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Five Common IT Project Management Mistakes

IT project management is complex, and mistakes are common. However, certain mistakes can have significant consequences, such as project delays, cost overruns, and even project failure. Over the next few blogs, I will discuss five common IT project management mistakes and provide a few insights that can help avoid some of the pitfalls. These discussions will include the following:
1. Poor Project Scope Definition
2. Inadequate Risk Management
3. Ineffective Communication
4. Deficient Resource Planning
5. Lack of Project Governance
This blog will focus on Poor Project Scope Define

Poor Project Scope Definition

Poor scope definition is one of the most common IT project management mistakes. Scope refers to the objectives, deliverables, and tasks that define the boundaries of a project. In other words, scope describes what, why, when, and budget of the project. Just imagine being told by your supervisor “go build a RED widget, and I need it tomorrow” …  Where would you start?… You get the point? Failure to clearly define the scope of an IT project leads to unexpected outcomes, missed deadlines, cost overruns and maybe moreover a negative hit to your brand due to customer dissatisfaction. A clear scope definition ensures that the project objects are clearly understood by both the requester and the project team. It helps to create shared expectations between the parties and sets the boundaries of the project and prevents “scope creep”.

Scope Creep (also known as “requirement creep” or “feature creep”) happens when the key stakeholders continually change the requirements of the project over the project lifecycle. Please note that scope creep can also happen due to misunderstanding and miscommunication within the project team. That said, Scope Creep is not always a bad thing. Customer needs evolve over time and delivering a project that answers their needs often means altering the scope. Scope creep is, therefore, a reality that every good project manager expects and plans for and should be ready to control (Agile).

Now that we understand a bit better the downside of a poorly defined project definition, let’s look at some ways we can minimize the negative effects:

  • Involve stakeholders early in the project planning process. The sooner the better, having a understanding the “why” of the project will facilitate better understanding and make it easier to build consensus.
  • Clearly define the project objectives upfront and Write Down your deliverables. The project objectives should be written and serve as the contract between the stakeholders.
  • Define a change management process and enforce it. Let’s face it, no matter how well a project is defined, change will happen. A good It project manage will have an agreed upon change management process. As stated above, not all changes in a project’s lifecycle are bad.

Well defined project definition will help to reduce the overall project cost, it will facilitate on-time delivery, it will ensure quality, and paramount to it all ensure a satisfied customer. There are many books and whitepapers written on the importance of a good project scope definition. Below are a few resources should you want to do a bit more research on the topic:

Forbes Advisor – Scope Creep: Definition, Examples & How To Prevent It

Wrike – How to combat the 4 Main Sources of Scope Creep

Project Scope Management: A Practical Guide to Requirements for Engineering, Product, Construction, IT and Enterprise Projects (Best Practices in Portfolio, Program, and Project Management)  (ISBN-10 1482259486)

Inadequate Risk Management

IT projects are inherently risky. Failure to adequately manage these risks can lead to delays, cost overruns, and even project failure. According to Kaplan and Fried, “risk is a part of everything. The key is to acknowledge it and face it head-on” (Kaplan and Fried, 2010).

To avoid inadequate risk management, IT project managers should identify potential risks early in the project planning process. This can be done through techniques such as brainstorming and risk mapping. Once risks have been identified, IT project managers should prioritize them based on their likelihood and impact on the project. Mitigation strategies should then be developed and implemented to reduce the likelihood and impact of these risks.

Poor Communication

Effective communication is critical to the success of any IT project. Failure to communicate effectively can lead to misunderstandings, missed deadlines, and project failure. According to Kaplan and Fried, “communication is key, but over-communication is even better” (Kaplan and Fried, 2010).

To avoid poor communication, IT project managers should establish clear lines of communication with stakeholders early in the project planning process. Regular project status updates should be provided to stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle. Additionally, IT project managers should establish a communication plan that outlines the frequency and method of communication.

Inadequate Resource Planning

IT projects require a significant number of resources, including time, money, and personnel. Failure to adequately plan for these resources can lead to delays, cost overruns, and project failure. According to Kaplan and Fried, “resources are finite. Make sure you know what you need before you start” (Kaplan and Fried, 2010).

To avoid inadequate resource planning, IT project managers should conduct a thorough analysis of the resources required for the project. This can be done through techniques such as resource leveling and resource allocation. Additionally, IT project managers should develop a resource plan that outlines the required resources and their availability throughout the project lifecycle.

Poor Project Governance

Poor project governance is another common IT project management mistake. Governance refers to the framework of policies, procedures, and guidelines that ensure that a project is executed effectively and efficiently. Failure to establish proper project governance can lead to project failure.

