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Straight Talk IT

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Over the last few years, presenting about cloud at a higher education conference typically centered on exploring the business drivers, dispelling myths about security and flexibility, and answering questions from attendees that are openly skeptical about its potential on their campuses. A few weeks ago, however, I gave a very different presentation at the Higher Education User Group's (HEUG) inaugural Cloud Symposium, focusing not on the argument for cloud but instead on offering a rubric to select the right solutions for cloud migration and bolster the likelihood of a strong, and accelerated, return on investment. It felt as if one chapter in higher education IT had closed and another had begun.

But perhaps more importantly at the conference, Boise State University and Birmingham University provided candid and practical insight on their approach to migrating enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions to the cloud. The audience was riveted and the question and answer portion had to be cut off because the sheer number of questions was threatening to derail the agenda. I have no doubt that representatives from these institutions went home with pockets full of business cards with pleas for follow-up conversations. The question is no longer should our institution migrate core systems to the cloud, but how should we do it and on which early adopters should we model our implementation strategy.

Recent findings from Ovum's ICT Enterprise Insights Survey quantify this shift from skepticism to action. Investments in cloud are growing rapidly, particularly in the areas of software and infrastructure. Data centers are moving off campus and greenfield applications, and increasingly mission-critical applications, are moving with them. With the recent availability of cloud student information systems (SISs) from Ellucian, Unit4, and Workday, this trend will only accelerate as institutions seek out modernization strategies and new delivery models for their most core solution.

Without question, higher education has been a lagging industry regarding cloud adoption. However, as cloud technology has matured while higher education waited, it has expanded the set of delivery options to include public, private, and hybrid. Consequently, rather than taking the more disruptive and potentially risky "rip-and-replace" approach, institutions now have the ability to migrate their IT landscape in a more ordered and pragmatic way, which Ovum believes will be far better matched to institutional realities and priorities.

Straight Talk is a weekly briefing from the desk of the Chief Research Officer. To receive this newsletter by email, please contact us.

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