Responding to the Top-Ten IT Issues for Higher Education

By Liz Dietz, VP CedarCrestone Higher Education

EDUCAUSE recently released their annual Top-Ten IT Issues briefing paper for 2012. This year’s study was a departure from the general survey methodology utilized since 2000. Putting a “new spin on this tradition,” EDUCAUSE created a 19-member research panel representing a wide spectrum of institutions to identify the biggest issues facing their institutions. The result was a fresh, new look at institutional concerns with only two past issues making the 2012 list.

The Top-Ten Issues are ranked by priority, from top to bottom. In this blog, I will  review the full list and how CedarCrestone Higher Education is responding to each issue.

#1 - Updating IT professionals' skills and roles to accommodate emerging technologies and changing IT management and service delivery models

CedarCrestone is responding to this need from two directions. First of all, we offer a wide range of service delivery models from hosting and managed services to on-site Oracle implementations and upgrades to Workday Software-as-a-Service deployments. In terms of up-skilling, we continue to make sure that our consultants are on the leading edge of technologies that our clients need and make them available to support our clients with a strong focus on knowledge transfer during on-campus projects. In the current climate, IT leaders are recognizing that some specialized skills may not be cost-effective to have on campus and we are also assisting these clients, as they design new staffing models and strategic direction, to determine which difficult-to-come-by skills are best out-sourced and which skills should stay on-premise full time.

One area where we are truly on the leading edge is the HCM/Campus Solutions database “split.” While working on the first split and upgrade project at Palomar College, senior solutions architect Mike Kennedy and his team developed a set of “split utilities” which eliminate hundreds of man-hours during a given project, allowing for a much more efficient and cost-effective approach to the split. The utilities also make knowledge transfer a snap. Over the past year, our split specialists have continued to refine and add to these utilities. Their foresight has made CedarCrestone the go-to firm for “split-related” work. Since Palomar, we have completed 17 split assessments for institutions such as Arizona State University, Capella University, City University of Seattle, College of Lake County, Gemological Institute of America, Heartland Community College, Kentucky Community and Technical College System, Long Beach Community College, Los Rios Community College, Rose State College, Williams College, and Frostburg State University.

#2 - Supporting the trends toward IT consumerization and bring-your-own device

The growing availability of today’s low-cost, easy-to-use devices and cloud-based services allows today’s student or new faculty to arrive on campus with a smart phone, portable music player, tablet or laptop, gaming system, VOIP telecommunications, social networks, email accounts, cloud-based document sharing or storage, and a self-provisioned web-based development environment. These are the customers that higher education must satisfy, and they are looking to their technology partners to provide administrative and technology solutions that are as modern, agile, intuitive and easy to use as shopping at Amazon.com. These systems should be accessible from the student’s or faculty’s device of choice and as ubiquitously available as Facebook or Google. These systems should be as reliable as any modern utility, easily accessible 24x7, located in the Cloud, and kept current and secure by trusted experts whose business is solely focused on delivering the services.

This radical shift in the delivery of administrative technology calls for a new era of technology partners – partners that understand modern technology, the expectations and needs of today’s technology consumers, as well as understanding the demanding and mission-critical business needs of higher education. At CedarCrestone, we ongoingly support Higher Education CIO’s with their strategic technology plans, helping them to navigate an ever-expanding sea of technology options. Our technical consultants include experts in the latest technologies including solutions that support smart phones, tablets, and mobile applications.

Case in point: When CedarCrestone PeopleSoft client Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University was looking for one mobile solution for multiple campuses, we supported Dub Labs/ATT Campus Guide with their integration API to Campus Solutions and helped that API get Oracle certified. With residential campuses in Arizona and Florida, and in more than 150 locations in the United States, Europe, Canada, Asia and the Middle East, ERAU now has single multi-campus mobile application that works on multiple platforms, brings all services together – IT, Admissions, Student Affairs, Athletics, Alumni, and more, meets the diverse needs of its students, and interfaces seamlessly with their PeopleSoft Campus Solutions system.

#3 - Developing an institution-wide cloud strategy

Higher Education is demanding a new model for providing administrative technology from technology partners. No longer can they afford the continuous, rapid technology-based change that requires the investment of precious resources necessary to host, support and maintain their administrative information systems. Although these systems are necessary to the management of the business aspects of an institution, during times of limited resources their associated costs are often at the expense of much-needed investment in the fulfillment of the institution’s academic mission. As the EDUCAUSE report so aptly put it, “For services that remain in an on-premise model, campus IT organizations will need to continually demonstrate the value of that model in the face of cloud offerings.”

