Effective Use of Information Technology: Lessons about State Governance Structures and Processes
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Information technology in higher education has never been easy to manage, but these days doing so seems like a choice between the merely difficult and the impossible. That is partly because so much is changing so quickly—technology and higher education, opportunities and expectations, requirements and funding—and partly because we are trying to apply existing methods to new problems.
Imagine driving a car in the first years of automobiles. There were roads, certainly. But they were narrow and rough and had been built for different, previous kinds of vehicles and traffic. The necessary fuel sources were hard to find, and the rules of the road that worked for wagons and carriages frustrated car drivers. Early drivers were inexperienced, of course.
The existing infrastructure thus limited the potential of the new automobiles. In many ways, colleges and universities are similarly expecting the existing ecosystem—their people, processes, and culture—to be able to support, without change, today's new and very different technologies. How can we align our timelines and change our ecosystem? As will be explained below, the ten issues divide into these three categories see figure 1.
Higher education IT organizations are divesting themselves of technologies that can be sourced elsewhere and of practices that have become inefficient and are reinvesting to develop the necessary capabilities and resources to use information technology to achieve competitive institutional differentiation in student success, affordability, and teaching and research excellence. The only way to move higher education's people, processes, and culture into the developing future is by moving away from methods whose effectiveness is waning and by adopting practices that better fit that new world.
Reform is insufficient, because it optimizes today's practices in lieu of developing tomorrow's. To make room for a new set of practices—a new infrastructure—we need to divest ourselves of today's practices. Higher education institutions are doing just that, with 58 percent of them reporting that business process redesign not optimization is a major influence on their IT strategy. Divestment also extends to technologies and services.
Themes of Change
Many colleges and universities have moved or are moving beyond the question of whether to run their own infrastructure and applications in the presence of reliable, effective, and up-to-date external solutions; IT organizations are reengineering and resourcing their systems and services. How can institutions divest effectively to address both of these issues? IT as a Service is a model for running the IT organization more like a business—one that has to compete with alternative providers—and less like a cost center.
The model focuses the IT organization on efficiency and transparency to contain and clarify costs and on service and agility to best meet the changing needs of the institutional community. IT as a Service includes methods to help IT organizations achieve a balance of efficiency and excellence. Standardization and simplification are core principles of IT as a Service. Copious, distributed, and disjointed, today's higher education's enterprise applications exemplify unintentional complexity. That complexity resulted from optimizing departmental authority and decision making.
Now higher education needs applications and systems that can cost-effectively share data and processes to support services and analytics. Well-engineered systems integrations can meet current and future needs efficiently. Systems integrations include data integrations, which require data governance and management and can address multiple objectives: Data needs to be standardized and integrated to lay the groundwork for cost-effective, scalable, and valid analytics.
Standards and integration are almost impossible to achieve without an institutional commitment to data governance. Using data in broader and more consequential ways increases its exposure and the potential impact of data breaches, making data protection more important than ever.
Top 10 IT Issues, Inflection Point | EDUCAUSE
Divestment alone addresses only part of today's challenge. IT organizations need to lay the groundwork for using information technology to deliver meaningful value to higher education. They need to develop funding models that focus on information technology as an investment instead of a cost, and they need to reinvest in their people the organization's most important asset and information security approaches.
Reinvestment is a theme of four of the Top 10 IT Issues:. Information security is the top issue for , by a significant margin. Addressing the challenge of information security encompasses technical controls, policies, outreach and education, and risk management. The EDUCAUSE IT Issues Panel was clear that institutions need to constantly respond to changing circumstances and need to consider information security holistically rather than responding separately to each new threat, security layer, or component.
