With an abundance of tech solutions and tools, IT must ensure systems support their institutions’ goals effectively and affordably. Here’s how.

tech-effective-IT

[*Editor’s Note: This article appears in our March/April digital publication. See all the articles, as well as this month’s Symposium on “Whither Liberal Arts” here: http://ecampusnews.eschoolmedia.com/current-issue/.]

Just two years ago, higher ed CIOs were scrapping for a seat at the table. Now they’re firmly in the hot seat.

In that short span, IT has become so central to campus operations that its performance has a direct impact on the quality of teaching and learning. Furthermore, with the consumerization of IT, faculty and student expectations have risen dramatically, leaving IT little room for error, whether in the wireless network or the LMS interface. To thrive within this cauldron, IT must develop policies and best practices to help it evaluate, implement, and then re-evaluate the systems on campus. eCampus News looks at 10 keys for success:

1) Maintain tech flexibility. Like it or not, students and faculty expect tech services that rival what they can find off-campus. Meeting those expectations is almost impossible if your school is tied down by unwieldy legacy systems. “It used to be that our environment was one massive ERP system like Banner or PeopleSoft, and we would use only the tools that were inherent to Banner or PeopleSoft,” said Paige Francis, CIO of Fairfield University in Connecticut. “As we rely on more and more technology solutions, we’re now looking for smaller components that might integrate with larger components. We are at a point where we have decided not to count anything out.”

As long as additional components are compatible with Banner (the release of web-based Banner XE is expected to make interoperability far simpler), Francis treasures the flexibility of being able to scout other solutions. The school is currently looking at Salesforce.com, for example, as a possible new CRM.

In the fizzing tech sector, it’s also important to remember that today’s hot product may be yesterday’s news. Schools should be wary of entering into long contracts with companies that could become has-beens in a few years. “The last thing that you want is to get roped into a 10-year contract,” explained Francis. “I would take a one- to three-year contract, but I would also want language that gives us an out in certain circumstances, because technology is moving so quickly right now.”

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