Annual Study on Higher Ed IT Suggests Slow Migration to Cloud ERP

IT budgets on college campuses are like anywhere else: Tight and getting tighter. Still, more schools reported in an annual study that they’re continuing to invest in technology, with 25 percent planning to upgrade or replace their Enterprise Resource Planning systems for asset management, expense management, invoice management and other functions in the next two to three years.

The Campus Computing Project is touted as the largest continuing study of the role of information technology in American higher education. Kenneth C. Green has conducted it annually since 1990. The latest survey included 552 institutions across the nation.

Some highlights of the report for 2012 were a big gain in the deployment and adoption of mobile apps and a continued, if slow, migration to cloud computing for vital functions. The survey also found over 60 percent of CIOs at research institutions reporting that investments in their administrative information systems were “very effective.”

Mixed Results and Unfulfilled Expectations

“These new data suggest that CIOs recognize the need for their institutions to extract more value from the continuing and significant dollars their campus invest in information technology,” said Green, who founded the Campus Computing Project.

The survey results, however, are decidedly mixed. While CIOs were enthusiastic about the result of IT investment, college presidents and chief academic officers were less persuaded. Just 42 percent of presidents saw the investments as “very effective.”

In the report, Green said the perception gap could have several causes. “For some campus officials these numbers reflect unfulfilled expectations, while for others it could be that both technology advocates and technology providers have frequently over-promised and under-delivered,” Green said. “And in other instances it may well be that institutional IT officers have failed to communicate the effectiveness of IT investments at their campuses.”

Other Report Findings

Among other findings in the 2012 survey:

  • The top 10 institutional IT priorities were led by “assisting faculty integrate technology into instruction” (74%), “providing adequate user support” (70%) and “hiring/retaining qualified IT staff” (69%). Also on the list were “migrating to Cloud computing” (33%) and “upgrading/enhancing administrative IT/ERP systems” (24%).
  • When it comes to Cloud, 24 percent of campuses reported having a strategic plan, up from 21 percent a year ago, 15 percent in 2010 and 9 percent in 2009.
  • Among all higher education sectors, there was a clear message from CIOs that moving ERP to the Cloud is a strategic imperative to reduce IT costs. At public and private four-year universities, 60-75 percent of respondents affirmed that opinion.
  • Despite widespread agreement that the future of ERP is in the Cloud, most schools had not yet gone there, although migration is increasing slowly. Among public four-year schools, just over 10 percent reported Cloud-based ERP.

Meanwhile, about one-third of four-year public universities trust their Learning Management Systems to the Cloud now, suggesting a “toe in the Cloud” approach before schools trust the Cloud with bigger tasks.

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