The changes under way are most disruptive to those in the IT workforce—those who must also design and implement the changes. IT organizations are shifting as surely as IT services and infrastructure. Many current roles are becoming obsolete, to be replaced by new roles. Yet organizational change is not the only workforce challenge for CIOs: The funding challenge remains unchanged from the previous two years: Panel members emphasized that to contain the IT budget, institutions need to introduce an ongoing discipline of continual divestment, replacing outdated foundations services, processes, and technologies , and of continual reinvestment, ensuring that the IT workforce is agile and adaptable and that risks like information security are well-managed.
The term special snowflakes has been used to describe institutions or departments that can't standardize or collaborate because they do things their own way. Niel Nickolaisen's Purpose Alignment Model see figure 2 provides a framework for understanding when variability is meaningless and when variability adds value. Needs that are not mission-critical but are differentiating are uncommon the model's top-left quadrant ; when they exist, they provide opportunities to partner or share services to contain costs. A few mission-critical services can also create market differentiation the top-right quadrant.
They provide opportunities to use information technology for a competitive advantage. They deserve our innovation and creativity because these are the things that create our competitive advantage, our unique value proposition. Differentiating activities will vary from institution to institution, however. Even when many institutions have the same differentiating activity, they will mold their solutions to reflect meaningful differences in mission, values, and constituents.
E-learning, student success technologies, and analytics are priorities for many institutions, 9 and they can and should be designed to strengthen and extend each institution's unique value to the higher education marketplace. Four of this year's Top 10 IT Issues reflect higher education's efforts to use information technology to differentiate:. Information technology has begun to deliver services that can be directly mapped to higher education's most strategic priorities, including student success, affordability, excellence in research and teaching, and analytics.
Integrated student planning and advising systems contribute measurably to student success. Institutions are starting to accrue cost savings from standardization and outsourcing. Research not only benefits from technology; it depends on it. We seem finally to have entered an era in which technology-supported education is fulfilling its aspirations to improve pedagogy and learning and to expand access to all types of underserved populations.
And the use of analytics is enabling institutions to make more timely intelligent decisions to benefit themselves and individual members of their communities. These are examples of potentially differentiating activities that institutions identify as priorities that they " must do better than anyone else. These differentiating activities are innovations that require new investments. Innovation is an inherently inefficient process: Divestment and reinvestment are foundations upon which differentiation depends.
Divestment paves the way for differentiation by developing the IT organization's ability to operate efficiently; the organization can institute needed simplifications, integrations, and new processes, and by achieving savings in one area, it can deploy those savings in another area to support differentiation.
Reinvestment strengthens the organizational and technical foundations on which successful innovation depends. Collectively, the Top 10 IT Issues represent enormous change, challenge, and promise. Though each deserves separate consideration, they are inseparable. The strategic technology reports provide a snapshot of the relatively new technological investments on which colleges and universities will be spending the most time implementing, planning, and tracking, as well as the trends that influence IT directions in higher education.
Together, the trends and forecasts reported in the Top 10 IT Issues and Strategic Technologies research help IT professionals enhance decision making by understanding what's important and where to focus. But, without appropriate security measures, any open and agile solution lessens in value. Across the entire spectrum of higher education missions—from teaching and learning to business operations to community outreach to innovation and discovery—we rely on technology that is constantly under threat. Protecting the institution from the myriad of security threats is a fundamental challenge for IT leadership.
Information security has evolved from a largely technical field to one that encompasses not only technology but also risk-management practices, user training and education, and business acumen. With information security now acknowledged as a field in which "perfection isn't nearly good enough," one security incident can ruin an IT leader's day s , expose confidential data of users or the institution, lead to significant out-of-pocket costs connected with responding to the incident, and diminish an institution's reputation and consumer confidence.
A bad day indeed. Against this backdrop of constant threats is a higher education technology environment where the expectations and needs of the user community are wide-ranging and fast-changing. IT leaders anticipate that the time currently spent managing infrastructure and technical resources will shift to time spent managing services, vendors, and contracts. Services and solutions need to be architected so that they can be introduced, modified, and even retired in rapid fashion. Without appropriate security measures, however, any open and agile solution lessens in value.
