Sep 18 2019

Make This the Year You Tackle That Campus IT Project

Small steps get big results with consistency and commitment. This fall, choose one project for your team and see how far you can get by next spring.

Elevate Your Staff’s Cloud Proficiency

With cloud computing, as with most aspects of IT infrastructure, deploying a solution only gets you so far. Staffers also need the skills and knowledge to manage that solution effectively

Helping them get there can be doubly hard when leaders encounter resistance — often because employees don’t fully understand the logistics of cloud computing or they’re skeptical of accompanying changes in their organizational roles. 

Leaders must anticipate and address the human side of any new cloud initiative. Hiring the necessary skills is one answer, but that’s often not an option. “Just in time” training can meet an immediate need, but neither provides in-depth understanding nor elevates staff skills beyond the project at hand. 

This year, develop a plan to augment your team’s proficiency with the cloud, giving them a solid foundation on which to build in the years to come. 

Get started:

  • Educate: If lack of knowledge is the issue, arm them with information, whether that’s about cybersecurity concerns, logistical aspects or variations among private, public and hybrid cloud environments. 
  • Motivate: Employees with years of conventional data center experience may feel threatened by a new solution that dramatically changes their roles. Yet gaining new skills and experience is essential for career building. Help employees understand that while cloud solutions benefit the institution, they can be equally beneficial for employees’ own future prospects.
  • Put structures in place: Ongoing training is a must, but it doesn’t have to be costly. Institutions with multiple campuses can bring staffers together regularly to share information, challenges and best practices. Smaller colleges can do the same with IT staff at nearby institutions. 
  • Designate a go-to person: Designate an in-house expert for all things cloud on your campus. He or she can facilitate consistency in policies and procedures, serve as a resource and take the lead on tracking and addressing strengths and weaknesses in cloud computing skills. 

Learn more:

MORE FROM EDTECH: Check out how you can prepare your staff for a strong cybersecurity program this year.

Move Your Institution Forward on Data Governance

If there’s one area in higher education that offers the most potential while raising the most questions, it’s data-driven everything: decision-making, student success, strategic planning — you name it.

At many institutions, mature and highly structured data initiatives simply don’t exist. More common are fits and starts, often siloed, pursued by individuals and departments. Yet unless data initiatives are connected and consistent, they won’t achieve their full potential. 

The first step is to recognize that the broad umbrella of data governance — “overall management of the availability, usability, integrity and security,” in TechTarget’s definition — is just that, an umbrella. Beneath it are components such as data quality, integration and privacy. The best way to tackle this big picture is to break it into smaller ones. 

Get started:

  • Start the conversation: Bring stakeholders together. Just getting everyone in the same room on a regular basis to talk about data initiatives can move the institution forward by leaps and bounds. Continue to ask, “Who else needs to be part of this conversation?” 
  • Learn from peers: If your team has questions and blind spots around data-driven planning, you’re probably not the only one. Partner with institutions that are also starting a data journey. Reach out to those who have already done it. Several institutions are a few years into mature, thriving programs; take advantage of their insights to save time and headaches for your team.
  • Establish accountability: There’s a balance between getting everyone involved and having everyone responsible. If everyone is responsible, no one is. Best practices call for designating data stewards who oversee data quality, enforce policies and support consistency.

Learn more:

Get Serious About Cybersecurity

Granted, IT teams are already serious about cybersecurity, but there’s always room for improvement. And, as the Internet of Things expands, the landscape is going to get more complicated

IT leaders will also need to get familiar with the user behaviors and expectations that will accompany the arrival of Generation Z students on campus. They’re mobile-first and digital-first, so how might that inform security concerns and communication?

Get started:

  • Brush up on best practices: Recommendations change, and in the rush of day-to-day work it can be tough to stay abreast of new developments. Make time for yourself and your staff to stay current, whether that’s through reading, conferences or informal peer-to-peer networking.
  • Think in layers: A defense-in-depth strategy gives IT leaders layers of protection and more fronts to manage. Develop a plan to evaluate all the layers of your strategy to identify opportunities to shore up weaknesses and expand strengths. There could be a new solution on the market or a better way to adapt usage policy to current campus activity. Find one corner and make it better.
  • Join forces: If there’s one area where peer-to-peer collaboration is imperative, it’s here. A growing number of institutions are forming security operations centers to share details of data breaches, early alerts, best practices and more. If you take just one step this year toward a better security program, this might be the one that will pay the most dividends in the long term.

Learn more:


Strengthen Your Disaster Recovery Readiness

IT infrastructure is, in many ways, the engine that powers today’s institutions. Anything that compromises the network will have ripple effects that can bring operations to a standstill. If you’re part of the team that’s responsible for making sure that doesn’t happen — or for fixing the problem if it does — sleepless nights can be part of the job. 

But there are ways to increase your chances of a smooth recovery, whether the crisis arises from extreme weather, a data breach or a public safety emergency. The expert advice is simple: Practice makes perfect. 

Get started:

  • Be inclusive: Expanding the circle of participants can be a powerful way to improve emergency preparedness planning. If your IT team doesn’t already have a strong working relationship with the communications department, now’s the time to build one. Start there, and then identify other partners (public safety, legal, compliance and more) to bring on board.
  • Update your documentation: A written handbook to govern who does what and when during a crisis is a must. Chances are, yours could use a refresh. In the event of an emergency, this will be the document that guides the response, so it must be accurate, thorough and thoughtful.
  • Do a dress rehearsal: Drills, tabletop exercises, cyber ranges and other activities can ensure your staff can hit the ground running at a moment’s notice. These can be homegrown or led by third-party experts, limited to your campus or conducted in conjunction with other institutions in your system or region. However they happen, they’re essential to identify and resolve questions and issues that will arise in a disaster.

Learn more:

For more on how to make 2019 a successful IT year, check out more of our back to campus content.


Learn from Your Peers

What can you glean about security from other IT pros? Check out new CDW research and insight from our experts.