A systematic hardware and software analysis helped inform Florida State University's migration strategy, says Alex Morales, associate director of information technology services.

Aug 12 2019

Get University Users on Board with New IT Software Initiatives

As IT leaders embrace tech upgrades, they must also set the groundwork for cross-campus adoption.

Old operating systems. Ancient access points. Storage standstills. When enough is enough, it’s time for an overhaul.

Whether upgrading software or moving to the cloud, major migrations serve to integrate technology seamlessly into operations while maintaining security and setting a foundation for the future

“It’s about tapping into innovation to enable a better experience for the end-user — faculty, staff and students,” says Mark Bowker, a senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group.

The universities profiled here tackled three varieties of migrations, but all did so with a methodical, strategic approach that included technical risk assessment and ample communication.

MORE FROM EDTECH: To hear from some of the most notable higher education experts on the web, check out this year's list of top influencers.

Tiered Migration Plan Supports Florida State’s Windows 10 Upgrade

As most CIOs know, Microsoft’s Windows 7 support comes to an end in January. Most colleges have moved to Windows 10, but for those who haven’t (or those anticipating another software switch), Florida State University’s approach can provide guidance.

When FSU began migrating to Windows 10 in the fall of 2016, Alex Morales, associate director of IT services and head of computer technology support, helped to lead the initiative. 

The change was important not only because of Windows 7’s impending end of life, he says, but also because the university needed a cloud-ready OS that incorporated OneDrive for Business. 

Morales and his team created a plan that first addressed university-owned and -managed machines.

Masseth headshot
We didn’t talk to them about what the institution needed, but why they should invest in themselves.”

Derek Masseth CTO, University of Arizona

“We were really aggressive. Our first thousand computers were finished within the first four months,” Morales says. “Those were the computers where we had the most control, like public environments and labs.” For student users, the migration went more smoothly than he had imagined.

“Student adoption happened very fast,” he says. “Microsoft was very clever in providing a no-cost upgrade, so we saw students moving into Windows 10 very quickly. Students were coming to us with requests about Office 365 and linking OneDrive, so we could see that they wanted to embrace the cloud-based technologies of Windows 10.”

Updating division and departmental computers was tougher. The team launched a communications campaign that started with divisions, then smaller groups and eventually individuals. 

“We used Microsoft Systems Center Configuration Manager and did a software and hardware analysis to plan for every area,” says Morales. “Talking to the different departments helped us budget for software procurement and computer systems that needed to be updated or replaced.”

The biggest challenge, he adds, was user education. “People are scared of embracing new technology, even if it enhances the ability to get the most out of their computers,” says Morales. “For example, OneDrive for Business gives you the ability to access your files across a plethora of devices. But we still need to bring users in and point out the benefits and how they can leverage the flexibility.”

MORE FROM EDTECH: Check out these four ways to manage the faster updates for Windows 10.

IT Staff Training Supports University of Arizona’s Move to Cloud

IT leaders at the University of Arizona tested the waters of moving applications to the cloud as early as 2013.

“We knew that working with the cloud in various forms could be transformative to us and users,” says CTO Derek Masseth. “It started with minor experimentation and ultimately evolved into a commitment to migrate all of our enterprise systems into cloud-based applications delivered as a service.”

But early on, he met resistance, particularly from IT practitioners.

“We heard people say that the cloud was just a passing fad, it was less secure or it couldn’t perform like our current infrastructure,” says Masseth.

His solution: a robust, inclusive training program to build confidence and familiarity with the cloud for IT staff. Communication also focused on how learning cloud-based technology could further staffers’ careers.

“We didn’t talk to them about what the institution needed, but why they should invest in themselves,” says Masseth. “And we made a commitment to invest in our own people with cloud-focused training over the course of several years.”

$3.2 billion

The estimated higher education spending on cloud solutions by 2022, more than double the amount in 2018

Source: Ellucian, “2019 Trends to Watch: Higher Education,” October 31, 2018

That initial distrust of new technologies is fairly typical, says Bowker, of Enterprise Strategy Group. “If that happens, it comes down to finding advocates and providing proper training, education and certification,” he says. “You need to show people that moving to the cloud really provides career opportunities.”

For the University of Arizona, the actual transfer of applications to the cloud started small, then went bigger.

“We considered the scope and scale of each application — how difficult each move would be, how many users it affected and the potential business impact if things went awry,” says Masseth.

The team started with the smallest, least-complex application — the grants management system — which had just six or seven users and a small number of servers and databases. They then moved on to human resources and the financial system. 

The last piece to migrate to the cloud was the student administration system, which was a successful endeavor. “It touches every student on campus, so there’s not a lot of latitude for mistakes,” says Masseth.

MORE FROM EDTECH: See how universities can use cloud solutions to expand learning opportunities.

Comprehensive Communications Plan Helps University at Buffalo Go Wireless

The University at Buffalo opted to transition from a wired institution to a wireless one about six years ago.

“We didn’t just want to replace our wireless technology, we wanted a complete upgrade that would meet the institution’s needs moving forward,” says J. Brice Bible, vice president and CIO.

His team worked with Aruba to deploy more than 6,000 access points, along with Aruba mobility controllers, AirWave for network management and Aruba ClearPass for policy management and guest access.

Communication was key to both planning and implementation, says Bible. 

IT Communications Officer Diana Tuorto explains the approach: “Before, during and after the implementation, we did a lot of focus groups and created an online feedback mechanism called Rate My Wi-Fi.

Student and faculty input informed both strategic direction and measures of success. IT staff also created a marketing campaign with its own logo, website and hashtag, together with multiple points of communication with various audiences.

“Certainly, you want to communicate electronically,” says Bible. “But sometimes print goes a long way.” In addition to emails, the team created posters, stickers, signage and giveaways. Staff and students could follow the progress online to see where their buildings or residences stood in the queue.

As the campaign gained momentum, the communications team worked with faculty on a “choose wireless first” initiative, demonstrating how they could depend on the wireless network to perform as well as — and better than — the wired network.

“That changed the dynamics of the technology that faculty uses,” says Bible. “Now their use of wireless devices mirrors usage by students.”

Matt Odom

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