The success of an academic institution depends on its ability to attract and retain high-quality students, faculty and staff. In higher education, this means having enough resources – including funding, facilities, technology and programs – to support the mission of the institution. However, it’s not always easy to meet these resource needs in times of budget constraints, the Great Resignation, cyberattacks, budget pressures and “anti-academic degree” sentiments. 

Succession planning is one tool that can help colleges and universities keep up with their missions (even when budgets are tight) by ensuring that there are appropriate people ready to step into leadership roles when needed. That’s especially important now as more than half of higher ed staff members are considering leaving their jobs in the next year. 

Talented, qualified IT teams are necessary for moving an institution and its technology into the future. As a president or a board member, one part of your overall strategic plan for meeting institutional goals should be to consider how succession planning fits into your plans for recruiting new employees – or retaining current ones who may be considering other opportunities in academia or another industry. Failure to do so could lead to excessive turnover and destroy a significant amount of institutional value in the form of lost IT knowledge and intellectual capital when no succession plan is in place for the IT function in the institution.  

The purpose of this article is to discuss current IT staffing realities in higher education and then make recommendations for how to significantly improve your institutional performance and mitigate potential risk through better practices for preparing IT leaders and selecting IT managed services (ITMS) partners. 

Institutional success requires resources.

Succession planning is not just a matter of replacing faculty members. Resources are required to deliver the mission of the institution. They include people (faculty, staff – IT, admissions, etc. – and students), money and equipment. 

In addition to hiring new faculty members, you may also need more resources for student and staff development programs and campus-wide IT support. If so, consider how many additional resources will be required and how they can be obtained. 

Succession planning is an ongoing process focused on having the right people in the right place at the right time. 

The goal of this planning is to ensure that there are enough qualified leaders in place to meet the needs of the organization today and in the future. Succession planning can be broadly defined as a systematic approach to identifying, developing, and activating talent within an organization so that it has sufficient leadership capacity for generations to come. Consider not just the highest levels of leadership, but also the people who support the school from the bottom up. From faculty to the bursar’s office and from operations personnel to tech support, imagine what could happen in the event of one or two poorly timed departures?  

Why does a college or university need a succession plan?

Effective succession planning helps maintain consistent, high-quality resources for student development. 

Succession planning is an ongoing process to ensure that the institution has the resources – not only in its upper management, but also to support student development. As such, succession planning includes making sure there are enough qualified full-time faculty members and academic staff to carry out the school’s mission, as well as appropriate levels of professional support services such as information technology and advising.  

Succession planning also helps ensure that programs are staffed with adequate numbers of appropriately trained or experienced specialists who can provide high-quality instruction and support. 

IT Staffing Challenges 

As data and information technology transform every higher education institution, technology leadership roles are ever-changing. Roles in IT Leadership/Data Governance, Infrastructure/Operations and Applications/Functionality bring together a broad and often contradictory set of responsibilities that are essential to institutional effectiveness, competitiveness and sustainability. Like other areas in the institution, succession planning for IT leadership – and simply retaining talented IT staff – becomes more challenging in a competitive employment landscape. 


With the right succession planning process in place, higher education institutions can ensure that IT resources are available for students and faculty. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, Collegis Education can help your institution set goals that will drive institutional growth and development both in the areas of enrollment growth and IT managed services. 

Stay tuned for part two of this series for details on creating a CIO succession plan for your college or university.  

Author: Dr. Baz Abouelenein

Dr. Baz Abouelenein is a higher education leader and technology evangelist with over 20 years of success in achieving strategic business objectives and transforming technologies in higher education. He has extensive experience in developing technology strategies and industry best practices. He holds a doctorate in organizational leadership and boasts a unique mix of industry and academic experiences.