As the higher ed community descended upon Denver for the last week of October, many wondered what the experience would be like. Would it be eerily quiet, like in 2021? Or would it be back to normal? How many would come? These were questions I heard often on the first day.
The answer was resounding: EDUCAUSE is back. The enthusiasm was contagious. The number of stops in the hallways between each meeting was between two and three as colleagues and old friends connected in person, as they had not been able to do in several years. The energy in the Colorado Convention Center and surrounding hotels and restaurants was vibrant.
There were new ideas and themes being discussed at length. The first was a recognition of how much had changed since we had all been together. The global COVID-19 pandemic was the catalyst for most of these changes, and many of the changes were far reaching and not temporary.
Modernization, digitization, or digital transformation (or whatever buzzword you’d like to use) has taken hold over these years, and the momentum of change is increasing across many areas of higher ed. Student success, student and employee wellness, teaching and learning changes, data and analytics changes needed to support them, technology modernization, innovation with new technology, and collaboration—topics bred from the crucible of the crisis were all evident.
Included in the higher ed movement is an increasing number of large institutions strategizing about their move of enterprise administrative applications to the cloud. Though there are still many large institutions that can wait out the maturation of student solutions—and hold costs at current levels—for some time, we see more large institutions considering their long-term strategies and the necessary preparations they should be planning.
This level of change is driving the need for institutions to collaborate with the software and services partner communities more deeply, and in new ways. The diversity in approach and focus that is developing is astounding. Increased market activity was reported by nearly every vendor we met. Increased change, stress, and staffing issues were also prevalent subjects with both the vendor community and institutional participants.
As Tambellini has been observing for many months, the tight employment market for technology staff (both from vendor services and internal team perspectives) is a serious risk to institutions and their ability to maintain operations and support institutional innovation. Institutions regularly report losing staff who find they can work remotely and increase their salary by leaving the institution. Vendors also report significant movement in staff between firms and exiting the industry.
Together, these factors are causing the vendor community (especially systems integrators) to become more selective in the projects they are willing to pursue. Institutions need to pay close attention to the partner community to formulate selection events that attract the right firms for their institution and their projects.
EDUCAUSE 2022 was a well-attended, energetic event, bringing higher ed leaders and providers together in productive, forward-looking conversations. Thanks to all who spent time with the Tambellini team while in Denver. We are fortunate to be a part of such a great community.
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