According to Kaplan and Fried, “governance is a system of checks and balances” (Kaplan and Fried, 2010). In other words, proper project governance ensures that the project team is accountable for their actions and that the project is aligned with the needs of the business or stakeholders.  

IT project management is a complex process that requires careful planning, execution, and monitoring. Common IT project management mistakes, such as poor communication, lack of planning, inadequate resource management, failure to manage risks, and poor team management, can lead to project failure. Project managers must be aware of these mistakes and take steps to avoid them. By doing so, they can increase the chances of project success and deliver quality IT projects on time, within budget, and with the highest quality.

Claude Bird

Project Management Office Lead

About Columbia Advisory Group

Founded in Dallas in 2012, Columbia Advisory Group LLC (CAG) is an established IT consulting firm renowned for delivering cost-effective, meaningful, and practical IT solutions that solve complex business problems. Our seasoned teams offer comprehensive insight across diverse regulatory and economic environments, providing unbiased, straightforward analysis and recommendations. We pride ourselves on our deep understanding of IT while remaining software and hardware-agnostic. Regardless of your organization’s growth trajectory or economic landscape, we at CAG are adept at adapting to your unique needs and complexity, offering tailored solutions to drive your success.

Contact us at info@columbiaadvisory.com.

Redefining Outsourcing: Embracing the Future with Co-Managed Delivery

Outsourcing is a world where businesses attempt to walk the tightrope between cost savings and efficiency. As companies evolve and markets become more competitive, maintaining this balance becomes an intricate dance, particularly with the increasing complexity of technology infrastructure. This is where co-managed delivery of managed services comes into play – a hybrid solution that merges the benefits of in-house IT management and outsourced services. This blend offers businesses the perfect balance they’re seeking. Let’s delve into the advantages, role, and potential of co-managed delivery of managed services in reshaping the future of outsourcing.

Unpacking the Power of Co-Managed Delivery

Co-managed delivery strikes the ideal balance, incorporating outsourced service providers’ flexibility, experience, and cost savings with the control, ownership, and accountability intrinsic to in-house IT management.  Consider these advantages:

  • Control and Ownership: With co-managed delivery, businesses can retain control over strategically important processes and resources, keeping ownership in-house while outsourcing non-core functions such as helpdesk support, security monitoring, network management, infrastructure management, and backup services.
  • Scalability: Since most managed services providers have the ability to scale resources up and down quickly, Co-managed delivery provides an adaptable model, enabling businesses to scale the scope and extent of services as needed to support seasonal increases or decreases in volume and capacity
  • Focus on Core Competencies: By taking non-core functions off their plate, businesses can zero in on their primary strengths and more effectively manage costs without compromising the quality and reliability of IT.

The Co-Management Partnership: Collaboration at Its Best

In a co-managed model, the IT provider acts as an ally, partnering with the business to share the responsibility and ownership of IT management. This calls for a collaborative approach in which the IT provider functions as an extension of the internal IT team, ensuring seamless integration and optimal resource utilization.

The Perks of Embracing Co-Managed Delivery

Embracing co-managed delivery of IT services is a strategic move that offers numerous benefits to organizations. This model, which combines the strengths of both in-house IT departments and managed service providers, is a robust solution for the dynamic needs of today’s businesses. One of the main perks is risk reduction. With expertise from external service providers, businesses can better manage IT risks and ensure compliance with regulatory standards. The second is increased agility; the co-managed model allows organizations to adapt to changing needs swiftly, enabling them to scale operations up or down as required. Quality improvement is another major advantage, with managed service providers offering round-the-clock monitoring, response, and support, enhancing IT service reliability. Finally, the potential for cost savings is significant. Through optimal resource usage and leveraging the IT provider’s expertise and infrastructure, businesses can achieve substantial savings without compromising on the quality of their IT services. 

Driving Factors Behind Co-Managed Delivery’s Popularity

The rise in co-managed delivery’s popularity is driven by several factors, including the escalating complexity of technology infrastructure, the quest for cost savings and efficiency, and the ongoing IT talent crunch. Co-managed delivery addresses these challenges by providing the expertise and resources businesses need, allowing them to focus on their core competencies.

The Future of Outsourcing: A Co-Managed Delivery Landscape

As businesses become more dependent on technology, the demand for a flexible, scalable, and cost-effective IT management model will only increase. Co-managed delivery is that model – a solution that optimizes IT infrastructure while maintaining control and accountability. It’s not just the new standard for outsourcing – it’s a win-win solution that positions businesses to achieve their strategic goals.

Co-managed delivery of managed services is indeed a game-changer for businesses of all sizes. By partnering with an IT provider in a co-management model, businesses can enhance the quality and reliability of their IT services, manage risk effectively, and gain a competitive edge in the marketplace. As we look to a future that is increasingly technology-driven, co-managed delivery seems set to become the new norm. Are you ready to step into the future of outsourcing?

