“Think about it this way. What would you do with a cell phone that was developed in 2004?”
Framed in light of smartphone developments, John Hrusovsky, Executive Project Director at The Ohio State University, indicated just how ludicrous it is to use legacy tools from the early 00’s to manage higher education systems. But, an administrative suite overhaul is not as simple as plugging in a new iphone. The behemoth of a task can be expensive and time-consuming. Yet, universities are doing it.
Why? Pressure on leadership in higher education is changing. Leaders are asked to contain costs but maintain innovation; be flexible; adapt to today’s students; find a scalable, flexible solution. According to a Gartner study (summary provided), leaders are finding answers by giving IT a central role in the learning experience. The cloud is helping them get there.
“Whether it is the public, private or hybrid cloud, the cloud is a reality and is being embraced in higher education.” Deborah Gelch, CIO at Lasell College
Many, if not most, colleges and universities use legacy products that were developed more than 10 years ago. At Ohio State, the financial system hasn’t had a major update since 2004. Hrusovsky also shared that staff was struggling with inconsistencies in business processes. Over time, silos are created as staff in different departments adopt processes that work for them without sharing information. This leads to erroneous, inconsistent processes and work duplication, wrote Cole Clark with University Business.
The cloud helps universities unify business processes. It allows departments to share resources and information, improving efficiency.
Universities are recording and processing enormous amounts of data each day, especially at research universities. Data analytics technology has improved since the turn of the century, meaning more data and more reports. Legacy tools can’t keep up. Optimizing data centers is one way to manage this “ballooning” volume of data, according to Clark.
Student information systems can see great benefits from improved reporting. In the 1900s, a university degree nearly guaranteed getting hired. Today, even educated young adults can have trouble finding work. Educators feel more pressure to help students move from education to occupation. The cloud could help to provide real-time data collection and analyses on student success.
“It’s no longer a question of whether universities should transition to the cloud, it’s simply a matter of when.” Hannah Nyren, Manager for Ed Tech Times
Maintaining a legacy system is costly. It requires engineers to manage the application, hardware that sits in a building on-premise, and maintenance costs. And yet, migrating to a new system often means hiring an expensive consultant.
Though moving to the cloud isn’t simple either, many aspects of the cloud remove overhead costs. On-premise hardware can be removed. Applications are managed by third parties and universities can divert their resources to work on mission-critical tasks.
In the coming years, legacy systems may not be supported. According to Gartner, “continued innovation of on-premise solutions is highly unlikely.” The report encourages CIOs to “prepare stakeholders for the timing, cost, risks and opportunities” of upgrading or replacing administrative systems. Hrusovsky encourages universities and colleges to create a cloud strategy now. The transition may not happen this year, or the next, but research and trends among top tier universities suggest the cloud is the future location for administrative suites.