Building the right foundation for campus technology

Building the right foundation for campus technology

By Christi Segal on Monday, July 18, 2016


There’s an old maxim that says, “Change is hard.”

Yes, change may be daunting and difficult sometimes. But I would argue that it doesn’t have to be—especially when it comes to analyzing your institution’s technology and paving the way for growth. Perhaps the most important consideration is respecting the resource investment that has already been made at your institution: You already have a lot tied up in your current technology, so there’s usually no need to throw everything out the window if certain areas of your campus technology are underperforming. The idea is to take a logical approach to change—and understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Institutions have different needs.

  1. Where are you now? First and foremost, you need to understand your current system. Engage with your CIO to understand how your current systems (ERP, CRM, etc.) are being used, and look for redundancy and duplication. Your CIO will know how the people, processes, and technology at your institution should run, and how much or how little of your systems are currently used. It’s also vitally important to ask yourself this question: How do faculty, staff, and students respond to your current technology? If students are consistently dissatisfied with your mobile technology (or lack thereof), for example, then that’s clearly an issue that needs to be addressed, even if everything else is satisfactory. In today’s ever-connected world, students demand—and expect—instant access to their information, anytime and anywhere. Understand that you may find parts of your campus technology that work just fine, and other parts that require augmenting, tweaking, or replacing.
  2. Where do you want to be? Next, it’s time to set some goals. Ideally, what do you want your solutions to do? For example, are you looking to improve the student experience? Which areas of your campus technology are falling short of that goal? This is also a prime opportunity to examine how technology decisions are made. Is technology governance really working at your institution? Are projects weighed against strategic priorities and goals vs. everyone just buying what they want because they can’t get functionality out of current investments?
  3. Are your people and technology properly working together? Take a long look at your business processes—are there areas where automation might streamline operations or increase efficiency? Institutions that perform business process reviews in their user areas (such as ERP modules) often find savings of 3 percent institutionally and 5 percent in student support services through more automation of current technologies, elimination of paper/manual processes, removal of shadow systems, and tighter integration among systems and products. These savings can only be achieved when the people and organizational processes are re-designed so that the technology can be used to its full potential.
  4. Consider the cloud. Many institutions are weighing the benefits of eliminating their own data centers and hardware upgrades to migrate to SaaS or cloud-based solutions. But even with users—such as faculty, students, and staff—calling for more of an institution’s data to be cloud-based, many IT departments and business offices are still tied to their data remaining on-site. However, the trend is clear in higher ed: more and more data will be cloud-based. Eventually, some institutions might elect to migrate as quickly as possible, moving everything to the cloud in one fell swoop. Other institutions may choose to migrate more slowly—perhaps as certain solutions and administrative functions need replacing. This “hybrid” approach works well, and a mix of on-premise and cloud-based solutions can offer an economical, manageable strategy toward cloud migration.
  5. Perhaps the most important point is this: your institution has a choice. Making current investments in ERP systems through business process redesign almost always outweighs tossing the old system to start over with a new one. (However, there’s an important caveat: if the old system can’t keep up anymore, whether because of enrollment growth or advances in technology, it may be time to consider an entirely new system.) Most institutions will find it more economical and realistic to build on what they already have, while others may lean toward a large-scale change. Regardless of which approach fits best, keeping your technology nimble, efficient, and scalable is the best way to ensure your institution will evolve—and doesn’t get left behind.

    We look forward to seeing you at the NACUBO Annual Meeting in Montreal on July 16-19. Please stop by booth #1007 to see a demo of Ellucian’s solutions and connect with our experts. While you’re there, mention the word “evolve” and receive a small giveaway from Ellucian.

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About the Author

Christi Segal

Christi Segal

Director, Technology Management Consulting, Ellucian

Christi Segal has more than twenty years of experience in higher education and nonprofit management for health and arts organizations. She specializes in facilitation and consulting work for corporate and educational audiences.