The latest annual survey conducted by the Leadership Board for CIOs in Higher Education asked almost 1,000 CIOs whether they expected their IT budgets to increase, decrease or stay the same in the next fiscal year. Of the respondents, 59 percent expected their IT budgets to decrease or stay the same, and only 40 percent anticipated an increase. With resources stretched so thin, it is imperative to find cost-cutting opportunities while maintaining quality service delivery. According to 78 percent of the survey respondents, the key to conserving costs is consolidation and centralization.
There are many possible approaches to consolidation when it comes to IT strategy. One method is through centralizing siloed systems and infrastructure across campus. In a recent webinar hosted by the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan I. Fox, Senior Vice President for Information Technology/CIO at Marshall University, championed this approach in her own institution.
“We do things once here. One email system, one ERP—one everything,” Fox says. “When you’re trying to chase down information from several different systems, it can be incredibly difficult and costly.”
Another method of consolidation is through a shared services procurement model. Beyond the potential for significant cost savings, a shared services model can lead to tangible improvements to service delivery and administrative efficiency.
“Our biggest cost savings initiatives have always been in approaching technology at an enterprise level,” says Brian Cohen, Vice Chancellor of Technology and University Chief Information Officer of The City University of New York (CUNY) System. “In terms of procurement, we leverage our size to negotiate licenses for enterprise software. We’ve been able to centralize network management and consolidate phone system support; we have a single ISP for the entire university and we’ve achieved similar things on the business side through shared services.”
At Oklahoma Christian University (OC), the shared services initiative grew from a single department implementation. Increased enrollment rates were straining the school’s technology infrastructure as many departments struggled to maintain back-end processes related to student services, such as billing, financial aid award processing and records retention. This drove the adoption of an enterprise content management (ECM) system, initially just in the Financial Services Office.
“Starting small with an office we knew was struggling helped us show a quick return on investment to other departments and gain support throughout the university,” notes John Hermes, OC’s Vice President for Information Technology. News of the successful pilot project rapidly spread across campus and, very soon, plans were in place to expand the solution to departments including Accounts Payable, Admissions, the Registrar’s Office and the Office of Student Life.
To support the campus-wide rollout of the ECM system, OC established an IT governance committee comprised of multiple administrators from different departments. The group convenes quarterly to discuss file structures, compliance concerns and integration details across the university. Now, IT no longer manages competing demands; rather, the committee addresses campus-wide initiatives and prioritizes projects in a democratic, diverse forum as enrollment grows. Through the university’s shared services ECM implementation, OC was able to save $31,000 during the first year of the initiative in the financial aid department alone.
To learn more about how IT leaders are adapting to the changing higher education environment, watch the webinar recording for “Today’s Higher Education Leader: Navigating Change and Managing Expectations,” hosted by the Chronicle of Higher Education.