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The IT Issues Ahead

Educause recently revealed its Top 10 IT Issues for 2017, prioritizing information security for the second year in a row and emphasizing data, infrastructure and IT leadership. What issues will most impact your institution?

Each year at the Educause annual conference, I make sure to catch the preview of the coming year's Top 10 IT Issues. It's always a packed room (it's a good idea to arrive early to find a seat), full of attendees with cameras ready to capture the presentation slides as they appear on the projection screen. After all, the Top 10 IT Issues are like a bellwether for the year ahead, pointing to key trends and challenges that every higher ed IT leader should be thinking about.   

Educause Top 10 IT Issues

  1. Information security
  2. Student success and completion
  3. Data-informed decision-making
  4. Strategic leadership
  5. Sustainable funding
  6. Data management and governance
  7. Higher education affordability
  8. Sustainable staffing
  9. Next-gen enterprise IT
  10. Digital transformation of learning

The issues for 2017 were, on the surface, notably IT-centric, with information security topping the list for the second year in a row and a heavy emphasis on data, infrastructure and IT leadership (see box at right). Three new issues made the list for the new year: strategic leadership, defined as "repositioning or reinforcing the role of IT leadership as a strategic partner with institutional leadership"; higher education affordability, "prioritizing IT investments and resources in the context of increasing demand and limited resources"; and next-gen enterprise IT, "developing an implementing enterprise IT applications, architectures and sourcing strategies to achieve agility, scalability, cost-effectiveness and effective analytics." Teaching and learning made the bottom of the list with issue No. 10: digital transformation of learning, defined as "collaborating with faculty and academic leadership to apply technology to teaching and learning in ways that reflect innovations in pedagogy and the institutional mission." (Read our full analysis of the Top 10 IT Issues here.)

While the Top 10 IT Issues are valuable in themselves, I find it equally interesting to observe the conversations that they spark. At the Educause session, a panel of IT leaders asked audience members to vote on which two themes they most wanted the panelists to discuss. The response:

  • Next-gen enterprise IT (53%);
  • Digital transformation of learning (38%);
  • Strategic uses of data (38%);
  • Information security (30%); and
  • Focused and relevant priorities (29%).

It seems clear that with all the changes in higher education — advances in data analytics, new learning models, cutting-edge technologies — IT is constantly challenged to maintain and evolve its core infrastructure. In other words, solve the problems of next-gen enterprise IT. Information technology is a balancing act, noted the panel. It's about agility, vendor relationships, integration and managing the systems, strategies and resources needed to support the fundamental mission of the university.

The Educause panel also revealed a longer slate of issues from which the final top 10 were derived, providing an interesting view into what topics didn't make the cut:

  • Change leadership;
  • Digital transformation of scholarship and research;
  • Faculty adoption of technology;
  • Identity management;
  • IT partnerships;
  • IT service management;
  • Next-gen IT workforce; and
  • Online education.

I'd say change leadership received short shrift in the 2017 top 10, and faculty adoption of technology is an ongoing challenge that can't be ignored. What issues would top your list?

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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