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Five Ways of Transforming IT to Support New Models of Learning (Part 2)

Five Ways of Transforming IT to Support New Models of Learning (Part 2)
Ensuring IT departments keep pace with their evolving role in the institution is critical for the success of colleges and universities.
This is the conclusion of John Borwick’s two-part series on the changing role of postsecondary IT in modern higher education. In the first article, Borwick shared his thoughts on how the space has changed and introduced two suggestions for transformation: building expertise in IT supplier management and simplifying integration with IT standards. In this article, Borwick provides three additional suggestions.

3. Build the Stack: Identity and Access Management

Almost any IT tool purchased today will need to know who the users are and what they can access. Higher education is well positioned to implement standardized identity and access management systems, thanks to initiatives such as Internet2’s In Common.

Without standards, every IT integration must develop its own way to synchronize users and access, leading to vendor text file data dumps, jerry-rigged Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) and Active Directory authentication, and sometimes expensive proprietary tools. Every IT integration will become much easier when you have IT standards for identity and access management.

If you do not already have an identity and access management system, make sure to involve your campus library in planning. Libraries in particular need these tools to manage subscriptions to academic resources brokered through vendors, such as electronic journals.

4. Build the Stack: Reporting Environments

As third parties collect institutional information, on-campus customers will likely want to access and summarize that information. These data become much more effective when integrated between systems: the admissions, degree audit, housing and alumni giving records must all be joined to build a view across the entire student lifecycle.

Define standards for pulling and integrating vendor data. Perhaps you build a data warehouse, and vendor data must be pulled through daily system reports. Perhaps reports are generated on-demand using cross-system web service queries. Whatever your approach, the earlier you can build a standard for integrating and reporting on data across systems, the easier it will be to build organization-wide business intelligence.

5. Find Opportunities for IT Process Integration

Finally, campus IT processes and their supporting tools should be integrated with vendor processes to provide better service to campus. The campus IT knowledge base may include vendor-provided articles, or a campus IT service catalog may allow users to order service offered by vendors. Vendors may be required to give notice or receive approval before rolling out major changes.

There is potential for tighter process integration as well. As an example, every IT department provides some level of “incident management” — helping users get back up and working when IT fails. If a user calls about a vendor issue, the campus IT system may allow IT to escalate that issue to the vendor, sending the incident straight into the vendor’s tool. Or, the system may at least provide support for tracking the vendor escalation.

Integrating IT processes requires campus IT to understand and formalize its processes. Process documentation and control does not have to be painful, and always helps during audits. And as campus IT moves from being primarily a builder to primarily an integrator, its core assets will be its management capabilities and processes.

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