Takeaways from EDUCAUSE’s Top 10 IT Issues of 2023

Kelley Bradder shares her reactions and implications for IT leaders going into 2023.

EDUCAUSE’s Top 10 IT Issues is a yearly tradition in higher ed and always sets a compass for IT leaders going into the next year. The 2023 Top 10 IT Issues list particularly underscores both the urgency and opportunity IT leaders have in creating connected campuses that are critical drivers in reaching institutional enrollment, retention, and completion goals.

Steve Johnston, SVP of Marketing, recently sat down with Kelley Bradder, VP of Integrations and Security, and former-CIO at Simpson College, to talk about her reactions and implications for IT leaders going into 2023.

Steve: You’ve been in and around campuses your entire career, both in the CIO seat and in technology leadership roles on the service provider side too. I’m very much looking forward to your reactions and getting your take on what it means for IT leaders in terms of what they need to prioritize and go do.

Kelley: Excited to be here, Steve, and this is my passion. So, I’m really thrilled to have the conversation.

First Take

Steve: Kelley, give me your first take. You’re sitting down, you just read the Top 10 list. What are your immediate reactions?

Kelley: My immediate reaction is that this list is spot on! They really outline challenges that are affecting institutions today, not only IT, but for the overall institution as well. There’s not a lot of technology here, right? It’s about topics that are, that are pertinent to the entire institution. And I think that epitomizes how IT leadership is looked at as a more strategic role at an institution.

Yes, there are some technical items in and around privacy, cybersecurity, and IT support, but they’re about how IT is affecting and being a strategic initiative at the institution. 

Steve: It’s a bit of a Rodney Dangerfield thing, right? IT leaders are coming out of a “get no respect” perception where the role is being recognized as much more than managing servers, keeping hands on the dials of the IT infrastructure, and getting that strategic seat at the table that moves the needle on key KPIs.

Kelley: And the ROI! IT leaders are now accountable for putting in systems and processes that’s going to give a return.

Larger Trends

Steve: When you look back at the last few Top 10 lists, what are the overall trends you’re seeing and how these priorities are evolving? And what are the implications for IT leaders?

Kelley: We’re seeing more skills needed as an overall business leader. As a leader within higher ed, you don’t need just technical skills. You need to have the business skills associated with higher ed. And that means professional development…making sure that you’re leading with humility and candor [see #6] and you’re proactively partnering with key stakeholders across the institution is so, so very important.

IT leaders will need to have better vision and better understanding of what the challenges the institution faces, and where they’re going in the future.

But the biggest trend that I see across the board at all levels of an institution is taking care of its people. IT talent is a very unique skill to higher ed, because IT talent is in demand across all industries and sectors. This theme cuts across the institution too.

I was fortunate enough to sit down with some Presidents of community colleges recently. They talked about how they don’t impact students as much as the faculty and the frontline staff serving those students every day. So, if they want to take care of their students, they have to take care of their people. That’s a very powerful acknowledgement.

IT Imperatives and Removing “Adminis-trivia”

Steve: What are the top two or three action items you’d recommend for CIOs?

Kelley: Let’s keep on the “take care of your people” thread for a moment. Give them the tools that better support students so there’s adequate head space, and space to do their job. We don’t want teams getting bogged down in password reset requests…and this goes for the entire institution: how can we take lower-level, lighter items off their list so they can be more effective? We need staff and advisors to be having meaningful conversations and pull the “adminis-trivia” out of the student experience.

I also believe that students struggle with the complex systems that we’ve put in place. For me, a critical priority is improving the student’s journey digitally.

Looking at that as a CIO, looking at how I can create the crosswalks between systems that do not pull down on the IT staff. Another takeaway is: how do I train? How can I offer a platform across the institution to help train and guide staff to better deliver information to students. If you have a high turnover, how can we help those staff members?

One last thing. There’s a lot of investments going on in and around large critical systems (CRMs, SISs, etc.). But unless we look at things differently and be open to that change, the transformation that everybody needs isn’t going to happen.

We need to keep things simple, and keep it simple from the student’s perspective. With the best intentions, perhaps we’ve created some of the barriers that, ironically, we’ve been trying to break down. We need to take a good look at that too.

The Wrap

Steve: Kelley, any parting words of wisdom going into 2023?

Kelley: We’ve started to exercise the muscle of looking at the student experience through their eyes instead of through ours. It’s forcing us to be more cross-functional which is creating better understanding between departments and the underlying technology needs.

It’s time to put what we’ve learned into action. In higher ed, we’re famous for building committees, but now it’s time to “do.” And by that I mean make choices in systems that support that seamless student journey from admissions all the way through to graduation and beyond.

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