Top Tech Issues in Higher Ed for 2016


Written by Patricia Carlucci

Each year EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit association and the foremost community of IT leaders and professionals committed to advancing higher education, publishes the top 10 issues faced by IT departments in higher education. Based on surveys completed by member institutions, these issues provide a window into the world of IT leadership in higher education. This year’s theme is Divest, Reinvest, and Differentiate. This article is the first installment of a series that will take a closer look at some of these issues and how they influence strategic decision-making at Fordham University.

In order to understand the results, we need to first understand the components of the underlying theme.

The theme reflects the understanding that higher education institutions must move from historical services to emerging platforms and adopt new practices that have a better fit in today’s technology environment. At Fordham, our IT staff has already been working to move key services, such as Banner, into hosted cloud environments.

IT departments must lay the groundwork for using information technology to deliver more value to higher education. This involves developing more meaningful and robust funding models, investing in the development of new skills for existing staff, and rethinking approaches to security.

What mission-critical services must IT departments do better than anyone else to give us a competitive advantage? This is the challenge of differentiation. It does not mean a laundry list of customizations “because this is how we have always done it here.” We need to carefully select where the implementation of new services will have a positive marketing or operational impact on our business, as well as advance our mission.

With these themes in mind, we can see more clearly the decision-making path that we must take to give Fordham University a truly competitive edge in the higher education marketplace. Below is EDUCAUSE’s list of top ten issues for 2016.

Educause IT Top 10 Issues 2016 Divest, Reinvest, Differentiate   




Information Security



Optimizing Educational Technology



Student Success Technologies and Analytics



IT Workforce Hiring and Retention



Institutional Data Management



IT Funding Models



BI and Analytics



Enterprise Application Integrations



IT Organizational Development



E-Learning and Online Education


In this first installment, we focus on issues #1 and #5, information security and institutional data management. With many of Fordham IT’s staff involved with the migration of documents in MyFiles to alternate storage solutions, these issues are especially pertinent to us.

It should be no surprise that even though these two topics are in different categories, they share some dependencies. Without a comprehensive approach to institutional data management, it is more difficult to implement the requirements necessary to realize the goal of true enterprise information security.  As you can see from the chart below, both were top issues in 2015. However, this year each reflects a more mature and holistic approach than last year.

IT TOP 10 2016

IT TOP 10 2015

Information Security

a holistic, agile approach to information security to create a secure
network, develop security policies, and reduce institutional exposure to
information security threats

Developing mobile, cloud, and digital security policies that work for most of the institutional community

Institutional Data Management

Improving the management of institutional data through data standards, integration, protection, and governance

Increasing the IT organization’s capacity for managing change, despite differing community needs, priorities, and abilities

Balancing agility, openness, and security

The protection of both personal and institutional data is challenging; many Fordham IT staff have felt those challenges quite deeply in terms of the MyFiles migration. It is not only restricted to securing networks, servers and other physical and often personal devices, but perhaps more importantly, the data that exists on those devices. This may seem like an obvious statement, but as institutional data is decentralized in specialized departmental applications, there must be safeguards in place to ensure the integrity of that data. This is a nearly impossible task if we are not fully aware of how individuals and departments are exporting, storing and even distributing data. This is where the association between data management and information security becomes important.
Fordham IT has several initiatives currently underway to achieve an even greater level of diligence in tracking the path of personal and institutional data when it leaves our secure systems of record for parts unknown. We are in the process of developing a public web page that describes different types of data and where they may be securely stored. In addition, we now find that we must be equally vigilant in managing an increasing number of vendors who are becoming custodians of institutional data by hosting applications that have become critical to our business. Are they compliment with all the regulations regarding privacy?  Do our contracts and agreements guarantee that our data will be safe, secure, protected, and accessible to us if needed? Is there an understanding of backup, retention, and retrieval requirements when storing data?

These are some of the many challenges we face as we find ourselves not only designing and implementing security measures to protect our own borders, but setting guidelines and acting as watchdogs for data in transit and data at rest regardless of where it exists and how it is accessed.

Source for this article:
Susan Grajek and the 2015-2016 EDUCAUSE IT Issues Panel. “Top 10 IT Issues, 2016: Divest, Reinvest, and Differentiate.” Educause Review, January 11, 2016.

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