From our BDMs to our account managers, consultants and executives, we are all involved in helping our higher education clients to determine their unique needs and the right pace of adoption. We do not offer a one-size-fits-all approach. Whether it’s moving from on-premise to CedarCrestone Host Services, out-sourcing Application Management to our Application Management Services team, or deploying SaaS-based applications such as Workday, we offer our clients a broad series of choices for moving to the cloud systematically and incrementally.

For those colleges and universities who are ready to make the leap to SaaS, CedarCrestone is excited to partner with Workday to offer institutions a fully integrated, forward thinking “Best of Breed” approach that provides a complete cloud solution for an integrated Student Information, HCM, Payroll and Finance solution. This approach brings together the best higher education administrative technology solutions available today: Workday HCM, Payroll, and Financials and PeopleSoft Campus Solutions, all delivered in the cloud, seamlessly integrated using web services.

With this best-of-breed, complete cloud solution, the institution will always have access to the latest regulatory requirements, new product features and technology as they are delivered, shrinking the timeline and increasing the ability to benefit from the most current version of the software solution. By adopting Workday HCM, Payroll and Finance, the institution will always be on the most recent version of Workday solutions, eliminating costly and time-consuming product upgrades. PeopleSoft Campus Solutions supports a continuous release model, with feature enhancements, and regulatory and product maintenance releases several times each year. With the Campus Solutions database hosted by CedarCrestone, we can provide application maintenance “just in time,” as it is released, or on an alternate schedule set by the institution.

CedarCrestone is excited about supporting Workday HCM, Payroll and Financials because they have been built from the ground up to be both true SaaS as well as best-in-class in terms of functionality and usability. The Forrester Wave™: Human Resource Management Systems, Q1 ’12 report rates Workday as the clear HCM leader in product depth and innovation over Oracle PeopleSoft, Oracle Fusion, SAP and other vendor solutions.

#4 - Improving the institution's operational efficiency through information technology

Everything we do at CedarCrestone is focused on this outcome. We work with each client to see what their goals are, what their needs are, what their pain points are. We are all about that. We always have been. We always will be.

One model that we strongly encourage is shared services. In the Top-Ten Issues report, EDUCAUSE discusses “Looking Beyond the Campus: Opportunities for Cross-Institutional Collaborations.” In the report, the IT Issues Panel provides what they deem the “four most-promising areas”:

  1. “Aggregation of demand for software licenses, hardware and professional servers
  2. “Disaster recovery and business continuity
  3. “Aggregation of specialized technical expertise
  4. “Commodity services.”

A great example is our current project at the University of Texas System (UTS) where we are implementing PeopleSoft HCM and Financials in a multi-institution, shared services model for seven UTS institutions and the system administration office – all in support of the University of Texas’ pursuit of operational efficiency.

 

#5 - Integrating information technology into institutional decision-making

and

#6 - Using analytics to support critical institutional outcomes

 

Heavy investments by institutions in their ERP applications over the last decade have resulted in ever-expanding volumes of data being captured in disparate systems. These systems are typically siloed and the information is fragmented, making a single view representation and analysis of enterprise data inaccessible. That's where institutions can leverage our BI expertise.

CedarCrestone supports Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE), Oracle Business Intelligence Analytics (OBIA), Hyperion, and EPM (data warehouse) and offers a variety of services including:

  • Creating a strategic plan that maps the institution’s vision with the right technologies
  • Creating key performance indicators (KPI)
  • Reporting, monitoring and measuring business performance
  • Harnessing information to deliver intelligence for faster decision-making
  • Combining multiple data sources into a meaningful final representation for data analysis (ETL)
  • Correctly designing integration hubs to support compliance activities (ETL)
  • Analytics and data mining (A/DM)
  • Online analytical processing
  • Delivering information to the desktop via search engines
  • Provision of information across the entire Internet or Intranet

In addition, our Business Intelligence/Data Warehouse practice has extensive experience with a broad set of solutions including reporting applications, real-time integration, information delivery, business process automation, portals, dashboards and advanced analytics. They fully understand the unique business issues and concerns that drive the industries we serve, including higher education.

At the University of Texas System, we are currently implementing a number of Oracle Business Intelligence tools that they will be able to use to further their operational efficiency and maximize their investment in their PeopleSoft Systems.

#7 - Funding information technology strategically

IT funding is one of the two “past” issues to reappear on the 2012 list. “The IT funding issue is an ongoing conversation, not a problem that can be resolved conclusively,” says EDUCAUSE, and they emphasize the importance of setting funding priorities against a backdrop of the institution’s mission. “Information technology serves the mission of the institution; strategic decisions about funding can be made only when the relationship between technology and that mission is clear.”

