With over 500 members, several pre-pandemic in-person events, and eight virtual roundtable discussions under our belt, the Higher Ed Technology Professionals Meetup group made significant strides in 2020 despite our members facing unprecedented challenges.
On January 22nd, the Meetup group met to discuss how CIOs and other IT professionals could prioritize the “right” IT with a reduced department and/or budget. As one of our most engaging virtual discussions yet, there was a lot to take away from each speaker’s perspective. You can find a recording of the discussion below:
At the outset of the Meetup, we ran a poll to quickly survey how attendees’ budgets looked going into the new year. More than half of the respondents replied that their budget had shrunk in 2020, whereas only one attendee replied saying that their budget had grown. Clearly, 2020 had not been a prosperous year for most university IT departments represented at the roundtable.
For many, challenges that existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic are turning into existential crises. That being said, higher ed professionals are making the best with what they have. Other institutions have IT budgets that have only increased in parallel with the department’s expanded responsibilities. Although each school has its own unique needs, here are a few of the recommendations that were brought up during the discussion:
- Licensing a product (in this case, LabStats) to track how often computers are being used and which software is utilized. As a result, they were able to eliminate a few labs and a few hundred computers from their fleet.
- Rationalize software lines, reduce duplicates, and try to consolidate licenses.
- Position yourself as a business executive who is in charge of technology, not as “the IT person.”
- Figure out what keeps your boss up at night and solve it. You win either way: if you solve the problem, you will eventually move up and have more influence over decision making. If you solve it and nothing changes, you now know where you stand and can react accordingly.
- Work with cloud vendors who understand the situations their clients are in and want to keep you as a customer.
- Use more mundane explanations with leadership and compare your institution to other schools by using benchmarking data.
- Institutions should have a revenue committee and IT folks should be involved from the start.
Finally, Nuno Couto added that higher education institutions often don’t think of themself as a business. The schools that come across as entrepreneurial and innovative, embrace their strengths and differentiations, and leverage technology to meet the needs of the world they’re trying to serve will succeed going forward. In addition to what’s going on right now, there are a myriad of innovative technologies that are impacting higher ed and will continue to do so in the future.
All in all, our eighth virtual Meetup event was a success! We would like to thank Dr. Michael Ginzberg for moderating and everyone who volunteered their time to join the discussion. If you’d like to join our next virtual event, consider visiting our Meetup page to learn more. It could be a fantastic networking and learning opportunity to meet other technology professionals at colleges and universities and share your expertise. We are also looking for feedback on the next event’s topic, so please feel free to reach out to us if you’re interested in a specific topic.
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