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Management Briefing - EDUCAUSE Top Ten IT Issues 2019

Author: tidBiTS

Posted on Jun 3, 2019

Category: General Interest , Management Briefings

Background

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. 

Top Ten IT Issues 2019

1. Information security strategy. This issue has been in the Educause top ten for many years now. ITS is accountable for securing UNB’s IT infrastructure, user devices, and data, while maintaining flexibility and convenience for our thousands of users. Over the past year we’ve worked hard implementing UNB’s first IT Security Program, developing standards, expanding user education and awareness, deploying technology enhancements such as new monitoring tools, and collaborating with other New Brunswick higher-ed institutions and national organizations including Canada’s research and education community from coast-to-coast.

2. Student success. Also a longstanding incumbent, student success is understandably a prominent Educause top ten item. At UNB, CRM Recruit, the software platform replacing the Online Application system, will make onboarding new students much more friendly and efficient. ITS has worked alongside the Registrars, Recruiting, and Marketing from the beginning to ensure implementation goes as smoothly as possible. Planning is now underway to update and upgrade the MyUNB online portal; many of the functions and features currently residing in eServices will migrate to a new home, bringing UNB’s online tools to current standards of usability, convenience, and visual appeal.

3. Privacy. Privacy is new to the Educause top ten, but at UNB it’s been an organizational priority for many years. ITS supports privacy in several ways, perhaps most importantly as an early and avid participant in data governance and management initiatives across the university.

4. Student-centered institution. Interestingly, this item hasn’t been on the list that long--a couple of years. ITS is a keen—and crucial—student support unit, delivering direct IT support via the IT Service Desk 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, class schedules, and grades. Of course, ITS also supports many other units and functions across UNB that in turn serve student needs, including the faculties, the registrars, financial services, awards and scholarships, exam scheduling, and health and wellness, to name just a few.

5. Digital integrations. Another relative newcomer to the list. 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 systems. 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 information is secure yet readily accessible and appropriately managed. In the future, enterprise data will be housed in a more convenient and accessible home, making review and reporting easier than ever.

6. Data-enabled institution. This one’s been on the list for a while. Here at UNB, Project FOCUS, the program to rebuild and revitalize Colleague, has been underway for three years. 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. 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.

7. Sustainable funding. While not a new issue for many institutions including UNB, this is the debut of it on the top ten list. As we all know, UNB has long had challenges with sustainable funding, and ITS has felt this as acutely as any unit. After 10 years and a million dollars in operations budget reductions, ITS is no longer able to absorb annual inflationary or currency exchange-impacted increases to enterprise licenses, nor self-fund capital equipment procurement and maintenance.

8. Data management and governance. This issue has been on Educause’s radar for a few years. 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 the Enterprise Services and Systems Governance committee (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 needs 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.

9. Integrative CIO. This is a new issue on the Educause top ten, and points to the enterprise leadership and strategic partnerships potential of IT. IT is not generally thought of as a strategic partner or even necessity; more commonly, IT is regarded as a cost centre and sometimes even a bureaucratic hurdle. At UNB, ITS has worked hard to ensure it is strategically aligned with the university, and that users have a say and a stake, via the governance process, in which projects we undertake. That said, our user satisfaction surveys suggest that ITS is universally seen as a service provider rather than partner—ITS has some work to do to change this perception.

10. Higher education affordability. This issue appears regularly on the top ten list. The main question is, 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 $1.3 million per year to ECN institutions through shared IT services.

Terry Nikkel, AVP, ITS, June 3, 2019