Study Spotlights Disconnect Between IT, End Users in Higher-Ed Sector

Don Tennant
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Network Visibility Can Help Avoid the IT Blame Game

It appears that the corporate world isn’t the only place where IT and end users aren’t doing a particularly stellar job of collaborating to create optimal IT services for their organizations. According to a recent survey of IT executives who work in the higher education sector, such collaboration in that realm is especially far out of the ordinary.

The study, “Cloud Campus: The Software-Defined College”  (registration required), was conducted by MeriTalk, an Alexandria, Va.-based partnership of public and private organizations focused on government IT, and was underwritten by VMware and Carahsoft Technology. It found that 81 percent of the higher-ed IT execs surveyed reported that “it is not standard operating procedure for IT and academic departments to jointly develop plans for future IT-related initiatives.” What that means, according to MeriTalk, is that 19 percent of IT spending in the higher education sector—a whopping $4 billion—takes place outside of the central IT function. The bottom line, MeriTalk says, is that “U.S. campuses [are] spending $4 billion annually on unmanaged, unmeasured [IT] investments.”

MeriTalk found that the disconnect between IT and end users in the higher-ed sector is “directly reflected in the working relationship between the two tribes—57 percent believe end users view their department as the ‘fix it’ folks, and just 22 percent say they are viewed as a trusted ally.”

Another huge problem, the study found, is that 18 percent of IT systems in higher-ed institutions are redundant, which costs the sector another $3.8 billion. Unsurprisingly, the IT execs are looking to the cloud to help deal with that. According to the study, 53 percent of respondents said cloud is vital to their institution’s future competitiveness, and more than one-third said cloud would help improve student retention rates.

Other cloud-related findings of the study:

  • 54 percent of institutions have migrated email to the cloud.
  • 30 percent offer cloud-based conferencing and collaboration.
  • 35 percent have deployed SaaS.
  • 20 percent have deployed IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service).
  • 17 percent have deployed PaaS (Platform as a Service).

According to MeriTalk, despite these steps forward, “IT departments [in the higher-ed sector] continue to face barriers to cloud migration—namely security, cost, and culture.”


In addition, MeriTalk found, “institutions recognize the power of software-defined environments. Though just one in five have deployed software-defined technology, more than twice as many see it as an effective solution for their IT challenges.” Benefits cited by the respondents of a centralized, software-defined campus include:

  • Increased operational efficiency (54 percent)
  • Improved continuity of operations (48 percent)
  • Improved security (45 percent)
  • Decreased operating expenditures (41 percent)
  • Decreased capital expenditures (40 percent) 

MeriTalk concluded that higher-ed institutions “need to take key steps necessary to centralize IT and make the most of cloud, software-defined technology, and ‘as-a-Service’ solutions.” Among the obstacles to be overcome:

  • 58 percent of institutions are not surveying academic and research staff on IT needs.
  • 64 percent are not offering a catalog of IT services.
  • 77 percent are not offering service-based pricing/chargeback models.

A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.



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