David McLaughlin

Chief Executive Officer, CAG

About Columbia Advisory Group

Founded in Dallas in 2012, Columbia Advisory Group LLC (CAG) is an established IT consulting firm renowned for delivering cost-effective, meaningful, and practical IT solutions that solve complex business problems. Our seasoned teams offer comprehensive insight across diverse regulatory and economic environments, providing unbiased, straightforward analysis and recommendations. We pride ourselves on our deep understanding of IT while remaining software and hardware-agnostic. Regardless of your organization’s growth trajectory or economic landscape, we at CAG are adept at adapting to your unique needs and complexity, offering tailored solutions to drive your success.

Contact us at info@columbiaadvisory.com.

Data Analytics: A Key to Improving Student Retention and Success in Universities

Universities face an ever-increasing challenge of improving student retention and success, as well as reducing student loan debt. To tackle this challenge, universities can leverage the power of data analytics. By analyzing data related to student behavior, academic performance, and other factors, universities can gain valuable insights into what drives student success and how to support students effectively.

One major benefit of using data analytics in higher education is improved student retention. By analyzing data on student behavior and academic performance, universities can identify students who may be at risk of dropping out and intervene early to provide them with the support they need to persist. For example, Degree Analytics provides a retention analytics tool that uses machine learning to identify at-risk students based on factors such as GPA, course selection, and engagement with campus resources. By addressing these issues early on, universities can improve retention and reduce the number of students who drop out or take longer to graduate.

Another benefit of using data analytics in higher education is improving student success and on-time graduation rates. Universities can use data to understand what factors contribute to student success, such as academic preparation, engagement with campus resources, and personal factors. Based on this information, universities can design and implement programs and initiatives that support student success and improve on-time graduation rates.

Additionally, data analytics can also help universities reduce student loan debt by providing valuable insights into the cost of higher education. By analyzing data on student spending and borrowing patterns, universities can identify areas where they can reduce costs and make higher education more affordable for students. For example, Gartner predicts that by 2023, 40% of higher education institutions will use predictive analytics to optimize student loan and financial aid decisions, resulting in reduced student loan debt.

Data analytics is a powerful tool that can help universities improve student retention, success, and on-time graduation rates, as well as reduce student loan debt. By leveraging the power of data, universities can gain valuable insights into what drives student success and design programs and initiatives that support students effectively. It is essential for universities to embrace data analytics and use it to make data-driven decisions to improve the student experience and outcomes.

John D'Annunzio

SVP Business Development

About Columbia Advisory Group

Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) is a leading Information Technology (IT) consulting firm. CAG’s team has assessed and helped improve the performance of more than 300 technology organizations and IT departments, including many higher education institutions, state agencies, and Fortune 50 customers. Practice specialty areas include Infrastructure, IT Service Management, Cybersecurity, and A/V Services. CAG improves business outcomes with IT insights and expert technical support. Based in Dallas, Texas, CAG works extensively with clients throughout the U.S. Contact us at info@columbiaadvisory.com.

Why IoT Strategy Matters in Gas Pipeline Networks

The rapid expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) has led to greater connectivity and improved efficiency across numerous industries, including the gas pipeline network. However, increased reliance on IoT devices also presents new cybersecurity challenges. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the Colonial Pipeline incident as a case study to highlight the importance of cybersecurity in IoT devices used in gas pipeline networks.

The Colonial Pipeline: A Wake-Up Call

In May 2021, Colonial Pipeline, one of the largest fuel pipelines in the United States, fell victim to a ransomware attack that forced a shutdown of its operations (The New York Times, 2021). This cyberattack led to gasoline shortages and price spikes across several states, emphasizing cybersecurity’s crucial role in maintaining the safety and security of gas pipeline networks.

IoT Devices: The Weakest Link?

IoT devices, designed primarily for ease of use, can often be the weak link in the cybersecurity chain for gas pipeline networks (CISA, n.d.). Many of these devices are connected to the internet and possess limited processing power and memory, making it challenging to update their security features. In the Colonial Pipeline incident, hackers exploited the company’s IT infrastructure vulnerability to access its systems, underlining the need for robust cybersecurity measures for IoT devices within gas pipeline networks.

