To my surprise, alternative IT sourcing is something everyone is doing but few want to talk about. The authors who stepped up to share their sourcing experiences and lessons learned have my sincere thanks and admiration for their leadership and service to the higher education IT community. I did not realize how difficult (and controversial) the topic seems on many campuses. The good advice offered in this special issue should reassure all of us that alternative IT sourcing does not mean “downsizing” and “offshoring” of jobs, although those are among the options every IT department must consider when funding and on-staff skills sets prove inadequate. Moving some services to the cloud, training and repositioning staff, and collaborating with other campuses offer alternatives to budget cuts that might otherwise damage the IT department’s ability to serve the campus community while continuing to support innovative solutions.
The success stories in this issue include:
- Raechelle Clemmons of Menlo College began her job as CIO by quickly addressing multiple technology issues affecting students, faculty, and staff. She applied in-house staffing adjustments, outsourcing, and cloud sourcing in a mix that helped the IT department significantly improve the campus community’s opinions of their services.
- Tim Chester of Pepperdine University aligned the campus’s IT services with the IT value curve to determine transactional services (more easily outsourced) versus strategic services with transformative potential (best developed in-house). Outsourcing the help desk at Pepperdine freed up funds for investment in transformative services.
- J. Keith Yarbrough of the University of Texas of the Permian Basin faced increasing bandwidth and network demands as students brought more and more mobile devices to the university’s residential halls. Overworked staff, tight budgets, and student complaints prompted a decision to outsource the campus ResNet, which yielded additional technological expertise and cost savings for IT.
- Wendy Clink and Patti Barney of Broward College (with Courtney Peagler of TaskStream) faced an accreditation substantive change visit for which the college had inadequate processes and assessment procedures. Broward looked to a software-as-a-service solution to improve its institutional effectiveness and implement an all-campus assessment process in time for the accreditation visit.
- David Stack of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Ed Meachen of the University of Wisconsin System explain how the system’s campuses collaborated by implementing common enterprise applications. Today, the 15 institutions of the UW System have a successful 12-year track record in sharing a growing collection of systems.
Other articles explain how Kuali OLE serves libraries (Jennifer Foutty, Robert H. McDonald, Michael Winkler, and Bradley Skiles), how to use technology dollars wisely (Patrick J. Lepore), how shared leadership transformed higher education IT at the University of Minnesota (Ann Hill Duin, Steve Cawley, Bernard Gulachek, Douglas O’Sullivan, and Diane Wollner), and how using research-based practices increased response rates of web-based surveys at Boise State University (Ross A. Perkins).
Our thought-provoking columnists Bryan Alexander, Donna Tatro, and Hal Abelson not only provide their usual good advice but also challenge higher ed IT to look beyond traditional practices for new and more effective ideas. The Career Counselor provides sympathetic and practical advice for an employee struggling with a new colleague, offering resources for further learning about conflict resolution. And finally, the infographic for this issue samples some key IT services that campuses outsource (not all that many do, as it turns out).
The next two issues of EQ will focus on collaboration and college readiness/completion. See the author guidelines for more information. Articles of general interest are welcome at any time. As always, I invite you to share your ideas and proposals by e-mailing email@example.com.