Higher education is challenged to quickly design and build systems that include proper safeguards for reliability and security.
Top 10 IT Issues, 2016: Divest, Reinvest, and Differentiate
This challenge is further exacerbated by the changing nature of IT service delivery and the move toward the cloud. Even though the number of institutional security and privacy professionals is increasing because of the changed nature of service delivery, 14 the central IT organization is still perceived as being slow to review and approve the implementation of cloud and other outsourced services. If the central IT organization cannot be agile enough in its review and implementation of cloud services, the path of least resistance for users may be to go it alone, without institutional IT involvement.
The truth is that institutional information security is everyone's job. Recent news reports of high-profile data breaches have highlighted that organizational approaches to information security must be holistic, agile, and comprehensive. No longer content to merely "secure the perimeter," institutional approaches must encompass technical safeguards i. Due to its unique mission and cultural need for transparency and openness, higher education has long adopted multifaceted information security approaches:.
Recent news reports of data breaches provide IT leaders with a springboard to launch discussions with institutional leaders about improving campus information security. Information security can be a daunting topic for IT departments with limited resources: So there must be buy-in from the executive level to secure funding and create enforceable policies. All institutional departments and all users of IT resources students, faculty, and staff must understand and promote good information security practices to protect institutional data.
Making modest institutional improvements in information security posture can give institutions and their IT departments the confidence to tackle the more challenging information security tasks that will inevitably arise as service-delivery approaches evolve. Today's collegiate classroom and pedagogy look very different from those of ten years ago. Innovation comes in response to concrete problems. To find the most useful educational technology innovations, we should give thought to the issues and challenges that technology could help us address. For example, technology provides real opportunities to enhance both faculty-student and student-student interactions and to virtualize and extend the campus environment:.
The impact of these and other teaching and learning technologies needs to be assessed and shared to ensure that educational technology is truly effective and continues to flourish and evolve. Optimizing educational technology isn't actually about the technology. It's about understanding and working within the complex system in which postsecondary learning and teaching take place. It's about understanding learning objectives from the macro institutional, disciplinary to the micro course, module, class period level.
It's about understanding what facilitates learning: Optimizing educational technology is also about understanding how faculty on a particular campus are, or aren't, rewarded for delivering excellent teaching and services, partnerships, and support—and also how they are motivated to do so. The most important motivator for faculty is clear indication or evidence that students benefit from technology.
Faculty also want help with incorporating technology into their courses see figure 4. Technology has many faculty at hello but loses them soon after.
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Trying a new technology in the learning environment is easy. It is much less easy for faculty to accurately and easily recognize how effectively the tool is working, whether learning is being enhanced, and whether and how to modify the use of the tools to make them more effective. Without evidence of impact, the majority of faculty will not be motivated to incorporate new technologies into their teaching. Without support, many will struggle to do so, even if they are motivated. Instructional design support can be an important component of optimizing the appropriate level of technology to use.
Finally, increasing use of technology is not always the best way to improve teaching and learning. Students have made it clear that technology-enhanced learning is appealing. However, technology-dominated learning in the form of fully online courses is not: Ideally, learners will find the faculty and institutions that best fit them, and institutions and faculty will help students make those choices.
IT leaders' roles are to help raise awareness of the possibilities and to execute with excellence. Academic leaders and instructors, not IT professionals, should determine the pedagogical and mission-driven priorities. Most effective is when all stakeholders—IT leaders, academics, advisors, and students—collaborate on solutions. More important, institutions benefit from having a full understanding of which interventions will take place across any number of student service or academic units, how those will be communicated across those units, and how they will be judged for effectiveness.
Student success technologies involve the use of data collection and analysis tools at all levels to predict student success or risk, alert those who can intervene, and assess the effectiveness of those interventions. Student success technologies can be broken into three categories: In the first area—advising and student support services—there has been interest over the past few years in the redesign of the advising process and the inclusion of early-alert technologies that provide opportunities for faculty and advisors to send manual alerts or to trigger automated alerts providing students with reasons for the alert, recommendations, and next steps.
