Definition of Higher Education Enterprise IT

Defining enterprise IT in higher education and the focus of the Enterprise IT Program.

Enterprise IT is a large, complex, and multifaceted function at colleges and universities. It includes the technology staff, services, and support associated with administrative systems and services, as well as their strategy, management, budgets, and policy. It primarily serves an administrative focus rather than one of academics or research. Enterprise IT also includes many of the systems and services that colleges and universities use to store and manage data and processes, regardless of whether they are hosted on campus, in the cloud, or through shared services.  If there is a system with data that needs to connect to other systems with data, then enterprise IT is probably involved. Because of its emphasis on core organizational business activities and its function as a data repository and integrator, enterprise IT is central to the success of higher education.

Management of these core organizational services goes beyond just taking care of the technology. For example, as institutions move services into the cloud, the responsibility for managing the service remains a responsibility of enterprise IT. The transition causes IT to focus attention on contract management, vendor relations, deeper collaborations with functional and business units, and data integration issues. Institutions are reporting increases in roles associated with new service delivery models and decreases in roles associated with locally hosted services.

Pinning down a definition for enterprise IT is complicated by the fact that what is considered enterprise IT may vary depending on the institution. Analytics and learning management systems are two areas that exemplify how enterprise IT services vary depending on how they are managed at any given institution. End user support for these services may fall under a different area than resource management for the system.  For example, if the LMS system (hardware, platform, application) is maintained on site, management of the resource is likely to be an enterprise IT issue, while management of user support may belong to a different function, either a separate unit within IT, a teaching and learning function outside of IT, or at the decentralized level.  Similarly, resource management for an analytics system may be an enterprise IT function, but user support for institutional decision-making may be shared across IT, academic areas, business operations, and other functional units.

Enterprise IT also includes the resources provided by central IT that enable decentralized areas and functional units to use central network resources to run their own IT shops. This may include authentication and access services, contract management, or the development of policies and guidelines for use of enterprise and core IT resources.  

The EDUCAUSE Enterprise IT Program focuses on four themes, explained below:

  1. Analytics and business intelligence. Administrative systems data should be considered a strategic institutional asset. Institutions need to develop analytics strategies based on institutional strategic priorities that can meet compliance and regulatory needs, monitor progress on institutional short-term goals and long-term strategy, and contribute to for institutional decision-making.
  2. Sourcing strategies. An institution’s sourcing strategy needs to be appropriate to the institution’s culture, resources, and expertise in support of the overall institutional strategy. Strategies should consider cloud options, shared services, outsourcing, and the use of consortia, as well as intentional decisions about services to be hosted locally.
  3. Costs, value, and cost drivers. Institutions should evaluate the costs and value of administrative systems and services to inform efforts to maximize that value and increase efficiency.
  4. Business process management. Administrative systems do not typically differentiate one college or university from another, and it is important to frame enterprise decision making with this in mind. Streamlining processes to create efficiencies may result in resources that can be reallocated to other mission critical and differentiating functions.