Despite technology’s critical role in higher ed, there remains a gap between central IT and the rest of campus that can lead to unnecessary spending.
Recent findings of a MeriTalk survey of 52 U.S. higher ed IT professionals illustrate this discrepancy. An average of 18 percent of campus IT systems are redundant, and 19 percent of all IT investments are made outside of central IT. This equates to an annual “unmanaged, unmeasured investment” of $4 billion, the report states (based on an EDUCAUSE estimate of $21 billion in annual campus IT spending by U.S. higher ed).
“Without firm mandates forcing the changes to happen, it is difficult to corral individuals into central IT,” says Tim Merrigan, vice president of state and local education for VMWare, a software provider and sponsor of the “Cloud Campus: The Software-Defined College” survey. “Historical baggage can create negative expectations. Institutions must commit to creating a clean slate,” he adds.
Often, institutions fear decreased service, explains Link Alander, vice chancellor of technology services and CIO for the Lone Star College System in Texas. “The services will actually improve if a core standard of service excellence, service-level agreements and defined processes are put in place,” says Alander. “In the end, the IT organization as a whole will mature to a business partner.”
Administrators can promote a more melodic partnership with IT. Dispelling the myth that eliminating silos means eliminating employees is key.
“I don’t think you will find an IT organization at any college that has too many staff,” says Alander. “The elimination of redundancies is really a shift of resources to functions that are in line with the college’s and IT needs.”
Both Alander and Merrigan emphasize the importance of transparency about technology costs and needs when integrating central IT across campus. “Make sure IT is in alignment with all stakeholders and have a real understanding of their goals and the ties back to the institution’s goals,” says Alander. “Remember, in this setting, there is no geek-speak.”