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by Chris Hartigan
Higher education IT organizations today face two major challenges: They must manage through day-to-day hurdles while also preparing for the technology challenges – and opportunities – of tomorrow. At our EDU Meetup earlier this month in Washington D.C. (http://higheredmeetupdc.drupalgardens.com/#), Georgetown University not only played the role of gracious host but also opened up the forum by highlighting the five guiding principles by which it manages its technology strategy to meet these dual challenges.
“Open Source” is Georgetown’s first guiding IT principle, according to the university’s CIO and VP of Information Technology, Lisa Davis, who gave the presentation and provided perspective into the technological thinking of a savvy higher education institution. The cost savings associated with open source is beneficial but that’s not the primary reason Georgetown is looking to build on open source wherever applicable. In parallel with the changing landscape of higher education, the university of tomorrow is going to have to be adaptive, flexible, and extensible beyond its campus boundaries. Large scale open source solutions are inherently more “open” in terms of interoperability and standards than are “closed” systems, and without knowing exactly where the future will take it the built-in flexibility delivered through open source is a major risk mitigation strategy.
Georgetown’s second guiding IT principle is “Cloud.” The University, like many other, doesn’t want to be in the business of building and managing data centers and appreciates that the technological resources it saves by harnessing the power of the cloud can be much more effectively deployed elsewhere, such as providing front-line customer service. The third IT principle that Georgetown follows is “Social.” Every technology decision that the school makes has to take social extension - and the expectation for continued social media evolution - into account.
Georgetown’s last two guiding IT principles are “Mobile” and “Enterprise.” Not only do all technology solutions and platforms need to support mobile (an absolute given in today’s world) but they also have to be considered under the guise of serving as many departments, groups, constituents around campus as possible. Many schools of Georgetown’s size and scope (17,000 students, several graduate professional schools, international campuses) support several CRM systems, several student registration systems, several LMSs, several content management systems, and more importantly accept it all as the price for complexity and autonomy. By embracing an enterprise IT methodology Georgetown aims to differ itself from these other schools dramatically.
Georgetown’s 5 guiding IT principles of Open Source, Cloud, Social, Mobile and Enterprise provide an insightful look into how a large and sprawling institution can control its future, whatever the future may bring.