2018 Top 10 IT Issues: Opportunities for IR/IT Collaboration

By Gina Johnson, Assistant Executive Director for Partnerships & Membership, AIR

eAIR-top-10-draft.jpgSuccessful data-informed decision making in higher education takes the knowledge, skills, and commitment of many individuals across an institution or system. Institutional research – data, information, and analysis for decision making – is one of the keys to this success. Other important factors include committed leadership and technology infrastructure, as well as an informed set of data producers, users, and consumers. Our colleagues at EDUCAUSE annually produce a list of the top 10 IT issues, and in recent years, many items on the list are issues of top concern to both IT and IR professionals, highlighting the importance of collaboration within these units of an organization. In addition to co-hosting the 2018 Enterprise IT Summit with EDUCAUSE and NACUBO, AIR is focusing on ways to enhance the collaborative work of IR professionals with their colleagues in IT and other units. Following is a reflection on the collaborative opportunities that exist between IR and IT in relation to tackling some of the issues the list identifies, presented in four themes that focus on remaking higher education.  

Institutional adaptiveness (#3 institution-wide IT strategy, #6 Higher education affordability, #10 Change leadership). Like information technology, institutional research has undergone a rapid evolution in recent years. As part of the higher education enterprise in which institutions must be increasingly adaptive, so must institutional research. Our IT colleagues recognize the need for their profession to take the lead in directing an institution-wide strategy. IR, too recognizes this need, as presented in the Statement of Aspirational Practice for Institutional Research. Collaboratively leading these parallel functions to ensure institution-wide strategies enables IT and IR leaders to help stakeholders adapt to the changing data, analytics, and technology landscape and tackle tough issues like affordability of higher education, collectively.

 2018 Top 10 IT Issues

1. Information Security

2. Student Success

3. Institution-wide IT Strategy

4. Data-enabled Institutional Culture

5. Student-centered Institution

6. Higher Education Affordability

7. IT Staffing and Organizational Models

8. (tie) Data Management and Governance

8. (tie) Digital Integrations

10. Change Leadership

IT adaptiveness (#1 Information security, #7 IT staffing and organizational models). In addition to concern about the adaptiveness of the institution, IR and IT professionals are also concerned with the adaptiveness of their functions and staff. As frequent producers, users, and consumers of data, IR professionals continuously monitor the security of the data they use and information they produce. Working with their IT colleagues to ensure proper security measures as outlined in the AIR Code of Ethics is a priority for IR. As “adaptability” and “future proofing” are incorporated into emerging models of higher education, IR and IT leaders must critically evaluate and adopt models of staffing, training, and structures that support the acquisition of the necessary knowledge and skills across both professions. AIR’s Duties and Functions of Institutional Research help identify the work of IR and how it merges with the work of IT and other partners to create areas of synergy and collaboration. In addition, AIR’s article A New Vision for Institutional Research outlines potential models for better organizing and integrating the function of IR across other key areas within an institution, including IT. 

Improved student outcomes (#2 Student success, #5 Student-centered institution). Both AIR and EDUCAUSE place a significant focus on students and their success. Viewing students as decision makers in their success, and ensuring they have the data and information they need to make well-informed decisions, is a key component of the Statement of Aspirational Practice for Institutional Research. In addition, this work calls for institutional researchers to adopt a student-focused paradigm by “intentionally grounding institutional research initiatives and reports in a student-focused perspective.” Because of their knowledge and experience in social science and educational research methods, IR professionals are in an excellent position to lead with IT and other colleagues in tackling these important issues.

Improved decision making (#4 Data-enabled institutional culture, #8 (tie) Data management and governance, #8 (tie) Digital integrations). This is another area where IR and IT can bring together their skills and knowledge to tackle challenging issues related to developing a data-enabled decision culture, ensuring successful data management and governance, and realizing digital integrations. EDUCAUSE describes a data-enabled institutional culture as “using BI and analytics to inform the broad conversation and answer big questions.” With their duties and functions of identifying information needs, collecting, analyzing, interpreting, and reporting data and information, and planning and evaluating, IR professionals are leaders in the pursuit of development of a data-enabled decision culture. Further, the duties and functions of educating information producers, users, and consumers and serving as stewards of data and information allow IR professionals to train and coach stakeholders across the organization in the use of data, analysis, and information to inform decision making and collaborate with their IT colleagues to educate the organization on data management and governance.

EDUCAUSE has taken a comprehensive view in the development of its 2018 Top 10 IT Issues, tackling the enormous and complex goal of remaking higher education and advancing student success. AIR supports its colleagues in this worthy endeavor and underscores the many opportunities for joint leadership and collective use of the knowledge and skills across both functions for undertaking this top 10 list of issues.

Join the discussion. How do these issues resonate in your setting? Which of these issues are points on which IR and IT can collaborate? What other issues exist for IR in 2018? Let us know in the comments, below:




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