Addressing the Challenge: A Multi-Layered Approach

To ensure the security of IoT devices in gas pipeline networks, it is crucial to adopt a multi-layered approach that includes both physical and software-based security measures (CISA, n.d.):

        1. Physical Security Measures: Implementing firewalls, access control systems, and network segmentation can help limit the spread of potential cyberattacks, reducing the risk of hackers accessing sensitive information or compromising pipeline control systems.
        2. Software-Based Security Measures: Encryption, secure protocols, and regular software updates are critical for safeguarding IoT devices in gas pipeline networks. Encryption protects sensitive data from being intercepted or stolen, while secure protocols like SSL/TLS ensure communication between devices remains private and tamper-proof. In addition, regular software updates help address known vulnerabilities and enhance overall system security

The Colonial Pipeline incident is a stark reminder of the need for robust cybersecurity measures in the gas pipeline network. As IoT devices play an increasingly important role in monitoring and controlling pipelines, it is essential to protect them from cyberattacks by adopting a multi-layered approach to cybersecurity that incorporates physical and software-based security measures.

Sources:

The New York Times. (2021). A Cyberattack Forces Shutdown of a Top U.S. Pipeline. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/08/us/politics/cyberattack-colonial-pipeline.html

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). (n.d.). Internet of Things (IoT) Security. Retrieved from https://www.cisa.gov/iot-security

Brad Hudson

Cybersecurity Practice Leader

About Columbia Advisory Group

Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) is a leading Information Technology (IT) consulting firm. CAG’s team has assessed and helped improve the performance of more than 300 technology organizations and IT departments, including many higher education institutions, state agencies, and Fortune 50 customers. Practice specialty areas include Infrastructure, IT Service Management, Cybersecurity, and A/V Services. CAG improves business outcomes with IT insights and expert technical support. Based in Dallas, Texas, CAG works extensively with clients throughout the U.S. Contact us at info@columbiaadvisory.com.

Why Data Governance Is Important to Higher Education

Data is an Asset

Data is a critical asset to higher education institutions, especially in today’s digital age where vast amounts of data are being collected and analyzed to inform decision-making. According to the Education Data Initiative, college enrollment peaked in 2010 and statistics indicate enrollment has declined 9.6% by 2020. In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau indicates the number of postsecondary eligible 18-year-olds will decrease starting in 2025. Data is continuing to play a critical role for postsecondary institutions to remain competitive, to make informed decisions about programs, to bring about strategic decisions and to allocate resources effectively.

Over the past decade, technology use in postsecondary education has increased significantly, driven by factors such as the growth of online and blended learning, the adoption of learning management systems (LMS), the use of mobile devices and apps, and the integration of data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) tools. The more technology used, the greater the sources of information for analysis, and thus increasing complexity. Managing data effectively will be mandatory to leverage data effectively.

Data Governance is a Crucial Aspect of Data Management

Data governance refers to the management of data assets to ensure accuracy, availability, integrity, and security. It encompasses policies, procedures, and practices that define how data is collected, stored, accessed, and shared across an organization. In higher education, data governance ensures that data is being used effectively to support student success, research, and institutional effectiveness. The Educause 2023 Horizon Action Plan recognizes the importance of data governance and recommends that higher education institutions prioritize this area.

There are several reasons why data governance is essential to higher education.

  • First and foremost, it ensures data accuracy and consistency. With so many data sources and systems in use across campuses, it is essential to have a standardized approach to data management to avoid inconsistencies and errors in reporting. This ensures that data is reliable and trustworthy, which is crucial when making decisions that impact students and the institution as a whole.
  • Second, data governance promotes data security and privacy. Higher education institutions collect and store vast amounts of sensitive data, including student records, financial information, and research data. Data governance policies and procedures help ensure that this data is secure and protected from unauthorized access or use.
  • Third, data governance enables effective decision-making. By establishing clear guidelines for data collection, analysis, and reporting, institutions can ensure that data is being used effectively to support decision-making at all levels of the organization. This can lead to better student outcomes, more efficient operations, and improved institutional effectiveness.
  • Finally, data governance promotes transparency and accountability. By establishing clear policies and procedures for data management, institutions can ensure that all stakeholders understand how data is being used and why. This promotes trust and accountability, which is essential in an era where data-driven decision-making is becoming increasingly prevalent.

In conclusion, data governance is critical to higher education institutions. By ensuring data accuracy, consistency, security, and privacy, promoting effective decision-making, and promoting transparency and accountability, data governance enables institutions to use data effectively to support student success and institutional effectiveness. As recommended by the Educause 2023 Horizon Action Plan, higher education institutions should prioritize data governance to ensure they are making the most of their data assets.

Dwight Moore

SVP Technical Services

About Columbia Advisory Group

Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) is a leading Information Technology (IT) consulting firm. CAG’s team has assessed and helped improve the performance of more than 300 technology organizations and IT departments, including many higher education institutions, state agencies, and Fortune 50 customers. Practice specialty areas include Infrastructure, IT Service Management, Cybersecurity, and A/V Services. CAG improves business outcomes with IT insights and expert technical support. Based in Dallas, Texas, CAG works extensively with clients throughout the U.S. Contact us at info@columbiaadvisory.com.

