Oct 05 2018

Experts Weigh In on IT Governance Best Practices

Growing demand for innovation on campuses means IT teams need to work with the community to plan out integrations.

Higher education institutions walk a fine line when it comes to making decisions on where IT resources should be allocated. The finite number of resources universities have to work with for technology integration make it crucial to have a well-established IT governance plan.

With multiple departments vying for their own upgrades, technology integration in higher education can become even more complicated as these separate entities within an institution all work independently to innovate with new solutions in their classes. 

To appease the demands of different parties, IT leaders must consider everyone’s requests, and distinguish which investments will have the greatest returns while still working within a framework that is realistic for their institutions.

To help IT leaders navigate their way through a coherent IT governance plan, EDUCAUSE experts share their experiences and some advice.

MORE FROM EDTECH: Check out what IT experts are saying on the state of innovation in higher ed!

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When it comes to IT governance, IT leaders must take all members of the campus ecosystem into account.

“Institutions serve and are supported by an incredibly diverse collection of individuals: young and not so young, educators and researchers in a fascinating array of disciplines, professionals of all stripes and, of course, students — themselves a diverse group,” Ryan Peterson writes for EdTech. “Institutions evolve in response to a complex interplay of factors: the changing needs of stakeholders, emerging technological capabilities, demographic and workforce trends.”

This was an ideal Wendy Woodward focused on when she became CIO of Wheaton College. In a letter to EDUCAUSE, Woodward identifies three primary goals Wheaton needed to address regard their IT governance strategy: 

  • Align the Academic and Institutional Technology direction with the College Strategic Plan and the business priorities.
  • Create a snapshot of technology systems and services on campus that is efficient, meaningful, and innovative.
  • Share awareness of the decision-making process for determining where technology resources are applied.

In order to reach these goals, she created three committees to represent each of the groups on campus — staff and administrators, students and faculty — facilitating a conversation between all three to encourage ownership of new integration projects. 

Now, departments work with IT teams to plan and schedule new technology integrations, and management is seen as everyone’s responsibility, according to Woodward.

“After three years of success, technology projects are now being successfully completed and budgets are being appropriately expanded to meet campus needs,” Woodward writes. “campus stakeholders now understand that an IT change is not just ‘another IT project’ but rather is a change being introduced by many people who are working together to do what is best for our campus.”

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IT Governance Needs to Be Structured with Intent

While Wheaton College’s approach to IT governance is similar to that of other institutions, like the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, each university’s IT governance solution will vary depending on the community it is serving. 

This means administrators may want to conduct research within their institutions to find what their new governance structure should aim to achieve. 

At the Texas A&M University, administrators conducted extensive internal research, combing findings of previous studies conducted by the institution’s Information Technology Advisory Committee, surveying students, faculty and staff, and scrapping what had been the current IT governance policy for what was already working well. 

Administrators then reached out to other IT leaders at similarly sized universities to see what those institutions had found to be successful. By gathering information first, Texas A&M IT leaders were able to produce a specific list of values for their IT governance framework.

Looking back, campus leaders found the research was key during the initial phases of creating their policy. 

“[We] had to launch a detailed process analysis, holding discussions with the impacted groups and with the CIO and CISO, and then design an integrated process,” Assistant Vice President of Academic IT Services Juan Garza and Chief of Staff to the Vice President for IT and CIO Joshua Kissee write for EDUCAUSE. “Our advice is to design critical processes into the framework during framework development rather than waiting until the framework is launched.”

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