One way in which we support clients with their IT planning and funding decisions is through our ERP Roadmap service. We have assisted institutions such as Boise State University and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) with their strategic technology roadmaps, helping them to determine what makes sense for their institution and which IT issues are the most important to them. The service includes a series of meetings, surveys and exercises to help identify initiatives that can be implemented to transform the institution’s ERP operations and services in conjunction with other relevant initiatives and establish the direction, scope, timeline, and budgets needed to move ahead with the plan.

#8 – Transforming the institution's business with information technology

According to the EDUCAUSE report, “Information technology allied with process reengineering and continuous improvement is the pathway to transformation.” And, as we all know, business process reengineering is our sweet spot. Our entire Propel Methodology is structured around the implementation of critical business processes.

Our approach to business process redesign encourages optimizing the capabilities of the software and leveraging best practices and principles evident in existing processes. Our early focus is on providing the institution’s business area experts with the opportunity to review their existing cross-functional processes, allowing them to articulate ideas regarding how they would like to redesign the processes, assuming that the new software can support their desired redesigns.

In the Analyze and Design phase, we facilitate Interactive Design and Prototyping (IDP) sessions with functional leads and business area experts. The primary focus of this phase is the analysis and design of key business processes to optimize software functionality. CedarCrestone consultants can use traditional business process flow diagrams if our clients desire, or use a simplified technique to map and redesign business processes called the Picture Card Design Method (“PCDM”), which was developed by Dr. Markus Gappmeier of Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Management. Regardless of the preferred approach, CedarCrestone Functional Leads apply their experience with the applications and functional knowledge of higher education business processes to help redesign key cross-functional business processes to ensure that they are effectively integrated and structured to produce the required process outcomes as efficiently as possible. In our experience, considerable institutional learning takes place in these early review sessions, which generates even more ideas for cross-functional process improvement. The resulting desired processes are then incorporated into a prototype that is reviewed and revised. This bottom-up approach involves the institution’s front line experts and engenders their support for any necessary business process changes.

#9 - Supporting the research mission through high-performance computing, large data, and analytics

While this issue is not one that CedarCrestone directly supports, we do provide a critical pathway for freeing up physical and human resources for research needs through our Host services. We currently host the PeopleSoft Systems for research universities such as Arizona State University (ASU) and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, And we are working with a large Midwest Research Institution to evaluate moving their administrative applications to host with CedarCrestone specifically to enable them to focus their precious human resources and space in their data center on research computing while we handle administrative computing. 

As Max Davis-Johnson, former Associate Vice President for University Technology at ASU put it: “The technology vision of the New American University makes technology decisions pragmatically and quickly. We seek input; we communicate the process; we make a decision. We focus on results - not on the process. Using companies that have their core as our context allows us to do this. It allows us to implement context more quickly and efficiently. It allows us to focus on what differentiates ASU from others and not what we all have in common. ASU purchased Oracle PeopleSoft and used CedarCrestone to host our PeopleSoft application. CedarCrestone hosts PeopleSoft as a core business.”

#10 - Establishing and implementing IT governance throughout the institution

The IT Governance issue is the other recurring issue in the EDUCAUSE “Top-Ten” list. Perhaps the issue maintains its status because addressing this issue requires change that is perceived by some as “risky” for the institution. IT Governance imposes “rules” where few or none previously existed.

CedarCrestone’s approach to ERP implementations helps institutions implement IT Governance in a methodical way that gradually transfers the power from a few decision-makers and introduces a shared governance model that supports procedures that are “tested” throughout the ERP implementation project lifecycle. During the project planning stage, key stakeholders (including those who were previous decision-makers) participate in exercises to design the IT Governance process that will be deployed for the project. Then during the subsequent phases of the project lifecycle, CedarCrestone coaches the individuals through the designed process and helps them adjust the governance procedures, tools, and associated standards so that by the end of the project, IT Governance exists and will address the institution’s needs for their operational ERP system.

Because IT Governance is simultaneously and methodically introduced with the new (or upgraded) system, the change feels more comfortable. Institutions can ultimately fold their remaining systems into the established process so that IT decisions holistically address the needs of the institution and can be more effectively and efficiently implemented. Brenda Selman, University Registrar at the University of Missouri, put it this way: “CedarCrestone’s experience with complex and diverse organizations that have unique qualities helped us develop decision criteria and processes, implementation strategies and governance structures that are based upon sound principles and real experiences. With their assistance, we have been able to revitalize our project and make great progress in a relatively short period of time."

The EDUCAUSE Top-Ten IT Issues Report 2012, by Susan Grajek, the 2011-2012 EDYCAUSE IT Issues Panel, and Judith A. Pirani, is available for download at http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/top-ten-it-issues-2012.

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About Liz Dietz

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