Student academic planning tools are also available at many institutions.
Some institutions require each student to have an educational plan, which facilitates a more in-depth conversation with advisors and provides the institution with data to develop an academic course schedule that aligns with students' plans see figure 5. In the second area—teaching and learning—technologies that support student engagement and that provide students and faculty with learning analytics are being used to improve student outcomes.
While technologies are being developed and enhanced to support student success, the institutional processes and usage of the tools contribute more to improvement than do the technologies themselves. Finally, analytics also plays a major role in the third area: Metadata about student swirl—in and out of majors, in and out of courses, and in and out of institutions—can and should inform curricular design, academic programming, and even faculty assignment or development.
It can also identify different pathways for students through a degree program. In addition, many student success technologies support interactions between the students and the institution. Students are conceptually interested in having their instructors receive feedback about their performance: They are equally interested when instructors actually have access to this kind of feedback: The real challenge in the application of student success technologies to student outcomes is the institution's ability and willingness to embrace change.
- Top 10 IT Issues, 2015: Inflection Point.
- Top 10 IT Issues, Divest, Reinvest, and Differentiate | EDUCAUSE.
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Faculty are unlikely to resist in large numbers. When asked about an array of technologies that use analytics to improve student success, faculty found them both highly interesting and useful see figure 6. New technologies are only one component of the design that supports improved student outcomes.
Effective student success initiatives often entail institutional policy updates, redesigned processes, organizational and role changes, new governance structures, and implementation of tools that require training of and adoption by faculty and staff. Combining expert opinion and research, EDUCAUSE has identified six overall success factors that compose maturity in student success initiatives see figure Almost one in four institutions have reasonably strong student success initiatives; the rest are still launching their efforts see figure 8.
Of course, student success efforts are not a "one and done. The institutions that are leading the way will constantly raise the bar for all. The most successful institutions will be those that adopt continuous improvement practices, so that the cycle of plan-do-check-act is incorporated into ongoing institutional management. It is thus very important for management to do whatever they can to retain good employees. Explore creative compensation ideas with your HR department.
Don't be satisfied with the 'we have never done that before here' reasoning. Higher education is now using many of the same technologies as are corporations and private industries around the world, looking for the same technical and management skillsets, and thus competing for the same IT talent. In past years, academic institutions offered staff an appealing set of tangible and intrinsic benefits: With the economic situation over the past several years, however, numerous IT organizations have experienced budget reductions, minimal salary increases, declining benefits, and relocations that have separated IT staff from the academic community.
Many IT professionals would argue that the one increase they have seen is in workload and expectations, an untenable trend see figure 9. Today, with cautious rebounds in the economy, particularly in technology jobs, IT talent is a hot commodity. As a result, higher education IT organizations are experiencing increased staff turnover, more aggressive staff recruitment, increasing market salaries they cannot match, and more failed searches.
- Top 10 IT Issues, 2015;
- All-Star Quilts: 10 Strip-Pieced Lone Star Sparklers.
- Top 10 IT Issues, 2016.
This is not an abstract concern: Retaining staff becomes a critical priority. In many technology areas, and particularly at small institutions, IT organizations are "one deep" in knowledgeable staff expertise; as a result, those departures could severely disrupt campus services. Many colleges and universities have difficulty offering salaries that are competitive with private industry, but a creative and proactive management team and HR department can improve the odds.
Options such as completion bonuses after a long project or even a temporary stipend during a period of critical need can make a difference. However, compensation is not what primarily attracts or retains most professionals. They expect more opportunities for flexible schedules, telecommuting, and updated family and parental leave. Boomers too are hoping to continue past traditional retirement ages in different roles or capacities that flexible organizations can provide. Professional development opportunities and new assignments or projects can also motivate staff to stay.