Why is Organized Crime Targeting Higher Education with Ransomware?

Eastern European organized cybercrime organizations are intentionally targeting US Higher Education institutions with ransomware attacks because they believe that these organizations are vulnerable and easy targets. The goal of these attacks is to encrypt the organization’s data, making it inaccessible to the users, and then demand a ransom payment in exchange for the decryption key.

Higher education institutions are particularly vulnerable to ransomware attacks because they have large amounts of sensitive information, such as personal data, research data, and financial information, stored on their networks. They also have limited budgets and resources, which makes it difficult for them to implement and maintain effective security measures. Additionally, many higher education institutions have outdated systems and software, which are more susceptible to exploitation.

The cost-effective approach to preventing ransomware attacks on higher education institutions involves a combination of technical and non-technical measures.

Educause recommends institutions implement a comprehensive security framework that includes the following elements:

       • Network security: This includes the use of firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and antivirus software to prevent unauthorized access to the network.
       • Endpoint security: Including the use of antivirus software and other security tools on end-user devices, such as computers and smartphones, to protect against malware infections.
       • User awareness: Instituting training and communication educating users on safe computing practices, such as avoiding suspicious email attachments and not downloading software from untrusted sources.
       • Data backup and recovery: This involves regularly backing up important data and having a disaster recovery plan in place in case of a security breach.
       • Incident response plan: Institutions need a plan in place for responding to security incidents, such as ransomware attacks, to minimize the impact of the attack and reduce the recovery time.

Gartner recommends that institutions also implement the following measures:

       • Application control: Protocols controlling the execution of software on end-user devices to prevent the execution of malicious software.
       • File integrity monitoring: This involves monitoring the changes to files on the network to detect and prevent unauthorized changes.
       • Security information and event management (SIEM): Systematically collecting, analyzing, and reporting on security-related data to detect security incidents and respond to them.
       • Vulnerability management: Regularly scanning the network for vulnerabilities and patching them to prevent exploitation.

In addition to these technical measures, it is important for higher education institutions to have a culture of security, where data security is considered a top priority and all employees are trained on safe computing practices.

As Eastern European organized cybercrime organizations continually target US Higher Education institutions with ransomware attacks, the large amounts of sensitive information stored on their networks are vulnerable. A cost-effective approach to preventing these attacks involves a combination of technical and non-technical measures, such as network security, endpoint security, user awareness, data backup and recovery, and incident response planning. It is important for higher education institutions to have a culture of security and to educate their employees on safe computing practices.

Brad Hudson

Cybersecurity Practice Lead

About Columbia Advisory Group

Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) is a leading Information Technology (IT) consulting firm. CAG’s team has assessed and helped improve the performance of more than 300 technology organizations and IT departments, including many higher education institutions, state agencies, and Fortune 50 customers. Practice specialty areas include Infrastructure, IT Service Management, Cybersecurity, and A/V Services. CAG improves business outcomes with IT insights and expert technical support. Based in Dallas, Texas, CAG works extensively with clients throughout the U.S. Contact us at info@columbiaadvisory.com.

My Data is a Mess

It just happens, the nature of the beast, inherent in its nature, and dangerous if misused. I’m talking about Data Sprawl inside your organization.  Who’s to blame? No one. It happens and gets worse over time, and data sprawl occurs with the best of intentions. 

Your organization’s data gets pulled into so many directions, dumped in silos, manipulated by dozens of departmental perspectives, and driven by departmental budgets and projects. Gaining control of your organization’s data is difficult at best. Organizations and management spend countless dollars and lost time interrogating the data until it confesses.

Uncontrolled speed, competition, disruptive technologies (AI, Machine Learning,…) , new business models, and evolving customer experiences continually force established businesses to remain relevant, adopt or adapt. The ecosystem is an unfriendly place. Insight, predictability, intelligence reports, and decisions need great data in a timely manner to remain relevant.

Managing data and information within an organization must be an orchestrated activity between IT and the business units. The pitfalls and internal tensions of objectivity, unbiased perspectives, collaboration, expertise, and access need to be overcome. Not an easy task for an internal department or department. 

Just start. Begin by creating a good data strategy and governance program, a PLAN. A good plan requires 3 fundamentals: Executive Support, and Timeline and Funding. Orchestration of the plan often requires external expertise and consulting to address the pitfalls and internal tensions.

It pays for itself in the lost time trying to interrogate the data alone. Allocating good money to secure sprawling data silos that provide poor data. Allocating energy toward a good data strategy is energy well spent.

Building a successful data strategy requires a deep understanding of technology, business objectives, and data governance. Consulting partners can provide you with the expertise, objectivity, collaboration, and cost savings you need to build a data strategy that works. If you want to gain a competitive edge and drive innovation, consider working with a consulting firm to help you develop your data strategy.

