Higher Ed IT Leaders Adjust to Their New Normal

Higher ed IT teams find help from a growing pool of resources, including Big Data and the cloud.

As I reviewed the most recent EDUCAUSE list of Top 10 IT issues in higher ed this year, I was struck by the “new normal” theme, which the organization defines as maintaining and supporting mobile, online education, cloud and BYOD environments.

Indeed, pervasive high-density and secure technology in higher education learning is the new normal. What’s not new, of course, is the focus on student outcomes. With IT budgets shrinking and the demand for IT resources growing at an unprecedented rate, IT leaders are tasked with making some intense decisions. How should IT funding models evolve to sustain core services, support campus innovation and facilitate growth?

How can the IT team develop an enterprise IT architecture able to respond to changing conditions and new opportunities? What is IT’s role in improving student outcomes beyond helping the institution strategically leverage technology?

My cross-country team of higher education experts sees firsthand the reality — and opportunity — of those and other IT challenges and how they play out on campus. The EDUCAUSE Top 10 are consistent nationwide, albeit with varying degrees of priority. One thing is certain: Technology is a priority for most higher education offices, including the provost’s office, housing, recruitment, security, alumni, retention, career placement and even athletics — the list is virtually endless.

The University of Michigan, which lists its institutional IT priorities online, has announced that IT’s “BYOD effort will establish guidelines, practices, and technology environments to improve productivity and reduce security risks for faculty, students and staff using personal devices in conjunction with U-M resources.”

The University of Southern California’s “Initiative in Informatics and Digital Knowledge” spells out an institutional mandate to “support rigorous and consequential research and to create new approaches to teaching and learning,” in part through a deeply rooted reliance on Big Data, digital media and informatics.

At these universities and at all of our customer institutions large and small, we see IT teams experiencing ongoing, tremendous shifts when it comes to their roles and the demands placed on IT. What has not changed is that, in spite of everything, IT must maintain a core focus on service. Just as IT teams now partner with more campus communities — research, athletics, housing and support services among them — IT also must increasingly rely on trusted partners and products to ensure that uptime, security and other service goals are met. Such reliance is a critical part of every IT manager’s daily success.

In the coming months, our new UniversITy blog will share success stories and other information you can immediately put to use to make more informed decisions on how to best allocate your own IT team’s precious time and resources. I’d also like to invite readers to share with us their most difficult projects or challenges. Comment here, or reach out and share your story with me on Twitter at @alethaCDW. After all, we’re the people who get IT.

This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s new UniversITy blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #UniversITy hashtag.

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Feb 27 2015