Data is at the Heart of the 2019 EDUCAUSE Top 10 IT Issues

by | Nov 7, 2018 | Education

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The EDUCAUSE Annual Conference is one of the country’s largest gatherings in higher education IT, drawing more than 8,000 people from 46 different countries. The conference addresses the future of IT, and as always, one of the highlights is the announcement of EDUCAUSE’s Top 10 list of issues in IT.

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The 2019 list features many of the same issues as were featured in 2018, albeit prioritized differently. More than half of the list relates to data, a reflection of the data initiatives many higher education institutions are working to implement.


For the fourth year in a row, information security was the number one issue identified by members of EDUCAUSE. Panelists at the conference pointed out that issues arise when the campus security experts take on too many responsibilities. This slows down the processes designed to review new data projects. The panelists also stressed the importance of identifying the sensitive parts of data that need to be controlled when approaching a data initiative.

Much of the top 10 list deals with data because higher ed institutions are all looking for ways to use data in a meaningful way. Number 6 on the list is “data-enabled institution,” stressing the importance of using data and analytics across an organization to make data-enabled decision-making part of the organization’s culture.

That means there’s a need for a scalable solution that can grow with the institution as it increases its use of data, which made the list at number 5 as “digital integrations.” And as the institution adopts more and more new data initiatives, in addition to the security strategy already addressed, the organization has to make sure the data is accurate and usable, ranking data management and governance at 8 on the list.

The list stresses the use of data in student success – number 2 on the list prioritizes IT partnering with other parts of campus to drive and achieve student success initiatives, and number 4 on the list is being a student-centered institution, which involves understanding and advancing technology’s role in optimizing the student experience, encompassing all aspects from applicants to alumni.


Privacy made its first appearance in EDUCAUSE’s Top 10, debuting at number 3. And it’s no coincidence that it was identified as an issue following the implementation of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.

The panelists said that while GDPR provided a refresher course on the topic, it also brought to the forefront an issue where a lot of work is still to be done. Many institutions are reactive to privacy regulations, catering to regulations like GDPR, rather than taking proactive steps in creating a privacy program that would address any needs that potential regulations would cover.


Sustainable funding was issue 7 on the Top 10 List, returning to the list after not being on it last year. The panelists pointed out that IT funding is often incorporated into institutional funding, but the overwhelming majority of IT budgets are spent on what is already being done, with a very small percentage used for growth and innovation. The panelists say organizations need to use the knowledge of the leaders in their IT departments to help turn that around – part of the reason the idea of an integrative CIO was number 9 this year. Higher education affordability was number 10 on the list, stressing the alignment of IT’s priorities with the institution’s priorities.

Though the order of the issues and some of the topics might have been new, some of the conversation centered around what many of the conference attendees already know: the use of data is getting more and more complex. In order to find success, it’s best for IT departments to start small with answers from the data that you can actually act upon and move on from there.

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John Sucich
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