Tim Taylor

ITSM Director

About Columbia Advisory Group

Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) is a leading Information Technology (IT) consulting firm. CAG’s team has assessed and helped improve the performance of more than 300 technology organizations and IT departments, including many higher education institutions, state agencies, and Fortune 50 customers. Practice specialty areas include Infrastructure, IT Service Management, Cybersecurity, and A/V Services. CAG improves business outcomes with IT insights and expert technical support. Based in Dallas, Texas, CAG works extensively with clients throughout the U.S. Contact us at info@columbiaadvisory.com.

Utilizing Technology and Data Analytics to Enhance Student Success in Higher Education

The role of technology in education has been growing rapidly in recent years, and higher education institutions have been embracing it to improve student success. Information Technology (IT) and data analytics are two tools that higher education officials can utilize to understand the factors that drive student success and allocate resources effectively. In this blog, we will explore how higher education officials can use IT and data analytics to improve student success and the potential benefits these tools can provide educational institutions.

Tracking Enrollment and Retention Rates

One of the most important aspects of higher education is student enrollment and retention rates. Higher education officials can use data analytics to track these rates and gain insights into the effectiveness of their recruitment and retention strategies. By analyzing student data, such as their academic performance and engagement with various programs and services, administrators can develop interventions to support students who are at risk of dropping out.

For example, the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) used predictive analytics to identify students who were at risk of dropping out. The analytics tool used student data such as grades, attendance, and engagement to identify students who were struggling. Based on this information, UMUC developed a student success program that provided customized support to these students. As a result, UMUC saw an 11% increase in retention rates and a 2.3% increase in graduation rates.

Evaluating Student Services

Student services such as tutoring, advising, and counseling are critical for student success. Higher education officials can use data analytics to evaluate these services’ effectiveness and identify improvement areas. By analyzing student usage data and feedback, administrators can allocate resources more effectively and provide better support to students.

For example, the University of Iowa used data analytics to evaluate its tutoring program. By analyzing usage data and feedback from students, the university identified areas for improvement and made changes to the tutoring program. As a result, the university saw a 19% increase in student participation in the tutoring program and a 10% increase in student satisfaction.

Monitoring Financial Performance

Higher education institutions are under constant pressure to manage their finances effectively. Data analytics can help administrators monitor the institution’s financial performance, such as revenue, expenses, and cost per student. This information can help administrators make data-driven decisions about resource allocation and identify areas for cost savings.

For example, the University of Kentucky used data analytics to monitor its financial performance. By analyzing data such as revenue, expenses, and enrollment, the university identified areas for cost savings and developed strategies to reduce expenses. As a result, the university was able to save $48 million over a five-year period.

Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics can help higher education officials identify students who are at risk of dropping out or falling behind in their studies. By analyzing student data such as grades, attendance, and engagement, administrators can intervene early to support students and improve their chances of success.

For example, Georgia State University used predictive analytics to identify students who were at risk of dropping out. Based on this information, the university developed a student success program that provided customized support to these students. As a result, the university saw a 22% increase in graduation rates and a 6% increase in retention rates.

Personalized Learning

IT applications can be used to provide personalized learning experiences for students. By analyzing student data and preferences, administrators can develop customized learning pathways that meet each student’s unique needs and interests.

For example, Arizona State University used an adaptive learning platform to provide personalized learning experiences to students. The platform provided customized content and assessments to each student by analyzing student data and preferences. As a result, the university saw a 7% increase in student retention rates and a 5% increase in graduation rates.

Research-Based Data

Research-based data supports the potential benefits that IT applications can provide to educational institutions. A study conducted by the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research found that institutions that effectively use data analytics are more likely to have higher retention rates, graduation rates, and improved student satisfaction. Additionally, a National Center for Education Statistics report found that institutions that use data analytics to support student success are more likely to have higher graduation rates.

It is clear that IT and data analytics can provide significant benefits to higher education institutions. Higher education officials can improve student success and allocate resources more effectively by tracking enrollment and retention rates, evaluating student services, monitoring financial performance, using predictive analytics, and providing personalized learning experiences.

In addition, tracking enrollment, retention, and graduation rates, evaluating student services, and monitoring financial performance through data analytics can be extremely beneficial to educational institutions’ administration. Here are some key benefits of using data analytics for these purposes:

  1. Identify areas for improvement: Data analytics can help administrators identify areas where they need to improve their student services or recruitment efforts.

  2. Make data-driven decisions: Data analytics can help administrators make informed decisions about resource allocation, course offerings, and program development.

  3. Improve student success: Data analytics can help administrators develop interventions to support students who are at risk of dropping out or falling behind in their studies.

