There is little doubt that technology has a profound impact on how UA Little Rock competes in the academic marketplace. However, over the past year this impact has become even more critically important as the university reacts to the shift to Workday – our new ERP, the pandemic, and the broader changes affecting the teaching, learning, and research environments. As a result, technology has certainly taken on a more centralized role – especially from an operations perspective. This focus, which includes configuring and tuning a modernized ERP system, consumer financial uncertainty, declining enrollments, and budget challenges, has greatly increased the necessity to deliberately invest in technology that will enable strategic differentiators for the campus.
Even further, as we embark on the Student Information Systems (SIS) phase of Workday in the coming months, it becomes even more pivotal that our limited remaining financial and human resources are allocated to IT projects that will result in the largest competitive advantage over our peers. As we enter into this next phase, several important pillars of the technology landscape will become even more crucial.
As the technological landscape changes, there is a corresponding transformation in the expectations and reliance on our user community to hone their skill sets and work processes. In general this involves product adoption and in some cases process redesign, but even more so, it includes appropriate and secure use of the technology. In the coming year, as we continue to see deeper adoption of technology in certain areas of campus, much-needed enhancements will also take place to advance and improve the security posture of the university.
Some of these enhancements will be in the form of user education around cyber-security and campus policies while others will involve technological enhancements. Starting in the fall, all employees will be required to complete mandatory security training. This is a critical step in securing our environment.
Additionally, the campus will leverage a combination of policies and technologies to strengthen our security posture. IT Services is currently developing training material and quick reference sheets that will be shared with the user community to assist in this endeavor. The goal is to ensure a greater awareness that will serve as a reminder of the vital role that users, and especially employees, perform in maintaining our campus cybersecurity.
Lastly, IT Services will continue to deploy technologies designed to protect institutional data and devices. Stay tuned for more communications on these important changes.
Technology plays a critical role in our campus operations, from recruiting and retaining students, to streamlining operational processes. Although all areas across campus could benefit from high-tech investments and modernization, our campus, as is the case with most higher education institutions, has limited funding and available resources to make even a fraction of these potential transformations a reality. This dilemma is typically one of an institution’s largest and more significant challenges: how and where to invest in technology.
Decisions at this level will have both short and long-term effects on the organization. It is critical that the campus precisely weighs these investments against other needs while driving home a sense of responsibility and accountability across the organization. This ensures that investments are carefully selected and will produce the results that are expected.
The university introduced an IT Governance process several years ago. Currently, this group is being re-envisioned to serve as an overarching and comprehensive IT governance committee. The committee will help spearhead the governance effort and ensure that the use of technology precisely fits within the current and future needs of the campus while at the same time confirming that our technology decisions meet the broader framework and goals of Workday.
Technology Life Cycle
The days of purchasing technology with the objective of it being a one-time (or long-term) investment are sadly long gone. Unfortunately, over the past few months, many universities have witnessed a disturbing trend with legacy and outdated technology leading to significant breaches and data loss at a large number of peer institutions. As software and hardware vendors find themselves under a tremendous and nearly unscalable burden of maintaining and patching various releases of software and/or providing hardware support to aging platforms, the lifespan of technology is becoming definitive.
Even investments in basic IT solutions that UA Little Rock has made in the recent past, which previously lasted well beyond what might be considered mainstream life, are now becoming rapidly obsolete, unsupported, or in worse cases, no longer function at all. More importantly, the rising cost of technology, the built-in mandatory contract escalations, market adjustments, and mandatory upgrade costs, have equated to significant year-over-year cost increases that are simply not manageable even in a normal environment, and definitely not in a financially challenged organization. IT portfolio and financial management, cornerstones to IT Services operations, are important frameworks to help ensure both strategic and operational needs are met. In the coming year, it will become even more imperative that the campus, via the IT Governance process and leadership engagement, explore the IT investments to ensure anticipated returns on the investment.
This past year, our campus has seen an incredible adoption of new technology in a very short time frame. As we look toward the future, this trend will likely increase as the campus consistently makes significant positive strides in the adoption and use of technology to modernize its business processes. Any one of these changes or transitions would be difficult in even the best of times, but the campus continues to move forward, knowing the end result is worth the effort. I’m extremely proud of the noteworthy advances and creativity we’ve seen at UA Little Rock despite a limited budget and staffing challenges. The entire campus community plays a role in these advancements whether it’s in the form of proposing new software and processes, learning new software and processes, or ensuring a safe and secure technology environment. In the end, we’re committed to working together to ensure that campus IT spending and investments are aligned with the institutional goals and needs, and our user community is supported in the safe and effective use of the technology.