The "Leading Transformational Change" session at the 2016 EDUCAUSE/NACUBO Enterprise IT Summit generated more audience questions than the panelists could answer in the time allowed. They address two of the outstanding questions through this blog. In this first posting, the panelists consider what IT should stop doing.
Audience question: We have heard what we need to do and how we need to do it more efficiently. What about what we should stop doing so we can focus on what needs to be done?
When considering the question of what IT should stop doing, in order to bring credibility to an organization, the IT team needs to really work on making the shift to the strategic partner. The traditional IT team has positioned itself in many ways to be everything to everyone and continues to hold on to the belief that it needs to be the technology expert. Technology is moving too rapidly, and functional users are much better positioned to know what their technology needs are or what tools they require to meet their goals or objectives. The organization will be better served when the IT professional makes the paradigm shift from managing servers and e-mail to being a conductor, orchestrating a portfolio or suite of products that brings "best in class" value back to the organization.
This is the "divest" theme among the three that EDUCAUSE identified in this year's top 10 IT issues in higher ed.1 It is much easier said than done, but here are some ideas for services or practices we might reduce or eliminate over varying amounts of time:
- Campus e-mail (most of us have already done this)
- Campus file servers
- Support for versions of desktop software that are 3+ versions old and/or are no longer supported by either a vendor or open-source community
- Custom-built systems and tools that are not directly or are only tangentially client-facing. These systems and tools were often built before commercial options existed and might not provide any institutional differentiation today. Such tools might include, e.g., custom-built asset management databases, custom tools for server provisioning, and custom-built network access control systems.
- Custom-built applications that now exist in the marketplace, often with superior functionality
- Reporting (especially printed reports) that is little or never used
- E-mail lists and other e-mail-centric forms of communication, especially for students
- Multiple versions or instances of hardware and software that provide the same functionality for different groups within the institution
- Disparate help desks and IT service ticketing systems within the institution
- Campus data centers
Joe and Tracy have great advice. In addition to their suggestions, consider developing a strategy for managing your IT portfolio that can guide decisions about what to stop doing:
- Are you still running services that are really consumer-level services now and so should be chosen, deployed, and supported by individual users?
- Are you still providing major infrastructure that could more appropriately be cloud-provisioned?
- Lop off the long tail of legacy services, applications, and versions that take time, add risk, and only pertain to a very few users.
- Scholars and scientists in particular need specialized applications, equipment, and cyberinfrastructure, but few institutions can afford to manage and support them centrally. High-cost resources are great candidates for intra- or cross-institutional shared services to enable multiple institutions to collaboratively and cost-effectively support their research missions.
- Setting limits is a great alternative to stopping when that's not an option. This is a long-standing practice in IT support, but it can also pertain to other areas.
- See the 2016 EDUCAUSE Top 10 IT Issues hub for more information about the three themes of divest, reinvest, and differentiate.
Joseph Sergi is Executive Vice President of Finance and Administration and CFO at Southern New Hampshire University.
Tracy Shroeder is Vice President of Information Services and Technology at Boston University.
Susan Grajek is Vice President of Data, Research, and Analytics at EDUCAUSE.
© 2016 Joseph Sergi, Tracy Schroeder, and Susan Grajek. This EDUCAUSE Review blog is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 International license.