  4. Save money: Data analytics can help administrators identify areas for cost savings and reduce expenses.

  5. Increase revenue: Data analytics can help administrators identify opportunities for revenue growth, such as expanding enrollment or developing new programs.

Higher education officials can use IT and data analytics to improve student success by tracking enrollment and retention rates, evaluating student services, monitoring financial performance, using predictive analytics, and providing personalized learning experiences. These tools allow educational institutions to allocate resources more effectively, make data-driven decisions, and ultimately improve student success.

Sources:

“Analytics and Data-Driven Decision Making in Higher Education” by EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) https://library.educause.edu/-/media/files/library/2018/3/ers1803.pdf

“Using Predictive Analytics to Improve Student Success and Retention” by the University of Maryland University College https://www.umgc.edu/academic-programs/cybersecurity-security-studies/upload/Using-Predictive-Analytics-to-Improve-Student-Success-and-Retention.pdf

“Using Analytics to Enhance Tutoring and Student Support Services” by the University of Iowa https://ir.uiowa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1003&context=tutoring

“Using Data Analytics to Improve Financial Performance in Higher Education” by the University of Kentucky https://www.uky.edu/financialplanning/sites/www.uky.edu.financialplanning/files/Using%20Data%20Analytics%20to%20Improve%20Financial%20Performance%20in%20Higher%20Education.pdf

“Using Predictive Analytics to Improve Student Success at Georgia State University” by Educause https://er.educause.edu/articles/2016/3/using-predictive-analytics-to-improve-student-success-at-georgia-state-university

“Arizona State University: Using Adaptive Learning to Personalize the Learning Experience” by Educause https://library.educause.edu/resources/2018/2/arizona-state-university-using-adaptive-learning-to-personalize-the-learning-experience

“Using Data Analytics to Support Student Success” by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018468.pdf

John D'Annunzio

SVP Business Developpment

About Columbia Advisory Group

Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) is a leading Information Technology (IT) consulting firm. CAG’s team has assessed and helped improve the performance of more than 300 technology organizations and IT departments, including many higher education institutions, state agencies, and Fortune 50 customers. Practice specialty areas include Infrastructure, IT Service Management, Cybersecurity, and A/V Services. CAG improves business outcomes with IT insights and expert technical support. Based in Dallas, Texas, CAG works extensively with clients throughout the U.S. Contact us at info@columbiaadvisory.com.

When Should Higher Education CFOs consider using a Managed IT Service?

The role of technology in higher education has grown tremendously in recent years, with IT infrastructure playing a crucial part in the daily operations of universities. For higher education CFOs, maintaining a robust IT department can be challenging, and outsourcing to Managed IT Services can sometimes offer a more cost-effective and efficient alternative. According to Educause,  MSPs can provide institutions with greater flexibility, scalability, and cost savings, as well as support for compliance and regulatory requirements. Similarly, Gartner suggests that MSPs can help higher education institutions stay current with emerging technologies and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their IT operations. Here are some key examples of when higher education CFOs should consider using a Managed IT Services provider:

Limited Internal IT Resources
Higher education institutions often have limited internal IT resources, making providing comprehensive IT support and services difficult. According to Educause, MSPs can help fill the gap by providing additional resources to support the institution’s IT needs.

Lack of In-House Expertise
CFOs may find that their in-house IT teams lack expertise in certain areas, such as cybersecurity or cloud computing. Gartner suggests that MSPs can fill this knowledge gap by providing specialized expertise.

Need to Focus on Core Competencies
According to Educause, higher education institutions must focus on their core competencies, like providing education, research, and community services. Outsourcing IT management to a managed services provider allows the institution to focus on its core competencies while leaving IT management to experts.

Cost Savings
According to Gartner, MSPs can often help higher education institutions reduce costs associated with IT management by providing economies of scale and more efficient IT operations.

Compliance and Regulatory Requirements
Higher education institutions are subject to various regulatory and compliance requirements, such as HIPAA and FERPA. MSPs can help ensure institutions follow these requirements by providing regular security audits, threat management, and incident response services.

Scalability
As higher education institutions grow and evolve, their IT needs may also change. According to Gartner, MSPs can help institutions scale their IT operations as needed, ensuring they always have the resources necessary to support their IT needs.

New or Emerging Technologies
As Gartner points out, the field of IT is constantly evolving, and new technologies are always emerging. A managed IT services provider can help CFOs understand new technologies’ potential benefits and costs and assist with implementing and managing these new solutions.

According to Educause and Gartner, higher education CFOs should consider using MSPs when facing limited internal IT resources, lack of expertise in certain areas, need to focus on core competencies, need for cost savings, compliance requirements, scalability, and new or emerging technologies. MSPs can bring the necessary expertise, resources, and scalability for the IT department to thrive and support the institution’s growth.