But it is primarily people and quality of life including the quality supported by good benefits that retain staff, no matter their age or position see figure Managers who can develop and foster a collaborative and congenial workplace are the superpower of a stable, high-performing organization. They should be identified, developed, and nurtured. Workforce diversity is increasingly understood to be both essential and beneficial. Higher education's cultural and organizational structures have evolved within the context of a majority population, a fact that may introduce unconscious and unintentional biases against non-majority students and staff.
For IT organizations to be agents of change, IT staff and leaders need to better understand how organizational structures and culture continue to reflect the contexts of a majority population and must then improve those structures and culture to benefit all. And all will benefit. Diverse teams outperform homogenous teams, improving innovation, problem-solving, and productivity. Ensure the model provides for accountability as well as agility. Data must be managed, but in a way that still allows for rapid development of new applications of the data.
Data is the engine that feeds the higher education mission. It is entrusted to us by faculty, students, alumni, parents, donors, staff, and others to support decisions related to admissions, financial aid, curriculum, research, employees, infrastructure, investments, purchases, and health care. As information technology systems and uses have proliferated over the years, managing the underlying data has become increasingly important.
Much data still exists in silos within our institutions today. This situation is a natural result of the decentralized nature of most colleges and universities and the organic growth of departmental services, often in response to the lack of centralized services and the limitations in the central IT organization's ability to support departmental needs and priorities.
It also reflects a failure of most institutions, until very recently, to recognize the value of a strategy in which data is viewed as a strategic enterprise asset, to be leveraged to benefit institutional strategic objectives as well as departmental or operational objectives. Current efforts to identify risk factors to student and researcher success depend on data from disparate sources, internal as well as external to the institution, as do efforts to deliver increasingly personalized services to constituents.
With many institutions still grappling with multiple answers to even the most basic data-informed questions—for example, how many students and faculty do we have? Institutions must understand not only what data they possess, but how to care for the data through thoughtful governance and administration. Data governance is a structure empowered by institutional leadership to establish effective standards and practices for data handling and sharing and to arbitrate disputes over access to categories or elements of data. Many institutions begin by clarifying data ownership and by classifying data according to varying levels of confidentiality, compliance requirements, and desired uses.
Data administration is a structure or group that operationalizes standards for institutional data handling and sharing including integration and is responsible for maintaining data integrity; data definitions; authorization, retention, and disposition practices and procedures; and technical architectures.
Data management requires ongoing assessment and improvement to maintain compliance with new and evolving regulatory requirements and to retain agility and flexibility. Though often viewed as an "IT issue," data governance is really a larger business issue. Multiple roles and responsibilities are associated with data management. Since all institutional constituents need to understand their roles and responsibilities, education, outreach, and training are critical components of effective data management.
Each institution will organize the work of data management differently, depending on existing organizational assignments and strengths. The ECAR study of analytics showed that depending on the institution, the CIO, institutional research IR director, chief academic officer, president, student success leader, and dedicated chief data or analytics officer are all likely leaders of analytics programs.
Since the challenges in are not appreciably different from those of , the advice and analysis from last year are worth reviewing. The role of technology in higher education has undergone a metamorphosis, but the budget processes at many institutions have largely remained the same. There has been a rapid increase in awareness and adoption of IT governance as well as the desire to conform to national governance requirements to ensure that IT is aligned with the objectives of the organization.
Information Technology Governance and Service Management: Frameworks and Adaptations provides an in-depth view into the critical contribution of IT service management to IT governance, and the strategic and tactical value provided by effective service management. A must-have resource for academics, students, and practitioners in fields affected by IT in organizations, this work gathers authoritative perspectives on the state of research on organizational challenges and benefits in current IT governance frameworks, adoption, and incorporation.
This book provides an in-depth view of challenges and benefits experienced by organisations in their initial adoption of the frameworks and then incorporating the subsequent revisions. The readership for the book includes academics, students, and practitioners in fields affected by IT in organizations.