Planning a smooth cloud migration
- Experts increasingly view cloud-based enterprise resource planning resources and services as a matter of when, not if, for higher education
- Higher ed’s move to cloud has been slow, due mainly to risk aversion, infosec worries, and concerns about losing command and control
- A successful migration strategy includes modest goals, realistic deadlines, teamwork, coalition building, readiness for change, and constant communication
Like many observers of IT in higher education, Kenneth C. Green, founding director of the Campus Computing Project, views the arrival of mission-critical, cloud-based enterprise resource planning resources and services to be a matter of when, not if.
“Campus IT leaders recognize that the cloud is inevitable. For example, 83 percent of the participants in the fall 2016 Campus Computing Survey said that cloud computing will play an increasingly important role in their campus ERP strategy. That’s a big number. Campus IT leaders acknowledge that their institution’s impending migration to the cloud is a transition that involves not just technology and data but also people and work processes,” says Green.
Green notes that even though campus IT officers know the cloud is inevitable and view it as beneficial, many institutions aren’t yet rushing to the cloud for key ERP applications. “Our fall 2016 survey data reveal that CIOs and campus IT leaders see the migration to the cloud for key ERP applications to be slow. For example, less than a fourth expect their campus to be running a cloud-based financial or student information system application in five years, by fall 2021.”
Why the slow migration? More than any other IT market segment, higher education is incredibly risk-averse. Many college and university IT leaders would prefer to see other campuses go first in order to learn from the experience of early adopters.
Moreover, for some campus tech leaders, cloud migration is also a matter of command and control over their IT resources and operations. Some IT officers may feel that their institutions have less control over key ERP applications in the cloud, even though—at least on paper or on a whiteboard—there are obviously significant operational, technical, and perhaps even financial benefits involved in migrating to the cloud for select applications.
There’s also some concern about securing mission-critical data in the cloud. “There’s a sense on the part of many institutional leaders that they have seen security problems in the cloud elsewhere, in corporate and consumer markets. So not surprisingly, campus IT officers want to know where their data reside and who is watching the data,” Green says.
To ensure long-term success with cloud-based applications, Green suggests asking eight questions: “Can we, could we, why should we, what will it cost, when do we, what can others tell us, what don’t we know to ask, and how do we assess success?”
He also suggests adding one more. “There’s sort of a precursor to these questions, and that is, What’s the compelling message from my provider, and am I ready for that compelling message? This is really all about what you do in terms of planning, risk assessment, transitions, and understanding costs. Campus officials recognize that despite their best planning efforts they will encounter the inevitable ‘known unknowns.’ The challenge is having a plan to address these and related issues that emerge during the cloud migration process.”
One way, of course, is to learn from those who have already made the journey. “It’s important to learn from the experience of others,” Green says. He adds, “Take a deep breath and recognize that this is as much about collaboration and teamwork between provider and user as it is about collaboration and teamwork among the various constituencies on campus that will be responsible for implementation. There are a lot of moving parts, there are a lot of silos, and there will also be a few egos and fiefdoms involved in the transition.”
What’s Green’s strategy for success? “Set modest goals and realistic deadlines, work in teams, build coalitions, anticipate change, and communicate constantly,” he recommends.
“Acknowledge the possibility of personnel turnover, because people move.” Finally, colleges and universities must see the value in the cloud and trust their tech providers if campuses are to migrate mission-critical institutional data and services to the cloud, and then reap the benefits that cloud technology can provide.
KENNETH C. GREEN, Founding Director, Campus Computing
Kenneth C. Green is the founding director of the Campus Computing Project, which is the largest continuing study of e-learning and information technology in American higher education. Campus Computing is widely cited as a definitive source for data, information, and insight about key IT planning and policy issues that affect U.S. colleges and universities.
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