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Andy Sayer17 October 20237 min read

Challenges in higher education

In the higher education sector, a notable challenge I see clients facing is a hesitation to adopt new technology. This is often due to a lack of awareness regarding the specific benefits of modernising IT infrastructure for their organisation. I find this to be particularly prevalent in well-established academic institutions with long histories of legacy systems since their processes were established decades - sometimes centuries - ago. There may be a lot of: “I do it this way. Why? Because we've always done it this way.” The systems in use are often designed and built by someone who doesn't work there anymore and therefore they are unsupported and restricting workflow and collaboration 

The data inefficiency tends to come down to resisting the integration side, but it also comes down to a fear that it will be complicated and expensive to implement. Many decision-makers within higher education institutions tend to be risk-averse by nature - approaching new technologies with caution, primarily out of concerns regarding potential disruptions, compatibility issues, and security risks. Yet, this risk aversion can impede progress and innovation.   

Another significant obstacle to embracing modern technology lies in the limited resources allocated to educate staff about the advantages of newer IT solutions. The educational deficit often perpetuates the reliance on outdated systems and processes, often hindering the institution's ability to adapt to changing technological landscapes - this is something I'm passionate about changing. 

I want to eradicate the common misconception that implementing advanced technologies, like Microsoft Power Platform and Viva, make things more complicated or lead to job displacement among IT professionals. These technologies actually have the potential to empower IT teams, enabling them to shift their focus to more strategic initiatives and value-added tasks. 

Reframing the Fear of Adoption:

Let's cast our minds back to when organisations began to migrate and adapt to cloud technology. The industry was hesitant to realign strategies to this new wave of innovation, often actively resisting change. The long journey to become cloud-first and join the momentum from internally managed systems to externally hosted environments was a significant change for the Education sector. The increase in collaboration that this journey provided was well worth that transformative leap, and SharePoint, Teams and OneNote are now essential building blocks of any education establishment. 

To date, I have experienced a similar hesitancy with Power Platform in Education. The huge potential of Microsoft’s Solutions can prompt significant concern around the risk of these automated processes, taking away from the demand for human jobs. But rather than seeing the threat in the technology, we should see it as an opportunity to strive to be an expert in Power Platform, rather than resist the evolution.

Mitigating Risks and Embracing Change:

As I mentioned, many of these legacy systems and applications have been in place within educational institutions and IT teams for years. These systems, while familiar and deeply ingrained in many higher education institutions, pose significant risks, encompassing both security and operational concerns. 

These solutions are more susceptible to security breaches because they lack the robust security features and regular updates found in modern applications. They may rely on outdated protocols and may not receive timely security patches. 

Maintaining data integrity becomes increasingly challenging as legacy systems age. These systems are prone to data fragmentation, which increases the risk of data loss or corruption over time. Additionally, legacy systems may not adequately meet the stringent data protection regulations that many higher education institutions must adhere to, potentially exposing sensitive student and institutional data to the outside world. Recent research has revealed that many Public Sector organisations have thousands of Microsoft Access-based applications, some business-critical 

Operational inefficiencies are also a common drawback of legacy systems. They typically require more manual intervention and maintenance, resulting in higher operational costs. Additionally, these systems rarely seamlessly integrate with many modern systems, leading to data silos and operational inefficiencies. 

What have we seen in the industry? 

In this sector, I've recently had many conversations about the Microsoft licensing estate, with concerns raised over how licenses are managed and whether the make-up of the licenses owned doesn't correlate with what is actually needed. This presents an opportunity to redistribute funds across the organisation to save in some areas and take the opportunity to invest in new opportunities, like Power Platform. Many universities face a challenge when switching across from graduates leaving to the new intake - the re-purposing of licensing becomes a cutover that leads to confusion over when and how to acquire additional Microsoft access. There may be a couple of months where you need to run with both in parallel, but are they switching them off when they're finished? Have they got an overload of named users in the background and just aren't needed anymore?  

Is there a surplus of licenses in areas where users aren't using software they have requested but not used, or have stopped using where savings can be made? Project and Visio are classic examples of this scenario.  

At Ingentive, we help by diagnosing and reallocating unused licencing, or incorrectly purchased licencing, to create more space and security to the users that are needed on the system and removing the ones who shouldn’t be active. This is an immediate cost-effective change which is guaranteed to save you money from the get-go, making the return on investment is very attractive. 

"If you don't jump on the new, you don't survive." 

-Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO

How can we help?

At Ingentive, we are passionate about making IT teams self-sufficient. This transition is an easier step than a lot of people realise – it doesn’t have to take years and use endless funding, to make a significant difference.

The term 'Low-hanging fruit' tends to be over-used these days, but that is exactly what Ingentive can identify in a new partnership. We offer quick wins, come in and make a difference in a matter of days, rather than months or even years. If you're stuck on the bigger projects, why not let us swoop in and fix those smaller problems, too? We add value while the return on investment for the larger programme takes longer to realise. We can decommission platforms that are no longer supported by migrating any still accessed applications into Power Platform, and archiving off those that are no longer needed. We'll then integrate systems that have never spoken to each other, and create automated flows of data between them. And the best part? These enhancements take days and weeks, not months and years.

Once you are utilising these new solutions – it’s user friendly. You won't be over-reliant on a partner. Partners like us can always come in and help you with backlog and new apps, etcetera. But what we're building for you will not make you reliant on Microsoft's partner network. It will be handed over in house and small changes and backlogs will be dealt with very much within the team which just plays back this idea that it's good for the organisation, but it's also good for the technical individuals who would like to become responsible for the way these things are done in the future.

Effective Risk Mitigation and Security Enhancement:

To address these challenges effectively, higher education institutions should prioritise risk mitigation and security enhancement strategies. Regular security audits should be conducted to identify vulnerabilities in legacy systems. Implementing patches and security updates as needed is crucial to protect against potential threats.

Ingentive will help you build a robust data backup and use recovery strategies the are essential to safeguard critical information in case of system failures or cyberattacks. Developing comprehensive plans for modernising legacy systems is a non-negotiable. This includes migrating critical applications to secure, up-to-date platforms while decommissioning redundant or outdated ones. Investing in ongoing training and education for IT professionals is vital to keep them updated on the latest security and best practices and technologies.

In conclusion, addressing the knowledge gap and the persistence of legacy systems in higher education requires a proactive approach. IT professionals need to advocate for the benefits of modernisation while implementing robust risk management and security measures to protect their institutions from potential threats and data breaches. By working with Ingentive and striking a balance between innovation and security, higher education institutions can navigate the complexities of modern IT environments successfully and stay ahead of the curve.

Want to learn more?

Do you want to learn more about how you can benefit from our services? We are offering a pre-sales white-boarding session to potential clients where we help identify your key pain points and a plan to resolve them, whilst analysing the complexity, time to deploy and investment that may be needed - allowing us to jointly set a list of priorities.  

As a Microsoft FastTrack Ready Partner with extensive industry and technology experience, we help organisations to improve productivity. We are uniquely placed to drive the adoption of Microsoft Technologies and level up your organisation’s way of working, using your own use cases to better resonate with the stakeholders. 

If you want to find out more information on using Power Platform to automate your processes, get in touch!