When choosing a college to attend, campus IT may not be the top criterion for students. But these behind-the-scenes technologies are the backbone of the courses and campus experience students have come to expect. Still, many institutions lack the resources necessary to provide the technological infrastructure needed to meet these needs.
This puts schools in a point of contention — to outsource or not to outsource IT?
We enlisted Vince Battista, IT solutions architect at Collegis Education, to help explain the conundrum many schools are facing and provide advice on making a decision. Keep reading to learn more about IT staffing in higher education.
Seamless technology is a necessity
From the first day of orientation until crossing the stage at graduation, technology is imbedded in nearly every facet of a student’s college journey. Course registration, classroom technology, contacting advisors, receiving grades and using learning management systems (LMS) and student information systems (SIS) are all key components powered by information technology.
And today’s students are increasingly plugged in. An average student on a college campus has up to eight devices which leverage the wireless networks of a college.
“Students want and expect seamless experiences from their desktop to tablet to mobile,” Battista says.
“If these are fragmented and clunky, the user experience fails and you have disgruntled students.” He adds that institutions don’t typically view their students as paying customers, which often results in schools ignoring students’ digital experiences.
This can have a detrimental effect, just like in any other product or service industry. If a school’s technology is unreliable, unsecure, or offers a poor experience, students may leave. In these cases, technology undermines the initiatives of the school, and its bottom line.
The reality of underfunded IT departments
IT is an essential element to providing a positive student experience. It keeps operations running smoothly and securely. Many schools appreciate the fact that employing an in-house IT team means that group is 100% committed to that institution. But there are challenges in this approach.
“A typical higher ed IT department tends to be understaffed and underfunded,” Battista shares. “This results in IT departments that cannot move their institution forward and are focused on the status quo.”
The few resources they do have are spent on basic IT needs, leaving little-to-no room to make advancements and improvements. “The institution is locked into a ‘keep the lights on’ mode and cannot innovate or transform the technical experience for their students,” Battista adds.
Given that many higher ed IT departments are limited in their ability to elevate their campus technology to meet the needs of today’s students, it raises the question: Should you outsource your IT department?
Recognizing the benefits of outsourcing IT
For schools that opt to outsource their IT department, there are a number of tangible benefits. The most obvious advantage is deepening the bench of IT expertise and resources available to the university.
“The biggest benefit to IT outsourcing is to have a large number of people available who typically have a vast array of IT skills,” Battista explains.
Because outsourcing IT expands the wealth of expertise and resources, a school can expect to also expedite project delivery and improve the student experience — all because they have a team of experts at their disposal available to deliver on the projects.
For schools considering outsourcing IT staffing, they must also consider the effect it will have on other departments. Take this example for instance:
“If you propel your IT department into a highly effective delivery team, can the rest of the institution keep up that pace? Project deliveries are tied tightly to the functional areas of the institution and those departments may not be able to adjust,” Battista says. “Projects could fail.”
Still, schools need to envision the larger picture when considering outsourcing. IT, while helpful to everyday operational activities, is more effective when it’s aligned with a school’s strategic initiatives. How many areas of the institution could be improved with more IT resources — and are these tied to the school’s strategic initiatives for the coming years?
“The key factor for an institution to know if outsourcing is the right decision is if their strategic plan has many facets tied to technology. Things such as customer service, student experience, self-service and increased staff productivity are all areas where technology plays a critical role,” Battista explains. “In order to set themselves apart, they’ll need to invest in technology.”
Leading institutions invest in technology
It’s safe to say that the demands on IT staffing in higher education will only increase in the years to come. The schools that understand the importance of prioritizing and funding their technology initiatives will be better prepared to handle the evolving landscape in the future.
“Institutions that invest in technology budgets will become the leading institutions in the future,” Battista emphasizes.
With more than 20 years of experience specializing in higher ed information technology services, Collegis Education is prepared to assess your institutional needs and devise a strategic plan for your school.
Learn more by visiting our technology services page.