Mar 22 2023

The Best IT Roadmap Is a Flexible and Inclusive One

Colleges and universities must make IT departments part of planning conversations.

IT roadmaps in higher education look quite a bit different in 2023 than they did just a few years ago.

The standardization of hybrid and remote learning has reshaped how universities deliver learning to students, and that has reshaped the role technology plays in their education. IT departments have never been more critical to university operations, and as institutions look to the future, CIOs and other top decision-makers in the IT department should be heavily involved in top-level planning.

IT departments can no longer stand alone, siloed away from the rest of the university. They play a role in everything from student success (device programs, collaboration and learning management software, campus connectivity) to teaching and learning spaces (audiovisual equipment, flexible classrooms, immersive learning spaces) and physical security (video surveillance systems, keyless entry).

As we’ve all learned, IT departments and universities in general should be prepared for the unexpected as well. No one’s 2019 maps showed a fork in the road, and no one can predict what wrenches could be thrown into the mix next. So, while planning and preparation are great, building in room to pivot and adapt is critical too.

With all that in mind, here’s what I’ve learned from our partners in higher education about making an effective IT roadmap.

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IT Roadmaps Are All About Flexibility, In More Ways Than One

Having the flexibility to respond to the unexpected is good, but IT roadmaps today should also be built around hybrid, flexible learning.

We’re not going back to the days of having every student in the same room anytime soon, so every piece of technology you plan to implement and every infrastructure improvement you plan to make should be done with hybrid learning in mind.

Retrofitting existing classrooms to handle flexible learning is becoming a common practice in higher education, and thinking about how students attending class remotely will interact with their in-person colleagues and instructors should be top of mind when proposing any classroom improvements.

Roadmaps should also factor in how different technologies interact with one another. Colleges invested big in cloud-based software and all kinds of devices during the early days of the pandemic, and making sure those tools can still be part of the equation when other upgrades are made is key.

READ MORE: Why universities should prioritize student success in IT decision-making.

An IT Roadmap and University Roadmap Should Blend Together

It’s gotten a little easier for CIOs to get an audience with the full C-level team at higher education institutions in the past three years. Technology has become such a key part of what universities do, and it’s important as we move forward that CIOs and other top IT decision-makers continue to be involved in any discussions of broader university strategy.

Cross-departmental collaboration at the top level of a college or university is imperative, and the most effective CIOs can bring together leaders from all areas of an institution to map out their technological future.

Zooming out even further, it’s important for IT roadmaps to take into consideration the university’s mission, and to interpret that mission through the eyes of various stakeholders around campus. Is the mission to improve student engagement? A better network can do that. Is it seeking out nontraditional learners? Asynchronous collaboration tools are probably going to be important. There is no standard IT roadmap, so the best ones align with what the university is trying to accomplish.

Our team at CDW has been partnering with CIOs at colleges and universities throughout the country since long before the pandemic began, and if you’re looking to build out your IT roadmap, we’re here to share what we’ve learned. We can’t predict the future, but we can help make sure you’re prepared for whatever comes next.

This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s UniversITy blog series.

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