Wednesday, February 1, 2017

SFU and the EDUCAUSE 2017 Top 10 Issues

Every year EDUCAUSE publishes the top 10 issues in higher education IT. I look forward to reading the list each year because it is an excellent gauge of how we fare compared to the industry at large. The top 10 helps us understand the key trends in IT for our industry, guides our planning about where we may need to invest, and provides us with confirmation about where we are already allocating resources.

Here is this year’s list:

  1. Information Security: Developing a holistic, agile approach to reduce institutional exposure to information security threats
  2. Student Success and Completion: Effectively applying data and predictive analytics to improve student success and completion
  3. Data-Informed Decision Making: Ensuring that business intelligence, reporting, and analytics are relevant, convenient, and used by administrators, faculty, and students
  4. Strategic Leadership: Repositioning or reinforcing the role of IT leadership as a strategic partner with institutional leadership
  5. Sustainable Funding: Developing IT funding models that sustain core services, support innovation, and facilitate growth
  6. Data Management and Governance: Improving the management of institutional data through data standards, integration, protection, and governance
  7. Higher Education Affordability: Prioritizing IT investments and resources in the context of increasing demand and limited resources
  8. Sustainable Staffing: Ensuring adequate staffing capacity and staff retention as budgets shrink or remain flat and as external competition grows
  9. Next-Gen Enterprise IT: Developing and implementing enterprise IT applications, architectures, and sourcing strategies to achieve agility, scalability, cost-effectiveness, and effective analytics
  10. Digital Transformation of Learning: Collaborating with faculty and academic leadership to apply technology to teaching and learning in ways that reflect innovations in pedagogy and the institutional mission

From Simon Fraser University’s information systems perspective, I have some observations about how these top 10 issues relate to several of our key initiatives.

  • The #1 issue is Information Security. Given the serious breaches at the University of Calgary and Carleton University within the past few months, it is clear that Canadian universities are not alone in our concerns about security. Our efforts at SFU in this area are being led by the cross-functional, cross-departmental Security Council. They have introduced a number of changes and will continue to improve our security posture. 
  • Three of the top 10 issues are data related. Using data and predictive analytics to improve student success (#2), focusing on using data management and business intelligence tools to improve decision-making (#3), and improving data management (#6). All three of these issues are being addressed by our Enterprise Data Warehouse and Business Intelligence project. The scope of this project includes the development of a comprehensive data model and data warehouse to support our analytics requirements, the implementation of tools to leverage the integrated data, and the development of the appropriate data governance and data access policies to ensure the success of the new systems.
  • The concept of providing strategic IT leadership (#4) to the institution is the foundation of our Vision for One I.S. Full realization and implementation of this vision is currently under development through our information systems strategic planning exercise.
  • The creation of the new IT Fund in the 2017-2018 fiscal year is essential to the development of an IT funding model that will enhance innovation and facilitate growth (#5). Similarly, this new fund will help us with ensuring adequate funding for the staffing of projects needed to proactively respond to expanding demands for information systems across the campus (#8).
  • Optimizing IT to ensure our stakeholders get the most value for their investment (#7) is being discussed across SFU. We are currently in the process of creating a new model for prioritizing demands for administrative systems resources. The Administrative Systems Priority Setting Committees have been restructured and these new committees will launch soon. In conjunction with this change we are introducing a project scorecard and prioritization model that will create a more systemic, consistent, and transparent approach to ranking information systems investments and allocating our resources.
  • Our new an Enterprise Architect position is expected help us define our current information systems architecture and map out the path to the future next generation enterprise IT model (#9). This is a visionary role requiring close integration of data, process, and technology.
  • Our Educational Systems Stewardship Committee (ESSC) regularly discusses the many and varied issues related to the digital transformation of learning (#10). These are complex discussions blending pedagogical and technological challenges together. 

Clearly we have a lot of work to do, but the good news is that SFU information systems initiatives are addressing key higher education industry trends. We are allocating our resources and investing our funds in the right places, and I’m excited about our future.

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