What the Heck Is Next Generation Enterprise IT? Crowdsourced Observations from the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference

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Enterprise IT is in a state of flux. The kinds of strategies that once worked to maintain modular, transactional systems are quickly becoming inadequate as systems are disaggregated, IT control shifts, and institutional need increases for a seamless flow of information across disparate systems in support of all aspects of institutions' missions.

The 2017 EDUCAUSE Annual Conference included a session titled What the Heck Is Next Generation Enterprise IT?, which looked at this changing role of enterprise IT in higher education. Speakers described the future as one where IT needs to be mission-driven and client-centric in order to support the goals of the institution. The next generation of enterprise IT is characterized by a movement beyond siloed, transactional systems to a multifaceted, interconnected ecosystem that substantively contributes to and advances the mission and effectiveness of higher education. This approach is enabled by a variety of trends in technology and its management that include cloud computing, social networks, mobile technologies, analytics, artificial intelligence, enterprise architecture, and service management. It is driven by the need to meet increasing expectations for greater system agility, flexibility, and scalability, hyperpersonalization of services, and a close link between IT and the institutional mission and goals.

During the session, audience members weighed in on two questions. First, what characteristic of next generation enterprise IT is most likely to advance the institutional mission? The 119 responses are shown in table 1. The top three responses (shifting role of IT, alignment with institutional mission, and data and system integration) get to the heart of the change that's under way for enterprise IT. We can no longer assume that we know best when it comes to our institutions' technology needs. IT needs to be in close touch with institutional mission and goals, and it's important that we create technology culture and environment that help our institutions meet their needs for reliable information and analytics.

Table 1. Characteristics of next generation enterprise IT most likely to advance the institutional mission


Percentage of Respondents

Shifting role of IT (i.e., from a technology provider to broker and integrator)


Alignment of technology with institutional mission


Data and system integration that enables information flow


Holistic systems approach


Consistent user experience across systems


Personalized experience for users


Mix of sourcing strategies (on-premises, SaaS, etc.)


Need for change management


Platform independence



Attendees were also asked to comment on what they were doing at their institutions to set the stage for next generation enterprise IT. Responses can be grouped into several categories, each of which is an important consideration for IT leaders who are looking to position their institutions to take advantage of next generation opportunities.

Foster a Mission-Focused, Client-Centric Approach

This category garnered more responses than the others, with attendees describing the work required to shift IT culture to focus more on institutional mission. Attendees recorded 22 actions they are taking to foster this culture shift, including these:

  • Asking users what they want instead of assuming what they need
  • Having a mini retreat across functional areas to get shared understanding of needs and moving toward setting shared priorities
  • Creating a culture of customer service
  • Aligning IT strategy with university strategic goals
  • Updating IT strategy to align with university strategy
  • Aligning IT goals with organizational goals
  • Listening
  • Designing for diversity from the start
  • Engaging earlier with end users in their projects, shifting the impression of IT from technology-providers to business partners and consultants

Develop Governance Maturity

A mission-centric focus requires governance that brings together stakeholders and partners from across the institution. Seven responses in this area included:

  • Coordinating between all schools/departments (which is difficult)
  • Breaking down silos and trying to centralize decisions about what IT infrastructure to keep and expand versus eliminating and adopting a better alternative
  • Data governance to enable people to trust data

Adapt and Evolve the IT Organization and the IT Workforce

Different qualifications might be needed to enable next generation enterprise IT — specifically, those that highlight people skills and updated technical skills. Twelve attendees reported activities that support this shift in workforce and IT organization, including:

  • Blending efforts across the institution to establish what the CIO calls a "OneTeam" approach
  • Implementing DevOps practices in my systems infrastructure team, with a focus on our role as a service provider to the system integrator for internal and external teams
  • Investing in IT training to introduce new competencies
  • Moving application staff to role of integrators — integration tools are moving up in importance
  • Investing in professional development, using outside expertise to teach staff how and why change is coming and helping them understand their role in it
  • Breaking out of standard IT organizational models

Take Advantage of Cloud Offerings

A cloud strategy is an important component of next generation enterprise IT, enabling agility, scalability, and speed in a way that might be impossible with services managed on-premises. Attendees responded with 16 actions being taken in this area, including:

  • Developing a cloud strategy
  • Moving both our ERP systems and our enterprise reporting systems to the cloud and focusing on data integration
  • Implementing a cloud-first (and perhaps cloud-only) strategy
  • Moving the data center to the cloud
  • Moving VDI to the cloud

Adopt New Processes and Approaches to Meet Evolving Needs

The old ways of managing technology are not always adequate for the next generation. Attendees described eight new management processes they are adopting, including these:

  • Speeding up — moving to lean management principles
  • Focusing on change management
  • Defining and documenting processes
  • Introducing information technology operations management (ITOM) to provide proactive and predictive response to incident and problem handling

Consider New Technologies

The technologies themselves are also evolving. Fourteen responses included actions to adopt new technologies, including these:

  • Containerization
  • Infrastructure as code
  • Mobile apps and responsive design
  • Automated role assignment
  • Deployment of VDI

Work on Analytics and Data Integration Initiatives

One of the most important aspects of the next generation of enterprise IT is the importance of seamlessly integrating data across multiple systems and platforms in a way that leads to reliable, useful information for institutional decision making. Attendees contributed 13 actions they are taking related to data and analytics, including these:

  • Focusing on data analytics as the key use of resources rather than traditional code development or infrastructure
  • Data warehouse (data lake) effort as a repository for disparate data sources, which unifies the multisource data structure for analysis and decision making
  • Combining data sources in one dashboard
  • Retooling to focus on API and assumed integrations
  • Implementing improved architecture for integration design and management

As institutions seek to move into the next generation of enterprise IT, they need to reconsider many aspects of their current environments. The actions suggested by attendees at this EDUCAUSE session provide some recommendations for ways to begin this work: Foster a mission-focused and client-centric approach, develop governance maturity, adapt and evolve the IT organization and the IT workforce, take advantage of cloud offerings, adopt new processes and approaches to meet evolving needs, consider new technologies, and work on analytics and data integration initiatives.

Betsy Tippens Reinitz is the Director of the Enterprise IT Program for EDUCAUSE.

© 2017 Betsy Tippens Reinitz. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.