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Management Briefing - EDUCAUSE Top Ten IT Issues 2018

Author: tidBiTS

Posted on Feb 9, 2018

Category: Management Briefings , General Interest


EDUCAUSE is an international organization devoted to research and support of technology in higher education. For many years an expert panel of CIOs, researchers, and industry leaders has been convened annually by EDUCAUSE to examine technology issues, and to come up with a list of ten that have emerged as important to a very broad range of higher-ed users and practitioners. ITS monitors the annual list, and provides this overview of them, along with ITS’ perspective on how the issues affect UNB and how we respond to them. (see also: EDUCAUSE Review, January/February 2018)

Top Ten IT Issues 2018

1. Information security. ITS is nearing completion of a multi-year upgrade of the university’s data network, with the objective of enhancing security while maintaining flexibility and convenience for our thousands of users. We’re putting the finishing touches on new, state-of-the-art next generation firewalls across UNB and the broader provincial research and education network, which ITS supports and maintains. The entire network—including wired and wireless services—is unique in that it is expected to be open yet secure, fast but cheap, reliable and stable, and of course available 24/7. UNB’s information security policy helps the entire community understand the various roles and responsibilities related to information security, and the role individuals have to play in IT security.

2. Student success. ITS is working with many departments and units across UNB to define requirements for and implement tools to support student success. The student lifecycle is well understood, and various applications and services are available to help students each step of the way. Various projects under the FOCUS umbrella are targeted specifically at student experience, including deployment of software to enhance non-credit program management, streamlining of awards and scholarship processes, and eventual replacement of the Online Application system, making onboarding of new students much more efficient. Discussions are also underway to improve other aspects of the student lifecycle, particularly key support functions such as advising.

3. Institution-wide IT strategy. Strategic alignment between ITS and the rest of the university is always a high priority. The Enterprise Systems and Services Governance (ESSG) committee, and its subgroup, the IT Strategy Working Group, ensure ITS is indeed strategically aligned, and, just as important, has resources and support needed from senior administration and the UNB community at large. Over the last few years, ITS has adopted Balanced Scorecard methodology for defining IT strategy and ways to measure success. ITS is one of a few units at UNB with university-wide scope and perspective; everything we do is intended and expected to serve the entire community, and our strategies and projects are designed to accomplish this.

4. Data-enabled institutional culture. Project FOCUS, the program to rebuild and revitalize Colleague, UNB’s main administrative and student database, is well underway. Comprised of several separate projects, this initiative is deploying the latest tools and technologies to support UNB’s growing data requirements, including insight into current trends and activities in financial, student, advancement and HR areas. In the future, easy compilation of historical patterns and future projections will be commonplace; data analytics will support decision makers; and self-serve functionality never seen before at UNB will be widely available. Though it will take years to complete, Project FOCUS will deliver exceptional value by fully developing UNB’s vast data assets while keeping them secure.

5. Student-centered institution. ITS is a keen—and crucial—student support unit, delivering direct IT support via the IT ServiceDesk and public labs equipped with the latest hardware and software, plus maintaining high capacity wired and wireless networks available 24/7. Students enjoy seamless access to many university-wide applications and services via the MyUNB portal, and use apps that provide convenient access to services and information like UCard, schedules, and grades. ITS also supports many other units and functions across UNB that in turn serve student needs, including the registrars, financial services, awards and scholarships, exam scheduling, and health and wellness, to name just a few.

6. Higher education affordability. How can IT make higher education more affordable for students and funders? Fortunately, examples of real savings benefitting all are easy to spot. Because of ITS’s relationship with Microsoft, UNB students, faculty, and staff enjoy free access to MSOffice applications like Word and Excel; these productivity tools can be installed on up to five personal devices at absolutely no cost. Even more impressive, analysis shows the consortium of higher education IT units in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island—the ECN—delivers savings of over $1 million per year to ECN institutions through shared IT services.

7. IT staffing and organizational models. A robust local market for IT professionals means ITS experiences more turnover than almost any other unit. With a well-earned reputation for leadership, experience, and quality, ITS produces highly sought-after employees who can command higher salaries and benefits outside of the university than they are able to obtain within it. To assist retention, and to ensure our staff keep their skills and knowledge up to date, ITS invests in training, and a well-developed performance management process to identify and track staff training needs.

8. (tie) Data management and governance. UNB has a strong and growing data management culture arising from widespread realization that data is one of the university’s most valuable assets. The data governance function lies with ESSG, while management and stewardship reside with the Data Management Working Group (DMWG), a cross-functional body entrusted with ensuring UNB’s data meets the need of its many users. DMWG’s accomplishments to date include definition and implementation of UNB’s first data classification framework, publication of recommendations on appropriate security for the various classes of data, and examination of requirements for updating IT systems from the perspective of gender neutrality and equality.

8. (tie) Digital integrations. Did you know data from Colleague (UNB’s primary application for storage and use of financial, HR, student, advancement, and other information) is exported/imported/accessed/used by over 35 other applications? From phone bills to student records to room booking, data from the central system is distributed hither and yon efficiently, quickly, and securely. ITS puts a lot of effort into ensuring this vast array of services and resources is well designed, readily accessible, and appropriately managed. In the near future, enterprise data will be easier than ever to access, and will be usable for many more purposes.

10. Change leadership. ITS offers several professional services including change management, project management, and business and data analysis. Always in high demand, these services are designed to help units and individuals across UNB adapt to and adopt ever-changing technologies supporting and advancing the university’s mission. ITS frequently finds itself in a leadership position in forging new ways to cope with profound change, bringing along many others who don’t have quite as much exposure to the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world of technology.

Terry Nikkel, AVP, ITS, Feb. 9, 2018

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