Practical Advice and Recommendations

Before outsourcing IT operations, higher education CFOs should consider the following recommendations:

  1. Define the scope of services: Clearly outline the specific IT functions and services to be outsourced, and ensure that the Managed IT Service provider can meet these needs.

  2. Evaluate potential providers: Thoroughly assess them by reviewing their experience, technical expertise, and client testimonials.

  3. Establish performance metrics: Set clear performance metrics and service level agreements (SLAs) to ensure the Managed IT Service provider is held accountable for delivering the expected quality of service.

  4. Plan for a smooth transition: Develop a transition plan to minimize disruption to university operations during outsourcing.

Outsourcing IT functions to Managed IT Services can offer significant benefits for higher education institutions, including cost savings, access to expert technical resources, and improved security and compliance. However, it is crucial for CFOs to carefully assess their university’s specific needs and circumstances before deciding to outsource. By following the practical advice and recommendations outlined in this post, higher education CFOs can make informed decisions about outsourcing their IT operations to Managed IT Services.

Sources:

Educause. Outsourcing IT Services in Higher Education: Benefits and Challenges. Retrieved from https://www.educause.edu/research-and-publications/research/core-data-service

Gartner. 5 Best Practices for IT Outsourcing Success in Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.gartner.com/en/industries/higher-education/insights/it-outsourcing

Haley Rose

Chief Marketing Officer

About Columbia Advisory Group:
Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) is a leading Information Technology (IT) consulting firm. CAG’s team has assessed and helped improve the performance of more than 300 technology organizations and IT departments, including many higher education institutions, state agencies, and Fortune 50 customers. Practice specialty areas include Infrastructure, IT Service Management, Cybersecurity, and A/V Services. CAG improves business outcomes with IT insights and expert technical support. Based in Dallas, Texas, CAG works extensively with clients throughout the U.S. Contact us at info@columbiaadvisory.com.

Columbia Advisory Group Selected to Continue Providing Texas A&M University System Best-in-Class Technology Services

"We selected CAG for this Agreement because of our previous experience with the company. They are fully committed to TAMUS success. We can always count on them to respond quickly when we need them."

DALLAS, TEXAS, UNITED STATES, April 18, 2023/EINPresswire.com/ — Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) has been selected by Texas A&M University System (TAMUS) to significantly lower the operating cost of delivering Student Information Services while providing enhanced support of audit and compliance functions.

“We selected CAG for this Agreement because of our previous experience with the company and its consultants. They are fully committed to TAMUS success. We can always count on them to respond quickly when we need them, do an outstanding job with some of the toughest issues, and help keep costs under control,” said Mark Stone, Chief Information Officer, Texas A&M University System. “We look forward to continuing to work with CAG across many technology challenges.”

“Our substantial experience with student information and related systems at several TAMUS campuses and many other higher education clients, and our ability to operate systems across many platforms efficiently and securely, has helped us again win the opportunity to provide these and other expanded services to all members,” said David McLaughlin, President and CEO of CAG. “Our team excels technically but also cares about the outcomes for our clients and students. Our trusted consultants have led us to become the first call to address key issues that arise.”

CAG will continue to provide Ellucian Banner support to Texas A&M University System and its members under this agreement, helping to integrate, update, patch, and maintain this critical business system. As Banner and other systems migrate to cloud environments, CAG can provide support to advise and manage those migrations. In addition, TAMUS has selected CAG to provide ancillary IT support for cybersecurity, infrastructure, application support, and IT project management as needs arise across the state.

About Columbia Advisory Group
Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) is a dynamic Information Technology (IT) consulting firm. An established and proven company with 100+ years of combined technology experience and business acumen, CAG’s team has assessed and helped improve the performance of more than 300 technology organizations and IT departments. By focusing on simple, meaningful, and practical solutions combined with straight­ forward analysis and recommendations, CAG’s team has experience in many regulatory and economic environments with companies and organizations of all sizes. The industries representative of their clients includes higher education, healthcare and pharmacy, private equity and venture capital, manufacturing, financial services, real estate, media and publishing. CAG offers a deep understanding of IT, and its solutions are software and hardware agnostic. Whether a client is a high growth or economically challenged, CAG can adapt to the complexities and nuances of that organization. Based in Dallas, Texas, CAG works extensively with clients throughout the U.S. For more information, visit www.columbiaadvisory.com.

About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $7.2 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, a comprehensive health science center, eight state agencies, and the RELLIS Campus, the Texas A&M System educates more than 152,000 students and makes more than 24 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceed $1 billion and help drive the state’s economy.

Haley Rose, CMO
Columbia Advisory Group
hrose@columbiaadvisory.com