Digital transforms higher education business models – Gartner

Higher education CIOs recognise that key organisational priorities are enrolment and student success, but fail to show innovation with regard to the top technologies required to differentiate themselves and win, according Gartner.

In a study by the analyst firm, which quizzed 247 higher education CIOs, a majority of respondents (59%) said there will be significant business model change due to digital transformation.

The CIOs ranked digital business and digital transformation as the fifth most strategic business priority. However, when it comes to the top technology areas their institutions are actually investing in to differentiate themselves, digitalisation and digital marketing ranked only eighth.

“This may be because higher education is among the least digitised industries,” said Jan-Martin Lowendahl, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “The average higher education institution has a large backlog of digital enablement before it can even can think about digital transformation.”

>See also: Top 10 strategic technologies impacting education

Nevertheless, CIOs in the sector need to start bridging the digital divide. “Considering that higher education is, in principle, an ‘information’ industry with huge digital potential compared to other industries, digitalisation needs to become a top priority,” Lowendahl said.

A third of respondents cited enrolment as their top business priority, making it the clear leader. The growing need to ensure academic quality by competing for the best and the brightest explains the second business priority, student success (22%).

Enrolment and student success are both related to growth and market share, but only 14% of the respondents explicitly mention this as a top business objective, putting it in joint third place, alongside retention.

When asked which technology area is most important to differentiating and winning, analytics was mentioned most, among 23% of CIOs. That ERP was the second most mentioned (15%) is more surprising, as higher education institutions, in general, have not had a good track record in using ERP to re-engineer their operations and decision-making. They “pave the cow paths”, in the words of one CIO, resulting in costly customisation and little improvement.

Third-ranked CRM clearly supports enrolment and retention business objectives while fourth-ranked learning management systems (LMS) is similarly aligned with business priorities such as student experience and success.

Higher education priorities

Rank Technology % Respondents
1 BI/analytics 23
2 Enterprise resource planning 15
3 Customer relationship management 12
4 E-learning/LMS 11
5 Infrastructure/data centre 11
6 Cloud services/solutions 10
7 Student information system 6
8 Digitalisation/digital marketing 5
9 Security/risk 4
10 Networking, voice/data communications 4

Source: Gartner (October 2017)

>See also: Top 4 ways to apply big data in higher education

Among higher education CIOs’ top areas for new spending, cyber security ranks first with 18%, closely followed by ERP (16%) and a cluster of other priorities that don’t mirror the higher education priorities above.

Investment in cloud continues to be high as several core systems are modernised, including ERP, e-learning/LMS and student information systems (SIS). This shows that higher education institutions are far from finished investing in their learning environment and modernising their core production systems.

Digitalisation and digital marketing doesn’t appear at all on the top new spending list for higher education CIOs, despite “digital” being fifth in top business priorities.

 Top areas for new tech spending

Rank Technology % Respondents
1 Cyber/information security 18
2 Enterprise resource planning 16
3 BI/analytics 15
4 Networking, voice/data communications 14
5 Cloud services/solution 14
6 E-learning/LMS 13
7 Infrastructure/data centre 12
8 Customer relationship management 7
9 Communication/connectivity 3
10 Student information system 3

Source: Gartner (October 2017)

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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