to meet new needs.

Johnson: We’re developing project management and communication skills in existing staff. We’re a small institution, so we don’t have a separate project management or communications office. Soft skills make the difference, not the technical skills.

What advice would you give others?

Berman: Help institutional leaders understand that IT success is critical to institutional success. Participate in strategic planning to make sure the institutional leaders understand the IT resources that are necessary to be successful.

Riester: Set performance standards for new competencies, and then help staff reach them. Provide training, set expectations, and give positive support. But be prepared to take action if some staff are not able to meet new standards.

Corb: Fully understand your major vendors’ product directions and roadmaps. You make a substantial investment in an ERP, and you’ll have it for a long time, so you need to know vendors’ plans for the future and be prepared to follow, align, and retool as necessary.

What opportunities do you see for the future?

Riester: You have to keep things running while you try out new things. We have a small staff, so the challenge and the opportunity is to carve out a small group of people who can do the testing, try out new technologies, and work actively with the user community on their ideas.

Corb: The IT organization of the past is not the same as the IT organization of the future. We used to live in a world where we had relative control of the environment. We have far less control now with BYOE and the cloud, and some institutions may not even have their own data centers anymore. This changes the shape of the IT organization, the services it provides, and the roles of the people involved—from leader down to staff and everybody in between. Rethinking what the IT organization is for is a huge opportunity in light of changing priorities and technologies. There may never be a better opportunity to partner with major campus stakeholders in areas traditionally served by information technology or in “growth areas.”

Betsy Tippens Reinitz is Director of Enterprise IT Programs for EDUCAUSE.

© 2016 Betsy Tippens Reinitz. The text of this article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

EDUCAUSE Review 51, no. 1 (January/February 2016)