Under Pressure from All Sides, Campus IT Pros Rise to the Occasion

Higher education IT teams celebrate the successes that drive strategy and solve tactical problems.

IT pros are in the delicate and important position of helping to drive institutional strategy while also keeping the systems running and their customers happy. 

That last task is no small feat in a community where users represent such diverse groups: senior leaders, students online and on campus, teaching faculty, researchers, administrative staff, and the athletic fans and community members who attend collegiate events. 

When we speak with IT teams, the projects they’re most proud of are those in which solutions met strategic goals while achieving tactical efficiency. The need to address both imperatives is increasingly common — and that’s not even counting the added wrinkles that make IT’s work more challenging, from limited resources to emerging technologies.

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IT Teams Feel Pressure from All Sides to Maintain Performance 

Elon University, for example, made improvements to its residence hall network that alleviated students’ frustration and improved security controls. As an added bonus, the project also reduced the number of calls for tech support, making Elon’s investment a win-win-win.

Outdoor networking initiatives also do double duty. Campuswide ­coverage remains a luxury for some colleges, but many find themselves pushed to deliver on the expectation of students that they can work ­anywhere, whether that’s a busy quad or a quiet amphitheater.

At Kennesaw State University, blanketing outdoor spaces required close coordination with facilities staff and double the number of access points. Such efforts certainly improve the quality of life for students. Yet they also push forward institutional agendas, which increasingly prioritize high-quality Wi-Fi as one of the competitive factors that students consider when choosing a college.

IT teams don’t always get the recognition they deserve. A common truth about these professionals is that they only get recognized when something goes wrong. 

Campus users, like the rest of us, like their infrastructure best when it hums along in the background. For this reason, along with their ability to so often balance the strategic and the tactical, I consider these teams to be the unsung heroes of our campuses: professionals who probably don’t hear “thank you” enough, and who certainly deserve it.

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Oct 24 2018

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