Examining the ongoing challenges of delivering high-quality, value-added ERP services in Higher Education.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Overdue Debrief from EDUCAUSE 2012

Hard to believe it has been nearly a month since the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference in Denver and I still haven't blogged about it. I certainly tweeted about it. Or felt like I did -- the official count of 50 (not including retweets) is a lot lower than I thought!

As usual, it was a thought-provoking event replete with networking opportunities, thoroughly exhausting both mentally and physically. I wrote a massive trip report for my team, but for this blog I'll keep my ruminations brief. A useful place to start might be the "Top Ten IT Issues" for 2012, published much earlier in the year, but setting the tone for the conference.

The 2012 Top Ten IT Issues
Source: http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/top-ten-it-issues-2012

1. Updating IT professionals' skills and roles to accommodate emerging technologies and changing IT management and service delivery models
2. Supporting the trends toward IT consumerization and bring-your-own device
3. Developing an institution-wide cloud strategy
4. Improving the institution's operational efficiency through information technology
5. Integrating information technology into institutional decision-making
6. Using analytics to support critical institutional outcomes
7. Funding information technology strategically
8. Transforming the institution's business with information technology
9. Supporting the research mission through high-performance computing, large data, and analytics
10. Establishing and implementing IT governance throughout the institution

The issues certainly resonate with me and the work of my unit. It is especially striking that 30% of the issues are directly about business intelligence and analytics, while several others are less direct but clearly dependent. There is a great visual on the EDUCAUSE site (http://www.educause.edu/educause/visualizations/vis1/index.html) that shows how the top issues have trended changed over the last decade. (A topic for another day...)

The easiest way to summarize the Denver proceedings is by buzzword:

MOOC: Perhaps the worst acronym in history (IMHO), "massive open online courses" are big topics of conversation. Harvard is prominent here because of edX, and CIO Anne Margulies had an SRO crowd in the largest ballroom in the Colorado Convention Center. There was an article in The New York Times two weekends before the event (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/education/edlife/massive-open-online-courses-are-multiplying-at-a-rapid-pace.html?emc=eta1) on the subject and there was a lot of chatter at EDUCAUSE. Not all of it positive... This is a polarizing topic, with many folks complaining about the hype and hyperbole and others proclaiming the MOOC as the most important transformation of our lifetimes.

BYOD: "Bring your own device" continues to be an issue for universities even though higher education has been doing this for ages with students, because the explosion of devices and the question of whether it is reasonable and/or practical to control those devices remain prominent issues. One of the biggest issues may be that individuals are routinely connecting with 2, 3, or 4 devices simultaneously, and expecting all the University's information systems to work on any device of their choosing. Although frankly, at least in my world, we are facing this problem of dueling form factors (tablets, smart phones, PCs) and browsers (every combination possible of OS and Browser) as much within our controlled institution-owned base as with personal devices!

Analytics: You can see it in the Top 10 list; the desire to use data to support decision making has reached a fevered pitch. The focus at these conferences still tends to be on predicting student success/failure, and my institution is not the only one behind in our executive-level reporting capabilities. There were also many interesting discussions of roles and responsibilities across organizations within the academy. Who should drive analytics projects? Business groups such as student affairs? Institutional Research? (And by the way, there is no unambiguous answer to the question).

Innovation: Everybody seeks to create "space for innovation" in a time where adding resources is not an option. There were lots of stories of reorganizing around core competencies, adopting "agile" methodologies such as Scrum, pushing help desk support to an online self-help model and using "crowdsourcing" techniques for users to help each other, etc. The good news here is that my organization is on the right track; the bad news is that it is not easy!

More this week on more "tactical" takeaways…


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