The Top 10 Issues of 2018 for higher education technology were announced at October’s Educause conference in Philadelphia. Each year I share my thoughts on the issues, from #10 to #1. Feel free to review the most recent entry on #10 Change Leadership here. And now, let’s move forward!
#8 (TIE) Issue: Digital Integrations
Ensuring system interoperability, scalability, and extensibility, as well as data integrity, standards, and governance, across multiple applications and platforms.
Whether this one continues to be on the list each year is unknown, but I do believe integrations should be a primary focus for the foreseeable future – possibly more visibly invisible than any other. Here is why and I’ll break it down into an easy to follow list that will likely lose a few folks from the get-go:
- Technology is technology. For the most part, you can ‘technology’ anywhere. It’s a blanket you can take with you that will mold to any landscape or environment. The basics, anyway. (From a big picture perspective, this is why I agree with a recent controversial post about many future CIO’s needing little-to-no deeply technical experience. Happy to digress forever on this, but for now…)
- Higher education technology is not all that different from industry technology. Primary difference: our higher ed ‘customer’ today includes industry’s customer/manager/leader/parent of tomorrow. Meaning, we are serving the folks that will basically be the boss of you in the coming years. The boss of you in all ways business.
- Technology is dramatically changing and has been. Today’s technology involves very little mystery. Technology used to be largely magic, minimally understood. Today’s technology is largely understood, minimally magic. Magic is the fringe. Technology can still ‘wow’ us, but it’s in truly innovative ways – not simply ‘being’.
Technology used to be largely magic, minimally understood. Today’s technology is largely understood, minimally magic. Magic is the fringe.
- We no longer build, we buy for the most part. Majority of builds are utilities, the remaining builds are the fringe innovations. Buys are the things people care about, they are the slick user experiences. They provide the interactions, the transactions, the use.
- User experience > blood, sweat, tears in developing, upgrading, maintaining systems. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain has never been more applicable. For users, perception IS reality.
- This leads us to the digital integrations. We want a seamless experience. Hard stop. Easy, flowing, no bumps, feels the same. Users don’t care how many actual pieces/parts are puzzled together to create the whole, holistic offering, just that the experience is smooth and ideal. To create that user-enhanced ideal environment, digital integrations are #1.
Users don’t care how many actual pieces/parts are puzzled together to create the whole, holistic offering, just that the experience is smooth and ideal.
- For success and sustainability, again, the integration is exhausting but needs to be invisible. From choosing the parts, to ensuring they will work together, to managing near-zero duplication of efforts/features to the governance of each part. The business and management angle of these environments is not less, although to the user it needs to embody the floating duck analogy – smooth and elegant to the viewers eye yet the furious peddling of feet just beneath the surface. All thoughtful, all deliberate, like a Broadway play in production that delights the attendees while sapping the cast and crew dry.
Disparate parts smoothly soldered together – that is the role of the digital integrator. Programmers are lessening and integration specialists and analysts are rising from their ashes. Thankfully, the skills are translatable, transferable and any gaps are teachable as long as leadership is leading them on the future-focused path. Having now successfully led and completed several ERP selection and/or migration projects across a variety of flavors (nothing to in-house product, homegrown to in-house product, in-house product to cloud), I know it’s the user experience, the digital integrations, and the seamless connections that measure and inevitably define success. For those playing along at home, this is simply but one chunk of the CIO role adding value to the business bottom-line and top-appeal.
Moving forward, while scales of size and industry change, success is a strong leader’s blanket that can accommodate any and all as long as the focus remains on (a) the user experience and (b) big picture, managing the change and communicating with users (i.e. everyone) each step of the way. Modeling this change today to tomorrow’s leaders and consumers is only one way that higher education can help contribute to what promises to be a crazy fun tech-empowered future.
Happy holidays all!
Next issue: Data Management and Governance, tied for #8.